open thread – October 3, 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.

{ 1,116 comments… read them below }

  1. Becca*

    Writing this for my friend. She is a speech therapist who works for a company that placed her in a nursing home. So company A is her employer and the one who pays her, while company B is the place she physically works at.

    The contract wasn’t renewed and company A has laid her off and told her to leave yesterday. Well the owner of Company B told her she HAS to come to work today or they will report her to the state and have her licensure taken for patient abandonment. Can they do this?? She’s 24 and freaking out. company A will not pay her if she goes in. I feel like company B is bullying her but we don’t know for sure. Anyone have any knowledge or have been in this situation?

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I would suggest that she call the state and get the truth. As they are the ones who hold her license not company B.

      1. Lyssa*

        I agree. Call the state licensure board, and explain the situation. Then ask if they will give her something in writing (an email) saying whether or not she is obligated to work when her position has been terminated and there is no promise of pay. It would also be helpful to look up her state’s licensure regulations for her profession with respect to professional abandonment and payment (they are probably on her state’s website).

        That’s a crappy situation.

        1. Lyssa*

          Alternatively, presumably Company B was paying something for her services (to Company A, who was then paying her). Now that she’s no longer employed by Company A, she could provide independent contractor services to Company B as a freelancer, and have them pay her directly. She should approach Company B and ask if they can arrange to do that.

          Regardless, if she works for Company B, they do owe (and presumably had planned to pay) reasonable compensation for her services. She might actually come out ahead without A skimming from the top.

          1. Adam V*

            True, but keep in mind that working for yourself can be a headache if you’ve never done it before, so I’m not sure I’d suggest it to many people.

    2. Anonie*

      I don’t think they can do that. She is not under contract with them the company she works for had a contract with them. The issue is between the two companies. They can’t force her to do anything.

    3. Sunflower*

      I would tell her to call Company A and explain what Company B is saying- most likely they have dealt with this before and know how to handle it. Either that or contact the state.

      I’m not a lawyer but what law exactly would she be breaking by not coming in? If I was your friend I would tell Company B that ‘I’m sorry my contract has expired with Company A. Please speak with them’ and then cut off contact.

      1. Lyssa*

        She has a licence through the state that puts certain requirements on her (the same way that a doctor or a lawyer does). If she violates those requirements, such as by patient abandonment, the state could sanction her or take away her license. I doubt that this would count, but it’s theoretically possible. When you’re dealing with licensed professionals, it’s more than just an issue between the employee and employer(s).

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          But generally patient abandonment has to do with literally abandoning them without a caregiver. These patients will do just fine until a new speech therapist is found, and it’s not the OP’s friend’s responsibility to find another one for them. At most she will have an obligation to meet with the new therapist and go over notes and such. (IANAL, but I’ve worked in healthcare settings a lot. It may vary by state, but my guess is that the state licensing board will laugh at that threat.)

          1. Anna*

            Exactly. What would they do if she had found another job? They would have hired another speech therapist.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Yep. But oops, I meant to say, Company A is presumably either an inpatient or outpatient rehab facility. Patients who are at this facility without a speech therapist are not “abandoned” unless the speech therapist is the only clinical staffer in the room. For example, if the speech therapist left a patient in the now-empty facility at 11pm and went home without handing off care to another caregiver, THAT would be abandonment.

          2. Lyssa*

            Oh, I agree with that, like I said, I really doubt that this would count. (I am a lawyer, and actually do a lot of work with issues like this, but of course, I know nothing about the regulations of the state we’re discussing.) It’s just that it’s theoretically possible, and it’s more than just an issue involving employee/employer.

            1. Observer*

              OK, I’m not a lawyer, and the state in question might have specific rules here. But, keep in mind three things. One is that the major relationship between the therapist and facility, not patient. Secondly – and I would say crucially – the facility most definitely DID have a reasonable chance to find a replacement and. They knew that they were not going to renew the contract! Also, abandonment requires a unilateral act by the practitioner. But SHE was not the one to make this decision. THEY were the ones to decide to end the relationship. Are they REALLY claiming that refusing to work for free when they KNEW this was coming and made no provisions could be considered abandonment?

          3. Artemesia*

            Speech therapy is not an emergency situation. A patient hasn’t been left without food or basic care. Certainly call Company A and also the state and I would also file a complaint of extortion against Company B which is attempting to extort services from the employee by threatening legal action. In other words — this kind of bullying should be met with at least a counter threat and follow through on it. I’d be filing a complaint with the agency that oversees nursing homes; this is a case where the nursing home is not providing the service and then trying to bully someone into providing it without compensation. It is the nursing home that is abandoning patients by not renewing a contract for care or providing an alternative. Turn the tables on these bullies and make their life difficult with the accrediting or supervising agency.

    4. fposte*

      Agreeing with Totes that she should call the state–I’d also recommend she call her professional organization, who will likely have more relevant information at their fingertips (if she’s in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, they talk about answering ethics queries on their website, in fact).

      In fact, here’s a piece on the ASHA site about the ethics of client abandonment:

      http://www.asha.org/Practice/ethics/Client-Abandonment/

      1. AMT*

        Great link. Here is an ethics scenario from the same site, found here: http://www.asha.org/Practice/ethics/Ethics-Inquiries/

        “I have an offer for a great new job. Because my new employer needs me right away I will have to resign from my current setting with only two days’ notice. My current employer is complaining that she needs more time in order to hire a new clinician or my clients will go without services. She is threatening to file a complaint against me for ‘client abandonment.’ I think she is holding me hostage. Those clients are her responsibility, aren’t they?”

        Unfortunately, they don’t answer that question on the site, but they encourage members to call with these types of ethics inquiries.

    5. Frances*

      Hmm… my guess is the owner at company B didn’t think through the ramifications of not renewing company A’s contract or didn’t get a replacement lined up in time and is now panicking. I suppose it’s possible company A is also acting out of spite and laid off your friend as soon as the negotiations fell through not at the actual end of the current contract, but it’s not your friend’s responsibility to be a go-between here. I’m absolutely sure company B is lying, but even if a state agency did look into this they’d pretty quickly determine your friend was blameless here.

      I would call her supervisor at company A and tell her what company B is saying, and any further calls from company B she should tell them to take it up with company A.

        1. College+Career+Counselor*

          Company A sounds like a realllly shady allied health staffing company, and Company B sounds like a bully. Agreed with other folks to call the state to find out the situation (although depending on the location, calling the state to get a straight answer can be a special kind of hell). I have family members who are SLPs, and my understanding is that the license follows the therapist, not the employer. In other words, if either Company A or B want you to do something illegal or unethical, the THERAPIST will get in trouble and possibly have the license revoked. So I do understand the friend’s concern. If her contract (or the staffing agency’s contract) is terminated, and regulations require that patients be treated, it’s Company B that’s obligated to provide treatment, not the therapist.

    6. matcha123*

      I agree with the other replies; she should call a government agency ASAP and also document everything she can.
      If Company B knows that A hasn’t renewed her contract, what are they expecting her to do? I hate places that threaten to take a license away over something that shouldn’t be an issue.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        They are expecting her to work for no money and think they can “take” her license if she refuses.
        What a nice group of people. not.

        1. Artemesia*

          This is what it sounds like to me. It is illegal to threaten criminal prosecution in order to force someone to do something. I suspect that it is similarly illegal to threaten license suspension to get someone to work for free. At least it is shady enough to file a formal complaint with the state agency for nursing homes AND to use words like ‘extortion’ in the complaint. (as well as ‘threatened me with’ )

    7. Muriel Heslop*

      I would also advise your friend to call her state professional organization and/or ASHA. I am sure they have encountered this type of thing before involving contracting/subcontracting. They are wonderful resources and very supportive of their members!

    8. Becca*

      Thank you everyone. I’m going to send her this shortly. It’s super reassuring that no one is saying “yes this is normal”. It’s just an awful situation all around. Hopefully she finds something soon that doesn’t believe in bullying employees!

      1. A Bug!*

        Let your friend to be on the alert for other stuff going on. If the contract wasn’t renewed between the two companies because Company B wasn’t paying bills, and is actually trying to get free services, then they might try to string her along with promises of direct employment.

        Calling her professional ethics board is probably the best way to go. I’m hoping that your friend’s work isn’t life-or-death and that her patients won’t be irreparably harmed by missing a couple of days of therapy, should everything get straightened out!

        1. OhNo*

          Seriously, keep an eye out for anything else weird. If they’ve done this to your friend, they might be doing it to other people as well.

          Is there any kind of board or regulating agency that your friend can report this threat to? It sounds like something that the regulatory agency of whatever kind of facility this is might be interested to hear. Not that they will necessarily do anything about it, but it might be good to have it on record in case something similar happens and causes problems in the future.

      2. Cucumber*

        I would also tell her to make sure she documents absolutely everything such as hours worked, paychecks, etc. Companies A and B both sound like snakes. It may be that B will fold as soon as she proves the state says she doesn’t have to work for free (I can’t believe they would), but they might get really nasty with her.

        A company I worked for closed down and disappeared without sending W-2s; even PayChex (who had processed their payments) didn’t know how to get in touch with them, and told me they had gone to ground. Fortunately I had kept all my records and was able to get it credited to social security and file my taxes.

        1. TL -*

          Company B has to pay her if she works for them (either through Company A or by herself.) That is definitely law. The state can’t require her to go into work unpaid.

    9. A Teacher*

      Call the state licensure board and get it it in writing–she’s not “critical care” though either and has no duty to act if she’s not getting paid, at least in my state under licensure law as I understand it (I have a license in a medically related field too) but call the licensure department and probably the state department of health too in order to be sure.

    10. chump with a degree*

      I would suggest to her that she agree as long as Company B agrees to pay her about 50% more than Company A did, since she will be doing her own paperwork. Once they sign the contract, they can have her back.

      Otherwise, asking her to work for free? Piffle!

    11. INTP*

      I know nothing about the legality of this, but it almost sounds like Company B was making an intentional effort to get free labor for awhile. Why would they terminate their speech therapy contract with Company A if they can’t be without a speech therapist? Unless it’s some low-level people at Company B who had nothing to do with the decision and are calling the OP’s friend to make threats because they don’t want to be personally inconvenience by the company’s decisions (they were going to take their break during speech therapy and now they can’t or whatever).

      I just can’t get over the nerve of a company to terminate/fail to renew someone’s employment contract and then try to make it her problem by demanding that she show up when it’s by their own choice that she isn’t being paid!

    12. GreatLakesGal*

      This is cray-cray.

      Typically, what happens in these situations is that the company terminating the contract makes an offer to the clinical staff in the building, usually individually– they can choose to stay at the current location and negotiate terms of employment, or they may choose to stay with company A, who can try to relocate them to other worksites, or they can seek employment elsewhere.

      I feel like there is a piece of information missing here, but regardless, she’s paying her ASHA dues, and may as well get some mileage there, and give them a call, in order to reassure herself.

  2. Not real name*

    I work at a top university (US News top ten ranking) and the HR department offers a free “management development certificate.” I know nobody really cares about certificates, is it worthwhile for me to purse to add to my resume? I thought maybe the name value from the university might help. Should I just do it because it’s free and just requires I attend some classes during work hours?

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I would do it for the development; who knows, you might learn a few things. You could put it on your resume, but I would NOT let it take up more than one line and probably won’t mean anything to anyone. However, if it is free, why not? Like I said, you might learn a thing or two, or might even pick up on things you could later use or talk about during an interview. I am all about free classes and seminars!

    2. LittleT*

      @Not real name: sure, why not? Even if you don’t work in either HR or management, the certificate still sounds worthwhile.

      And the fact that it a) comes from a legitimate University and is b) free? This sounds like a win-win.

      Go for it and be proud to add this additional accomplishment to your resume! This shows you’re interested in continually upgrading your skills and pursuing lifelong learning.
      :0)

    3. Barbara in Swampeast*

      If it is something that you are interested in, go ahead, especially if it is free and you can attend during work hours. It couldn’t hurt, and even if future employers aren’t impressed by it, you could learn some value information.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think this cautious route is the wisest. Assume nothing extraordinary will happen because of the course and then decide if you still want it or not.

        My bias: I have learned more here than I did in four years of college. People who are actually doing have better info than people who read about it. Just my opinion, though.

    4. TotesMaGoats*

      Will the information gained from the cert help you in future job opportunities? If yes, then go for it. If not or you have no actual interest, then why would you do it? And is it a cert that is credit bearing and offered through the uni or is a “cert” from the HR dept? That’s a much bigger deal than the ranking of your uni. The second is kind of meaningless to employers.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, if you’re actively interested in the course material, sure. But don’t do it if your primary motivator is to put it on your resume; it’s unlikely to matter there. (Also, for what it’s worth, most academic programs about managing people are pretty terrible, so I’d be cautious unless you’ve heard great things about this program specifically.)

      1. Not real name*

        I really would only care to put it on my resume (I wasn’t sure if the University brand would counter it being a certificate). I took one class to see and a lot of the material was already covered in this blog and most other courses mimic topics I’ve seen here (what about an AAM certificate?).

          1. BRR*

            Alison new book idea! Introduction to working in an office for the first time. How to deal with jerk managers, how almost everything is legal, and how to talk to people who are annoying/disgusting.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                IS IT LEGAL?

                Throw that on your cover and keyword stuff it in your Amazon book description.

                Bestseller!

                (Just don’t give away the ending of “yes it is, except in California” until they pay for the book)

                You’re welcome. :)

              2. Nashira*

                Pleeeease write it. I would have given my left arm for a book like that, when I started working. I would buy copies for every new grad/office worker I ever met.

              3. BRR*

                All I ask is if you use the royalties for a vacation home I get to use it one week a year :). But seriously I think we would all buy, gift, and recommend it to everyone.

              4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                It’s “The Perfect College Graduation Gift!”

                Gotta do hard copies.

                Do a bundle with “The Places You will Go”. This is what you do when you get there.

                Include funny stories. Whole chapter of the wackjobs . Get on Colbert!

                this could happen. Instant classic.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  I was kidding about the bundle. I think the covers would clash too much for a bundle but, still, Seuss, not a bad pairing for an Amazon suggestion.

          1. OhNo*

            +1, yes, please.

            I have recently discovered the wonder of MOOCs, and one on general “Working in an Office 101” would be awesome. :)

            1. Cath in Canada*

              MOOCs are great – I’ve taken four now, three for work and one for fun. I’m disappointed that I just had to un-enroll from a Coursera Formal Logic course due to a crazy October workload, but I’ll sign up for the next session for sure. A management for beginners MOOC would be awesome!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Alison is spot on here. After the WTC tragedy, I was in a business class. I asked the prof for thoughts on work place violence.
        She said that was irrelevant and did not need to be discussed in class.

        I assumed that meant she had no clue what to do about the random acts of workplace violence, either.

    6. LAI*

      I wouldn’t “just” do it because it’s free and only a few hours. But if you are genuinely interested in this topic and plan to engage in the coursework, then I would absolutely say to take advantage of it. I think any future advantage that you are going to derive would be from demonstrating actual skills, which this course may help you hone or think more critically about, not just a line on your resume.

    7. Sharon*

      If it’s not a huge time commitment, why not? Best case, you learn something valuable and do some networking; worst case you spent a few days (on the clock!) in a class for something that never has to be on your resume.

  3. Elkay*

    I accepted a new job this week! I even managed to negotiate higher pay than they were originally offering (about a $2.5K increase). Huge thanks to Alison and this site, without it I wouldn’t have ever thought to negotiate or name a salary range.

      1. LittleT*

        Congrats! This website has been very helpful to me, too, as I conduct my job search (even though I’m already gainfully employed full time).

        1. Mrs. Badcrumble*

          Congratulations! Allow me to pile on — I just put in my resignation and will be starting my brand new job in 4 weeks, which includes a massive raise, cool work, and lovely people. I’m pretty sure I would’ve never, ever gotten it without the advice on this website, especially with regard to writing a cover letter and what questions to ask during the interview. Thanks!

          1. Elkay*

            Excellent user name :)

            I should say I’m actually taking a slight pay cut (about 5%) with my new job but I negotiated them up from their initial offer which would have been about 8% drop. The package surrounding it should make up the shortfall though (bonus/shares)

          2. sitting duck*

            I also just got a new job, I start on Monday! The advice from AAM was super helpful, and it was encouraging to read along with others having the same struggles!

            I unfortunately did not negotiate my pay (although its more than I’ve ever made before) because at the time I was negotiating a flexible schedule, and I didn’t think I could negotiate both….of course now it turns out that the flexible schedule isn’t needed anymore not I already accepted to pay. Oh well, I was hoping for a bit more, but I will just have to wow them in my first year and then negotiate at my review!

    1. EntirelyErica*

      Congrats! Thought I would add on as well. I started my new job this week. I lost my previous job in March and had been actively searching since. A former co-worker suggested I take a look at this site as I started my job search. Thanks to AAM, I re-vamped my resume and cover letter, accepted a job offer with GREAT benefits, and doubled my pay. I feel like an infomercial for AAM, but I am proof that persistence pays off. Thank you!!!

    2. Jean*

      I’m sitting here smiling after reading everyone’s good news.
      P.S. When I sent a job-hunting friend a list of ideas & resources, I definitely recommended AAM.

  4. Sunflower*

    I’m applying for project manager positions(non technical) and researching what salary I should be asking for. I’m closer to an Associate or Assistant Project Manager since I have a couple years of project coordinator experience but some job titles that fit my experience are Project Manager. I’m researching salaries and finding the range is HUGE since this position can require 2 years of experience or over 10 and some don’t distinguish between IT and non-IT. I’m also severely underpaid at my job so I’m having a tough time figuring out what number I should really be looking at. I would ask people but I don’t really know any project managers. Any advice on how to narrow it down or places to look that I might have missed?

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      This is tough because “Project Manager” is a super general term and is probably used for a lot of jobs that are NOT project managers. Plus your geography probably matters a lot too. How “Severe” is severely underpaid? If you are that underpaid, I might almost say to double what you are making and that might give you a good starting point —- but that really only works if you are REALLY underpaid.

      1. Janis*

        We are going through this *right now.* My new manager (a great guy, but a little green) put out a job req for a department manager and said it required “project management” experience. Old Fogey #1 (me) and Old Fogey #2 (47 y.o. coworker) pointed out that to run a department you don’t really need PM experience. Too late — before we could amend the wording we were inundated with resumes of super-technical PMs.

    2. MaryMary*

      Exactly what types of projects do you manage? Internal? External? Do you focus on short or long term projects? Do you usually focus on one at a time, or have multiple projects in flight? Do you have client/customer contact? Are you responsible for budgeting or staffing? Do you have people managment responsibilities as well? Do you have PMP, Six Sigma, or any other certifications?

      I’ve had a project manager title at two different organizations, and my responsibilities have been pretty wide ranging. At OldJob, it probably would have been more accurate to say I was an account manager/client manager/[area of expertise] manager. Now, I split my time between client consulting and interal project management. I have ten years of experience in the industry. I’d say my pay range (I’d rather not give specifics) is between $75-$100k. I live in a mid-to-large sized Midwest city.

    3. INTP*

      At my large company, I know that PMs start around $30k-ish in lower cost-of-living areas to $45k-ish in New York and San Francisco. This is for the entry level PM positions where people are hired with little experience. It might go up slightly for someone with a few years of in-industry project experience, but the salaries posted on glassdoor don’t go over $60k. (It’s a non-technical industry, obviously. In my IT recruiting days the IT PM salaries usually started at $100k but most probably required 10 years of experience including a technical background.)

      You’ve probably already checked, but Glassdoor is a good reference for looking at salaries for companies in your industry.

  5. Ayeaye*

    I have a new job! Not the one I talked about last week, but a different one. Less money, but a whole less stress even though it’s a heck of a commute. I’m really excited. Start date is October 27th. Here’s to exciting new times! I’m planning on using the 1-2hour commute for reading and video games… I keep accidentally job searching still at the moment though. Need to think up commute-suitable breakfasts. And I’m going to buy a new flask! What’s your favourite thing about starting a new job?

    1. LittleT*

      Congratulations! More money is not always the blessing it seems. I know, because I foolishly accepted a job that sounded great on paper and the reality was very, very different. Two years later, I’m still trying to leave but the higher salary can make it difficult, as other positions are not paying the same as what I currently have.

      Best of luck with your new role. Use that commuting time to read or relax – you’ll learn to get used to it.

      1. Ayeaye*

        Thank you! I’m really pleased. The other better paid job would have involved constantly fighting for every penny and a constant battle for legitimacy of the service – instead I get to be creative and have independence with developing my own approach to delivery and it’s in an environment I love! Definitely a great path to be on regardless. I hope you manage to find the magic combination of enough money and a decent position, it’s a tough situation to be in.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Congrats!

      My favorite part of a new job (other than the possible increase in salary!) is the opportunity to set up new systems and desk organization. It’ll be all messed up within a couple weeks, but for a while I get to start fresh :)

    3. M*

      Congrats!! Maybe look up jar breakfasts/lunches? (I’m thinking oatmeal in jars, or salad in a jar). If you’re taking public transit try to keep the smells of the breakfast food to a minimum. I (mentally) shake my fist at every single person who brings on fast food on my bus home because I’m starving and it smells soooo good.

    4. OhNo*

      Congrats! For commute-friendly breakfasts, I highly recommend wraps or jar oatmeal. My personal favorite is to take a tortilla, spread half with peanut butter, half with nutella, and wrap some kind of fruit in it. That way I get a little protein and sugar to start my day off – and it’s portable!

      (Since you have a long commute for reading, maybe you should treat yourself to a few new books, too, to go with that flask!)

      1. voluptuousfire*

        @OhNo…that sounds like heaven. :) Try it with Justin’s Honey Almond Peanut Butter. Ooh…that tortilla would go fantastically with a sliced up apple.

          1. voluptuousfire*

            Warning though, the Justin’s Honey PB can be expensive. I get it at Wegman’s for 5.49 but elsewhere it can be over 6 bucks. It’s worth it though.

  6. Megan*

    What is your take on exit interviews? I wrote in a few months ago regarding my manager who won’t hold anyone accountable because she values “getting along” above all else, and Alison’s advice was to get out. Link is here. So I’m doing exactl y that, only now upper management has caught on that all is not well in my department.

    Now they’re asking me to do an in person exit interview. This is totally NOT the norm in this organization. While I have no qualms about telling the board exactly how my manager has been letting everyone get away with murder, including several severe violations of our code of ethics and conduct, I’ve never done this before.

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      Go for it. I am a huge fan of exit interviews — if it seems like they sincerely want to know, I would tell them. But you know this place best! If you are afraid that this is not on the “up and up”, then don’t. But I think GOOD companies really want to know the truth and make it a safe place for people to be honest. If you feel this place will do that, be honest!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Do you trust them to handle the info well and ensure there’s zero retribution against you as far as references? That’s the key factor. Some people will tell you never to tell the truth in an exit interview, that there’s nothing in it for you, but I think they’re worth doing if you have reason to trust that they’ll use the information well and protect you from consequences. (I was once able to eject an abusive manager due solely to people willing to be honest with me in exit interviews. And frankly, it strengthened my relationships with the people who talked to me, and that’s benefited them in some ways too. So it’s not quite right when people give across-the-board don’t-do-them advice.)

      1. Megan*

        I do trust them on this, and I will be able to get good references from all of them. Good point though, I will double check with the manager who is heading up the ‘inquest’ as it is. My coworkers are begging me to go all out with the exit interview though I will definitely be professional and calm about it.

      2. Bea W*

        That’s heartening to hear that you were able to take action on account of people being honest in exit interviews. When I left a company where the Big Boss was a toxic bully, I was honest with specific examples. I know other people were honest as well. She still works there, and I suspect she will be for a long time even while the department continues to hemorrhage people. The real problem is unfortunately at a level where HR has no control. I didn’t even really trust that it would matter or wouldn’t hurt, but given that I had already been hurt enough and I was going to work for another company immediately, I figured it wasn’t going to get any worse.

        I really think people should be honest whenever possible in exit interviews even if there is “nothing in it for you”. Whatever might come of it, even if it’s too late for you, it’s not too late for people who are still there and future employees.

    3. TotesMaGoats*

      I would be honest but extremely professional when you share. Try not to get emotional (angry or upset), just tell it like it is. It might help to write down the major issues, so you don’t forget something.

      1. krisl*

        What Totes said. Sticking to just the facts will help you sound more professional, and it will give more weight to what you have to say.

    4. J.B.*

      How much will you need from current manager in the future and would any of those above be good references? Also, how much do you trust the people interviewing you to be discreet about it? If they are likely to set up one of those flashing arrows towards you as the source I’d pass. If they might be more reasonable maybe go. But still be diplomatic, “it was hard to deal with this situation” rather than “she’s incompetent”.

    5. A Non*

      Can you line up people other than this manager to be references for you? When I’ve been working under terribad managers, there have often been other sympathetic people (senior coworkers, other managers, HR people, sometimes even my boss’s boss) who had a reasonable degree of insight on my performance who were happy to act as references for me. If you can get that in place, then you’ll be much more free to burn bridges with your current manager.

      (I’m a fan of telling it like it is in exit interviews. Of course, I also work in a field where there are more job openings than qualified applicants, so YMMV.)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Maybe OP can get someone to agree to be her “acting” manager in that case. Does not hurt to ask that question before starting The Talk.

    6. AdAgencyChick*

      Rule #1: Protect yourself.
      Rule #2: If you can be honest while following Rule #1, do so.

      Basically it depends on how much you’ll need your current boss and/or her managers as references in the future and whether you think management will (or even CAN) keep what you say confidential. After all, you could have a tight-lipped HR department who won’t name names, but if only a couple of people quit in a given quarter and suddenly your ex-manager starts getting negative feedback from her superiors, she’s going to figure out where it came from no matter how much names are not attached to feedback.

      I think the advice from other posters about being as unemotional as possible is spot-on. The more you can pinpoint indisputable issues rather than sounding like you’re simply complaining about personality differences, the more you come out smelling like a rose.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Also — if you think your crappy boss is going to be a bad reference regardless of what you say in the exit interview, then take that into consideration and feel free to be candid!

        1. Bea W*

          When I’m damned if I don’t and damned if I do, I prefer to do. If the ex-boss won’t give you the same consideration, there’s no point in twisting your head into knots trying to sugar coat your experience.

    7. Just me*

      I tend to be direct; I had a talk with the CEO of the company. Nothing changed, I saw no reason to waste my breath or risk a reference by being honest. I did mention salary as a primary driver, but there was so much more.

      If I thought I could have had a bigger impact I would have considered saying more.

    8. Melissa*

      I did an in-person exit interview for one of my last jobs. Our department was going through some strife; there were clear administrative and management problems that were affecting work at my level, and the person who interviewed me was my boss’s boss, who was brand-new to the role. She wanted to figure out how to fix things in the department. It also helped that my own supervisor was not a part of the problem.

      I found that my exit interview was pretty good/useful. I knew when it was so I sort of mentally prepared myself with a prioritized list of the things I wanted to talk about – prioritized because I didn’t know if I would get to all of them, which I didn’t because the interviewer probed me for more information about certain things. I took a dispassionate, unemotional tone; tried to speak very matter-of-factly, and spoke only from experience. Some of the worst things that happened in the department I heard about second-hand – or heard from coworkers, but didn’t directly happen to me, so I didn’t address those because I couldn’t talk directly about them. I attempted to offer solutions from my perspective if I could think of them. I also tried to focus on the most fixable problems. There were some structural issues in this role that had to do with the structure of the organization I worked for, but those things would not be easily changed (or changed at all) by the person interviewing me and those immediately surrounding her in the chain of command, so I pushed them down the priorities list.

      In the end, it went very well. The interviewer seemed very interested and appreciative of my comments and probed some of them more deeply. My supervisor also later told me that her boss (the one who interviewed me) was impressed and very happy with the exit interview I gave and appreciated the professional tone and solution-oriented approach I had, so that’s good to know :D

      1. Melissa*

        Oh, and one more thing – I made sure to also discuss some positives about my environment and what I really liked, including my own supervisor and what I thought she did well. Again, this was only because my supervisor was not the problem, but identifying positives that surround your manager can help make the negatives show up more, I guess. Example: one of the main problems in our department were wildly differing expectations for the exact same role, such that some people in my role were working twice as many hours as other people (in part because their supervisors were offloading their own work to their subordinates). Since I didn’t have the experience of being overworked I didn’t bring that up, but I DID mention in detail how much I appreciated my supervisor basically doing her own job, remaining flexible and checking in to ensure that we weren’t overworked.

    9. INTP*

      I have always followed my gut feeling. At one highly dysfunctional company, I was diplomatic but honest, which was awkward as my manager (responsible for most of the issues) did the exit interview. However, she took it well and there were changes after I left. I don’t know why she listened to me in my exit interview when she never listened to the same things when I (or the many other people with the same complaints) was still employed, but apparently she did. She was an inexperienced manager, with no experience in other offices besides that one, kind of thrust into responsibility by the death of the long-time, much-loved VP. She was just misguided but not invested in her dysfunctional manager ways.

      At the next, I was just positive and maintained a completely neutral reason for leaving even as my manager prodded me for possible other motives. The problem here was a CEO and it was basically his intrinsic personality that was making everyone miserable. I think my boss knew it and wanted me to say something, but he wasn’t going to change. His problem wasn’t inexperience or a lack of information, it was just that he was a jerk addicted to crisis situations (you know the people who will put off even the most minor task until it becomes a crisis?).

      In your case, I think you should tread carefully. Do you have other people who have supervised you who can provide references? Sometimes companies want a reference specifically from your direct supervisor, in which case you’d be pretty screwed if the one bridge you burned was your relationship with your boss :/ But if you have other people above your head and above her head who can speak to your work and maybe tell a reference-checker about the situation to back up why you can’t get one from your supervisor, it would be safer.

  7. C Average*

    I interviewed for an internal role I’d really love to have last Tuesday (as in, September 23). The two panelists were both people I’ve known for a long time, occasionally collaborate with, and get along really well with personally–we’ve always had good vibes. They said they were looking to fill the role quickly and would let candidates know their decision early to mid-next week (i.e., this week that’s ending now).

    I am still waiting to hear. I’m going a little bit mad.

    I’m guessing I didn’t get the job and they have made an offer and are perhaps waiting for it to be accepted or in negotiations, and aren’t notifying the rejected candidates until that process is complete.

    I 100% know that these people would NOT neglect to notify the rejected candidates–that’s not how they roll at all.

    I really hope I hear from them today. I don’t want to spend all weekend and potentially even longer in suspense!

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Breathe! Really, they’re only two days behind schedule…which is so normal. I think hiring managers tend as a group to be overly optimistic with giving timelines to candidates. Then somebody has the flu and all of a sudden the candidates have to wait another week. So I think it’s equally likely that a decision simply has not yet been made, for all that they planned on moving quickly at the outset.

      I hope you get it!

      1. AthenaC (used to be AC)*

        I’m experiencing this myself! I interviewed last Friday and was told I’d know by Wednesday. Well, they did the third interview on Wednesday and now it’s Friday. I checked on my application, and it doesn’t say “not selected” but wow this is nervewracking.

    2. C Average*

      So, I decided to walk to the campus cafeteria for lunch and happened to run into the hiring manager for the job. I’m walking along and I hear this voice say, “Hey, C!”

      “Oh, hey. How’s it going?” (Me, trying to be all chill and stuff while thinking, “Please please please do not tell me I didn’t get the job right here on this sidewalk in front of all these people because I don’t want to cry in front of you AND them. At least I’m wearing my big movie-star sunglasses so I might be be able to hide behind them . . . “)

      “Great, great. Really busy. Hey, I’ve been meaning to let you know we need a couple more days to make a decision on the job.”

      “Yeah, I figured. I mean, stuff happens. It’s like a law of nature around here, right? I figured it was a safe assumption that you weren’t just trying to mess with me.” (So chill. I even sound convincing to myself! There is no indication whatsoever that I have been as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs for the past four days.)

      We both laugh.

      And then some of the usual small talk ensues about weekend plans, the weather, blah blah blah, and then he says, “Well, have a great weekend, and we’ll touch base next week.”

      All righty.

      Aaaaand exhale.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Not reading anything into that – but it was nice of him to say something to you, a show of respect.

        1. C Average*

          He’s a good guy. I’ve known him since we worked an event together seven years ago, and we chat pretty often, occasionally collaborate cross-functionally, and sometimes even go for a run together. If I don’t get the job, it’ll be really important to me to preserve the working relationship and friendship, because it’s a good one.

  8. LoveAndLight*

    The last few weeks have been very rough on me. First, after being a finalist for a job that I really wanted, someone else was selected. Then, my boss announced that he was leaving for another department. Since then, several other people in my department have announced their departures too.

    While I’m happy that they are moving on to things that they are excited about, it’s been very hard for me to stay right where I am (not to mention the extra work I have to do now that we’re short-handed). I’m trying to remain positive, continue to look for opportunities, etc. but it’s difficult. Right now, there are few (internal) opportunities that I’m interested in/qualified for, which doesn’t help the situation.

    1. C Average*

      I can very much relate to this.

      I have no brilliant ideas to offer, but I can definitely offer my empathy.

      Sometimes it feels like my job (which I’ve known was the wrong job for me literally from the day I started it, and have been doing for nearly three years now) is bumming me out to the extent that I exude bummed-outness and will therefore never be hired for anything better. I’m trying to find projects and extracurriculars that excite me so that when I do get interviews, I come across as lively and enthusiastic (which I am by nature! I’m just getting ground down by being in the wrong role).

      1. Snork Maiden*

        Add me to the bummed-out club. I am just tired of everything at work and it’s spilling over into my daily life. I also feel trapped. I have extracurriculars I enjoy but even pulling them out and starting on them feels like a chore. Though once I start, I do feel really good.

        It is good to feel I’m not alone, and to remember that just because you think something is one way (ie you will never be hired for something better) absolutely does not make it true. It’s very difficult to stay positive when people are leaving and I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself for not being a Peppy Paul/Polly during this time.

      2. pup*

        Gosh, I feel this way too. My job is turning me into such a downer! I really need to stay put, I think, since it’s my first job out of grad school and I’ve only been here a little over a year, but I just feel drained. The job doesn’t feel right, and sometimes (a lot of the time) it seems like I’m just working in order to produce more work for myself to do tomorrow. When I interviewed, they kept talking about how much demand there is for the kind of services I do (it’s a new position) but it just has not materialized. Plus there’s a whole lot of negativity here – not directed at me at all but there are lots of unhappy people in this organization and it’s tough to feel good about being a part of it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Start looking now, before you become too drained to get out of bed in the morning. Probably if you look now it will take some time to find something worthwhile. I stayed at one job way too long and I had to quit it in order to have energy to job hunt. I was really drained.

    2. Red*

      I’m echoing C Average–I sympathize with your position. “Extracurriculars” are what I do to manage my morale, too.

    3. The Earl Marshal*

      I can definitely relate to this. I had 5 interviews for an audit analyst role over a three month period. I didn’t the job, and to make matters worse I actually first found out I didn’t get the job based on social media (type in the exact job title on LinkedIn and see if anyone has updated their title to the new job recently.) I had to call the company for an update, I am pretty sure I would have been left hanging if I hadn’t called them to be officially rejected.

  9. Diet Coke Addict*

    My “new” coworker (here since July) has been driving me up the wall this week. My boss took an entire day to re-teach her a process which is absolutely fundamental to the job–which I covered on her second day of training, showed her multiple times, and referred her to my written instruction guide thereafter–and her excuse was “I didn’t understand it when DCA told me.” Our tech is sick of her asking things like (this morning) “How do I get my email?” (seriously).

    The crowning moment of WTFery this week was when our receptionist was out and we were swapping phone duty. She answered the phone, took down a message, and then emailed my boss–“So-and-so from American Express would like you to call her back at 1-800-Telemarketer to discuss different card options.” I cannot believe that in 2014 anyone needs to be instructed that you don’t need to take a message from a telemarketer, nor do you need to pass it along to your boss. But my boss will never correct her or fire her after “hand-picking” her from a stack of applicants–so it’s on me to find a new job and leave because I’m beginning to think quite seriously that the longer I’m stuck here, the more my ideas of normal are being warped.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      “The crowning moment of WTFery this week ”

      Totally read that as “WTFerry,” which I assumed was somewhat like the Crazy Train. Which this lady is also on.

    2. Indy*

      I am dealing with a mirrored situation of this now, with someone in a mid-career level position.

      WTFery is our word of the day! Thank you!

      1. Rebecca*

        The PHB handpicked this gem from a stack of resumes, apparently. My manager thinks it’s neat to give totally unqualified people “a chance”. Yes, maybe for her, but not for the people who have to train and work with them.

        1. Adam*

          I mean I can empathize a bit with helping people a bit behind the times. There was a time when I didn’t know a whole lot about email either after all. But the simple stuff she should be able to learn and commit to knowledge right? No different than if she was learning some new subject back in school you’d figure…

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            The worst part of this is that on her resume she claims to have taken a computer skills course and an Excel course.

            Seems to me in that Excel course they’d have covered “what is a row” and “what is a column,” as well as the basics of copying and pasting, but maybe not.

            1. Adam*

              I didn’t really start to use email until my Freshman year of college which was 2002. I didn’t have much use for it prior to that. Granted it didn’t take long for me to figure out but I was still new to it at some point!

    3. Squirrel!*

      The crowning moment of WTFery

      Love it, stealing it. ;)

      I can somewhat commiserate, and unfortunately have no good advice. I am leaving my office in a few weeks and the person who will be taking over my phone duties is the section secretary (this is government). She regularly backs me up when I am not out, but I just found out recently from the techs (who I answer phones for, but they get all the high-level questions I can’t answer) that she will forward them Every. Single. Call. Even if it is something easy she can look up herself, she won’t. And while they are easy calls, there are many of them, and sending all of them to the techs interrupts their workflow. There’s no reason they should be getting these simple calls, and the secretary has resources at her fingertips to answer 99% of the calls we get (as in I literally wrote a FAQ and a cheat sheet for everyone and she has them for reference right in front of her, next to her phone). I just feel bad that she won’t be helpful and will increase the [already-huge] worklaod of the techs by not being a frickin’ team player.

      1. OhNo*

        Ugh, how annoying. Is there any way you can present this to her as a facet of the job? I mean, it doesn’t sound like it is explicitly required, but you could try something like “The goal of our job answering phones is to weed out 80% of the calls so the techs don’t have to deal with them. You should only be forwarding one out of every five calls, at the most. Make sure you exhaust every resource you have before forwarding the call to a tech.”

        Dunno if that would help, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      You know, as much as this sucks for you, I enjoy reading these stories. Like Office or Parks & Rec. I can *see* her.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      My heart goes out to you. I had a subordinate like this. She used to be my peer. I got promoted away from her and thought ‘phew”. No such luck. She got moved to my department. Every day was her first day. I really worried for her safety because she did not seem to retain the simplest things.
      For other reasons I moved on from that job. It has been five years since I left and she is STILL there. Seeing that validates my choice to move on.

    6. OfficePrincess*

      Thank you for making me feel better about my day. My job’s WTFery looks tolerable now.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Nope, this is the first time. The other people that I’ve or my coworkers have trained have gotten the hang of it quickly and haven’t needed re-teaching at all.

  10. Stephanie*

    My interview drought is over! Thing is, the job has some minor supervisory duties and I have no supervisory experience, aside from managing high school students from some volunteer work. Suggestions on how to answer questions about supervising others?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “I read about management obsessively” wouldn’t be a bad thing to throw in (and it’s true, as a regular reader here….).

      You don’t want to imply that’s all there is to it or have that be the totality of your answer, of course, but finding a way to mention it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      1. krisl*

        The only reason I read about management obsessively is that I read this blog, and I read it because it’s interesting and helpful and fun. I like learning this way.

    2. BRR*

      First, Congratulations!

      Did you lead projects at any previous positions? Maybe you could quickly state that you know what goes into being a supervisor. “I managed X number of people while volunteering at Chocolate teapots and know that being a supervisor requires the ability to do A,B, and C.”

    3. Trixie*

      This could be a great transition for you, adding supervisory experience. Did you manage/oversee vendors? Or manage projects at work, following up with coworkers/staff?

    4. Pontoon Pirate*

      In addition to what others have already said, think about what makes a great supervisor and find ways to discuss how you’ve shown those attributes. For example, did you lead a project/others where you had to set the scope, make a tough decision, set expectations/consequences?

    5. Adam*

      Good luck.

      You may not have a lot of supervisory experience, but what about coordinating various projects in the workplace? You aren’t supervising per se, but you are keeping track of a lot of little pieces and who is responsible for them.

    6. Puddin*

      Supervising is telling people what to do and expecting a specific outcome (more or less) right? So how do you currently do that? You may have a lot of ‘indirect’ supervision in your life/career. An example from my career is that I was responsible to get over 250 people to turn in business documents by a deadline every quarter. This involved communication prior to the launch, setting expectations, tracking turn ins, follow ups for those lagging, etc. I considered this indirect supervision and promoted it as such in interviews. Indirect supervision can be more difficult too. Since you do not have any political power, you have to use change management and persuasion skills rather than the threat of Mad Boss.

      Maybe you have the actions of a supervisor, just not the title?

      1. Lulubell*

        This has been my exact approach, to a smaller scale, and it absolutely worked in getting me my new job.

    7. Haleyca*

      Everyone has some great suggestions! Another one that I use when talking about things I don’t have much experience in is to talk about things you have seen other people do that have worked that you hope to emulate. “When I worked at Corp. I worked with a manager who did A, B, and C and those things worked really well because A, B, and C.” I think this shows that you are interested in the work and have been paying attention and are learning on your own, even if you don’t have direct experience with the situation.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Look at some components of supervising. Have you ever taught anybody how to do something? Have you ever corrected anyone’s work? Have you talked over a difficult situation you had with a coworker [meaning you and the coworker were at odds]?
      Over your working life, have you kept track of what your bosses have done well?

      One thing they will be interested in is can you see a bigger picture? Typically, people come in and do their own work. They don’t look up and they don’t look around. Do you see how tasks are inter-related or even co-dependent? Do you understand the work flows? Document A goes to Sue who fills out parts 2 and 3. She passes it to Bob who researches and provides inputs then it goes to Amanda who… you get the idea.

      Most of management work is about willingness to take on what ever needs to be handled. If you can demonstrate that you have volunteered for things outside your usual scope that would be helpful. This could mean something as simple as you stop and help coworkers with their problems, even if you are not totally familiar with every aspect of what they are doing.

      And lastly, do you know when to get the boss involved? Think of instances where you touched base with the boss before proceeding.

    9. Marcy*

      Don’t sell yourself short. Managing high school students can be a great way to learn to deal with difficult people. My first supervisor job was supervising high school and college students and they are harder to manage than adults. Seriously. I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. You probably learned more than you think.

    10. Audiophile*

      Congrats! Fingers crossed for you.

      I’ve struggled with this too, I have very limited supervisory experience, and I’ve seen that thrown in more and more in job descriptions. I occasionally, supervised someone when I trained them on the database software, but that was few and far between, and really I don’t consider it supervising because truth be told, I let them do their thing. I’d correct as needed, but most people were computer literate enough that they didn’t really need my help.

      I’d mention the volunteer work and the high school students, and I like Alison’s answer about reading about managing others. I think if you include that and the supervisory experience you have, you’d have a well-rounded answer.

    11. Artemesia*

      Think about the challenges you faced in managing teen volunteers and how they are similar to the challenges you might face with employees and then use the examples e.g. I read a lot about management and supervision and one of the constant problems people seem to have is with employees who XYZ — I have had to deal with that in my volunteer supervisor role and this is the sort of thing I think is effective in keeping people on track.

      And think about other situations where you might have used those skills and of course read up on typical supervisory issues so you are conversant about challenges and techniques and can talk about how you are interested in this area, have some limited experience, and have read up on it and are anxious to put the principles into use.

  11. The Other Dawn*

    Nothing new to report on my progress with the job search, although I applied to another position. I have ruthlessly edited my resume down to the bare essentials so as not to include anything that would be implied by my titles, since that would be redundant. And I changed my basic cover letter to be much more conversational. It wasn’t formal by any means, but now it sounds exactly the way I talk in real life. I sure hope I have some luck soon. Not sure there’s anything else I can do but hope for the best.

    1. Audiophile*

      Good luck!

      I have to say, the last time I edited my cover letter, a few months back, that’s what seemed to do the trick. A took a little while to really notice the change, but I started to get more calls and interviews.

      I left some redundant things in my resume, but really tried to trim it as much as possible. For older positions, I edited down to one bullet and one or two sentences. The positions with the most bullets are my current remote volunteer position and the contract position I have.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Thanks!

        Yes, same here. I’ve feel I’ve edited as much as I possibly can. It’s tough because my whole career I was pretty much a Jill-of-all-trades at this one company so I find it hard to get across that I have all this diverse experience, but still keep it short.

        1. Audiophile*

          It is hard, I definitely understand. I felt like I was taking out important information and I wouldn’t remember to mention it in an interview, if I got one.

          I used to have 2-3 bullets for each job, and I had 4 jobs listed. That’s way too much for each role.
          Then I asked a few people to take a look at it and they said to really edit it down, so the job with the most bullets would be my current one. Then a few months ago, I started volunteering and I new I needed to edit it down even more if I wanted to fit the important stuff from the volunteer role into my resume. Keeping those things in mind, I was able to do a few major edits and keep the important information intact.

  12. Katie the Fed*

    I just had to tell you guys a little story:

    A few years ago I was on a hiring panel. We interviewed one of the most smug, pompous human beings I’ve ever encountered in my life (and in DC that’s saying a lot).
    – Every example he told was something like “My boss wanted to X. I thought Y was a better way and did it that way. It worked and I was vindicated!” He used the word “vindicated” at least 5 times.
    – He interrupted me when I was asking him the third question on the list. We tell people “we’re going to ask you 5 questions, and then you’ll get a chance to ask us some.” So I’m asking my question, and he interrupts me (HULK SMASH!!!) mid-sentence and says “whoa, when do I get the chance to ask you guys some questions, hur hur?” Ugh

    So, I happened to walk by a hallway the other day, and I hear someone saying “miss! miss!” I ignore it because I don’t realize the person is talking to me, and I’m not, you know, a waitress dealing with customers. I realize finally the person is talking to me, and it’s this asshat. “Miss! Can you help me find ___?”

    Ugh. I’m a 34 year old professional at my office job, FFS. Learn how to address people properly. And this guy needs to get a clue.

    Pointless story. Just felt like sharing.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        he already worked in the bigger organization (it was an internal hire) so he’s in the building. I get the sense nobody can stand him so he floats from job to job.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          It makes me so rage-y when I hear about useless suckholes of productivity people being dumped onto other departments like that. It happened to me once as a contractor, and we had people in the client office exactly like that, too.

          1. Mouse of Evil*

            In my very first job out of college, a job opened up in another department that I would have been perfect for. I was doing data entry at the time, and the other job was editorial and called for a bachelor’s degree. It ended up going to another person in my department who didn’t have a degree and didn’t have any editorial experience (which I did). Later I found out that my boss’s boss wanted to get rid of that person, so worked out a deal with the hiring manager.

            I don’t know that I would have gotten the job; my interview wasn’t great (it was only my second interview for a job that didn’t require answering a phone or manning a cash register) and I’m sure the job attracted some really excellent candidates. But I know I was more qualified than the person who got it. In a way I suppose it was good to get over the idea that hiring practices are inherently fair that early in my career. :-)

    1. Stephanie*

      We interviewed one of the most smug, pompous human beings I’ve ever encountered in my life (and in DC that’s saying a lot).

      Bwhahaha.

    2. hildi*

      Sometimes I wish we could see videos of these interviews/incidences, etc. because I feel like I’m reading about Sasquatch – “that can’t be real, can it?!?!” Always entertaining to read about.

    3. StudentA*

      He does sound pompous indeed. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone calling someone in their 30’s “Miss”. He probably thought he was being polite.

      1. nep*

        I’m not getting what’s wrong with trying to get a woman’s attention by saying ‘Miss’. What would be preferable? ‘Ma’am’ or ‘Madam’, perhaps. Or a simple ‘Excuse me’ ?

        1. nep*

          (Not arguing there — just curious as to what people think. The ‘Miss’ thing does not come across as offensive or unprofessional to me.)

        2. Adam*

          I say “Excuse me, miss.” or “Pardon me, miss” all the time. Perhaps it was the tone in which he said it?

            1. Adam*

              I can’t recall a time where I have because I know their names and use that instead. When I use miss it’s always out in public.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          It comes across condescending and very unprofessional. I’m an adult woman, and a leader in my organization, which is very rank conscious. “Miss” is for children or young women. Talking to me like you’re summoning your waitress or talking to a teenager customer at Claire’s is inappropriate. I’m not a miss.

          We work with a lot of military and I’m used to “ma’am” and it doesn’t bother me. That’s a term of respect. Miss is not. Or you could just say “Excuse me”

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I will add though that this might be normal other places. It may have just stuck in my craw because 1) I think he’s awful 2) it’s already hard enough for women to get taken seriously in my organization, especially at senior levels and 3) I think he’s awful.

            BUT, I will maintain it’s not the best word to use in a professional setting. It’s kind of like “young lady.” Implies submissiveness.

            Also, I think he’s awful.

            1. Gwen*

              Agreed on the submissiveness. I’ve been called “ma’am” by service employees (retail, waitstaff) since before I was 18. It’s the accepted polite form of address for a woman; I’m only 25 and I would find it very strange and condescending to be called “miss” by…anyone except like, my grandpa maybe

            2. OhNo*

              Nicely put. I was trying to figure out what was bothering me, and you nailed it. It definitely implies that “I am older/more important and you are less than me” vibe.

          2. Cajun2Core*

            A large number of people consider “ma’am” to be very rude. I believe I have even seen that discussion on this website. That really just leaves the general “excuse me” then. For a man, I would definitely say “Sir” so I can see how you would not like “Miss”. I work on a college campus so I do use “Miss” occasionally to get the attention of a student. I would think in that case, it would be appropriate.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              I don’t mind Ma’am because I work with military and it’s the equivalent of “sir” and what you would call a senior officer. It always feels a bit silly, but it doesn’t seem rude.

        4. NJ anon*

          I’d go with “excuse me.” If she were a man, would he say “mister, mister?”
          Maybe he would but it sounds weird to me.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              Right.

              In–I would have said in the United States, but apparently it’s just in a lot of parts of the United States–“miss” on its own, without a name, is a form of address to a person in a service position (waitress, cashier, flight attendant, etc.). It is not the feminine equivalent of “sir” (the way it was and may still be in British schools, for example, where teachers are called “Miss” and “Sir” in the second and sometimes also the third person). I wouldn’t say it’s actively disrespectful, but I absolutely agree that it implies a degree of above-ness on the part of the speaker. If you’re speaking to a woman whose name you don’t know, even if your ranks are equal, you want “ma’am”.

              I happen also to think that “Miss” with a name is no longer a valid honorific except in social situations for girls under 18. Young women with jobs and all grown women should get “Ms.” But I know we’re still working on that one.

              1. Anonsie*

                Agreed.

                An exception, though, is that in some areas it’s normal for a younger person to call woman who are older than them “miss” or “miss [name]” as a way of being polite in casual settings. We always said “miss” to get the teacher’s attention, for example, regardless of age. Sometimes it even replaces their name. “Miss? Miss Park? When is this due?” “I can’t figure out this problem, Miss.”

              2. fposte*

                As an American, I find that British schoolchild third-person usage just hilarious. “Miss said …” Wha??

                And I’m with you on the rest of it.

        5. galfromaway*

          I’d prefer a general “Excuse me” than to be called “miss” or “ma’am.” I feel like I’m too “old” and professional to be called “miss,” and I’m too young to be called “ma’am.” ;)

        6. Waiting Patiently*

          There is just something about being called Miss. It really grates me.
          Either find out my name, especially if I have met you on more than one occasion or just say excuse me? A few middle school students have done this to me. ‘I have taken the time to get to know your name -learn mine.’

        7. TL -*

          It would bother me because where I grew up, saying, “Miss! MISS” in a super whiny tone was how a lot of the boys (mostly) would get the attention/protest the actions of a female teacher. “But miss!” was also common.

          And I think it’s much more polite to get someone’s attention with “Excuse me, ma’am?” (And I should know, because I apparently have one of those faces and am stopped at least once a week by random strangers to be asked for directions.)

      2. Rat Racer*

        Vindicated? Vindicated?!! I can’t think of a worse approach to answering interview questions – implying that you and your boss were at war and you won. Gah. I come from organizations that emphasize (over-emphasize) collaboration, and this just makes my skin crawl…

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Exactly! He left the room and we were all like “whoa.” Who wants someone who is guaranteed to not follow direction and be combative with his boss?

        2. Windchime*

          A person who would use “vindicated” in an interview answer would be the same type of person who would use the word “confrontation” when they really mean “conversation”.

      3. B*

        I’m in my (late!) 30s and would have been pissed off at someone calling me Miss from at least a decade ago. ‘Excuse me’ is perfect for this situation. Even ‘excuse me miss’ would have been better!

        1. nep*

          I get that. I think the simple ‘Excuse me’ works best, in any case.
          Seems to me that the use of ‘Miss’ is perceived differently in different settings / cultures. ‘Excuse me’ avoids any problems there.

    4. Golden Yeti*

      Yeah, repeatedly saying “vindicated” makes it sound like his entire goal at work was to always be proven right.

      Gag.

    5. Mister Pickle*

      I would almost swear that I used to work with this guy about 9 years ago, just based on your description. I’m not trying to be cute. It’s like, if you were writing a short story and you were describing the main character – it would be this guy. If he’s a large gentleman from Texas – you have my sincerest sympathies.

    6. Gene*

      “Miss! Can you help me find ___?”

      I would likely send the a3hat to the main receptionist for dierections.

    7. HR Manager*

      He sounds completely obnoxious – I would sneak out if I saw him coming.

      But is ‘miss’ that offensive? I miss the days people call me that. These days I’m getting ma’am (normally from co-ops) and it makes me cringe. Ugh – ma’am is the lady with the glasses on the chain around her neck and sitting in the rocking chair.

    8. Anon1234*

      How are you supposed to address strangers? “Hey lady!”? I usually just approach people without being creepy and say “excuse me”, but if you’re doing what he did (which is rude) then what’s the alternative?

  13. Allison Mary*

    When you’re writing a cover letter, and you not only know who the hiring manager is, but you’ve also previously exchanged several emails back and forth, as well as met in person at a recruiting event… is it still protocol to address the cover letter with “Dear Ms. Smith” rather than the “Hi Jane,” that you’ve used in several previous emails? I’m assuming the answer is probably yes, but just wanted to hear a confirmation from others. And if so, why is that exactly?

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      Were you addressing them by first name in the email exchange? Did they introduce themselves by first name at the event? I’d go with that. The Mr./Mrs. thing is weird to me in the work place; I could be wrong, but I feel like very few places actually do this! I work for a large corporate bank, and I called our new CHRO by her first name upon meeting her and it wasn’t weird at all.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “Hi Jane” is fine. Many people do that on cover letters these days even when they don’t know the hiring manager; it’s absolutely fine when you do.

    3. Allison Mary*

      Oops, I just realized I slightly misspoke. In most of these cases, these cover letters are going to recruiters in HR first – I’m fairly certain that the contact info I have is not for the actual hiring managers. These are applications through a college career portal, and most of them have a “contact person” listed for the internships and jobs available. That contact person is most likely a recruiter in most cases, and I know for sure that the ones I have had contact with are recruiters.

      Does the same answer still apply? Still appropriate to use “Hi Jane” even when you haven’t previously had contact?

      Thanks for the help, all! :)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Personally, I’m totally fine with “Hi Alison” from strangers and lots of job applicants use it, but since there are still some old schoolers out there who don’t like it, play it safe and go with “Dear X.”

  14. NotMyRealName*

    Next month I’m headed to a professional conference in Portland OR and I need some help figuring out what to pack (I’m a woman by the way). Our office is more casual than business casual. (Jeans are pretty standard attire, many of the staff wear flip flops during the summer, I tend to wear steel toed boots) The conference is a mix of academia and industry (it’s the Entomological Society of America annual meeting, if that helps).

    1. C Average*

      Sounds fun! When I was a kid, I totally wanted to be an entomologist . . . until I learned that I’d have to KILL my beloved insects in order to study them. Total deal-breaker.

      So, Portland in November. I’ve lived in Portland for over a decade and can make a few recommendations.

      1. Don’t wear anything that you wouldn’t want to get wet. You’ll be here in the rainy season, when it’s entirely possible to get drenched walking a block. Bring a raincoat and/or umbrella, and avoid anything that feels or smells gross when wet. Rain boots or other water-resistant footwear would be a good call, too.

      2. Pack for variable weather. Some days it can be really beautiful and quite warm that time of year; other times it’s chilly. Sometimes it’s both within a 24-hour period. (As we like to say, “Don’t like the weather? Wait ten minutes.”) Layers are good.

      3. People here kinda do their own thing. There isn’t a go-to look. You’ll see plenty of hipsters, professionals, and normal people. Wear what makes you comfortable. Jeans are fine, as are slacks, khakis, etc. There isn’t a wrong way to dress here!

      Have fun!

    2. J.B.*

      Knowing scientists, I would say khakis and polos would be dressed up. Casual dresses would be fancy :)

      1. NotMyRealName*

        From what I remember from my student days (many moons ago) we made something of an effort for this conference. But then again, they did a couple of promo videos for this one of “The Most Interesting Entomologist in the World” with the tag line, “Stay Buggy my friends.”

      2. Melissa*

        And Birkenstocks! Don’t forget the Birkenstocks.

        Seriously, when I was in grad school we used to joke about how many senior scientists would wear Birkenstocks and similar sandals to conferences.

    3. fposte*

      I think a conference like that isn’t likely to have something that could be considered a dress standard–it’ll be all over the map. I would probably go for something more like khakis than jeans to bump things up a little bit without overdoing it, but I doubt you’d be totally out of place in anything save for the flip-flops, which would be a mistake in Portland in November.

    4. matcha123*

      I would keep things simple. I don’t know how long your conference is going to be, but if it’s a few days, I would bring two bottoms (one for work, one for play/just in case) and maybe 3 – 4 shirts that would look reasonably well.

      After living overseas, I’ve discovered just how much Americans pack. Don’t be afraid to use a washing machine if your hotel has one, and don’t be afraid to wear the same shirt or pants twice!
      A laundry bag can help keep delicate clothes from being stretched in a washing machine and you can hang dry them in your room if you prefer. I find ballet-style flats to be shoes that can be “formal” or “casual” depending on what the rest of your outfit looks like :)

      Layers are great. If you’re not from a cool region, you’ll probably be cold outside and boiling inside a building. Basic colors for everything. And all that space in your luggage that you saved can now be filled with souvenirs and such!

      1. Simonthegrey*

        When I went overseas for my study abroad, I took three pairs of pants, about 5 shirts and one heavier sweater, and then underwear, socks, etc. I was there for 3 months. I got very bored of my clothing, but also, nobody really cared. I bought a bunch of scarves and use those to dress up or dress down what I wore. It was crazy how many people on my program packed these huge bags!

        1. Evan*

          That sounds about like what I took to my first semester of college. I was here in the US, but halfway across the country from home, so that was what I wore until I went back home for Thanksgiving!

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      If you are just attending a conference and not particularly looking to network, I would say to wear neat casual clothes (non-ratty jeans and a hawaiian shirt, or your standard business wear); presenting, exhibiting, or networking, I’d say wear business casual.

    6. nep*

      Not really what you were after, but — A rain jacket and an umbrella.
      Was in Portland only once and fell in love with that city. But I gather it’s good to have rain gear handy.

    7. Nanc*

      Portland is fabulous in November! Layers are good. You’ll never look out of place in khakis. Walking shoes, if your conference is downtown–so easy to walk everywhere and public transportation is good. A nice hat if it’s raining. If you need something to do in free time and are a museum nerd the Portland Art Museum and Oregon History Museum are both fantastic and within walking distance of each other. I think the Hop On/Hop Off Pink Trolley tour shuts down at the end of October which is too bad as it’s a fun way to see the city. Watch out for Wesen!

      1. Gene*

        Voodoo Doughnuts and Powell’s Books. If you like Germn deli or have a hankering for some Hanuta, Edelweiss

        Layers are a good idea. While unusual in November, there is the possibility of snow/ice storm.

    8. periwinkle*

      When I attend conferences, I try to keep it mix-and-match. A couple weeks ago I was at a week-long program in a business-casual setting (as are most conferences) and here’s what I packed: Navy trousers; two lightweight t-shirts in jewel tones; two elbow-sleeve cardigans; undergarments and pajamas. All of that fit into my Tumi checkpoint-friendly backpack, along with a laptop and accessories. On the plane I wore navy trousers, t-shirt, cardigan, and pashima scarf. One pair of checkpoint-friendly shoes (none in the bag). I’ve got another week-long session later this month and will take the same assortment. For summer conferences, I pack sleeveless dresses plus cardigans.

      Cardigans are your friend. Conference rooms are often icy-cold, and then you walk into a warm stuffy hotel corridor, cool elevator, overheated hotel room..

      Bring cardigans.

      1. Melissa*

        Seconded on the cardigans, and wear something underneath that you can wear alone without the cardigan. Conference hotels are the most inconsistently heated/air-conditioned places on Earth.

        1. hermit crab*

          Ugh yes. I went to a conference about super-technical energy/climate change stuff a few months ago and the main conference room was still alternately freezing and sweltering for the entire week. Why haven’t we (as a society) figured this out yet?

    9. Melissa*

      I’m in academia and I wear business casual to conferences – slacks and a button up, sweater, or shirt + cardigan depending on the weather. Sometimes nice khakis on the days I’m not presenting. I’m usually one of the more dressed-up ones at most conferences, lol. I’m more junior in the field anyway and the junior folks are always more dressed up than the senior scientists, who come wearing any old thing.

      Oh, and wear comfortable shoes. Even small conference hotels become a pain to walk around in heels, ugh. I have a collection of dressy flats I can wear now, especially when presenting.

    10. Artemesia*

      I’d wear business casual like cords/turtlenecks/jackets — tweed jackets or cord or whatever you have that goes with slacks or cords. Nice jeans with jacket also works fine although I’d probably go with slacks or cords or at least dark black jeans for a professional setting like this. For the top layer, in the Pacific Northwest the best top coat is a mid weight raincoat e.g. a trench with removable lining or similar. It usually doesn’t so much pour as drizzle and mist constantly. The typical coat is a rain trench.

  15. Gwen*

    Just sort of a complaint about the “my gold shoes are too tight” problems that come with doing work you are personally passionate about. For work, I write about chocolate teapots. I honestly love chocolate teapots, and on my personal blog (which is “clean” & linked to my professional social media self), I’d like to talk about how much I love the new raspberry-swirl chocolate teapot or why Wakeen’s is my favorite teapot company, but I’m worried that it will come off like I’m shilling for my work when it really is my personal opinion. On the flipside, if I have a bad experience with a teapot melting, I feel like I can’t say that in my “personal space” because my company might work with that manufacturer.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I totally get it. I have a lot I’d love to say on a blog about (insert politically charged topic related to my branch of advertising here) that I don’t dare to do because I’m afraid it could look like my clients put me up to it. I don’t want my clients getting in trouble for my firebrand opinions, so I keep my mouth shut.

  16. J.B.*

    What questions can you ask in an interview to get to know a hiring manager’s working style better? I have had interviews and this is a pretty small field so I generally know the general details on the organization. The working style and priorities of those around me would be really important to me. I’m not sure how to best ask those.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      You could ask them to walk you through a delegation. Like, ask them to think of a project they would delegate to you, and ask them how they would communicate that project. Do they shoot you an email? Do they sit down and meet with you for a half hour? Finding out more about the process they use should not only give you a glimpse of that style, as well as give you the opportunity to ask questions to get more specifics (“what if I was really unclear on the project after the email? Would you expect me to schedule a meeting? Would you just want a reply on the email?”)

      1. Artemesia*

        My happiest work experience was the ten years I worked with an amazing boss who valued me for being a straight talker in a world of tactful people since I steered him out of the way of heavy traffic several times because I knew the organization and he was new to it. I was the go to ‘s^&* detector’ on his staff.

        So I would be inclined to want to ask something like ‘tell me about some of the things you would hope your ideal hire in this position would do for you and for the organization’ or ‘what particular value do you hope this hire will add beyond their skill at crafting teapots?’

        It might be illuminating to ask something like ‘Can you tell me about the last time there was a deadline crunch and how that happened and got handled.’

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’ll get some interesting insight from “what kind of person works really well with you? what kind of person doesn’t mesh as well with your management style?”

    3. Trixie*

      I suppose it could be a reverse, “How would you handle X if this happened? Or what would you say to employee Y if this happened?” Tough part is whether hypotheticals would be consistent with their actual behavior. Looking back to my previous managers, you learn so much in retrospect. I’m not sure I would have rooted out particulars if I’d asked these questions early on.

    4. INTP*

      Usually they ask you to describe your ideal manager at some point. During the question phase, you can refer to that and ask them to describe their ideal subordinate or their general management style. (I wouldn’t do it before the end of the interview because it can come across like you’re trying to figure out what they want you to say so that you can tailor your answers.)

    5. Graciosa*

      What are your biggest priorities for the department and the team?

      This can tell you a lot. I have a colleague who would answer this very differently from the way I would, and those differences are absolutely reflective of our different management styles.

  17. looksandbooks*

    I found out that my manager lied to me about a job I was in the running for. I was already distrustful of the manager but this really just hurt. It just sucks that a manager would deliberately lie to help one person over another, when both employees report to said manager.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    Another note this week:
    I have an employee who is constantly screwing up the administrative, non-technical aspects of his job. Like submitting timesheets accurately and on time, booking travel correctly, submitting vouchers, etc. All of that bureaucratic stuff (we’re bureaucrats!) he’s just lazy and terrible at. He doesn’t even make an effort – he just waits for things to get to the crisis point and makes a big huffy complaint about fixing it.

    I’m going to be taking formal disciplinary action at this point, which I hate because substantively he’s really good at his job, but this stuff creates so many problems and it’s just unacceptable.

    Sigh. It’s always something. I feel like I play whack-a-mole as a manager. Someone is always driving me nuts :)

    1. hildi*

      I don’t know if this comparison bothers anyone, but I often compare supervising to parenting. Employees tattle on each other; they play childlike dramatic games with everyone, etc. And parenting is constantly about course-correction and figuratively thumping people on the skulls on a routine basis. As counterintuitive as it seems: I think you’re doing something right if you feel like you’re constantly handling something like that. Meaning you’re an engaged, hands-on manager.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Excellent point, hildi. As a parent I constantly nag…er, remind my daughter to do certain things, and only occasionally do I have to mention that if I have to remind her again, she will lose X privilege. Constant course correction or monitoring is not a bad thing if done calmly and dispassionately, because those who need it may wind up in much bigger trouble if left to their own devices.

        But I feel for you, Katie. The reason I moved from a supervisory position into a more technical one is that I was kind of stuck after saying “you need to be here on time” a couple of times…after that, do I fire them? Am I allowed to? How do I tell them to “be on time or you’re fired” without being a jerk about it? I really didn’t know how to deal with people who can’t or won’t take responsibility. I probably could do it now, but I’m still not sure I’d want to.

        1. hildi*

          I owe my philosophy on this to Bruce Tulgan (http://rainmakerthinking.com/) and his emphasis on It’s Ok to Be the Boss.

          Much like parenting, I think supervising is constantly coaching and being hands on and staying engaged. If you do that you realize either the person needed it and is on the right course with more than some other needs, or truly just cannot hack it and needs to be fired (lucky you can do that with employees; don’t know what you do with kids in that boat!).

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Oh man, I’ve seen a lot of good, smart workers in the government run into serious roadblocks when it comes to the paperwork. Hopefully getting formal will make him realize he just has to suck it up and do it by the book!

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I think it’s really important for you to go into this process really clear on what the ultimate disciplinary action you are willing to take is. At my last job, I was an admin and has constant trouble with this one employee because she never submitted her expenses on time, which meant that my reconciliation process took longer. But my boss wasn’t going to fire her over something like that, and she knew it, and she used that to skate by through multiple warnings (that were empty warnings) without making any positive change. It wasn’t until there was an actual consequence that my boss was willing to commit to that anything changed (in this case, it just impacted her raise at the end of the year… if she would have gotten $3K, she was threatened with getting $2K instead if the problem continued). Once there was a real consequence that was in line with the problem, she buckled down and created a system she could stick to.

    4. Rat Racer*

      As someone who is a natural at screwing up mundane administrative tasks, I’ll share with you what a previous manager shared with me early in my career. Perhaps this will resonate with your employee: “I know these tasks are mundane and don’t require any intellectual rigor. However, when you demonstrate incompetence at the little stuff, leadership will never trust you to manage the big stuff.”

      I’m not saying you should do this in lieu of disciplinary action though.

      1. Frances*

        That’s a really good piece of advice. And I wish I could forward it to several of my old colleagues in academia.

      2. OfficePrincess*

        Thank you so much for sharing this nugget. It is perfect for the person on my team who has gotten the “you need to pay attention to the details” chat twice this week. She thinks she’s fantastic regardless of what my boss, HR, and it discuss with her and has asked about promotions in the past, but honestly, I can’t trust her to put the chocolate teapot order with the chocolate teapot receipt instead of with the vanilla coffee pot requests, so there’s no way we’re putting her in a leadership role for it.

        1. Artemesia*

          Well the obvious thing to do is next time she mentions a promotion say ‘When we can’t trust you to get the small things right (site 3 examples) we don’t feel you are ready for more responsibility.’ period. not another word.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        A very nice way of saying “you’re going no where fast”.

        I feel that every job has an aspect that is distasteful. It’s to be expected, we don’t get to cherry pick which parts of our jobs we do and which parts we don’t. If a job requires A, B and C and I routinely skip C or mash it up badly, I would not expect to keep my job.
        Unfortunately, it is not always clear cut when an employee excels at A and B. It makes it harder to tell them to leave. One thing that may work is telling him that he does do well with the other parts so you have every reason to believe he will master this part, also. I think if you let him know it’s not optional but it is absolutely critical that this paper work be on time and be correct, you may be able to get some changes.

        My husband was a huge techie type person. He did not do paperwork quickly. At all. It was a belabored and torturous road for him. One day I sat down with him and helped streamline is paper work. I knew a few Excel tricks, I also made master copies of some forms already filled out with the basic info, and so on. I am not suggesting you streamline the process for him- no, no. I am suggesting that maybe if you get him thinking about how he could make the process easier for himself every week, it would not be such a hardship to be on time and be correctly done.

  19. hildi*

    What age and/or type of experience do you think would make a contract speaker or independent training consultant credible? I feel like that’s a direction I’d like to move someday, but I feel like I need to stay in place and “season” for a while longer. I just turned 34, and I honestly don’t know if I’m that credible yet to strike out on my own. Of course I think my 13 years in the workforce is a lot (to me!), but I definitely understand it’s peanuts in context.

    As far as background, I have only been in the military for 4.5 years and now this current position. I don’t know if having a wide and varied background is more desirable to organizations looking to bring in someone for training? I don’t have a motivating life story; I have not made crazy decisions where I learned something from them. I’m a squeaky clean person that has mostly been lucky to achieve what I have. So I’m not a motivational speaker and wouldn’t plan to advertise myself as such.

    What I am good at is I know people. And I know how to communicate with people. So I think that would be my niche. But….would anyone listen to me? They do now because I work for a training organization so I’m their best option.

    Guess my question is: when you bring in a speaker/trainer/consultant – what are you really paying them for? What do they offer that is worth for you to pay them?

    This has been on my mind a lot; don’t know if there’s much of an answer anyone can give, but it helps for me to put it out in the universe, I think.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Personally, I care a lot more about them being awesome at speaking/training in the topic they’re working in than about any particular age or experience. I mean, they have to have enough experience to make them credible, but 13 years certainly takes care of that. After that, I’m looking for them to be engaging, useful, etc.

      1. hildi*

        Thanks for the perspective. And I would agree with you, as well, on the age doesn’t matter thing. So my next thought on that is how subject someone being awesome is. What’s aweseome for me is if someone makes me laugh and gives me new perspective. But I’ve encountered people that would say an awesome speaker is about giving me a practical tool. Then I know some people think a great speaker is someone that is casual and comfortable and real; but some prefer someone that is *really* polished. And then my answer in my head to all of that is, ‘well, can’t please everyone.’ Which I already know?!? So what am I so hung up on?

        Ok – let me throw this out there: Is there something common that happens to people around the 7 or 8 year mark in their position where they start to get cagey? Because I am literally at 8 years in my job tomorrow and I have been really restless for about a year. But I have been doing this long enough and it’s a good job for me now that I don’t want to jump ship for the unknown. What the hell is wrong with me!?!? This is not who I am to doubt my next moves so much.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think you can’t be everything to everybody, and the most important thing is to figure out what YOU are great at as a trainer — are you super polished? Are you more comfortable/real? Funny? Whatever it is, some people will love it and hire you for that reason and it won’t be others’ cup of tea. And that’s totally okay and as it should be. I realized this when I started consulting — you want to be who you are and what you’re good at being, and let people self-select out of being your clients if it’s not right for them.

          1. hildi*

            Perfect, thank you. This confirms what I have always thought in the end, but….I overthink things. Clearly :) I think I have been successful here in my job because my style is pretty solid and I am exactly who I am. For the first couple years I tried to do things that my more senior coworker did in her trainings and I sucked. Once I stopped doing that and just did what came naturally did things click into place.

            I’m also slowly trying to wrap my mind around the idea that I, on my own (not as part of my organization), would be worth someone paying me to share my ideas/thoughts. I suppose I should start reading about stuff like that: self-marketing; self-promotion. I think it’s probably a hurdle that a lot of people have to overcome. I know that I have some skills that not everyone has….but enough to pay me? I guess they do now in my job, so what’s the difference. Did you have any blogs or books or sites you looked at as you made the transition to a consultant?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I found a couple of good sites for freelancers about the mechanics of freelancing (billing, contracts, dealing with clients; here’s an example of an article from one that I liked) — sort of the business side of things that wasn’t specific to any particular type of consulting/freelancing. “The Wealthy Freelancer” is a great book that you should check out too.

              But yeah, by far the biggest hurdle is becoming comfortable with the idea that people should and would pay you. That took me probably 2 years to totally overcome in my head.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think you need two things to be a compelling speaker: good information and the right delivery. Sure, it’s not that simple, but if you can demonstrate a good grasp of the subject (or, heck, any subject that might be timely or new), you’ve demonstrated that you can assimilate and deliver new information. And as for delivery, that’s pretty much evident when you meet a client or go for an interview. You don’t have to always be “on”, but you should have the same kind of energy you’d have while giving a talk, and listening to you should be engaging to the listener. No long, awkward silences or mumbling. :)

      Really, experience is great, but I think that in training (which I have done a lot of) and public speaking (which I have done but prefer to avoid), it’s much easier to assess someone’s abilities on the spot, it usually doesn’t require a lot of technical detail or historical knowledge. It’s not like, say, programming, where you absolutely have to be familiar with specific techniques and technologies in order to be qualified.

      1. hildi*

        Thanks for weighing in, Cosmic Avenger!

        I’m curious what the difference for you is between training and public speaking? Purely curious. I sometimes think of training as public speaking, but when I’m in a class I tend to treat it just like we’re a bunch of colleagues that all have something to contribute and learn from together. Versus public speaking in my mind might be more of a keynote address or something that’s more information out/motivation/inspirationa/and very little interaction with the audience. Just wondered if that’s what you had in mind, too.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Very much so.

          Trainings can be small groups or even one-on-one, which changes the dynamic even when the material is exactly the same. Training usually requires more give-and-take, at least for me. I pace my training and modify what I cover and how intensively based on feedback from the participants. Much of it has been computer training, so it’s often having the participants practice the steps after I explain/demonstrate something.

          Public speaking is usually much more like a lecture, but without questions from the class. You should have a whole story to tell instead of a bullet list of skills/topics to impart, and while you can adapt it as you go, there usually isn’t as much feedback as with trainings.

          At least, that’s my take on it. :)

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Just answering one little part of your question: I’m 53, and I’d have no problems listening to and learning from someone who is 34, or even 24. If you have knowledge that I can use and can present it well, you are worth listening to.

      1. hildi*

        Thanks, ThursdaysGeek! I don’t actually know where I got it into my head that I had to be older to do something like that. I suppose because all of the consultants we bring in are typically older than me. So that was flawed thinking. Also, I have plenty of internal agencies “hire” me to do special requests in my current job so it must be more of a case of your last sentence :) I just need to stop overanalyzing certain things :)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Likewise for me. I don’t care about a speaker’s age. I am all about content. Do you make me think? Do you shake up my thought process so that I am looking at things from a fresh angle? Perhaps you are expanding on things that I have heard of but only in passing.

        Speakers also get my attention when they answer FAQs without being asked. In other words, they lay a foundation for what they are going to speak on. A while ago, I went to see a speaker talking about cloud storage. One of the first things he did was hold up a black box. “This is a cloud.” This drew almost everyone in the room into his discussion because everyone had a clear idea of what he was talking about. I never thought about how old he was, I was too interested in his explanations.

    4. Pepper Pot*

      I became a corporate training consultant at age 32, after 4 years with a training company and another 4-5 years prior to that in a more peripheral education/training job (and an MA in education). I loved it! Clients rarely asked to see my credentials or resume, although they were welcome to it, but they generally wanted someone experienced to assess their need, suggest a course or design/tweak a new one, facilitate it according to the best adult learning practices, and give their employees a great training experience. All things you are likely to be doing daily now if you work for a training company. I offered additional services like creating custom Office documents, offering mentoring/training to their new trainer, scheduling monthly on-site days where I did one-on-one training for their employees at their desks, writing how-to guides, etc., and one of the things that worked out particularly well for me was being able to continue to do contract work for the training company I left. We parted on great terms and I had done some specialty classes for them they couldn’t easily re-fill, so it was a great way for me to build up some quick income while I searched for more clients.

      It’s not all easy – working for yourself brings in accounting and salesmanship and other things you may or may not enjoy, and the income can fluctuate, which takes planning, but I really loved the ability to do the kinds of training that I enjoyed the best and having the freedom, if it was financially responsible, to say no to projects that weren’t a good fit. My consulting career ended after 5 years, to my surprise, by being hired full-time by one of my clients, not for training but in an operational role. I loved the company and everything they stood for, one of my longest-term clients had just made a major budget cut to my funding, and I discovered I was more interested in practicing some of what I had been training and developing as a manager than continuing to seek out new clients. I’ve been with that company 4 years now and was just promoted last week, so it’s been a good thing for me, but I’m extremely glad I took the path I did.

      ALL of that to say – go for it! If the financial side can be worked out reliably enough for your budget, it sounds like you’re mentally ready to look at changing it up and growing in a new direction.

  20. MaybeTechEditor*

    Has anyone here successfully transitioned from a having a hands-on science background to technical writing and editing? It’s something I’m considering: I currently work as a freelance language editor of academic manuscripts, having finished my PhD last year. Any tips on interviewing for such positions? I’m mainly looking at grad tech author positions at software companies. Thanks!

    1. hermit crab*

      I don’t, but I would be really interested in hearing the answers as well! How did you get into the freelance work?

      1. MaybeTechEditor*

        I started the freelancing through a speculative application (very short CV and email) to a guy who’d just started his own company. He’d contacted some student friends of mine, so I knew he was looking for editors. I had to edit a test paper.

        English language editing of academic papers is a growing market at the moment. There are lots of folks like my boss setting themselves up, but some of the major publishers dabble too.

    2. Emily*

      I don’t have any advice (sorry!), but I would also like to hear about anyone making this kind of transition. I just started a Ph.D. in a hard science field, but want to keep technical writing as a fallback (I did a little bit of it in my year between undergraduate and graduate school) if I don’t end up liking what I’m doing now.

  21. Lily in NYC*

    OK, this is related to a thread from a few days ago. I threw up at work this morning! Totally mortifying; I had to run down the hall with my garbage can because I knew I wouldn’t make it to the bathroom in time. But I am not going to sit at my desk and subject my coworkers to my barfiness. I took a cab home ($80, holy crap!) and am sitting in my jammies working from home for the rest of the day. Have a great weekend everyone.

    1. brightstar*

      I hope you feel better!

      I missed commenting on that thread because I was home sick with a stomach virus and slept until 1 p.m. (can’t remember the last time I did that).

  22. JMegan*

    I have a new job! I posted about it a few weeks ago – it’s an interesting and challenging position in my field, an organization I would love to work for, permanent/full time, good salary, and with a manager who seems like a normal human being with actual experience in my line of work. It’s pretty much the unicorn.

    Last day at CurrentJob is Oct 17, then I have a week off before starting Awesome NewJob. And I have just hit Send on my resignation email, so it’s all official now. All I have to do now is figure out how to stay motivated for the next couple of weeks here!

    1. JMegan*

      Sorry, replying to myself here. I might be a little excited. :) Just confirmed the salary with HR, and it’s $15K more than what I’m currently making…yeah, that’ll do!

      Also, literally within ten minutes of getting the verbal offer on Monday, I got an email from my lawyer saying that my divorce has been finalized. It’s been quite the week!

  23. Lizzy*

    I have been reevaluating my career goals as of late and I am considering switching career paths. I would love to hear some stories about people who switched career paths at least 5 years (if not more) into their careers, post-college, and what the transition was like.

    1. B*

      Me too!! I’m taking voluntary redundancy in march (pause to wibble in abject terror) because my current job will soon be very unstable and i want to change career paths, from 15 years in admin/secretarial/PA posts to being a public health practitioner.love to hear stories of people who’ve successfully made huge transitions.

      1. Nurse-To-Be*

        I’m not quite at the ‘successful’ (aka finished!) stage yet, but I just started nursing school last month after spending 20 years in the hospitality and adventure tourism field. I loved what I was doing in tourism, but after 20 years I needed a massive change. Nursing had NEVER occurred to me – I quite literally woke up one day, thought….nursing, and that was it. It’s the exact thing I’ve always wanted to do….I just never knew it!

        It’s a long haul, at least 4 1/2 years full-time before I graduate with my BScN/RN designation (I’m in Canada), but so far it’s been amazing. It was hard getting into the program (it’s ultra-competitive and has extremely high admission averages), so I had to go back to high school and re-do biology and chemistry in order to update my knowledge and bring my overall average up. It’s been a lot of work so far, far more than I ever expected – my entire life is now school, working part-time about 15 hours/week, and studying the rest of the time.

        I haven’t had one moment of doubt or regret about making this change, even though I’ll be 48 by the time I completely finish my degree. It’s going to be a tough few years, but it will be worth it. Plus, I’m really lucky to have a lot of support from family and friends, otherwise I wouldn’t make it.

        A huge change when you’re an ‘older’ (I’m definitely older, but not so sure about mature! :) )student is incredibly tough, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Older students have so much life experience that really helps them in school, so even though you may be older than some of the others in your field when you get into it, you’ve still got a whole bag of experiences to bring with you.

        Good luck with your career change!!

    2. Janis*

      Oh dear, I’ve had about a half dozen career path zigs and zags in my life — some not by choice (laid off twice), but some were. I don’t think it’s a problem at all!

      You will be forced to learn so much more than the person who stays in the teapot accounting realm their whole life. I have a friend who’s been in one career for 30 years. Yes, he knows it backwards and forwards, but that’s it. I have been buffeted around by the winds of change many times and can speak pretty comfortably about vaccines and blood safety (one job), will, trusts and beneficiary designations (another job), best ways to engage adults in training classes (yet another) and now process improvement. So maybe the best is yet to come. It sure was with me.

    3. dawnofthenerds*

      This is something I’ve been thinking about too. I just graduated from a master’s program in an obscure highly specialized branch of the Humanities, and wound up in marketing at a local company because there are no jobs in my field (and I would have needed a PhD to get one anyway). It feels really weird, and I don’t know if this ambivalence is going to go away. Though the work is mostly interesting, the coworkers are awesome, and the pay is good. Not too shabby for my first job out of college with a ‘ridiculous’ degree.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      No regrets for the changes that I have made. I feel that education/knowledge is never wasted. Insights from an old job setting can end up being very handy in a new job setting. And I have found common threads in my choices – that took a while for me to understand that, though.

      I find that it was a little choppy starting anything new. There is a whirlwind of information to absorb. Will I ever get through this whirlwind? I found the answer is yes. And the learning curve is not as steep as the first time out. I also totally enjoyed the novelty of doing something different.

    5. KCS*

      I was 9 years post-college when I transitioned careers. Granted, 3 of those years were grad school.

      It was a dramatic change. I had applicable skills and some relevant coursework in grad school, but no direct experience. My first foray into my 2nd career was a very low-paying, low-level job. Basically, I started from the bottom.

      I genuinely believe that my first career gave me a lot of insight I wouldn’t have had if I started my 2nd career immediately after school. In a strange way, my immense dislike of my first career makes me appreciate my 2nd career even more. I’m happier, more fulfilled, and even grateful that I was one of the few people who had the opportunity and means to start a new career.

      One piece of advice – don’t compare yourself. You will see colleagues from your former field rising through the ranks. You will encounter people in your new field who are just a year out of school who are “ahead” of you on the ladder. They may even be your boss. But know this – you had the forsight to reevaluate your career and start a new one. I think it takes strength and bravery to do that. Good luck.

  24. Fawn*

    I’m contract at a medium sized university. This week, a full time permanent job was posted that I’m 100 percent qualified for, in a department that my department works closely with. I’m considering applying, but have no idea whether to disclose this to my manager or not. Any advice on how/when/whether to have this conversation?

    Additional useful facts:
    – manager has hinted that my current job is a good “jumping off” point for other positions
    – been in current role for 1 year, contract has been extended 3 times. Ends in March 2015
    – the next two months are the busiest time for my role
    – if I was offered the new role, I would continue to work closely with my current dept

    1. fposte*

      Presuming a sane manager, I would disclose. I might wait until the interview stage if I had doubts.

      1. Fawn*

        Thanks! Very sane – a great manager and a lovely person, which is part of the reason I want to make sure to do right by her if this is move I’m going to make. I think waiting til the interview stage is a good call, I’m just unsure of how to manage it if word gets out that I’ve applied before they hold interviews. I may just have to gamble with it, I guess.

        1. fposte*

          In that case you could consider talking to the manager when your application goes in. She might even be able to help your candidacy.

    2. Trixie*

      Reading your post it sounds like your manager is pretty encouraging, and sane. I would absolutely bring this up to your manager to discuss, he/she could be very happy to help in any way they could. Especially if its a position that will work closely with dept. And since you’re a contracted position, maybe they just bring in a new LT person through March 2015, who then could also apply for something permanent. This sounds very encouraging!

    3. Red*

      I recommend disclosing, especially if your boss noted that your current contract role is a good jumping off point. I think a lot of normal, rational folk understand that a contractor’s interests lie with stability and pay, and that following those leads isn’t “disloyalty” or anything of the sort. Your manager may be able to give you a good recommendation to the hiring manager, which could help you quite a bit! (Never hurts to “know a guy,” after all.)

    4. ClaireS*

      It’s hard to say without fully understanding your work dynamics. But, in my job it would be Very Strange to apply for an internal position without talking to your manager.

      also, as your contract and this is permanent, a sane manager will be supportive. She may even think it strange if you didn’t apply.

      Good luck!

      1. Fawn*

        You’re totally right – she probably would question why I didn’t apply. I think I’ve realized that I’m over-thinking this!

    5. Agile Phalanges*

      It sounds like you’re leaning toward disclosing at this point, but if you still have any doubt, you might want to check with your HR department. Some organizations require you to disclose, in which case your decision is made, or if there is no policy, they might have a recommendation based on what they know of the dynamics.

    6. INTP*

      I would disclose before formally applying because it’s much better if your manager finds out from you than someone else. Colleagues ask each other about potential employees they’ve worked with, and it seems probable to me that someone would eventually ask your boss about you, possibly before they even choose whether to interview you. Since the departments work closely together, your boss may be close with someone on the interview panel, and “We’re thinking of interviewing Fawn, what do you think of her for the teapot coordinator role?” would be natural chitchat. (I’m just pointing that out because people often seem to think it’s some unethical violation of their privacy when potential employers speak to colleagues who have worked with the candidate before – it’s not.) Also, in many orgs you can’t get hired for an internal position without the signoff of your current manager.

    7. Artemesia*

      Your current manager will be a great help in getting the new position in most cases so it is a matter of judging whether you are dealing with a good person or a loon. If this is an encouraging open helpful person (and they have indicated the job is a good jumping off place) than letting them know may help you land the interview. It is normal for the other manager to inquire before going ahead when the person applying is a known quantity in the organization.

  25. matcha123*

    Wow. I rarely make it here on time.

    What type of advice would you give to someone who is very smart and great at their job (high praise), but is the first on the cutting block for lay-offs or often the victim of bullying (don’t know if this is the best word to use) in the workplace?

    I’m trying to figure out the best way to help someone who is an older worker with few to no friends either at work/in that field or outside and often has personality clashes with other staff (supervisors in particular, which may or may not be due to this person having a masters in, err…teapot issues, while the supervisor does not).

    Personality clashes aren’t due to this person attacking others or not doing their work, but perhaps because they don’t seem very friendly and don’t engage in workplace banter. Attitude is close to: “I am here to do the best job possible and in the most efficient manner. I am a by-the-book person. I prefer rules to be closely or strictly enforced when someone blatantly breaks them.”

    In one instance, this person was given more assignments, but less time to complete them. Possibly put on warning for not completing assignments in a timely manner, despite having a heavier workload and less time to complete assignments compared to other coworkers. Then supervisor decided to tell other staff that this person was verbally disrespectful and used that as an excuse to fire the person. I don’t know what advice to give because sometimes you just have a crappy workplace situation. But this type of “bullying” has occurred three times in a row and is going on at the third place. Any advice?

    1. Gwen*

      Honestly, I find it’s true what they say…if you have the same problem in multiple locations/with different people, then the root of the problem is probably you. I think this person will need to adjust their behavior if they want this pattern to stop. I don’t think it comes as a surprise that someone who is at best unsociable and at worst unpleasant (in the eyes of supervisors) is likely to be on the chopping block. I know there’s been some good AAM advice about “faking” friendliness with coworkers…try to make a little small talk occasionally, say hi and bye, don’t say no to invitations EVERY time. There are some people I work with who I know to be quiet/focused, and there are others who seem prickly/unfriendly. You want to seem like the former.

      1. Frances*

        Yeah, I second this. Something that struck me in your description of the person is that they seem to think relationships with their coworkers and managers are completely separate and distinct from how good someone is at their job — there are plenty of posts here on AAM that show that’s really not true. Perhaps you could help them realize that being truly “great” at a job includes developing collegial working relationships.

        1. matcha123*

          I think this is true. I’ve often thought myself that if I’m great at my job, that’s all that matters. But, fortunately for me, I’ve had coworkers that are relatively easygoing and can somewhat cancel out the poppy ones.

          I think this person would like to have a good relationship with their workmates, but there aren’t many (any?) common areas they can come together over. I don’t think they enjoy the same TV shows as their other coworkers and so even something simple like that is out of the question.

          1. Observer*

            Never mind discussing TV shows. Does she make it her business to greet everyone when she comes in? (I don’t mean running over to each person, but everyone she passes.) Does even go so far as to say “How are you doing?” Maybe a comment on the weather or the commute, etc. Yes, social chitchat does take up a few minutes, but it’s hugely lubricating.

            Also, how is her degree playing out, in terms of her attitude. To take an extreme example, we had one employee who told her boss “Don’t talk to ME that way – I’m more educated that you. I have a degree and you don’t.” (And after that line, she no longer had a job, but her boss did… Despite her being personally far more popular than her boss.) Now, I’m sure your friend is too professional for something like that. But, if her *attitude* is “Don’t tell me about how to improve the teapot lines, because I have a Masters in teapot tech and you are just a manager with a HS diploma.” That’s going to create major issues – and will be a wonderful excuse for getting loaded with extra work.

            Lastly, how is she about sharing and helping others? Are lines like “It’s not my job”, “Why should I help you with abc?”, “If you had done it CORRECTLY” or “You don’t do things correctly, and it’s not my job to make up for that” a regular part of her repertoire? She may see that as being efficient, doing HER job and sticking to the rules. Everyone else is going to see something very, very different.

            I know this may sound like blaming the victim, but when a person sees the same pattern repeating multiple times – 3 times is a lot – it makes sense to look at how the victim is playing into this.

            1. matcha123*

              I think that they try to greet the people that are in the office when they come in, but it sounds like people are in and out of the office and at any given time there may only be one other person there (the dirty admin who has already said that they do not like this person).

              I think they generally try to offer suggestions to improve things and do not talk about their masters. I’m not there so I can’t say anything with 100% certainty. But at one place, they offered to and began work on a foreign language manual to help deal with overseas clients. But, soon after they were given the green light to start the project, it was pulled.

              Of the three jobs I mentioned, two were/are in this person’s field and one was at a call center.

              1. Artemesia*

                I have an advanced degree and almost none of my social contacts are aware of it because I don’t use the title socially and don’t talk about it all the time. Why is this guy EVER mentioning his masters in the workplace? Apparently it doesn’t qualify them for the top job so it is irrelevant. His co-workers should be unaware of it.

                This kind of dynamic happens once — bad luck. Happens 3 times and this guy has a serious problem interacting with other people and needs to work hard on his interpersonal and managing upward skills.

      2. matcha123*

        I think that might be part of the problem, but I haven’t seen this person at work, so I can’t say for sure. They tell me that they do greet co-workers and they did make friends at previous jobs…but those people were also on the chopping block to be fired.

        The current one is a coworker who brings her kids to work, makes private calls throughout the day, leaves trash around their desk and has asked the person I’m asking about to not bring clients to the office because it makes her uncomfortable. The supervisor is not willing to ask that person to clean up their work space, etc.

        I’m sure there’s a mix of things, but I feel so helpless. This is a good person who is also somewhat reserved and has had a hard life. I’ve directed them to this page, though ;)

        1. Observer*

          OK, so one thing is clear here. She is taking on issues that are not hers to take on. The coworker (assuming the description is accurate) sounds like fun, but it’s not your friend’s place to correct her, and she needs to back off. Yes, I think the supervisor is making a mistake, but that’s her problem.

          The only thing that IS her business is the issue of bringing clients to the office. Assuming that it is normally acceptable and useful to bring clients to the office, that is something she needs to ask her boss about – eg “Jane asked me not to bring clients into the office because it makes her uncomfortable. How would you like me to handle it?”

        2. Artemesia*

          You only know all this because of what this worker is telling you. It does appear that s/he is fussing about lots of stuff that isn’t in the own wheelhouse and is also rationalizing own failings. The most important thing this person can do is take some responsibility for how they interact with the boss and focus on what is needed to get the work done.

          e.g. bringing the kids in is not her problem until they get in the way of her work — bad management but not her problem. Not being able to have clients in the office is a potential problem and needs to be presented to the boss — where would s/he like the person to meet with clients given the co-workers demands?

      3. Ezri*

        “I know there’s been some good AAM advice about “faking” friendliness with coworkers…”

        This is what I thought of, too. I’m an awkward introvert who handles unexpected social contact badly. In my head I know I don’t dislike people or want to be rude, but in the past I’ve come off as antisocial because I’m bad at being social. It’s something I have to put mental energy into improving, just like any other work-related skill.

        1. matcha123*

          I’m also quite introverted, and it’s only through a lot of work that I’ve been able to at least put up a good face. One that hopefully doesn’t look too much like Resting Bitch Face all the time.

          But, I only realized that I might be coming off as a wet blanket because I spent so much time thinking about it haha!

    2. hildi*

      So this person that is the recipient of the mistreatment has had this happen at three different workplaces now? My sister in law used to call me up for advice because every time she was at a new job she inevitably had a major clash with someone and they bullied her, sob story, wah, wah. It took me about 4 or 5 workplaces to realize that it’s her. Duh. And then there was a big, ugly throwdown at Christmas where I totally realized what a problem she truly was. I have no doubt she just didn’t click with the other people, but she wasn’t helping herself because she can’t take feedback; she’s incredibly thin-skinned; and she’s defensive and offensive at the same time. I have watched in the past 10 years a pattern of her going from job to job and leaving because of the same problems – at a certain point you realize it’s you. I know there are bullies and bad actors out there – but for the same problems to surface in the same way at all these places makes me err more on the side of her than not.

      That being said, that supervisor sounded like she was purposely trying to pile on this employee. Is it just a major culture clash? I know I’d probably be annoyed by an overly-by-the-book person esp if they weren’t personally relatable. The difference is in not treating them worse for it.

      1. matcha123*

        Some might be culture related. This person is pretty reserved in some ways due to various things that have happened throughout their life. And because of those life experiences, they’ve had to navigate through university and beyond without a support network.

        This person is very studious and I think that being mostly alone for so long and having a series of bad experiences with trusted people has left them with their guard up. They’ve definitely taken up invites for coffee or tea or chats and walks with other coworkers.

        1. hildi*

          I feel for this person. I imagine there are hurts that will never heal and that’s not always evident to other people. And when someone is hurting and not able to trust, some more dominant and narcisstic people prey on that perceived weakness. It sucks. Especially people like that boss (who really sounded like an ass) and this new coworker (who sounds incredibly selfish).

          Has your friend been to a counselor to talk through some of the issues from their past that might be contributing to how locked down they are with people now? That might be one step. But again, those two people you referenced really just sounded like assholes. And we’re all subject to assholes – some of us get their crap more than others (ha! I swear I did not plan that. And it’s gross, I’m sorry.). So my point I think is that your friend might need to bone up on assertively responding? Assertive not the same as aggressive or offensive. Here are a few sites that I liked while I was doing some research for a respectful workplace/bullying class. Maybe it’ll give your friend some ideas of things he’s never thought about:

          http://www.bullying.com.au/workplace-bullying/index.php
          http://www.nobullyforme.org/
          http://noworkplacebullies.com/home

          1. matcha123*

            I think they may have talked with some trusted friends, but one friend kind of blew it by making light of a major incident this person experienced…turning it into a joke along the lines of: “If you think YOUR life sucks, X had THIS happen!! lol”

            They are good at listening to others’ problems and helping them out, but kind of suck with their own. Thank you for the links! I will definitely pass them on. I’m hoping that this is just a temporary thing and they can find a better place that fits. The clients seem to be happy and they are apparently bringing in a lot of work for the place, so that’s one thing :)

    3. fposte*

      Has she asked you for advice? I’m not hearing that she has. If so, unless you’re supervising this person (or the people who are dealing with her) I don’t think there’s much you can do.

      If she has asked you for advice, maybe it’s worth pointing out that being great at your job includes getting along with the people there, and that that’s a developable skill. Would greater career success and job security be worth polishing up that skill for her?

      1. matcha123*

        No, not asking for advice. More like telling me about things that are going on at work and I’ll try to analyze the situation, give a possible explanation for the behavior of the other person and offer advice based on that person’s personality and what I’ve read here.

        Your last two lines are ones that I often bring up. Unfortunately, I’m not in the position to tell if this person is bringing all of this upon their person or if they truly are putting forward their best foot and coming across some crappy co-workers.
        It’s also possible that their idea of what a proper workplace should be is unrealistic.

        1. brightstar*

          Patterns are telling, and if this person is running across the same problems at multiple workplaces, they are the common denominator. From what you’ve said, he/she sounds like a very “because these are the rules and must strictly be followed” person and that can be extremely irritating.

          From experience I would say don’t invest too much time or energy into trying to solve their problems.

          1. matcha123*

            A pretty by-the-book person in many aspects, but not all. Mostly when it comes to aspects of work that could invite government investigations or lawsuits. I probably should have been more specific on that point.

            The rules issues seem to come up with how to deal with certain clients or the way specific office items are used. It sounds like if, I don’t know, someone takes pictures of themselves licking teapots as they come off the line, the license given to deal with teapots could be revoked for all if the pictures get out, even if that person wasn’t licking teapots.

            When telling the coworkers that maybe licking teapots isn’t the best idea, because it’s a violation, the bullying (if that’s the word to use) started which then led to a dismissal.

            1. Gwen*

              With these details, I think maybe some consideration of hierarchy/when someone should speak up might be useful for this person? It can be hard for someone who isn’t very social to get a read on office politics, but it can be really important in situations like that. For example, if I see a peer/someone I’m close to licking a teapot, I might say “hey, friend, you probably shouldn’t do that, we could get in trouble.” But if I see a senior staff member licking a teapot, I would take to to my manager and ask how she wants to handle it, because a) censure from me means nothing to this person and b) it could definitely make my life harder if someone decides they have it in for me because I disapprove of their errant tongue!

            2. Observer*

              I hesitate to be harsh, because we really are not getting the whole picture, but I think a bit of self awareness might be useful here. You say that she’s only into the rules for things that might be audit worthy and the like. Yet, it also seems from your description that she is trying to get the boss to enforce rules on the other co-worker’s attendance, childcare and neatness. In most fields, that kind of thing is not likely to prompt a government investigation or lawsuit. So, what’s going on?

    4. ClaireS*

      Could they access some training on Emotional Intelligence or team building? Sounds like they need help understanding the more interpersonal aspects of the role.

      1. matcha123*

        For some of the roles, I don’t think that any additional training was offered or encouraged. Hopefully this current role affords that, I’ll ask them to look into it :)

    5. Simonthegrey*

      No advice, but you pretty much just described my husband. He really is incredibly smart and efficient as a worker, but he comes across as very brusque and almost rude because if something isn’t part of the job/work, he doesn’t understand why it needs to be done. I don’t mean a “that’s not my job” mentality. More of a, “I don’t drink coffee, so why would I take five minutes to get coffee and socialize with the guys? Better go in my office” mentality. I love him because he’s blunt and honest but I realize those are the same characteristics that made him a target for the most recent round of layoffs. He didn’t have the soft skills with the people he worked with. It’s too bad, but he’s now finally starting to listen to me when I tell him that sometimes you have to smile, nod, and ask about the other person’s kid/car/dog/hobby.

      1. matcha123*

        Yes! This!
        But because of this experience, I’ve spent time thinking about how I can/should approach people at my own workplace. I’ve had coworkers who seem cold and distant, and unless I see them wiping boogers on everything and drinking beers at their desks, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
        Good luck to him!

    6. INTP*

      Others have already said a lot of what I’ve typed out, but I wanted to add this:

      I am an introvert, a bit awkward, and often have little to talk about with coworkers. However, I’ve found that the most extroverted workplace (unless it’s VERY weird and militantly social) will eventually warm to you if you 1) are friendly and 2) make people’s lives easier. You may never be the person who charms your way to the top or holds onto the job that they suck at, but you’ll be appreciated. I think focusing on these two keys would really help this person.

      For #1, this person should really watch out for any unintentional condescension. It’s just my overwhelming gut feeling that this person comes across as condescending about their knowledge and experience, especially regarding their degree. Also, social interactions should focus on making people feel good – responding to the chitchat or saying hi or bye may not be enough. A good strategy is to remember a thing or two about each person and ask questions. You may not have any topics of mutual interest to chat about for hours, but you can fill 2 minutes by asking, “How’s your ____ doing/going?” (insert wedding planning, children, gardening, triathlon training, house buying, whatever). Just asking each person one question a week can do a lot to reverse the impression that you don’t care about anyone because you’re not chatty with them.

      For #2, if this person is really invested in getting people punished for breaking rules and making everyone follow the letter of the law, they definitely aren’t making everyone’s lives easier! They should learn to mind their own business and adopt a personal rule of only raising an issue when something is directly affecting their own work or might be disastrous for the business. And in general (there are a few things worth fighting for, but not many) they should raise the issue one time with their supervisor and if nothing is going to be done, let it go.

      I think it’s too late for this person at their current workplace, but I’m willing to bet that reigning in the condescension, asking friendly questions, and staying out of other people’s business will make a world of difference at their next job.

      1. krisl*

        “The most extroverted workplace (unless it’s VERY weird and militantly social) will eventually warm to you if you 1) are friendly and 2) make people’s lives easier. ”

        This! I’m also an introvert and not socially adept, but people seem to like me because I’m nice (even though I can’t think of good small talk), and I’m helpful and friendly, and I treat people well.

      2. matcha123*

        Definitely not looking to get people in trouble or severely adhere to the rules.
        But the rules this person is most worried about are ones that directly relate to them getting their license/certification. I guess if this person decides to go along with other people and ignore rules X/Y/Z and the government finds out, this person will not ever be able to get their certification and job opportunities in their field will be effectively reduced to zero.

        Perhaps similar to the letter writer a week or so ago who was an accountant for a business that wasn’t paying their bills on time and was lying to clients. Even though her boss directed her to do so, doing so would reflect badly on her character in the end. This person is in a somewhat similar situation it seems.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I think everyone here has made great points that definitely will help.

      FWIW, I would also advise the friend to learn how to pick jobs better. It may not all be about her personality and it may have something to do with not paying attention to people at the interview stage. She could be missing cues that are red flags.

      If she knows that she is not an outgoing person, pick work settings that require less contact. This could mean a smaller work place with less people. It could mean avoiding public facing jobs.

      She could be trying to jam a round peg (meaning herself) into a square hole (wrong work setting). Sometimes you can take a job and figure you will grow into the job. But there are some settings that a person might never grow into.
      This is a silly example, please bear with me: I want a good paying job. So I decide I am going to work on a line crew for the telephone company. (We are pretending I have the ability to understand the technology here, for the sake of the example.) However, I have one problem. I HATE ladders. I mean really hate ladders as in life-long hatred of ladders, scaffolding, heights, roofs, etc. But I insist upon taking this job and end up miserable and wondering WHY.

      My hatred of heights is part of me. It’s part of who I am. In my example here, I have just denied this entire part of me and how I am about things. Ask your friend if she has a part of herself that she is denying. A person who denies entire parts of who they are can end up in jobs that feel more like hell. This whole thing could be that she is not getting what she needs out of job therefore she ends up stilted and awkward, like a fish out of water.

      1. matcha123*

        In this case, two of the jobs I mentioned were/are in the person’s field and one was at a call center.

        The client facing parts of the jobs seem to be fine and this person is able to do excellent work with clients and the associated paperwork, etc.

        The newest thing I’ve hear is at the current workplace where the admin? secretary? is filing this person’s reports incorrectly and telling clients they should work with other people. It seems that the people in charge are not interested in intervening and this person needs this job in order to complete various steps for field-related certification.

        I think that after they have this certification or licensing, they will have more job opportunities to choose from.

  26. HeyNonnyNonny*

    Good people of AAM, I am in need of your tact!

    My cube is in a Very Bad Location. I am right by a conference room, and at a nexus of main walkways, so people frequently congretate pre- or post-meeting, or if they run into each other. They are often very loud, and talk about the most inane things (Mayans have tails. I found a bear in my cabin. etc.) It’s crazy distracting. I need help coming up with ways to politely tell people to move/be quiet because 1: I don’t actually know or work with any of these people, 2: I am junior and new enough that I don’t want to go against ‘culture’ (I know for a fact they’ve done this long before I got this cube), and 3: I’m fairly introverted, so I need something that I can practice in my head.

    Any help would be appreciated!

    1. BRR*

      I’m in the same boat so I look forward to responses. My dream is to get one of those no stopping or parking signs and hang it outside my cube.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I sit in the middle of an open area and it drives me nuts. Here’s how I handle people lingering outside the conference rooms – I look very apologetic, and then say, “I”m really sorry, but I have to get on a call now and can’t hear; do you mind moving down a few feet? And then they usually just leave. I know you shouldn’t have to act in an apologetic manner but people don’t like to be shushed; it puts them on the defensive.

      1. hildi*

        I really like this. It’s work-related and everyone understands having to make a call and needing some quiet. Most of those people don’t even realize they’re being loud (haven’t we all been caught up in a conversation without realizing where we were and who was around us?), but this is a gentle, legitimate reminder. And asking them to move down a few feet is totally reasonable – you’re not asking them to stop the conversation, which is much harsher and unnecessary. I’m glad you posted this – it’s a good one to remember!

      2. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Oh, I love the wording for this. Asking them to move is much easier than asking them to be quiet. I’ll have to practice this one.

      3. nep*

        Yeah — that ‘I’m really sorry’ sounds misplaced and not called for. But I see your point that people get defensive when being shushed. I might just say, ‘Hi’ as a way of getting their attention, then go into the ‘I’ve got to get on a call now and I can’t hear…’

      4. AnonAnalyst*

        This is exactly what I was going to suggest. This happens occasionally in my workplace, and it’s a pretty reasonable request so no one seems to mind whenever I’ve used it.

      5. OhNo*

        Other options: you are starting a webinar, or listening to a tutorial, or on a really tight deadline and really need to focus. Just rotate between them as desired, so you have a couple options and don’t get a reputation as “that guy who is always on the phone”.

    3. Fawn*

      As someone in this very same position (and also junior, and also introverted), I just want you to know you’re not alone! The only think I can suggest is headphones or earplugs, if your work allows for it. Good luck!

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Glad I’m not the only one dealing with this!

        I do wear headphones, but some of these people’s voices carry even over that!

    4. Aunt Vixen*

      Others may have advice in response to the question you actually asked. When I’ve been in similar situations, I’ve put on headphones – big obvious ones so people don’t start talking to me without realizing that I’ve got them on. Retro-looking ear-can headphones. And when those don’t do the job on their own, I put foam earplugs in first.

      I’m basically the airport ground crew of office workers.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        AV, how do you manage all that without getting a headache? I would love the giant headphones idea if they’re comfortable!

    5. Kara Ayako*

      I also sit outside a conference room, but I tend to just ignore it unless I’m on the phone. When I’m on the phone, I’ll excuse myself for a minute, put the phone on mute, and say something along the lines of “I’m so sorry, guys, but I’m on the phone” and that’s always enough for them to apologize and quietly scamper away.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        From what I gathered, the guy was staying with a group of people in a cabin, and he came downstairs one day to find a bear in the kitchen. Apparently a cabin-mate had let it in the night before– there may have been drinking involved. So the guy just went back upstairs to bed. That’s all!

        1. ACA*

          I hope there was drinking involved; it seems even worse to choose to let a bear in the cabin when sober!

      2. chewbecca*

        Me too! I was thinking that if my cabin had a bear in it, it would cease to be my cabin and become the bear’s.

    6. Mike C.*

      There are areas all over my workplace like this, and in those areas are polite but firm signs saying something to the effect of, “Please use a conference room for discussions, the noise is a huge distraction for us.” It seems to work pretty well.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Hm, that might even work for me to just say directly to them. If only I could get an office-wide policy on those…

        1. Mike C.*

          You can do that if you like, but you might get tired of it after a while. :)

          Really though, I’ve been in both spots and sometimes I’m still focused on what was going on during the meeting or I want to finish something up that only applied to a few of us, and having that reminder is a nice way to take off those blinders for a second and remember that there are others around.

          If your coworkers are reasonable, I’m sure they’ll feel the same way.

      2. Windchime*

        Yeah, we have some signs in our area too. People tend to get chatty in the hall by the restrooms or coming and going from the lunch room, so there are signs that say something like, “This is a work area. Please keep noise and distractions to a minimum.”

    7. Janis*

      A colleague put up a Dilbert cartoon outside her cubicle about this:

      Alice (cranky engineer) is speaking to 2 guys outside her cube, “I hate to interrupt your loud conversation outside my cubicle…”
      Second panel: “But if you don’t go away, I’ll pound your inconsiderate head so far into your torso that you have to drop your pants to say hello.”
      Third panel: Wally asks Dilbert, “Did you just hear a strange noise?” Dilbert, standing near a person stuffed in a trashcan, “It sounded like Melp! Melp!”

      I’m not saying the chatter ended completely, but she put it up with no comment and people got the picture. Maybe you could dig up that cartoon on Dilbert.com?

    8. Artemesia*

      If there is any place else you could move, ask to do that with a focus on — my cube is essentially near the post meeting discussion spot and the noise is making it hard for me to hear on the phone and concentrate on the TPS reports. Could I move to X cube so I can concentrate better.
      As always when making a request lead with the business reason and ask if there is anything that can be done — if at all possible have a potential solution like that open cube X.

      You will never get people to stop talking by your cube and you will soon become the office nag trying.

  27. a new person*

    Hi! So I just found out I have an infectious disease. While I wait for my coming appointments and figure out what the next steps are in tackling that, my research suggests that the standard course of treatment involves several months of weekly treatment with awful multiple-days-long-flu-sort side effects. I’m of course scared.

    I told my direct supervisor about this as a heads up (“There’s a chance I might have to take time off work due to medical treatment”) and my supervisor and my workplace are very understanding! The people I work with are willing to work with me to figure out a flexible schedule that works for everyone. So going forward, I’m optimistic that I will be okay work-wise. I’ve only been working here a few months.

    Just wanted to share this happy story with everyone, have a good Friday everyone!

    1. nep*

      Sorry you’re dealing with that. Sounds like you’re handling things well at the job, and great that your supervisor and co-workers are being understanding and helpful. Stress won’t help the healing process, of course. Best wishes as you treat and recover.

  28. Anonie*

    I may be jumping from the frying pan into the skillet! Was invited to interview for a position I think has promise but the reviews on glass door were bad. High turnover and bad management were the complaints. The Executive Director is retiring in December and there are a lot of positions open at the management level. My interview is with two people who are “acting managers” of other departments because the manager positions are open. I really want to get out of my current job. I hate my manager! I was recently given a promotion and raise but I still want to leave because I hate her that much. Trying not jump at something that could be awful as well. Should I take a chance on new leadership coming in when it sounds like there are problems with the new organization? I want to be open to the possibility of getting a job with this company but now I’m worried about jumping from the frying pan into the skillet.

    1. Ms. Anonymity*

      Personally, I like to roll the dice. I’d jump and be excited about the new opportunities and challenges unless I thought the company was going to go under. If that’s not the case, you’d be in an excellent environment to be able to show off your skills and make a difference. You might even get promoted quicker than in a more stable environment.

      1. Anonie*

        The company itself is very stable they have been around a very long time. I don’t think they are going anywhere anytime soon. I think there is possibility for growth. I’m just a look before you leap kind of person but sometimes I think that is why my career is not where I want it to be because I have not taken enough chances. I think you are right that it could be an opportunity to get promoted more quickly in this environment.

    2. ClaireS*

      I’d prep some pointed questions for the interview to ascertain how they are handling these specific challenges.

      I think Allison’s give some advice on this before but I’d look for questions like: “there appears to be high turnover at the management level. What type of qualities will you be looking for as you look for the manager I’ll be reporting to?” “This appears to be a transitional time for the company, what values and strategies are you hoping to drive forward with”

  29. SuzyQ*

    Looking for some advice on how to delicately tell my boss I am bored out of my mind. I just passed the 90 day mark at my new job and am preparing for a review. I need more things to do here, but still being fairly new I am not sure just what other types of responsibilities I can ask for. Also, I’m not sure how to explain just how I have been filling my time here if that comes up. I read this site and other business-type blogs, stretch projects out for a really long time but my days still crawl by. But really, I want more to do.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I know exactly how that feels. I would frame it more as a long-term goal thing– “this is what I’d like to accomplish by the end of the year”– rather than a, “Give me more to do!” thing. Chances are, you won’t need to explain how you fill your days, especially if they’re aware your workload is light. Is there any kind of project you’d be interested in learning about? Any area you think you could help in? Hard to know without knowing your position/field, but if you’re an assistant and you’re a good proofreader, you can offer those services, things like that. If you’re in an industry that gets some press coverage, you could offer to do a weekly press wrap-up. Again, tough to give specific examples, but you can always ask: “I’d like to get involved in teapot design; is there any way I can help in that area?”

      1. SuzyQ*

        Thanks! I am actually a manager in a very small organization. Your comment did just remind me that I am going to offer to backup some of the office staff and need to learn how to do their jobs. I like the suggestion to ask if I can help in certain areas. Phew! Now just to get through the review.

        1. OhNo*

          I feel like it’s always a good idea for a manager to get some insight into what the employees do. Or, at least, I like it when my managers do that. Learning those aspects would be a really useful way to fill your time.

          Also, this one might be a bit boring, but you could also ask if there are any manuals, training materials, etc. that you could help re-write or organize while you are doing this. I find that most training materials are written by the person who knows the process best – which works great in terms of getting everything down, but sometimes they miss steps, or instructions aren’t as thorough as they could/should be because certain things about what they do are so normal to them that they forget about it. So reviewing that kind of thing might also help.

    2. dawnofthenerds*

      I’m in sort of the same boat, except one month in. Maybe ask them about your job performance, and if they say good things, talk about how you’ve made a lot of progress adjusting to a new place and learning the tasks, and that you feel you’re ready to take on more responsibility or additional tasks. That way it sounds more like you’ve ramped up to where you are now and are eager to go further, rather than, “soooo booooored.”

    3. Red*

      I phrased my “delicate suggestion” as a request for cross training. Now I regret it just a little (garnishment is really a depressing duty).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Do you have a job description for your position? That might give you some clues as to where to go next.

      I guess that if I was asked how I fill up my time, I would just turn the question around by saying, “Oh good, that is something I wanted us to talk about. I feel that I have time available that I could make myself of more value to this company and I wanted your thoughts on how best to proceed.”

  30. Nerd Girl*

    I started working for my current company as a long term temp just about a year ago. Two other women started with me. In the last six months, myself and another temp were offered permanent positions within the company. These positions came after we had spoken with our supervisor about our desire to be full time, worked diligently to master the skills taught to us and asked to learn more, and become an integral part of the team here. The third woman hasn’t done any of this. She has never communicated her interest in being full time and she does the bare minimum of work and never seeks out more.
    Recently she’s started this passive aggressive approach to dealing with her frustration at not being offered a full time position. She sighs dramatically, mutters under her breath about how disgusted and discouraged she is, and basically makes it difficult for the other woman and I to get on with our day. It’s ALL day, every day. The sighs come every 2 – 3 minutes, the muttering is constant, and her displeasure is palpable. We’re a remote location so it’s not as if our manager is going to see or hear this (though I have been informed that she’s been sending frustrated “WHY HAVEN’T YOU HIRED ME???!!!!” emails to our supervisor complete with caps and heavy punctuation). I’ve been wearing my headphones which blocks her out but she’s taken to moping and walking around the office like a kicked puppy.
    Any advice on how to deal with her? Should I even bother? I don’t necessarily care for this woman and wouldn’t be upset if her contract expired and she moved on to other things. But how I deal with it until then? That date won’t be until June-ish.

    1. Sunflower*

      Be honest and tell her you and the other woman’s experience. Tell her when you desired to be full-time, you made sure you were putting your best work forward, going above and beyond and you expressed interest in being full-time. Just be frank and say ‘If you aren’t sure why they are hiring you, why don’t you have a calm conversation with Jane and explain why you deserve to be full time’ If she says she has, I would just try to continue ignoring her and hope Jane will give her some direction on how she can reach full time status.

    2. Gwen*

      I would ignore her 100%, honestly. People like this don’t respond to logic. It’s a persecution complex, plain and simple, and any kind of interaction is just going to tell her that she can get attention from you if she mopes hard enough/dramatically enough. But, then, I also ignore people who SIGH DRAMATICALLY~ or MUTTER UNDER THEIR BREATH~ as a matter of principle. If you want to talk about something, you can use your words like a human adult.

      1. Windchime*

        This person also works on my team. She rolls her eyes, crosses her arms defensively, mutters sarcastic comments under her breath (“ha!” or “yeah, good luck with THAT”). She does this in meetings with clients as well as internal meetings. If she’s not muttering and sighing, she’s laughing compulsively and talking over people. It’s totally annoying and she wonders why she only gets assigned boring work that she believes is beneath her: I wish there was a way to tell her it’s because her annoying, negative habits make her so difficult to work with. But that would just cause another sighing, sarcastic fit.

    3. Observer*

      Headphones, music and something to keep you busy every time she complains. Every. single. time. If she says something to you just calmly tell her that you got offered positions after expressing interest POLITELY but clearly and mastering the skill and doing the work necessary for the job. And, then refuse to discuss it any further.

      I feel bad for her, but I can’t imagine that you’ll be able to change anything, so you might as well keep yourself from going nuts.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t think she will last until June. With that attitude I would be amazed if she lasted to December. Usually people who are that agitated end up quitting. She may call in sick a lot, too.

  31. Kay*

    I’m going to an event next week with one of our sales reps representing our company. We cater to students, so basically a booth at a college fair. I’ll likely be standing the entire time. Would it be completely unprofessional to wear black athletic style shoes as long as I wear appropriate black slacks and a nice top? I have issues with my feet when I stand in one place for long periods, and when asked to attend, I thought it would be a really good opportunity to meet some coworkers I don’t know because I work remotely. I wore out my pair of black flats and rarely (basically never) wear dress shoes in my normal work.

    1. Another comment on the situation*

      I have great luck with flats with athletic looking bottoms. Cole Haan had some great ones a few years ago that had Nike Air integrated in them. This month’s issue of Shop Smart also has a short article on stylish comfortable shoes.

      1. Another comment on the situation*

        You can go to the Zappos website and select womens, office/career, comfort, etc. to see what they have.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      This would be totally fine. There are a lot of options that are work appropriate but still comfy for standing all day. And yeah, you’ll be standing all day.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think college students are the most informal audience/demographic I can think of, but you could always ask the sales rep what they think, since they’ve probably been to a ton of these events, and they would know if, say, the event organizer at AAM University tends to complain to the company if a rep isn’t wearing a suit or something silly and random like that.

    4. Agile Phalanges*

      If you’re able to front the money, order a whole slew of potential shoes from Zappos that are nice-looking but in brands known to be comfortable. I did that before a trade show, and kept two pairs and send the rest back for a refund to my credit card (shipping both ways is free with Zappos). I got recommendations from friends, FB, and just poking around the site, and it turns out some that looked comfy and came highly recommended weren’t so comfy on my feet, some that were comfy and looked okay online looked really dowdy in person, and there were some there were cute AND comfy once I tried them on. Good luck!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I have problem feet, too.
      Shoe inserts are great. If you are planning on buying shoes for this event, get a half size larger than your usual size. Add the shoe inserts, even the cheapies will give you some benefit.

      Drink plenty of water, that will help. And you have the added benefit of having to walk to the rest room.

  32. Daisy*

    We are having a problem with having people’s lunches, coffee, tea, etc. being stolen. I work in a university and our break room is a room just off a classroom with no door attached. It is employees only and yet students routinely just go in and help themselves to whatever they want. Whenever we manage to catch one of them, they never are ashamed and they say that they pay a lot of tuition money to go here (state university) and that they should be able to eat what they want – even if it is someone else lunch. We have placed signs up in the room but we have been told repeatedly that we will not ever be getting a door for this room. Any suggestions? We cannot ‘guard’ it all the time since most of us work in another area of the building, we mostly do the occasional walk by when we have a chance. I have stopped using the break room entirely for storing anything and only use it for the microwave but there are days when I would love to use the refrigerator.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Could you move the fridge elsewhere, like in someone’s office or just not near the classroom?

      Can’t believe they’d do that and then sass you when you catch them!

      1. Daisy*

        No, it is only there because we are squeezed for space everywhere else.

        One student was caught and I have to go back there a few minutes alter for something and he was back at the Keurig again trying to make himself another cup of coffee from the stack of pods that I had personally bought and had previously told him that they were mine and he was not to have any. I took that cup of coffee away from him and poured it out just like I did the first one but that time, I took all my pods with me back to my office.

        1. Puddin*

          Has anyone reported the students to security or the ‘code of conduct’ folks at the school? Snap a photo of the student if you cannot get their name then call security. Thieves are the worst.

          1. HeyNonnyNonny*

            Yes, this. Especially since you already told the student that it wasn’t public coffee, and he made another cup right away.

    2. BRR*

      Lunch box and an ice pack. Unless you can get a chain and lock for the fridge and cabinets. You will not win the battle of changing the students’ actions (who are being absolute jerks).

    3. C Average*

      That’s awful!

      In high school, my good friend often had his lunch pilfered from his locker by a lunch thief, and we had a pretty good idea who the thief was. My friend’s mom one day made him a real lunch (which he hid under some other stuff in his backpack) as well as an additional lunch to be left in the usual location for the thief to find. It contained cookies–with a circle of flannel baked into the middle of each one! I’m told the thief’s reaction was awesome, and am sad that I didn’t witness it. Anyway, the flannel trick works in sandwiches, too.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        That’s a lot nicer than what I was thinking….

        Let’s just say that I really like hot sauce and leave it at that.

    4. Elkay*

      That’s insanity, I can’t believe they’re not even ashamed to be caught! Department issued locking lunchboxes maybe?

    5. Aunt Vixen*

      Lock the fridge. I mean with like a steel hasp and a padlock like you’d find on a shed with barn doors; they make 90-degree ones so you can put the bar on the fridge door and the hasp on the side. Give employees a key and let the students get their snacks from the vending machine.

    6. Sunflower*

      I would find a lunch box that you are able to put a simple lock on. I feel for you though- these people sound awful!!

    7. Muriel Heslop*

      That is totally bizarre! There is more than one person who thinks he or she is entitled to eat someone else’s food because they pay tuition? I cannot imagine that there is any solution for that other than don’t leave your food there. Might be time to invest in a mini-fridge (our team members chipped in for one years ago to avoid this problem.)

      Has anyone suggested to the administration that a door be added to this break room? Is there another area that could be appropriated as a break room? Good luck!

    8. Ezri*

      So, by that logic… since we pay taxes in the US, are we entitled to food belonging to Congress? Has more than one of them used this justification?

    9. Magda*

      That is outrageous! Is theft not a disciplinary offense for students?

      I’m just… boggled by this. I’m flashing back to my hard ass Catholic school upbringing. If I had eaten a teacher’s lunch and shown no remorse, I’m pretty sure the resulting punishment could have been seen/heard from outer space.

    10. Karowen*

      That’s horrendous. As a person in my 20s with student loan debt, I can (to an extent) understand the concept of “I paid a lot, I’m going to get my money’s worth,” but that (a) does not include stealing and (b) does not include making lives miserable for the people who work there! The person with the K cups may be the single most entitled donkey’s ass I’ve heard of yet on this blog…and that’s saying something.

    11. matcha123*

      When I was in university, there was nothing I hated more than hearing some pathetic excuse for bad behavior justified by high tuition fees. You know the costs when you applied, and in most cases it is your parents, not you, who are footing the bill.

      Is it possible to put a lock on the fridge with keys that only current staff have access to? Universities really should be willing to expel students for things like this. Plagiarizing a paper is stealing. Taking someone’s lunch is also stealing.

    12. Gwen*

      I could understand (though not necessarily agree with) that argument if it pertained to stealing food from a dining hall/cafeteria where you theoretically have paid more for your dining plan than you believe the food you receive from it is worth. But a staff member’s personal property?? Serious WTF.

      1. WorkingFromCafeInCA*

        I agree with everyone else- get a lock for the fridge and cabinets, and ask each student perpetrator for their name and student ID number to report to campus safety. (Maybe first check with campus police on what you’re allowed to ask students though, for privacy reasons. Can staff ask to verify their student status via asking for ID?)

        This lock looks good, bc no drilling required, AND you can use a combination lock: http://www.amazon.com/Marinelock-MLDOORW-Refrigerator-Door-Lock/dp/B000QD32MY

        Grrr entitled students are the worst. Good luck!

        1. Windchime*

          Did anyone read the comments on this lock? One person bought it because her Coonhound had figured out how to open the refrigerator!

    13. LCL*

      Talk to Facilities and find out what would have to happen to get a door with a lock installed. Talk to Security and tell them you have a security concern. Get these two groups on your side, then talk to whoever is opposing adding the door, that has the power to approve it. Often management will oppose physical changes to a workplace because they don’t do that kind of work, don’t have any idea of what’s involved so see it as a huge unwieldy job. Meanwhile, Facilities does this kind of work all the time. If your business is big enough to be a University it has to have a facilities/maintenance department.

        1. LCL*

          It could, but there is often room for some creative project budgeting. Maybe the rest of the area needs a reno, and this is a small part. Or something. Sometimes security issues are funded out of a different budget…

          1. fposte*

            At my university this would be major–it would have to be a fire door, for one thing, with proper framing–and it really isn’t something that would get purchased because of a staff lunch issue.

    14. INTP*

      I agree, you’re going to have to get a lock for the refrigerator and cabinets. And in the meantime, you can urge individuals to use locking lunchboxes. I remember an old AAM post where someone’s boss habitually ate everyone’s food, and the update said that it stopped when she got a locking lunchbox and her coworkers followed suit. In the meantime, things like k-cup pods may have to be kept in individual offices.

      I’d also like to express my disdain for the students’ rationalization. Even if high tuition were a valid excuse for stealing food, they’re also stealing from grad students and adjuncts who are living on even tighter budgets than the average undergrad! They may be stealing lunches from people who can’t afford to go pay $7 for a food court lunch instead, and who then have to go teach a class while feeling faint from hunger, and will be up working late that night because they were too hungry to concentrate while stuck on campus. Or people of any level who don’t have time to go get food between the classes they teach, meetings, and other obligations.

    15. Anx*

      Could you leave any information about food resources?

      Being a student can make you ineligible for food stamps unless you also work 20 hours. I’m sure the root of this problem is attitude and thievery, but I think you should also consider the plight of student hunger.

    16. Artemesia*

      I am not sure why a student who thieves is not expelled.

      The only possible solution if the refrigerator is to remain there is to put a padlock on it. Only staff have the combination — or a keyed lock with the receptionist having the key. Otherwise it needs to be moved to a space that is not accessible.

  33. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I had an extremely frustrating conversation with my manager yesterday. He called me (I work remotely) and asked me to put together some ideas for reports to create for press and sales and implied that I should be working on creating these reports on a regular basis. But… that’s what I do. It took him a very long time to figure out what to do with me (I’m in a newly created position), and I started taking matters into my own hands, so to speak. I churn out monthly outreach reports for sales and press (unasked, as in, no one has to remind me to do it), and I told my boss I’m doing a big report on, say, this year’s chocolate teapot models, again unasked. I regularly talk with my salespeople about what kinds of information their clients and prospective clients are looking for. So why on earth was this brought up yesterday??? My frustration mostly lies in that I feel like my job is constantly being audited, like they know they don’t give me enough work, so I’m hesitant to say, “Boss, you know I already do that, right?”, which is what I would have done at my last gig. I feel that if I question anything, they’ll let me go. We also had a small issue where a client request came in and I assumed it would come to me– when I didn’t see the assignment come through, I asked my boss about it, and he was all, “Oh! Right! I gave it to the other team, but you should do that one,” as if he’s completely forgotten why he hired me. All I could do was stare at the phone in disbelief. Oh, and let’s not forget that the ideas I shot out briefly on the phone that were all met with, “No, I don’t think that’s valuable,” and, “No, I don’t think anyone cares about that.” You hired me because I spent 10 years on the client side! I talk to people! I talk to my salespeople all the time. I have an idea of what people are looking for. SHEESH.

    However, I did see an opening for a position in my field and in my geographic area for a company whose CEO used to work for a company with whom I had very close ties at my old job. I don’t think he’d remember me right away– he left that company before I took over our projects on the client side– but I’m going to apply and ask our mutual connections to put in a good word for me.

  34. Livin' in a Box*

    I hired someone for the first time this week, and it was awful.

    I needed a cartoonist to draw my header for my website. Seems simple, right? Nearly everyone who applied sent me cover letters about how great their coding and web design skills were and I was like… Um what?

    After sifting through about a hundred illiterate applicants, I gave up on my ad.

    I did eventually find a great cartoonist, after searching odesk profiles for half the day.

    1. soitgoes*

      Did you post the ad in the correct category? It sounds like those applicants thought you were advertising a web design job.

    2. Dev Something*

      Freelance webdesign is quite competative and there’s a lot of workers from India and the like. So the mass-apply strategy is understandably popular, especially for those who aren’t great with English.

      1. Livin' in a Box*

        I don’t understand why my ad was even on their radar; web design wasn’t mentioned once! I have a lot of sympathy for people who have to hire regularly.

  35. the gold digger*

    I really like my new job, but was super disappointed the other day when I saw a guy carrying a big potted plant down the hall and asked him if he was bringing me a shrubbery and he did not give me anywhere near an appropriate answer. What is wrong with Kids These Days?

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      We were doing mic checks on a remote last week and one of the guys helping us out did the entire bridge of death scene. It was hysterical.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Ha, I love this. My BIL is a professor and when no one answered a question recently, he did the “Bueller? Bueller? quote and said he got a bunch of blank looks. The kid who sits next to me has never heard of Happy Days!

      1. Artemesia*

        Nothing dates a professor like using references that are decades out of date. Does he also reference old ‘I love Lucy’ episodes?

    3. TotesMaGoats*

      I fully intend to indoctrinate my son with all the movies of my youth. Star Wars, Monty Python, Princess Bride, and Indiana Jones (but not the last one), just to name a few.

      When one of us is getting dropped off and the other stays in the car (such as getting something at the store), the standard refrain is…”lock the doors” by the person leaving and “hope they don’t have blasters” by the person staying.

      1. GH in SoCAl*

        Ha! I did that exact same call-and-response to my Boss two jobs ago as he was on his way out, and got this amazed high five back. He’s a funny geek and until that moment I guess he thought I was a stodgy intellectual. (I’m a couple of years older than him but we’re both in the Star Wars Generation!)

    4. Nerd Girl*

      This is great!!! My husband and I have made sure that our kids (9 and 8) are well versed in all of our favorite movies. I can’t explain how much I love it when they quote a movie and use the quote correctly to the situation. The other day my niece was trying to get into their bedroom and my son was standing on the other side of the door doing the french soldiers “Your father was a hampster….” and then he opened the door, tapped the top of his head and blew raspberries at her. My niece wasn’t happy but my sister thought it was hysterical!!!

      1. Artemesia*

        Our kids quote Singing in the Rain. Not long ago I did the ‘no no no, yes yes yes’ scene with my granddaughter who is a pre-schooler and with whom I had shared that scene. She thought it was hilarious. So when I did the ‘no no no’ and she did the ‘yes yes yes’ bit her Dad tried to intervene because he was trying to ‘ignore certain behavior’ rather than saying ‘no.’ He didn’t realize we were doing a ‘bit’ for a few beats.

    5. Anonsie*

      A new hire from some months back got into one of our elevators for the first time and, seeing how big they were on the inside, said “What is this, the Tardis?” The rest of the people in the elevator just starred at her. She was so disappointed.

    6. Cath in Canada*

      I used to work on a gene called Spam1 (sperm adhesion molecule 1), and I used to include references to the spam sketch / song in every presentation. It caused about 50% laughs / 50% confusion

  36. Question from New York State*

    My husband is most likely getting a transfer for work to a remote village in Alaska (actually , not a village, about 10 people live there). My question surrounds what I can do while there (2 or 3 year contract). I could study for an Masters Degree online or try to get work in the closest town (40 minute drive away) which would be retail or clerical work. Is it better to have online schooling to answer for a 2 year gap in work or would having a retail or clerical job and volunteering be better? Would you try and get some kind of part time career-related in the city that is a 2 hour drive away? I currently work in government communications and am in my late 20s, so I only have about 4 years of career work under my belt.

    1. Amanda*

      I think an online Master’s would be better, if you can’t get something career-related within a reasonable commute.

      What a fun adventure!

      1. Question from New York State*

        Yes and now. I know I don’t want to do an MBA, but a Masters of Public Relations, Masters of Communication or Masters of Public Admin are all relevant to jobs in my field. I may be seen as overqualified for some positions when it comes time to apply for jobs again. The biggest ‘con’ of this is that we will most likely move in February 2015, but the online programs that I qualify for don’t start until September 2015, so I will have a lot of time of just waiting, so I hope to fill my time by doing something. Doing courses ahead of time is not an option (asked already).

        1. Felicia*

          I think even if you don’t choose a masters, there are a lot of remote opportunities both volunteer and paid, in public relations/communications. I’m doing one right now where I’ve never even seen the people i’m volunteering for. It gives me a lot of publish clips which I’m finding more essential than education in the field.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      I would say that this is one of those situations where regardless of which you pick, school or work, you’ll want to explain it in a cover letter. Especially if you pick work and it’s radically different from what you were doing. Such as…

      “I’ve learned so much about adaptability in the last few years. Our family moved to a remote area of Alaska for a two year contract….and I took the opportunity to….” There are a lot of ways to spin either time off for education or a change in field/career for the short term and really use it to your advantage.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      You can also look into remote opportunities– I wouldn’t be surprised if Alaska (especially certain more remote counties) had a lot of telecommuters in your field.

      You could also go to work for the local doctor’s office and make sure he gets along well with the quirky locals, even though he’s from New York and has never had to rough it in his life, or you could work for the local hot DJ who will later go on to woo an NYC fashionista who is way too good for him.

        1. Question from New York State*

          Haha fun! Oy to Friday as well. This ‘village’ is actually only the 10 people who all work for the same organization as my husband. The closest doctor is 2 hours away, the closest grocery story is 40 minutes away. We’re quite excited to head there! We’re both from Orgeon and looking to get out of the hustle and bustle of NY (although, we’re not near NYC).

          1. Ms. Anonymity*

            I wouldn’t hesitate to ask your current manager about telecommuting opportunities. There’s almost always something you can do from home and you never know until you ask. Even if it’s only a few hours a week, it would be something. I have a friend that just left Seattle and much, much to her surprise, her company asked her to work remotely… from Indiana! Good luck!

      1. Magda*

        Hahahaha! I mentally went to Cicely, too.

        Completely OT, but have you seen [i]Love Is Strange[/i]? I was so ridiculously excited that two NoEx actors unexpectedly popped up!

      1. Question from New York State*

        Very unlikely that I could keep working for my current employer, since it’s with the NY State government, so they won’t let me work for them from another state. I’m kind of stumped at where to go or look for telecommuting work.

  37. CindySF*

    My stressful commute has turned into a killer commute … I’m now getting 1.5 hrs to 2 hrs each way to work and back, and to top it off: today I got cut off (force merged) by someone who drove next to me in the median.

    Love working where I do, but I’m seriously considering moving away from SF and it’s super conflicting. Anyone have any advice for making the move? I feel guilty but it’s getting crazy.

    1. Anoners*

      I think it boils down to dealing with the commute, finding a job closer to your house, or moving closer to your current job. I chose to move closer to my job. The rent is more, but, my god having my sanity and a 10 minute walk to work is worth it! Or maybe there is another way to get to work you haven’t thought of? (I’m sure you have already). I know how terrible commuting is, so I feel for you!

      1. CindySF*

        I’ve definitely considered moving closer, but we kind of missed the best time to move and now rents have gone all nuts with no other faster way to get to work. :(

        1. Ms. Anonymity*

          I would recommend working with a real estate agent to try to find you an apartment closer to the city. Do some serious thinking about your non-negotionables and the max you are willing to pay and turn them loose on finding you something. It certainly couldn’t hurt to try!

      2. Felicia*

        I did a commute like that for 3 months before I moved closer to my job. Now it’s a 15 minute subway ride and it’s wonderful. I’m so much happier and have more time to do stuff.

        1. CindySF*

          I’m jealous! Been doing this over a year and it’s not financially feasible to move closer. The closest apartments to work are about $1k more a month … too much.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Can you take transit? My sister used to work in SF but had a 1.5 hour train ride in to work. Sounds like you have to deal with some pretty terrible drivers!

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        I second this suggestion. Or, if you’re considering moving already, would it be possible to move somewhere outside of SF but closer to transit? When I lived in SF, most of my coworkers lived outside the city, but near BART or Caltrain stations, so they could just drive there and park and then take the train in, which was typically much faster than driving (and cheaper than paying SF rent/housing prices). Of course, if you work somewhere that’s not easily accessible by public transportation, this doesn’t really help!

    3. Jennifer*

      Are you 100% Set In Stone about where you live? Can you move closer to somewhere where you can take BART in or something? That might be easier than changing jobs these days.

      You have my sympathies because I am petrified of driving in SF. People are crazy in the streets.

      1. CindySF*

        We’re not, but I actually work down at Mountain View and live in Oakland (I have a misleading name!). Unfortunately no BART down past Millbrae, or else I’d be on it and the apartments are too much for us.

    4. B in the Bay*

      I have a friend who works in Mountain View and lives in Gilroy near the Caltrain station and takes the train to work everyday. Much more affordable, and he doesn’t drive anymore!

  38. Amanda*

    Does anyone have an opinion on whether it’s worth it to do the “verified certificate” courses from Coursera (versus just taking them for free)? Essentially, you pay $49 and they verify your identity and give you the option for LinkedIn integration to your profile.

    I’m trying to transition into a new field related to the courses I’m taking and am wondering if it makes any difference from a hiring perspective.

    1. Trixie*

      Eh, I think it’s giving away $50. The important part is having experience in the topic and being able to demonstrate you have the skills.

    2. LAI*

      I’m in the education field and I’ve explored some courses on Coursera but I don’t think they are really recognized anywhere yet (as in, I don’t think you can transfer the credit toward most degree programs). Therefore, I doubt they will count for much with employers either. You can certainly list them on your resume to demonstrate your interest in/commitment to a field, especially since you are trying to break into a new field, but I don’t think have them verified or not will make a difference since the point is showing your knowledge.

    3. Puddin*

      I had a friend who paid the $50 and it made some sense for her as she was long term unemployed. Being able to be a ‘verifiable’ student demonstrated that she was doing something constructive with her time, even though the job opps were slim. In our geo area, bootstrapping is highly favored so this technique helped her alleviate unemployment stigma.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      I think Alison might have answered something similar before and her takeaway was that it’s not something that should go on a resume. I’m not 100% sure it was Alison, though.

    5. WorkingFromCafeInCA*

      I completed a free coursera course from a top university, on a topic related to the industry I was trying to transition into. I put it only on my LinkedIn profile (to show my sincere interest in learning about the field on my own), and I was able to mention it in passing during a phone interview- again, as another way to show that although I didn’t have much experience, I was doing lots of things on my own to get there.

      My employer (I got that job) didn’t ask me even for the coursera certificate of completion (free), so I don’t think the $50 is worth it. Use it only to illustrate your passion for the topic.

  39. can't even*

    So yesterday our boss came in and threatened us with our jobs telling us there’s an ad out for our position so and I quote “you know what that means…get another job!” We’re a very small team so we’re 99% sure who is getting the axe since one person in particular has had a lot of issues here. Still. I just sighed and realized I need to start looking myself because I don’t want to work for people who operate like this. Only been here a few months, but it is just ridiculous. Sticking it out until I can find something else but just kind of feeling demoralized today.

    1. some1*

      At least you have a perfectly good answer for the, “Why are you looking for a new opportunity?” question at interviews

    2. Co anon*

      You don’t work in Northern Colorado do you? I know a company that operates like that there.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      My aunt used to say that things like this are a good heads up. So, yeah, upsetting in the moment but good in the long run because you can take action and protect yourself.

    4. Artemesia*

      Even if you are the last person they would replace you need to be gone asap. Hope the search goes well and that this company strangles on their own incompetence.

  40. Assisting Higher Ed*

    Hey Guys,

    So I have been in my position for a year this month and am starting to think about looking around internally in my academic organization. I know its a short time, but people rarely stay in my position (staff assistant) for more than 2 years around here. I’ve been really stressed about work lately and it is starting to trigger some health issues, generally I really like my job and organization, but working for so many people (I assist 5-6 people plus regular office admin duties) is really starting to take its toll and I’m realizing that it really isn’t playing to my strengths. I feel like I’m constantly setting myself for failing as I struggle to juggle so many plates at once. I’d like to find something where the work is more stream lined, even answering to 1 less person would be great.

    Does this sound reasonable? I don’t want to be a job hopper, but this is also my first job out of college and I feel like I’m expected to try stuff out a bit before I need to settle.

    Also does anyone have experience with job searching internally in academia? At what point do I need to tell my manager?

    Any help is very much appreciated, thanks.

    1. Fawn*

      I asked a similar question upthread, so you may want to keep an eye on it in case any of the responses are relevant to you :)

      I’m generally of the mindset that it’s not a good idea to leave a role if it’s starting to get out of hand. I think it’s much better, both psychologically and in terms of professionalism, to get things in order and then begin looking elsewhere if you are still unhappy. If you were able to reduce the workload slightly, could you see yourself sticking it out for another 6 months to a year?

      1. Assisting Higher Ed*

        It is less that things are a mess now and more that I really don’t want to be constantly running into this issue. I am good at my job and my bosses are pretty good about letting me know when I’m doing well and when I’m slipping a bit. There have been a few critical minutes when my manager had to step and help me cover the work load (which she is great and open about). In our meetings she is clear that she is there to jump in if needed.

        Its more that having to answer to so many people at once is really starting to affect my anxiety which I already see a therapist for. I feel like I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop or that no matter how organized I try to be something will slip through simply because there are so many pipelines and it is hard to tell what is critical to what person when many of my people are heavy hitters in the department.

        I just feel like if I was in a role where I could focus on helping a smaller group and really learn their personalities and work styles, rather than always feeling like I forgot someone or something.

        1. Fawn*

          Totally makes sense, and I can understand wanting to leave the kind of role where constantly putting out fires is just the nature of the beast. It’s definitely not worth sacrificing your mental health!

          Good luck with your job search!

    2. fposte*

      I think that’s a reasonable time to start looking. It’s also the kind of position that people often do move up and along from. Unless you’re really close with your manager, I don’t think I’d mention the plan to search until there was an actual job in the mix, and at that point it would be an it depends. So how well do you get along with your manager? And do you know where are the people who have previously been in that position went and how the transitions were?

      1. Assisting Higher Ed*

        We are a very large organization so it is pretty common for people to just bounce around departments and schools internally. I haven’t asked much about how the transitions actually go as I can to this decision just a few days ago and don’t want to tip the wrong people off.

        Personally I have found my manager to be pretty great and supportive while I learned this role and attempt to balance my workload, but I have also seen her be not so supportive to others when personality clashes arise.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I get the sense that you are not looking to be a career assistant and are hoping to move into a completely different role eventually. But here’s the thing: admin jobs have a career path just like any other and what you are doing is “paying your dues”. I am a career executive assistant and my first few jobs were hellish – managing multiple calendars and doing the endless duties of an entry-level department assistant. I worked my way up to higher and higher level jobs and now I work for only one big cheese and earn 6 figures if you include my bonus.
          I totally get why you are frustrated; it can be a real grind not to have autonomy and to feel pulled in a million different directions at once; and if you are only there to get your foot in the door then it’s even less bearable. We just lost a good junior admin because she only took the job because she assumed she’d get promoted quickly into a project management role. That rarely happens here and she quit the minute she realized it was going to be a dead end for her.
          That said, I think it’s fine to start looking, especially internally. Try to get something with fewer people to assist because that makes a huge difference. Good luck; I feel for you! It’s mentally exhausting to be working a job that is not a natural fit for you.

          1. BostonBaby*

            Thanks for the reply. I actually wouldn’t mind being an assistant long term, but I’m also in a stage where I don’t know exactly what I want to be doing with my life. I know that I do like working in Higher Ed, so I’m trying to see if I can find a place for myself in that.

            It really is the frustration of not being a natural fit. I actually like being an assistant (at least now) and get a lot of satisfaction when I have my people’s lives under control, it just sucks when I have 3-4 lives completely under control and then the other two lives decide to go to hell. I think I would really like being an executive assistant, but I’m not there yet in terms of experience.

    3. LAI*

      I think it’s completely reasonable. I used to be one of the 5-6 people who had 1 assistant reporting to all of us, and no one ever lasted in that position for more than 2 years. 1 year was actually more common. It’s just an exhausting role with not a lot of pay. We viewed the position as a jumping off point for people to get some basic office skills out of college, and we were always happy for people when they were able to move on to bigger and better things. Trust me, no one is expecting you to make a career out of that kind of role.

      As for internal job searches in academia, if you are at a large university, it’s unlikely that word about your candidacy will get around unless the hiring manager just happens to be friends with your supervisor. It’s very normal to not notify your manager until you have accepted a new position and are giving your 2 weeks notice. If you have a good relationship though, you certainly could give them earlier notice as a courtesy, like when you are in final interview stages. I wouldn’t do it earlier though because you never know how long your job search will take – I doubt most manager would outright fire you (it’s really hard to fire people in academia) but they might start replacing your duties, hinting that it’s time to go, etc. and it could sour a previously positive relationship.

    4. Ms. Anonymity*

      Assuming you have a manager you report to, why not ask them for help prioritizing your work? You can then start setting realistic expectations of those asking you to complete tasks. I.E. I can’t get to that this week but can have to you by next Wednesday.

    5. The LeGal*

      FWIW – My prior career was in academia. I held many positions at the college. I always told my boss after I saw a job posting that I was interested in and qualified for, but before I actually applied. You have no idea how many bosses told me that “I usually hear from HR, that’s great that you told me, and says a lot about your work ethic.” It’s a know-your-boss kind of thing though. I’ve held a position for 9 months, others for a year, and another for 2 years. I made sure I mastered my old position, and maintained my good reputation before I tried to move on internally. Good luck!

  41. Anna*

    My workplace is dealing with a LOT of change right now. Since May we’ve seen 8 people leave, and two people move in to new positions in the organization. A few on the management team (my coworkers). It’s weird and disconcerting and makes me wonder if I should look elsewhere. Granted, everyone who left went for different reasons. Some got better jobs, some are resigning due to being burned out, but I’m trying to not panic.

    1. Lucy*

      This happened in my office around this time last year – 15 people (out of a 40 person department) left over a two month period due to either burn out or not liking the direction the new (2 months in) VP was taking us. I held on thinking it was just growing pains, but really wish I had jumped ship as well.

    2. Melly*

      A bunch of people, including myself, have left my old job in the past 4 months/about a year into having a new Director. So glad I’m gone. The place is crumbling.

    3. The LeGal*

      Do you want to stay? If you do, this is a great opportunity for you. You are probably now one of the resident experts on the team. You can show your drive and motivation for helping out while under-staffed, train new staff, or pick up projects in an area that you’ve always wanted to expand into professionally. Good luck!

  42. anon718*

    2 questions:

    1. Should include a job off the books on my resume? It would obviously never show up on a background check. It’s so frustrating because I took the job when I was 19 while going to school FT and also working on campus, and I had really flexible hours. It ended up being the most rewarding job experience that I feel I actually grew from. For the record, I’m 30 now, but my resume was stymied by a back injury and over 3 years of unemployment.

    2. Is something like ‘all job candidates must live in either [insert three contiguous somewhat recently, yet completely gentrified neighborhoods here], or very close by in [general area which is undergoing rapid gentrification]’ some form of ridiculous discrimination, or am I looking too far into it? According to the ad, it’s not real estate/rentals, delivery, or anything else that would require an inside-out knowledge of these neighborhoods. It’s a position with set hours that doesn’t mention on-call availability. I applied since my FT job is within the ‘close by’ neighborhoods, and could easily work this job right afterwards, but waa rejected on the grounds of ‘you don’t live close enough’. I live in a not so far away neighborhood completely uncontaminated by hipsters. It’s a PT assistant/recep position.

    I’m quite possibly looking too much into this because this gentrification thing is really starting to cause problems for natives and other long-time residents of this city.

    1. soitgoes*

      1. It depends on the jobs you plan on applying for. Most employers don’t subject their employees to background checks, and they’ve all interviewed people whose primary job experience was serving or bartending. As long as you think your former bosses are good references, I’d say go for it. Being off the books is an issue for your former employer, not you.

      2. It might be a way of limiting the number of applicants if, as you say, it really is a good side hustle for people who already work full time.

    2. Anna*

      That sounds weirdly like a sideways attempt at discrimination, especially if you live in an area with comprehensive public transportation. It’s too bad you couldn’t go back and ask why that’s a requirement. I’m curious to know their reasoning.

      1. anon718*

        At first I thought it was a concern for transit (public transportation is the best way to get around almost the entire city and parking would be unaffordable in the area in question, especially at this pay grade even with another FT job; not to mention a mess of a commute being that the hours start during rush hours). Then I realized that a large number of the residents in the area are transplants, while mostly natives and long-time residents live in my neighborhood. Transplants don’t seem to have a good grasp of “weekend subway construction” (weekend hours are required), or could quickly circumnavigate a sudden “police activity” closure. So I think if there was a transit concern, they’d be much better off going outside their territory.

        And I did specifically state in my cover letter that although I don’t live in their territory, my regular job is but 20 minutes away by transit, with multiple backups (trains and buses).

    3. Anonsie*

      For your second question, yes. I would bet anything that’s exactly what they’re up to. There’s a chance they had some issues with people having commute issues and are now trying to eliminate that by being insane, but I still kind of doubt that’s the whole story.

    4. Anx*

      2. I have experienced a bit of the opposite problem in the past. In the state where I had a license to practice in the public health field, hiring in the more suburban and affluent counties pretty much froze. I could not commute to jobs in the more urban areas because you had to be a resident of nearby counties. There was an actual practical component to this: you need to be able to respond to a natural disaster, outbreak, or bioterrorism. Also, it was a local government position.

      I have since moved out of state and in the four years I have had my license have yet to see an opening I am eligible for when I go and check.

      If this is a private sector business I would be much more leery of their motivations.

      1. anon718*

        Yes, this is indeed private sector, non-health. It’s an assistant position for a startup with set hours, no on-call. I think in this city of great diversity that they migrated to (and yes, I verified this), they only want to be surrounded by “their kind”. They’re really not the only ones, hence the bitterness. I wish I was in the position to smugly say “well if they’re going to be like that I don’t want to work for them”, but where do you think all those residents they displaced are moving into?

  43. Anon for the week*

    We’ve been subjected to a series of senior management “We want to know what you guys are thinking” meetings this week. Turns out what that actually means is “Shut up and tell us you’re happy”.

    1. LV*

      We’ve been subjected to a long survey to gauge “employee satisfaction.” It’s anonymous but you do have to provide your job classification/level (I’m in the govt). This led to a lot of circular conversations:

      TPTB: Hey, you haven’t done your survey yet.
      Me: I have concerns about anonymity since I’m the only person in this organization with this job classification.
      TPTB: Don’t worry! All responses provided by employees who are unique wrt their classification/level are automatically removed from the survey.
      Me: So what’s the point of having me do it?
      TPTB: Because it’s very important to us to gauge employee satisfaction!

    2. Perpetua*

      As someone currently conducting those meetings at my (small-ish, fairly informal) company, I sure hope my coworkers don’t feel that way about them. :)

      I dislike pointless management exercises, so I’m sorry to hear about your situation.

      1. Artemesia*

        Even if you are the last person they would replace you need to be gone asap. Hope the search goes well and that this company strangles on their own incompetence.

        1. Artemesia*

          This was a response to something further up the page.

          Re the surveys; I have been subjected to this stuff at least a dozen times in my 45 years in the workforce. Not in a single instance was the effort really sincere — they always spun it so the bigs didn’t have to be inconvenienced. And several times it was obviously not anonymous; I only got burnt once on that till I learned my lesson.

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      Ugh, this brings back memories of ex-job. The company leadership devoted a not insignificant amount of time to trying to understand and improve employee engagement. There were multiple meetings with all of the employees, as well as a very long survey and one-on-one meetings with managers.

      At the conclusion of the process, senior management informed all of the employees that they would not be able to implement any of the the changes employees had asked for (side note: most of the things employees asked for were actually very possible and easy to implement given the organization structure, like increased opportunities for collaboration, better transparency, and more coaching / leadership). Shockingly, while morale was already quite poor at the outset of the process, it could actually get worse, and the mass exodus from the organization increased.

  44. Cherry Scary*

    Anyone have advice on approaching performance reviews? We have annual reviews here in the next few weeks (I’ve already done the written portion) and this is my first time at a job with a formal review process. I’ve only been here a few months, which means that I have an “abbreviated” review form to fill out. Any advice on best practices would be appreciated.
    I’m already planning on asking on areas for improvement (I already know where some are, and since I’m so new it’s semi-understandable.) My mentor also said that a raise would not be off the table? (This is based on her experience, she had a review a few months into her employment as well.) Should I even bring that up?

    1. Trixie*

      I would search “Performance Review” here on AAM, I remember reading some really good tips and suggestions.

  45. Lucy*

    Just got a rejection from a job that I was super excited for and thought the interview went beyond well (as in, every person I spoke to was booked for 30 minutes but we ended up going over because we had so much to talk about). Trying to shake it off and go back to the drawing board, but it doesn’t help that I currently work in an extremely toxic office and this was finally feeling like the light at the end of the tunnel. I was joking with my SO that the reason I hadn’t heard anything was that they were waiting to reject me on Friday…..guess I was right….

    1. Red*

      I got a rejection for a writing gig this week (an actual employment position, rather than a query rejection) that I felt like I had a good shot at. Didn’t even get a call-back for some freelance work, sigh. It always stings.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sorry! You are fast. I deleted it a minute after it was posted because it’s the same letter submitted to me earlier this week that I already have a response half-written for (and I try not to publish stuff that was also posted in an open thread). I emailed the author to make sure she’s okay with that … but in general, I ask that people not post stuff here that they also emailed to me in the last week or so.

    2. Natalie*

      Ha, I saw the reply but not the original and was so intrigued. Happy it will be published later as a column.

  46. Manders*

    I have a question about networking. Next week, I’ll be attending a sci-fi/generally nerdy convention. It’s aimed specifically at women, with a lot of panels about how to break into traditionally male industries. While it’s not really a professional convention, there is a section where you can speak to recruiters, and there will also be some panels where people in various industries talk about how they got started (including one about my sort-of-pipe-dream career).

    What’s the networking etiquette when you’re at an event that isn’t strictly professional? I would like to make some connections, but this doesn’t seem like the type of even where you’re supposed to hand out business cards.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      Maybe not business cards but I don’t see why you couldn’t get their contact info and reach out that way. Talk them up a bit and then find out how to reach them later. Although, I’d still take some cards in case someone has one and wants to exchange.

    2. Gwen*

      Can you have a more personal contact card? Pretty much whenever I go to conventions (or even art fairs) all the creators have little business cards or flyers that direct people to their portfolio/etsy/whatever, and it’s really helpful to be able to track down people whose work you enjoyed (esp if you weren’t able to buy something at that time). I don’t know if your pipe dream career is related to something creative like that, but even if not, I don’t think something that links to your online presence would feel out of place! Plus, you can always NOT give any away if it seems like it doesn’t suit the culture, but you can’t magic some out of thin air if people are exchanging cards and you did’t bring anything :)

    3. Sorcha*

      I wouldn’t hand out business cards at a con, no. I go to a lot of cons, and if I meet people at them that I would like to stay in touch with, we swap social media usernames (Twitter, LJ, Tumblr etc) and I add them there as soon as possible. Twitter in particular is good for this, and a lot of cons have Twitter accounts for events that you can follow too.

      1. Squirrel!*

        But in this case, she is saying there are recruiters at the events, so there are professional people. You may not want to swap your @SLEAZY4WEASLEY handle with someone you want to have a professional relationship with.

        1. brightstar*

          I love @SLEAZY4WEASLEY and am now spending my lunch break trying to come up with more unprofessional HP handles.

      1. Manders*

        GeekGirlCon in Seattle. It was a blast last year when I was attending just for fun, and it looks like there are even more professional panels this time around. All the cons in this area seem to have at least a few recruiters, but this one is specifically focused on helping women break into gaming, tech, comics, publishing, etc.

    4. soitgoes*

      I’d say business cards are fine. On an anecdotal level though, I’d advise you not to get your hopes up. I’ve had so many opportunities extended to me at casual networking events and pop culture things, and they ALL ended up being scammy, vague, or borderline inethical (asking me to do SEO stuff that was full of lies or plagiarized work).

    5. GH in SoCAl*

      I work in TV and I go to a lot of these events because I am also a fangirl at heart. I have some “personal” cards from Vistaprint that have just my name and email address on them, and a cool graphic, that I exchange with peers and fellow panelists so we can connect afterwards. I really enjoy talking to aspiring people at these events and will answer as many questions as I can in the hallway, the bar, etc. If I really connect with someone looking to break in, I will exchange cards with them, but that’s really rare — usually I just urge people to seek me out on Twitter or FB (under my real name). That said, I’m not in a position to hire, so my relationship to aspiring writers is more mentor/mentee than recruiter/candidate.

      As with most networking, *most* of the contacts you’ll make will be with peers at your level, and these will be your network as you all break in and move up together. So I do think you’ll want something pocket-sized and pre-printed to hand people you meet — it tends to be more effective than @handles jotted on scraps of paper torn out of the program book. Imho.

  47. LV*

    I had an interview last Monday that I feel went really well. I had a good rapport with the interviewers and when I asked what qualities separate someone who would be good at the job from someone who would be excellent at the job, they named 2 and the lead interviewer (who would be my boss if I got the job) said, “I can tell from our conversation that you have both.”

    They told me that they would make their decision by mid/late October, so now I just have to wait and try not to get antsy about it. Job openings in my field and at my level are not terribly frequent right now and it seems like a great place to work. If you have any good vibes to spare, please send them my way!

  48. AnonAdmin*

    My phone interview last Friday went well and I have an in person interview next week! I was told that over 400 people applied for this job, 17 were phone interviewed, and fewer are scheduled for in person interviews. It’d be a big change for me, I’d have to move, sell my house, etc, but I’d be closer to family, making way more money, and it’s directly in line with my career path! I’m going to study like heck this weekend for my interview.

  49. EM*

    I just got an email about scheduling an interview…for a job I applied to in FEBRUARY.

    That is definitely the longest time I have ever had in between applying and being contacted.

    I am also waiting to hear on an internal job. I think my chances are good but you never know. They said they hoped to make a decision by the end of this week, but I know that’s not going to happen.

  50. Laura B*

    What is everyone’s favorite productivity tool? I don’t know if it’s a commitment flaw, but I tend to need some new tool or technique to keep me fully motivated every six months or so. I’ve tried running to do lists on legal pads, nicer notebooks, and most recently the beta version of this schedule: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/77516971/the-week-dominator-a-beautiful-canvas-to-tackle-go?mc_cid=b4858afdab&mc_eid=7f8e61f339. The schedule helps, but I still feel like I could better manage my time. So I’d love to here your secret productivity tricks.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I just use one of those giant, desk-sized calendars. Not fancy, but I can write deadlines, meetings, and to-do lists all together on it, then see everything at a glance.

      1. Lizzie*

        Me too! I also use my Google calendar to keep track of the same information on the go, but I adore my giant paper calendar.

    2. ProductiveDyslexic*

      WorkFlowy. I have nested lists for everything, always available via the cloud, on all my devices.

    3. LibKae*

      Two of the world’s biggest whiteboards for me. On one I keep track of all the projects I’m working on, all the problems I need to deal with, etc. It lets me tell at a glance what I need to do that day, which is a huge help (I’m an out-of-sight, out-0f-mind type person). On the other I have the next six months scheduled out so nothing sneaks up on me.

  51. Captain Poultry*

    I am in my first job where billable hours are a thing. I don’t work on projects long-term – usually it’s same day turn around. It wouldn’t be so difficult to track my time spent on certain jobs except for the fact that I’m constantly interrupted and never seem to be able to complete one task from start to finish without having to divert my attention. Does anyone have a recommendation for a good time management/tracking system or app? The ones that I’ve played around with so far seem more like project management applications and are too cumbersome for my purposes. I need something simple and to the point, almost like a stop watch that I can start and stop as needed, but for multiple projects. Thanks for your help!

      1. hildi*

        agreed! I don’t know if it’s in reference to anything but I love it. When I was in high school I worked at a tourist attraction and we had a trained farm animal show. Several of our performers were chickens and one duck, so I have developed a bit of affection for fowl. Contrast that with my coworker that worked at a turkey processing plant and I think I got the better end of the animal on that one.

        1. fposte*

          I believe it’s a reference to an improv routine involving unlikely superheroes in Whose Line Is It Anyway, but I love the fact that it’s elicited a story about star duck turns.

          1. Captain Poultry*

            You’re good! That is exactly where it came from. I’ve been using this handle for over a decade now and I don’t think anyone else has ever figured out its origin. Gold star for you!

    1. Schmitt*

      I just use a piece of paper – write down the time when I start work, and every time I switch projects I note the time and the project I was working on.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I just keep a journal in NotePad. I write the time, and what I’m working on. When I need to change projects, I write the time again. Along with each time and project ID, I add any notes that I think could be useful later. At the end of the day, I can just look back and see how much time was spent on each task, add it up if it’s really fragmented.

    3. Anonsie*

      I had to do start doing this exact thing (with the same issue– I sit in the front so I am interrupted constantly) and I just made a spreadsheet that marks 5min intervals and kept it open at all times. Every time someone came by I’d switch over to it real quick and mark the time (just takes a second) and then mark it again when they left. Then when I clocked the hours later, I’d just subtract all those interruptions from the total time.

    4. Anon. Scientist*

      Old fashioned but it’s always worked for me: small spiral-bound notebook. On left side, I write the date once. In the middle, time, then project number (or just 1 word so I can recognize it). Every time I switch gears, I write the time and new project. At the end of the day, I tote up the hours in the space on the right.

      Next day, write new date and start over. At the end of the month, go through all those project notes and do a little summary (starting on the back of the notebook and working backward) of what I did for future reference. When both sides meet in the middle, get a new notebook.

  52. Allison*

    I’ve been having stomach issues, and decided to take a break from my energy shots in case those were causing or contributing to the problem (I’ve also been taking ginger tablets which seem to help). As a result, I’ve been a zombie all week. My green tea tablets are a poor substitution, and compensating with more sleep hasn’t been an option. I’m really hoping this gets easier.

    1. Allison*

      Oh crap, forgot to relate this to work! Work has been really hard without the stuff, I’m trying to stay productive so I don’t get in trouble, but my team seems sympathetic to what’s going on. They know I’ve been sick and this is an attempt to get better.

      1. Squirrel!*

        Have you tried any simples fixes, like taking some melatonin before bed, wearing an eye mask or ear plugs, or getting a new pillow? It sounds like you should improve the quality of your sleep, if you can’t improve the quantity.

        1. Allison*

          I have been taking steps to improve my sleep, that’s been on my mind recently. My air conditioner was a Godsend over the summer, but naturally using it in October isn’t an option, so I’m planning to invest in a white noise app to drown out some of the shenanigans that take place outside during the night. And I’ve been using aromatherapy which is really helpful.

            1. Diet Coke Addict*

              Songza (the app) also has a number of white noise options that are awesome for sleeping and work, actually–they actually have one that sounds like a coffee shop, so you can work away while pretending to be surrounded by chatting people and whatnot.

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            My husband and I got a white noise machine as a wedding gift and it has been an absolute godsend. It was like $20 at Bed Bath and Beyond and comes with six different “types” of noise. as well as a sleep timer and a few other bells and whistles. It’s fantastic to smooth out the edges of noises from everywhere else and we’ve slept much, much better ever since.

            1. Allison*

              Hm, how big is it? Maybe I’ll drop a couple bucks on an app now and ask for a white noise machine for Christmas.

              1. Diet Coke Addict*

                Hmm–fairly small. Maybe six inches in diameter? It’s sort of circular-shaped, a slightly dome-shaped disc. It’s small enough that it doesn’t take up much space on the nightstand, and small enough to travel with.

            2. Artemesia*

              I live near a highway and so highway noise lulls me to sleep but before that we had a white noise machine and I sometimes take it with me traveling when I know I will be a place that is noisy like say Paris or Florence. The waterfall sound or light rain sound really helped me when I was having trouble sleeping and needed to be up for work. One benefit of retiring is that I can be up reading till 1 or 2 and sleep in if I want — although I still have that wake up at 5 and have trouble going back to sleep problem. I have ambien for when I must get a night’s sleep — it really works for me without hangover and I only use it once or twice a month when I know I have to be up and running all day and can’t cope without a night’s sleep.

      2. matcha123*

        I’ve done the same thing. I try to get up once an hour to use the bathroom and while I’m there, i do some jumping jacks and stretches. It helps wake me up for a bit…

        1. Allison*

          I have a tiny bladder and seem to need the bathroom every hour, and I just hope no one notices. But yes, getting up and walking around does help.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I have a friend in a similar situation, and he switched to the Hansen’s energy drink, and it didn’t irritate his stomach. My solution when I’m really for serious trying to drink less Monster Ultra Zero and Diet Coke is to just have 8 cups of green tea throughout the day… its not a horrible way to go.

  53. Elkay*

    Not work related but where is the cat picture this week? I’m fairly sure a few readers put Alison on a PIP a few months back demanding more cat pictures…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I might be phasing out cat photos — not entirely, but just using them when I have a particularly great one. They were starting to feel repetitive. But they’ll still be here sometimes!

      1. M*

        I think the cat pictures on the Sunday free for all thread would be okay and just not on the Friday work post. Unless you have one of your cats working…

      2. louise*

        Hm, coming into work on time feels repetitive too, but people count on it! ;) I would vote for continuing, were this not an Alistocracy*. Interruptions in cat pictures to allow for goat photos is acceptable.

        *Now I want to live in a country you run. It would be far saner than most actual countries.

      3. A Non*

        Aw. There is no need for special, just kitty.

        (But it is your blog. And I really need to get my own cat.)

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, but then she’d have to have an open thread about every 2 hours, to deal with all the pictures people would send in.

  54. Kinkajou*

    I found out recently that I have been taking the role of a higher ranked position for well over a year now (much greater responsibilities, work load, stress, and higher level decision making) and should now be eligible for a promotion to that level. I want to ask in my annual review, but my direct manager is sure to find the suggestion ridiculous. He is my manager practically by has little to no involvement in my actual work– while the people that do work directly with me all fully support me and say I’m doing great, this manager is always hostile and dismissive. Yesterday he came to tell me I’d been inappropriately wasting time all day talking with a coworker because he didn’t know I needed to work with this coworker on something… He just assumed we were chatting all day, I guess. In reality I didn’t get to take a break yesterday (not even to eat) until well into the afternoon.

    I’m just not sure what to do. I know the proper channel is to talk to him about the promotion, but I am afraid of where that will go and I don’t know what to do if he shoots me down. Keep doing higher level work with a much lower level title and salary? I have projects here to which I am committee with people who do appreciate and support me, and I don’t want to leave those projects or lessen my role to adjust back down. I’m not sure how to handle it if I broach the subject and he reacts poorly, especially if he starts bringing up mistaken issues like yesterday.

    (and since I know it will be suggested: I do not want to leave my job for a lot of complicated reasons I won’t get in to, so “get the promotion somewhere else” is not my first choice. Even if I did, what do I do in the interim here ifthus conversation goes south??)

    1. fposte*

      So if you don’t bring it up, you’re definitely going to be doing higher level work with a much lower-level title and salary anyway, right? How okay with that are you? I think it’s worth making a brief case for the appropriateness of your job bring reclassified myself, but I also have been around long enough to shrug off manager hostility.

      1. Kinkajou*

        I mean, I’m going to bring it up. But I dont know what to expect to happen or how to handle it if it doesn’t go well.

        1. fposte*

          If he says no, ask if it’s revisitable after six months. If he tantrums, stay calm and quiet and don’t get drawn into an argument.

          1. Red*

            I’d add start looking for a new job at this point, you shouldn’t be subjected to a colleague’s tantrums in a professional environment.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      In addition to talking to him, perhaps you should encourage the people you work with to talk to their management. Can you do any sort of end-run around him without sabotaging what you already have?

  55. Cruciatus*

    I hate that I work in a place where 2 people can just start ignoring a person from one day to the next and people act like this is normal or say, at least about 1 of them, “that’s just how she is” and have that be a seemingly fine explanation. No, no one should have to interact with people they don’t like–but we’re talking, if they see me in the hallway, they turn their heads the other way (and we all once ate lunch together daily for 8+ months). Really? And my crime? Just being boring–though they never actually asked me any questions or tried to get to know me in any way from the start. It’s no loss on my part, but I am really more bothered by the lack of reaction by everyone else–other people seem to fawn over these people and don’t understand when I say, “Oh, I don’t really care for her.” I guess I should be happy I’m not being spit on or yelled at or worse….but, gaaah, I can’t wait until one of my job applications actually comes through! I’m ready to leave this clique-ish hell hole!

    1. fposte*

      It sounds like an unpleasant situation, and her behavior is silly and juvenile. That said, I don’t think there’s ever a gain from saying you don’t like somebody in your office–is it possible that she’s going for the silent treatment because that got back to her?

      1. Cruciatus*

        Oh no, because it came way after. I started out saying nothing, but someone asked me specifically (they were perhaps the only person who didn’t realize I was “shunned.”) and I thought about going all Switzerland, but these people refuse to acknowledge I exist–so no, I don’t care for her/them. At the time I figured I was really being quite magnanimous saying only that…

        1. fposte*

          Ah, then I’m with Cosmic Avenger. Nice ’em out. (However, I would still discourage stating you don’t like people in the office. Just reject the premise of the question.)

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I just act super-nice, like Ned Flanders nice, to people like that. If they’re trying to get a rise out of you, it drives them NUTS. If they’re just mean and they keep it up, it makes them look completely insane to everyone else who happens to be around. The times when this can goad people who are trying to be bullies into all-out fits make it totally worth it. :D

      1. Colette*

        Taken to extremes, this could result in a very happy, enthusiastic one way conversation where you go on and on about how good it is to see them, what a beautiful day it is outside, etc. while they sit there stoically.

        Probably more amusing to imagine than to do.

        1. Cruciatus*

          When it first started, I did something like this. I didn’t go on and on, but I was all “hi!” but it lost appeal after a while. As I said, people still choose those people over me (which is the stupidest sentence I’ve written in a while, but there it is). No one thinks THEY are the insane ones–which is what bothers me the most. I’m not looking to be super popular, but I’m nice, pleasant, don’t clip my nails at work, ask how others are and don’t change my mood at the drop of a hat. But I’M the problem. It’s like I’m in an alternative universe (that I am trying desperately to escape from). I know it seems weird to say to others that I don’t like her but this place is SO WEIRD that it wasn’t weird I said it. The person is a friendly (to me) colleague and wasn’t horrified or anything, but just didn’t think that there was any reason to dislike her (she has since changed her mind through her own experiences, but she’s just one person of many…)

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, it sounds completely dysfunctional. Your best practical choice is to ignore it, tell yourself it’s them not you, and get out as soon as you can.

        2. LCL*

          I have done this. Doing it is even more fun than imagining it. Be prepared for them to lose it and get really irate.

    3. Artemesia*

      I am always just stunned to read this sort of thing. I have worked with people I don’t like and I am sure there have been people who have not liked me, but I have never been in a situation where people weren’t generally civil to each other. It just is mind boggling to me that adults behave this way in a workplace setting.

  56. Anon for this one*

    Some very credible public and private sources have been reporting that my Fortune 500 company is being shopped to merge or be acquired, with specific targets named. A couple of them are well-known toxic workplaces (like, my grandmother has heard of them and knows they’re bad places to work).

    This scares the bejesus out of me.

    I’m wondering if I should polish up my resume or ride it out and see what happens? And how soon after a deal is made do layoffs typically happen? I’m a single parent in a high COL area and can’t be unemployed for even a minute.

    1. Stephanie*

      Personally, I’d polish up your resume. You don’t have to do an aggressive search, but just polishing up your resume and putting feelers out might give you some piece of mind.

      1. Bea W*

        Agree with this. You don’t want to jump ship too soon, but you want to be ready if you find you have to do so.

    2. BRR*

      Don’t wait. If you see anything you really like I would apply now. You don’t have to go full-throttle but start the engine.

    3. Jubilance*

      Polish the resume & start looking now. Always better to be prepared just in case, and who knows, you could wind up finding a much better role somewhere else.

      1. Bea W*

        The saving money part if a good point! Mergers usually mean layoffs as the newly merged company eliminates redundant positions (or just positions that ended up under their dart on the RIF dart board).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I vote for polishing up the resume and seeing what is out there.

      I have seen layoffs start very shortly after the merger is complete and I have see it take a year or two to start laying off people. No set pattern.

      Don’t get scared, it won’t happen over night. I think of it as annoying work place drama- as you learn tidbits of information here and there. Get an action plan and go with it.

      If you have a sane boss, touch base with him on a random basis. Find out what the latest news is and find out what his sense of things is.

      1. Artemesia*

        The first people to jump ship when this happens are usually the ones who have the most options. I’d be getting in a position to move so that you aren’t in a pack of similar people all casting about for similar things. I was one of dozens in that position after a merger. While I landed well, plenty of people didn’t. Many of them might have done so if they had searched early rather than when everyone was in the same boat. (we didn’t have much warning, but there were signs we should have heeded.)

  57. AnonEngineer*

    So I’m three months into my first professional job, and I just had my “orientation” two weeks ago. I also still haven’t been assigned a project manager, and I haven’t gotten any of the mentoring that is outlined in the employee manual. I keep getting reassured that they are going to figure out what to do with me, but nothing has changed. I’m in the consulting industry, and getting enough billable work each week has been tough.

    How long should I try to ride this out before I start looking for an exit? I want to succeed in this job – partially because I got the job through a connection who spoke really highly of me, and partially because there are some amazingly smart people here that I could learn a lot from – but it’s not my dream field or geographic location, and the pay is a little below market.

    1. J.B.*

      Start looking. You are fortunately very mobile at this point. Also if you know anyone who knows the culture there (I’m thinking someone who has been there a while but isn’t a decisionmaker or in the industry who works with your folks) see if they can tell you what’s going on.

  58. AVP*

    We have an alarm specialist fixing our business alarm system today, which means setting it off to test it every five minutes or so. She keeps laughing and saying “I warned you this would be loud!” which is great except that whoever set this up, um, didn’t warn anyone else this was happening. Argghhh. My head.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      The second-greatest day at my last job was the day I convinced my boss to let me get rid of the alarm system. The greatest day was the day it was actually disabled.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      When we had someone working on our alarms, we not only got an email about it the day before, but someone also walked around and provided everyone with disposable ear plugs.

    1. Stephanie*

      Ugh. There’s one that opened here in an already glutted market (both of the big state schools have law schools that are already pumping out too many graduates) that claims a 100% bar passage. Rumor is that they flunk out everyone who they figure won’t pass the bar and teach exclusively to the bar.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, pretty much. Basing this off what my lawyer friends tell me. The really non-selective places will admit tons of people and then have very strict grading curves (such that people flunk out or lose scholarships) and very much teach toward the bar (of course, these same friends said their schools went a little too far in the other direction and taught too much theory).

    2. Katie the Fed*

      There’s a great segment from last week on “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver about for-profit colleges in the US that will make your head explode.

  59. GrumpyBoss*

    I have a former coworker who just won’t go away.

    He was senior to me and had a lot of influence. It just so happened that our roles required minimal interaction, so I never really dealt with him. And a good thing too because I really found his behavior obnoxious. He was always leading with this qualifications in any statement he made and constantly looking for validation in the form of having his butt kissed.

    He came into some money and decided to quit. Good for him. I wasn’t sad to see him go, but a lot of people were. But here’s the problem: even though he has left the company, he is still always here! Shows up to let everyone see his new Porsche, to see if anyone wants lunch, etc. the same attention seeking behavior that made me not like working with him in the first place! But now he is distracting people and since he isn’t working here anymore, how can I tell him to GTFO?

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Are you sure you don’t work for Wernham Hogg (the company in the UK version of The Office)? I seem to remember David Brent doing something similar in one of the Christmas specials which concluded the series.

      I would probably develop a major interest in the photocopier whenever he came around.

    2. Squirrel!*

      Could you just simply say that he isn’t allowed in the building for any reason due to confidentiality reasons or something? This allows him to still be friends with the workers, but keeps him from being an active distraction.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If he is interfering with business/work flows then he has to back off.

      I assume he is going into areas that are not usually accessed by the public? Maybe you can say if he is not transacting business then he needs to leave.

      Try to frame it in a manner that would be applicable to anyone who showed up way too often.

      One time I had luck saying “You might want to watch yourself, Bob, people are starting to complain that your frequent appearances are preventing them from getting their work done.”

  60. J*

    Compared to your resume, how is your LinkedIn profile different? I just revamped my resume and I’m wondering how I should change up my LinkedIn profile, which is pretty generic. I don’t want to put it all out there, but I’d like to look appealing to recruiters and prospective employers (esp since I apply to several jobs via LinkedIn).

    I tried to search the archives for this question, but I wasn’t finding anything and Google points me to “LinkedIn experts.” I’m sure this has been asked before, but I couldn’t find it, please point me in the right direction if so, thanks!

    1. Perpetua*

      My LinkedIn is kind of a shortened version of my resume, with many things left out, and most things rephrased . The highlight is on the most recent and relevant experience (I’m also a fairly recent grad). However, I’m currently on the other side of your question, so to speak, as someone doing recruiting for my company, so here are my 2 cents… From what I’ve seen, most postings let you upload a resume separately and I’d definitely do that. I agree with you about not wanting to have it ALL out there, but I’d try to avoid generic descriptions and go for highlights, presented in a more personal manner (as it should be with a CV and a cover letter as well, at least in many industries).

    2. Shermie*

      For LinkedIn, I make use of the uploading files function. For example, I uploaded two publications that I helped produce.

    3. C3PO*

      I’m probably doing it all wrong, but, for me the difference is a more casual tone and a narrative format. “What do I remember about working here?” instead of just bullet points of duties and accomplishments. I try not to be too long-winded, though — even with a scroll wheel people eventually tire of paging down. :-) I try to keep the industry buzzwords to the skills list, since that’s where someone looking for them is most likely to locate them anyhow. I also joined the LinkedIn Groups relevant to my field, and try to keep up with the conversations. (Harder then it sounds — lots of groups with low activity levels allow “business spam” posts which IMHO are worse than silence.)

  61. anon+in+tejas*

    my boss just sent out an email about halloween costumes and giving us the go ahead to wear appropriate ones. a few years ago I wore a cape, headband and belt from my wonderwoman costume over my regular work outfit. what are the best and worst ones you’ve seen at the office?

    1. Nanc*

      It’s been years but when I worked for a university the IT folks all dressed up as “professors” and the English department profs dressed up as “IT Folks.” The dress interpretations were hysterical!

      When my mom was a Social Services manager she dressed up as “backwards person.” We got her black sweat shirt and pants and decorated both sides of the sweat shirt. We took a pair of toe socks, cut out the heel and stuffed the feet and she pulled them on over her sneakers. Finally, we took a cheap Halloween hat and glued (or maybe stapled) a mask–not a scary one, just a generic “person” mask to the back. Her admin lead her around the office walking backwards and she had a blast. She went out into the lobby and the little kids just went nuts–in a good way!

      Worst: the receptionist who showed up as a Playboy Bunny. I sent her home to change and then had to have a little talk about why it wasn’t appropriate. She was in her 40s. I had been on the job for a few weeks. It was quite the awkward conversation.

      1. Windchime*

        I was so shocked a couple of years ago when my friend (who was in her early 50’s) showed me her Halloween costume that she was going to wear to work. It was a purchased costume, a kind of “sexy witch” type thing. The entire back of the costume was sheer, transparent fabric (so transparent that she couldn’t wear a bra with it). The skirt was dangerously short and the whole thing was just really inappropriate for a professional setting. I expressed doubt but she said it was fine. Apparently on the day she wore it, her supervisor made her wear a sweater over it all day because it was so racy.

    2. Frances*

      I’ve never worked at a place that dressed up for Halloween, but my mom works at a preschool and always seems to come up with really cute costumes that are also super practical (the nature of her job means she ends up moving around the building even more than an average teacher, especially on a “special” day like the Halloween party). My favorite was when she went as a piece of candy corn — she put a strip of yellow felt around the bottom of an orange sweatshirt, including padding out the corners to make it look triangular, and then made a pointed hat out of white felt.

    3. Agile Phalanges*

      I worked for a candy company for years, so of course we had a fun Halloween at the office. I liked dressing up in “punny” costumes.

      One year I was “adding insult to injury.” I made myself a cast with the plaster stuff from the craft store, plus had a walking cast (“boot”) and crutches from a previous injury, used some ace bandages and adhesive bandages, plus added a few bruises with makeup to basically have fake injuries all over. Then I wrote insults on stickie notes and put them all over myself.

      Another year, we had awards for cube decorations as well as costumes, and I went as a fairy goth mother, and dressed (and had makeup) all goth, but with pink fairy wings and a fuzzy pink boa. I gothed up my cube, plus added a few fairy-like touches.

      The year after I graduated from college (as an adult), I wore my graduation cap and gown, and added a donkey ears headband and tail, and was a “smart ass.”

      Other good ones I’ve seen at work were a very tall woman as Frankenstein’s monster, and a shorter woman as the bride of Frankenstein; a “cereal killer” (lots of gory makeup, plus bloody knives stabbed through cereal boxes), two guys that were best buds (and actually did have matching shirts which was pretty funny) dressed as twins, etc.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I love those! I once dressed in black and purple with a green bow in my hair and called myself a Grape of Wrath.

    4. Lizabeth*

      A person that had a head transplant – bandages around the neck with the appropriate documentation from the Natonal Enquirer article on a piece of cardboard hanging from the neck. Hospital gown optional.

  62. Kat M.*

    Oh man, I have been waiting for this open thread ALL WEEK. I work on the campus of the Texas hospital recently famous for treating a patient with ebola. I am so tired of the media circus, the worried phone calls from family, the panic-mongering on social media.

    No question here, I just wish people would grow some common sense and let the rest of us do our jobs. :P

      1. De Minimis*

        Yeah, we aren’t too far from there and they are letting us know to refer any media inquiries to our public information officer.

        I thought I overheard some of our people talking about possibly having to go over to Africa [I guess] and help out. One of them said, “I’m okay with going over there, so long as I don’t get Ebola.” Well, yeah.