my coworker wants to review my self-evaluation, an anonymous caller said one of my coworkers is dealing drugs, and more

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

1. My coworker wants to review my self-evaluation and maybe borrow portions for her own

My manager asked his staff to write their own employee evaluations. I’m fine with this, but I’m not sure how to respond to a coworker’s request to review my evaluation before I turn it in. She and I have the same job title, were hired on the same day, and started at the same pay rate. We collaborate on many projects; however, we also have individual projects, or projects for which one of us leads and the other assists.

She says that by sharing our evaluations with each other, we can use the same text for some sections. However, I’m not sure if this is a good idea, and I feel uncomfortable with the request. I’d like for the evaluation to be confidential between my manager and me. Also, I’d like to be evaluated as an individual rather than as a unit. Should I say something?

What?! No, that’s crazy. You’re two separate people, and you shouldn’t submit joint self-evaluations. That’s going to look very weird to your boss, and would be doing yourself a real disservice.

Tell your colleague that you don’t think self-evaluations are supposed to be written jointly or shared with colleagues, and that you should each write your own.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. An anonymous caller said one of my coworkers is dealing drugs on the bus

I work for a city transit system. Tonight at work, some anonymous caller called me on the hotline to say a coworker (by name) is dealing drugs on the bus. The caller said he is calling the sheriff tomorrow.

Should I tell my boss? Should I go to the coworker? My boss does not take this kind of stuff lightly. It’s a small office and my coworker and most of the workers will know I have reported this. I don’t want to be a snitch or cover up the issue. Would you have any tips on how I could deal with this?

Well, first of all, telling your boss about this isn’t “snitching.” This is doing your job professionally, and giving your boss a heads-up about something that she’d surely want to know about. If it comes out that this person called your hotline and you didn’t bother to tell anyone, don’t you think that’s going to be a Big Problem for you and your boss?

So yes, you need to relay this to your boss. You’re not saying “Jane is dealing drugs on the bus.” You’re saying “a caller informed me that he is going to tell the sheriff that Jane is dealing drugs on the bus.” Those are two different things. And you’re really obligated to pass the latter along so that your boss isn’t blindsided.

3. How much can I push back on a freelance client who’s asking for significant rewrites?

I work as a freelance writer and have a number of clients that come and go. One of my better clients had worked with me for over a year. During that time, I have dealt with four different people there. There is very high turnover with this client in the role of managing the writers. Recently, the person that I was working with since early spring was suddenly fired and they have brought in a new person for the position. That person reviewed all the work done by all the writers over the other person’s tenure.

Last week, I was sent back five articles to rewrite with vague instructions to “make them better.” I did what I could and sent them back and heard nothing. I didn’t argue to keep the peace with the client. Today I was contacted by a totally different person (there was apparently another firing) and told to rewrite around 35 more articles, dating as far back as last February.

I was already paid in full for everything and, until now, never got a complaint about any of the work I wrote for this client. It does not appear that they want to pay me for these rewrites. How far do I push back here? I have just been sent weeks worth of work to do over and little guidance on what it is they see as the problem. While I’m dealing with these rewrites, I would not be able to take on work that I would be paid for, so this is a significant financial burden on me.

I have been writing for over two years and this is the first time I ever had a complaint of this magnitude. I was even told by a few people working with this client that I was their best writer. Should I just walk away from this one?

If it were just a few articles and a small amount of work, I’d say to go ahead and make the changes without charge in the interest of keeping a good client happy. But this is a significant amount of new work, when the old work had already been signed off on quite some time ago — so you should absolutely be charging for your time. I’d respond by telling them that you’d be happy to do it and the rate will be $___. You can explain that you’ll be spending significant time on the rewrites and that that’s not covered by the earlier payment.

You should also spend time talking with them to find out exactly what they see as the problems and what they want changed, since it doesn’t sound like they’ve been clear about that. You want to get clarity on that, not only for these pieces but for any future ones too.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. With layoffs looming, should I tell my boss about a job offer?

I know layoffs are coming for someone (or multiple someones) in my sub-department, but we don’t know who yet. We’ve all been told not to worry for a few months repeatedly, and the current news is that they’ll tell us in January. My contract ends in February, so that’d leave me a month to job search in a very specialized, rare field across the US. Ha.

A friend forwarded me a job ad that sounded pretty great and now I have an interview thanks to your advice. It’s the best job opening I’ve found nationwide so far. It’s in a neighboring field instead of my preferred field, but it uses my skills and I’m excited about their mission.

I LOVE my current job and would not be job hunting if I wasn’t worried about layoffs. If I get the job offer, can I have a candid conversion with my boss, asking whether or not I’ll be laid off? Can I mention I have an offer or will that seem like a threat or like disloyalty, and put me at the top of his layoff list? I’d feel like a fool leaving a dream job without knowing if I really needed to or not. I’d also feel like a fool if I turned down a great offer only to be laid off two months later with few jobs open nationwide.

You could certainly have a conversation like that with your boss if your boss is a reasonable person (and assuming he is, it won’t look like a threat or disloyalty; it will be understandable, especially because of the layoffs).

However, it’s important to realize that your boss might not be able to tell you with certainty whether you should take the other job or not. Your boss might not yet know who is going to be laid off, or those plans might change. In fact, the only really helpful answer your boss could have is “yes, you’re likely to be laid off, so take the job.” That’s something you can put stock in. But if the answer is “no, your job isn’t in danger”? That’s a lot harder to rely on with 100% certainty, unless you have a lot of other data about how the layoffs are working and your boss’s reasoning for his answer.

5. Should we be paid for staff calls outside of normal shifts?

I’m employed at a charitable trust and work anywhere from 2-4 shifts a week, 5-8 hours each (I’m a student) — mall-booth style.

My boss is implementing staff-wide daily video conference calls (Skype, twice a day) and requests that each person be available when these calls are made, regardless of if you are working at that time or not. Would it be our legal right to be paid during these calls, especially if we are off-shift? Should I even ask her or would it anger her?

Yes, you should be paid for that time and any other time that you’re performing work. (This assumes that you’re non-exempt, but based on your description of your work, you almost certainly are.)

I’d raise it with your boss by asking about the logistics of it. For instance: “How should we turn in our logged time for these calls? Should we just add it to our timecards the next time we’re at work?” That’s probably all it will take, but in case not, there’s more advice here.

{ 138 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK*

    #1) You could also offer to share an outline with her, and remove all the real text (if yours is organized that way…when I had a manager who made me do this, I had things like “major projects,” “on-going responsibilities,” “professional development activities,” etc.).

    1. Chuchundra*

      That’s a good suggestion. A lot of people have no idea what to write on their self-evaluation, so #1’s co-worker is probably looking for some guidance.

      My co-workers and I often discuss what we wrote on our evaluations since the majority of our job tasks are exactly the same and don’t have much in the way of tangible work product, so we’re often pretty light on major projects and achievements and it’s not generally clear what to write.

    2. Lillie Lane*

      It sounds like the coworker just wants to mooch off the OP. (I can see why this would be tempting…self-evals are loathsome.) She’s probably nervous that her submission will be weighed against the OP’s. I bet the outline would pacify her a bit, since it would give her an idea of what was already submitted and calm any anxiety of being totally off-base with her evaluation.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        “Mooching” sounds harsh. As others have pointed out, some people don’t know how to start certain writing assignments without a prompt. And most likely, this is the case with #1’s coworker. She could use some tact in asking for help.

        1. Cheesecake*

          Agree. I was (am) working for big corps, and none has provided explanations/tips/whatever about self-evaluation (a big piece of performance review). Everyone was pretty much asking each other “what have you wrote???”.

        2. The IT Manager*

          It sounded like mooching/stealing/cheating to me. Co-worker asked to take LW’s completed work and borrow much of it. It would be different if she asked for help, advice, or discussed possibilities, but to take a completed product from the LW isn’t the way to do a group project.

        3. Lillie Lane*

          Would you feel the same way if one of your classmates in college wanted a copy of your essay so she could write hers? It’s one thing to ask for an outline or to discuss suggestions for how to start the evaluation, but to ask for the whole thing? That’s mooching in my book.

          1. Cat*

            But college is just different than the professional world. In the professional world, the point is to get work done; not to have every boy and girl do his own homework. Having blocks of text be identical is a bad idea but not because it’s mooching; because it’s a bad idea. (And it sounds like the coworker doesn’t understand why and is thinking that it would look good to have them all be on the same page; that’s wrong but not necessarily malevolent.)

            Granted, I’m biased – I regularly share my evals with a couple of trusted co-workers and vice versa and we talk about the best way to handle and frame certain things.

            1. Raine*

              Eh, I’m fine with calling it mooching when someone wants to use blocks of my work without it being a two-way sharing street. And besides, AAM’s reaction was “What?!”, so it’s really not that out-there to be encountering people finding the entire request inappropriate for a professional setting.

            2. Lillie Lane*

              But it’s not a group project. It’s a self-evaluation. Self. As in, you wrote it yourself. If the manager/company didn’t want the employees to reinvent the wheel when writing these evaluations, then they would have supplied an outline or blocks of text or told them to work together on the evaluations. But they didn’t.

              1. Cat*

                As I said, I don’t disagree that it’s a bad idea to duplicate blocks of text. But you can evaluate yourself honestly but also discuss what you’re doing with other people and I don’t really think it’s up to the manager to specify whether people work together on this kind of thing; that’s up to the individual who’s making a strategic decision about how best to present themselves to their employer.

              2. Cheesecake*

                I agree with Cat. you guys see phrase “let’s use same text for some sections” as mooching. But you don’t know what OP’s colleague meant by “same text” or “same sections”. Maybe she meant keeping responsibility description same so manager doesn’t wonder what each meant…or they work on same projects and she wants to check all are described?

                For one of my self-evaluations boss gave me self-evaluation of colleague who had the job before me. Simply because evaluation was about “yes, i did x,y,z timely and accurately”, we were both new and wanted to make sure we did not overlook anything. So it is not uncommon to share self-evaluation

                1. TCO*

                  I would be really uncomfortable with a boss sharing my self-evaluation (or their evaluation of me) with another employee, even if I’m not working there any more. That’s not appropriate.

            3. neverjaunty*

              But this isn’t “getting the work done”; this is a self-evaluation. Meaning that yes, every boy and girl should be doing their own.

              However, it IS possible that the co-worker is clumsily looking for help, not mooching. Offering to point to an outline, or “here’s where I found the description of our job duties”, addresses either situation.

            4. hildi*

              “Granted, I’m biased – I regularly share my evals with a couple of trusted co-workers and vice versa and we talk about the best way to handle and frame certain things.”

              I think there can be some real value to this and I can see this working in staffs where people have that level of trust and cooperation. I regularly visit with my coworkers about some of the challenges we have in our organization (things that don’t really rise to the level of having to tell our supervisor). We often bounce wording and ideas off eachother to see how it sounds and to get advice. I could easily see us doing that for selected parts of the self evaluation.

              If you don’t want to give an outline, then maybe ask her if she was having trouble with it or needed someone to bounce ideas off of (you being that person). Maybe she just needs some help getting going.

              1. Jamie*

                I have a couple of people at work with whom I’d do the same thing – it really can be valuable to preview it to an audience familiar with tptb. And a LOT of people struggle with writing this kind of thing – which I know for a fact, yet still don’t understand since I can think of few things easier or more enjoyable than writing about myself and my accomplishments.

                And with that I’ll put my narcissist genie back in the bottle.

                I’d offer to help with an outline or (if generous) to tell them to bullet point a list of things and help them organize their thoughts – but the whole copy paste thing between the two of them will not end well for either.

                1. Pennalynn Lott*

                  That’s funny, Jamie, because I can think of few things harder or more painful than writing about myself and my accomplishments. *Especially* the accomplishments! My mind goes completely, utterly blank.

    3. Juli G.*

      Sharing evals in not uncommon where I work especially in my first job where you had 15 people doing the same thing with one or two minor differences.

      I don’t think OP is obligated to share and can politely refuse but I also don’t find it “crazy”.

      1. LBK*

        You may have the same responsibilities, but presumably there should be a range of capabilities, areas of focus within the role, stretch assignments, career goals, etc. I can’t imagine ever writing a self-eval that would’ve looked anything like one for someone on my team with the same position.

        1. Doreen*

          That’s really dependent on the job. For every job I’ve had since college, either everyone in the same title had the same responsibilities or there were very broad differences- a caseworker assigned to child protection had different responsibilities than one assigned to foster care but all of those assigned to the same area had the same responsibilities. There aren’t any stretch assignments and I’ve never worked anywhere where career goals were part of an evaluation. The tasks/standards section of my evaluation should look very similar to that of my peers.

        2. Hooptie*

          Exactly – and one person’s self-review should be entirely different than another’s based on their career goals, capabilities, work ethic, etc. I hate the idea of copying and pasting from someone else’s evaluation. Isn’t it about having the opportunity to show your boss what you’ve accomplished and show that you’re prepared (or are preparing) for the next level?

      2. hermit crab*

        Well, it depends on what the self-eval is supposed to cover. Ours have three sections that are basically (I’m paraphrasing) “what I did this year” and “how well I did it” and “what I will do next year.” My closest coworker and I did the first part together for a few years when we had approximately the same tasks, deliverables, project managers, etc. It was actually really helpful, because we work on a lot of things and it was a good brainstorming exercise. Then we did the second and third parts on our own.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I am surprised that the manager did not give them an outline of what he expected from them. I am sure he must get some interesting evals that are no where near thorough enough.
      I like the idea of sharing the headings for each section with her. It’s an answer without copying word for word from OP’s eval.

    5. Beezus*

      My company’s self-evaluations are very metrics-driven and very structured, so there’s no question of what needs to be covered and how to outline it. I’ve collaborated with coworkers before, though, on how to address situations where we didn’t feel a metric result matched my/our performance in a particular area. If we do part A, and another team does part B, to achieve C, and we’re evaluated based on C, but C looks bad because, say, the other team had wicked turnover this year and their new staff members struggled to master part B, we’ll find a way to speak to that in the evaluation, and try to separate the impact of the B failures to come up with a revised calculation (at least a rough one) that addresses A only, to get a truer idea of our actual performance. If the logic is sound and there’s a significant difference, we have pretty good luck with getting better ratings with an argument like that. In a situation like that, I would share with coworkers that I’m challenging the metric, I’d share my basis, and if I did a revised calculation, I might share my numbers, but my actual words on my evaluation would be my own.

  2. Jill-be-Nimble*

    AAM–I’m curious about how the timing works with your responses. With things like #2, which are clearly time-sensitive, do you respond in the timeframe, or does everyone wait until you post? I know that you’ve been even busier than usual this past year, so was curious about how your responses have changed in that time!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It depends. Sometimes there’s no realistic way for me to answer it in the timeframe they need it by (for instance, they need advice for something happening tomorrow and I don’t have time/space to answer by then), but often I’ll still print it anyway, on the theory that it’ll still be interesting/useful to others.

      But sometimes when something is very time-sensitive, if I have the time to do it, I’ll send it to them in advance (before it publishes here) so that it’s still useful to the person.

      1. Jill-be-Nimble*

        Always wondered about that–very cool! And thanks, as always, for being there and awesome for your readers. :-)

  3. JoAnna*

    Re: #2, your answer has this line: “‘a caller informed me that he is going to tell the sheriff that Jane is dealing drugs on the boss.'” I think that should be “on the bus.” Don’t mean to be nitpicky but that typo really changes the meaning of the sentence! ;)

  4. Seal*

    #2 – not to make light of a serious situation, but the typo made me chuckle:

    You’re not saying “Jane is dealing drugs on the bus.” You’re saying “a caller informed me that he is going to tell the sheriff that Jane is dealing drugs on the boss.” Those are two different things.

    I believe you meant “bus” not “boss” in second sentence (although per the third sentence they are indeed two different things).

  5. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: Not just no but hell no. There is no way I’d want to share my self-evaluation with anyone but my boss.

    If you’re so inclined, you could provide some tips or suggestions about how to word things if she’s struggling with how to put things into words, but beyond that, you’re under no obligation to help her.

    Also, if you both used the same text/wording in your evaluations, that would probably raise your boss’s eyebrows. If I received 2 evaluations with identical text, it would be a definite WTH moment. And I’d wonder who had copied from whom.

    1. MK*

      Yes, if I was the boss, I wouldn’t think my employees are submitting joint evaluations, I would think they were lazy and/or not taking the self-evaluation seriously.

      1. Mackenzie*

        I’m pretty sure “not taking self-evaluation seriously” is the norm. “Ugh, self-evals. What are you writing?” “I dunno, ‘I fixed a lot of bugs this year’?” “Yeah, that’s about all I got too.” And then you figure out how to stretch “My job is to fix bugs, and I succeeded at fixing bugs” into like 3 paragraphs.

        I mean, how do you evaluate a plumber who’s fixed a leak at your place. “Well, it’s not leaking anymore” and “it’s still leaking” are basically your entire options.

  6. Dan*


    There’s no need to tell your boss.

    AAM is right about a lot of this. About two years ago, my former company was (and still is) going through a bit of turmoil. I went on a job interview and didn’t say anything to my current boss. After I got back, I casually mentioned that I had a chat with a household name employer. Boss asked why. I told him, “obvious reasons.” He told me that I shouldn’t worry, that there was a long way to go before they got to me. That job offer didn’t materialize, and six months later, I was laid off. My boss didn’t catch wind of it until that week, and he couldn’t do anything.

    Lesson #1: Your boss may not know a damn thing about who’s getting whacked until the last minute.

    What makes your job great, and can it be reproduced elsewhere? Also, after layoffs, there’s usually a pretty grim feeling around the office for awhile. I was laid off in round #3 — lemme tell you that rounds 1 & 2 sucked, and the office felt like a morgue after that. Things at my old job haven’t changed, and my old friends clue me on that.

    Lesson #2: What makes your job great now could change. Nothing stays the same.

    Which gets around to your next question: What happens if you wait, you get whacked, and there are no jobs because they’ve been filled? I will soon be working with five of my former coworkers. I had a conversation with someone from on high that indicated to me that there’s limits as to how many of my former coworkers my current company is willing to hire. (Both companies work in the same space, and my former coworkers are very well positioned for employment at my current company.) Point being, my friends who are jumping ship now are getting hooked up with nice jobs. The ones who are waiting will find the door closed to them.

    Lesson #3: If you wait to long, and you get whacked, you may find that the market has tightened.

    You talk about your contract. That’s rare for someone in the US. The thing with contractors is that you don’t really get laid off, your contract just gets non renewed. It’s a hell of a lot easier to non-renew contracts than it is to lay someone off. Contractors are generally viewed as expendable, I’d expect to find myself in that position when times get tough.

    Lesson #4: When you’re a contractor, you’re generally the first to go.

    Basically, you need to take a hard look at four options, none of which you know for certainty: 1) Take the new job. 2) Turn down the job, hope you keep yours, and hope the great things don’t change. 3) Turn down the job, hope you keep your current one, and things change. 4) Turn down the job, lose your current one, and get stuck with an extended stay on the market.

    The results of that analysis will help you decide what to do. As an example, if getting stuck with an extended stay on the job market would be disasterous, then you’d probably have to take the new job. But if you can weather a good stint on unemployment, and the new job sucks, then staying put wouldn’t be a bad option.

    Good luck, I can understand your uncertainty (and presumably frustration.)

    1. BRR*

      Also for lesson 2 will your job be great if someone is gone? If they cut someone from my department it would increase my workload dramatically. We are stretched pretty thin now but manage to get everything done without having to stay late or work weekends. If we lost one person that would change dramatically.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      OP, this is good stuff right here. There are times where keeping food on our tables trumps almost anything else. If you feel the urge to help others, get yourself in a secure spot FIRST, then turn around and help others.

      1. Sourire*

        Getting yourself in a secure spot first can’t help but remind me of the airline safety spiel (“secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to assist others”). Such good advice not just in the event of an aircraft emergency but for so many facets of life, including our professional lives.

        Also, Dan, what wonderful and well thought out lessons/advice!

    3. NoPantsFridays*

      This is a good analysis of OP’s options and their consequences. One other option that might be open to OP is to turn down this job offer (should offer materialize) and continue interviewing in hopes of landing another offer prior to the expected layoff. That could be feasible if OP could weather extended unemployment (and so can risk turning down this offer), and if the offered job sucks.

    4. Judy*

      Especially the third one. I was interviewing and got a job offer between the 1st and 2nd layoff at one company. After I turned in my resignation, several co-workers confided they were looking also, simply because it’s better to be in the earlier waves than the later waves. These were more experienced engineers who had seen this happen at several companies.

  7. Bend & Snap*

    #3 I manage freelance writers, and for someone who produces good work, the need for extensive changes is almost always the fault is the client for providing incomplete information or poor guidance on expectations. These requests are ridiculous and I don’t think the write should proceed–fee or not–without a frank conversation about expectations. Has the style/tone changed? The messaging? The use for the content? What exactly are the expectations? What does “better” mean? What’s prompting this overhaul of work already completed?

    A writer’s work is only as good as the person giving her the tools to develop it, and the client needs to be held accountable for enabling quality.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      Completely agreed. My guess is that the firings the OP mentioned have brought in people with very different ideas on how these articles should look, who now expect everything to be tailored to their expectations even though they were already completed/signed off. I’d personally guess there’s nothing really wrong with them and it’s an opinion thing, I write a lot at my job and I’ve run into similar situations. But either way, I’d follow Alison’s advice to go back and ask for some guidance on what exactly needs to change, as well as saying the rate for those changes is ____.

      1. Sans*

        I’m a copywriter and their requests are ridiculous. The initial understanding for any freelance writing job should be that the fee covers the initial research and writing and usually one major round of rewrites (and subsequent minor changes). But once the copy is approved, if the direction changes, or someone just changes their mind – then there should be an hourly fee. There is no way they should expect to get 35 articles re-written for free. Paying once does not entitle them to infinite versions of that one project.

        And “make it better” made me twitch. That’s a writer’s nightmare. (Or “jazz it up” or “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.” Yes, I’ve heard all of those.) I would guess that each new person wants to make their mark and somehow show that they are changing things — assuming change is the same thing as improvement. It wouldn’t matter what you had written. Some people need to change things as a way to justify their paycheck.

        Establish an hourly fee for rewrites. Get some specific instruction. You could be rewriting forever if all they say is “make it better”.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          “Jazz it up” is right up there with “make it pop” on the list of things you can say that warrant immediate corporal punishment.

          1. Meghan*

            My company had our website redone recently, and our owner told the web designer, “It’s hard to explain what I want to be different. Maybe you could just poke around and see if you come up with something I like better.” He definitely deserved immediate corporal punishment.

            1. esra*

              The best is when they’re so vague, they can’t even use words: “Make it more…. /wavey hand gestures”

          2. Beezus*

            My director says “make it pop” at least once a day. I actually *do* know what he means, but I may add a graphic of a plane crashing and burning next time he says it. He would laugh out loud.

        2. Jessa*

          Seriously this sounds like it belongs on Clients from Hell giggle. The OP really needs to revisit their contract terms in general, and have terms about what constitutes revisions and how many the client gets before they have to pay more. Also the difference between revision and “you changed the terms here, and gave me totally different information,” that’s a totally new job now. You don’t get to pay me to write about teapot handles for you and then decide after I’ve produced the work that you really wanted to talk about why your spouts are better because they don’t split at the joins.

        3. LQ*

          After being told “Just make it more awesome” I once added a unicorn complete with sparkling rainbow. (It was a webpage.) Next time I pushed back I asked if they wanted the unicorn to glitter or not and I got actually useful feedback.

          (It was pretty awesome!)

      2. Mister Pickle*

        Yes. I think the thing missing here is communication: the writer needs to set up a meeting with the client and go over the circumstances behind the 35 (!) re-writes. And establish how much that’s going to cost the client. I guess there’s some chance the client might walk, but if so: maybe they simply aren’t as good a client as they used to be.

        1. OP #3*

          There has been a history of problems with this client, and I thought they were solved when this new person was hired in the spring. I had them vanish on me for 6 weeks last December without paying and only went back after being begged to.

    2. MK*

      Yes, ”do it better” is not feedback. It’s also pretty insulting, as it assumes that this isn’t the OP’s best work already.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Ugh yes. Someone I write for likes to use “doesn’t read well” as constructive feedback, and then will say it’s a grammar issue when asked for clarification. The grammar is always fine, he just doesn’t like it for an unspecified reason.

        1. AH*

          I had a client that would say things like this. I’d get feedback like “fix grammar” when there was NOTHING wrong with the grammar. When I asked for specifics, I wouldn’t hear anything for a week and then get a “this will be fine” email. Luckily, I don’t do work for them anymore. Some clients are just not worth the hassle.

          1. OhNo*

            Ugh, I hate feedback like that. Almost universally, what they really mean is, “You don’t write the same exact way I do. Write it in my style instead!”

          2. AdAgencyChick*

            OMFG, the worst for me is when I get “the grammar is wrong” from a non-native English speaker. This has happened several times.

            I’m not saying all native speakers have good grammar (that’s clearly not true). I *am* saying that if English is not your first language, you’re unlikely to be able to correct the grammar of a native English speaker who is also a huge grammar nerd. Urgh.

            1. Meredith*

              Maybe, maybe not. I know a lot more about German grammar than English grammar, because I studied it for years. I’m a native English speaker, but when you’re learning another language you have to learn the ins and outs of grammar rules really well. This is not to say that your grasp of English grammar isn’t great, but it’s not necessarily true that theirs isn’t, either. The main issue I’ve come across is that many non-native English speakers learn British English, which sometimes sounds strange to an American ear. Even correct grammar can sound a little strange if the flow isn’t what we’re used to colloquially! :)

            2. OP #3*

              I ran this through three different grammar checkers, just like I do with all my work. They may claim that is the issue, but it isn’t.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      As an aside, OP, you sound pretty calm considering the enormous task you have been handed. Good on you, for sure. I hope you follow Alison’s advice here.

      1. OP #3*

        Not the case, actually. I got the email from them mid-afternoon on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving while I was just getting into the parking lot of Trader Joe’s. First, I unleashed a string of profanity that would have made a prisoner on death row blush, then I wrote them back and nicely told them that it was now my holiday weekend and I would not be looking at anything until today. After doing my shopping and buying something chocolate, I typed out my letter to Allison on my phone so I could get it out of my head and move on with my holiday weekend.

    4. OP #3*

      I did a little research and dug up the style guide that they gave me in November 2013 and it has no similarity to the one they sent me the other day to “remind” me about how they want things done. Ironically enough, they also sent me a copy of one of my own articles as an example of “flawless” work and the only type of work that they will accept from now on. (I didn’t get the impression they had any clue they were sending me my own work as an example of what they wanted.)

      When I got sent back the five articles a few weeks ago, I was just told to rewrite them and to give a timeline. I wrote back and told them I couldn’t give a timeline without knowing what they were expecting and was just told to “write them better” with no explanation. With this latest batch, I was also just told to “improve the writing”, with no explanation of what that meant outside making it look like the sample they were sending (which happened to be my own article.)

      I will be asking for pay here based on the advice of Allison and everyone here. My guess is that it will not be approved. I am making a stand here, though, and will not be making these revisions for free.

      1. Mephyle*

        And don’t do the rewrites until and unless it is indeed approved and you get a purchase order! I assume that’s what you mean, right?

        1. OP#3*

          I honestly think they are going to refuse to pay me for it, even though I made it quite clear that I will not do the work for free. There are lots of clients out there who view writers as disposable, so I’m not keeping my hopes up. I pretty much figured this was a lost client a few weeks ago when they started sending stuff back.

          So be it, there are always other clients.

  8. beyonce pad thai*

    #5 I’m really wondering what possible reason there could be to organise twice-daily video conference calls with all staff, even people who aren’t on shift. Sounds like a huge nuisance.

    1. Rebecca*

      I thought the same thing. Twice a day calls sounds way over the top. I work full time, and this would drive me batty!

    2. Sigrid*

      I missed that it was twice a DAY when I first read it — my brain replaced it with the much less crazy twice a week. Twice a day is RIDICULOUS. OP, yes, if you’re non-exempt, you certainly need to be paid for that time, but it might also behoove you to figure out why they’re wasting staff time like this.

      1. Artemesia*

        I read it as twice a week as well because this is batshit nutso. I remember a famous journalists who was expected to get the top job at a paper until when in a lower management job insisted that even people who were on their days off come in for the morning meetings; it became clear that however good he might be as a reporter he was clueless when it came to being a decent manager.

        Of course any such demand is crazy, but any push back starts with ‘how do we report the hours on our time sheets so we get paid?’

    3. LBK*

      Yeah, this is bananas. The only reason you should be holding a daily meeting is to have a quick discussion of the game plan for the day, and people who aren’t working/already worked their shift for the day don’t need to be involved in that. Any info being disseminated in these calls should probably be put in an email instead.

  9. MK*

    Is OP5 only concerned about spending time working on their free time or are they asking about extra compensation for these calls? This wording:

    Would it be our legal right to be paid during these calls, especially if we are off-shift?

    seems to suggest they think there is a question of compensation, even if they are not off-shift.

    1. Lisa*

      How does one deal with this if the manager says ‘no, you are not working – it’s just a few phone calls, you won’t be paid, don’t put it on your time sheet’? Some people do not have the luxury of reporting this to the labor board or alienating a boss. Reality vs. what should happen are 2 different things. If OP says something, gets shot down. They better be in a position to deal with this – have a safety net of money in case they are fired, shut out of hours, and other fun retaliation.

      Of course, I am the person that would round up everyone to call the labor board to discuss this as a group so that it gets their attention. 35 complaints get handled faster than 1. Most companies only need a warning from the labor board to realize they need to follow the law.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Click on that link I included in the response about what to do if the first push-back doesn’t work; it’s about how to assert your legal rights in situations like this.

  10. Henrietta Gondorf*

    #2, the word you’re looking for here is alleged. The caller alleged that your co-working is dealing and stated their intent to take this information to the authorities.

    Also, you don’t say what role your colleague is in (please say not the driver!) , but drugs + transportation = potential for huge disaster in so many ways. Tell your boss immediately.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I will add, that if the caller calls again, insist that they speak with upper management- this could be your boss or anyone above you.

      1. Graciosa*


        I’m not optimistic about the success rate of trying to force an anonymous caller to speak to “upper management” instead of delivering the message and hanging up.

        Also, why? Again, not likely to be a long, drawn out conversation. Take the message just like any other message, pass it on, and forget about it.

        I suppose the OP could ask if the caller wanted to talk to anyone higher in the organization, but I would still treat this as matter-of-factly as any other call.

    2. INTP*

      The OP could even word this as something like, “A crazy person called and claims that Jane is dealing drugs on the bus. He said that he’s going to call the sheriff tomorrow. I wanted to let you know so you and Jane could be prepared to deal with the sheriff if the police really believe this person or have to investigate.” If you word it like you have no doubt in your mind that it’s untrue and you’re just looking out for everyone involved, then you don’t look like a snitch while still being able to convey the information. (And Jane can only be mad if she really is dealing drugs on the bus.)

      Also, there’s a good chance that it really is a crazy person who is mad at the bus driver for running late or something. If I had evidence of someone dealing drugs and planned to go to the police with it, I wouldn’t tip off their employer first so they’d have time to destroy the evidence.

        1. Allison*

          Yup, it was a little nippy going to the car, but not only did I not need to turn the heat on during my commute, I actually found myself taking off my coat and turning on the A/C. But I won’t complain, because soon I’ll be digging out my car, freezing my butt off, and longing for days like this.

      1. hermit crab*

        Here too! It’s really nice out. I don’t want to take a final exam when it feels like spring!!

  11. Rebecca*

    #1 I’ve been working quite a few years, but if my manager simply said “do a self evaluation”, I’d be asking my coworkers how they proceeded as well. I suspect your coworker is unsure of how to proceed, and this is her way of saying it. Maybe you could offer to sit down with her and give her a brief outline of how you put your evaluation together to help her out.

    The first two companies I worked for performed regular evaluations, but I always had an outline to work from. Everyone in the department got the same outline. We filled it out, evaluated ourselves, then sat down with our manager to complete the evaluation. There was a form to follow and specific questions/situations to address.

    1. Artemesia*

      So you ask the boss ‘is there any outline or list of components you want to see on the evaluation?’ If nothing is forthcoming, then you chat with your friends about what the outline might look like. You don’t mooch off their completed evaluation or share yours. If the boss is put off by identical wording, he will view the OP as negatively as the copier.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yes, but the OP’s peer said they “can use the same text for some sections” while asking to see the OP’s draft and not offering his/her own draft. That sounds like laziness to me. I think if their intent was as innocent as you suggested, they would have spoken more generally about what to say and how to say it.

  12. Natalie*

    Am I the only person who thinks dealing drugs on the bus sounds really crazy? I realise some poeple do deal drugs of course, just the venue sounds so improbable… But I like Alison’s response – you are not saying she is or she isn’t dealing as you simply do not know. You are just telling your boss about the (crazy sounding) call.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, maybe not as crazy as we think. It could be that the driver simply does not try to report drug deals on the bus, so the caller feels that the driver is passively supporting the deals that do go on.

      I know I have seen a few drug deals right out in the open in crowded areas. One time I worked at a mall, it was a busy holiday season. I went to get a soda on break. The crowd was dense and kind of pushy, I got pushed in between two people- I saw a baggie going one way and money going the other way. I said nothing and kept going. Not a moment I am proud of, but sometimes you have to just keep moving.
      It’s a long shot, but maybe the driver is aware of drug deals on his bus and has no idea what to do about it. Yes, that is a reach but further investigation will clarify things.

    2. Chinook*

      Actually, a bus driver dealing drugs is not crazy. I worked for a dysfunctional small community as a teacher. One of the school bus drivers was also a known drug dealer (and the sister of one of my students). The cops were stationed an hour away and nor openly welcome there (there was later a shoot out there with the cops.) It was also the only teaching position I ever left before the end of the year.

    3. MK*

      Not really. The ”transaction” could very easily be completed along with the legal one if buying a ticket.

    4. Diet Coke Addict*

      Pretty simple, actually, and the bus driver dealing is a pretty good blind because they’re already exchanging money (assuming it’s a physical-money system still–lots of places have gone to cards or passes only). Hand over the money (for the fare and the drugs), hand back the transfer (and the drugs) as subtly as possible, other passengers might not even notice if it’s a busy-enough bus.

    5. Ludo*

      The only time I’ve ever been solicited to buy drugs was on a bus. Right out in the open the guy held out a little tinfoil of…(meth? cocaine? I have no idea – def. not pot) and asked if I was interested.

      I was seriously expecting the police to jump out and arrest us both but nope. I just shook my head in abject shock and said “no thanks.” He took it rather well, actually.

      1. bkanon*

        HAH! I used to live in a very drug-heavy neighborhood. The first year there, I got asked to buy several times. I always said ‘no thanks’ and the response was always ‘you have a good day, then!’ or some variation. Downright friendly, really. After that, the local dealers knew I wouldn’t buy and stopped new dealers from asking me.

          1. Michele*

            The dealers in my neighborhood are very polite. They don’t want you to tell on them. Sometimes it is best just to MYOB.

            1. Sara M*

              You’d be surprised. Smart dealers know how to butter up their neighborhood. They want the locals to like them or at least not mind them.

              1. bkanon*

                Exactly. I got asked quite frequently if I felt unsafe in that neighborhood, but I never did. I was never ever frightened by any of the local inhabitants, drug dealer or otherwise. I was polite to them, they were polite to me. I never got bothered and after a couple years of living there, I was One Of Us.

                I only had trouble once, and that was a new neighbor who hadn’t been introduced to our street’s behavior codes yet. Blasting very loud, very offensive music at 3 AM. I had Very Big Speakers and a lot of CDs of bagpipes. An hour or so of that and there wasn’t loud music in the middle of the night anymore.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                Yep, the people in the meth house across the street from me took pains not to make too much noise or disrupt the neighbors too much. I had to go ask one of their customers to turn down his car radio one night (politely!). I suspected something might be going on over there, but I didn’t have any proof until the night the po-po served a warrant at 3:30 a.m. and broke up their little enterprise.

                Now they have some nice people in there, after the house was cleaned up. But the landlord sucks, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they left and it happened again. #timetomove

                1. LCL*

                  Same situation happened in the house across the street from us. I had suspicions of something because there were too many cars parked there (6+ on a small city lot). But they were always quiet, they didn’t race or do burnouts or anything. The only noise was when the police raid happened.

    6. Zillah*

      I’m in NYC, and I’ve definitely seen people dealing marijuana on the subway before. Rarely, but it does happen. (I find it infuriating. Thanks for stinking up the entire car and triggering an allergic reaction for me, you jerks. Do weed if you want to, but don’t pollute the air in a place people can’t easily get away from you.)

    7. Adiposehysteria*

      I actually used to work at a mass transit agency in a major city. This would not shock me at all. However, my guess is that this employee is union (probably Teamster) and, short of a conviction, there is not enough for them to actually lose their job.

    8. Cath in Canada*

      There was local case a few years ago where people were taking drugs over the border in a school bus!

      This is because there’s a teeny tiny piece of Washington State called Point Roberts that’s marooned from the rest of the US, so kids who live there have to be driven over the border into Canada, East a bit, then back over the border into the rest of Washington to get to the nearest high school. Apparently school buses are not high on border agents’ list of suspicious vehicles…

    9. Anon for this*

      I use public transit/don’t have a car. I rode the bus in school, too. I wouldn’t be surprised by it at all.

  13. AH*

    #3 – Do you sign a contract with your clients? I learned my lesson as a freelancer and now I have a section that covers charges for significant rewrites.

    1. OP#3*

      I had very specific guidelines that was set up with the person they fired. I had to do this after the disappeared and didn’t pay me for six weeks. I insisted on it as a condition of writing for them again. However, since she is gone, they either do not know about this, or just don’t care. In any case, I have copies of the emails where she agrees to these terms on behalf of the client, so it doesn’t matter if they decide they don’t want to use them.

  14. bad at online naming*

    #1. We have a formal self-evaluation procedure every year that is both wonderful and valuable and excruciating and awful. Parts involve laying down both business-oriented and professional-growth-oriented goals for the next year that you will evaluate yourself on the next year… last year was my first year doing such a thing, and my manager actually asked the person in the role closest to mine to share the business goals part of it with me. “You two are going to be working on mostly the same thing anyway,” and shared some of his own personal goals from his early years. It was very helpful to get such a baseline, and ensured that the two people on the same team weren’t pulling in opposite directions – formally as well as realistically. Another coworker also shared suggestions and talked to me about it, and I asked a third to advise on how to frame a certain situation I wanted to bring up.

    The coworker may be flailing about, and offering general help without your direct text, as others have said, may be all she needs. Professional guidance doesn’t only have to happen on the internet. ;)

    I just realized that this year’s evaluations kick off this or next week. uuuugh. Useful after the fact, soooo painful to write.

    1. Judy*

      Everywhere I’ve worked, the goals “rolled down” based on organization goals. Only the personal development goals section changed person by person, otherwise goals were substantially identical between everyone with the same job. Meaning the organization’s goals were “Deliver products to 95% cost, quality and schedule estimates.” So as a software engineer, my goals were: “Deliver software for assigned projects within schedule estimates for 95% of projects.” “Deliver software with 95% quality estimates.” In the results section, you would write “Project A: Software delivered on schedule, V&V quality X. Project B: Software 3 days late, V&V quality Y” The ratings would be somewhat quantitatively developed based on size of project (number of charged hours). If project A took 1700 hours during the year and project B took 300 hours, then project A would be weighted more. (Of course, I was working on maybe 8 or 9 projects through the year.)

        1. bad at online naming*


          We have some roll down of goals anyway, but not a ton – and it doesn’t pull in automatically (gr), so to even find out you’re supposed to reference those in building your own takes a conversation. But it seems like many people choose to have a small set of goals that vary in specificity; some for the department, some for the product, some for the team, some for themselves. Or maybe that’s just how some of us think. :)

          1. Judy*

            The reviews had 3 sections, “Performance”, “Strategic” and “Personal Development”. The performance goals were identical within the group. The managers took the Director’s Strategic Goals “Faster project turnaround by reuse” and made group goals “Increase software reuse by 20%” and then created a spreadsheet with the Director’s goals, manager’s goals, and then goals for Senior Engineers, Project Engineers and Associate Engineers. We just had to paste the items from the correct columns into our system. The most recent manager customized slightly for the senior engineers because we each had a “supporting” role for all strategic goals, but each person had one or more goals that they were in “leading” roles.

  15. Mike C.*

    What’s with all the worry about “snitching”? Are folks living under the rules of omertà or something?

    1. fposte*

      Do they find a severed stapler head on their chair? Is their keyboard abducted with dislodged keys sent back to them as horrifying proof?

      1. Tinker*

        Yeah, in certain sorts of dysfunctional environment (I might say, many K-12 schools and some workplaces as a rough draft) there’s a sort of authoritarian model in place where the leadership imposes their will so far as they’re able, with sketchy regard for the effect on others, and the implementers (and… implementees?) gain necessary accommodation for themselves mostly through indirect means.

        One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a tightly written example of an extreme version of this — in the Soviet gulags, folks would be assigned work that if done as specified would burn on average X calories per day, and what was allocated to each prisoner who did that work (and hence, shipped to the prison) would be something like 0.5X calories. Over the course of a ten or twenty year sentence, the result is virtually mathematical — the folks who took the straightforward and honest approach to the problem were largely not available later for writing books about it, shall we say. The person who did write the book refers to various methods of surreptitiously decreasing calories out (e.g. by producing adulterated output, sometimes with comic results), increasing calories in (e.g. stealing from weaker prisoners, result left as an exercise to the reader), or getting out of the situation (e.g. by pretending to be an engineer and hence being assigned to a prison research facility).

        In such a dysfunctional environment, to “snitch” appears to cause unjust and bad things to happen to other people because of your actions (reality is more complicated, but human thinking is sometimes complicated in a different way from other parts of reality), alienates potential allies, encourages retaliation, and possibly even causes you a loss of face with the authorities (as in the case of adults in the K-12 setting scolding tattletales).

        This process is usually transmitted in a fuzzy and nonexplicit way, and although this method is clearly suited to its environment, folks who don’t put explicit words to what they’ve learned are apt to misapply it at the edges (incorrectly classifying documenting the content of a call as “tattling”) or apply it to environments that are not in fact coercive in the same way (because they learn the rules as being universal rather than as specific strategies for a particular set of circumstances).

        Rule I’ve found is that folks pretty much always have a reason for what they do. It may not be a good reason, but there will be a reason.

  16. HR Manager*

    #2 – Does your office not have an ethics/confidential hotline for employees to call into, or is this the hotline you are answering? I assume that your office may have set procedures about whom to notify and who should respond to these types of calls, so working this info up the usual chain should be in order.

    I’ve had people call about inappropriate behavior, criminal or otherwise, and I just have to inform senior management and/or Legal to look into this. That’s your only responsibility, unless you’ve been explicitly asked to be part of the investigation.

    1. Elsajeni*

      Yeah, this is what I was thinking — it sounds like this might be a general “problems & complaints” hotline for the transit system, so I can understand why the OP might be thrown to get a call reporting misconduct by (if I understood correctly) someone who works in the office with them; I imagine that most of their calls deal more with issues like “I’ve been waiting for twenty minutes, where is the #13 bus?” and, if they get a complaint about a staff member, it’s usually a customer-facing person like a bus driver or conductor. But passing the information up normal channels, including whatever details the caller provided, is the right thing to do here. Maybe throw in some “I got a weird call today, but I felt I had to tell you about it…” to distance yourself from the actual allegation, if you’re really concerned about your coworker being angry with you over it.

  17. Artemesia*

    #2 This is the kind of thing that you don’t pause to think about — because the longer you delay the more trouble you may be in if you don’t do the right thing. The right thing is to report this immediately within the hour — certainly within the day. It can be phrased ‘This is probably just someone making trouble, but we got an anonymous call on the hot line that alleges Jane is dealing drugs on the bus and I thought you needed to be aware of the complaint.

    You don’t want to carry this around another minute.

  18. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #4 – if you’re offered another job – and there are anticipated layoffs again in your site — pursue the new job. If it’s offered (and it’s something you want) – THEN – and ONLY then – go back to your boss and tell him/her what’s going on.

    Under no circumstances should you “wait and see” if you are to be laid off. If you are “countered” with a promise – you won’t be let go – GET IT IN WRITING.

    Also – why is the layoff coming down? Lack of work? Bad financials? Or, just “harum scarum” — a term applied when a layoff is done to “keep the others in their places and put them on notice that no job is safe”.????

Comments are closed.