open thread – October 10, 2014

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

{ 1,059 comments… read them below }

  1. Midge*

    I’m thinking about applying for a job in my own department, and could use some advice. I meet all the qualifications for the job and think I would excel at the listed duties. I have really enjoyed working in that area as part of my current job. However the job is Teapot Spout and Handle Specialist, and the job description says almost nothing about Handles. My experience and primary interest is in Spouts. Also, my most relevant experience is from my current job, which I’ve been in for only a year.

    I know there has been a lot of outside interest in this job, presumably from at least a few people who have considerably more experience than I do. To throw an additional wrench in things, a coworker of mine who has considerable experience Handles (but none in Spouts to my knowledge) just applied.

    I think this job would be a great opportunity, and help me move my career in the direction I would like it to go. My big concern about applying is coming off as naive to my boss, since I’ll be relatively inexperienced compared to other candidates.

    I have my weekly meeting with her early next week, so I was thinking about asking her more about the job, particularly about the Handle responsibilities since they’re not in the job description.


    1. Aimles*

      Apply for the job. At a bare minimum it will motivate you to update your resume and give you practice interviewing. Good luck!

    2. JMW*

      Wise to talk to your boss. If she thinks this is beyond you, she will probably find a way to indicate that to you. At the same time, you are initiating a conversation about your goals, areas of growth, and your strengths – always good to keep these conversations in the forefront with your manager.

    3. ClaireS*

      At the very least talk to your boss. In many organizations, applying for stretch positions is encouraged and, even if it’s not the right move now, it shows that you’re interested in advancement.

      It can also help start a conversation about where you want to go with your career and what your boss thinks you need to work on to get there. This may give you an opportunity to develop a plan to work on those areas together.

  2. littlemoose*

    I saw this question yesterday in Slate’s Dear Prudence column and could not help wondering how Alison would have advised the reader: The reader asked about accepting a personal check from her boss, a professor, who tried to get her a raise but couldn’t get HR to approve it. It sounds like the letter-writer is undercompensated, but it still seems weird to accept a personal check from your boss when you didn’t get an actual raise.

    1. Red*

      Just from my personal background in paying people to make teapots, I’d be the professor plans to request reimbursement for the check from his department after this, ha.

      1. Artemesia*

        it isn’t unusual for very well paid academics to actually hire their own assistants and pay them privately. Paying extra for someone already employed is not something I have heard of but I can imagine it. No way he is asking for reimbursement — on what grounds? If he can’t get a raise for his staff and want to keep her then paying extra makes sense. Taking it does sort of seem to suggest that one has ‘been bought’ however and to immediately move on would probably make the professor feel burned if that had not been discussed.

    2. Traveler*

      I’m more interested in what her response would be to dressing up as a mass death cult leader for Halloween at work. WHAT?!

      1. littlemoose*

        Haha, yeah, I forgot that question was in the same article. Pretty ridiculous. Of course I know there have been some WTF Halloween costume questions for AAM too!

        1. Traveler*

          Haha. I just can’t imagine ever thinking something like that was a good idea. Halloween costumes at work should probably be a no go in general. Just wear an ugly pumpkin sweater or something.

    3. Frances*

      I’m glad she brought up the tax implications (although if it isn’t from the actual employer could it be considered a gift? IANAA).

      The professor’s heart was in the right place, though — this could have been so much worse. I actually was in a similar experience in an academic job once, but my boss instead made me the bizarre offer to charge one of my vacation flights as a business expense. I didn’t see how we could possibly do that under university policy and politely declined. Less than six months later, he was fired for — big surprise — falsifying expense reports at the department he’d headed before mine. I’m pretty sure now he was not only testing me to see if I’d be naive/unethical enough to go against policy, but that he was the one who put the kibosh on my promotion because it would have put me in charge of tracking our department’s budget.

      1. Red*

        If the buck stopped with the professor, then one could consider it a gift, subject to gift rules. But if the professor receives reimbursement for what he gave to the employee, then it’s not really a gift if you look at the economic substance of the transaction. I don’t know exactly how it would be handled at that point, since the situation outlined is far from ideal.

    4. Seal*

      I had a similar situation with a now-former staff member I inherited when I started my current job. He supervised our student employees, and was overly fond of one young woman (an entirely separate story there!). This guy didn’t trust me at all (yet another story), and would regularly take things to my supervisor, who would in turn refer him back to me. Our institution had approved raises for student employees based on the amount of time they had worked there and whether or not they had work-study; if a student didn’t fall into either of those categories, the department was allowed to make up the difference. Assuming I would say no, my staff member went to my supervisor and said he was willing to give his favorite student a raise of out his own pocket because he felt she deserved it. My supervisor told him that while it was a generous offer, it violated any number of university policies, plus it would create problems for this particular student come tax time.

      Not long after this incident, I reassigned student supervision to another staff member who understood the meaning of the word “boundaries”. Through mutual agreement with my supervisor and the student herself, the young woman this guy had a crush on was not rehired for the following school year. Needless to say, this guy was never allowed to work with our student employees – especially the women – again.

      1. OhNo*

        Wow, that’s creepy.

        It’s weird to me that you chose to get rid of the student employee, rather than the creepy guy who was actually causing the problems. It seems like it would have been better in the long run to get rid of the creepy guy and find a decent replacement, rather than reassigning a bunch of things, losing a student employee, and having to rearrange things so he wouldn’t be dealing with student workers. What was the rationale behind that decision?

        1. class factotum*

          Sort of related – the CEO of Johnson Controls had an affair with a consultant. The company has terminated the contract with the consulting company, but the CEO still has his job.

          This all came to light when the consultant tried to get a restraining order against the CEO’s wife, who was pretty upset to learn about the affair and started shooting up her own house and hitting things (not the husband, although really, he is the one who deserved it) with a baseball bat.

        2. Seal*

          It was actually a mutual decision with the student employee. She had gone home for the summer, and when we let her know we wouldn’t be able to hire her for the coming school year she told us she wasn’t planning to come back anyway.

          My preference would have been to get rid of the full-time staff member ASAP; this was only one of many performance issues with this guy. But my boss – who worked in another part of campus – for some reason loved this guy. While she was sympathetic to my concerns about his performance, she was under the impression that he would be retiring soon and thought I should wait him out. Unfortunately, she retired before he did, and I was still stuck with the guy. Once my boss was gone, though, his days were numbered. It was a happy day for everyone when he finally walked out the door for the last time.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            Ugh, sorry but I hate how your story ends. I wanted to see you back up the student and assure her she was welcome to return to a professional working environment without Creepy Guy, because your office has its priorities straight. Not “well, she wasn’t going to come back anyway, because she was professionally removing herself from the Creepy Guy situation that we weren’t dealing with.”

            If I’m projecting, it’s because I was in a similar position in undergrad, made up some thin excuses about being “too busy” and quit a job I very much loved and wanted to continue in.

            1. OhNo*

              Yeah, I’m kind of disappointed in the end of this story, too. But I completely understand if the decision isn’t in your hands, there is not a lot you can do about making sure the student felt safe and comfortable returning to that same environment. I am glad that the guy finally left, though – it always creeps me out to think that people like that are just out there in the workforce waiting for an unsuspecting person to come along.

              Although, Seal: that does NOT sound like a mutual decision. At. All. That sounds like the student was too uncomfortable to continue working there, and then your department responded with “Well, that’s good, because we weren’t going to invite you back!” The way it sounds like your department handled it does not sit right with me. No judgement on you for that, since it sounds like it wasn’t your call to make and you did the best with what you had. But the way your are presenting and the details you gave of the situation don’t sync for me.

              1. ArtsNerd*

                Yeah, to clarify my comment- when I said “you” I meant the institution/office, not Seal singlehandedly.

                1. Seal*

                  Ultimately, I wasn’t at all happy with the way it ended, either, but at that point my boss was calling the shots. Our HR person at the time was no help, either – while she acknowledged there was a problem, to my disgust she didn’t see it as all that serious. Going forward I was able to ensure that this guy had no further contact with any of our student employees and regularly let our students know if they ever felt uncomfortable around any of the full time staff they needed to let me know immediately. As a result, our students felt safe and there was never another incident, but having to maintain that level of vigilance for an extended period of time in a small office was very challenging.

                  Fortunately, since that time things have very much changed for the better. The old HR person retired about the same time as my former boss; our new HR person was instrumental in getting rid of this guy. The minute he left, it was as if a giant weight had been lifted from our office.

                  One other point – firing full-time staff at a public university is next to impossible. That was a significant factor in how this played out.

                2. ArtsNerd*

                  It really sounds as though you did all you could in a bad situation. That HR rep really dropped the ball.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      I used to have an eccentric boss who was independently wealthy. He never, ever cashed his paychecks (this was before the days of direct deposit). He had a drawer full of uncashed checks – about three years worth. I would have been more than willing to take them off his hands had he offered! I still think back at what a waste of money that was.

      1. Audiophile*

        Whaaaat?? That’s weird, why not shred them or something. Most checks have a 180 day life span, before they’re void.

    6. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      Yikes – I feel like her advice was terrible… I would not take this money if it were me.

  3. TotesMaGoats*

    I have a should I/how would I question.

    A couple years ago a “friend” decided to write a children’s book and I served as the editor. This “friend” is no longer a part of my life because of a variety of reasons. I didn’t think much of the book at the time because she had a history of never following through with anything.

    I found out the other day that no only did she go through with it but got it published and it is available for purchase on Amazon in a hard copy and an e-version is coming. Imagine my surprise.

    Not going to touch the payment aspect but should I include this on my resume/linked in in any way? I don’t know that any of the changes I made are in the final product but my name is on the cover. It’s not a horrible book, otherwise I wouldn’t have been involved. It’s about explaining surrogacy to a child.

    My career is not related to writing/publishing/journalism in any way although I do a lot of business writing. If that helps.

    1. Non-profit Anon*

      I would check out the book. Get an eCopy and look through it. If it reflects well on your skills, then go ahead and put it on your resume. I think it shows that you are a skilled editor.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        My concern is the editor title. It might show that I’m a skilled editor in the amateur sense but an actual editor wouldn’t ever let this work see the light of day.

        1. JMW*

          “an actual editor wouldn’t ever let this work see the light of day” – maybe that answers your question.

        2. HeyNonnyNonny*

          If it’s really not that good, I’d leave it off. If it was your only foray into children’s literature, I’m not sure it’ll be too useful on a resume.

          However, could be a fun point to use on LinkedIn/interviews to show versatility without making it a Big Deal.

          1. TotesMaGoats*

            Maybe my doubts aren’t accurately stated. I think I did a good job for someone who isn’t an editor by trade but someone who write/edits children’s books might feel otherwise.

            1. fposte*

              I also think it sounds like you didn’t do the same tasks as a publisher’s editor, and that it might have been more like manuscript doctor/consultant work.

              My gut reaction is to leave it off–it doesn’t seem like something that can be very well quantified, and you don’t know how it stacks up against others of the same name. Its inclusion should be about the achievement, and it’s not clear exactly what got achieved.

              1. TotesMaGoats*

                I asked my mom about it and she had a good idea. Buy a copy and let one of the business communications faculty, where my mom works, who is also a published author look at it. Then at least I can know if someone in the field thinks it’s resume worthy. Kinda of irritated that buying means sending money to this person though.

                1. fposte*

                  I think that’s a possibility, but I’m not sold on it. The issue isn’t simply the book, it’s your achievement. Were you paid for x hours of editing? Did you produce a formal report on your recommendations? What expertise of yours did it draw on and prove?

                  Right now it sounds to me more like a friend asked you to do this because they know you, and you agreed because why not, and you gave them some suggestions and did some proofreading on the understanding you’d get some money which you never got. That’s more an incident than a resume-worthy achievement, and I definitely think that calling it “editing” risks a problematic oversell.

                2. TotesMaGoats*

                  Since I can’t reply to your comment fposte. I will say money was never mentioned by either of us. Thanks for the things to ponder.

                3. fposte*

                  Ah, okay, I misread “not going to touch the payment aspect” as a comment about payment that didn’t happen.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      If your name is on the cover, and if editing experience is something that pumps up your resume, I’d say sure, include it. I’d definitely pick up a copy and check the quality of the final result[1]. Unless your “friend” is named JK Rowling or Theodore Geisel, I’d say there’s a slim chance that any random hiring manager will have read the book. And if things get to the point where the hiring manager actually buys a copy of the book to check out your editing skills – I’d assume that by that point you were talking to them, and could explain away any editing gaffes that managed to creep in beyond your control.

      [1] I’ve made the mistake of handing perfectly good spell- and grammar-checked copy over to someone who then ‘published’ it to the web – and for whatever reason screwed it up massively, with my name attached to it. It was unpleasant and I began to understand why authors like Harlan Ellison are they way they are.

      1. Audiophile*

        That is a good point. I wrote a few articles that were published on the web and “edited” before being published. It was light editing, since I had read it and given it to a friend or two to review, but the eventual, inevitable edit done by the site, usually involved rearranging paragraphs.

  4. AVP*

    I got this response to a rejection email that I sent out earlier this week. I can see this going wrong in so many ways, but after a long day I did have to admit that it made me laugh.

    Dear AVP,

    Thank you for your letter of rejection. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me employment with your company.

    This year, I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection emails.

    With such a varied and promising field of companies, it is obviously impossible for me to accept all refusals.

    Despite your outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet with my needs at this juncture. Therefore, I will initiate employment with your company effective upon receipt of this reply.

    I look forward to seeing you then. Best of luck in rejecting future candidates.

    Yours sincerely,

    1. Red*

      We’ve been getting a lot of rejections lately, too. This is pretty great! I half wish I’d cooked up something similar.

    2. BRR*

      That’s a great way of saying they never want to work at your company and I’m not sure why they were rejected but I’m sure it’s nice to know you dodged that bullet.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        If it was original, I’d be impressed. If all they did was steal something that’s been floating around the ‘net for awhile – not funny, and not cool.

        1. Bea W*

          I still find it funny. It may have been floating out on the net, but most people wouldn’t actually send it.

    3. Confuzzled*

      That is so awesome! I couldn’t even be mad at reading that lol. Clearly you all made the right choice tho.

    4. KimmieSue*

      As someone that sends tons of rejections letters every week to candidates, this has me rolling on the floor! Priceless!

  5. LongtimeReader*

    I don’t usually post here, but I wanted to share: I did a Skype interview this week, and the person at the other end appeared as a talking kitten. Every time they spoke, the kitten’s mouth moved. I asked them several times to fix it, and they did not know how. Afterwards, I googled, and found that it’s apparently a known problem on Dell laptops, but holy hell, CHECK YOUR TECHNOLOGY before an interview.

      1. LongtimeReader*

        Yes, especially when I turned off the monitor because I didn’t want to look at it, and the cat jumped over to my extended desktop.

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            I was going to say, very realistic. My cats know when they are in the middle of something and actively jockey for position to see who can cause the most chaos. I’d hate to see them in a Skype interview.

            1. the gold digger*

              I used to do skype calls from home when I had to do them at 6:30 a.m. I was talking to my co-workers in Dubai and a local co-worker when one the local co-worker asked Dubai co-worker, whom she had never met before, how old Dubai co-worker’s baby was.

              Dubai co-worker answered, “My baby is 17. I think what you are hearing is GD’s cat.”

              1. Cat*

                I was once talking to someone from work on the phone and at some point in the call he stopped and said “I don’t understand why your cat is so irate.”

    1. Calla*

      OR they’re claiming they “didn’t know how to fix it” to cover up for the fact that you would actually be working for a cat.

      1. ClaireS*

        This is the most reasonable explanation. Although, why would they cover that up. I suspect it would be a bonus for many people. ;)

      2. C Average*

        This is a pretty well-known scheme of which job-seekers should be aware. If an employer is acting dodgy and reassuring you that you won’t be working for a cat, RUN. It’s a huge red flag. Take that job and you’ll be cleaning out the litterbox before your first week is up.

    2. Carrie in Scotland*

      That is hilarious! I don’t think I could have kept a straight face.
      I have a dell laptop, might have to go and check it out.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        What I want to know is how can I get this “bug” to work with Skype on my MacBook Pro!!

      1. LongtimeReader*

        The interviewee. On one hand, I don’t want to penalize someone too much for a technology snafu, but on the other hand, it says something about a lack of preparation.

        1. Red*

          I don’t know about employing kittens in the office. They’re known jerks, and also tend to suddenly fall asleep regardless of their surroundings. They also distract their coworkers…

          1. HeyNonnyNonny*

            Hey now, you can’t discriminate a candidate based on their kitten-ness. In fact, you shouldn’t even ask about it in an interview, so they don’t have grounds for a suit.

            1. Red*

              I don’t discriminate based on their coat pattern or litter status, just their species! That isn’t enforced by the EEOC right?!

                1. Red*

                  But age discrimination only kicks in after 40. Maybe hiring kittens actually can lead to violations of child employment laws…

              1. louise*

                I think we’ve learned from all the bathroom related posts here that bad litter etiquette, if you can trace the origin, is grounds for firing someone…

            2. TeaBQ*

              “Dear AAM: My cat boss demanded I open the door for her then refused to go outside. Is this legal?”

          2. littlemoose*

            I work from home sometimes and my kitten is a terrible coworker. Jumps on the computer, demands attention, etc. She also never refills the coffee, and farted on me the other day.

            1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

              Ha! I’m working from home today, and my kitten is the WORST co-worker too. Not only is she extremely nosy, a keyboard walker, cord pouncer, hair tangler, and will not make coffee, she’s like Cato in the Pink Panther movies. The attack can come from any angle. However, I can confidently assert that her presence guarantees a mouse and insect free workplace. Wolf spiders wouldn’t last two seconds in this workplace.

              1. Ezri*

                I am reassured by the fact that my kitty will cheerfully kill any large bug she finds on her territory. I am less reassured by the thought that she will probably leave the corpse in my bed with her toys.

              2. ThursdaysGeek*

                I worked from home today (to not share by cold with co-workers), and my cat slept beside me most of the day. And she sleeps in my arms the night. She does wake up to eat. She’s a great co-worker, always quiet, and never objects when I pick her up and rub my face in her belly. (I never do that with other co-workers!)

            2. Red*

              It’s also terrible when they just sneeze right into your mouth–how rude! Flatulent coworkers are the worst.

        2. acmx*

          Why would you consider this a lack of preparation? I don’t use Skype. I would have no idea that my computer would add an image to Skype or be able to fix it on the fly. You weren’t aware of this issue either.

          1. Cat*

            And an interviewee may or may not know someone else with Skype to be able to try it out ahead of time. I would tend to think the important preparation is related to the company and the interview topic, not the interviewing method.

            1. Relosa*

              To be fair, Skype is such a common thing these days that I don’t think it would need to be “tested” before an interview. I don’t do a dry run of a phone call if I’m expecting a phone interview (i.e., I practice the questions but don’t test the actual phone number!), etc. It’s a bug. It happens.

              1. C Average*

                True confession: I have no idea how to use Skype.

                This is deliberate. I have Skype enthusiasts at the periphery of my life and I’d like to keep my relationship with them email-based. So far I’ve very successfully used the “I don’t know how to use Skype” dodge to avoid unwanted Skype calls. I was a similar holdout on cell phones and texting.

                I am a proud, unrepentant late adopter. I’m not learning new technology until *I* feel a need for it. The rest of the world can carry on ahead of me.

                (Having an important interview that could only be accomplished on Skype would definitely be the kind of kick in the behind that would prompt me to learn how to use it.)

        3. fposte*

          In at least one report, the software had previously worked fine (as in not displaying him as a kitten).

          Interestingly, it looks like this problem has been around since 2010; surprised it hasn’t been more widely discussed.

        4. AdAgencyChick*

          Does it? I can see preparing for a Skype interview by ensuring you’re on the line ahead of time and that your webcam is pointed at your face, which you can do without having to actually call someone else. I have a feeling this bizarre thing happens only when you’re actually on the line with another person (and maybe not even every time?). It just seems like such a bizarre thing that a reasonable person wouldn’t know to have been prepared for that.

        5. Mister Pickle*

          In my opinion as a computer professional with 30 years of experience working with video, online conferencing, internet technology, and yadda yadda yadda: you shouldn’t penalize the interviewee at all for this kitten bug.

          1. LongtimeReader*

            Well, like it or not, even if I think “I’m not going to penalize him; the bug popped up and wasn’t his fault,” subconsciously, I’m going to think differently about him than I do about the candidates whose faces I could see and therefore feel a human connection with.

            Which is to say, maybe we could eliminate some hiring biases around race or national origin if everyone were replaced by a kitten avatar.

            1. Mister Pickle*

              Perhaps the thing to do, then, would be to reschedule the interview, to give the candidate a fair shot?

              Don’t even get me started on human interaction via avatars.

    3. Cat*

      Wait, what? To be fair to this guy, I don’t know how you could possibly know to check your laptop to make sure you don’t appear to be the avatar of a talking kitten. Of all the things I would never in a million years think to Google.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      In their defense – they may have installed Skype for the first time just for your interview. Additionally, it’s unclear to me as to whether or not this is an intermittent issue – if it’s intermittent, then it’s something that could bite anyone.

      Also, while it appears that the trouble in this Skype bug originates on the “interviewee’s” side, this is by no means always the case. I have considerable experience in tracking down these kinds of issues in an online gaming / virtual worlds context, and you seeing a kitten where you expect to see a human face does not guarantee that the bug is on the other end.

    5. Elysian*

      This is my new favorite work-related problem.

      Also, I think it would be possible to miss this even if you check your tech. Unless you actually call someone else to prepare, I’m not sure that Skype would show you as a kitten in its preview of your webcam image to you. I would give the interviewee a break on this one!

    6. Bea W*

      I am baffled that is is a known problem isolated to a particular brand of laptop. A talking kitten on Skype is a known issue? How does that even happen? Disgruntled or bored tech?

      1. C Average*

        I love thinking about this. My pet (heh) theory: a disgruntled code monkey forced to work his full notice period decided to have a little fun slipping an Easter egg into the code.

    7. Leigh*

      That’s the best. I just love that a kitten avatar hijacking your Skype call is a known bug. This has made my day.

      1. LongtimeReader*

        I had a feeling the AAM commentariat would appreciate this, even though it wasn’t an actual question.

    8. Audiophile*

      I was laughing out loud at work, it was so funny that I had a hard time telling people why I was laughing. I can’t believe people are still having that issue, since as someone else pointed out, it’s been an issue for a few years now.

  6. hello*

    Everyone’s super paranoid about layoffs lately. Sucks to be at the mercy of greedy shareholders.

    My question is: Who is more at risk – people at the bottom (assistants), mid-level (directors), or VPs/above?

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      We had a RIF in the early spring and everyone was fair game. New folks. Staff with 10+ years of experience. And the bottom and top of the totem pole.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      Ignoring “greedy shareholders” comment on purpose.

      In companies that have a good handle on the current state of affairs, layoffs will happen through all levels. Jobs that can be offshored or are not central to the mission of the company are usually the first to go.

      In essence, every one of us is self-employed. We must constantly market ourselves and perform above expectations if we wish to remain a valued member of the team.

    3. Jenny*

      It really depends on the nature of the layoffs. At my previous job we were purchased by a larger company. We were the “global headquarters” office and now were merely just one of many offices owned by this larger company. Offices like: Finance, Public Relations and IT were all devoured because they were redundant with the Finace, PR and IT departments of the ownership company. They all required just one or two people rather than an entire department.

      However, two jobs prior to that, the company was just having massive financial problems. They cut corners where they could. Finance was outsourced for less money. A three person PR department became a one person PR department, etc.

    4. Alas for this*

      Here’s a related question: how much money should I have socked away such that getting laid-off is essentially an unexpected early retirement? I’ve currently got $1.6M.

      1. class factotum*

        Unless you plan never to get sick, have a paid-for house and no other debt, and have low property taxes, $1.6 million is not enough to retire on. Say you can get 3% interest in that money and don’t touch the principle. That is still only about $50K a year and you have to pay taxes on that, buy your health insurance, your homeowner’s insurance, your car insurance, pay your health insurance deductible, pay property taxes ($5,000 a year where we are), etc, etc. I guess you could retire, but you sure couldn’t do much other than stay at home.

          1. class factotum*

            Good point, but I think of “early retirement” as something that happens before you are 50. I know people who are regular retired in their early and mid 50s.

        1. fposte*

          Why would you not touch the principal? You’ve saved that money to spend in your retirement, unless you’re a Vanderbilt trying to leave your vast holdings to the younger members of the dynasty. That was a predominant theory back in the day when most people with investments were dealing with inherited wealth, but it doesn’t really make sense now.

          I think people feel that dividends work like interest, in that they’re additional income on top of your investment, and that’s not how they work: when a fund or stock throws a dividend, you have the exact same amount of money total in that investment as you did–it’s just that they’ve siphoned some of it off into the dividends, so what one might think of as “principal” is actually *lowered* by dividend generation (that’s why there’s always panicked posts on financial forums the day dividends are generated, by people who aren’t familiar with this and who can’t figure out why their holdings dropped in value).

          $1.5 million could definitely be retirable on. Heck, my annual expenses are under $45k now.

          1. class factotum*

            I wouldn’t start touching the principal until I am probably about 80, as both of my grandmothers lived to be 97 and their assisted living cost about $3,000 a month. However, I am very risk averse and am always convinced there is financial disaster around the corner, so I like to have a lot of cash on hand. (I have been laid off before and it took me 18 months to find a job after I completed my two years in the Peace Corps.)

        2. Rebecca*

          I’m doomed. I won’t even have $160,000 when I retire, let alone $1.6 Million! LOL – it’s hard to put away money for later when the present day takes nearly every dime of take home pay. I try to save 10% of my take home pay and I have 5% taken out for my 401K, but I can’t do any more than that. It didn’t help that I lost nearly all the money in my 401K on the day of and after 9/11.

          My master plan is to get a job as a greeter in a large big box store, and take up residence someplace in the store, and just move around a lot and hope they don’t notice.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, Rebecca, I was wondering about the retirement question when you were posting the other day; I’m sorry, that doesn’t sound very good. Are you eligible for Social Security? That can take you farther than you might expect, especially in a lower cost of living area and if you can take it later in life.

            How did you lose all your money on 9/11? Was it in company stock that never recovered, or did you cash it out at a loss?

            1. Rebecca*

              It may have been the other Rebecca :) I’m 51, and hope to work until I’m 70. I’m eligible for social security at some point, so if I retire at 70 allegedly I’ll get more money per month, about $1700, but that’s if the system remains solvent and the government doesn’t drastically cut benefits.

              I had some money in a 401K plan at work through my employer, and when the towers were hit and the stock market started the free fall, my money was in the more risky stocks, so I could grow it. I went online immediately that morning to try to move it all into the bonds (I think) fund, but our moves were held for 24 hours by the investment firm, so by the time trading was halted I lost quite a bit, and when I left the job in Oct 2002 and cashed out to roll to another fund, I had less than my contributions to date. It was very disheartening, to say the least.

              1. fposte*

                No, it was definitely you :-). I’m the same age and therefore remembered that, and though your question wasn’t about retirement it immediately made me think about what kind of retirement implications your situation had.

                From what I can see, the solider explorations of Social Security think it’ll be paying out all right for some time. Sorry about the 401k hit, though–that’s really tough.

            2. Mister Pickle*

              Mind if I join in? Rebecca, I’m hardly an expert, but re Social Security: are you married? If so, there are some strategies for maximizing your benefits. Here’s a web page that discusses a bit of it:


              “If you and your current spouse are full retirement age, one of you can apply for retirement benefits now and have the payments suspended, while the other applies only for spouse’s benefits. This strategy allows both of you to delay receiving retirement benefits on your own records so you can get delayed retirement credits.”

              There’s no shortage of material on the web that goes into further detail, if it is of interest to you, I’d advise doing some research.

      2. BRR*

        Common advice is to have enough to generate between 70%-80% of your pre-retirement income. This really depends on a lot of personal circumstances though and you should consult a financial adviser to figure out your own goal.

      3. fposte*

        Very rough rule of thumb is 25x your current living expenses. Even that’s based on a retirement at 65.

        Slightly less rough rule of thumb is whether it’s enough for a sustained safe withdrawal rate of 4% or, better yet with a longer timeframe, 3%.

        Non-rough version: put your numbers into FIREcalc (which runs scenarios based on historical economic performance against your info) to see what percentage of the time you’d run out of money.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          Thanks for the pointer to FIREcalc!

          I “collect” these kinds of things – here are some of the better ones I’ve found:

          I have to start on dinner so I don’t have time to go into detail, but these all go beyond – sometimes far beyond – the useless simple interest calculations that many “retirement calculators” provide. The “Flexible Retirement Planner” has something of a learning curve to it, but it will blow your mind once you figure it out. The Financial Mentor calculator is my least favorite, but it’s still not bad.

          1. fposte*

            Ooh, I’ll play with these this weekend–thanks! Though of course nobody knows what the heck my pension will contain until the courts sort it out :-/.

            1. Mister Pickle*

              Re pension: I hear ya. My company took away my pension some years ago, and replaced it with a “lump sum”. I still have no idea how badly I got screwed. I’m not sure I want to know.

    5. C Average*

      It so happens that a past post about this that I was following got a new comment yesterday, triggering an email notification, and it was so absolutely brilliant and on-point that I’m both going to link to it and quote it here.

      Good luck. These things are tough for both victims and survivors.

      Here’s the link:

      And here’s the comment:

      Author: Vicki
      I will counter.

      _Sometimes_ companies lay off the highest paid employees.
      Sometimes it’s the ones who they think are paid more than they should be (which doesn;t mean highest paid).
      Sometimes you’re in a group that simply has “too many people”.
      Sometimes every manager is told to cut and they flip a coin. Seriously.
      Sometimes, an entire group is laid off or a project is eliminated.
      Sometimes, it’s the most recently hired people.
      Sometimes, it’s people just this side of 40.
      Sometimes it’s the remote workers.
      Sometimes it really is “dead wood” (but not as often as you think).
      Sometimes, someone didn’t like you.

      Never assume.
      Say thank you.

      1. The wife of the sales manager*

        And sometimes when faced with yet another round of cuts the manager puts himself on the list to save two jobs lower down. True story. The spouse did this in 2008. He was 58 and I was on half salary at the time. I couldn’t talk him out it and I truly thought he would never get another job as he was in a dying industry. I am happy to say I was wrong. He got a new job after 8 months.

        1. C Average*

          Wow. What an amazing, selfless thing to do. I’m glad he was able to find another job in his industry. Sometimes the good guys DO win.

    6. Rebecca*

      Beware of sudden “cross training” exercises, where none existed before. That’s how my first company made sure when they laid people off, job functions were still covered. Then they rewrote the job responsibilities slightly, and voila – jobs were eliminated and created just like that.

      1. Colette*

        I think that kind of exercise could be a sign – but there’s not much you can do about it. If you refuse to cross-train, it’s not going to go well for you.

        If you believe your company will be hit by layoffs:
        – assume you could be on the list
        – save money
        – start talking to people working elsewhere about what they look for when they hire, what they like about their company/job, etc.

  7. Sunflower*

    I posted last week that I was applying to project management jobs. My current job title is Event & Meeting Planner and my job really consists of organizing logistics for all the events. I’ve been here for a 1 1/2 and was a project/marketing coordinator at my previous job for 2 years. A lot of it is small, corporate one day educational seminars that I organize about a week out(I do about 500 of these a year) and then larger events that take much more planning and running. I haven’t been getting a lot of feedback from applications and I’m wondering if I’m reaching too far by applying to jobs asking for 3-5 years of project management experience. My job title isn’t project coordinator so could that also be hurting me?

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      “Project Manager”, at least in my business, translates into a certain skill set that is clearly defined (and certified) by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Somebody with 3-5 years of project management experience, at least in my business, is going to have about 10 years of leadership positions.

      That’s not to say you can’t be a Project Manager in another business without being a PMP. Organizations with large Project Management Offices need Project Co-ordinators which may be a better place to start.

      1. Sunflower*

        Something someone noted last week was a lot of project manager jobs aren’t actually project management and I guess those are probably the jobs I’ve been looking more towards. Some I’ve applied at are at advertisement agencies working on clients projects and the project coordinator roles are entry-level positions that require zero years of experience. My problem is more maybe knowing the right terms to search

    2. Ms. Anonymity*

      I agree with Wilton Businessman. I would think they’re normally looking for someone with a PMP or lots of relatable experience. Maybe try looking for duties and responsibilities that match what you’re looking for rather than any one title?
      On a side note, I’d love to get a position like the one it sounds like you’re leaving. I have a degree in marketing and experience in event planning. I would love to break into the corporate side of event planning as that wouldn’t eat up my weekends. I am in the D.C. metro area. Any advice?

      1. Sunflower*

        From my experience, most corporate event planners are located at headquarters so I would look particularly at companies headquartered in DC. Cvent is a company headquartered in DC that does online registration and event management software that could also help you gain experience. I would also suggest looking in conference centers or hotel sales. Hotel sales is usually m-f 9-5 and you can learn a lot. Most conference centers are only open during the week and can be a good segway. Plus you can gain a lot of corporate contacts through there that can help you out once you decide to move on.

    3. Shermie*

      Agree with the above comments. What type of project management jobs are you applying for? Construction? IT?

      1. Sunflower*

        Like I mentioned above, a lot of jobs are at advertising agencies and seem like half project management and half account management. I think my issue is more knowing what terms to search to find these jobs and separating true project management jobs from jobs that require project management skills

    4. Mints*

      I think it depends if it’s phrased “3-5 years experience (without qualifiers)” or “3-5 years experience in project management.” I’d apply for the former but probably not the latter. I think it also depends on how the other bullets are phrased. Is it like “familiarity with [project management thing]” or “advanced experience and progressive responsibility in [project management thing]”?
      Basically I’d still look at those job titles, but read the postings to see if the rest looks like a fit

  8. Under the Radar For This*

    Apparently I work with children… TPTB had to redo cube seating assignments because people were being too chatty together. This blows my mind! And these people aren’t fresh out of college (not completely inexcusable but it’d be something), they’re late twenties and early thirties!

    1. Traveler*

      Wow. I find this disconcerting not only that the employees couldn’t keep quiet, and that the management couldn’t find a way to resolve this that didn’t involve grade school teacher tactics.

      1. A Teacher*

        I don’t have assigned seating in my classroom–or desks for that matter. I use fishbowl seating with 3 big tables, office chairs, a few couches, a few library chairs, and a few other random pieces of furniture. My classroom comfortably seats 33. Since I’ve given them more freedom, year 3 of completely no desks and no assigned seating things have been better. They are still accountable, but not all teachers resort to assigned seats or moving them around.

        1. Traveler*

          I wasn’t trying to imply all teachers do this – or even that its a bad tactic for younger kids (That is to say I hope you weren’t offended). Just that things that can work with children, who are bright but not necessarily at the reasoning level of an adult, shouldn’t be used on adults as a get out of jail free card from managing.

          If you can do this with kids and have it work, all the more reason not to use it in the work place!

          1. A Teacher*

            I got that, no worries. My mom was a middle/grade school art teacher, had tables with assigned seating :), we’re all different in our approach. I just think its fun to throw out how different cultures work, and even in teaching there’s some of us that do “different” things, trust me some of my co-workers didn’t get it either. Now they do, just like I don’t get their classroom set up. What works in one classroom (or office) doesn’t work in another.

            1. Traveler*

              Oh yes. I’ve never been a teacher, but I did outreach at schools for some time. I think its fascinating to see how different classrooms are set up and how the teachers run them. We always ended up talking about it on the ride back to the office.

      2. Windchime*

        It is disconcerting, but sometimes people just will. not. shut. up. I honestly don’t see how they get anything done when they are constantly flapping their gums.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      This is why I’m avoiding managing people. If they’re really good employees, they don’t need much supervision or management, but if they’re…not good? Once I tell someone “you need to be here on time for your shift”, what do I do after that? We don’t have any formal PIP process, and the one time I had to have a come-to-Jeebus meeting with someone I supervised, the director bailed on me without notice. I’d rather just keep working on tasks, thankyouverymuch.

  9. New Here*

    Any advice for coping with a toxic work environment? I’m applying for jobs elsewhere but it’s slim pickings in my field and I’m trying not to feel overwhelmed. This job has caused major anxiety and stress, and unfortunately has begun affecting my personal relationships. What have others done to help relieve the stress?

    1. Red*

      I could not do much at my work site when I had a stressful job, but I did my best to treat myself well at home–even a half hour when it could be spared just relaxing with my feet in some hot water (IN THE BIGGEST BOWL IN MY APARTMENT! YEAH! WITH SOME MINT TEA BAGS IN IT) and maybe an adult beverage of choice, listening to some music, reading something lowbrow, etc. really helped. Working on getting a new hustle helped too, because it let me imagine an out.

        1. Red*

          Trufax: MINT IS THE BEST. You can drink it! You can add it to liquor! You can put your feet in it! It makes your breath stink less of coffee, and your feet stink less of feet! If it takes over your yard, when you mow, it’s festive! If you plant it in a pot, it tries to establish branch offices! Mint: the ultimate entrepreneur.

          (It’s maybe been a long week.)

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Great ideas for disconnecting from a toxic workplace! Soaking feet in something fragrant always fees so luxurious. Three cheers for mint tea in all it’s uses!

        1. Jazzy Red*

          OK, so now I’m typing like the closed captioning on my TV that doesn’t really understand spoken English.

          “Soaking feet in something fragrant always *feels* so luxurious”.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I worked out a deal with my husband where I was allowed a certain amount of venting to get all the frustration out. Then, after a certain amount of time, he’d help me switch tracks away from work. Having that little pressure release really helped.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        I do this too–I’ll take maybe ten minutes after work to complain, but then I’m done and switching tracks. It’s easier than dwelling on how horrible work is and thinking about it all evening, too–which “poisons” your at-home time and drags your work home even when it isn’t necessary.

    3. OhNo*

      If it’s starting to affect your personal relationships, may I recommend taking some time for yourself everyday when you get home to de-stress? That helps me a lot. Even fifteen or thirty minutes, where everyone knows not to bother you, and you can do whatever helps you relax.

      I like taking a long, ridiculously hot shower. A friend of mine likes to de-stress by looking at job ads she wants to apply to. Whatever floats your boat – just give yourself time to switch from “work mode” to “home mode”.

      (And good luck getting a new job! I hope you find one soon.)

      1. CheeryO*

        Yes, this! I go for a run almost every day right after work, and by the time I come back, all the crap from the day has melted away. I can really notice the difference on days that I don’t do it – the anxiety and crabbiness follows me all the way to bedtime.

        1. AVP*

          I started running a few years ago when I was in the middle of a ridiculously stressful, not-fixable-any-time-soon work situation and it was so great. I am completely unathletic and aware that I look really stupid when running, but I would leave my house super angry and pumped up and come back wiped out, unable to think of anything work related, and then transition straight into cooking or watching a movie, so my mind was never allowed to go back to the work situation until the next morning.

        2. C Average*

          I do hill repeats on particularly stressful days. I have a hill I privately think of as “Product Launch Hill,” because product launch days are insanely stressful for my team.

        3. AggrAV8ed Tech*

          That’s exactly why I run 4 miles every morning before work (not able to do it after work, you’ll see why below). It’s the only time I really get to de-stress and experience 30-40 minutes of non-anxiety every day. Work is toxic and then I get to go home to a toddler and a newborn, which obviously brings about a completely different type of stress and anxiety. It doesn’t help with the anxiety during the work day, sadly, but it’s a brief safe haven every morning for me.

        4. Hillary*

          I’m still surprised to say this, but I took up golf this year (at 33, yikes) and have found it surprisingly relaxing. I can’t think about anything else while I’m trying to hit the ball, and thanks to the pro I’m not as bad at it as I expected.

      2. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        I know someone who wakes up every weekday morning, makes coffee, and drinks it while checking for the latest job ads in her industry. Then she goes to work to work in a better mood.

        Last year was very, very stressful at work as we went through major re-org, so not toxic, just overwhelming and lots of wtfery. Doing something physical (long walks, bike rides, circuit training) is most effective for me. One of the things I like about weight lifting is that counting your reps (like counting sheep) makes your brain turn off — you can’t count and obsess about your workload or wretched co-workers at the same time.

        I second the “time limit on venting to others” idea. Also arranging to do things with others that supply topics that aren’t work-related. Drinks or coffee lend themselves to the spiral of depressing venting; binge-watching something together on Netflix, playing a game or sport, going to an event, or even going somewhere you can people-watch together can shift the focus.

    4. EE*

      I feel your pain. Right out of grad school, I worked in a field that was small, and getting smaller. I took the job knowing the office was toxic, but I needed a paycheck anyways. The boss was inept, the pay was lousy, and when the lucky ones got out, they were not replaced, thus adding large amounts of work onto everyone else. I was job searching from the moment I accepted the offer, and finally time ran out. I was laid off due to “budget cuts” just 6 months later.
      I relate in that my stress at work put a toll on my health, my relationships, and my mood. My only advice is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I was out of work all summer, but recently landed quite the awesome gig. Continue to put your resume out there, and someone WILL bite. The one thing that kept me going was job hunting. It can be exhausting, but it is also super exciting knowing that there is something else out there for you.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Yes, this is good to keep in mind– you are doing what you can to get out, and you WILL be able to leave in the future!

    5. Frances*

      Do you get any time out of the office during the day, or do you eat lunch at your desk or with other coworkers? It took me awhile at my most stressful job to realize that the nature of the job and the fact that we had a staff cafeteria meant I was spending 8+ hours straight working, with no real breaks at all. I used to set aside some time after eating to either go out and take a 15-20 minute walk or (if the weather was super terrible) climb up and down the back staircase no one used, just to get me a little exercise and a little mental space. It definitely helped preserve my sanity until I could find a better job.

      1. Amanda*

        YES. I was going to comment with a suggestion along these lines. Get the heck out of there for a while each day, and relieve some of that pressure. I used to take my lunch to the mall food court across the street and eat there, just to not be in the building for a while.

        I also made it a point to take my (personnel policy allowed) breaks very distinctly NOT at work. Instead of surfing the internet for a while I’d take a book and go outside, or lock myself in a conference room I knew wasn’t being used.

    6. LCL*

      If it is specific people that are causing the stress, I have two ways of dealing with them.
      1. Tell myself that the person talking to me isn’t real, they are an actor playing a part and I am just observing them.
      2. Tell myself that eventually that person is going to die and I will be glad. And hope their death is painful.
      Obviously, don’t ever tell the people involved what you really think of them.

      1. CheeryO*

        Confession time… I wished death upon a particularly awful coworker of mine, and she ended up passing away in a car accident not long before I quit. I still feel bad about it, even though she was one of the most unpleasant people I have ever met.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          I feel for you. I didn’t actually wish death upon them, but I did not get along well with my in-laws. Then one day they both died in a car crash while they were on their way to visit. After 10 years I still haven’t really sorted it all out. True story.

            1. A*

              I sort of laughingly said that maybe the union vp was dead and that’s why they weren’t responding to our discovery requests. She was dying at that time. Felt bad for a bit.

    7. danr*

      When you go home DON’T discuss it or complain about it. Find other things to talk about and dwell on. Let the folks you talk to complain or praise their jobs and don’t bring up your job problems.
      I got into one of those spirals once and I got out by leaving my problems at work. Once they ceased being all consuming, they became manageable.

    8. Muriel Heslop*

      In my most toxic environment, my best help came from clean eating and regular exercise. The stronger and healthier I felt physically, the stronger and healthier I felt mentally and emotionally. A glass of wine and a mindless TV show helped also. I really needed all of my energy to take care of myself – it started to affect my relationships, too. Better to neglect the relationships some than be a toxic presence in the lives of others, I found.

      Good luck! I hope you can find something soon.

      1. nep*

        Hear, hear. It’s amazing and wonderful to experience the benefits of clean eating and exercise. Can really do wonders — more than one might imagine. And not only for relieving work-related stress; the positive impact is really across the board.

    9. Magda*

      I had a work buddy who straight up scheduled a weekly therapy appointment to deal with the toxic environment. The therapy itself helped, but so did the sheer act of getting out of the office for an hour every Wednesday morning. I wish I had done that.

      1. C Average*

        +1 on therapy. Sometimes it’s super helpful to have a trained professional reassure you that it’s the environment that’s crazy, not you, and to help you develop some coping strategies and possibly an escape plan.

        1. AggrAV8ed Tech*

          I’ll concur. 95% of what I discuss with my therapist is work-related. It’s cathartic, at least (and she’s acknowledged that my relationship with my boss is not that unlike one of a battered wife and her husband).

    10. Jennifer*

      Here’s my list:
      (a) Drinking when I get home on especially awful days. Not every day, but especially awful ones.
      (b) Trying to not have anything else I have to do after work so I don’t have to “soldier on” as much past 5. (This probably doesn’t apply for most people since I am single, though.)
      (c) Make sure to leave the building during lunch and your mandated break, or any time you can get out.
      (d) While actually there, FAKE BEING HAPPY up the wazoo. Smile like a Stepford wife. I am amazed that nobody thinks anything’s wrong when I am Stepfording up the wazoo.
      (e) Realize that you are being paid to take abuse, with a smile, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Getting angry while at work is the worst because it makes you think you can actually do something about this, when in reality you can’t. If you just lie down and take it while faking happy, it gets you into less trouble.
      (f) Try to not talk or think about work once you are off the clock, especially on weekends.
      (g) Therapy.

      1. nep*

        I get the ‘fake happy’ thing. It’s empowering, really. We decide how we want to be and how we want to react to anything life hands us.
        The ‘lie down and take it’ an iffy way to phrase things, though, a mon avis.

      2. D*

        I know others have said the same, but a fitness class, running or some intense cardio really helps. In my darkest work hours I loved nothing more than kickboxing. It also helps you feel strong and fit, and you get to look better than those losers to boot.

    11. New Here*

      Thank you everyone for your advice. I will definitely make it a point to start taking daily walks. I have a toddler at home and I’m sure she’ll enjoy going out in the stroller for a bit. Seems to calm her down too. I don’t get an hour for lunch, but grabbing a cup of coffee just to get out of the office is doable. Thanks again!

      1. Zahra*

        Depending on the age of your toddler, she may enjoy walking with you too! My toddler is 3 and we did the Kid’s Marathon (1K) a few weeks ago. He loved it so much that he wants to redo it. Of course, you can’t do much more than 1k or 2 with a toddler walking with you, but stopping every few hundred feet to look at the flower here, pet the dog there is another way to relax and deconnect from work.

  10. Dr. Doll*

    Just a small vent — I have a team member who has lots of drama and frequent unexpected, unplanned absences. It’s mentioned at every.single.evaluation. Letting them go is not an option (union). I really could have used this person’s help this week, but well, the flu. Of course I don’t want them bringing flu into the office, but it’s *so annoying* that I can’t count on the person being here on any given day, for reasons that it’s very hard to argue with. /end vent

      1. Dr. Doll*

        Actually, I’m a union member too so I appreciate what they do to protect us ;-) but they certainly do make it harder to reward high performers and hold low performers accountable.

    1. Adam V*

      Start working the process – document whatever’s necessary, hold whatever meetings the union agreement requires. Perhaps once she realizes what you’re doing, she’ll shape up or leave on her own.

      (And no, I’ve never dealt with unions myself. But I don’t believe they make things *impossible* – I just think they may make it hard enough that usually people throw up their hands in frustration and give up because that’s the easier way. Stick to it and see how far it takes you.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, I agree. I was in a union for a long time.
        If something is a long trip that means one thing, start early. Hopefully, you have documentation of what has happened so far. Get together with union rep and gather her thoughts on the matter.
        It could be that drama employee has fallen into disfavor by the union also and the union will not stop you from accelerating this whole situation.
        It could be that other union members have complained to the union rep already so she is aware of what is going on with drama employee.

        Please start the conversation. It does the company no good and it reflects poorly on the union. A good rep will see that and respond in a supportive manner.

        Note. I am not a fan of unions but I do know that sometimes management can sit with union and be on the same page. Don’t assume anything. And make sure you have read the union handbook and know what the agreement is with your company. Then schedule a meeting.

    2. LCL*

      With people like this (there is always at least 1 in every work group) it is impossible to stop the behavior. It can be managed so it is less disruptive by their manager making sure that all of their leave time is properly accounted for. I have seen this problem become worse because management gets sick of all of the time entry changes so just looks the other way.

    3. Gene*

      Even with a union, you can let them go. You just have to document, document and then document some more.

    4. HR Generalist*

      Even with the union there should be processes for discipline. I work in a mixed union/non-union environment and even though we can’t just up and fire someone, you could do performance counselling or a disciplinary meeting for the drama AND the frequent absences. I’d pursue your options- talk to HR.

    5. Swarley*

      My place of employment doesn’t deal with unions, so forgive my ignorance, but why can’t you let someone go for what sounds like performance issues?

      1. attornaut*

        IME, unions make it so that firing someone can take years of writing them up, and probably some more serious issues. THEN you have to take into account what was done to other people in a similar position with similar issues, and be consistent with discipline there. There is no way that “had the flu multiple times for several years, plus had to leave early to pick up their kids on occasion, plus doesn’t have great interpersonal skills, etc.” will ever hold up, because on paper it just seems so petty and you have to justify everything to the union. Though if there are demonstrated performance issues, and those performance issues are worse than other people/the same as other people who are also disciplined, that might eventually work. Maybe.

      2. LCL*

        In the US, places that are unionized tend to have a more traditional benefits package. Sick leave is separate from vacation leave. Sick leave usage, no matter excessive the use or off the wall reason given, is rarely questioned because in the appeals process someone will always sympathize with sick leave use, and a physician can always be found who will justify sick leave for any BS reason. We have someone who has really hurt our workgroup by going on leave because of a bad breakup. That’s not my interpretation, that’s what he TOLD me.
        You can get rid of the flakes, excessive sick leave usually goes with other problems, but it is a lot of work.

        When I write performance evaluations, they are reviewed by my Supervisor before I give them to the employee, and if I make any mention of people’s absences they are bounced back to me and I am told to take that part out.

    6. phillist*

      You have my sympathy. I used to manage in a Union environment and, even though I am vehemently pro-Union in general (my grandfather was a UAW Steward my whole life and ditto for my mother with a different union) managing with a Union is a special kind of hell.

      Apart from the DOCUMENT advice, I will say that the easiest way to oust underperformers in that environment is through petty technicalities. It sucks that you sometimes have to fire otherwise excellent employees on these technicalities (reason #497 I got out) but sometimes it can work in your favor. We had poor performers who were impossible to document against because they had been there forever and knew exactly how to toe the line between “actionable offense” and “grey area of sucky but not actually discipline-worthy”. What worked on them was taking immediate action on their small, quantifiable offenses (2 minutes late; not following safety standards to a T; client complaint) and then compounding them quickly enough to initiate the coaching process and, ultimately, terminating them. It requires a lot of work, and extra vigilance on management’s part, but it can be done.

      I know you didn’t say you were a manager in this environment, so it’s quite possible that management is already aware of these issues and working on it–it just takes forever, and the process is invisible to those outside of management. This lead to horrible morale in my old department, unfortunately, but my stock answer became, “Okay, would you like to write a statement about that?”

      Statements from other Union employees were some of the best tools in our arsenal when it came to documenting poor workplace behavior, but most of the time, people refused to document against their co-workers and would then turn around and accuse us of ineffectual management. I know this was frustrating for the reps, too, because they would get complaints all day, but no one would actually put them in writing so that they could be resolved. If your Union contract allows, and you’re comfortable doing so, I would submit a statement to your rep regarding the issues and how they directly impact your work/workplace/clients. Having the Union and it’s members on board is tremendously helpful when trying to address chronic performance issues.

  11. nyxalinth*

    Despite thinking I was doing poorly and that I was only still there because we were and still are so short handed (people get tired of the droning monotony and quit very quickly), I was told I’m doing fine by grumpy bossman and he gave me a fifty cent an hour bonus. Not megabucks, but I’m happy!

      1. esra*

        Not an exciting one. A week after they said they’d get back to me, they called and said they were moving on with other candidates. If they email, you can just be sad and still write a polite reply. On the phone, you have to instantly sound unphased.

        1. fposte*

          I had one years ago, after a very long (even for academics) process, and then they would *not get off the phone.* Ugh.

          1. Mouse of Evil*

            Academics are the WORST for this. I had one call a month or so *after* the rejection email (which arrived three weeks after I had been told the decision would be made). It was like she just couldn’t bear to think that I might still be feeling sad or something. I wanted off the phone so badly.

        2. Sabrina*

          I tend to agree, though either is preferable to nothing at all. I once had an HR person call me three times to reject me. Three times. That’s how much they didn’t want me to work there.

            1. Blue_eyes*

              They were making up for all the employers that can’t even figure out one method of sending rejection notices!

    1. Felicia*

      yes! so much this! Especially don’t leave a message saying to call you back asap, without any details, and then only reject the person when they call you back.

      1. amp2140*

        I think there’s a special circle of hell for people that only ever leave the message ‘call me back’.

        1. Felicia*

          It only happened to me once, they said “we’re calling from x job that you interviewed for a few days ago, please call back asap”. So of course i’m going to assume it’s good news. I was devastated when i called back. That was a year ago and i have a decent job now but it still makes me mad to think about it

    2. Language Lover*

      I’ve had a philosophical difference about this with my supervisor. (We both hire & manage people.) I say “e-mail only.” My supervisor thinks a phone call is best. I did a lot of Googling when it came time to hire/reject someone and preferring an e-mail is not universal. Some people actually appreciate getting a phone call. I tell people how they would be notified in the event of their hire in an interview but also ask their preference in the event of a rejection. Most chose e-mail but two chose a phone call.

      I do not, however, leave a vague message to “call me back” when I do call and get their voice mail.

      1. J.B.*

        See, I disagree with that, because the call me back would get hopes up. If you get a voicemail leave a short to the point message.

          1. Language Lover*

            Precisely. I do not. I just say “Thank you for applying but we’ve chosen another candidate. Please contact me if you have any questions. Thank you.”

      2. BRR*

        I think the call people need to recognize they’re in the minority. For reasons such as saying the wrong thing and having a potential law suit, having people argue, or just the volume of applicants there’s a reason email is the default for most places (well default seems to be doing nothing with email a distant second).

        Asking everybody was very considerate and I thank you on their behalf.

        1. Language Lover*

          If I don’t interview them, I definitely send an e-mail. I don’t call them in that scenario.

          But for those I interview, I do try to ask. My “rejection” phone call is as pre-constructed as a “rejection” e-mail to avoid saying the wrong thing.

          But if someone asks for things they could work on, I will try to give some helpful tips but they’re usually not related specifically to why they weren’t hired. I might recommend AAM, for instance, for job hunting tips.

      3. Jazzy Red*

        If the only thing you’re going to say is that you’re sorry, but you’ve chosen another candidate whose qualifications more closely align with the job duties, I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT! Send me a short letter in the mail. And enclose a $10 Visa gift card.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          And then I can tear the letter into little tiny pieces and flush them down my toilet.

          I have many such coping strategies…

    3. Mister Pickle*

      I think that some people equate job hunting to dating. And you wouldn’t send someone an email to break up with them, would you?

      (For the record: I’d prefer an email rejection).

      1. Felicia*

        But I think if you’ve only been on one date with someone (just like you’ve probably only met the interviewer once), then an email saying you wouldn’t like a second date is totally acceptable. I wouldn’t send an email to break up with someone, but just like an interview, if you go on one date, there is no relationship to break up from.

    4. littlemoose*

      I generally would prefer e-mail for the same reasons stated in this thread. But I will say that I was rejected via phone from one job I really wanted, clerking for a judge, and the judge called me and gave me some really positive feedback – that they had chosen a person with slightly more experience over me, but that I was his second choice, and that he expected to have another clerk opening in six months or so that he would surely keep me in mind for if I was still looking then. I guess that information could have been relayed via e-mail as well, but the fact that he took some time to call me and sounded genuine on the phone did ease the rejection somewhat. For most situations, though, e-mail is way better.

    5. Alternative*

      OMG, yes. Spouse had this after multiple rounds of interviews, being flown out, etc. It was devastating. They thought they were being nice, and “more personal,” but just NO.

  12. Amy*

    A quick follow-up and a sincere THANK YOU to those who responded to my post a while back and AAM for providing such a valuable resource for job seekers. I had asked for advice about revealing a bankruptcy during an interview for a management position with a financial institution, which most often is an automatic deal breaker. Well, it wasn’t and the interviews went GREAT (seriously, the best interviews I’ve ever had). I got the job and it is amazing! If not for the advice I got here, I probably wouldn’t have even bothered with the interview at all. So thank you!!! And Happy Friday!

  13. Diet Coke Addict*

    Last week, my boss got on my case for doing a task, and said he had better handle that. This week, I sent all requests for that task in that territory to him, as he had requested, and he got on my case for sending work to him. I pointed out that this is what he had asked me to do, and he said “Well, you know, you need to exercise better judgment about what I should and shouldn’t be doing with my time.” Well, boss, we can start with the fact that I’ve been here a year and haven’t had a single solitary scrap of feedback, and when I’ve asked for review meetings, his response was “You don’t really need that….you’re fine. We don’d do those here.” I’ll toss that into the pile of Things We Don’t Do Here.

    It’s killing me not to receive even any phone calls about applications I’m putting out. I apply for jobs I’m qualified for or slightly under- or over-qualified, I write careful cover letters explaining my interest and skills, I curate my resume to include things they’re looking for, and I apply as they request and don’t pester. Even an interview would lift my spirits immensely.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      Oh DCA, I feel you on the interviews. I was feeling pretty down about my own search and finally got a call for the interview. Even though I didn’t get the job, just having the interview made me feel so much better.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      I pointed out that this is what he had asked me to do, and he said “Well, you know, you need to exercise better judgment about what I should and shouldn’t be doing with my time.”

      I hate people like this.

      1. AggrAV8ed Tech*

        Sounds like my boss.

        Him: “You need to CC: me on all emails that you send to so-and-so!”
        I start doing this.
        Him: “Stop CC:ing me in all those emails, I don’t have time for those!”

        1. Louise B*

          My boss does this too! Drives me (and the rest of the dept) crazy! I’m sorry you have to go through this.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          I had a nutso boss like this, too.

          I told the HR person, in the exit interview, that they needed to hire a professional psychic for her. Trying to figure out what she really wants instead of what she says would probably drive a psychic crazy, though.

          1. phillist*

            Oh, I know this feel. I used to joke that my last boss was actually [Name] and Bizzarro [Name], because he seemed to genuinely make contrary rules from one day to the next with no recollection of doing it. It was actually reading this blog that helped me identify that this was Not Normal behavior, and just how much emotional energy I was expending constantly adjusting to meet his changing requirements.

      2. Victoria, Please*

        Oh God, I had a boyfriend like this. I should “know him well enough and pay attention enough” to know what he wanted, didn’t want, liked and didn’t like, without ever asking.

        Sadly, I was too immature at the time to realize that I should dump *his* ass, not the other way around.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Sorry you’re going through that crap. I just recently got the “you need to keep us in the loop” talk, which a while ago was preceded by the “you need to handle these things on your own” talk.


        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          Thank goodness I’m not alone. I wish there was a polite way to say “I didn’t major in Mind-Reading. Can you tell me exactly what you’d prefer I do?” Because this “Do this. No, don’t do this” thing is just hopelessly irritating.

          1. Rebecca*

            This! My manager said I should have known I could work overtime, when she specifically stated that no one could work overtime. Then she proceeded to tell me I could have gotten more work done, and not been so far behind had I just worked additional hours. OK, then specifically tell me that. Oh, and as a bonus – had I worked overtime without her approval, look out. Can’t win. Not trying any more.

        2. Mister Pickle*

          Personally, I don’t mind the contradiction so much as I object to the kind of personality that can never admit to fault.

          1. A Non*

            Ugh, yes. I had a boss who would straight-up lie about past conversations so he’d always be “in the right”. I don’t know if he was aware he was lying or was just that good at lying to himself. If you change your mind, that’s 100% okay! Just fecking admit to it!

            I got out from under said boss a few weeks ago. Life is good.

    4. Blue_eyes*

      I feel the same way about my applications right now! I have a master’s degree and five years of work experience and I’m applying for things like Administrative Assistant that really just require you to be able to write coherently and be mostly competent at basic office functions, and I’m still getting no responses. Yesterday I got a reply from a hiring manager (that I think was not meant for me to see, full story below), asking her staff to put me in a pile of possibilities for the next round. Just knowing that a human saw my application and did not immediately dismiss it was surprisingly comforting.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        It sucks, I’m in a very similar boat. I’ve been keeping my master’s off many of my applications, because if they only want a Grade 12 or college (2-year) diploma, putting my MA on there is going to make me seem way overqualified. That’s how I got this position (that I am now frantically trying to get out of), but it seemed to help in terms of getting calls.

        The downer is when I apply for “stretch” jobs where I meet only, say, 75-80% of the credentials going full-blast and keeping everything on my resume and it doesn’t seem like nearly enough.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          I’ve been limiting my applications to jobs that require at least a BA so that my master’s doesn’t seem totally over-qualified. I’m also hoping the master’s will help make up for lack of experience since some jobs I’m applying for are in a new field. It’s tough because all of my work experience is in one specific area/position, and I’ve decided I don’t want to do that anymore. So now I’m looking at essentially entry level positions in other areas, but not being considered because they’re really looking for recent grads.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            I wouldn’t hire you as an admin because I know you would have no commitment to the job, and that you’ll be out the door in a flash as soon as you find something more suitable to your education. Admins today need to be Administrative Professionals, with qualifications and everything, and are not people who just sit in a chair looking for another job online while no one is looking.

    5. Marcy*

      If you had said “she” instead of “he” I would have thought you were working for my old boss. She complained that I didn’t copy her on emails so I asked what kind of emails she wanted me to copy her on. She couldn’t give me a single example so I suggested that I copy her on everything over the next few days and that she let me know which of those she doesn’t want in the future so I could figure out what kinds of things to copy her on. She agreed. The next day she came in and yelled at me for copying her on everything. I responded that that’s what she wanted me to do. Her response? “No, that’s what YOU wanted to do and I just agreed!” Sigh…
      I left after 18 months and don’t miss her a bit.

  14. OhNo*

    I just got back from a professional conference, which was great! But it did leave me with a lot of questions about professional development that I’m curious about.

    What kinds of professional development do you guys like? What kind sounds best in interviews or looks best on resumes? Any suggested resources, or tips for finding good resources for professional development? (Aside from asking people – I did a lot of that over the past couple of days and got some good suggestions, but I’m always interested in more!)

    1. Kara Ayako*

      I think it depends on what your goals are. Think about where you eventually want to be and what kinds of skills you will need to get there. Then seek out opportunities to help you gain some of those skills. Also, think about your current role and would would most help you be the best employee you could currently be.

      I’ve done a variety of things that would fall under “professional development” from management classes to project management certification to public speaking seminars.

      As a hiring manager, what stands out to me is that someone wants to work on him or herself and took the initiative. I love it when people are responsible for their own development.

    2. Jazzy Red*

      I always wanted professional development that would help me to my job better, easier, or help put me in line for a promotion.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Good question.

      There are lots of things that signal that it’s time to move on. Different people move on for different reasons. Some may move on because they are not learning anything new. Others may move on because of a management change that makes working unpleasant or not challenging. Of course, there’s always the money aspect as well.

      It pretty much depends on you and what your goals are for your career. If you’re not getting what you need to get where you want to go, it might be time to start looking. That being said, a frank conversation with your manager about what you are looking for could open up new opportunities and responsibilities at your current place of employment.

      It’s a scary thing to move on. Make sure you position yourself financially to be able to do it (ie. not living paycheck to paycheck where you feel stuck).

    2. RetailManager*

      When my requests for training, critical feedback (‘just keep it up’), and projects were brushed off. When I stopped sleeping regularly. When I got really angry and cried in my car every lunch break.

      And it still took a year to land a position.

      1. nep*

        Yikes. Glad you were able to find another position.
        (Hephinstine: Probably before one gets to the stage of crying in the car on breaks and losing sleep would be good.)

    3. ClaireS*

      In my situation, it was hard to figure out. I wasn’t unhappy but I wasn’t being challenged and I started to coast. It took me a while to realize that this wasn’t what I wanted anymore.

      I thought critically about how I could find challenges within my job and company. When I realized there wasn’t anything that fit, I started looking.

      I left amicably when I found a new job and have been really pleased.

    4. ACA*

      The time I started crying during lunch because I didn’t want to go back to the office was a pretty big signifier.

    5. Joey*

      When I lost faith in and respect for my boss and knew things wouldn’t change since he was the owner of the company.

    6. Blue_eyes*

      When I was so stressed that I could barely eat or sleep and my supervisor/mentor had stopped talking to me… Definitely was not worth trying to make that situation workable.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        When I kept having violent daydreams about bludgening my boss to death with a hole punch.

        Yes, I know, but it got me through the day. After having been transferred to a new position which was a kind of promotion (although without a payrise) and was in an area in which I wanted to focus, I was suddenly informed there wasn’t enough work for me full time, so I was to go back to doing what I had been in the past. Then, all of a sudden, a memo went round saying somebody else was being appointed into the new position. By this stage, I decided it was time to go.

    7. Camellia*

      These are all important reasons and they all relate to finally admitting that your job is killing you, so to speak. I would like to add another view point.

      I say move on after 4 to 7 years at the same job. Go in, make your mistakes, learn all you can, and then take that experience to the next job. You start fresh, probably with a pay increase, and have a whole new set of experiences waiting for you, things to learn, people to get to know, heck, just driving to a different neighborhood for work can refresh a tired mind set. By choosing your own time to move on, even if (or maybe especially if) things are still going well, you have the time to shop around for just the right opportunity. There is no job security anymore, no one stays at one job for forty years and then retires from it. So move on because you choose to, not because you have to.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      When it dawns on me that ten years from now I will be doing the exact same thing I am doing now. In other words, I have plateaued and I don’t want that, I want to move onward.

    9. Windchime*

      I overstayed at my last job. In retrospect, these are things that should have prompted me to start looking:

      –Our manager didn’t manage, which left a vacuum for that role. So a well-meaning colleague tried to manage, without the authority or the skills to do so. Bullying ensued.

      –Our team imploded and the work went away when the company decided to purchase and application to replace the in-house software that my team produced. Most of the developers were moved to application configuration positions. I hated it because……

      –We had an impossibly short time to configure and set up the application, and a very complex business that takes more time than normal. Which led to….

      –Our team was totally stressed out and overworked. We were working 7 days a week for months on end. Someone on the team cried at least once per day (sometimes more).

      Any one of these should have been a sign that it was time to move on; unfortunately, I had been with the company for over 20 years at that point and thought I would stay there forever. Fortunately, an opportunity came up out of the blue and I was fortunate to be offered the position. I thought about it for about 5 minutes before accepting.

    10. phillist*

      When I looked at my then-manager, who I adored, and realized, “Oh my god, I do not want to be you.” I knew with absolute certainty that there was no amount of money they could offer me to do her job, which would have been the next step up on the ladder for me.

      I just switched industries and I am so, so happy.

    11. A Non*

      When I’d find myself wishing for an accident that would put me in the hospital for a couple weeks so I wouldn’t have to go to work.

  15. Sara S.*

    My cube neighbor is THE LOUDEST and most incessantly chatty person I have ever met in my ENTIRE LIFE. She has no concept of inside voices, will screech “GOOD MORNING” at every single person who walks past, and goes on long, winding tangents to nobody. Her voice has become like nails on a chalkboard to me, and I’m about 2 seconds away from duct-taping her mouth shut. Even worse, she is genuinely sweet and thoughtful, so I can’t even rant without feeling guilty about it.

    1. soitgoes*

      This reminds me of a question Allison answered a month or two ago. The young woman who wrote in seemed genuinely sweet, just confused as to why her coworkers weren’t reacting well to her efforts to be cheerful and friendly. Some people grow out of the “class participation” mentality, and some people don’t.

      It’s rough because your coworker clearly enjoys her job and working with all of you, so it’s not like your boss would be eager to put a damper on that.

      1. Sara S.*

        Exactly! It’s such a silly thing to complain about. It’s not as if I can say “hey Julie, can you tone down the friendliness and positive attitude?” I just try to keep perspective and remember that she could be rude and snarky instead. And wear noise-cancelling headphones :)

        1. soitgoes*

          Well, if it’s the receptionist who’s saying, “Hi” or “How are you doing?” every. single. time you walk by, it starts to put you on edge and give you the feeling of being watched very closely. But even so, constant chatter is an issue, no matter how well-intentioned.

    2. Idaho*

      I think I might prefer chatty to strange cough/hacking noises for the past three weeks. And the sniffling. Oh the sniffling. I’ve been so tempted to go up to him with a tissue and ask if he needs to blow his nose. It’s like dealing with a toddler.

      I have no idea if he is sick or has allergies, but either way it’s disgusting.

    3. Jennifer*

      I hear ya. My cube neighbor must have NOISE at all times. And the radio on. And she SINGS ALONG. But the pain of telling her to stop and the bitching she’d do about me are not worth it.

      She’s out today. Yay quiet.

  16. Ask a Manager* Post author

    So, the dad of a regular commenter here works at the Arctic Circle (in a lab at a zinc mine) and has agreed to be interviewed for a post here. I need help coming up with questions. What do y’all want to know about working at the Arctic Circle?

    (I keep picturing it being like the TV show Helix.)

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Oh, so many things! Is this a position one volunteers for, or is there any choice in the matter? How isolated is it? Is it difficult to have any sort of “life” outside of work when you’re in the Arctic Circle–i.e., doing stuff for fun with coworkers all the time? How long do you stay? Is it really different from working in a lab in, say, Oklahoma (or wherever else one mines zinc, I imagine) or is it basically the same job?

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Piggybacking on that, how does one get a job in a place like that? Do they look for any odd qualifications on top of the usual ones for the position? Is it harder or easier to get a job up there than in, say, Oklahoma?

    2. Katie the Fed*

      How is it similar to a regular office environment? How is it different? What do you do to stay sane when faced with limited things to do outside of work (also an issue when we deploy)?

      1. JMW*

        Assume he is only there during the “light” time of year. How does the lack of nighttime dark affect people’s moods?

        Does he ever feel trapped being in such a remote environment with physical limits on what he can do?

        He probably went into this job with expectations of what it would be like. What has surprised him the most?

        1. rp*

          A lot of people work up above the Arctic Circle year round. During the winter with no light people tend to get on weird sleep schedules. When there’s no sun there’s really no need for a 24 hour day. My Dad worked up in Barrow at a research post for a while and he said he’d be on about a 30 hour day and his boss on something like a 22 hour day, and their work periods would align ever so often. Also the dining hall served breakfast, lunch, and dinner every 6 hours or something so people on weird schedules wouldn’t miss a meal.

          1. JMW*

            Thank you for sharing that. For some reason, I was under the impression that arctic expeditions were usually “summer” trips because of the danger of being trapped by ice floes in winter. Maybe that’s only the Antarctic. Or maybe I am just wrong!

            1. JT*

              Is he posted in a remote community, or is it just “the lab”? If a community, what do others do there? What is the food like? Does he hunt? I understand hunters are highly valued in Alaska, since the price of shipped in food is so very high.
              What does he do in his down time? How does he interact with the environment, take walks or the like? Perhaps I’ve read too much of The Call of the Wild. How dangerous is the wildlife there? What surprised him the most about the position, and the location?

    3. Red*

      How do people up there cope with being kinda “trapped”? It seems like a recipe for major cabin fever.

    4. BRR*

      Did you relocate for the position? If yes, was it mentioned in the job positing and was it discussed briefly or in-depth during the interview?

      Do they provide any additional or unusual perks or benefits due to the location?

    5. OhNo*

      I’m guessing this is a pretty insular and isolated environment, so my question would be how do you handle coworker relationships in a situation like that? It’s bad enough dealing with “gossipy Betty” at work, but if you also have to see them at the store and the post office and the cafe, it must get annoying. And god forbid any romantic relationships between coworkers went wrong!

      1. AVP*

        I was about to post something similar…I would love to know how the co-worker relationships differ when you’re stuck somewhere isolated with people you also have to work with or manage every day.

        Oh and if you all are interested, Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World covers some similar ground, and he’s a fascinating interviewer/conversationalist.

    6. Pontoon Pirate*

      What do people who work there transition to next? Do they stay in field assignments, move companies, go to an office? And has he ever gotten feedback from those people about how they feel about where they ended up after?

      What’s a typical day like? A typical week?

      1. rp*

        My dad used to work some place like this–he came back to the Anchorage eventually and started working for the government as an oceanographer–so combination office and field after he got done in the Arctic.

    7. anon in tejas*

      What’s the most unexpected thing about the job?
      What has this remote location/job taught you about yourself, your values and your family?

    8. Elkay*

      Everything I can think of covers the practicalities of being up there,

      Is it just one company or are there several companies sharing a lab?

      Is it a 6 months in the Arctic/6 months at home arrangement or is it all year round?

      This might sounds like a stupidly naive one but where do they live?

      Has the lab ever had to be relocated/rebuilt, what’s the process and timescales for that?

    9. Kate*

      What happens when there is a disagreement? I can imagine there it is close quarters and there are plenty of small get on your nerves type ones.

    10. AvonLady Barksdale*

      What’s the food like? I imagine they bring a lot of stuff in and have a team of cooks, but does it ever get boring? Do you miss being able to go to the deli for a sandwich?

      Do you ever get reallllly tired of seeing the same people over and over again?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        This is kind of like what I wanted to ask!

        My first thought was how much I love going out to eat at nice restaurants, and I wondered how they provide for variety and special treats, or do they have a very limited menu? And then I wondered, gee, is it much easier in that kind of highly regulated environment to build in habits like exercise or hobbies, whereas in many other situations we find that other priorities interrupt? And what do they do to shake up their routines?

        Do they Skype a lot?

    11. The LeGal*

      How do they address performance issues? What happens when you fire someone from the Artic Circle? I imagine that in a regular location you could fire someone and they’d go that day, but what happens when leaving is so hard?

      1. The LeGal*

        Oh… How did the company prepare you for the realities of living in the Artic Circle during the offer stage? Was the company right, or could the company have done something differently / better to prep you?

    12. Lillie Lane*

      Did he have to do any specific training to prepare? (I’m thinking of Sheldon forcing his BBT buddies to do tasks in the Cheesecake Factory freezer before they headed to the Arctic Circle.)

    13. Mister Pickle*

      Do they have an official policy on discovering extraterrestrial artifacts?

      [I keep picturing John Carpenter’s The Thing]

      The questions I’d ask would be based on the work environment. Are we talking something like Cicely, Alaska? Or something like the compound / mining operation in the movie Avatar? Or a Helix/Thing-like self-contained base?

      And – crass though it may be – what does it pay? (not specifically the dad’s job, but maybe he can give approximate ranges for different classes of jobs?)

      1. MaryMary*

        Somewhat related: what did he need to bring with him, and what was provided? Were more office/work supplies provided because of the location? How many personal belongings are people permitted to bring? Is it like decorating offices, where some people bring a framed picture of their family, while others bring their own lamp, rug, and curtains?

        1. Anonsie*

          Oh yeah, I’d like to know that– what is provided vs what do you have to bring, what parts of your relocation is assisted?

    14. TheExchequer*

      What does he do for entertainment? I’m a bibliophile and if I could not bring some of my beloved (print, thankyouverymuch) books with me and have access to new books at least sometimes, I would not be going there.

      What is the relationship between the people who work at the lab and the people who work at the mine? Close? Distant?

      How cold is it, really? (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

    15. Anonsie*

      How does one get a job there? Everyone I’ve ever known who did something like this has said they knew a guy who knew a guy sort of thing.

    16. Beary Cute*

      How many times has he heard the joke about the person who builds a house that has all four walls facing south. A bear walks by; what color is the bear?

    17. Joey*

      How often does the weather prevent you from working?

      Will working in the arctic change your work habits once you get back to a “regular work environment”? If so, how?

      Would you do it again?

      What was the biggest surprise about working in the arctic?

      Outhouses or real bathrooms?

      How low did the temperature go? What kind of temperatures were you working in while inside?

    18. Stephanie*

      What’s the tax situation? Also, since multiple countries have jurisdiction there, whose laws do you follow? Is there hardship pay?

    19. Mitchell*

      Certain reality tv shows (ice road truckers, deadliest catch) have given me the impression that working in a harsh location is a good way for people with basic skills + good work ethic to make tons of money. Is there any truth to that?

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I remember watching a couple of documentaries about the British Antarctic Survey, which also involves spending long periods of time in cold places. I always wondered how people stayed focused in such an isolated place.

        1. rp*

          People up in Alaska working on the Pipeline, or in the oil fields, or in a mine tend to make a good amount. Part of it is hazard pay (those jobs are all pretty dangerous), the other part of your pay is because you’re gone out in Arctic and away from your family for 2-3 weeks at a time, then come home for a week. So they’re paying you for the invonvienence and the danger.

        2. fposte*

          You’ve got to read Nicholas Johnson’s Big Dead Place. The answer to your wonder seems to be “They drink a lot.”

    20. Squirrel!*

      That sounds awesome! I’d love it if he could go into the psychological/physiological aspect of the job. In one of the classes I’m currently taking, it has mentioned several times about how those who work in the Arctic have trouble with sleeping/waking, are more likely to be depressed, have low serotonin levels, etc. The neurological points of this would fascinate me, mostly because I’m a huge dork about that kind of thing.

    21. Not So NewReader*

      How did you get this job?
      Is your stay finite or can you stay as long as you wish?
      What do you have for transportation and how do you keep everything from freezing up?
      Are you near open water where you can see sea life?
      What is one of the funnier things you have experienced/seen?
      After the cold, what is the next most difficult thing you have to deal with?
      What does vacation time work?
      How close is the zinc to the surface of the earth? Are the mines colder or warmer than above ground temps? How deep are the mines on average?
      I know some places have offices right down in the mines. One office was a mile underground. Where is your lab?

      Thanks for doing this Alison and thank you to the dad who volunteered, also. This is very interesting.

  17. looksandbooks*

    I used to have a good relationship with my manager. Since the summer, our relationship has drastically changed. She became this “Mean girl” of sorts and has started acting out towards me. I won’t get into specifics, but there has been a lot of gossiping and back stabbing towards me. She has kept me from getting internal positions that I’ve been interested in.

    Thankfully, she is moving on to a new role in a few weeks, so my time with her is limited. Since then, she has been overly nice to me, but honestly, I really don’t care and in my mind the relationship/trust had been broken. I do not plan on using her as a reference and am only looking for jobs externally at this point.

    Any tips for dealing with her? Right now, I only talk to her about work stuff and pretty much avoid her otherwise.

    1. hello*

      hang in there! i’ve been there before and it sucks but try not to focus on it. she’ll be out of your hair soon

    2. JMW*

      Sometimes it helps to try to look at situations more objectively – try to detach and depersonalize. In this case, your manager may just be a person who needs (in an addicted sort of way) drama. Drama requires a victim and a villain (and occasionally it extends to having a hero). When one drama resolves, the drama-addict looks for the next. This time, you have been cast as the villain. As unpleasant as it is, this is her drama, and it speaks to the lack of spiritual/psychological progress in her life that she is stuck in drama mode. Be glad you are not her and that she is moving on.

      I think you are handling it just right.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      When did she decide to put in for another job? This summer?
      Sometimes people can only say good bye if they are angry with a person. It’s the only way to convince themselves that it’s okay to move on.
      You are right though, this is a person that is not yet capable of having a work relationship that is on an even keel.

      Mirror her. If she is being pleasant then mirror that back. If she is pulling one of her stunts again, bury your nose into your work. Take the appearance of, “Oh, I was busy working, I did not notice you did another one of your stupid stunts.”

      It’s hard. Do you have any big project or dreadful project that you have been avoiding? If you can find a task that totally fills your mind that will help the time pass and it will help you to look like a total professional. At the end, wish her well as best you can.

  18. Rita*

    My office got rid of some toxic employees this week, which is fantastic. Their influence was spreading, and now that that’s been handling, hopefully what was spread will go away and things will continue to improve.

    I have a question for everyone – what advice do you have for improving focus on your work. I just feel like I’m everywhere on everything, and although I’m doing a lot of work it’s on so many things so nothing is getting completely accomplished. I know the best course of action is to pick 1 or 2 things to focus on and stick with those, but I can never stick with it and I always move onto other things. I’ve found the pomodoro technique works well for me, but I have trouble setting time aside to do that, so I’d like to find other options.

    1. OhNo*

      Something that really helps me is checklists. Either the afternoon before or the morning of, I try to make a checklist of things I need to have done that day – divided into “MUST DO”, “SHOULD DO”, and “WOULD BE NICE”.

      Then whenever I stop for a second in my work, I can look at my checklist and ask myself, “Wait, why am I working on something from my ‘would be nice’ list when I’ve still got seven things left on my ‘must do’ list?” I also check myself whenever I find myself on AAM or poking around on the internet – how many things do I have left on my checklist? Why am I not doing those right now? (For the record, my checklist for the morning is done already. Yay Friday! :D)

      1. Rita*

        Checklists is something else that I can’t focus on either :( I even designed my own checklist to use with those options. I used it regularly for about 2-3 weeks, and now I don’t focus on that either. I’m really good at starting new things, new methods, but I can never maintain them.

    2. Quiet Commenter*

      I had (and still have) focus problems with my work. Sometimes I work on one task and “take a break” by working on another. If/when I can’t do that, I turn to things like Wunderlist (good for lists) and HabitRPG (good for daily tasks, little tasks, and to-dos… PLUS it has rewards that you set up yourself). Everyone concentrates differently on tasks. I am definitley not a “just focus on that one thing” person, unless I am really into it and enjoying it. Checklists (except HabitRPG) really don’t help either. But I think laying out everything in something like Wunderlist can help you see where you are and what you’d like to get done.

      1. Cherry Scary*

        I LOVED HabitRPG… until my company’s web filter blocked it. :( So now I use GTDNext. Its a webapp for the Getting Things Done method.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This is only a minor help. I like to set myself up for success each day.
      This means that I pick a couple small things that will be meaningful to me once completed. I do the small things first. Then no matter how badly my day goes I still have the sense of accomplishment from getting A and B done.
      Sometimes this works out really well because Monster Task only needs 15 minutes more work and then it is done. So I put in the 15 minutes and for the rest of the day I can tell myself that the Monster Task is OVER.

  19. Elizabeth*

    Happy Friday, all!

    Had a ridiculously refreshing conversation with a former co-worker earlier this week (we’ve both since left our shared workplace). Turns out the overbearing, control-freak co-worker who was ultimately a big force behind why I quit also drove her and one other awesome employee out too. The entire time I was there, I thought I was nuts because it seemed like no one else noticed it, so it was nice to feel a little vindicated and that I wasn’t alone in my frustration.

    1. Traveler*

      This has happened to me before as well. While I hate the situation (that people are being forced out that way), it does feel good to know you weren’t just imagining how awful it was.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Yeah, that’s the best feeling– my toxic co-worker was actually fired after I left, mostly because all the things she did that I thought no one else noticed!

      1. Elizabeth*

        I also found out that said co-worker (Sarah) was going to be fired when a change of management came in about a year ago and realized how toxic she was (this had evidently come out in exit interviews), but an existing manager (Sally) dissuaded them from it. That said, Sarah has since crossed Sally, and now Sally can’t stand her, either, and wishes she’d let them get rid of her. (The co-worker I had drinks with and Sally are now working together again.)

  20. AnonEngineer*

    Last week I posted about all the weirdness that’s been thrown my way in the first few months at my new job. Here’s one to add to the pile: my project manager (not my official supervisor, since I don’t have one of those) left for a 10 day vacation this week without telling me beforehand. I suppose it could have slipped her mind, but you would think that if you had a super green employee working on a gigantic, complex project by herself, it would be a priority to at least give her a heads up before leaving town. Ugh.

    1. Nanc*

      Sigh. I just want to scold your project manager (I’m turning into my mother!). If you’re just looking to vent: you have every right to be miffed! I’m right there behind saying “why yes, she is a nincompoop!”

      If you’d like some suggestions on what to do, read on.
      1. Even if she doesn’t check her email while gone, I would suggest taking 5-10 minutes at the end of each day and sending her a download/synopsis of what’s going on with the project. You can add to the doc each day and when she comes back, if she hasn’t checked email she’ll have a nice little doc and will be up to speed.

      2. Is there someone higher up the chain who is covering her work? And if it’s you, can you find someone higher up the chain who might give you some advice?

      3. Write up a little synopsis for yourself, describing this challenging situation and how you handled it. Then you have a go to story when you’re asked about challenges in the interview for a future, fabulous job.

      1. AB Normal*

        @Nanc, great advice! I love #3 — it’s an excellent idea, AnonEngineer, to take notes while things are fresh in your mind. I’m also an engineer, and can promise you that one day you’ll be able to use this in an interview, when asked, “tell me about a time…”. At least one positive aspect about the situation (which I agree is ridiculous and makes the project manager looks bad).

  21. Cruciatus*

    I’m applying to a job that would like people to have some overseas experience–like study abroad, Peace Corp, etc. I’m a decade away from grad school, during which time I did a 3 month study abroad program. I will discuss it in my cover letter, but should I put it on my resume with my colleges? Something like “Leipzig University, Study Abroad Program, March-June 2004, Studied cultural arts and traditions” (or some such). I didn’t graduate from there or anything, and our study abroad group actually had our own classes, but they were all held there and we lived in dorms. Also, 4 years ago I did a volunteer program where I paid to live abroad with a family and teach English (just talking every day, no actual lessons) in exchange for room and board. Should I put that under work experience or create a new headline of “related experience” on my resume with that on it? Or should I leave it all for the cover letter?

    1. Treena Kravm*

      Definitely include both. I’ve seen it done with an “International Experience” section, not sure if that would be the best choice for you though. For the study abroad, you could definitely list it under education, and the homestay could go in an Experience section or Volunteer Experience. But both will be probably be best in a Related Experience, if the job requires overseas + specific experience as well.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        I’m going to disagree. You are a decade out from that experience and grad school. It’s appropriate for the cover letter and interview, certainly but I wouldn’t list it on the resume.

        1. Treena Kravm*

          I think it’s strongly dependent on how strong a candidate OP is in other aspects and how important this overseas experience is.

          I’m taking “would like people to have some overseas experience” to mean more than a nice plus. Usually, it’s pretty much a requirement. If that’s the case, then you want to play it up, even if it’s older.

          Non-specific overseas experience is (usually) not so much about recent experience than it is the capacity to work with people from different cultures. And that sort of knowledge is still somewhat valuable even if it’s older (not as valuable, but more so than typical experiences).

          To be fair, I don’t think anyone hiring for a position that required overseas experience would be impressed with the study abroad part, but that’s just what I’d guess, not anything definitive.

    2. KerryOwl*

      I think you should include them on your resume, and create a new section for them like “International Experience.” (Basically, I mostly agree with Treena above.) I don’t think you should include the study abroad under your education section because its relevance isn’t that you did it to get your degree, its relevance is that it was experience living abroad. And now that you have a section devoted to your experience living abroad, that’s the appropriate place to put the other bit.

      (I think Totes may have missed the part where the latter experience was just four years ago.)

      And honestly, even though your study abroad program was a long time ago, I think anyone who’s done it would know how important it is. I studied in measly old England (where they speak the same language and everything!) for three measly months, a thousand years ago — but I definitely think it changed me and my perspective significantly, and I would be a different person if I hadn’t done it. It matters, and it will matter to this job, and therefore it’s worth the space on your resume. And then certainly expand on your experiences in your cover letter.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        I did miss the 4 year old thing. Sorry! Noticing that, I would think it was of more relevance than the 10 year old study abroad experience. I would list it as a work experience thing.

    3. Lizzie*

      I would put the English teaching experience under a “Volunteer Experience” heading (assuming you have other relevant experiences to list there), or if not there, than under an “Other Experience” heading. If you have bullet points under your grad school program (i.e. for GPA if that’s the norm in your field), list the study abroad experience there.

      But really, I think that it’s much more important to play it up in your cover letter.

  22. just passing through. . .*

    Hi All –

    What is the final, decisive, official stance on zero-pressure fund raising in the office? Like leaving a sign up in the break room, and NOT even calling attention to it in an email (ie, “I left a sign up sheet in the kitchen for ABC, sign up if you’re interested!!!111!!”)? I’ve even googled this question to see if I could find a consensus, and could not…opinions ranged from “no problem if it’s low-key” to “you should NEVER EVER solicit your coworkers”.

    I had this opportunity present itself last week (selling stuff for a music department trip), and gave it a little thought and ultimately decided to not do it. For the record, my son didn’t even ask me if to do it at all.

    So within this group, what is your official opinion? (FWIW, part of my decision not to bring it into my office is that I am NOT GOOD at asking people for things/to buy things. However, I am also not opposed to donating to similar causes when they present themselves.) How do you all feel about it?


    1. Traveler*

      Depends on how close I am with my coworkers. People I meet for drinks after work? I would mention it to them. People I don’t know all that well, I wouldn’t mention. I’d potentially leave it out somewhere public – break room and attach a sticky note for signing up.

      I personally am not offended by this stuff, so mentioning it or leaving it out is okay with me as long as there is no direct question/demand involved.

      1. Traveler*

        Oh and add in – it depends on where you fall in the rankings. If you are a manager asking your employees, I think that’s where it can get sketchy. People might feel obligated.

    2. fposte*

      Totally dependent on org culture. I think if you’re setting the rules, I’d limit it to the signup sheet in the breakroom and no emails.

    3. soitgoes*

      I personally think it’s only acceptable for Girl Scout cookies, which have their own built-in cultural cache and people want anyway, fundraising or not.

      If your son hasn’t even asked for help, don’t do it. Would you only be asking in the hopes of raising enough money to alleviate the costs of your son’s trip? Like, you’d be selling to your coworkers so you could save money? I just wouldn’t go there.

    4. Judy*

      There’s always the option to judge how everyone feels about the cause. I started a new job in August and I wore my Girl Scout polo the other week, and I had 4 people asking me if I’d be selling because last year there was no one at this location selling. There’s a spot in the breakroom that usually has several sign up forms for selling things, and some people do send out emails letting everyone know they’ve put things there.

      I usually have my daughter do an 8.5 x 11 poster with a picture of her in her uniform and a request in her own handwriting. I also have my daughter do the delivery, I get my mom to pick her up after school one day and bring her in her uniform to deliver the cookies to anyone who is there at that time.

      In the end it comes down to the culture in the office. At my last company I just put the form on the file cabinet outside of my office, and no one ever emailed. (Although one year, someone emailed everyone there asking if someone was selling GS cookies.) At this time of year, you should be able to tell, most schools have sales going on in the fall.

      1. De Minimis*

        We have a really strict “no soliciting” policy and it makes stuff a lot easier, since it’s just not allowed.

        However….I have seen people sneak around GS cookie order forms, and when the orders come in they do the deal in the parking lot!

          1. TotesMaGoats*

            I could see the GS using that as a huge opportunity for marketing. Like a “don’t be this person” (pic with shady GS cookie sale going down in parking lot), come see us at X location and get your cookies legit.

        1. brightstar*

          Do they keep in their the trunk of their car and as you pass by go :”Psst, you like GS cookies? I got some REAL GOOD GS cookies. You’ll both praise and curse me after buying a few boxes.”

      2. Traveler*

        Thank you for making your daughter deliver these. I can’t tell you how many times you give to something like this and the candy or cookies never come, or you get a terse email/phone call telling you to come by their house to pick it up.

        1. Judy*

          I will deliver the ones at work if we can’t find the person the one afternoon she is here. We personally deliver the ones at church. Family members and others get a phone call to determine what is easier for them. We’ve delivered directly to people at home. We’ve delivered to someone who will be seeing them soon, like their parents if everyone ordered. We’ve had people pick them up. We’ve had people pick them up at my mom’s house that is more centrally located. Mom has helped her deliver to people’s work. We even left some in the lifeguard room at the Y for my cousin to pick up later in the day. ;)

          We do send emails to the people at church who order reminding them of the order and the amount. It seems to help them remember to have money or a check, and they usually also let me know if they’re not coming so I can not drag those 5 boxes in with the rest.

          The point to the whole thing is to teach the girls how to run a business. It’s supposed to be a large financial literacy program. We do a slip that lets us “pull” our stock that is also a “thank you for ordering” note, so when we bag the boxes up we know who gets what and how much.

    5. Adam V*

      I never have a problem with “leave a Girl Scout cookie / Boy Scout popcorn signup sheet in the break room”, but anything more involved than that usually bugs me. I’d think your “selling stuff for a trip” is similar enough to be okay. Leave a message saying “school fundraiser” and people will usually at least look it over, and there’s rarely any pressure to buy stuff. Just don’t go back and check on it 10 times a day!

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      The thing that bothers me about signup sheets is that it has the potential to foment peer pressure, since everyone can see who has and who has not participated. I’d prefer a URL where I could go to sign up, but I know that’s not always feasible. If you have signup sheets, you could copy the top section, which is usually a description, then post it with a note that people can go see you to sign up if they are interested. I know that may seem more invasive to some people, but to me it’s more private.

      Overall, I don’t do those things because I’d rather donate extra money directly to the PTA (which we do); the percentage of funds that are actually raised is too small IMO, and most of the things sold I wouldn’t normally want or need at that time anyway. I’d rather my daughter volunteered at a shelter (two- or four-legged) or doing some kind of community cleanup. But I’ve supported other peoples’ efforts when the product interested me, I don’t have some sort of ban, I just think they’re inefficient.

      1. Judy*

        Our PTA is now doing a “Plain Vanilla” fundraiser, basically if they get donated the amount they need for their budget ($15/kid I think) they’ll not do additional fundraisers. We donate enough to get the matching gift from my company, and so do the grandparents.

          1. Stephanie*

            Our NPR affiliate basically does this for the pledge drive.

            “If we get $X, we can end the pledge drive early!”

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I love that idea. We’re very fortunate (and hard-working, and frugal), so we donated an extra $100 over and above membership when we re-upped this school year. That’s how I avoid feeling guilty about not paying $20 for wrapping paper that I could get for $5 elsewhere, and the PTA only getting $2 from that purchase anyway.

          And my daughter has her own chores and other responsibilities, I’m not too worried about her being a slacker. :)

    7. Cautionary tail*

      At oldjob we had some counterspace by the coffeepot where people could put Girl Scout cookies and other charity foodstuff. We asked that the employee’s name be one the box somewhere. Anything beyond foodstuff was discouraged and soliciting beyond passively leaving a box there was also highly discouraged. This worked well because even with this limited level of charity offerings there were almost always at least one, sometimes more items there. Usually as soon as school started there’d be multiples.

        1. Allison*

          Not always. Sometimes the statement is along the lines of “oh gee, looks like we have a difference of opinion here. I appreciate the debate but at the end of the day I’m still right.” Example: some guy posted an article on LinkedIn about how Jennifer Lawrence’s Vanity Fair shoot was “confusing” after her comments about leaked nude photos, and basically got told off by hundreds of people. He made an edit about how it’s a shame not everyone agreed with him. I’d like to the article but it’s not there anymore; I’m hoping he took it down himself, but it’s also possible LinkedIn realized it was garbage and took it down for him.

          1. BRR*

            Oh god, I saw that. In general my relationship with LinkedIn articles is a car accident, I want to look away but I don’t and then I’m disturbed (NO! do not email your materials to the hiring manager). He was confused because she took revealing pictures for vanity fair with her consent but was upset that her private pictures were stolen.

            1. Allison*

              I understood his point about how sometimes people contradict themselves by saying one thing and doing another, and I acknowledged that that’s totally a thing people do, but that was a horrendous example.

              Honestly, now that anyone can publish content on LinkedIn, it’s like the Bad Idea Bears have taken over.

              1. dawnofthenerds*

                You should totally treat a business networking site like a personal blog!!! Yay!!!!!!! (saw that recently, couldn’t resist)

      1. Anonsie*

        The thing I saw, he just said “oh what I meant was they should be paid the same so they won’t need raises.”

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Despite Nadella’s backtracking, I can’t help but think that he was being honest with his original (disgustingly outrageous) comments. There is a pervasive attitude in many male-dominated fields that women shouldn’t be as assertive as their male counterparts should be. So many studies have shown this to be true. The women who try to negotiate for higher salaries are often penalized, while it’s expected for men to do the same exact thing. Instead of asking for a raise, women are expected to sit by meekly and put their trust in the companies that systematically discriminate against women. Frankly, I don’t think Nadella’s 140-character “apology” is going to be enough to quell this shitstorm of bad press he’s getting.

      1. Traveler*

        Yes. I also tend to lean towards whatever the person said the first time, was what they really though. Whatever came later was their too late self-editing kicking in.

    2. Evan*

      Is there a fuller transcript anywhere? Because the part that was actually quoted sounds like it makes sense to me: “It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along” – i.e., you should ideally work in a place where you’re confident you’ll be appropriately recognized. Though, I’m probably interpreting it out of context (which the article summarizes as “Not asking for raise, he added, was ‘good karma’…”), since Ms. Klawe, the reporter, and the Internet all disagree. If the article accurately summarizes the context, he’s completely wrong. But I’d like to see the original.

      1. Anonsie*

        I can only find this one extra bit on a cursory glance, but it’s not great

        “It’s not really about asking for the raise,” Nadella told the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing at the Anita Borg Institute in Arizona, “but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.”

        He added that “women who don’t ask for raises” have a “superpower … because that’s good karma, that’ll come back … that’s the kind of person that I want to trust.”

    3. MaryMary*

      I saw it as a classic example of Not Getting It. I’m sure he genuinely believes that performance is the driving factor in raises and promotions, and if people do superior work they will be rewarded. I wish that were true, but it’s not that simple, especially for women and minorities. People have so many biases and preconceptions that they’re not even aware of, apart from outright discrimination.

      1. Anonsie*

        Totally agreed. He was just giving the classic “if you’ve earned it, you’ll get it” sort of write off that’s so common with this issue.

    4. it happens*

      I was actually pleased to see such refreshing honesty. Yup, that’s how he feels — women should practice their own “super power” and wait for raises to come to them. I am sorry that Klawe (who noted that she found out, after the fact, that she was underpaid at Princeton) didn’t ask him if HE had ever asked for a raise.
      It’s a reminder that no one owes you any more than they’ve promised you. This is why it is so important to continually be aware of market rates of pay for your position – and yet I have found it so hard to do so. I would really like to know how to better research what similar positions pay, since I have never had a position that has a normal title or job duties (read that as a jill-of-all-trades with frankenjob descriptions.)

    5. Alternative*

      My favorite comment on the Gawker site article about this:

      “I became CEO by patiently waiting and having faith in the system.”

      Said no CEO ever.

    6. LCL*

      Well, when I was young and dumb I believed exactly that. Didn’t take long for me to find out otherwise…

  23. Waiting is the worst!*

    I’m hoping you all can talk me down here. An external recruiter contacted me about a position at ACME. I applied as requested. Had a phone screen 3 days later (rescheduled three times!) – I thought it went well and he said he was forwarding my resume to ACME and I should hear within a week. Okay. The next day he emails me “Are you available for an interview on Friday, at ACME?” I replied that I was. That was 2 days ago and nothing since. I’m not sure if I in fact have an interview on Friday, if I am waiting for ACME to give me the details or what is happening?!?

    I sent a follow up today and said – “Am I confirmed for the 17th or are we waiting for ACME to decide if they want to move forward with my candidacy?” Now I just wait, right?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I disagree, mostly because it’s an external recruiter. They make their money off of placing people, so although technically the company is their primary client, I’d say the applicant is a “minority client”, as in minority partner. I would give them 2-3 business days to answer the follow-up, then inquire once more mid-week next week.

      2. Waiting is the worst!*

        Thank you for confirming my instinct to do nothing further right now was correct. Good news is that he finally got back to me and I am confirmed for the interview! Now I can start worrying about that.

  24. The White One for the Job*

    I am in the running for a great-sounding job that I think I’m super qualified for… except for the part where I’m white. The job would involve almost exclusive work with the DC African-American community. Do you think I’d be at a disadvantage? I’m not racist, I’m really good at working with people, but I have little experience with the culture and I’m afraid they will be offended that a white person got hired or just unwilling to work with me. Do you think I’m being paranoid? Also, “African-American” or “Black”?

    1. Virginian*

      If you have the skills needed to do the job, then apply. At the same time, I think it can help to have some experience working with the community or being able to identify on some level with the group you’ll be working with.

    2. ClaireS*

      When working in a close community of any kind as an outsider, you’re going to have some challenges. Maybe read up on community engagement tactics so you can speak openly about how you would build trust and engagement if you were to get the job.

      I’d leave race out of it and address it along the lines of “I know I’m an outsider and I would need to work hard to appropriately engage the community and build trust. Here are some ideas I have on how I’d do that”

      1. Treena Kravm*

        This. Every job I’ve ever had, I’ve always been an outsider trying to build community relationships with my org. I know my anthropology background helps, but it’s still unbelievably difficult each time. I’m doing this for the third time now and I’m only feeling real progress after a year. It will take time. You can very easily damage relationships so it’s better to go sloow rather than trying to “get stuff done.”

    3. Treena Kravm*

      That community is particularly marginalized, and from what I’ve seen, orgs hiring for positions working directly with them tend to try really hard to fill the position with a local.

      I’m sure you’re not overtly racist, but please recognize that everyone will do/say something offensive and/or with racial implications. It doesn’t make you a bad person, but ignoring the possibility/eventuality of you screwing up is what will cause friction, not the mere fact that you’re white.

      Black. Not all black people’s families are from Africa, so that will rub them the wrong way. That being said, if someone calls themselves AA, don’t continue to call them black. Use the terms people use for themselves (with race and everything!).

      1. Valar M.*

        “It doesn’t make you a bad person, but ignoring the possibility/eventuality of you screwing up is what will cause friction, not the mere fact that you’re white.”


      1. Anon1234*

        Maybe he’s from MA. I’m convinced people up here have never interacted with black people before.
        I agree that the “little experience…” sentence worries me. OP, just remember, black people are first and foremost…people. I live in a predominantly white city and people act like they have no idea how to interact with me or they act like they have to treat me a certain way or make a point to only talk about certain subjects. OP, just relax and be yourself and do your job to the best of your ability.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      If you’re qualified, then sure, apply. I’m not sure how ‘legal’ or ‘politically correct’ it might be, but I strongly suspect that if the hiring manager has any issues with your being white, you’ll find out soon. I doubt they’ll want to waste their time or yours if – legal or not – they feel strongly that a racial match is necessary to fill the job.

      The Usual Disclaimers: just my opinion, I’m not trying to play any kind of ‘race card’, etc.

    5. Valar M.*

      As someone who has been in a similar situation before a few thoughts… You will get push back, not always but it will happen. I got “what is a white person doing here?” types of questions on occasion, but I also had people that thought it was great to have a white person. I don’t think you need to be defensive about being white. That kind of attitude could work against you – causing you to have walls up when you don’t need them. Just understand that you can’t have the “lived” experience that someone else has had. This goes for any sort of cultural or ethnic difference, really.

      I reflect description terms. Whatever they label themselves is what I use to refer to them. Everyone has different preferences.

    6. Jillociraptor*

      I think you’re probably not super qualified for the position if you have zero experience working with the community you’d be charged with supporting, so that would put you at a disadvantage. Marginalized people have lots of good reasons to be wary of people from outside their community coming in to try to “help” them, and if you’re not really steeped in why that is and how to navigate it, I think it would be nearly impossible to be really (and justly) effective in the role.

    7. Stephanie*

      This black person thinks “African-American” is goofy (Africa is so big and diverse, I don’t have any clear ties to Africa, many Black Americans have roots outside of Africa, and actual Africans say Nigerian-American, Cameroonian-American, etc), but I’d just follow the org’s lead.

      I’d guess a lot of these identity orgs have employees outside the targeted groups, especially once more niche roles are concerned. I’d think to the key would be to show you can understand the needs and culture of the group without being patronizing or having a White Savior Complex.

      1. Xay*

        Case in point re: navigating the black community and language – not all actual Africans hyphenate [country]-American. South African-American is so awkward, I couldn’t imagine using it and most of the other Africans I know either identify as AA, black, or [country of origin]. Not to mention Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino, Black Brits, etc.

    8. ArtsNerd*

      I did some reading on multi-ethnic and cross-cultural marketing in school. Some takeaways I got from that that might be helpful for you to keep in mind. Of course this is all generalized:

      -Different communities & sub-cultures have different values. For example, one book suggested that (overall) black communities in the US are somewhat more likely to support group cohesion and consensus vs. individual performance and creativity. They’re less likely to require a close relationship with someone before doing business with them. They’re less likely to value very controlled emotions. etc.

      -Different individuals react to their ethnicity differently (of course! But sometimes you need to remind marketers of that point.) One article was talking about immigrant populations, but also applies here: whether you “separate” from the new [or in this case- majority/”white”] culture and reject it entirely in favor of the old, “assimilate” entirely into the new culture and reject the old one, “integrate” and adopt aspects of both cultural identities, or reject both entirely (“marginalization.”)

      -Lots of people have very strong opinions on the “right” way to do things – think of black people getting shit for “acting white” or being “ghetto”

      My context was not poverty (as the project was marketing to educated groups with disposable income) but I’m still going to recommend the following:
      Follow NPR’s Code Switch blog.
      Watch DEAR WHITE PEOPLE when it comes out in cinemas next week.

  25. Virginian*

    Since I know there’s a few librarians that read this list: if you supervise/run a library, how long do you normally stay at work? My library is open 10 hours a day during the week. I’m a new manager so I’m still trying to figure out things that they don’t teach you.

    1. Joe Biden*

      We all keep regular hours. You might need to be a little flexible to ensure coverage of service points, but definitely don’t be there 10 hours a day every day.

    2. Frances*

      I am not a librarian, but I’ve worked at places where the building itself was open for more than just standard business hours, and if you have the option of setting your own schedule, look carefully at the daily workflow and see what hours you are most needed. Is it important that you’re there to help open up, or to close down, or do you have staff that can be trusted to handle one or both of those things? Do things that require your immediate attention occur primarily at one time of day?

      My other tip is to make sure everyone else on staff knows when to expect you to be in the office, how to contact you when you aren’t in in an emergency, and what constitutes an emergency. Some of the biggest problems I’ve had working in these kinds of environments have been caused when people change their work hours without telling anyone, or insist they be the only person to handle a specific kind of problem but don’t leave clear instructions on what to do if the problem happens when they’re not in the building.

    3. Lils*

      When I ran a branch, I worked what I wanted/needed to work and left. My hours were standard business hours. I had success running the branch with a student worker or staff person (alone) on nights and weekends by setting clear expectations and being willing to coach and then fire if necessary. I did sometimes pop by unexpectedly at night/on the weekend and that also helped mitigate issues. Living nearby helped also–I had to come up to the library late at night about once per year to solve a bad problem. I would however consider working one night per week and maybe one weekend day a month yourself–you’ll get to see what happens during those times and you’ll be seen as a team player. Plus you’ll have a morning off each week, which is nice.

      1. skyline*

        I would however consider working one night per week and maybe one weekend day a month yourself–you’ll get to see what happens during those times and you’ll be seen as a team player.
        Yes, this. I schedule all my staff for some evening and weekend hours, and I don’t make myself an exception. Mine aren’t on a regular rotation due to our staffing structure, but I do my share every month. And everyone who is present at closing is scheduled for 10 or 15 minutes after an hour, so everyone on the team leaves together and gets paid correctly if there’s a lingerer who takes their time getting out the door.

    4. JMW*

      As a branch manager, I would try to keep to a 40-42 hour schedule, and additionally did a bit of professional reading on my own time. If you work longer hours, others may come to expect it of you, and you may burn yourself out. As the one in charge, though, you should be willing to come in at odd times to help out and to cover. If I was working at opening, I would be there before opening to help out. If I was working the later part of the day, I would stay through closing and help. These are bonding times that help your staff feel supported.

      If your work allows it, the occasional work from home day (or half day) is really beneficial for taking care of administrative tasks. Otherwise, you might start your workday an hour before the library opens to attend to those things in the quiet.

    5. skyline*

      I set a 40 hour schedule for myself, which can vary from week to week, due to evening or weekend commitments. I generally end up coming in early or staying things late to get things done, since I’m exempt, but I don’t work 10 hour days when everything’s running smoothly. Also, if I know in advance that I’m going to have a long day (say, morning meeting on day with evening program commitment), I will balance that on another day that week if possible.

  26. Monodon monoceros*

    I know that gifts in the workplace should flow upwards, but my boss is retiring and I’d like to do something special for her. I’ve only worked with her for about 1.5 years, but she’s been a great boss and mentor in that time (which I really needed at this point in my career, after working for bosses who were more competitive than helpful to their employees). I also moved internationally for this job, and she has been a huge help in getting me settled here, so she has helped me not just professionally, but personally as well.

    So my question is 1) should I do anything even though it’s a gift upwards? and 2) if I should do something, any ideas for something appropriate?

    1. fposte*

      Write her a lovely letter about how much you’ve learned from working with her, how much you appreciate her assistance, and how much you’ll miss her. If you can’t resist gifting on top of that, I’d go with homemade edibles.

    2. anon in tejas*

      My boss retired about a year ago. I wrote her a super nice/long card about how much she meant to me. We only had worked together for about 18 months, but she hired me and I learned SO much from her.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think retirement is a different animal in terms of “flowing up”– a card, definitely, but I think something small (her favorite chocolate, a bottle of sparkling wine, etc.) or flowers are a perfectly fine gesture, especially if you send the flowers on the first day of her retirement (if you already know her home address).

    4. Miss L. Toe*

      Our company has been giving our boss/owner a Christmas gift every year for a long time. We collect money in whatever amount anyone wants to give (i.e. no pressure, just give what you can, if you can.) If this is improper as I have been reading, how do we just stop one year? People seem to enjoy pitching in for the gift, and I feel like if I put a stop to it, there would be a lot of “but whys?” I am the only one here to reads this blog, so I would feel funny saying “I read it on the internet!”

  27. Sandrine (France)*

    Opinion needed for a friend :D ! I wanted to ask Alison but then I figured it could get boring so I didn’t sent it in. Trying to make this short with names changed xD .

    Nelly and Perry work for a call center that I worked at too. Even before I was fired, things were getting worse and worse every day. For example there was a time when you could hope for a 15 seconds buffer between calls to breathe a bit, take a sip of water or whatnot. But at some point they decided to rearrange everything and bye bye. You didn’t even get 8 seconds at times.

    Cue July 2014. Perry, who likes to cheat the system as much as he can (and sometimes you’d wonder WHEN he’d actually take calls!) , tells Nelly about a little “cheat” where if you press a button, you basically get a few seconds relief before your next call. Nelly, in her naiveté, uses the “trick” for what amounts, on average, to 5 minutes per day, if that, until the end of september (see below: I saw the formal warning paper that detailed the offense).

    Basically, the company seems focused on firing as many people as possible, and are looking for any reason they can. So, when they start realizing people are using certain tricks (like the one Nelly used), instead of meeting with employees and warning them, they wait, wait and wait, and at said end of september, scare the heck out of people by getting them into a meeting THEN and threatening them with termination, sometimes using language that implies they’re criminals.

    Nelly is terrified. She cannot lose that job. She asks me for advice, and sends a formal e-mail of apology where she acknowledges the situation, that she made a mistake, but that she wants to honor her contract as a good employee and that it will not happen again. Perry, on the other hand, it taken to HR.

    After more than ten days, the final news come: Nelly is only given a formal warning that goes into her file… and Perry is meeting with HR again to discuss his termination. Nelly is told by her new supervisor (because of course the call center teams are shuffled in the meantime) that her e-mail made the difference because she owned up to her mistake.

    Nelly, while relieved, now feels bad for Perry (they’re on very friendly terms). I like Perry myself, but I told Nelly she can’t just feel sad for him that much, because while her mistake was around 5 minutes per day, sometimes he’d cheat work for an hour, two, maybe more, and that was a lot. Since actions have consequences, the least he could do would be to own up to his mistakes and apologize, but nope, he’s not even doing that.

    (Oh, and thank you AAM and commenters for the comments about morale and bad performers and all, because while this company sucks, it allowed me to comfort Nelly that she did the right thing in sending her e-mail)

    So, what do you think ?

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      I think when you’re at work, you work. You don’t find ways to “cheat the system”. If you don’t like your job, you find another one.

      1. Livin' in a Box*

        That 8 seconds between calls is needed for noting the account. I tried to cheat the system too so I could finish my work. When you call a call centre and there are no notes about your complicated problem, this is why!

    2. Helka*

      I’m a former call center employee who did something similar, despite it being discouraged.

      Nelly was using it to get short breathers which enabled her to do her job better. Perry, it sounds like, was abusing it. What Nelly should really focus on here is that they weren’t doing the same thing — they were using the same trick, yes, but the end result was very different. So she shouldn’t feel like she has to take on guilt for what he did or pity him.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I totally agree with your take on it, Sandrine. Nelly fudged a bit but was mostly diligent, then acted very professionally when confronted (unprofessionally) by her employer. She deserves…well, she deserves better than this, but she definitely doesn’t deserve to be fired. Perry, on the other hand, shirked a lot of work and…well, there might be nothing wrong with taking a complaint to HR, but based on the arrogance of having a “cheats” skill set and encouraging other employees to cheat rampantly, I’d guess his complaint was less than professional. Even if it was just about the ambush, he still should have apologized for using those tactics on the phone, and I’m guessing he did the opposite and tried to justify them (based on my experience working with people just like Perry).

      1. Sandrine (France)*

        Thank you!

        When I was at that job, I never used any tricks myself… but to be honest, that’s because I was too lazy to even trying to find out about them.

        Helka, I love your take on it. Thank you. This helps a lot.

        The Cosmic Avenger, actually what I meant by taken to HR is that when the powers that be decided to crack down on the cheating and stuff, while Nelly was just talked to by her current supervisoir, Perry was taken to HR to talk about this. No idea what was said though, Nelly just mentioned that since she got her warning and he got his termination meeting warning, he just won’t quite talk to people anymore and has pretty much closed up.

        Livin’ in a box : at this company, you actually are encouraged to take the notes *while you’re talking to the customer* so basically you’re supposed to follow a charted process (intro, presentation, questioning, resolution, summing up, concluding… things like that) in a pre-determined order, you’re supposed to resolve the problem under a certain amount of time, you’re supposed to leave detailed notes about it. For me this became “Screw time, I’ll leave the notes” and I was regularly complimented on my notes taking. One day I was told to take it easy on the notes… and then people started telling me that I was missing info. While telling me I was taking too long anyway. (Yes, it drove me nuts, and yes, that’s ultimately why I was fired… but there aren’t enough words to describe how much I despise them now) . Because while I type pretty fast, 8 seconds is nowhere nearly enough to write the notes as detailed as they wished. There were slow days when you’d have 5 minutes between days so obviously on those days you could end a call before taking the note, when you knew you’d have time… but on bad days… oh my.

        Can anyone tell how glad I am to have been fired ?

    4. Kali*

      I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d be interested in an in-depth interview about working in a call center. I’ve never done it (always had the typical Office Space-type desk job) and it really fascinates me. I talk to people in call centers frequently and I’d love to have more info to help picture where they are and what constraints they’re working under. I always try to be friendly and positive, because I know it’s not an easy job, but what are the actual logistics behind it?

      1. Windchime*

        I would find that interesting as well. Honestly, working in a call center sounds like a nightmare to me because I imagine getting yelled at by unhappy/angry customers all day and not even having time to pee or make a cup of tea.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      This company so sucks.
      There, had to say that.
      Next, if Perry and Nelly worked for a good company the same thing would have happened. Perry would have been in deeper crap because he was more obnoxious about stealing time and because he did not own up to it.
      Deep down Perry wanted to be fired because he wanted out of there so bad and did not want to quit, for whatever reason.
      Now is a good time for Nelly to hear, “We are not responsible for other people’s choices….” She knew if she did what Perry said to do it would bite her. So she keep some of her wits about her.

      I think the more disturbing thing here is having a good friend give you bad advice. That starts to bring on the realization that you have to filter what your friend says. And what other bits of advice has Perry had that have been off the mark? oooo- painful stuff to think about.
      I think Nelly realizes that friends should lift you up, not pull you down. So this is a disturbing turn of events for her for two reasons, not just the immediate job problems.

  28. RetailManager*

    I started a new job three months ago as the second full time employee of a tiny arts non-profit. It is a huge culture shift coming from 10 years of super corporate retail (field and HQ experience); one that I think I like, but is still different. Do you have any must know non-profit tips? Any volunteer engagement strategies? The amount I need email everyone would amount to harassment at my previous employers, but seems to be the norm here.

    1. Nanc*

      Is there a volunteer newsletter of some kind? A weekly or bi-weekly newsletter is a great way to keep volunteers up to date on stuff they need to know. If not, you might start one and the first big story is introducing yourself. If your volunteers are tech-savvy the newsletter could just have short intros and links to your webpage (or where ever) where the full scoop is available.

      I volunteer at our local library and every year during national volunteer week (April, I think?) each volunteer gets a little thank you card that all the librarians sign and a book mark. A local coffee company donates $5 give cards for each volunteer and a local chocolate company donates candy bars. You don’t necessarily have to go that far, but a little hand written note would be nice.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Hm, there’s a lot to cover here. I’ll caution you against generalizing that all nonprofits work the way your employer does. The large-to-tiny culture shift is probably going to be a bigger one than for-profit to nonprofit.

      I’m going to rustle up some resource links for you when I get a moment.

      1. ArtsNerd*



        Volunteer management:

        Mostly board-things, some overall management stuff:

        General workplace navigation – Buy Alison’s book!

        General awesome:

        1. RetailManager*

          Amazing! Thank you! The differences between managing staff (giving feedback, having one-on-ones, etc) and coordinating artist volunteers has been a challenge, but in a good way!

  29. Rat Racer*

    One of my direct reports is applying to graduate school and asked if I would write him a letter of rec. He is very bright, and works hard, but he’s in the wrong job at the moment and it’s been highly problematic for me because about half the work I need him to do is outside his skill set. I really like this guy and know he will be a great success once he finds the right field (one that does not involve writing) – should I write him a letter of recommendation, even though his performance evaluation will be mediocre at best? I know we’ve talked before about not giving good references to mediocre job candidates out of kindness/compassion but what about recommendations for school?

    1. fposte*

      In general, my LOR approach is to tell him what you’d be able to say and what you wouldn’t be able to say (or would feel obliged to say that isn’t good). But I can’t tell from what you’re saying whether your problem is that he’s going to school in the area he’s bad at or that you feel obliged to talk about his performance in an area that isn’t really related to his proposed field. If it’s the first, I’d consider not recommending him, or at least tell him how weak a recommendation it would be. If it’s the second, those are actually pretty interesting recommendations to read–that you saw a lot of promise in Bob, and though some areas of the job weren’t right for his focus, you always felt that he had talent to deliver if he found the right spot, and based on x, y, and z you think that this might be a really good fit.

    2. Treena Kravm*

      What type of grad program is it? I can’t think of many that wouldn’t require strong writing skills. It sounds like he knows he’s struggling and looking to grad school for a way to avoid figuring out what he’d be good at.

      1. Rat Racer*

        B school. Definitely would not recommend him for an MFA in writing program, but Business School is pretty broad.

        1. Treena Kravm*

          Ah, so you think he’d be successful in school? I think if that’s true, then you can tell him you’d be happy to write him a letter recommending him for school based on what you’ve seen at work, that he doesn’t belong in this role, but you’ve seen x, y, and z which leads you to believe he’d be successful in school.

          1. Rat Racer*

            Well, I would say from my own experience that success in school is at best only loosely correlated to success in the business world.

  30. vvondervvoman*

    I work for an org in the medical field and my partner works in a field dominated by project management.

    In the medical field, clinicians technically “report” to the manager of the office, but they don’t manage the patient care, that’s another manager, usually not on-site. (At least this is true in community healthcare). In my partner’s company, it seems like project managers manage a lot (of course!) but the line where their authority ends and others’ begins is sometimes really blurry.

    Both of these fields are not your typical management structure. I’m really curious how management differs/remains the same in these unique situations.

    1. De Minimis*

      We have one doctor who also serves as Clinical Director, and he oversees the medical staff. He ultimately does answer to the Executive Director, but has a lot of leeway. He also has to answer to the higher-ups at our regional headquarters [there is a doctor there who is in charge of our state’s medical program.]

      Our structure is odd in a lot of ways–the relationship with regional headquarters is odd, it is very adversarial a lot of the time. In theory, the facilities are supposed to be more or less autonomous, and the viewpoint is that headquarters meddles and tries to control everything. People like me are sometimes caught in the middle, but I generally choose to defer to the people directly in charge of me.

  31. Dani X*

    My old manager recently transferred to another department. My new manager set up one on one meetings, which I am a big fan of. I am a remote employee (I work out of an east coast office, manager is in a west coast office) and from the first meeting he was asking if I wanted to stay in his department or if I wanted to move to a department on the east coast where I can be local. I am thinking this is his way to telling me he would prefer I move on, but I am not sure if i am overreacting. The project I am working on isn’t doing well and he just finished telling me all the issues we have before he asked if I wanted to stay there, so I am not sure if I am just overreacting due to the order of conversation or if I have a real concern.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Do you videoconference with him or voice chat? Have you ever met in person? I’m asking because, having managed and built online communities for many years, I find that those things greatly influence rapport, and rapport would be important if you want to ask him if he’s implying anything.

      Sure, you shouldn’t just ask him “are you trying to push me out??”, but you can ask “so, what’s your take on my switching departments? I would be really interested in your perspective”. That would probably get you the information you’re wondering about. But more so if he feels comfortable with you, so if you can’t ask him in person, I hope you can do so by videoconference.

      My take is that he thinks the work will dry up, and he’s trying to help, but that’s based on a fairly healthy working environment and a decent manager, which are not common enough these days.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      He could just be saying, “hey this is a bitch of a situation, are you sure you want this?”

      Think about it this way: Do you see a path through the problems? Do you tell yourself this will land well when it is done and the rocky road is temporary?

      I think you do have a concern but it may or may not be where you think it is. He maybe looking for some reassurance from you that with effort things will pan out okay. I have had bosses do this to me. Yeah, it is kind of disconcerting. Speak the truth. If the project is going to fail say so. If the project needs x, y and z in order not to fail then say that.

      This next part you might be able to say that NSNR has a simplistic view of the situation and that maybe true. But what I am seeing is that he is throwing you a life preserver. If you think you are screwed with this project, he is offering you an out. It’s not what you wanted to hear but it is the best he can drum up- at least he knows you will not be unemployed. Perhaps he feels strongly that you do not deserve to be unemployed, yet this is the best he can come up with if the project fails.

      Pretend for a minute you are him. What do you see as you “sit in his chair”?

  32. T*

    I’m curious, it it really still necessary/recommended to put your address on your resume? The thought crossed my mind when I was applying to a position last night. I don’t really care if I leave it on or take it off, but the slightly paranoid part of my brain was really starting to wonder if it was necessary. (In my case, the positions I’m applying for are in my city and I think it’s fairly obvious from the locations of my other positions, phone number, etc. that I’m a local candidate.

    I’m sure this has been discussed here somewhere, but I can’t seem to find a discussion on it. What is the general consensus on doing this in 2014?

    1. Mallory*

      I don’t think it’s imperative, my resume has my schooling and a job in State A, my recent job is in State B and while I have my address listed on my resume because I work locally, my husband doesn’t list our address because he submits his resume to out of state companies(for relocation purposes)

    2. Trixie*

      It’s still pretty common but if I wasn’t comfortable including the address, I would add City, State.

    3. Livin' in a Box*

      I put my city on my resume, but not my address. My neighbourhood has an undeserved reputation for being dangerously crime infested (???) and I don’t want to lose out on interviews because of that. My old boss said she wouldn’t’ve interviewed me if she’d known where I lived, so this isn’t paranoid.

    4. Sheep*

      I don’t have my address on mine, but that’s mainly because I’m applying to jobs internationally. In my header I have my name, email address, phone number and skype account. I figure that’s fine, and they will see which country I am in by looking at where I’m currently working… Maybe I’m doing it wrong though…?

    5. Blue_eyes*

      I usually put my whole address, but in cases where I’m concerned about my privacy I will put just city, state and zip code (I live in NYC so adding the zip code gives a sense of what neighborhood I live in which is especially useful if the job is nearby).

  33. ANNA*

    UGH! Please help! My staff has a tendency to not clean up after themselves. I have sent several reminders about them leaving their dirty dishes in the sink for days on end etc. etc. etc. Today has hit an all time low. We have one staff bathroom that we share. Today when a staff member went to use it she gasped in disgust as someone left feces smeared all over the toilet bowl. Our cleaning crew only comes in three times a week and will not be in for days. I put a sign up that says out of order. I know it wasn’t there when I left last night and there was only a handful of employees working for the last hour and a half last night. How should I address this with the staff? I obviously don’t know who did it but this is ridiculous!

    1. Anon Accountant*

      There was a post on something similar last week or maybe it was the week before. There was a lot of good advice there. You have my sympathy. That’s so gross!!

    2. Nanc*

      What the hell? What do their homes look like? It may be time to get mean. As in the memo of “we are all adults here” and the following has been happening. If it continues to happen after this date, here are the consequences. For example, dishes in sink at end of day thrown away (unless these are company dishes, in which case, company dishes no longer available, bring your own).

      1. ANNA*

        Nanc. I agree. I think I found the culprit though. I told some staff that they couldn’t use it and one lady wanted to know why. She looked and told me she would clean it because she does it all the time at home, (she wore no gloves!). WTH? She has two children over the age of 20. Maybe it’s her and she does it at home too.

    3. Joey*

      I’m assuming you mean inside the toilet bowl.

      “You will be happy to know that we will ask the cleaning company to come in more regularly. You do a good job of keeping the bathroom clean and we don’t expect you to scrub the toilet bowls.”

      On another note. Please do not leave your dishes in the sink. Going forward we have instructed the cleaning company to throw away all dirty dishes left in and around the sink. Thanks for your help in keeping this a clean environment.”

      1. ANNA*

        I wish it was inside the toilet bowl. It was smeared on the OUTSIDE. I’m in such horror you have no idea. It’s not the cleaning crew’s problem. I expect them to clean the bathroom but not clean up someone else’s feces. Yuck! There is no reason for this, considering we are all ADULTS. I guess I just don’t know how to address it. Do I send a staff email stating there was feces all over the toilet bowl? Dirty dishes I can handle, this is a whole new level lol.

  34. B*

    Does anyone have any experience transitioning their department from physical to digital filing? I’m in HR, so this includes all employee files and relevant documents.


    1. LCL*

      Training! Someone must sit down with each employee using the system and make sure they understand how to file documents, and that each employee understands the difference between their computer’s hard drive, the company’s public drive space, and their individual network space. You would be surprised at how many people who think they understand computers save everything to the computer’s C drive.

      1. LCL*

        And get a scanner, for the stuff that comes in over the transom. And show people how to scan/save as PDF vs word documents.

      2. Frances*

        This goes along with training, but make sure you also have written instructions that are easily accessible (on a website or shared drive folder). People will say they understand in training, but then get back to their computers and forget the specifics — and there’s always that person who gets it all wrong, but manages to convince everyone who sits near them to follow their incorrect instructions.

    2. brightstar*

      Will everyone scan in their own documents or is there a centralized department that handles scanning?

      Training is very important, as LCL mentioned. Some people will also believe that they still need to have a paper copy for it to matter and that somehow, the electronic version isn’t “real”.

      Check with your Records Management or Information Management department to see if there are rules about disposing of electronically back up paper and also guidelines for management of files.

    3. Julie*

      1) Policies first. What will retention schedules be like? Will you be paperless only going forward or will you at some point go retroactive? How will you communicate action items without a physical file? Who will scan daily? If not everyone is scanning how will backups be designated?
      My office had a small team of people who represented all interests (secretarial staff, attorneys, policy team, IT team) that helped. Have a higher up person make it clear to all that going paperless is not up for debate and that feedback is always welcomed.

      2) Beta test. At our law practice we had just 1 subset start going paperless. It helped us troubleshoot and come up with solutions with the team and the beta testers. It also helped us test the technology we had planned to buy. A vendor gave us a few samples, IT tested and found a few that would work and we big the rest out while we finished testing. Our work was not comingled with the rest of the office so it was easy to isolate and test till we felt confident.

      3) Training. Don’t just have IT train because they often speak a different language. I’m married to an IT guy so I often get pulled in to “translate” which is what you need. Find great communicators, teachers, and people willing to embrace the new technology. Have them create an action plan and training guide with any abnormalities of their department.
      Start by group training the concept, then the real-world application. If you can train in a computer lab where people can learn hands-on, even better. Have single page FAQ/cheat sheets as well as a richer guide for people with different learning styles. Even better, after group training ask for people to sign up for 15-60 minute 1-on-1 training sessions. You can make it optional or mandatory but some of the best conversions and issues we never thought of came from those sessions.

      4) Revisit. You will find bugs. You will realize you missed something. Some things will not work as planned. Meet with your team and any people whose ideas stand out from training sessions and work to improve. Map out a plan with possible issues and check in regularly at first or just via email.

  35. Gwen*

    I got my first call from a recruiter today! I’m not interested in leaving my current job, but I feel kind of popular ;)

    1. Chasingmyself*

      This just started happening to me too :) A handful of linkedin messages and emails per month. Makes a gal feel special!

  36. Mallory*

    I have a question for the group at large(I did send it to AAM, but it’s probably situationally specific to me and wouldn’t help most readers because I think it’s an unusual situation)
    I am an office manager for a small construction company. There are 10 “laborers” and 3 office people(President, Superindent and myself).
    The President has been in talks with the Superintendent since February(!) about the Superintendent “purchasing” the business. I believe they’re hoping to decide/not decide this by the end of the year.
    **The business has approx $150,000+ in debt and loans and isn’t currently profitable and struggles to make payroll at least once per month and the President has me spinning lies to suppliers about when they will be paid
    Here’s my problem(besides the lying for the boss part, which is SO wrong):
    My husband and I will likely be relocating to a new(unknown) city in June after his graduation.
    The President is very well known in the community and because it’s a small town, I can’t shop my resume around because it’s very normal here for someone to see Teapots Inc. on a resume and say, oh I’ll give Joe a call and ask about Jane as an employee.
    Do I stick around this company until it goes under or I relocate? Should I attempt to shop my resume locally, knowing that it’s VERY likely someone will “out” me, or that I’d only be employed for 6 to 7 months?
    Thank you in advance for any words of advice!!

    1. NJ anon*

      If you are saying that you would be leaving next June, I would just stick it out and see what happens. Why go through the stress of job hunting and switching jobs now if you are just going to have to do it again in 8 months? If the place goes under, you can collect unemployment anyway so you still have some income. Just my take.

    2. Idaho*

      I would wait until you’re ready to relocate. But don’t wait to start job searching until your husband graduates. I would start now. I thought my job search would only take a month or two. Wrong it took about six months.

    3. anon3*

      I’ve been in this situation before. I would focuse on relocating and getting a job in new location. I would stop lying to people too, that really makes yiu look bad. If you are told not to be honest, forward all calls to your management, and explain to those people you cannot discuss. I left before the construction/aggregate company went under and relocated to be with DH. I refused to lie to companies/people we owed. They weren’t paying ANYONE except for employees, which they took loans out for. Luckily, the subcontractors and suppliers we worked with knew I had nothing to do with why they weren’t being paid, and I always was honest with them and did my best to help them get paid. Truck drivers were having their trucks repossessed. Even over a year after i quit, i went to pick an item up at a company we used to deal with, but this was for personal use. They asked how i knew they carried that item, when i explained from x company, they almost refused to sell me said item, until i explained i was not with the company and apologized for the issues they had. My former company owed this place over $30,000!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Good advice. Just focus on getting that job at the new location. You may need these up coming months to do that. Meanwhile, don’t do anything that could be illegal- quit the job if need be. If you have to work until you move, be honest with the next employer by telling them you will only be able to work until you relocate.

        anon3 is right though, most people in your town know exactly what the problems are at your company.

  37. Ali*

    Another week gone by, another week of no job calls. Staying positive when job searching is the worst.

    On the bright side, we hired someone new at my primary job and next week, I get to start working all mornings/day shift. No more evenings! The latest I’ll have to work until is 7:00 at night. I have to start my shift early on Mondays, so my boss made it up to me by saying no more middle shift/second shift. I’m excited to finally have evenings free to job search/work on other projects and so forth.

  38. Jubilance*

    I have great news to share – I received an offer for the position I interviewed for! I’m super excited – it’s a role/project that I’m passionate about, in a totally different area (both organizationally and physically) and I get a 5% raise!

    I’m over the moon about it and can’t wait until my first day in 2 weeks. Thanks to all the AAM commenters who have provided advice & kept me encouraged through my issues!

    1. Changeling*

      Congratulations!! Glad to hear such a positive outcome – and very glad for you that the decision was made so promptly. Have an excellent first day!

    2. Joey*

      I especially hope all of the folks who feel like they’ll never get an offer see this. Sooner or later if you’re doing the right things you absolutely will get a good job offer. Sure some of it is being in the right place at the right time, but a huge piece of is the way you go about presenting what you have to offer.

      1. Ali*

        I appreciate the encouragement, but a lot of the time, it just feels hopeless. And then you hear that the problem is all you and if you just did A, B and C you’d have interviews and an offer too.

        Believe me, I’ve been trying and feel I have a lot to offer, but employers don’t agree apparently.

        On the bright side (?) I think I’m finally ready to find that therapist everyone is suggesting.

        1. AB Normal*

          “Believe me, I’ve been trying and feel I have a lot to offer, but employers don’t agree apparently.”

          Ali, do your best to change this way of thinking, because 1) it’s not true, and 2) this line of thought won’t help you get closer to a new job.

          I know it’s hard, but keep telling yourself: “even if I have a lot to offer, it’s normal that other candidates will have more experience / knowledge in a specific area / rapport with the manager / cultural fit / etc., which means I’m not chosen”. By persevering and keeping a positive attitude, soon you’ll be able to write a post like Jubilance’s. (One day YOU’ll be that candidate that not only has a lot to offer, but is considered the best match by the hiring manager.)

          Good luck!

  39. considering a nonprofit*

    I’ve been talking a friend of mine about coming on board at her nonprofit. It’s a media relations position. The pay is decent and the benefits sound too good to be true (403b, pension, great and low cost healthcare, etc).

    I’ve never worked for a nonprofit before, so I would love to hear the pros and cons. I’ve spent my career working in agencies and corporate environments.

    1. fposte*

      Nonprofits can vary a lot, but here are some posts Alison has done on the topic:

      I will tangentially note that the existence of a 403b doesn’t mean it’s a *good* 403b. A lot of them end up with insurance companies who have big fees and high-expense fund choices. Hopefully this one isn’t one, but it’s worth paying attention to the contents of the 403b (same goes for 401k and 457b) as well as its existence.

      1. class factotum*

        Yes, look at the 403b. I discovered when I changed jobs recently that pretty much all of my 401K earnings in eight months were eaten up by administrative fees. There’s not a lot you can do about it, though, unless you can convince your employer to find another vendor.

    2. NJ anon*

      Pros: Casual dress, family friendly atmosphere, wonderfully caring co-workers
      Cons: Not super professional, dealing with government funding sources, lower than average pay, lack of funding
      Note: I work for a social services agency in an administrative position.

  40. Meg*

    What is everyone’s take on the following: I just started a new job this week, and I couldn’t be more excited. They’re a very small firm. My question: I get at least 25 messages per day from various people at the office, with messages such as “heading out for 30 minutes to grab lunch, will be offline” and “heading home for the day, will pick up there–offline for 30 minutes,” etc. Coming from a much bigger place where “Thou shalt respect thy neighbor’s inbox” is very much the rule, this is odd to me. I understand that it’s cultural, but on my first day, the (very senior) person who got me oriented saw all these messages in my inbox, rolled her eyes, and said “I seriously hate it when they do this. I DO NOT CARE if you are taking a 30 minute lunch.” So. Thoughts? I’m not inclined to notify the whole office (40-50 people) every time I take a restroom break, but I’m curious as to peoples’ thoughts.

    1. Adam V*

      I set up a “Quick Steps” rule in my Outlook that moves the selected email to a subfolder and marks it as read. It makes it really easy to get through emails that I don’t care about. It doesn’t fix the “too many emails” problem, but it definitely removes the need for any thinking on my part.

    2. Mallory*

      Ughh. I am a respect thy neighbor’s inbox also. My boss doesn’t understand email so when someone sends a group email to four people(including me) he will forward me ALL the CC email responses. Individually. So, while a normal person would receive, say….5 email responses of a CC email, I receive 10 to 15.
      I would say that if it’s something like the receptionist leaving or the phone answerer, yeah send an email letting the office know to fend for themselves.
      If you hunker down in an office most of the day, just keep that to yourself.

      1. Meg*

        Whoa. That’s crazy. Turns out I might not have it so bad :) Are there really that many people that refuse to understand how email works?

        1. Mallory*

          I wish I was kidding but I’m not.
          He also doesn’t know how to print attachments, add contacts to his iPhone or delete voicemails.
          Technology is not his friend.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      My company does this too– small firm, and I came from a huge one where no one did anything like this. I hate it SO MUCH. I do not care if you have an appointment at 3 or if you’re stuck in traffic, but it’s the company culture and I suck it up. I work remotely, though, so I don’t play– if I have an appointment, I tell my supervisor and no one else. It’s worked for me so far, but a) I’m remote and b) no one really relies on me for anything anyway (except my boss). I sympathize.

    4. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Ick…can you be a wonderful trendsetter that gets everyone to just update their Outlook status with notes instead of cluttering up the inboxes?

      1. Meg*

        I definitely want to be a trendsetter, but I fear that because I’m new and I’m NOT providing details about the next 30-45 minutes of my life that I will come off as not being a team player, or something (I realize this is illogical).

        1. HeyNonnyNonny*

          It sounds like if the office is 45-50 people, and you get 25 of these a day, not everyone is doing it. Maybe you can join the silent contingency.

    5. Camellia*

      Hmm, my first thought is they are trying to make a point that they are ONLY taking 30 minutes for lunch, or that, even though they are going home, they will ONLY be off line for 30 minutes – then they will be back on, working from home. Sort of a “See how hard I work??” approach.

    6. Jennifer*

      Are they REQUIRED to notify folks of this? I”m guessing that might be the case here that someone told them they have to. Or that they have to document such things.

      I notify people if I’m gonna be out at an appointment/class/vacation, but I don’t notify anyone about being out for lunch–I do have to put a sign up on the desk about it though.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, find out from the boss if they are required to send these emails. Is there a sign-out sheet for the building? That would cover who is there and who is not.

        I would start by telling the boss that 25 emails a day is a bit much, if it’s not necessary.

  41. anon in tejas*

    Im taking a huge professional certification exam in about 10 days. I am nervous and I have been studying super hard. I will be waiting 3+ months for results. What would you do to reward yourself?

    I am deciding between several things. Unfortunately, I can’t do what I really want– a vacation with my partner, because it would just cost too much right now.

    1. Adam V*

      Take in a movie, visit the zoo, go out to a nice dinner – depends on my mood.

      (Honestly, I’d probably just want to reward myself with an entire weekend spent playing video games, but my wife keeps harping on me to do *something* productive, especially with my in-laws coming to visit in a few weeks.)

  42. Stephanie*

    (1) The interview I mentioned last week went fairly well. Pretty straightforward. Thanks for everyone’s advice. Since it is entry-level management, my volunteer experience seemed sufficient. It’d be a big step up in terms of responsibility, but could be good experience if I did get it.

    (2) So when it rains, it pours I suppose. I was contacted about another job. Thing is, I interviewed for this same role about three years ago. I’ve gotten some more relevant experience in the interim (and I think the department’s changed its focus a bit). Do I bring up that I interviewed previously? I also committed a faux pas of sending a handwritten thank-you after an email thank-you (I hadn’t found this blog yet!).

    (2a) Job would require some (niche) marketing, which I don’t have experience with. Advice on how to overcome that?

      1. Stephanie*

        Technology transfer at a big R1 school. From my understanding, I’d need to understand where the university’s IP and research could be commercialized or licensed to corporate partners and how best to market it to a corporate partner.

        1. Nanc*

          I would check out Spiceworks. They have a technology marketing community and the IT buyer members often comment there. You could ask some questions about what sort of marketing approach appeals to them. Good luck–sounds like an exciting job.

    1. BRR*


      Would you be interviewing with the same people? I wouldn’t worry about the thank you notes. I have a rule where I just don’t discuss things I did before finding this blog.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yup, department director and one of the managers are still there. I don’t recognize the other manager.

        1. BRR*

          I feel like it should somehow be address but my Friday afternoon brain can’t think of how. Have you dug through the archives? I feel like it’s been answered but I couldn’t find anything with a quick search.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I believe I read that anything over a year is old news, forget it. But for me I would have to mention it. I’d skip the part about the double thank yous. I would just pretend I forgot I did that.

    2. Blue_eyes*

      Definitely mention that you have previously interviewed for this job. “I actually had an interview for this about three years ago. Since then I’ve really improved my skills in _____ and _____, and am excited to apply them in this position.”

    3. Trixie*

      I remember last week you mentioned some supervisory responsibilities. Did you they like the answers you prepared, as far as projects/teams, etc?

      1. Stephanie*

        She seemed to. I picked up that she didn’t seem as bothered that my previous supervisory experience was volunteer and more bothered (but not strongly so) that it wasn’t in a manufacturing/warehouse environment. Same with project experience.

  43. Changeling*

    At what point can I include volunteer experience on my resume? After relocating to a new area this summer, I joined an exciting volunteer organization in my professional area that has a really structured training process. I attended a full two-day training already, but because there are so many volunteers on the schedule my next opportunity for direct service work isn’t for another month. I’ve reached out to multiple people to see if there is admin/communications work I could help with in the meantime and hopefully something will come through. I’m eager to get involved and stay busy while job-hunting! Its technically been two months already since that first training, but I feel strange including it on my resume without having done substantive work. Is it too soon to include, or is it important to include because it demonstrates my interest and commitment to this area of work?

    1. J*

      I have a section on my resume titled “additional information” that includes a subsection for computer skills and volunteer work, which I list the organization and the role: Mentor, Afterschool Program Name.

      I would say since you’ve gone thru the training and are “in the queue” I would at least list it in general terms. Esp if the org is related to your line of work. If you get asked about it, you can say you’ve completed the training and etc. Then, once you get more involved, reevaluate if its worth it to go in more detail about your role. I decided against this for space reasons on my resume, but it is worthwhile for some people.

  44. Mouse*

    For people who really enjoy their work, how did you know you were in the “right” career/field for you?

    1. Shermie*

      When I didn’t need to look forward to the weekend. When the day just flew by, but you felt you accomplished something. When I laughed and smiled a lot.

    2. Gene*

      When I was coming home from work happy more often than POed. When I was learning something new almost every day, and even now, after 30 years doing what I do, I still learn something new at least once a week.

    3. ClaireS*

      I did an exercise once where you had to clarify your values. While I knew I enjoyed my job, when I saw my values, it was clear why I loved my job.

      It was an exercise as part of a facilitated program but I’d start with thinking about your own values. Do you enjoy steady, consistent work or would you prefer fast-paced work with an ambiguous process?

      I learned that I value adventure, decisiveness, challenge and integrity. That really gave me clarity on why I love my job and why I excel.

    4. Joey*

      I’m not sure the actual work mattered. It was finding a great boss that mattered way more and feeling like I was contributing in a significant way to an organization I believed in.

    5. BRR*

      I get super excited about workplace accomplishments. Not in the sense that I made a chocolate teapot yay but I made an amazing chocolate teapot by industry standards. I also want to talk about chocolate teapots nonstop.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      My definition of right has changed over the years. Currently, right means using my natural talents/abilities that I LIKE to use. Just because I have ability A does not mean I have to take a job that requires ability A if I do not like using that ability.

    7. Clever Name*

      When you are excited to tell people about what you do because it’s cool and fun! When you think about how much you enjoy the work. When what you do seems like it’s a natural extension of yourself. When you work when you’re in a position to not have to (thank you software engineer spouse!). Honestly, working is the least stressful part of my day. I work with some pretty great people, and I feel like my work actually makes a difference.

  45. Kristina*

    I am feeling a bit gun shy so to speak after being fired from a job a few months ago. The firing happened due to various issues that I don’t completely agree with (behavioral issues, making too many mistakes, etc.) but didn’t argue at the time as I was already pretty miserable and thinking of quitting anyway. I was still in the probationary period so it was a firing after 90 days. In those 90 days I ended up increasing my anti-anxiety meds and was generally miserable everyday. Anyway I have been applying to jobs and am very scared that I will make the same mistake in picking a bad job fit and be fired again. I haven’t had any interviews yet but I am feeling anxious about the whole repeating my previous situation.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Were there any red flags you felt during the interview process? Do you think it was a bad cultural fit or skills fit?

      Focus on jobs that are a good fit for your skills and background. Did you have a bad gut feeling during the hiring process? If so, take it as a red flag that something isn’t quite right for you. Good luck!

    2. brightstar*

      Have you thought about why you were fired to see what you can do differently in the future? You mention that you were fired over behavioral issues and making too many mistakes in your probationary period, but that you just disagree with those. Were they really exaggerated and shouldn’t have been issues or is it something different?

      As for gun shy, that’s normal after a firing. Pay attention to your instincts.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      I can relate. My last job sucked and went pretty similarly. Just take a solid look at what happened and come up with an answer for what happened that has the most positive spin for you without lying.

      I also understand that fear very well. I was hired so quickly to fill their immediate need (someone to take the day to day lead management off the manager’s plate), it was a whirlwind and getting booted out 3 months later for alleged performance issues. I worked in a CSR type role and fielded a lot of oddball questions that I may not necessarily have the information/experience to to answer, so I would ask my manager or reach out to one of our community managers to check. I think she took my questions as not being confident in the role, when I think it was the opposite. Just winging it and hoping my answer was right wouldn’t cut it for me. Even if it’s blowback on a minor issue, why not check to make sure you know what you’re talking about so you can grow your knowledge base and prevent the blowback in the first place? My answer could possibly lose revenue for the company (not on a big level but lost revenue is lost revenue), so why not give people as accurate info as you can?

      Erm, sorry for the off topic monologue there. :) Is there a way you can take this off your resume? Also, have you discussed any sort of reference for them? At the very least confirming title and the dates of your employment? Was it amicable? I think you would feel a lot better if you had that in check.

    4. Joey*

      It’s hugely important to be able to talk about what you could have done differently.

      Should you have gotten better clarity about the workload?

      Should you have gotten a better understanding of the skills needed?

      Should you have better understood that your bosses perception is the reality you need to deal with?

      Should you have taken active steps to address some of the issues your boss raised?

      Should you have asked for more feedback to understand the shortcomings your boss was communicating to you?

    5. Blue_eyes*

      Try to identify what part(s) of the job was making you miserable. The workload? The type of tasks? Your coworkers? If you know what didn’t work for you in this job, you’ve taken the first step towards finding one that is a better fit. You might also want to look into the book “What Color is Your Parachute?” Some of the exercises in the book will help you identify what kind of work you want to do and what kind of organization you want to work for. It may help you clarify what happened in your last job. Good luck!

    6. Marcy*

      Try to look at the feedback you received objectively now that you are out of that situation and try to place yourself in your former supervisors place and look at your performance through their eyes. That can help you see what you need to work on so it doesn’t happen again. I recently let someone go for the same reasons you mentioned. To me, the behavioral issues were worse than the mistakes. The mistakes were numerous but if the employee had really been trying, I would have worked with him longer to try to help him get better. The problem was complete denial over the number and seriousness of the mistakes (meaning he wasn’t going to learn from them since he couldn’t even admit he was making them despite proof). He was also rude and defensive to anyone who had to point out his mistakes. If you make mistakes in your new job (normal when you are new), admit them, apologize for them, thank people for letting you know about them and try not to make them again.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      The first job I had, I got fired. I am not too sure what I did wrong to this day. However, I was careful not to pick out a work setting that was similar to the first job. This helped me not to flashback to bad stuff that happened there.

      In my case my boss was so busy being my friend that she forgot to be my boss. So she was no help in preventing my firing. Going forward from that, I made sure that my boss remained just that, my boss. See, even if you can only think of one or two things that need to be fixed that might be enough to make a difference in the next job.

    8. Vancouver Reader*

      Would you consider temping while looking for a full time job again? I had the same thing happen to me, I was fired during the probation period even though I thought I was trying hard. It totally blew my self confidence, but being able to temp has helped me gain my confidence back because I’m working with people who don’t know me from adam, but I do a good job for them and they tell the temp agency that.

      Hope you feel better about things soon.

  46. Anna*

    I work for an organization that receives about half of its funding from a government contract. The bureau that funds us has a position open administering the contract from their side. Is it appropriate to apply? Would I even be considered since I work for one of the groups that they fund? And I am also worrying about it getting back to my employer that I applied, if I am not accepted. A coworker (but not my manager) suggested I apply, but I’m still not sure it’s appropriate.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      We have had people at our consulting company get hired in their client’s government office. Quite a few, and a lot more go on to work in non-client offices. But you do run a much higher likelihood of the news of your application getting back to your employer. I’d say you have a better chance than Jane Schmoe of getting that job, but you have to weigh that against how punitive your employer can be.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Can you ask them before you apply?

      It could be as simple as, you can apply but if hired you cannot handle the grant to your previous employer.

  47. nicolefromqueens*

    I’m looking for a second part time job. Primarily to make more money so I can have something called a “savings account”, but also to work on job skills and contacts in case something happens to my monotonous “full time” job. I’m primarily looking for support / office work since that’s the direction I’d like to go in (and I cannot stand up for hours at a time anymore because of my back.)

    Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I should go about this? I’ve been writing in my cover letters that I’m enthusiastic about broadening and strengthening my skills. I’m also not particular about my wages. But so far I have yet to get a single response.

    1. Trixie*

      I like to suggest holiday seasonal work which many places are hiring for already. Often they offer permanent PT positions. Also, if you workout at a local gym/YMCA, they often waive monthly fees for desk staff so you might consider that. Call centers are often hiring and would be an excellent option if they have evening shifts.

    2. Paige Turner*

      This comment is super late, but if you do see it, I’d suggest looking for a weekend position at a hair salon or somewhere similar. Most retail jobs require standing, but a salon receptionist might be a good option for you. Plus, free haircuts!

  48. voluptuousfire*

    I’m curious about how people handle questions for initial phone screens here. I know we’re supposed to treat them as real interviews (which I do) but I’m a bit confused to what questions to ask at the end of the conversation. In my experience, most of my calls have been with in house recruiters and their ilk and they may not be the best ones to answer higher level questions (say, “what would the first 30/60/90 days look like in this role?”, “What is your management style?”). I usually ask more general questions about company culture and what kind of person would thrive in this role.

    Also, in my experience, phone screens rarely are more than a chance to go over your resume for any bumps and to see if you’re presentable enough to come in for an in person.

    Any tips?

    1. MaryMary*

      I think the first question is to ask the person doing the phone interview what their role in the organization is. Then, you can tailor your questions accordingly. If the interviewer is a recruiter or someone who isn’t super involved in the day to day work the position will involve, I think you can still ask high level questions about the company and its culture. I’d also ask how the position came to be open. Finally, you can definitely ask about next steps and toming.

    2. Joey*

      Ask questions to get a clearer picture of what the job entails and how aligned you are with the Ksa’s that’s are needed.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        Of course, but wouldn’t that be a better idea for an in person with someone from the team you’d be working for vs. the recruiter?

  49. Amanda*

    Okay, question. How do you help support a partner who is unhappy in their job/career?

    I’ve always been a very self-motivated person career-wise, and have fought to find the kinds of jobs that let me make my own decisions, that place me in control of my work, and that value my feedback.

    Fiance has not a ton of idea about what he wants to do longterm; he works in healthcare, and is terrific with people, but gets really frustrated by a lot of things that I can’t entirely understand or help him with – things like the direction of the department, interpersonal office relations, the way work is distributed, etc. He never held a job until graduating from college, so he never had to do the crap jobs that most of us did that taught us to suck it up sometimes. Because he has no real idea about a career arc he doesn’t know what his ideal job would look like, or how to put together the steps to get there. He is very definitely a work to live person and wants to leave work at his desk at 5pm, which is fine, but sooooooo not my style so I sometimes have trouble relating!

    I’m trying to walk a line between sympathizing and telling him to suck it up and just go to work. I have perfect faith that he does a good job at work and is a pleasant person to work with, but the complaining gets old. It’s been the same across two different jobs in two very different areas of healthcare. I suspect it would be the same for future jobs. I’m happy to support him to find something he likes but not sure that kind of job is out there.

    So, tl;dr. How to support a partner in his/her job and career when you’ve got very different outlooks and are kind of sick of the complaining?

    1. soitgoes*

      I always try to focus on the things that being employed allows me to do. Maintain my lifestyle, enjoy my hobbies, spend somewhat freely. I’m kind of odd about these things though. I’ve never had any expectation of thoroughly loving my job. I’m perfectly happy to stay in a tolerable position as long as they’ll have me and pay me, because then I go home and do what I want.

    2. Meh*

      Tell him to go to therapy to vent? Maybe the therapist can offer insights on what to do. Or limit the amount of complaining you will listen to, “I will listen to 5 minutes of complaining”. Or maybe tell him to journal his complaints.

    3. Meg*

      As someone who recently left a really terrible work situation and who was exceptionally grateful to my significant other for putting up with my near-constant frustrations, I’d say don’t underestimate how important your listening to him might be for him (and your relationship, even). Sometimes I wondered why my sig other didn’t just break down and tell me to shut the hell up about it already (I am not sure I’d have had the patience with me that he did), but he never did. When you’re in a crappy work situation, it takes up a good chunk of your whole day, and if it’s miserable, the only thing that feels possible is to let off a little bit of steam at the end of the day. But, more to your question. I see no reason why you couldn’t institute some kind of tacit (or explicit) rule: 5 minutes of blowing off steam, then either he gets online to look for another job in a different area (therefore doing something about it, not just complaining), or get off the subject and do something you two enjoy. That way, you’re supporting him in his shitty situation, but there’s also forward progress.

    4. BRR*

      Is he job hunting? Not liking your job and staying there is different than not liking your job and looking to move on. My finance was also not sure what his long-term plans were. He did know that it would most likely be at a university but not sure what type of position so we started by looking at a couple of local universities job posting and from there he figured he wants to go into x,y,z, and has been looking especially to find those types of roles in a broader radius.

    5. HeyNonnyNonny*

      A big one for me is always acknowledge his feelings as valid and sympathize, but don’t try to solve any of his problems/give advice/tell him what to do. If the lots of complaining is starting to drag you down, maybe institute a ‘no complaining/talking about work after 5:30’ rule? Sometimes it’s hard to get out of a complaining rut once you get started!

    6. Jules*

      Help him get a reality check. It would help if he knows what he can influence and what he can’t change. Once he figures which things fall under, maybe he would stop complaining.
      I am a chronic complainer myself. It helps that after the 10th repeat of the same thing, my husband stops me and say, ‘Find another job.’

  50. CoffeeLover*

    I just had a very long, all day interview. I think it went really well. There were 20+ other people interviewing, but there’s 10 positions so my chances are good. I’m really excited about this opportunity. One guy that interviewed me said, “You did a really good job, and I’ve heard good things.” He said something else which basically amounted to him telling me not to worry. What. Does. That. Mean!? I wish people didn’t say these things. I don’t want to take it to mean I got the job (because I know I don’t have it til I have it), but it’s hard not to get your hopes up when someone says something like that.

  51. Anon Accountant*

    So another firm contacted me on LinkedIn and I sent them my resume because it’d been a really bad few weeks at work. They want to meet with me some time next week.

    I regret sending them my resume and wouldn’t accept any job offers unless I was unemployed or certain I’d be unemployed. It’s a very small place with only 4 employees and owned by 1 individual. I worked in a firm like that before and was so miserable I’d restarted job searching within 2 months of my start date for them.

    It was a few really bad weeks when I’d sent them my resume and told them I’d be interested in talking with them. I don’t want to waste their time. How should I approach this?

    1. littlemoose*

      Can you say that your circumstances have changed, and thus you will be withdrawing from the hiring process? If you do it promptly and politely, I imagine they would be understanding. If you go ahead and interview, etc. knowing you won’t take the job, then I think that is a lot more likely to leave a negative impression.

  52. C Average*

    Continuing to go slightly insane waiting to hear about a job.

    It’s an internal position, and the hiring manager is someone I’ve known for a number of years and consider a friend. We don’t socialize outside of work and we rarely talk about anything other than work. We really enjoy talking shop and have collaborated cross-functionally a few times through the years. I actually spoke with him about this same job two years ago when it was open and, after learning more, decided not to apply because I didn’t think I was ready quite yet. This time around, he encouraged me to apply and I did. I think only a few people (3-5) were interviewed.

    I interviewed almost three weeks ago, on a Tuesday, and was told they’d get back to me “early to mid-next week.” The next week, I heard nothing but ran into him in the campus coffee shop. He said, “I meant to let you know we’re going to need a couple more days.” I shrugged it off and reassured him that I knew these things take time, and figured I’d hear back early this week.

    I’m STILL waiting. I so, so hope they’ll let me know today so I don’t have to endure the weekend in suspense.

    I have no idea what my chances are. I know the job is still technically open. (The status changes to “closed” in the “my jobs” section on HR once an offer has been made and accepted, even if rejected candidates haven’t been notified. This is something I’ve learned from paying attention to these things in the past.) I know the panelists–both of whom I know and get along well with–are in the office. (You can stalk colleagues by pulling up a past meeting with them and switching to the “scheduling assistant” view and scrolling forward. No, I’m not proud of myself for doing this kind of research!)

    Yeah, I’m going bonkers here.

    1. Mimmy*

      I know this is very common from all the posts here, but I’m annoyed that they’re doing it to someone they know well!!

      Based on your interaction in the coffee shop, it sounds like they’re just incredibly busy and the only thing that’ll get them to remember is another encounter or, even better, you calling or emailing your contact. Kinda stinks, but that might be your best bet as long as you aren’t pestering them.

      (Wow….major run-on sentence!!)

      1. C Average*

        Yeah, I really, really don’t want to be a pest, but I also really, really want to know.

        I don’t think I’m going to ask them, because all I really stand to gain is an updated timeframe that I won’t trust at this point anyway. (I’ve been given two timeframes now, and neither has panned out.)

        I know they haven’t forgotten to hire someone! It’s a core role that they said they need to fill quickly; it’s not a job that can stay open indefinitely.

        And I feel pretty confident they wouldn’t fail to notify me if they’d definitively gone forward with someone else. He’s a standup guy and we have a long working relationship and a lot of mutual respect. (Also, the job’s status would’ve changed if they’d hired someone else.)

        My guess is that either they’ve made an offer to someone and haven’t yet had it accepted or rejected and/or are negotiating, or that they’re working with HR on an offer tailored to a specific candidate.

        When I got the job I have now, it was a new role and I was pretty much wired for it, though they interviewed other people, and it still took forever for me to get an offer. It turned out the delay was because my new manager negotiated with HR to get me a higher starting salary as a subject matter expert in a particular product line. Obviously I was appreciative! And it did make me aware that stuff like this happens, and that other people probably waited in limbo while my offer was being prepared.

        It’s mainly the timeframes that don’t pan out that are making me crazy.

        Sigh. I also have a stats test on Monday that I am SO not ready for. Must survive today and be productive and not go batty, and then must focus on stats all weekend.

        Thanks for indulging my whine. I know lots of people here would just like a job and that my problems are very much the first-world kind, but hey, that’s where I live.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      I’ve got my fingers crossed for you.

      Beyond that – from reading other people’s experiences here about hiring, delays seem to be part of the culture.

      Hang in there!

    3. C Average*

      Aaaand they went with someone else. The reasons were totally valid and the news was delivered very kindly. I’m really disappointed. I’m going to go cry in my stats book now.

      1. C Average*

        Not sure what to think about my prospects of getting a new job. When he broke the news to me, the hiring manager for this job said, “If you’d like to meet up for coffee, I have some additional feedback that might help. I think it’s going to be hard for you to move out of this role, and I have some thoughts about things you might do to improve your chances.”

        He’s acknowledging out loud what I’ve always known (but hoped wasn’t screamingly obvious to others): I have a very specialized role, and as a result my expertise is a mile deep and an inch wide.

        Although I came into the job with a couple of critical skill sets, there are others I’ve had to develop at great difficulty. I have personality conflicts with my manager that I don’t think can be easily resolved. They can be worked around, and that’s what I’m trying to do, but it’s challenging to be work around someone who puts you on edge all the time; I feel like I live in the brace position, and I’ve hated this job literally from the first day.

        I’m looking forward to chatting further with my friend about my prospects. I’m also doing an evening MBA program to try to broaden my opportunities, and I’ve taken on a really cool and interesting stretch assignment with a different department. I’m hopeful that some of this will broaden my experience such that I can move beyond what I’m doing.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          Just so you know: in my time reading AAM, you have come to be one of the set of contributors that I look to for clear, level-headed advice. Not that there is any kind of proven research to support the notion that “good advice on AAM” == “good employee, will get job fast” (which is Too Bad). But insofar as any of what happens here maps into Real Life, I can’t help but think it might give you an edge over a given set of random bozoid applicants.

          1. C Average*

            Thank you! What a nice thing to say. I’ve learned volumes from other commenters here (especially Jamie, RuffingIt, and NotSo New Reader) as well as Alison, of course. It makes me happy to know I’m paying it forward in some small way.

            The reasons he chose someone else are totally valid. I’m looking forward to getting additional feedback from him, but think I’ll schedule that meeting a couple weeks out. I’m still a bit emotional when I think about how badly I wanted that job.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Same from me.

            You have to have people around you that see how you are and are more than willing to advocate for you. This advocacy could be advice or actually putting in a good word or sharing information.
            I strongly recommend the “fresh eyes” approach, look at stuff with fresh eyes, ask yourself more questions about what you are seeing. People are odd. Sometimes they offer help once and if we don’t respond or don’t hear them then they do not ask again. Sometimes people just figure we are happy with the way things are. I have found it helpful to pretend I have a friend in my situation. I want to help my friend. This helps me to come up with ideas that I would not have thought of for myself. I don’t know maybe it’s got a pressure relief in there somewhere and I gain a more objective perspective?

  53. Steve G*

    Mergers/layoffs/severance/surviving it all

    I found out this week that my division is being spun off and “merging” with another spinoff to create a new company, however, it feels like we are being taken over by the other company because their people seem to be the ones in management positions. I don’t like their structure. They divvy up every little function so no one person owns any process except VPs. What makes my current company successful is we have fewer but more highly trained employees that view and treat customers as a whole story, not as a list on a spreadsheet they do one task for, and pass along.

    I don’t want to stay because I am in a very autonomous high responsibility analytical/regulatory/reporting/account management role in a successful branch office of my company, having 2X the # of customers as the other company we are merging with in the same territory……however, I am going to have my job simplified, stuff taken away, and work for one of their people, their way (which still doesn’t make sense to me since we’ve been growing as they’ve been shrinking). Frankly, I am PO’d because I’ve done so much OT and weekend work and been in many uncomfortable and stressful situations to build up our business, and now its getting handed over to other people on a silver platter. Really makes ones disillusioned. I thought I was setting my self up for another promotion here, now I could be moving backwards.

    Does anyone else have experience with this? I have a few questions:
    1) how did you negotiate severance or any other type of payment? Did you only get one if they couldn’t offer you a similar position?
    2) Did you ever start in new role after you declined severance, hated it, and gotten them to offer it to you again so you could leave?
    2) Did anyone ever stick it out and quickly rise to their previous role or higher at the other company?
    3) Is it appropriate to put on a cover letter something like “seeking new position as current role is being divided up amidst merger?” Or does that come across as bitter, TMI, or something else not positive?

    Thank you for any stories or help!!!

    1. fposte*

      I don’t have any experience, Steve, but I’m sending you sympathy.

      (And my gut reaction is that you don’t say that in the cover letter, but you can say in interviews that you’re looking elsewhere because of merger effects.)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have seen friends go through various type of things because of mergers. So I do not think there is one answer.
      One thing that jumped out at me is that you don’t know if you are moving forward or backward. Try to find that much out. I think the absence of facts is making the situation a lot worse for you. Aim for collecting up facts. Who do you trust? Can you go talk to them?

      If you come up empty, then I say start doing a job search. Having options is pretty powerful stuff.

      I had one friend that went through a buy-out. It got pretty dicey for a while. Old guard was causing problems for people, then the new guard stepped in and things landed okay. But it took a while for that to play out. My friend is better off than he was before.

  54. Mints*

    Obligatory new job post! I’m starting a new position on Monday!
    I’m really excited. There were a lot of directions my next job could get me headed, and this one is towards project management, which I’m interested in, and will learn good skills in the mean time. They also offered me more money and a better position than I had originally applied for, which I think is a very good sign.
    (If anyone remembers last week’s post: I decided not to go with the cool company because it was only a two month contract, so I’d basically still be job hunting the entire time, and two months is barely long enough to put on my resume, and no benefits.)

    Many thanks to Alison and this site, and the commentariat! I don’t know where I’d be without all of you. Well, most likely, following bad advice that felt counterintuitive. The “interviews are a two way street” was probably the best. During all my conversations, afterwards I’d think about “Do I even want this job?” and I’m certain it affected my interview performance as well.

    I think I asked good questions throughout, but I’m still a little anxious to see how things go next week. I’ll update Friday!

  55. Daydreamer*

    ClareS got me thinking when I read a comment she made above:

    “In my situation, it was hard to figure out. I wasn’t unhappy but I wasn’t being challenged and I started to coast. It took me a while to realize that this wasn’t what I wanted anymore.”

    So until I’m able to find a new challenge, be it within the organization I work for (post-secondary institution) or with a new company/organization, how do you self-discourage the coasting? I’m facing that now. I’ve let my two bosses know that I’m not unhappy in my current role, but am interested in a new challenge. I’ve applied for a step-up position in another department (which would expand my duties to a couple of additional areas, which is exciting to me!), and I’m also watching for other roles. But I find my “meh” mindset is greater than my interest in the things I’m working on, and I know I need to focus. And there’s no way to go beyond my role because folks tend to be set into silos, and my boss doesn’t seem to believe I can help in other roles (communications).

    1. ClaireS*

      This hard and I don’t have any real solutions. When I was there my final solution was to get a new job but that doesn’t help you now.

      Maybe try to look for more challenges outside of work? Volunteer or start a project (learn to knit, run or identify all the trees in your neighbourhood?). Filling that need outside of work may make the lack of challenge in your job more palatable.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I call it a challenge I don’t want. What do you do when the chips are down? I tell myself that if I coast then I ruin all my previous hard work because my reputation will tank. If I coast others will notice.
      This may sound tired/old but I tell myself, how can I expect new challenges when I don’t even handle the current challenge of focusing. Therefore I must handle this challenge I am facing right here.
      But this is life, we don’t always get to pick and chose our challenges. And how we handle things when it’s not going so well not only defines us to others, it also teaches us. Ask yourself what can I learn about handling boredom, how can I pull myself through the day in better shape?

      Yeah, I have to crack the whip to get myself moving sometimes.
      If you can’t think of anything else pretend that new boss in the exciting job is able to see you and is able to know what you are currently doing all day long. You don’t want him to get the wrong idea, right?

  56. Interview Question*

    Had an interview this week and was asked “How would you handle a staff person who thinks they know more than you?” I have never been asked that question. I think I answered it well but I am wondering how others would answer that question. It also got me to thinking do they have a know it all on staff you could be a problem?

    How do you handle staff who think they know more than you?

    1. Jillociraptor*

      If I were an interviewer, I think I’d want to hear that you can deal with frustrating, challenging people patiently and still stay on top of your own stuff. Do you have the emotional intelligence to manage challenging people, and to get around the challenges/maximize the good stuff to actually get stuff done?

      These are the kinds of questions that as a candidate, always make me want to ask, “How does this play out in your workplace? What makes this an important skill for the person in this role?” because eeeep.

    2. it happens*

      I think it depends on the role. I’ve managed many people with specialized knowledge that I didn’t have – they really did know more than I did about their functions — and I trusted their experience. On the other hand, they had to trust my knowledge of the bigger picture, especially when I would probe them on WHY they wanted to do something that could potentially conflict with that bigger picture. On the other hand, I’ve had people working for me who were sure that I was just keeping them from their natural place as CEO (um, no, really, I’m not) and I’ve had to work with them towards attitude readjustments.

      tl;dr – some people do know more than you, trust and verify; others have attitude problems, question and correct

      1. skyline*


        I would add that I’ve also found that some know-it-alls really have communication problems more than attitude problems; they don’t realize their delivery style ends up sabotaging them. That’s a topic for coaching.

  57. TS*

    I’ve been with my new company for a few weeks, and was recently asked by the office manager for my home address for the employee address book. Apparently she collects all employees home addresses and sends them out to the whole company. Does anyone else find this a bit strange and potentially a safety issue? I was really reluctant to provide it, but didn’t want to seem stubborn or like I was hiding something as a new team member.

    1. Cassy*

      Weird. Our addresses only go to HR. I think I would have said something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but I really like to keep my personal information as private as possible due to all the personal security issues and privacy breaches. Everyone can feel free to contact me via email though.”

    2. Frances*

      Yeah, it does seem weird. I’ve only ever had employers collect addresses outside of the usual HR purposes for emergencies — they were definitely not shared with the whole company.

      It feels like a relic from the pre-Internet days when people might want home addresses to mail personal invitations or things that couldn’t be distributed at work. (In retrospect, it’s kind of terrifying to think about my elementary school distributing school directories with the names, phone numbers, and addresses of hundreds of young children.)

  58. LD*

    I am caught in a really bad situation and need help. I am currently working a job that makes me absolutely miserable. I’ve worked here for six years and when I started it was fine, but this last year has been the worst I’ve ever had in my working life. Every single day I want to quit. When I wake up in the morning it takes every ounce of strength I have to get out of bed to get ready for work. There’s even been a few mornings where I woke up and started crying. The bosses treat people so badly. There has even been yelling between them and employees! The company has lost nine employees in the last three months. I hear talk of other employees that are unhappy too.

    I’ve been looking for a new job since February but have only gotten one interview. I’ve gone to two resume services for consultations and revised it according it their advise, I’m applying to jobs online every night when I get home, I’ve posted my resume on all sorts of job boards and I’ve signed up with three staffing agencies, but still nothing!

    I’m trying to hang on because I need my paycheck, but I’m at the end of my rope. My doctor says I have depression and has tried two medications on me, but both of them make me so sick I had to stop using them. I’ve used up all my sick leave because I can’t stomach being in that place for more than a few days at a time, and I’m totally exhausted when I get home.

    I know you’re not supposed to quit a job before you’ve found a new one, but I feel like I’m about to have a breakdown. I need a way out now! What can I do?

        1. fposte*

          I’m sorry you’re in that position–it sounds horrible. I have more questions than answers, I’m afraid: Is there any short-term disability available? Do you have any savings, and how low is your cost of living? Do you have any idea of how you’re likely to fare in the job market? Is the stress of unemployment something you think you could tolerate better than the stress of work?

          1. LD*

            I’m in LA and the cost of living is high. I have no savings left. I have no idea how I’ll fare in the job market since I can’t get interviews. I don’t know if short-term disability is available.

            1. fposte*

              Okay, then that’s one thing you can do–find out. It’s really hard to feel miserable and unwell and stuck, and there are obviously limitations on what any of us can do in that situation. But illness can sometimes tell us that no action is possible when that’s not true. Finding out if you’re eligible for short-term disability is possible.

        2. rosegold*

          Well you said you wanted a way out, so. Figure it out at work and take the paycheck or figure it out at a hospital with FMLA.

          You’re definitely depressed, so keep going to that psychiatrist and find the right medicine.

            1. NJ anon*

              You should absolutely go see a mental healthcare professional or even your GP. They may agree to put you on disability if your situation warrants it.

            2. Elsajeni*

              If you can get a chance to see one, it might be helpful — they’re likely to have more experience with depression and possible medication options than your GP (who I’m guessing is the one who prescribed you the previous medications you’ve tried).

              1. Gypsy*

                Yes, my GP prescribed the medications. I’ve looked into psychiatrists, but so far I haven’t found any that I can afford.

                1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

                  Do you have a therapist, or does anyone you know have one? If so, can you ask/have a friend ask, who they recommend as a psych meds prescriber? I see a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who has her own practice. You can also call your EAP/health insurance co and ask for referrals to people in their programs.

    1. brightstar*

      I’ve been in that position. It’s been about a decade now, but I cried every morning before going into work. I channeled those emotions into fueling my job search and looking as much as possible.

      I’d also say maybe find something to reward yourself with for getting through the day, even if it’s just watching the television equivalent of macaroni and cheese for half an hour. Working out, if you’re physically up to it, will also help with your mood and emotions.

      1. LD*

        I’m not up to working out. Like I said, I’m exhausted when I get home. Watching TV doesn’t help. Nothing does at this point.

        1. brightstar*

          In that case, I’d recommend following fposte’s suggestions to see if you would qualify for short term disability or even unemployment. In my state, if you quit for valid reasons you are still eligible but you’d have to research that.

          If nothing helps and you’re this depressed, then getting out at whatever cost seems like the best bet for your health.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, excellent point on the UI. It certainly never hurts to file–worst you can get is nothing, which is where you’d be without applying anyway.

            1. LD*

              I don’t think I’d qualify for UI. If I quit, UI would talk to the company bosses to see if I quit for “a good reason”. Since the bosses are the problem (they are extremely negative) I don’t feel I can talk to them.

              1. fposte*

                LD, I understand you’re unhappy. But you asked “What do I do?” and you’re shutting down some legitimate answers. (And no, UI does not automatically talk to your bosses to see if you quit for a good reason. What they expect and do will depend on the state, but if your employer doesn’t contest it UI generally isn’t going to go chatting to them.)

                Maybe this is your way of saying that you feel horrible, you feel afraid, and you feel like you can’t do anything to change it, and you’d like some support. And I think we would all understand that, and I really do hope that you feel better and find something better. But we’re treating this as a question to answer because that’s how you posed it. Should we swap to support mode? We can probably do that, if it’s what you’re really looking for.

                1. Mister Pickle*

                  Wow, fposte – I hope that someday I can get to your level.

                  Most compassionate, most insightful response I’ve read anywhere this month.

              2. NJ anon*

                If you go to a doctor and have it documented that the job is causing the stress, anxiety and depression, you may have a chance. Call your state labor board and ask them what qualifies. I don’t know about California but in NJ you can have FMLA and there is a payment component. CALL and ASK! You don’t have to feel this way!

                1. fposte*

                  Even in NJ, FMLA isn’t paid–it’s that there’s short-term disability (called “temporary disability” there) that’s available to workers out on health leave.

                  However and more importantly, you’re right that California does have similar short-term disability–LD, here’s a link:

    2. nep*

      I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time.
      Are there any activities that help ease the stress / anxiety? Walking, yoga, stretching, a craft, anything? (And what are you eating?) Of course meds are vital for some people with certain conditions, and that could be the case for you; just to say that some non-medical coping mechanisms can work wonders.
      Wishing you all the best in landing a new job and moving on.

    3. Gypsy*

      What you’re going through is terrible! In reference to your reply to fposte, your concerns are valid. We want to give you good advise, but, please understand that we don’t know how your company is set up. I can understand how you’d be nervous to go the UI route if there’s a chance they will call your bosses. Can you call UI and ask if it’s absolutely necessary for them to talk to your bosses? Is there someone in HR department at your job that you can ask some questions? Can you go to a psychiatrist? If not, then definitely look into short-term disability like fposte and some others suggested. I’m rooting for you. This stuff is scary but please don’t just sit there and take being mistreated. Your health comes first. You deserve better.

      1. LD*

        Thanks Gypsy. At my job the bosses are HR. So that’s why I’m concerned. I don’t want them being told that they’re the reason I need to get away. They are not understanding people at all. Psychitrists are something I can’t afford unless I can find a free one, which I haven’t been able to find. I guess I could look into short-term disability.

        1. AB Normal*

          LD, in addition to what others said, I wanted to highlight this:

          “I’ve gone to two resume services for consultations and revised it according it their advice”

          If you think again about doing this, PLEASE DON’T! Do not spend one more cent in resume services. This blog has plenty of examples of how bad some of these services are; do check AAM’s free resources, and see if you can spend some time reviewing your resume with fresh eyes, one day you don’t feel too tired. No resume service is going to be better than you putting your brain to work to think about past accomplishments and results that can highlight your value to potential employers. Good luck!

          1. LD*

            Those consultations were free. I’ve already revised my resume three times using resources on this site. Looks like I’ll have to keep revising. Thanks.

    4. Jean*

      LD, this late post comes w/ my hope that the info will still be useful. Because you sound depressed (I’m speaking here with concern, not judgement) I want to share some ideas for finding support for you and your mental health. None of these are guaranteed, and all of them will require some research (but you can do most of it online, at home, in your pajamas with a mug of tea nearby), but you are _worth_ the trouble!

      1) EAP / employee assistance plan (might not work, given what you’ve already said about your company’s HR dept, but worth a thought)

      2) Counties, municipalities, and/or privately funded nonprofit organizations sometimes offer low-cost or sliding-scale or free services. This can be anything from the local Crisis Center to your local Jewish Family Service/Children & Family Services/Social Service agency to Catholic Charities…

      3) NAMI / National Alliance on Mental Illness /
      At their home page, click on “Find Your Local NAMI.” When the US map appears, click on your state to get a list of state / county / other local chapters of NAMI. Then check the web sites listed, and/or call the phone numbers of whichever location is most convenient to you, to find out about free education and support groups.

      4) Finally, please find some way to get some happiness into your life every day. It’s OK to start small! Use a shampoo that smells good to you. Clean half of the bathroom sink. Tend a house plant. Make one tiny corner of your home look tidy and inviting. (See http://www.unf* for more info on how to clean up while depressed or ill.) If there’s anyone you can reach out to, do so. If you are part of a community or congregation, you’ve got the start of a network right there. One way or another, slowly accumulate positive experiences to displace the negative ones.

      Good luck. Please check back in with an update, but right now just focus on feeling better. I’ve lived with depression; it’s _amazing_ how much it can immobilize a person. But it’s also amazing how much better things start to look, and how small solutions and large sollutions are easier to find, when the depression starts to recede. You know how hard it is to cope when you’re exhausted? It’s the same way if you’re depressed.

      1. LD*

        Thank you very much for this Jean, I appreciate your concern and support. And thank you to everyone who responded with advise on this thread. Please understand that I need to take this slow because I’m in a really bad situation. I want to get out but I don’t want to burn bridges with my current employer unless there’s simply no other option. I will check back with an update.

  59. rosegold*

    I am unemployed and pretty much broke. I applied for a position at a department store and it looks like I may just get it. However, the pay is terrible. It’s single digits hourly, and the commission isn’t that great. I have literally $300 in my bank account and do not think I can survive on such an inconsistent income, even though I may make a lot of money in about 6 months (when I have regular clients) — the point is that I won’t be making a lot NOW.

    The recruiter for this position keeps bugging me about “where I am in the hiring process” and the first time she asked, before my first interview, I told her I wasn’t interviewing with anyone else. Now that I’m about to have my second interview, she is asking again. I don’t have any other prospects but I don’t think I want this job. What do I say? And should I even go to the second interview… it’s not like I’ve gotten an offer yet. I just think this is not a good idea.


    1. Livin' in a Box*

      If you’re not interviewing with anyone else, why not take it? The job sounds like it sucks but it’s better than being unemployed.

      1. rosegold*

        The hourly wage doesn’t actually pay more than my Unemployment, that’s why. And I also don’t think it’s nice to say yes to a job at a prestigious company and then leave in a few months when you find something better. Those sorts of things get around, and can damage a sales professional’s reputation.

        1. Student*

          Being unemployed damages your reputation more than ditching this company for a better job in 6 months.

          Times have changed, and while I wouldn’t encourage job-hopping broadly, you are an exception. A job at minimum wage levels isn’t a job that you own corporate loyalty to. You don’t have to worry about your reputation for job-hopping at any job that pays less than $25k a year. A job at really low pay at a prestigious company doesn’t make it a prestigious job.

          1. rosegold*

            It doesn’t pay $25k a year. It could easily pay $60k+ a year, but most of that money is from commissions. What I am saying is that while I am finding my feet there, and making a de facto minimum wage because I am only relying on the hourly wage, I would be digging myself into a real hole.

            And this is luxury fashion working with celebrity clients. In Manhattan. It is a prestigious job, it’s just one that I wish had been open when I had more of a nest egg.

            1. Student*

              Ah, well then. Seems really short-sighted of you to stay on unemployment instead of taking the job, if your assessment is accurate (is it really? that’s a huge gap between base pay and commission pay).

              If you don’t think you can meet ends meet in the ramp-up-time to getting the $60k-a-year paychecks, then it’s time to do what you need to do to get by. Start begging, borrowing, and cutting corners. Impose on friends, impose on relatives, bulldoze any nice people in your life, ask your landlord to let you delay a payment because you JUST got a job, pay only bills that you can’t afford to skip. Then, once you’re on your feet, make an honest effort to repay people – with interest – for giving you a hand when you needed it. And look for a chance to give someone else a hand in the future.

              1. rosegold*

                Thing is, everything you mentioned in your last paragraph is what I have been doing since I was laid off in July. So asking for more money from everyone is a little inappropriate.

                There are scenarios where when it comes to black and white, dollars and cents and being able to eat AND pay your rent… sometimes unemployment checks make more sense. I’m not so hopeless that something much better than this job won’t come by next week, for example. And I wouldn’t want to miss out on it. I’m not desperate YET, and I wanted validation that turning down a job that might really screw me is not an insane idea that I should be ashamed of.

                1. snapple*

                  Nowadays, It seems like people here get snappy when they don’t get the answers they want to here..

        2. BRR*

          For your unemployment do you get asked if you turned down work? If it’s a retail position they’re used to high turnover.

        3. Diet Coke Addict*

          Even that prestigious company is going to have high turnover if they pay minimum and a lousy commission. They’ll be used to it and it isn’t something that should worry you.

          1. rosegold*

            I may have overstated the “lousiness” of the commission. See my most recent above comment. This is a career job, not a position at Forever 21. At my level — and at the level of this company — they do expect you to stick around and build the business.

              1. rosegold*

                Yes, sort of. It’s borderline whether this actually qualifies as reasonable work, because of the inconsistent income issue.

                But still, it makes me wonder if I should abort proceedings with this company before I am made an offer.

                Why are so many people asking about the stipulations of my unemployment? It’s not relevant to the question I’m asking, or is it?

                1. fposte*

                  If you could afford to forego UI, it’s not relevant. If you need UI, it’s relevant that you might be making yourself ineligible and therefore ending up with neither pay nor UI.

                2. Student*

                  Because we’re the ones paying for that unemployment. It’s not really nice or nuanced of a question, but people take an interest and start to get grouchy when someone turns down an alleged $60k-per-year job to stay on unemployment from tax dollars.

                3. rosegold*

                  “We’re” the ones paying for unemployment? Wow. You mean me, as a US citizen, as well? I pay my taxes on time and am entitled to unemployment benefits and not taking a flaky job that could get me kicked out of my apartment because it doesn’t start making living wage money for 6 months.
                  Like I said, the majority of the paycheck is commission based, which means I have to build a following of repeat clients who spend thousands and thousands of dollars. It’s like being an entrepreneur — one doesn’t see big bucks overnight and in fact can LOSE a lot of money while they’re working. Thing is, I can’t afford to lose anything! Comprende?

                4. Anx*

                  The reason why I asked, is because my understanding of UI is that it’s a safety net to help pay bills while job searching. I’ve been on it in the past, and exhausted my benefits when I wasn’t able to find a job ANYWHERE. I tried fast-food, I tried retail, I tried entry-level in my field, I went to get a post-bac license, and I couldn’t find anything.

                  I remember being nearly scared to actually get a job, because I was afraid that if it it didn’t work out, I would be left with neither an income or UI. The system makes it difficult to take a leap and accept a job that may not be a good match for you just to get off UI, and then leave you ineligible for any help whatsoever if you don’t work out.

                  I was asked if I turned down any reasonable employment. There were jobs I didn’t apply to because of transportation or safety concerns, but I didn’t turn any down.

                  The impression I got from your question was that you were considering not taking the job if you got the offer. To me that seems as though you would be turning turn a reasonable job (it seems safe, relevant to your field, and something you have the skills to do satisfactorily). So the question seemed irrelevant.

    2. steve G*

      I would say take it, being ready to quit anytime. I worked at Macys and Ralph Lauren during the pits of the recession in 2007/early 08 when I was feeling lonely and disconnected in unemployment and it helped build sales and customer service skills and stories that I talked about at the interview that put me back into the professional world. Macys paid $8/hr, RL $9.50, first “real” job after that period of under-employment, $13/hr, leading to a job that paid $19/hr the next year, etc. etc….to now I make what some people consider a lot.

      Macys was horrible to work for, but the Ralph Lauren outlet was fun. A lot of guys came in that hated shopping for clothes and I ended up being pretty good and keeping them in the store and finding things that fit them and made them look good. It’s pretty hard for middle aged+ men, and most of them were embarrassed shopping + asking for large waist size, so I just found whatever, kept my mouth closed, and pretty soon I was good at keeping guys ready to walk out of the store, and guide them to spend $100, $200 and leave happy that they finally found decent looking pants that fit. So, not what I wanted to do with my career, but sales ability is always a +.

    3. AVP*

      If you know you won’t take the job, just tell the recruiter that – “Thanks so much for contacting me and I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about this job, but I don’t think it’s for me and would like to retract my candidacy. Good luck in the rest of your hiring process.”

      She won’t be offended, she’ll be glad that you’re not wasting time or taking up an interview slot that could go to someone else.

  60. kf*

    How do you help coworkers/employees in new or updated software programs when the user either does not retain basics or pretends they do not know basic info? For example, in Excel 2010 when I say click on “File” or “View” in the Menu Bar they start rolling the mouse pointer in the middle of the screen and say “where is that, I can’t see it” until I actually touch the item on their computer screen.

    One program or one coworker, I can be patient. Every program and every user in my department, I am trying not to get frustrated but it is hard! Am I wrong in thinking that any person who uses a computer every day for years should know where to look when and what to do when they hear “click on Start and then Programs…”

    Okay, I know it is really me who should have more patience and that is exactly why I do not do Help Desk work anymore. I just needed to vent and thanks for listening!

    1. rosegold*

      Tell them to research the updates and find user guides on YouTube. They’re all over. They helped me learn how to do v-lookups, which is… not easy and extremely frustrating for me because I’m Excel-challenged.

      Put it in a nice way like, “Hey Joe, let me send you a few YouTube videos you can check out at home that can answer these questions a lot better than I can sometimes. Bookmark them on your work computer too!”

      1. Sadsack*

        Yeah, this is a good idea. Or write up the instructions for what you wan them to do and give it to them to work on alone. They’ll have to figure it out if you aren’t right there to answer their questions.

    2. Anx*

      Eh, I’ve been out of the workforce for a while and use a Mac at home, so I need a few seconds every time I see a new interface now. I can usually figure it out in a few seconds or minutes, but if someone was over my shoulder I might feel really awkward about it.

    3. MaryMary*

      I’d either create user guides with lots of screenshots, or purchase guides (Microsoft Office for Dummies?), or invest in video guides as rosegold suggested. It sounds like your users may need visuals on how to se the software

    4. LCL*

      When microsoft does an upgrade they tend to take away features that made their programs more useable. In excel they took away custom toolbars and floating toolbars, features that I used constantly. And they moved the location of the commands. And many iterations ago they went to a watercolor style image for all of their buttons, which to me just looks blurry.

    5. Jules*

      Screen caps with call outs/arrow. Simplified English instructions so anyone could get it in one read.

  61. JMegan*

    Thank goodness for the open thread! I have an exit interview this afternoon with my senior manager (my boss’s boss). She didn’t call it an exit interview in those exact words, but she said she wants to talk about my experiences at this organization, and also offered to have the meeting in a coffee shop if I want.

    So my question is, how much do I say? The politics and bureaucracies and general lunacy around here are off the charts, and are a big part of why I’m leaving. But the thing is, she can’t control any of that, and I don’t want to make things difficult for my team by calling it out. On the other hand, though, this is going to be the only opportunity I get to say anything about it, and I feel like nothing will change if nobody ever says anything.

    Option A – tell her I’m leaving for more money, and an organization that I have always wanted to work for. Both of these things are true, and it has the advantage of not throwing anybody under the bus.

    Option B – tell her a bit about the challenges, referring specifically to one badly governed project that she already knows about. I’m also debating mentioning one specific thing about *her* boss’s (so, three levels above me) behaviour that impacts morale a bit, which could improve if she mentions it to him (although of course I don’t know if she will or not.)

    Option C – lay it all out there, tell her everything, and go out in a blaze of glory. Not going to do this one. :) But any thoughts on where to draw the line between A and B are welcome!

    1. TheExchequer*

      The thing is, bureaucracies tend to be pretty tied into their bureaucratic-ness. If you think anyone will take it to heart, you can mention maybe one or two specific examples from B that made you decide to leave, but the safer play might be sticking with option A.

    2. Anonanon*

      I just had a ‘C’ yesterday. It was incredibly stressful, but my coworkers begged me to and I had nothing to lose. It went a lot better than I thought it would, but it was nerve wracking to say the least.

    3. steve G*

      I don’t agree with your attitude on C. Why is telling the truth going out in a blaze of glory? I hate that that attitude is out there. You didn’t cause the problem, in fact, you might be doing someone a favor by making the connection between the BS and your leaving. If you blame money, they might think money is the only problem and not focus on fixing the BS.

      This said by someone who did speak up multiple times about BS and stuff I thought was bureaucracy at my current job, only to find out that upper management knew of the issues, and some of them eventually got solved, or at least reduced. No one ever expressed any thought that I was stirring trouble by raising legitimate issues.

      1. Jules*

        Because some people get offended. When I gave an honest feedback to my boss why I left. He asked IT to retrieve all my email and went through them one by one. He told EVERYONE what he found. He was looking for a reason to discredit me. He found nothing except for some meaningless gossip from someone external and use that to wreck my relationship with my mentor of 3 years. My mentor believed him since he was a pious man. *sighs* The sad thing is, I trusted my ex-boss. I had his back for all those years. I am a lot more careful now.

  62. TempAnon*

    Most of my background is in government so maybe it’s unfamiliarity, but I’m on my 6th interview (and counting) with a large management consulting firm and wondering if this is the normal process. The feedback I have gotten has been very positive, but there is always “one more person” they’d like me to meet with. I’be actually gotten to the point that I am more annoyed about taking more time off of work than excited about possibly getting an undefined job.

  63. TheExchequer*

    Last week, I learned Lesson #1 about being an almost manager: How to Prioritize.

    This week, I’m learning Lesson #2: Saying No so that People will Listen. It’s proving a more difficult lesson than you might think.

    To go along with Lesson #2, what’s a good way of trying to end an online chat that’s proving difficult when you’re supposed to get off at a certain time? I ended up saying: “Just to let you know, I’ll be getting off in about 15 minutes”, but I’m wondering now if I could have handled that better.

    1. Nanc*

      We do a lot of phone calls, especially interviews. We say at the top of the call (or occasional chat) that we have a hard stop at [time]. A polite, business-like way of saying we have another call/meeting/appointment (even if it’s just going out for a birthday lunch).

      You’ll learn to get a sense if someone is trying to go past the hard stop, in which case at the five minute warning you can give a brief sum up of the conversation and let them know if they need more time to schedule another call/chat.

      And yes, some folks will take longer to train! Good luck, be firm, polite and consistent.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      We use the same term at my company: “hard stop”. Tell ’em “I have a hard stop in 20 minutes”. When the time arrives, say “Gotta go”, minimize the window, and stop responding to it.

      I do this all the time. I’d never get anything done if I didn’t.

  64. Rebecca*

    I want to find a tactful way to ask “how much is our health insurance premium going up in 2015?” and “will we get a small bonus at the end of the year or not?” because quite frankly, I’m not a not for profit entity and can’t continue to work for lower take home pay year after year. For some strange reason, I feel like working hard and doing extra work year after year merits additional compensation.

    If we’re not getting a bonus, and premiums are going up again, and there are no raises, I want to start applying for other positions if possible. Even in our depressed area, with few opportunities, a few times a year I spot a position that fits my skill set at similar pay and at a company that has profit sharing, bonuses, and raises.

    I just don’t want to come out and say that in so many words, as it could take a very long time to nail down a new position, based on what I read here and from what I’ve heard from others.

    1. Treena Kravm*

      Start applying to those opportunities and see what happens. You don’t need to ask/tell them, because your stance doesn’t change what will happen. The premiums and a bonus aren’t going to change based on something you say (probably, I’m assuming you don’t have that weight if you’re not comfortable just saying so in the first place).

      1. Rebecca*

        My thought was since if there is a bonus, we usually get it mid December, which is only 8 weeks away. New insurance rates will start in 11ish weeks. Now that I think about it, that’s nothing in the scheme of things. Selfishly, I wanted that bonus money if it exists, and didn’t want to leave without getting it. Plus, due to our holiday schedule, I’m looking at 12 days off in a row at the end of December/beginning of January, the longest time out of work since I was on maternity leave nearly 29 years ago. I just feel so tired.

        1. Treena Kravm*

          You can apply to things and not be available until Jan.! And you should take that break, since between jobs is the best time!

    2. Red*

      Human Resources should be able to answer both of those questions. I work for a larger nonprofit, so we have a specific benefits office who know specifics about premium increases in advance, and typically annual raises are known by our compensation offices in advance, with the schedule for the latter being available on our internal website. It would be odd if anyone got upset or strange over you asking basic, important questions that anyone would want to know the answers to.

      1. Treena Kravm*

        I just asked about premiums where I work and they have no idea. If it’s not already information for all staff, then the raise and bonus questions will be more fraught with politics.

        1. Red*

          Sometimes it’s worthwhile to ask anyway–I’ve learned that sometimes they literally forget to publish information, no joke. Happened with holiday scheduling and pay for administrative closings, not trivial issues. Though if your HR has no idea what’s up with premiums, I’m a little scared for you guys, honestly! I hope any change is small (or maybe a big discount, let’s be extra positive!).

          1. NJ anon*

            Our health insurance renews April 1st. HR would have no way of knowing what the premiums will be.

          2. Treena Kravm*

            I’m scared for us too. We are in this weird place where we’re a big org spread out over a huge geographic region. And because the people living in the more profitable region want Kaiser, they get Kaiser. So for those of us living outside of the Kaiser service region, we have less buying power.

            The year before I was hired, staff “used” the insurance too much and that caused my first year of benefits (which I didn’t need, thankfully) to spike over 50%. Luckily, the company ate any additional cost to employees, but the family rates are something like $700/month for a spouse and $1,500/month for a spouse + child. It’s a joke, as I make $2,300/month before taxes. So this year, I plan on enrolling for myself and I’m hoping it doesn’t go up so high that they start charging us part of the premium.

  65. Worn Down*

    There’s a person in my department in a leadership position who doesn’t like me. My work product is awesome and I get frequent positive feedback on it from my actual supervisor and the VP, so I have to assume it’s personal – though I have no idea what I’ve done to earn his ire. He would deny it if I confronted him. I feel like he takes opportunities to undermine me any chance he gets, and it’s wearing me down and causing me constant anxiety.

    What are some strategies for coping with the irrational anger I have towards him, maintaining my reputation when he tries to knock it down, etc.? He is substantially more socially savvy than me and is a professional communicator. I’m not socially stunted, he’s got just way more practice, potency, and power.

    1. Nanc*

      Is your supervisor aware of what’s going on? Maybe you could ask supervisor to mentor a better relationship. Along the lines of: Captain Asshat and I have very different communication styles and I’d like your input on how I can have a smoother interaction with him. Can you give a specific example and try to spin it as “everything turned out fine but there was some communication kerfluffles such as . . . ”

      Try not to get angry at him–I know, I know, not so easy! Kill him with kindness, maybe? When he says something negative about your work go with the “thanks for that input, I never thought of it that way” or something equally polite but vague.

        1. Nanc*

          From a very early job wherein many of the upper management had plexiglass belly windows, a physical necessity when one walks about with one’s head up one’s posterior. There were a number of cadet asshats, too. I do not miss that job!

    2. Jules*

      I have someone at work like that. It feels like she is competing with me. Trying to prove anything I can do she can do better. She is a supervisor and the goldan child of the VP so no one says anything. Anytime I say something, they make excuses. I found another job.
      Coping wise… I ignore her, regularly. Her insecurity is not my problem. I listen, make sure that it’s of no value and ignore it. On the other hand, if it’s valid, I thank her for it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      You think he is taking opportunities to knock you down? Can you describe what is happening? Not for here, but to tell your supervisor and get her inputs.

      I don’t have a lot to go on from what you have written here. But I find a lot of these situations, if I calm down then the other person calms down. He maybe picking up on your anger with him and that makes him more angry.
      Or maybe he treats everyone crappy and you are only noticing it is happening to you.
      There will always be people with more power, practice and potency than you or me. Can you turn this into a lesson about how to hold your ground?

      I have done some stupid sounding stuff and found it was helpful. While saying “Good morning, Bob!” I am thinking to myself “And don’t you dare give me one ounce of BS today!” I think it helps to change how I sound or my physical stance or something.

      Sometimes people like to banter and it is very hard to tell if they are feeling contempt or if they are just bantering. Check to see if he is talking to others that way and watch how they handle it.

      Some people just like to test your mettle. I had an aunt like that. I was pleasant until one day she threw one of her famous one-liners at me. I walked away from her. She was the type of person that did not realize that was an insult. Instead she admired me for walking away. Yeah, odd stuff. What she did not count on is that I never warmed up to her. I don’t have time for head games. And that is what she was about, head games. Maybe all you have to do is come back at him once and his issues will just go away. Then you can just do your job and talk to him only if you have to. I never had another issue with my aunt after that one time.

  66. Diet Coke Addict*

    In email bafflements….if you send an email in 18-point Comic Sans, I should be able to cut off your email access permanently.

    Also if you return an email answering all of my questions embedded within my own text–but using 14-pt Papyrus in blue.

    And if you email in ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME and your signature contains a waving flag gif and some pawprints…I’m not sure what to do with that, but get it out of your workplace signature, for starters.

    1. Cherry Scary*

      Someone I’ve been emailing with on a regular basis has her response font color change EVERY TIME. It took 3 responses in half an hour to make me realize. She’s also a fan of multiple exclamation points.

    2. Blue_eyes*

      My last manager did this but with spreadsheets. Each page would have different fonts, sizes, colors, bolded/not bolded, etc. (sometimes even within the same page) and all the different text styles were random and had no meaning. She just had no attention to detail.

  67. Relosa*

    My company wants to do a Movember thing for charity and I don’t want anything to do with it. Let’s just say my boss is not conducive to “I don’t feel comfortable participating” honestly because, well, I’m female and even though we’d be raising money for mens’ health, I still find the whole movement to be especially sexist and chauvinistic. (Kind of like those incredibly stupid color-of-your-bra memes that show up on Facebook statuses). But now I’m assigned with the very specific task of “let’s figure this thing out in the a.m.” (aka today) and I seriously just don’t want any part of it.


    1. MT*

      I feel for you. I hate all these social media trends, esp at work. October is just as bad as November.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      This is the mustache thing, right? I’m not sure how it’s sexist or chauvinistic but if your boss wants to do it and you’ve said that you aren’t into it and gotten push back then I my guess is you are stuck. I would give it just enough to not get in trouble for half-assing it.

      1. Relosa*

        My boss is literally 100% not at all approachable on anything so believe me I know better than to even hint I think it’s a bad idea.

        It just rubs me the wrong way. Many gimmicky charity “contests” like this tend to bother me – just donate something and STFU is my idea about it – that and Movember didn’t start because of awareness, instead it started because dudebroz needed something to do during midterms and show off their drunken masculinity and have yet another ahem, measuring contest (let’s not forget that if women also decided to participate, then OMG GROSS no you must stay pretty for the boys!!). The ALS ice bucket challenge irks me the same way – especially when it’s wealthy people going around saying “I’m not going to spend money instead I’m just gonna dump ice on my head, but yay for a good cause” and the whole social pressure thing to participate in something that just doesn’t jive with everyone. Rule #1 in things like that is that it needs to be voluntary. IMO doing stuff like this is like humble-bragging. I donate money and/or time or resources when I am able to. Believe me nobody knows except the organizations to which I donate. PLUS in general I am not a big fan of most big “charities” as most of them really don’t do a good job. I’m more about hands-on work or focus on smaller local organizations.


        I know I can’t get out of it, I’m just whining :(

        1. MT*

          The Movember started because of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Companies were pouring a lot of time and money into this mainly women’s health issue, and someone probably thought what can we do to support Men’s health.

          1. MT*

            Movember (a portmanteau from moustache and “November”) is an annual event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer and other male cancers, and associated charities. The Movember Foundation runs the Movember charity event, housed at[1] The goal of Movember is to “change the face of men’s health.”[2]

            By encouraging men (which the charity refers to as “Mo Bros”) to get involved, Movember aims to increase early cancer detection, diagnosis and effective treatments, and ultimately reduce the number of preventable deaths. Besides annual check-ups, the Movember Foundation encourages men to be aware of family history of cancer and to adopt a healthier lifestyle.[3]

            1. Jennifer*

              I had no idea this was some charity thing at all. Thought it was just men being macho.

              But that said: why can’t people just donate money if they want to? I never have gotten what racing/ice buckets/facial hair have to do with any of it.

          2. Relosa*

            Please tell that to every single college campus out there then, because I was never aware until this year that it was supposed to be an awareness thing. Either way, the concept of the gimmicks really, really irks me. I just don’t like them. The message gets lost.

            1. MT*

              Its no more gimmicky than the Breast Cancer Awareness that plagues the month of October. Everything is a gimmick in society now.

        2. Snork Maiden*

          I remember being in university a decade ago and basically ignoring the Movember dudebro nonsense, as if you needed an excuse to not shave. Its metamorphosis into this cancer fundraising awareness juggernaut has mystified me.

          1. Snork Maiden*

            I mean, back then it was No-Shave November, and it wasn’t limited to men. Though few women participated as the cultural pressure to depilate your legs can be quite intense in North America.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Wait, how is he even expecting you to ‘participate’ in a contest about growing mustaches?? Can you just explain that, as a woman, you don’t know anything about the logistics of growing a mustache and would therefore be a poor choice to be involved?

      1. MT*

        I took to be that they are asked to help coordinate events/fundraising for the month. Not to actually grow a beard.

        1. HeyNonnyNonny*

          Right, but it might be a fair point that the person coordinating mustache-driven events should be a person who knows a little more about the main ‘activity’ and will be actively participating.

            1. MT*

              If part of your job is to help out at company sponsored events, then I don’t see where the OP has reason to complain about being involved.

          1. Jennifer*

            Plus actually has a mustache and the right genitalia to show off, ahem.

            I guess she could get a fake mustache at the costume store? Knit a stashe?

    4. MJ*

      I feel you 100%. It blows that your boss isn’t approachable. I guess in that case you will have to get through it while gritting your teeth. I understand the frustration. My question is somewhat similar regarding a new office health initiative…check it out on this board.

  68. HeyNonnyNonny*

    Sigh…just a “woe is me” post. I’ve been at NewJob for a little over three months now, and I love it…but I was given basically ZERO training. At first, it didn’t seem like it would be a problem– but I’m finding out that all the skills in the world aren’t enough without institutional knowledge. More recently, I was given a packet of “training materials” which consist of lists of Extremely Obvious Things (don’t store chocolate teapots above open flames, make sure that teapots are made of chocolate) with some Really Important Stuff (teapot spouts must be exactly 1″ long). It’s really frustrating because I don’t have time to wade through all the content since they keep me really busy, but then without picking out all the rules, I end up making more stupid protocol mistakes. I feel dumb because I have the manual RIGHT THERE, but, like I said, I don’t have the time to dig through all the pages of information for a piece of information that might or might not be included.

    TL;DR Managers, PLEASE make sure that all your employees have access to actual training, no matter how amazing and smart you think they are! And for the love of work, if you have a standardized format for something, make a template!!

    1. Relosa*

      I’m so sorry. I have to train someone long-distance ad hoc because she wasn’t trained at all. The panic in her voice when I talk to her on the phone makes me feel so sorry for her. My bosses seem to think that because someone has specific skills that they don’t need to be oriented to the job/organization/culture they’re working for.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Thank you– it makes me feel less stupid when I mess up, knowing that I’m not the only person struggling with this sort of thing!

        1. De Minimis*

          Oh boy have I ever been there….I was trained sort-of on the job by my predecessor, and have just started being the only person to handle everything. Been here two years and some of this stuff is still almost totally new.

          And a previous job they gave hours and hours [even days] of classroom training that was dedicated to concepts with almost none of it being related to the actual day to day work. Then they’d throw you under the bus when you messed up, because “you had all this training…”

        2. Relosa*

          Just don’t be afraid to use your resources – if someone says “Call me if you need anything!” that may be your company speak for “this is how you get trained” so call them! An organization that doesn’t have a good onboarding/training protocol is also very likely to hold you accountable for things you didn’t know (again, learned this lesson from same crazy bosses). It’s great ’cause it teaches you to learn a lot really fast! But it sucks because, well, obviously poor management.

          1. HeyNonnyNonny*

            The frustrating thing is that the training here is so incomplete that even other people who have been here longer than I have don’t know about certain things! But yeah, poor management = good experience in fast learning…

    2. steve G*

      yeah…………we rushed off the replacement of a person moving to another office to save an extra week or 2 of salary. So ridiculous. The replacement was barely trained and struggling for the same reasons, but golly gee, we saved $1000 or so for that extra week the original person would have had to spend training them

  69. Jake*

    I mean this question in the most respectful way possible.

    The regular commenters here are the best on the internet, and I greatly appreciate how everybody makes sure that the comment section doesn’t devolve into a sarcastic bashing ground like most internet forums. Kevin complaining about a letter writer’s writing skills is the perfect example, he was smacked down by several commenters and Alison too, which was very good to see.

    However, I see a lot of valid ideas and conversations get dismissed by, “that isn’t valid because it is ____” insert racist, sexist, slut-shaming, homophobic, etc. etc. etc. Now, I’m as anti-bigot as anybody, but I wish people would give the benefit of the doubt to commenters and letter writers that are making a point and stumble across some phrasing that may be interpreted as being bigoted. It is extremely common for folks here to just quickly shut down a valid discussion by accusing somebody of being bigoted. It hasn’t happened to me, but I guarantee that if I was in an interesting conversation and all of a sudden people started interpreting things I say as bigoted (instead of giving me the benefit of the doubt), I’d just shut down the conversation because it isn’t worth trying to defend myself. The perfect example was the shocking number of comments stating that the OP was slut-shaming when she commented on the logo assed pants her boss wanted people to wear. It wasn’t an overt example of slut-shaming, and I would argue that if you read exactly what the OP wrote, that the only way it could even venture into that territory would be if you rearrange the words.

    I am all for calling people out who blatantly say racist and sexist things, but to constantly take everything that is said and claim that it is bigoted seems… wrong for lack of a better word.

    I guess I don’t really have a question, just wondering if I’m alone in seeing this as a trend.

    1. De Minimis*

      I haven’t gone back to the pants thread so haven’t seen it, but a while back people were getting really carried away with what you describe. I had not noticed it much lately but I haven’t been here quite as much.

    2. steve G*

      Yeah!!! I had a fit about this a month or so ago and stayed away for a few weeks, even though I used to read this every day at work.

      The blog definitely has some commenters that are very aggressive in terms of what I can only term liberalism. For example, atheists who shut down any conversation even slightly pertaining to religion or prayer or anything religion related. Then accusing people like me of being “insensitive” because we want to include religion in things. Or people who bring sexism or racism into every single conversation, that gets really old after a while.

      I see it in the “real world” as well, especially with early 20 somethings. Many are so quick to label something racist, sexist, etc. without even understanding what the topic of discussion is. Its like some people were just trained to respond that way. Notice how many really young people discuss political issues anymore? I never overhear any. It’s like younger people are being taught its impolite to have opinions anymore.

      One example of this recently is a younger coworker getting angry at me and an older coworker because we didn’t agree that employers should have to cover birth control, me a male, the older coworker a female. The younger coworker was practically yelling at me. I said its the same thing as when a previous employer didn’t match my contribution into our 401K. It’s just another benefit the employer doesn’t offer. So it either comes out of your pocket or you move on. But she was raised with the (false) believe that everyone has a right to everything and shuts down conversations that hint otherwise. I think the educational system is doing people a disservice with the way they are teaching about race, sex, etc. It seems more and more people 25-27 or younger doesn’t really understand the country’s history of racism, sexism, etc. So when you bring up race, they think YOU are the racist one, instead of simply pointing out a trend or issue that has been going on for hundreds of years. That doesn’t help anything………

      I’m also as baffled as you by the idea that “slut shaming” is seen as a bad thing. Just baffled by the idea that someone would say “hey there is a class of people that needs protection” in our very messed up world with all sorts of other people needing help

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wait, what? I’ve never seen atheists shutting down conversations “even slightly pertaining to religion” here. The opposite, actually.

        But … I’m pretty worn out by the complaints that the discussions here are too X or too Y. (And by the way, I hear it from both sides. There’s no winning. Someone will always be irritated).

        So, look, I’ve taken a stand on where the boundaries are, and I’ll continue to enforce it. If people don’t like it, they’re welcome to choose not to read the comments here or the site itself. But if we keep having this meta discussion over and over, about how people wish it was more X or less Y, I’ll lose my mind.

      2. Mister Pickle*

        For whatever reason, I’ve not noticed much of this here at AAM.

        Maybe it’s because I’ll occasionally peek in over at Ask Metafilter. Actually, that might be some good advice: if you’re unhappy with the level of conversation at AAM, go read AskMe for a couple of days.

        [Disclaimer: I’ve been reading Metafilter for over a decade, and it’s often amazing. But Ask Metafilter may actually be the worst advice forum on the entire internet]

  70. Allison*

    Does anyone ever start worrying, in the middle of the workday, that they might’ve forgotten to do something important this morning. Like forget to turn the stove off or lock the door. I’ve got half a mind to go home this afternoon to see if I turned off the space heater, but I’m trying to tell myself that I’m only worrying because the possibility popped into my head, and because turning it off is so second-nature to me (like locking the door) I don’t remember because I do it without thinking “I’m doing this thing now.” Going back is most likely going to waste an hour of my afternoon . . . but maybe I’ll leave early . . . just in case . . .

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      All the time! I can’t wait until home automation becomes cheap and common enough that I can just pull up an app and check all my doors from work.

      1. Allison*

        Oh my gosh yes, and maybe ovens and space heaters can connect to apps that let you know when they’ve been on but clearly not in use for a certain amount of time (they can detect when the oven’s empty or a motion detector on a space heater can tell that no one’s in the room), and you can shut them off remotely. They’d need good endpoint security though, or stuff like that can get hacked.

        1. De Minimis*

          My big one is the garage door, I’m always afraid I’ll forget to hit the remote to close it when I leave, even though it’s never happened.

          1. Allison*

            Oh yeah, I get that! These things become so second nature to us that we do it all without thinking, so when it pops into our heads we don’t remember if we’ve done it, unless something notable was happening at the time.

            I remember one first day of school, possibly the first day of high school, where I freaked out all day because I wasn’t sure if I turned the stove off. Naturally, it was, because switching it off was second nature, but I wasn’t used to being the last one out the door so it was the first time that forgetting would mean the stove being on all day, with no one to catch the mistake.

            1. HeyNonnyNonny*

              Garage doors are the worst because they have those little sensors now that will stop and reverse the door if something gets in the way…so I’m always worried that even if I watch the door start to close, a squirrel or something will get in the way and open it when I’m out of sight!

              1. De Minimis*

                I always wait till it closes completely.

                Right now someone is usually home when I leave so it’s not as big an issue, though I’ve called before and asked if the door was shut. There have been times when no one else was home and I drove back home while running errands just to check that it was closed.

                I’ve also driven a half hour across town before just to see if I’d locked a door….

      2. Mister Pickle*

        Go out to Amazon – cameras are sooo freakin’ cheap these days. There are quite a number of inexpensive home security cameras that are designed with easy setup so that you can check on things via your computer or smartphone. If you’re primarily interested in checking stuff like the garage door or the oven, you can almost certainly make do with non-HD resolution (which costs less).

        That said: I’ve dealt with this kind of anxiety for most of my life. The two things that have helped the most are a) anti-anxiety meds (which I rarely take anymore) and b) forcing myself to develop certain habits, like: car keys go in the right front pocket when not in use. Or: when pulling out of the driveway, always pause and look at the garage door. The secret to making this work is that you always do it. It’s almost an inversion of cause and effect: yes, I know my garage door is closed because if it was open, I wouldn’t be here at work today.

        I won’t argue that there isn’t something of an obsessive-compulsive aspect to this. But it helps me keep my stuff together. And (unlike other members of my family that I could name) I rarely lose things.

        Oh, finally: re connecting ovens and space heaters and such to the internet (the so-called Internet of Things, or IoT): my personal advice is to be very careful with that kind of stuff. I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but I think there needs to be a significant, order-of-magnitude improvement in security before that stuff can be safely and reliably deployed. Have you seen those pictures of Jennifer Lawrence that came out of the “Fappening”? Those people would think nothing of turning ovens full-on in 100,000 random homes.

        Sorry. Off my soapbox now.

    2. Relosa*

      ALL the time. Sister of a friend’s house burnt to the ground this summer while they were out at a child’s birthday party. Everything was absolutely destroyed. Cause of the blaze? They’d left some food on the stove. Dogs jumped up to get it and accidentally ignited it. Neither fur baby survived :( It still gives me heartache to even think about it, and I never knew the family.

      This was of course right after my own pooch went through a major spinal injury, and I forget “little” things all the time.

    3. Relosa*

      If it helps, electric space heaters usually have a timer/overheater thing and they will turn themselves off. You just have to make sure they’re not near anything flammable :) I feel ya – it’s hard to remember if you did something TODAY that you do ALL THE TIME :)

      1. Allison*

        This might have it, I don’t know. I’m just hoping that if it was on, for whatever reason, nothing will actually happen except for maybe an extra toasty apartment. When I was younger I sometimes left the heater in the basement on all night. Something could’ve happened, and my mom made me make a sign with hand-drawn flames to remind me of that, but nothing actually happened.

    4. AVP*

      I do this with the stove all the time, especially on days/nights when I know I’m not likely to go back to my apartment for 36 hours or so.

      I try to remind myself that a) it’s ALWAYS off when I finally get there so it makes no sense to worry, and b) even if I did leave it on, can’t self-cleaning ovens and pizza ovens get up to like 800 degrees without igniting? So mine can probably hang out for awhile, right? (please don’t answer that self-illusion thanks.)

      1. Allison*

        Electric ovens may be safe, but a gas oven can be dangerous if it’s left on for hours. one spark and BOOM, the whole building could blow up.

        I actually did once leave a stove burner on so that unignited gas was seeping out for 20 mins. I thought I turned it off, it usually clicks in place when I turn it off, so I’m not sure how I managed to not turn it all the way off. Or maybe I turned it off, but then nudged it. Anyway, turned on every fan possible and opened the windows, but was so worried I called the fire department just to be sure. It was really embarrassing, but could’ve been worse if I’d lit a candle or something. And this is why I don’t totally trust myself.

        1. fposte*

          That’s if the gas is leaking, though–the oven running for hours in a properly operating gas oven shouldn’t be an explosion hazard. Probably a greater risk is a CO leak, and that’s worse if you’re there; straight out fire hazard probably beats ’em both, and that’s true for electric as well as gas.

          1. AVP*

            Aughhh….I do have an electric.

            I’ve been trying to make a point to tell myself “This is me turning off the oven!” every time now.

            1. fposte*

              I am so not good at reassurance :-). Sorry.

              I find that saying it out loud really helps. I particularly worry about hair straighteners/curling irons, so I always unplug them and then cry “Unplugged!” I remember the noise even if I don’t remember the unplugging.

            2. Snork Maiden*

              FWIW I have left the electric oven on and gone to work. The only thing that happened was my cake (I was baking before I went to work, I cannot honestly tell you why) became an impressive piece of solid cake-shaped carbon.

              Every time that I have ruined a weekend/vacation/day worrying about whether I unplugged something or turned it off, it has never happened. Only when I didn’t worry, I ended up with the aforementioned inedible delicacy.

              I find, sometimes, that these obsessive tendencies worsen when I feel I am not in control of other aspects of my life. When I left halfway through the day to drive home at lunch and check to see if I’d dead-bolted the door, I knew I had to talk to someone or do something about this worry, as it was clearly impacting my life. I mean, I think most of us worry at one point or the other if we’ve shut off the kettle etc. But if you find that it’s really affecting how you go about your day I’d suggest considering some assistance.

              1. Snork Maiden*

                also +1 to saying “Unplugged!” etc. Sometimes I find focusing Really Hard and thinking “This is me turning off the space heater” helps put a post-it note in your brain.

    5. Red*

      I actually left the oven on today. Only 200 F, but still. Luckily my partner is home to shut that whole thing down.

      1. Windchime*

        I’ve come downstairs in the morning to find one of my gas stovetop burners still lit and burning on “low”. It scares me to death; I have a long-haired cat and he knows that he’s not supposed to be on the counter, but I still worry about that long, fluffy tail catching fire. Scary.

    6. Trixie*

      Too often when I parked my old Mazda 323 hatchback at work, I would go back and check to make sure I’d turned the headlights OFF. If it was sunny day, it wasn’t enough to look at them. I had to unlock, get in and check the switch to make sure it was off. Best part about new car is when the engine was off, so are lights. Hoping next car has real cup holders.

      These days, I always double/triplecheck to make sure I have my car keys with me before getting out and shutting the car door. Only locked my keys in once but that was all it took. Really need a hideaway key magnet box on it.

  71. Mints*

    Oh, and I forgot about this:
    Does anyone use for work? I have approximately a bazillion points that I no longer need, and am willing to email AAMers my account password. This is probably not allowed, but meh.
    I want to stay anonymous on this site, but if you’re okay posting your email, I’ll send it

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, not totally sure that’s great for this site to participate in (and either way probably not a great idea for people to post email addresses here). It’s kind of you to offer it though!

  72. Anonanon*

    So I posted last week about an exit interview. (Not too hard to track, I know, but whatever) I had it this week but with the CEO and another board member. CEO called me with no notice and I headed down to her office. The friendly manager who I thought would be there was not, and neither was her admin. Long story short, they’ve been trying to figure out why morale is bad, I told them since I figured I had nothing to lose, and ended up blowing the whistle on someone above me. Now CEO wants me to stay, hinting that they’re going to clean house and will have a better place for me once it all shakes out. ?!?!?! Any of the positions that would open up would be an insane promotion. She asked me to think about what it would take to get me to stay….. But couldn’t promise anything. What in the heck am I supposed to think!

    1. Adam V*

      If you’ve already accepted a new position, and the CEO can’t promise anything, then you should probably move on. Tell him you’re happy to have spent X years at this company, and wish him well in the future, and say that you hope to keep the door open (assuming you do), but that you’ve already decided to go and couldn’t in good conscience cancel on a company you’ve already committed to.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I agree with this. It would be bad form to back out of a job you’ve already accepted. And it would be ludicrous to do it for hints and not-promises. I like Adam’s wording above, as it leaves the door wide open.

    2. brightstar*

      Was the bad management the primary reason you found another position? Were there other problems that led you to leave?

      How trustworthy do you think the CEO and board members are?

      1. Anonanon*

        It really was a pattern of crappy management for quite some time. CEO just realized what was going on and started to ask around about what the issues were, so I figured my exit interview was as good a time as ever to talk about it. Now they’re looking to boot the worst offenders.

        I think that they’re trustworthy, but this is totally uncharted territory for me.

    3. MaryMary*

      I wouldn’t stay hints. You wouldn’t have quit this job if the new one hinted they would hire you. Leave on good terms and stay in touch with some of your former coworkers. If there is a shake up and positions open up that appeal to you, you could always apply and potentially come back.

  73. MJ*

    I work in a small office with 5 people. No one here is in superb physical shape but most try to stay healthy by walking more, taking stairs, eating healthier lunches, etc. Our boss decided to sign the office up for a health initiative with a nearby organization. Basically, the office kitchen area will ONLY have healthy snacks and drinks and she wants us all to engage in some type of group activities like taking walks together, doing stretches or yoga together, monitoring water intake and giving away prizes for a good job. I find this whole initiative intrusive. Being healthy and the methods you use to be healthy are very personal! Some people may not be ready to dive into healthy eating. I have my own system a few nights a week after work (I do karate) and don’t need to be monitored. I say this in so few words because I don’t want to be looked at a party pooper. I just think there are enough regulations in life and if I am working in this office 8+ hours a day, I deserve some comfort food here and there. I did mention to the office that if people want to eat an unhealthy snack, they will, regardless of it being unavailable in the kitchen. People can easily bring their own “unhealthy” snacks in or walk to a nearby store to get them (we work in a city). Sometimes I play devils advocate if they ask our thoughts and say things like “Well…some people may not really like to drink too much water throughout the day (myself included due to a bladder condition that I don’t feel like disclosing to the whole office) so maybe having a water metric won’t be the best….” etc. But then they always counter it by saying how good it will be to do so and why. I don’t want to be monitored or forced into a health initiative I never asked for. Any advice on how to be assertive without coming off as a b*tch?

    1. fposte*

      I’d say resist the temptation to push back on every single thing, because then you’re just the contrarian white noise, and take opportunities to support endeavors that aren’t intrusive. For instance, the snacks–they’re providing free food. Even if you don’t want their free food, their providing it is a perfectly fine plan that seems a great way for them to work toward their goal without digging into their employees’ lives. That’s not worth a pushback.

      On the intrusive stuff, don’t push back on every single thing, and frame it as an overall “I have concerns about the appropriateness of the invasiveness of this kind of program. It would stop me from participating.” But then offer an alternative that they *can* do.

      1. MJ*

        Oh I certainly don’t push back on everything, I’m not that kind of person, which is why I was asking for advice on how to approach it. But it IS intrusive because they didn’t give us much choice in the matter. It was “we are starting a new health initiative and this is what we are going to do.” I tend to go with the flow and never complain. But this was something I found to be too crazy.

        1. fposte*

          Not giving you any choice doesn’t make it intrusive, though–the snacks change isn’t intrusive, even though you didn’t have any choice. It’s the stuff where they’re measuring your non-work-related behavior that’s intrusive. Don’t confuse “intrusive” with “stuff I don’t like” :-).

          Not that I disagree about the mandatory wellness measuring and behaviors–just pointing out that the way to make your resistance effective is to be clearly resistant for a specific reason and to be willing to work for alternatives.

          Have a look at these posts, by the way (apparently I am linky today):

    2. Anx*

      “Being healthy and the methods you use to be healthy are very personal!”

      Ugh, agreed. My gripe with this mentality is a little bit different, because it sounds like your work it providing free food. I was so annoyed that the place where I volunteered gave us a meal pass for a dollar amount, but marked up ‘unhealthy’ food. I wanted to eat health-consciously, but I wasn’t going to go for a discounted lo-cal option that left me hungry, when that was my main meal for the day (I was broke and hungry). Nor would I splurge any pay overage for a healthy (to me) option. So greasy pizza and fries it was, because although there was no discount for it, it was still cheap enough for me to afford and feel satiated. I am absolutely not interested in weight loss or weight management, and really resent the one-size-fits-all health initiatives, especially the ones that push toward low calorie. Meanwhile, for the first time in my life I’m probably going to start putting weight on because of months of financially induced calorie restriction.

      1. MJ*

        Thanks for your input, Anx. That stinks about the meal voucher. It’s no one else’s business what you eat. What’s good for one person may not be for the next person.

    3. Student*

      Instead of being a crusader on this issue, be a leader.

      When people try to count your water intake or asks you to do yoga with the group, you just look at them and say, “No thanks.” Don’t participate.

      It’s optional, and odds are good your boss will not dig in and fire you over it. At worst, the boss will be grumpy and try to cajole you into participating for a bit before ignoring your non-participation. Be straightforward and honest if he does, but don’t make a big deal about it. You don’t want to be drawn into an argument about it, you don’t want to be in the position of justifying your stance because that opens you up to counter-arguments.

      If you can manage it, be cheerful and oblivious about it. Don’t undermine their activity, just don’t engage. If other people don’t want to participate, then seeing you flaunt the health stuff will embolden them to do the same. If they genuinely want to jump on this health-train, they will still do so.

      Co-worker : “MJ, it’s yoga time!” You: “No thanks, have lots of fun! See you at the 3 PM meeting, I can’t wait to update you on the teapots account.” Co-worker: “You have to go to yoga.” You: “Nah. See you later!”

      Boss: “MJ, how much water did you drink today?” You – “None. Had a great pumpkin spice latte this morning, though. Have you tried them? Delicious.” Boss – “Too much sugar, unhealthy!” You – “Mmm, delicious sugar. Maybe I’ll go get another. Want one while I’m out?” Boss – “You’re supposed to drink 3000 gallons of water each day.” You- “Good to know, thanks for the info! I’m sticking to lattes, but it’s nice to have options.”

    4. steve G*

      I agree with FPoste….and also think that some people may be into the changes, at least secretely….but also agree with you that these things can be not fun, or demotivating. For example, we did a walking contest, and I did up to 10 miles/day….almost winning…but while everyone else lost weight, I lost none, and at the end of it went to doctor, and have high blood pressure and a couple of other issues……………so I wouldn’t have re-done anything, but it wasn’t like my employer-imposed competition made me any healthier.

  74. PMJ*

    If I have an interview on Friday around lunch, when should I send out my thank you notes? I feel like Friday afternoon is too early and if I send it on the weekend, their inboxes will be full of other emails and they won’t see my note. Any advice?

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I’ve often gotten thank you notes a few minutes after the interview, which is too soon IMO. But I don’t see why Friday afternoon would be bad.

    2. MJ*

      I think as long as you send one who cares how soon it is (as long as it isn’t late). I can’t imagine why someone would be put off with a note sent right away.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Because the point of the thank you note, IMO, is not just thank you but to recap a couple things from the interview and make sure you hit any highlights. When I get the thank you email (which is fine) and I know you are only at the bottom of the elevator, you haven’t used your thank you note to your advantage. I know you wouldn’t have had enough time to craft something that included that information.

  75. Bella*

    I am wondering how I can mention it to my boss that I do not want my cell phone number on my business cards. I give my business cards to a lot of potential job candidates, especially when I go to career fairs, and my personal cell phone number is on the cards. I receive a number of phone calls from potential candidates after working hours around 8 or 9 pm and I would like this to stop. My company does pay for my cell phone. I have spoken to my boss about this before. He did say I can get a company cell phone instead but I do still have to take the phone calls from the potential candidates because we don’t work in a typical industry and that we have flexibility in our working hours during the day so we can attend appointments and things so it’s like the time can transfer over. I believe this is unfair because I am too busy during my working hours to leave for appointments and I always work full-days (I also come in early and work through lunch) and make my appointments on Saturdays or after work hours.

    1. fposte*

      I think you’re getting a clear message here–they expect you to take calls in the evening, whether you think it’s unfair or not. If you can figure out a way that it’s not necessary–it’s not industry standard, it doesn’t give you an advantage, you get right on them the next morning, whatever–I think you can try broaching that, but the “unfair” defense isn’t going to get you what you want.

      And I’d also accept the offer of the company phone so that people didn’t keep my personal number in their address books forever.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Yes, I’d take the company phone just to avoid the general public having my personal cell phone. That has stalker opportunity written all over it.

    1. Bella*

      May need more details here, but if it is coming from your paycheck, then it is not allowed unless you have signed a document stating that you have given them permission to do it.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      What are the fines for and where does the money go? This doesn’t sound right to me.

      I’m in the uk and the firm I work for makes deductions from discretionary bonuses for certain things and my team has a swear jar mainly because of my use of bad language but we use at money for Christmas drinks.

  76. Chasingmyself*

    I am so glad it’s Friday so I can turn to y’all (long time reader, infrequent poster).

    Last Tuesday I quit my current job, giving 3 weeks of notice., having just accepted a position as an Assistant Director of Development at a highly reputable organization. It comes with a significant salary increase and I’ll be working with my former manager and mentor with whom I have a fantastic working relationship. Needless to say, I’m thrilled.

    Well, holy hell, my current boss isn’t happy and the last few weeks have been some of the most difficult and stressful in my life. It’s making it hard to leave my current position in good spirits and I’m having to do everything I can to remain professional and supportive of the rest of my team.

    So, fellow AAM’ers. Regale me with your supportive words and/or horror stories of bosses past to help me deal. In five days I’ll be out of here, and a few days after that I’ll be in a much better environment. Five. More. Days.

    1. Red*

      I don’t really have any horror stories, but I hope things turn out well for you. It might just be worthwhile to cut and run if she’s being unprofessional. I think there was a previous article about how to handle leaving early when your boss has been, let’s say, unpleasant since you gave proper notice.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I’ve complained about her before, but I had a boss that would blatantly take credit for my work, and then tell me, “We can’t tell the client you’re doing all this, because they’ll get confused.”

    3. Snork Maiden*

      If you read Jane Austen, pretend you are in one of her novels and your old boss is the horrid governess? Or that your boss is Michael Scott, and practice giving wry Jim grins to nobody in particular.

  77. Cheesecake*

    Question about non-exempt and time spent working, inspired by the question today:

    I work in a grant-funded research center and am often expected to take a few minutes here and there for work items and not get paid for them. For example, I will be told, 10 minutes before I leave, that I need to complete a specific task, and it will put me 5 or 8 minutes into over time. Or, I will be interrupted with work stuff for 10 minutes on my lunch break. Or I will get an urgent email late at night that will take me 10 minutes to respond to. Recently I asked my manager about how to deal with reporting this small times because I am not officially authorized to work overtime and she basically told me not to, because grant funding and academics and you’re supposed to do it for the love of the research.

    Any advice about how to have another conversation about this? I’m the only non-exempt person so I don’t think my coworkers know they might be putting me into over time when they ask for assistance last minute.
    I wish I worked in industry, my husband has very clear and defined rules about reporting time worked and a manager that actually cares about making sure the employees are paid for work done.

    1. Red*

      If you are non-exempt, you must be paid for all time worked. If they are asking you to do tasks, then you should be recording the time worked and receiving pay for it, regardless of whether that is overtime. This is covered under FLSA. It’s uncomfortable for you to tell them to pay you the time you’ve already worked and not been paid for, so I really can’t criticize you for saying nothing. But for the other guys asking you to do work, it’s time to kindly set boundaries. “Please have your requests in by 4:30 p.m. or I cannot guarantee that I will have it done until the end of the next business day. I am sorry for the inconvenience.” Phrase it as a work flow issue, maybe that will help.

    2. soitgoes*

      I think you could address it as it happens. Every time you’re approached to do work on your lunch break, say, “I’m sorry, but I’ve clocked out for lunch. I’m not sure you know this, but I’m not salaried so I’m legally not allowed to work right now. I wish I could, but I can’t.” Act like you’d rather do the work, but it’s out of your hands.

      1. NJ anon*

        Salary has nothing to do with it. Both hourly and salary employees are eligible for overtime. You do not get overtime, however, if you are an exempt employee and there are certain requirements to meet that level.

        1. fposte*

          To rephrase slightly: what makes overtime *mandatory* is if you’re non-exempt, which isn’t about how you’re paid, so you could be non-exempt and salaried. An employer is free to offer overtime to exempt employees as well if they wish, but they’re not legally required to.

    3. Anonsie*

      Well, I’m only marginally helpful, because I’m in grant-funded research but I’ve never been told “don’t clock your time because you’re doing this for the love of it.” Ain’t nobody do that crap anywhere I’ve worked. Or, I know some people that do, but they’re definitely doing it of their own free will– not because they were guilted or prodded into it. And the rest of us think they’re nuts.

      But I am not approved for overtime or work outside of certain hours, so when someone asks me for help and it’s time for me to leave I just tell them I have to go because it’s the end of my shift. Or, if it’s more of a long-term thing, I’ll tell them I’m not approved to work those hours and apologize. It’s never been an issue for me before.

    4. fposte*

      I think it’s time for a conversation with your direct supervisor on this, since it’s an ongoing issue. I’d go with the “I’m sure people don’t realize, but I’d hate for the organization to get into trouble for breaking federal law” approach, noting that since everybody else is exempt it’s understandable they’re not thinking about the restrictions. Maybe do it after you’ve clocked the unpaid time for a week or so so you can note the impact (and if you’re not keeping an hourly timesheet, start doing one for yourself at work, and make it real, not cosmetic). If there’s anything about the mission relating to the underprivileged or disempowered, it might be worth noting that it’s particularly important for an organization with such a mission to keep to federal regulations when it comes to workers.

      I can’t swear that they’re going to be reasonable on this, unfortunately. But I think you can tactfully but firmly make it much harder for them to pretend to themselves that what they’re doing is okay.

      1. fposte*

        By the way, is it for sure overtime–over 40 hours, not including breaks? Or is it just time beyond what you’re scheduled (like, over 37.5)? If it’s the latter, I think it’s easier to solve by just paying you for the additional work.

        1. Cheesecake*

          a general thank you to everyone who responded!

          to fposte: yes, it’s overtime, I’m required to put in a full 40 hrs each week. at this point I estimate that all the little extras are adding up to an additional 1-4 hours a week (depending on what’s going on.)

          1. fposte*

            Ouch. Yeah, that’s worth bringing up. It also is something that might be an issue for their funders, now that I think about it.

            1. Cheesecake*

              Thank you for all your input. I think part of the problem is that there is a lot of ambiguity about what my tasks are. I often get requests like “If you want to help…” or if I ask whether something needs to be done right now, I get “oh if you feel like it” as a response. Does that mean I can do it now even if it pushes me into overtime? Does feeling like I want to help with something make it an authorized duty?

              1. fposte*

                From the sound of it, they’ve been relatively clear that they do not want you accruing OT. I would therefore assume that all of those answers have a silent “As long as you’re not going into OT.” I do think it’s possible that you think they’re more aware of the OT threshold than they actually are–they may well not even be thinking about OT when they say stuff like that. That might be something to go over with your manager at the same time–“I’m assuming that if a task is important enough that you’re willing to authorize OT to get it done that day/week, you’d explicitly authorize OT–is that correct?”

                1. Cheesecake*

                  I do think this approach will work for my boss however I take direction from (7)!! people and its rare that they clear tasks with my boss before assigning them to me. It’s just frustrating all around.

                2. fposte*

                  Yeah, I don’t think there’s an easy way out of it all. Maybe you could respond to the non-boss “Can you do this?” queries at the end of the day with a cheerful “Happy to, if boss says working the overtime is okay. Have you checked?”

  78. Anx*

    Does anyone know of good resources for digital images animations for college level science and medicine?

    I’m a biology and anatomy tutor working for my college, and I don’t know much about copyright. I feel like I’m in a weird in-between state when it comes to using the textbook’s published images, because I’m using them in a powerpoint (which I plan to put on a tv screen) so I’m making my own presentation with them. And I’m being paid to tutor, although it’s for educational use. Anyway, I have about 4 different types of anatomy classes I teach, all with different texts, none of which I purchased as an instructor or a student. And I don’t make nearly enough money right now (I’m part-time and also a student) to purchase my own digital images.

    I’ve heard mixed things about the copyrights on Wiki images. I try Google Image searching with a license filter (same with Youtube searches) but get limited results. I am already using SmartImages through my student access, but they don’t have everything I need.

    I suppose I could just bag the whole presentation thing, but I would prefer to have a centralized presentation so I can work on things at home (the textbooks are kept on-site).

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      IF you are paid by the college, you might be covered under any license agreements the department has paid for by using those textbooks. Check with the department too. They might have images or websites that you could use.

      1. Anx*

        I work for a center on campus, so maybe we are covered. Thank you. Right now I’m working with the assumption that as a student there, I can use the images I have access to through the library. But perhaps I really can use the textbook’s, too. I’m sure there are likely no real consequences of just using the textbook images (some are available online and are quite convenient), but I want to avoid getting into bad habits with this sort of thing.

      1. Anx*

        Thanks for the link! So much that I’ve found has been really thick legalese that I could get through, but not in one weekend (on top of my own homework).

    2. GTA*

      Ask your media services librarian and/or your subject librarians! They’re usually happy to help with questions like this. I’m teaching a class in multimodal writing this semester and just had the librarians run a session for my students about this topic. AVP had a good link, but here’s a link to a Fair Use Evaluator that can help you figure out if a (non Creative Commons) image can be used for your presentations:

      1. Anx*

        I did try to ask my librarians, but they didn’t seem to understand much about copyright issues with teaching and just Googled some information for me. So I thought maybe it wasn’t really in a librarian’s purview.

        Knowing that some collegiate libraries do look into this, I might ask the librarian’s at our affiliate university about general use and what type of access I have to their databases through my non-student-but-affiliated-student status (we have limited privileges at the uni to reduce redundancy) and see if they can help me craft my questions toward my own librarians and offer additional pointers (plus, they have a specific medical library, too)

  79. WFH Life*

    For those who work from home and itemize your taxes:

    * My phone & internet are deductible
    * The office space is my house is deductible
    * What about heat? (A percentage of the cost of heating my house, the space heater I bought for my office because it’s the coldest room…)

    Are there other things I’m not thinking about?

    1. De Mi