open thread – December 19, 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.

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

{ 1,202 comments… read them below }

  1. sprinkles!

    I overheard some coworkers (not on my team) talking yesterday about getting a gift card for their manager. It took everything in my being not to say, “Gifts in the workplace are supposed to flow downward!”

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      It’s too late now, but if you know these co-workers and it wouldn’t be creepy for you to join in on the conversation, why keep that advice to yourself? What’s wrong with saying “Really? Etiquette advice I’ve read says that gifts in the workplace should always flow downward, and it’s inappropriate to give a gift to a boss. Have you read something different?”

      You’re not attacking them, allowing them to contradict your advice, but also opening their eyes if they hadn’t thought about that.

    2. Revanche

      Y’know, it *totally* makes me feel like a bad AAMer when I confess that I used to arrange fun birthday things for my boss, my staff were welcome to pitch in if they *wanted* to lend a hand, and occasionally pick up a token gift from our mutual hobby things. It’s never expected, it’s just that it was amusing for me.

      1. stellanor

        I give everyone on my team, including my manager and the several other people who outrank me, small holiday gifts (chocolates last year, homemade sweets this year).

        One of my coworkers likes to give big, extravagant gifts and is HORRIBLE about it. My first year here she took up a collection for a birthday gift for our boss and, when our contributions weren’t what she wanted, guilt tripped us that she “had to” spend $100 of her own money. She also, without asking anyone’s opinion, spent $500 (over twice the cost of the gifts the team had been considering) on a wedding gift for a teammate and then sent everyone invoices for $50. She ended up stuck paying the lion’s share when at least half the team declined to give her that much money. This year on my boss’s birthday she tried to get me to contribute to buying a large ($100+) gift for her, but I declined.

        It’s not like my team even has a culture of big gifts — in fact, the culture is to give small food gifts. We bring in treats for birthdays, give each other sweets for Christmas, etc.

      2. JoAnna

        My team (6 of us in all, not including our boss) all voluntarily pitched in for a small Christmas gift for our boss (a desk calendar featuring his favorite football team). Each of us chipped in around $3. We do it because he’s a really great boss, and we want to show our appreciation for all that he does for us (but if someone couldn’t/didn’t want to chip in, it wouldn’t be a big deal). I really don’t see the harm as long as the gift-giving upward isn’t extravagant, forced, coerced, etc.

        1. Revanche

          @stellanor Igh, that’s DEFINITELY not how we do it. I decide what I’m going to do/pay for and plan to pay for it myself. Then I share with the team and let them know if they want to pitch in or do something, that’s entirely up to them to come let me know, I wasn’t going to be passing a hat, and I’d be happy to expand the gift/plan if there was a lot of enthusiasm. How on earth do people invoice their coworkers?? Rude.

          @JoAnna That’s where I was coming from.

        2. Jazzy Red

          That’s what we used to do, too, Joanna. After you’ve had a terrible boss, you want to do something nice for a good boss. And my *best ever* boss appreciated the sentiment of a small gift or card from his employees.

          I think it’s perfectly appropriate for someone to give a good boss a small token of appreciation, especially something like a desk calendar (which is obviously inexpensive) for something edible that is homemade.

          (Note: this is NOT my last employer/workplace that I complain about here.)

    3. KCS

      Honestly, I didn’t know this etiquette rule until AAM posted it. At my last job, my coworkers and I would pool money and spend a couple hundred dollars on a gift for our boss. I felt like it was kind of “expected.”

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        That’s the problem, I think. Even when people say “it’s totally voluntary and people only do it if they want to,” people often end up feeling like it’s expected or it’ll stand out if they don’t. That’s why I still argue it’s kinder to your coworkers to resist the impulse.

    4. Suzy Snowflake

      At my prior organizations, my Assistant Director and I always exchanged gifts. For my staff now, which is considerably larger, my AD and I bought lunch for our annual Staff “Meeting” (i.e. party). All staff except 1 took part in it, because she was on vacation.

      There are 4 of us in the Administrative office- each of us buys something for the other 3, even though I’m the boss. It’s the way it’s always been done and I don’t want to be the one to offend someone… and I have 2 who would be.

      We also did an optional Secret Santa, which I initiated. It was a lot of fun for the ones that participated. I know that AAM says gifts flow downward, and as a boss, I agree that no one should feel obligated to give me a gift. But if staff does, I am always thankful and graciously accept what they want to offer.

    5. Robyn

      There was an email going around asking for contributions for a gift for my boss this year for Christmas. She gave everyone in the office a $25 gift card, from “us” she got a spa gift card to one of the best spas in our city, for $190. I’m glad I kept my money.

    6. Nicole

      My boss told me today she was trying to think of a gift for her boss, and I wanted to say this too, but then I thought that would sound like I was trying to get out of giving her a gift. But I’m NOT planning on giving her a gift, and now I know that she thinks it’s ok to give a gift to one’s boss and I’m worried she’ll be upset when I don’t. HOLIDRAMA

    7. Anon333

      So question from the other side – it’s OK as a manager not to give gifts, right? I have a great team and I really appreciate them, but I’ve never bought anyone on my team gifts and I don’t really want to start. I have enough trouble picking out gifts for the people I do know well! Sometimes people do give me generous gifts – like one of our sales guys, since he had a great year – which makes me uncomfortable, but I do accept them. Thoughts on this?

      1. NewGirlinTown

        I think it depends entirely on the culture. If your team is the only one that isn’t receiving gifts, I think a $5/$10 gift card to Starbucks or Target would be appropriate, but if it varies or if no one else at the company gives them, then don’t feel obligated.

      2. Jazzy Red

        Food is always a good gift. Either treats that everyone can enjoy in the office, or lunch somewhere out. It doesn’t have to be expensive (and shouldn’t really be). People just want to be appreciated. Then again, I’m one of those people who really does appreciate the thought.

        When I first moved down here to the South, I worked with a combination of local people and people who had moved here. At one of our department meetings, one the local guys mentioned a situation that came up with another person, and our boss stuck up for our local guy. Our local guy said, “I just wanted to appreciate you in front of the whole department.” It was the first time I heard that expression, and I thought was very stand-up for our coworker to do that.

  2. badger_doc

    I have a question for the readers here who work in government and have some knowledge of employment law when it comes to working overtime without getting paid. My significant other just started a new job as a scheduler for one branch of the government. He is paid hourly so as far as I know about that, he needs to be paid for every hour of work he does, however his boss does not want him working overtime. This particular position requires a lot of extra hours of work to get vacation requests entered into the system and he has been staying at the office until 9-10pm every night this week to get it done. I have told him that he needs to be paid for that time but he says his boss will not approve it and that he isn’t supposed to be working that many hours. I told him that what he was doing was illegal because he could get his boss in trouble if the labor department finds out about all the extra hours he has been working for no pay, but he seems to brush me off and says it doesn’t matter because it is his choice to do the extra work to make sure everything is done on time. What can I do other than point him in the direction of where the law states that this is not ok? Do any of the commenters who work for the government have a stronger/more persuasive argument than the one I am making? Thanks!

    1. Joey

      There is an exception in the OT law for governments. They still have to compensate for overtime, but they can compensate with time off instead of paying dollars. So unless he’s getting that you’re right.

      1. badger_doc

        He does not get additional time off. In fact, he will use significantly less vacation time for this job because of the scheduling part of the position. He has no one to cover for him so he needs to be there all the time.

        1. fposte

          But it also sounds like they don’t even know he’s doing it, because he’s been explicitly told not to work overtime and he’s still working extra hours, right? The government exception isn’t that the employee can decide to work OT and take comp time.

          Basically, he needs to knock it off until he talks to the boss about the workload issue. Working OT without permission–when explicitly told not to–is a fireable offense.

          1. badger_doc

            Exactly. He tells me that this is how it is, that the guy before him had to do this. So he does not have permission to do so, but claims he needs to get his work done or he will be fired and that he has to other choice but to work more, either at the office or at home. I keep trying to explain that this is not right and to talk to his boss but I don’t think he cares enough about the ramifications of his actions. I am half temped to call someone and alert them that this is happening but I don’t want to interfere. I was looking for a stronger argument that could make him see that what he is doing is wrong and he needs to knock it off, but he probably won’t listen to that either…

            1. fposte

              Yeah, don’t call somebody to get your boyfriend fired. That’s not going to end well.

              I think you just need to let this be his problem and think about something else.

              1. badger_doc

                Haha definitely not to get him fired, but just so that his boss can tell him that this is not ok and that he can get his life back. But you’re right, this is his deal and I shouldn’t let it affect me.

            2. Also Govt

              My government agency just got sued over this. They cannot refuse to pay you overtime no matter what. His boss can refuse to authorize overtime, but that means your BF needs not to work over 40 hours. He should definately either stop working the OT, talk to his boss about the realities of the job, or talk to HR. There is a huge risk for the boss and the agency if they ever get audited.

              1. GovHRO

                The government can get sued for failure to pay overtime under FLSA (although they have to know about it or “suffer” it–basically be aware without “knowing”, but your boyfriend could get fired or other disciplinary action over failure to follow an order to not work overtime. Completely separate from the legal issue, it’s important for employees to ask themselves if they are as efficient as they should be/peers are. If not, extra work may be the only way to not be in performance trouble. I have a friend who is smart and hard working, but slow–he puts in a lot of non paid hours (not a gov employee, but he would regardless of the setting to balance his natural speed). If the expectations are truly unreasonable, wait until after the one or two year probationary period is complete (competitive service vs excepted service–although if the job is temporary, it could be probationary much longer).

        2. Joey

          Tell him that he needs to report the time and needs to be compensated regardless of whether his supervisor approved it. He just needs to be prepared to get his hand slapped for working unauthorized OT. And obviously he needs to tell his boss “x won’t get done unless I work OT. What would you like me to do going forward when this happens?”

          1. Katie the Fed

            Yup.

            Two things will probably happen: he WILL get compensated, and he will get in trouble for working unauthorized overtime, especially after being told not to. Comp time isn’t free – if you don’t take it we have to pay it out as overtime in a year so it does incur a financial obligation on the agency.

            Badger – your boyfriend is handling this very wrong. This is a conversation he should be having with his boss, not you. He’s disobeying instructions not to work. There are implications to that – he’s creating potential legal issues AND he’s covering for a manning shortage. If there aren’t enough people to do the job, they need to hire more. It’s that simple.

    2. Apollo Warbucks

      Your husband is wrong, he must be paid for ALL the time he is working. There is no provision in the law for him to wave that right.

      He shouldn’t be working with out recording the time and he will more likely than not be in massive trouble if he is found out to have under reported the hours worked.

      His boss can not refuse to approve the time, your husband can be written up or even fired for working unauthorised overtime but he must still be paid.

      your husband could sign a contract saying he would work for free and then employerwould still lose if your husband filed a claim for back pay with the state labour board.

        1. De Minimis

          It sounds like he’s not getting OT pay or comp time, though it also sounds like he’s not trying to at least attempt to get the overtime approved before he works the extra hours.

          At my workplace [federal govt] we have to fill out a form requesting overtime [though this is sometimes done afterward in cases where the extra time was unforeseen, like for travel when a meeting offsite goes longer than anticipated] and at that point we specify if we want pay or comp time. At my particular workplace we don’t have a timeclock or automated system for recording time, we have timesheets that are verified each pay period, but they’re verified based on the word of the employee and the supervisor.

          He needs to at least have it authorized, and if it isn’t authorized he needs to stop working the extra hours. If they complain about things not getting done at that point he needs to bring up that it will require him working extra.

          Where I work almost everyone is paid hourly with the exception of one employee branch [who are technically considered military and are paid a monthly salary.] Employees above a certain level are not eligible for overtime, but that basically just includes the doctors, dentists, and I believe the CEO. Even then their hours are tracked.

        2. Traveler

          Do you know what the reasoning is for this Alison? I could guess (something along the lines of taxpayer money) but I was never quite sure if that was right.

            1. De Minimis

              I know we also have been giving extra time off as a bonus for good performance…great way to reward employees even when budgets are flat [and even being cut…]

          1. Katie the Fed

            It’s a pretty sweet deal though. I end up with gobs of time I can take for vacation :) I’m at a point in my life where I value time more than money so I love it.

        1. D.

          Is it government can comp overtime pay with time off only if the employee suggests the time off instead of overtime pay? Like the employer can’t suggest time off instead of overtime pay? Something like that? And I read on this blog last week in a reader comment something about government OT has to be preapproved…anyone remember that?

          1. Joey

            To clarify. Goverment can decide whether or not to pay with dollars or comp time. Some ask the employee, others mandate. But, if you leave and still have comp time on the books they must pay it out.

          2. AnotherHRPro

            Many organizations require that overtime be pre-approved, as in you need your managers approval to work extra hours. If you do work extra hours they need to be paid, but your manager can deny letting you work extra hours.

            1. De Minimis

              Ours I think has to be approved, but it’s a verbal approval and I think it’s up to the supervisor’s discretion. We have one department that routinely has overtime and we get flak about it from regional headquarters, but there has not been any attempt by those in charge here to limit it. Our system is less complicated since there is no actual time clock involved.

              I think the rule is that the default is overtime pay unless the employee requests comp time. That is the case here and it also was the case when I worked at the Post Office [though they did not even have comp time available until later in my time there.]

          3. The IT Manager

            No. There’s no such thing as overtime pay for govt employees. Govt employees can only earn comp time. It’s not optional; it’s the only way.

            But, yes, my supervisor has to approve my overtime requests in advance. We call it “overtime,” but we’re not paid for it in cash, we’re compensated for each 15 minutes worked with 15 minutes off at another time. It’s called “CT” in the leave system versus “AL” for annual leave.

            1. fposte

              We should clarify “government” here. Fed government can be different from state, which can be different from state to state. You can definitely be eligible for OT working for my state.

            2. De Minimis

              Maybe in your case, but my workplace does overtime pay, and I’m guessing it’s the case for most federal employees, my pay stub [which is uniform throughout the federal government, the same agency does everyone’s payroll] even lists an overtime pay rate for me.

              I see everyone’s pay here so I know that we do pay overtime.

            3. Joey

              As I said. The law allows Government to choose to pay you in comp time or in salary. Some entities choose only comp time since it doesn’t directly hit the budget.

            4. Gene

              That entirely depends on how you define “Government”. I’ve worked for one county and three cities in three states. In one place it was comp time only at 1:1, in another it was employee’s choice at 1:1, at the county it was supervisor’s choice at 1.5:1, at my current city it’s pay at 1.5:1 unless you get prior approval for comp time at 1.5:1. It used to be our choice until one shop gamed the system. I still have ~3 hours CT in the system I can take off or get paid out at retirement that’s been there for 20 years.

              Maybe there’s “no such thing” in your agency.

            5. Katie the Fed

              “There’s no such thing as overtime pay for govt employees. Govt employees can only earn comp time. It’s not optional; it’s the only way. ”

              ha. My paycheck begs to differ.

            6. Also Govt

              This is straight up false. There is definately 100% overtime pay for government employees. Many people are paid time and a half for OT just as in the private sector.

    3. BRR

      First check that he’s non-exempt. If he is, unfortunately he cannot volunteer to work extra hours for free. He doesn’t get to choose. If he does this his employer is breaking the law and they can fire him for being a liability to the company. This is the best link I could find in quick searching that explains it. http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/efte/b_suffered_or_permitted_to_work.html

      He should go to his manager and explain that he is not able to get everything done during his standard work day.

      1. badger_doc

        Thank you BBR, I was looking for something like this to send to him to make him see the error of his way. I really think that he just doesn’t care what he is doing, even if illegal, as long as he gets the work done. I am not sure of the manager knows about this or not, but i think there is some “willingly ignorant” mentality going on in that particular workplace where they don’t know it is happening on paper, but it has to be happening in order to get the work done. How provable is that?

        1. BRR

          From what you’ve said it would be difficult for the manager to prove he knew but don’t quote me on that. He needs to worry about being fired for doing this.

        2. LAI

          Badger, I think it might help to point out to your significant other that this doesn’t just affect him – he’s potentially harming his employer and so, in a way, he’s actually kind of being selfish. He’s prioritizing his own desire to get work done over the potential liability that poses to the organization. I did this when I started my first job because I didn’t really understand — I thought I was helping by doing more work for “free” and I had to be told several times to stop working overtime before I finally understood.

          But also, if it’s a timing issue where he needs to wait for vacation requests to be submitted and then stay late to input them, couldn’t he work out a schedule where he just comes in later on days when he knows he’ll have to stay late, or works longer hours during busy weeks but shorter hours during less busy weeks?

    4. The IT Manager

      For my government agency we are supposed to get permission in advance to work the extra hours (for which we will be compensated time and not paid overtime). Of course that’s hard when it’s unplanned and you’re just going to work as long as needed to finish the job and no more. But if you need to work extra you need to let your boss know in advance and get approval.

      I think what’s missing here is that when the boss says he won’t approve OT or comp time, your husband needs to leave work on time and not work the extra hours. I really wonder if they’re just communicating badly. Boss won’t approve paid overtime because it’s really earned comp time with no extra pay. Or much more likely boss means your husband should not work overtime, and your husband misinteprets that it means he shouldn’t put in for overtime after he works it anyway.

      Husband needs to have that discussion with the boss. If I cannot work overtime (meaning if he can’t claim overtime and earn comp time), then all this work will not be done.

      If the boss is really saying work as long as you need to get the job done, but do not claim the extra hours that’s violating the rules and law and needs to be reported to his boss’s boss or HR.

    5. Brett

      Rather than worrying about the law, working unapproved overtime is one of the few easy ways to get yourself fired in government, especially local government.

    6. Noelle

      There’s also a difference if he’s working in the executive branch vs. the legislative branch. Basically the legislative branch gets to do whatever it wants. However, if it’s an hourly position and he’s been told not to work overtime, it sounds like he needs to have a talk with his boss.

    7. Student

      You need to talk to your SO about how he values his own time. If he is voluntarily working 12 hour days for no pay and no comp time, that says he doesn’t value his own time very much. He’s giving himself a substantial hourly pay cut by doing that – if he normally earns $20/hour for his work in an 8-hour day, he’s only earning $13.33/hour when he gets paid the same amount but works a 12-hour day.

      He could do a lot of other things with that time he’s donating to the company, and that’s what this is really about for you. You, presumably, want him to spend that time with you, and are hurt that he doesn’t consider that to be more valuable than throwing his money at his own company. He could do a lot of things besides spending that time on you, though; he could volunteer for a good cause, he could get an extra job and actually be paid for the extra work, he could develop hobbies or socialize with others. Donating time to the company is unlikely to do anything but create an unreasonable expectation about how long it takes to do his job. Using that time for himself, regardless of what he pursues in that time, is a more sensible long-term personal investment.

      1. fposte

        I think you’ve got a good point that she may be wishing he’d spend the time with her, but I think if that’s the issue that’s what needs to be talked about rather than whether his work hours are kosher or not. Boyfriend’s work and time are boyfriend’s to manage, and he’s already heard from badger that his work hours isn’t legal and he doesn’t care. “I miss you and wish I could see more of you” is a conversation starter that a partner will listen to.

      2. badger_doc

        You really hit the nail on the head. I didn’t want to come right out and say that because I didn’t want to risk being the jealous GF who wants to monopolize her BFs time or dictate where he SHOULD be spending it instead. I guess I was hoping for some commenters who work for the government to either say that this is done ALL THE TIME and not to worry about it or to point me to some document i can show him to let him know the legal ramifications of what could happen if he is found out. So thank you all for your input. I’ll try to update you after the holidays and let you know what happened! You all rock!

        1. Another Fed

          One other thing to note: if his timecard says 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week and he and his supervisor sign it, but those are not the hours he worked, that counts as timecard fraud. Timecard fraud is one of very few things that will get you speedily fired in the federal government. Obviously, people generally care a lot more when taxpayers are paying for hours not actually worked, but this is just as illegal.

          1. Artemesia

            This is exactly the sort of thing that can get you fired in a place where firings are rare if someone is looking for a reason to fire you. I worked in a non-profit where no one ever got fired and our top AA nearly did — she was only saved by very strong lobbying by our boss — for ‘time card fraud’. She was allowing people to time shift or do comp time while filling out the time cards as if they worked normal shifts. There was no ‘cheating’ here– and the system made flexibility difficult, but she got caught out and it was a giant enormous big deal.

    8. ThursdaysGeek

      Even though it is something he shouldn’t be doing, that the company is legally obligated to pay him for work done so he should either get the comp/OT or quit the extra work, he may not be being obstinate about this.

      If the previous guy said this is what was required, if there’s so much work he can’t even take time off he should get, there’s a good chance the boss knows and is deliberately turning a blind eye to the situation. There are bosses like that out there: do the work, don’t do OT, period.

      He may feel that he’s in a situation where he either breaks the law or he doesn’t have a job. The boss can say that PreviousEmp managed to get it done, so if you’re not able to without OT, you’re too slow. If legally challenged, boss would claim he had NO idea that PreviousEmp was working unpaid overtime! And if he complains and its endemic, he’s going the whistleblower route, which is a very hard road. Maybe doing what he’s doing is what he thinks is easiest, even safest, no matter how illegal it is.

      You can ask people to stand up for what is right, but it does depend on whether that’s a battle they really want to fight.

  3. Scarlet

    So, I’m the office harlot. Not really, but some people likely think so. Coworkers have made comments about other colleagues and even the CEO flirting with me. One coworker even thought I was being suggestive and kissed me, even though I am obviously married. No one ever says “Scarlet is a flirt”; it’s always “So-and-so flirted with Scarlet”. But I’m certainly getting a reputation.

    I’m effusive and giggly. But I’m also an intelligent professional. I don’t want to be overly serious, since that is not part of my personality. But how do I mitigate this? I’m tired of the gossip mill. Any suggestions?

    1. Artemesia

      Effusive and giggly and professional don’t belong in the same sentence. And a woman who is kissed against her will can certainly make it clear this is unwelcome so that she gets the reputation of someone who is not available for fooling around. The kiss was the moment to make it clear to the kisser and the office that you are not inviting this sort of intimacy.

      1. Scarlet

        Well, technically they weren’t in the same sentence :). I’m effusive at some times, more serious at other times. Looks like I need to tone down my personality a bit, especially with some colleagues.

    2. Kai

      This reminds me of the running joke from The Office about Pam being the “office harlot.” Ick.

      Even if you don’t want to, this is something you’re probably going to have to be a lot more firm on. A coworker kissed you?! That’s infuriating. And it’s unfair that the reputation is falling on your shoulders if it isn’t warranted–but even so, if people are saying things about you that make you uncomfortable, you have every right to tell them to knock it off.

    3. matcha123

      I think that people who want to gossip about something are going to find something to gossip about.

      Where I am, people assume a lot if you talk in a friendly manner to someone of the opposite sex when you’re not married to them. I tend to try to drop tid-bits into my conversation that I have a boyfriend. And when it seems like someone is trying to take something in a direction I don’t like, I change the subject/ask them to clarify what they want and any number of other awkward things.

        1. matcha123

          I’m working in Japan.
          At my old job, a newly engaged coworker was gossiped about because she would leave work with another male co-worker :p

    4. fposte

      While this isn’t the sole factor, I’m curious what your response was to the co-worker kissing you. Did you shut it down and tell him sternly that that was never to happen again? (Preferably not because you’re married, but because you’re working.) Because while it’s his behavior that’s out of line, that’s a defining moment where you have a chance to draw a clear line, but if you, say, giggled in response to that it suggests that’s within the norm of what you’re expecting because you’re behaving as you normally do.

      I’d also say that if you are touching people yourself you should break yourself of the habit immediately, and you should also keep an eye on your conversational physical distance–add a few inches to what feels normal to you.

      1. Scarlet

        We were not at work at the time. It was a circumstance where we were alone, he thought I was being inviting, and I can see that I should not have been in the situation. But I never touched him (or any of my colleagues).

        1. fposte

          Okay, that’s good that you’re not a toucher. Are there other women your age there or might some of this be because you’re the only same-age female as these guys? If there are women, do you giggle as much with them? I can’t really know enough from here to differentiate a situation where I’d say “You work with creeps who need to be iced down” from “Yeah, that’s a giggling pattern that’s not helping you,” so maybe run your mind through the spectrum, see if there are behaviors that you might want to shift, and use MsM’s excellent wording as needed.

          1. Artemesia

            This. Every woman I know who relentlessly flirts in the office, does this effusive giggly thing with men but not really with women. No coy looks or giggly responses to or tilted head looks, or ultra responsiveness (e.g. laughing at the jokes, making admiring comments etc) to women just to the guys. And lots more hanging around with and chatting with guys. A big personality who is loud and highly interactive with women as well as men will be perceived differently than someone who is constantly appearing to seek male attention.

          2. INTP

            Good point about behaving differently with women versus men. I also find that a lot of women get this reputation (undeservedly) because they generally come across as more interested in interacting with men than with women. Maybe they’re more giggly and effusive with men, maybe they don’t act dramatically different but spend more time interacting with men or get closer to the men and not the women in the office. This is probably sometimes because they’re just more comfortable with men, not disinterested in women, but it’s something to watch out for.

      2. Anx

        I think this could be part of the issue.

        I think sometimes women reflexively laugh, demure, or otherwise fail to make their discomfort obvious. While asserting yourself in the moment can be very challenging–even dangerous–it seems to be expected of a professional woman.

        I guess I’d suggest preparing responses in your head for any other advances, so you might not slip back into old patterns if you wish to change them.

        1. Sadsack

          Writing the story that was recently shared about a woman at work who was rumored to be carrying on with all the male coworkers, but this is from “harlot’s” point of view. I hope the OP from the first story is reading this; might further help her put things in perspective.

    5. Barbara in Swampeast

      There is a BIG wide space between “effusive and giggly” and “overly serious.” To start with, there is NOT being giggly. I have to agree with Artemesia that effusive and giggly and professional don’t belong together. I also have a problem with effusive because that can come off as being insincere if carried too far.

      I also learned the hard way that even if the men in your office know you are married, that does NOT mean that you are off-limits. If you don’t shut some people down, they will assume that you are ok with what they are doing and they will push the limits. I think you need to work on your professional demeanor if you want to be taken seriously because gigglers (men as well as women) are usually not taken seriously.

      1. Scarlet

        “Giggly” is probably overstating it in my case. I should have used a different word, though to some people I might come across as giggly. I laugh and smile a lot.

      2. fposte

        Though you know, she should be able to laugh in the office without it being perceived as sexual invitation.

        1. Artemesia

          Well yeah. But if all your laughter is reserved for interactions with guys then people will have your number and it isn’t just ‘happy personality.’

        1. Artemesia

          Yes and it doesn’t have to be women who are sending signals. Some just keep trying till they get a hit. In a very long work life I have been hit on by men in almost every setting including when I was 3 mos pregnant with my first child. But it didn’t happen second times with any of these guys, most of whom took ‘no’ gracefully and move on to the next potential target. Lots of men (and probably lots of women, but I didn’t see those) pursue married co-workers for fun and sport.

    6. MsM

      In response to the gossip: “That was flirting? Really? I hope not. I’d hate to have to put [Coworker] through an awkward conversation, but I also don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.”

      If you can’t reasonably deny that something was flirting and the person doing the flirting doesn’t seem to realize he’s crossed a line on his own, then you’re going to need to have the awkward conversation, and probably maintain a bit of distance by keeping conversations focused on work moving forward.

    7. literateliz

      No advice, but I have to say I’m bummed by the people saying that effusive/giggly and professional are incompatible. I have no idea if this is true in normal workplaces, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that my 75% female workplace (more like 90% on my floor) makes it so that a lot of the gendered barriers to being taken seriously in the workplace are not an issue–people bake cookies for the office, wear cute dresses, get really excited about makeup, and when it’s time to work are recognized without question as professionals who are capable as hell at what they do. Which is not to equate giggliness with being female, but it does seem like something that would be more heavily penalized in a male-dominated environment.

      (The downside to all of this is that the pay is shit, but…)

      1. Jen RO

        I work in a company where all that is possible AND the pay is pretty good! I actually think we have more female managers than male managers, including the typically male-heavy departments like (software) development.

      2. Ella

        It’s a Catch 22. If you’re not giggly and smiley as a woman, you’ll be called a bitch. I am trying hard to smile and laugh less in professional situations, but it is hard when your whole life as a female you’ve been taught you need to be placating and nice due to gender norms. So we should all cut the giggles some slack I think.

        1. Ezri

          It can subconscious, too. Just this week I realized that I have a particular ‘sunny smile’ and laugh that I use when I’m talking to people at work, and ONLY when I’m talking to people at work. I’m naturally shy, serious-faced, and reticent in public situations, and I’ve had people assume I’m stuck-up or a jerk because of it. That’s not fun.

        2. Nope

          ‘If you’re not giggly and smiley as a woman, you’ll be called a bitch.’
          I’m a female. I’m competent and I act in a professional and friendly manner with people in the workplace. I’m not ‘giggly and smiley’ and if someone thinks that makes me a bitch, then that someone’s got a problem — Not my problem.

      3. Zillah

        I agree. I think it’s entirely possible to be cheerful and enthusiastic (different words, but they mean essentially the same thing) while still being professional, and I give a serious side eye to the idea that it isn’t – because it’s absolutely a gendered point of view.

    8. Bea W

      Good god! Who in their right mind kisses a married co-worker in or out of the office? I suspect a large part of the problem there is office culture. You mention the gossip is about people flirting with you rather than you going around flirting with people. I wonder if the guys coming up in these conversations are the ones who have a reputation for flirting with women in the office.

      I wish I had some advice for you. I think you’re right that you might need to dial back your natural personality especially with some co-workers and avoid prolonged social banter with certain people who are prone to misreading you (like the kisser). It may take trial and error to find the middle ground.

    9. Traveler

      I think there’s some great advice here. I am having trouble coming up with some honestly. At least that doesn’t sound a whole lot like “well how were you dressed?” kind of conversations that come up around unwanted sexual advances. Just mostly here to say you have my sympathy. I’ve been that person in a professional setting before, where I felt I was just being friendly and others interpreted far more from it. And interestingly, it was always fine that I treated women that way, but not if I treated men that way. It can be such a frustrating line to navigate sometimes. I ended up withdrawing a lot into myself in professional situations in order to keep firmer boundaries, but I can’t say this is the best response to the situation.

    10. Student

      A co-worker sexually assaulted you. But you’re worried about “the gossip mill”. You’re worth more than that, and I hope some day you see that.

      It’s okay to shut down people who flirt with you. It’s okay to establish professional and especially physical boundaries with other people, and to enforce those boundaries vigorously. You don’t deserve to be treated like a “harlot” just because you are a woman. You don’t have to accept any advance that any man makes towards you – you can reject guys. You don’t need a reason to reject them, and you don’t need to debate your decision to reject them with them. They won’t die of embarrassment or a broken heart, even if some of them would like you to think otherwise.

      If you don’t want guys to flirt with you at work, you have to actively shut it down, though. You can’t just sit quietly hope they stop, unfortunately – they won’t.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Sometimes it can be as simple as saying, “Don’t go there. Don’t.” I have said that a few times where I was trying to talk about something and a coworker read some ambiguity into my words that was never intended. I have noticed that as I age it’s less and less of an issue. I don’t miss this crap. At all.

        I have noticed that it is a certain few people in some work places that like to twist words or look for double meanings. This is helpful to know, OP, that not everyone is making a case about your actions/words.

    11. Jennifer

      I hate to say it, but “being more serious” might be what you have to do. Or at least stop being so friendly and flirty, especially with guys since all these people are commenting.

      God knows I have learned that I have to be a lot more cheerful and perky than I naturally am here, because it’s a requirement and complaints are made if I don’t.

    12. Name

      Ignore all the people here telling you to act like a man. Ignore every single bit of terrible advice you get telling you to change who you are. You don’t deserve to be told to stop acting womanly. Your behaviour is not the problem. The gossipers and tsk-tsk’ers are the problem. Shut that down. You just need to SLAY your job. You be a professional by doing your job with killer skills, no matter what your laugh sounds like.

      You change yourself for one thing and you’ll never stop.

  4. PhoenixFluff

    Has anyone experience or is worried about getting a job in a market that might be dying out?

    I remember reading a post here or elsewhere about how nursing jobs used to be a really in demand field but now it’s dying out and people who thought they were getting in a good career path are finding themselves out of luck. I have a friend who always wanted to work in a library and successfully got a job there but talk of budgets getting cut year after year make her worried she won’t be there for long. Another friend would love to get involved in radio but is worried that that is going to become obsolete soon.

    Anyone have any thoughts/advice? Should you hang on as long as you can even if you know it won’t last forever or jump ship ASAP?

    1. Miss Chanandler Bong

      If you enjoy the work, I would hang on. Try and get some experience in things that might translate to other fields, but if you’re making enough to live on and enjoy what you’re doing, it seems silly to leave because the job market MIGHT be bad later.

      (For the record, I’m in publishing/publishing-adjacent fields, so I know from whence I speak)

    2. Carrie in Scotland

      I think it depends where you are.
      In the UK there is a large push for nurses. In my local area it is teachers – can’t get them qualified quick enough. In my experience, most – not all – of these things seem to be cyclical.

      1. Ali

        Me! I’m working in media right now and I am itching to get out. I wouldn’t call my field “in demand, ” but there are just too many people that want to do the work and not enough jobs. For example, I recently applied to a PR job that had 300 applicants. I’ve been job searching for six months and have only had four interviews and no offers. My college major was communications, so there are options such as social media, marketing, PR and so forth, not just media like I’m doing now. And yet the market is flooded and I never seem to manage to get a call.

        I’ve also tried to apply for some volunteer roles as of late to seek out skills, and I find even volunteer coordinators don’t return calls/e-mails after they initiate contact, want as much experience as they would if they were paying someone or say they don’t have time to train somebody. One coordinator told me exactly that yesterday when I showed interest in her role to write fundraising materials. She wrote back and said I don’t have time to show you; sorry. And spelled my name wrong to boot.

        My mom works in healthcare and her employer will be looking for an admin assistant in the new year. I’m tempted to apply just to get out of media and change careers.

        1. DEJ

          I work in PR, and the last job that we had open in our office had a ton of media types looking to get into PR because it’s more stable. And then you’ve got the regular PR types looking to make a move. It’s definitely not easy being in media.

    3. Spooky

      No advice, but I sympathize – I’ve been hearing similar things about law. My friend graduated and passed the bar this year, and has been having an incredibly difficult time finding a position. Apparently the field is flooded (which I can easily believe, given the sheer number of people I know that went to law school,) and now they’re all really in debt and either un- or under-employed.

      That said, sometimes fields can make a comeback in a slightly different way. Radio, for example, is sort of re-inventing itself with all kinds of new, professional podcasts. I’d say do what you love, but widen your skill set and experience as much as possible within the field. That way, if it changes, you’ll be better able to change with it. For example, when I was doing production work, I did some producer-type jobs, but I also did some volunteer work operating cameras and working lighting, so I’d have a wider base of experience to work from. Also, keep pace with emerging technologies and how they might be used in your field – for example, libraries are shrinking, but digital archives of all kinds of specialized things are booming (like the archive of historical menus!)

    4. IntrovertManager

      Also keep in mind that some of these trends are regional. There are some regions of the midwest and other rural areas still facing severe shortages of medical personnel. Of course, moving to one of these regions comes with tradeoffs (no public transportation, 20-30 minute drives to the closest store, etc.)

      Just one thing to consider.

      1. De Minimis

        We are always hiring nurses, but have trouble retaining them due to those issues. And our region is actually better than most in our agency when it comes to that.

      2. cuppa

        Yes. I think this is fairly true in the library world, too. If you are willing to go anywhere, you will be able to get a job. If you are staying in one spot, especially in a market with a library school nearby, it will be tougher.
        Also, a lot of the technology, training, and research skills in librarians are transferrable to other fields. It all depends on what you want to focus on.

    5. AdAgencyChick

      I’m definitely worried about the shrinkage of the medical advertising industry — fewer drugs in the pipeline, clients cutting budgets, mean that it’s not the gravy train it used to be.

      I think you have to be really honest with yourself about how well you stack up against others in your field whenever competition is going up. This is both in terms of how well you do your job and also what salary you want — I’m finding that I have to do some real thinking with the latter. I earn a lot for my job title, and although I’m good at my job, I definitely stress about being replaced by someone who has less experience but is good enough to get the job done and costs less.

    6. Gwen

      I definitely jumped ship on publishing. Marketing is a great fit for me, so I’m happy with the choice, and it’s scary to watch my friends who are still in the field weather mass layoffs, increased responsibilities with fewer staff, gutted perks/benefits. Personally, I think that if there’s another field where you think you could be successful/happy, staying in a dying field isn’t worth the misery, but I have friends who are convinced that they’ll never be good at anything else so they’re clinging on for dear life (and not even finding greener pastures to APPLY for when their company goes crazy).

      1. LMW

        I made the same jump — from publishing to corporate communications/marketing and, while I really loved my career in publishing, the decrease in stress and increase in pay/benefits that come with being in a more-in-demand field have made my life a lot easier.

      2. Ali

        This is me. I have tried to go to marketing or corporate communications or something at least closely related to my field, but I can’t even get interviews. I have a second job doing social media where the boss loves me, but because it’s a small company, she can’t give a full-time salary right now. I am continuing to work there for the experience, but I am also looking for other companies that can pay full-time just in case “I can’t right now” turns into “I can’t ever.”

        BTW, how did those of you who transition to marketing do it successfully? I’m trying to leave journalism, but when it comes time for applications, I’m either losing out to “more experience” or getting an interview, then being told the experience is an issue. I just applied for a marketing job where I was told even though I had a good background and skills (so obviously the problem couldn’t have been my application since I made the phone screen), they went the more experienced route.

        1. Gwen

          Personally, it was temping (receptionist > marketing assistant > marketing coordinator, but this was straight out of college, so you’d probably be able to skip ahead there), and then I started in a part time marketing assistant role that, through a lot of pushing/hard work/throwing myself at any project outside the scope of my current job and in the scope of the writing job I wanted, I converted into a full time copywriting/content position.

        2. Cee

          My last full-time journalism gig was at a tech media site, so that experience translated very well to writing directly for the technology companies themselves.

          The second job where you do social media, do you just manage their Twitter/FB/etc and write short status updates, or do you write blog posts and website content? If it’s the second one, that’s a good way to get clips for doing content marketing writing, which is a growing field. Some great resources for that are the Content Marketing Academy group on LinkedIn, and the Kapost blog.

        3. LMW

          I did temp to hire…which never translated into actual full time with benefits at that company, but I was there three years and then moved to a different company. I was also lucky enough to find marketing roles that are more editorial than straight up marketing — managing newsletters, writing white papers, content marketing, etc., so people were actually looking for people with writing/editing experience rather than marketing experience.

        4. Not So NewReader

          Ali, am just thinking over what you are saying here. Can you ask your boss if she would recommend you to some friends who would benefit from your work? It could get a little dicey working two part time jobs but that might be a way for you to make your move over.

          I am saying this because I have a boss that actually helps me look for other work- the idea being that she cannot pay me full time but she knows that in order to keep me I have to have other things going on. This might be an idea that appeals to your boss, too.

      3. Hermoine Granger

        The current state of the publishing industry is quite interesting. It’s one of those industries that has been hugely affected by digital. As with the music industry, smaller companies merged in the past and became a handful of huge corporations. Digital came along and made it easier for the creative talent to strike out on their own. Given the sheer size, amount of overhead, and “this is the way we’ve always done it” attitude at some of these established corporations they’ve been unwilling / unable to innovate and adapt.

        I worked in the radio industry in the past and there was a lot of turmoil / layoffs. The industry was slow to try new things and innovate. Quite a few of the people I came into contact with had been in the same position for decades and didn’t take it upon themselves to learn new skills. It was difficult for many of them to find new positions after layoffs because their skills were so highly specialized / outdated and they were unable / didn’t think it would be possible to adapt to new industries / positions.

        I think there are still a lot of opportunities in some of these industries but they look a lot different than they did in the past and would require an openness to new ideas and methods.

    7. Meg

      I was involved in TV/Radio from 2001-2005. After 2005, it became harder and harder to find a well-paying gig in either field. If going for TV/Radio, also look at web. Having crossover skills into web development will make it a LOT easier than traditional TV/Radio broadcasting while still doing TV/Radio

    8. Nerd Girl

      My husband was in radio. He has friends who were in radio. It’s a hard, hard, hard career path and it is radiply dying. When we met, he was in radio and the majority of his friends were too. Now he works in mental health and only three of his friends work in radio and they had to make big cross-country moves in order to find a job that offered okay pay. My husband – who loved his radio job and still remembers his glory days of being on the air! – hates that it’s a dying career but has finally stopped scoping out the trades for the perfect position.

      1. voluptuousfire

        ^ Speaking as a communications major who when in college wanted nothing more to be the music director at a large market radio station, I’m glad I ended up not going into it. Much too unstable and I didn’t have the right experience for it.

    9. Chinook

      My advice would be to ask yourself if this is a profession you really want to be in. If the answer is noo, get out now. If the answer is yes, then be prepared to the cream of the crop so that people will want to hire you.

      Keep in mind that, while no one uses horses as modes of transportation anymore, there are still a handful of people who work as ferriers (horse shoers) and saddlemakers. Heck, I even knew one guy who had a summer job as a blacksmith (at a living museum). Unless the profession will disappear completely, there will always be a small demand for those who can do the obscure.

    10. Jennifer

      I got laid off/booted out of my media job in the previous recession and boy, did my boss do me a favor. I had a lot easier time getting any kind of (other) job than my coworkers who got laid off later. Most of them still can’t get a full time job of any kind, from what I’ve heard. I would not recommend trying to work in a dying industry. I miss reporting but being able to eat and live somewhere that isn’t my mom’s house is better.

    11. INTP

      I don’t know that I can advise you on your individual situation, but I can explain mine. My dream was to be a magazine writer, preferably in travel or food or beauty, but needless to say that’s a declining market. The top travel writers in the field barely make a full-time living at it, as far as I know. I didn’t want to slave away as an editor’s assistant for years just for the privilege of eventually writing a few articles a year on top of a day job. So, I looked for an area of the writing field that was actually growing, and chose to develop the secondary skills necessary to work in it. I’m still a beginner in this field, I’m getting my MA and working my first job, but I’m happy with my choice.

    12. Sherm

      Oh yes. A lot of the sciences, where I work, have been hit hard. (And yet so many people still think scientists have it made. But I digress.) I am reluctantly jumping ship. It is far from an easy decision, and there really isn’t a “right” decision in these cases. It’s a gamble, but an educated gamble.

      But I do enjoy the new field I have dipped my toes into, which is an important point (if I do say so myself): How much would you enjoy a new field? A lot? Not at all? That should shape your decision. For instance, there are people who can’t imagine doing anything else except acting. They just can’t. We all know that the job prospects for actors are extremely grim, but for people who can’t imagine doing anything else, then that is where they should be.

  5. TotesMaGoats

    Any advice for what to say to my boss who consistently excludes me from things I really do need to be involved in? I’m a director and I’m supposed to be making director-y decisions but instead he’s making them on his own and then has to go back and change what he’s announced to the world because how I planned to do it is the better way. And in the process of “making his name” he’s pissing off people that I’ve spent 6 years building really good relationships with.

    Sometimes he listens and appreciates what I have to offer and we are colleagues and then other days it’s like I’m so far down the totem pole he can barely remember I’m there. Sad and bored out of my skull.

    1. Artemesia

      I don’t have a brilliant idea alas, I retired when this happened to me. I had run several programs for years and then we got a new boss and had no clue about how to do the most important parts of her own job so she did mine instead. She was supposed to be the rainmaker and deal with complex external relationships and she really wasn’t that good at that, particularly the rainmaking part and so she filled her days meddling in the minutia of tasks that had fallen to others. It wasn’t that she was trying to change how other programs did things — that would have been her prerogative — it was that she would jump in and fiddle with routine recurring tasks often stepping on the person who generally got them done. For me it was the straw that had me decide the time was right for retirement.

      1. TotesMaGoats

        I know I need to get out because I’m really unhappy and have been for a while but not having any success on the job search. Part of it is the field/opportunities available that would either be lateral or a step up and part of it is the hiring season hasn’t really started yet.

        1. C Average

          No advice, but plenty of sympathy. It sucks when your job morphs into something progressively less tolerable and you don’t really have anywhere else to go.

    2. GOG11

      I don’t have anything in the way of advice (I’m actually looking forward to seeing others’ responses) but I can empathize. I’m a support staff person and just yesterday a colleague completely left me out of the loop on something but left out parts of the process. Out of the blue, I have someone standing in front of me wanting to know if there are any loose ends to tie up and I ended up having to apologize, ask her what she’d already done, give her a good guess of what was left to do and a promise to follow up with Colleague and get back to her.

      Maybe more regular check ins with your boss could help? I have a boss that works at a different location and sometimes asking specifically if there’s anything going on behind the scenes that I could assist with and that helps to job her memory at times. Or something like “It seems having you needed X process taken care of/Y piece of information for the Chocolate Teapot Project. At times difficult for me to track what’s going on behind the scenes, but if you let me know you’ll need it, I’d be happy to take care of it for you” (or whatever makes sense regarding X and Y).

      I hope others have some better advice (and knowing AAM readers, they probably do).

    3. LoFlo

      So if your manager is recognized as the source of confusion and angst do you think it is a matter of time before he is some how “corrected” by the powers that be? At least he is admitting that his idea needed some tweaking. Or, is this all being done behind the scenes?

      Also is it possible to come up with a plan of what decisions you anticipate to be involved in for the next x amount of months and present it as a strategy session? Sounds like your manager doesn’t work at the same level of detail you do, so he is making uninformed decisions.

      1. GOG11

        +1

        Certain processes repeat predictably so I’ve started mapping those out and making a note to check in with Boss about any clarification or permission that is needed beforehand.

    4. Alternative

      I am looking for a new job for this exact reason. Consistently excluded on decisions that directly affect me and my department. My boss has no spine/is too nice and will literally agree to anything that someone proposes – even if it’s completely wrong. And when I eventually find out, I have to say, “no, we cannot post income into operating expense accounts” or whatever, and he does the “oh yeah, you are right!” retraction of whatever stupid thing he agreed to. But he still never keeps me in the loop for these decisions. SO frustrating. Sorry I don’t have any advice.

    5. YourCdnFriend

      This situation sucks. Could you have a candid discussion with your boss about it? “Hi Boss, I notice that sometimes you leave me out of decisions that have typically fallen into my perview. Are you concerned about my job performance or is there something else going on? Is there something I should be doing differently to ensure I’m in the loop on decisions about x, y and z.?”

      May not work depending on your relationship but sometimes direct is best.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, I think that this is where things are at.

        Opening the topic is the toughest part. Once opened you can get an idea of how bad your situation is. “Problem? What problem? I don’t see a problem!” Oh , boy!

        OTH, I have mentioned to bosses, “Hey, that is my job. Why don’t you let me do that, so you are freed up to do ‘boss things’?” If you have a sane boss, they tend to smile and say “okay”.

    6. AnotherHRPro

      I find the having a direct, but not confrontational, conversation with the boss is helpful in these situations. I would recommend starting the new year off with a meeting where you discuss roles, responsibilities and decision making authority. Be prepared with what you believe these are but ask for his input. If he generally agrees with what you have, I would share some examples where it has not worked out that way (where you have not been involved or when he has made decisions that you should have made). Ask if there is anything you should be doing differently so that he has more confidence in your ability to “make the call”.

      I don’t know your situation, but some managers just are not aware that they are overstepping and doing your work. Or may not have thought that this would bother you.

  6. For sure anonymous

    I know this will vary widely between companies, but does anyone have experience obtaining counseling help through EAP? My understanding is that’s what it’s for, but I got a little lost on our employee resource web site, and it seems like it’s going to be difficult to do– the site focused more on ‘helpful’ articles instead of ‘here’s who you call.’ (FWIW, I’d rather not have to speak to my manager about getting it set up.)

    1. Jubilance

      I used my company’s EAP to find a therapist. The website was very clear on what I needed to do, what number to call, etc. If the website isn’t clear, can you reach out to HR for the information? Is there a “contact us” on the website anywhere?

    2. sprinkles!

      I have. It was helpful. I didn’t talk to manager at all about it. I called a toll free number that was listed on our company’s intranet site. The representative asked me a few questions and then connected me with a therapist in my area. If you don’t connect with your therapist after a few sessions, don’t be afraid to request someone else.

    3. BTDT

      I’ve just recently gone through that (and yes, for counseling – I’ve just been diagnosed with comorbid depression and ADHD-I). If you’re going for psych/medical/etc help (as opposed to legal or other aspects of EAP I’m less familiar with) it will ultimately be sending you to your health insurance, AFAIK. The process was pretty easy from there — you contact them via whatever method the website has set up (we have Cigna; there are options for phone calls or online chats) and get a list of providers and an authorization number. When you pick a provider, you tell them you’re going through your EAP and give them the authorization number, and they’ll use that to bill whatever number of covered visits you have.

      You proooobably wouldn’t be going through your manager; do you have an HR department? The person I’ve been in contact with for the work side of things has the title of “benefits administrator.”

    4. Fawn

      I have. My experience with it was not particularly positive. We have a limited number of covered sessions (6 one-hour appointments), which I felt was not enough time to develop a rapport with a therapist (or try to to work with a therapist, and end up having to switch for the last couple sessions as I did).

      In terms of setting up an appointment, pretty straightforward. On the health and wellness section of the HR website, there’s a toll free number to call to schedule an appointment.

    5. KJR

      I actually just used ours. The 800 number is pretty clearly spelled out on their website, so there were no problems with that part. When I called, I explained that I needed to get the 3 free face to face sessions for a family member with a specific issue. They talked to me at length about the issue (anyone who answers their phones is a licensed mental health professional), and helped me find a nearby counselor who had experience dealing with the age group and issue in question. The whole process was well-handled, I really had no complaints. Plus I felt a whole lot better having taken a step towards helping my family member. (I was relieved it went as well as it did, as I am the one who lobbied to bring the program to our company, and was the one who worked with the EAP on roll out.) I hope that helps!

      1. Judy

        When I used it at another company, it was the same. There was a website with lots of articles on things. But there was an 800 number, I called and talked to someone about the issue the family member was having at length, and then they gave me a list of 3 therapists in town that seemed to fit the situation. I called a friend who was a therapist, and he recommended one of the three. We set up appointments, and did our first 6, at the end of the time, we needed to decide if the issue was resolving or work on the paperwork for additional appointments.

    6. Lillie Lane

      I tried setting up an appointment through the EAP phone number at a former job once, and the lady that helped me on the phone was so nice and helpful. However, in my area (very rural), it takes 2-3 months to get a therapy appointment. She was extremely frustrated because she couldn’t get more urgent help.
      In the end, I went to my GP and then got a referral to a therapist that way. Anonymous, is there any phone number on the EAP web site? They should have one listed somewhere. Call soon, and good luck. I hope you can get help.

    7. fposte

      I have. Ours actually has staff counselors, so it’s not about getting referrals–you just go to the EAP office to see somebody. It used to be really poor about 15 years ago, when all they could really do was refer people for substance abuse treatments), but it got revamped into some really good first-level intervention.

      If you can’t find a contact number on the site, could you call HR rather than asking your manager?

    8. Frances

      I used to work for a therapist’s office that often saw people on EAPs. You shouldn’t have to go to your manager if the program has been set up correctly — the whole point of the EAP is to provide confidential assistance. As sprinkles! says, most have a toll free number you call to get started — if that’s not evident on the website, you definitely should talk to your HR rep.

      It seems like you aren’t confused on this point, but I’d just note for anyone else that most EAPs are not connected to your health insurance benefits at all (often they aren’t even run by the same company) — so if you call your insurance company, you’ll just be using whatever benefits your regular insurance has for counseling. However, if you think you might want to stay in counseling past the number of visits your EAP covers, it’s not a bad idea to check that any therapist the EAP reps recommend is on your health insurance so you can continue seeing them without a huge out of pocket cost.

    9. JMegan

      There should be at least a general contact number on the EAP site, so even if you don’t know who to call within the EAP provider, they can point you in the right direction. And it *should* be set up that you don’t need to contact your manager at all, as it’s really supposed to be confidential.

      My experience with EAP was a bit hit and miss. I’ve talked to two people who were the next thing to useless, and two who were great. And this was all within the same service provider, never mind between companies! So it may take you a couple of tries to find someone you click with – this is apparently normal, and hopefully your company’s contract allows you enough visits to try a couple of people if need be.

      Good luck – I hope you find a great resource who helps you with whatever you need.

    10. De Minimis

      I’ve done it in the past, we had an outside hotline we called to arrange it. No one at my actual work was involved with it.

      My main complaints are that it was obvious you were just calling some random person in a call center and I didn’t always feel comfortable going into specifics about what was going on with me. Also depending on where you live it can be a pain to find a therapist. It would be easier now that I live in a bigger city, but in the past I’d have to make multiple calls because they kept referring me to people who were too far a drive [even though there were therapists in the program in my location.]

      You only get so many sessions, so it’s not something that is really practical long term unless you can continue seeing the therapist using your health benefits.

    11. NaCSaCJack

      When I called EAP several years ago for specific unique relationship issues, all I got was “here’s a list of available therapists, I dont know if they specialize in that kind of relationship.” When I gave them specific names of counselors I knew dealt with it, they said, “Nope, not on our list”. IMO, EAP is useless.

    12. YourCdnFriend

      Lots of helpful advice from people and mine is of a slightly different sort based on my experience.

      If you’re looking at this due to certain mental health challenges, even if it’s easy, it can be really hard. I guess I’m just trying to say not to get discouraged by hearing all these people say “it’s so easy, you just do this and this” and start thinking “well I must be dumb because it’s not easy for me.” Depending on what you’re dealing with, even easy things can be totally overwhelming.

      I have no idea if you are in this situation but I was once and even if the mechanics are actually easy, it doesn’t always appear that way. Or, maybe your system just sucks compared to others. Good luck!

    13. Nashira

      Your EAP website sounds a great deal like the one my company maintains. (I work for a major health insurance company that just changed its name.) On the off chance that it is, try checking the right hand side bars for a phone number.

      I’ve had a good experience so far with my EAP. I called because my depression went from livable to intolerable, and they set me up with a list of counselors who met my needs (queer friendly) *and* took my health insurance. They also delicately ensured that I wasn’t at immediate risk of harm, in a way that didn’t make me feel hopeless for thinking about harming myself.

      The counseling you receive should be like any other counseling: confidential and tailored to your needs. FYI, if it’s on a “X number of sessions per issue” basis, and there’s multiple issues going on, you may be able to get a couple authorizations in a row. My therapist actually suggested I do that, because she’s awesome, even though she takes my insurance.

      I’m doing a fair bit better since I started therapy, even though it’s only been 6 weeks. I think you are awesome for recognizing that you need help and for working to get yourself that help. It is a lot of work, but I think you can do it.

    14. Gene

      If the EAP is operating correctly, HR will know that AN employee is using it, but not WHICH employee.

      Your manager doesn’t need to be in the loop at all, other than time off if you need it; and since it’s medical, you are free to be a vague as you want to be.

    15. newbie in Canada

      Yup. I called the general number our website had, and explained why I wanted to talk to someone and they set up an appointment for me. My issue was not work related (triggered by an issue at home), but it was resulting in me not being able to focus on my job so I went for it. I ended up going three times, and at the end of the last session we determined that I had the tools to go forward on my own. Best thing I ever did and I recommend it to anyone who is even considering it.

    16. Laura L

      Yes. It was very helpful. My EAP program only covered a couple (three or four?) counseling sessions. So be sure to ask about that. Medical insurance usually (always? is required to?) covers counseling sessions as well, so that’s something to look into as well. There’s usually a copay, and there may be a limit to the number of sessions (mine caps at 20). Good luck!

    17. For sure anonymous

      Wow, everyone, I am just floored at all the advice and support! I definitely feel a lot more prepared to call that mysterious 800 number on the web page and navigate the system. You guys are amazing!

      1. Nashira

        You found the strength to ask for support and help when you needed it, over a very sensitive issue. You’re amazing too, even if right now you may not feel like that. I hope your call goes well!

      2. Lizzy

        Good for you. I can tell you my EAP put me in touch with a therapist that i worked with for awhile and it was really eye opening and helped me a lot. And I’ve always been an ‘oh I can handle this on my own’ person. SO worth it. All the best to you.

    18. Lizzy

      My husband and I both reached out to EAP services in the past. My company simply have out referrals which worked well for me and they were really helpful. My husband’s company paid for 6 sessions, then if you wanted to continue you paid yourself. In both cases we called and our managers weren’t involved. If you can’t find a number on the site you should be able to get it from HR and take it from there. GL!

  7. Helen

    Last week I posted about my boss not acknowledging the fact that I had put in my notice. Well, yesterday was out last day together and she literally started asking me about transition stuff ONE HOUR before I left. Unbelievable. And then I left without so much as a “thanks for all your help” or even a goodbye from her.

    Not that I should expect more but it’s pretty obnoxious. We weren’t friends but I was a good employee and we shared an office for a year.

    As I said last week: so happy to be escaping from this dysfunction!

    1. Artemesia

      Look at it this way, you got 100% validation of your decision to move on; there won’t be any buyer’s remorse here. You obviously made the smart move regardless of what challenges you face int he future job.

    2. Revanche

      Congrats on getting out! My last boss wasn’t quite that bad, but definitely only faked her way through getting transition stuff from me so it was good validation that she was NOT invested in my staying.

    3. CheeryO

      I replied last week to your comment, saying that I was in the same position. Well, my boss didn’t acknowledge that I was leaving until Tuesday afternoon, when she grabbed all my project files and told me to leave without a goodbye or even a token “It was nice working with you.” Here’s to new jobs with (hopefully) non-batshit bosses!

  8. Miss Chanandler Bong

    So I know there’ve been a million office-gifting questions already, but here’s one more.

    I work in a small office (~100 people across all departments). Traditionally, people within a department give each other small gifts. No prob.

    However, as a newcomer, I ended up on a different floor than the rest of my department (I am also on my own project, so I don’t work directly with anyone but my manager). So, the people I know best/see the most are not in my department, and I don’t really know my department that well.

    Should I get gifts just for the people I work closely with/sit next to? Both my floor and my dept? Just my dept? Argh… I don’t want to leave people out who are going to give me something & and I don’t want to awkwardly violate protocol by giving somebody else something they weren’t expecting…

    1. Beebs

      Bring in a tray of goodies to share with whomever and you can send an email to your team stating that you have them at your desk if anyone wants to stop by for a treat. That way the focus is not on any particular recipient or team and maybe it will encourage your team to come say “Hi”.

    2. Helena

      Could you get a handful of $10 gift cards and have them ready for whomever gets you something? Or small boxes of chocolates, etc. That way you won’t be surprising anyone with gifts or not having something for someone who gives you something. Also, if you end up not needing them for people in the office, you can always give them to other people or use them yourself.

    3. Adam

      Depends. Do people within each department really give each other gifts, in the “Every Classmate Gets a Valentine” sort of way whether genuine or not, or do people just give to those they want to? Do you want to give gifts to anyone or do you feel like since it’s the culture you should participate?

      Whatever the case if you do give gifts very small ones probably will go over fine depending on your budget/time, like $5-10 coffee cards or a one serving bag of holiday treats.

    4. Betsy Bobbins

      I make cake pops for the holidays that I wrap in cellophane and add a ribbon with a holiday tag. A batch makes over 50 and then I can give them out to lots of people and have extras for those I forgot about. You don’t have to do cake pops (they are very labor intensive) but you could do lots of a small treat in festive wrapping to make it special. Then you can give them out indiscriminantly to any and everyone. I’m surprised how many people remember my cake pop, the front desk at my gym was asking me if I was going to bring them again this year. So I say give small but give to all.

      1. fposte

        In a thread yesterday she posted two posts away from somebody who made a particularly graceful reference to the “moo point” exchange. I really wanted her to answer that.

        1. Miss Chanandler Bong

          Aw man, I missed it! Stupid work, making me not spend every second reading AAM for FRIENDS references!

    5. Miss Chanandler Bong

      These are all really great suggestions, and I really like the idea of waiting to see who I receive things from. Unfortunately, I really feel I’m in the “kind of forced to give gifts because everyone else does” camp, so if I get missed for not being on the right floor, I won’t be too sad. And I’ll just pick up some small things I can use as stocking stuffers if they don’t get given out.

  9. Cee

    I have a job interview today! It’s a phone interview for a position I would really like. They contacted me to set up the interview only a few hours after I sent in my resume and cover letter, and I was shocked they got back to me so quickly. (Of course I did write a really targeted, relevant cover letter and resume thanks to the advice I got from this blog. :D) And I’ve been practicing for my interview using the advice from Alison’s book.

    Anyway, wish me luck, please! I would really like to get this job.

    1. Cee

      Thanks everyone. The interview went really well and we’re scheduled for a second interview on Monday. I’m very excited!

  10. Excel Geek

    I wrote last week about the HR recruiter calling to gauge my interest after a 2nd interview.
    I have been called in for a 3rd interview to meet again with the hiring manager and his manager.
    I can only imagine that they are down to 2 candidates and can’t decide.

    Any advice?

    1. Adam

      I’m assuming you really want the job? If that’s the case perhaps you can use the third interview time to ask questions to draw out what their major needs for the position are and how your skills and experience can fill those in. If they’re having trouble deciding between finalists see if you can find out what’s the main thing keeping them from placing their bets on a candidate and address that if you can.

      Good luck!

        1. Adam

          Well then I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to emphasize with them how much the opportunity of the position and company excite you. You’ve gotten this far so they obviously think you have potential, so a little enthusiasm (without going overboard) can make all the difference. Good luck again!

    2. YWD

      Ask them specifically, if you haven’t already, if they have any concerns about your fit for the role. It shows you are interested in the position and confident enough to ask for potential criticisms. And it gives you the opportunity to address any concerns in person.

      Before you go in for the interview think carefully about what you’ve learned about the company and the position from the previous two interviews and think about how you can communicate it back to them. I’ve had people come in for second interviews and still be unclear on what the job is for and not be able to explain why they would be successful in the role.

      Good luck!

  11. a.n.o.n.

    It’s been three weeks since I started the new job (3 weeks?!). Another department has been helping, because before I and two other people got here, there were only two people to deal with the huge volume of work. Managing 4 people is new to me, especially with the kind of volume we have. I’ve been trying to get settled and fall into a routine. I’m learning new systems and doing some one-on-ones with my team, so that’s working out good. But I’ve been feeling a bit hesitant to step on toes and have been kind of waiting for my boss and the people in the other department to say, “Hey, we’re handing this over to you,” rather than stepping up to say, “Give it me. I’m the manager.” I was told yesterday in a very nice way that it’s time for the training wheels to come off and for me to lead the department. I should be checking in with the team daily and keeping on top of them without being intrusive or a micromanager. (I am SO not used to checking in with people so often. Even when I managed people in my other job, we kind of went our own way and it worked.) My boss is pretty laid back and said it in a very nice way, but I couldn’t help but feel that it’s really obvious I’m floundering a bit and it had me feeling down the rest of the day. I think it’s just me, though. It’s hard not being the one to know it all and be the go-to person, the one who’s been here for 20 years. Plus, I’ve always had a bad case of imposter syndrome, even though I rose very quickly in my last job and there was a lot of trust and respect in me. And I’ve always had a tough time asking for help and letting people know that I don’t automatically know it all. Anyone have any suggestions for navigating this? Maybe I just need to put on my big girl panties and lead.

    I have to say, though, I’m loving it at my new job. I’m treated like an adult, my manager is great, I have remote access (got approved yesterday!), and don’t have to punch a time clock. They know how to treat their employees and I feel very welcomed. Yesterday they had a catered lunch in the cafeteria and the executives served us. They were all lined up behind the buffet table, dressed in their aprons. And it wasn’t cheap buffet food. We had roast beef, jumbo shrimp cocktail, roasted potatoes with carrots, potato latkes, green beans, stuffed shells, chicken Francese, Caesar salad, rolls, and dessert.

    1. fposte

      “Even when I managed people in my other job, we kind of went our own way and it worked.” Yeah, that’s working by luck but not by design, though, and I speak as somebody who’s done the same thing as a manager and now knows better :-). I don’t know about daily check-ins (I guess it depends what they mean by check-ins), but regular check-ins really are imperative, and it sounds like you’ve entered a culture that depends on foregrounding manager availability to the team.

      I think you’ll enjoy rising to the challenge–it sounds like it’s a great opportunity for you with a good crowd.

      1. A.n.o.n.

        The daily check-ins would be a quick 10 minute meeting with everyone to see what has to get done that day, where they are with it, etc. I’m just not used to having to check in so often. We were all kind of lone wolves at my old job and we’re lucky that people need little supervision.

        1. fposte

          The reason I’m pushing on this a little is that you seem to be describing a pattern of passivity–your management style has been letting people go and assuming they’re fine unless they say otherwise, and you’re now waiting for somebody to tell you to take stuff over. I think both generally in management and specifically in the workplace you’re describing that kind of passivity is likely to be detrimental to good management, and I think now is a good time for you to move into a more active mode generally. New phase!

    2. MsM

      I think there’s a middle ground between waiting for them to give it to you and “Gimme.” Just say that your understanding is that X falls under your duties, and you’d like to start handling it as of now unless there’s some reason you’re unaware of that it should remain in their portfolio. At which point they can either hand it off or make a case for hanging on to it, and you can decide whether you agree with their reasoning or not (or if you don’t know enough to know whether they’re right, at which point you ask more questions). As for the check-ins, look at them as an opportunity to get to be the person who knows what’s going on at all times, or at least who knows who to talk to to get that information.

    3. Cristina

      Putting together a strategy plan for the items you’re supposed to take over could be a nice way to transition them. You can list out your goals for each program (some of which might be to just maintain the program in the manner it had been) and then list out the next steps. When you communicate this to the previous owners they can provide input and hopefully everyone will feel comfortable with the transition. This avoids the “gimme” feeling because it’s a more strategic consultative approach and also shows that you’ve put thought into the longer term plan.
      With my staff, I have a standing weekly 30 minute meeting with each. Sometimes they don’t take that long. For one of my teams we also do a 2x per week team check in. Those meetings run 10-30 minutes. When performance was poor, we did a daily check in which we reduced to the 2x per week when performance improved. I tend to adjust meeting frequency based on individual need, and my tendency is also to be a pretty hands-off manager. But I’ve found that most of my team really wants that face time and appreciates it.

  12. A Temp

    I started in last August in a temp to hire position. It is fine but I’m going to ask for a new assignment after in Jan.. The holiday Christmas party for my current place is coming up and apparently they do raffle prizes that are good (tvs, ipads, etc.). What do I do if I win a big prize? I know I want to leave and have only been here a short time. I feel horrible taking one but also it would be awkward to refuse it without giving a reason. What do I do?

    1. HeyNonnyNonny

      You could always gracefully refuse by saying that you think it should go to someone who’s spent more time at the company. No need to mention that you’re planning on leaving.

      1. A Temp

        Thanks. I might try this if I win something. It is drawing out of a hat I guess so I don’t know if just picking someone else will be easy.

    2. C Average

      Maybe it’s different in other workplaces, but whenever we have a big contest like this everyone pretty much forgets who won five minutes after the drawing (unless there’s some suspicion of skullduggery, as there might be if, say, the person overseeing the drawing got a much bigger prize than everyone else). Throw your hat in the ring like everyone else, and take your big prize with you when you go. No one will remember or care, and you’re not doing anything dishonest.

        1. C Average

          I think when you’re the one at the center of the scenario, little things take on more importance than they actually have.

          You’re a temp. I think people understand that temps aren’t going to stay around forever, but that they’re part of the team while they’re there. We have a lot of temps in and out of my office, and generally there’s an expectation that a) they’re fully part of the team while they’re here and b) they’re going to take a better offer if one comes along. And if they get that better offer, we’re happy for them! I guarantee we’re not inventorying how much swag they walked away with at the Christmas party, either.

          Relax. You’ve been there for months. You’re entitled to fully participate in your office’s events. And I’ll bet your colleagues will wish you well and be happy for you if you move on to something else, so long as your transition is professional (i.e., you tie up loose ends, give appropriate notice, etc.).

          1. A Temp

            Thanks. I tend to over think things so I wanted to get other opinions. I really appreciate the kind words.

            1. KJR

              Think of it this way, they probably wouldn’t have let your name end up in the drawing if they didn’t want it there in the first place.

              1. Not So NewReader

                This. They have already decided this question for you. Just go with it. I remember reading other posts here, where temps were not included in the raffle. If they felt strongly about not including you, probably they would have told you by now.

      1. Bea W

        If it’s just a random drawing, I wouldn’t feel guilty either. It’s chance, not something based on who has been there longer or has more seniority. People really don’t care.

    3. LawBee

      Take the ipad and run. Or do like I did – take it, then turn around and sell it to the HR director at a discount. :D

    4. INTP

      I would just take the prize, but I like things.

      99% of people will forget who won what prize by the end of the night, unless they or someone they know very well won. The people who would remember long enough to hold it against you when you leave in January are already weirdly invested in monitoring you and would be difficult to please anyways. KWIM? I don’t think there’s much risk to your reputation in accepting a prize.

  13. matcha123

    It’s 1am here, but since my Saturday suddenly opened up, here I am!

    My office and a few other department’s had their end of the year party tonight. Complete with 30 minutes of Christmas song karaoke ending with a bunch of people trying to fumble their way through that John Lennon song. Despite it being all you can drink, it was a boring 2, 2.5 hours. I’m jealous of the people who’ve written in about their loud, party-like parties. I’m also excited because I got a bonus! Even though it’s written into my contract, it’s still nice!

    1. literateliz

      You’re in Japan, right? Oh how I don’t miss forced nomikais that I have to pay for, haha. Although I have to admit karaoke was occasionally fun.

      Congrats on the bonus :)

  14. C Average

    Almost everyone at my office is out for the day, and those of us who are here are spending the entire afternoon at a boozy company-sponsored party where the requested attire is ugly sweaters. (Mine, from the Justice store, has a sparkly penguin in a stocking cap on the front.)

    I predict a spectacularly productive morning followed by a spectacularly unproductive afternoon.

      1. Usually use my initials

        We received an invite to my team’s holiday gathering in September, but then the invite was cancelled with no comment two weeks ago. So we’ve just been watching all the other teams go off to their holiday gatherings, no clue what happened with ours.
        If my leader’s goal is to find new and interesting ways to decrease morale, she’s doing a really awesome job!

      2. C Average

        Yeah, my workplace is really erratic about holiday celebrations. Some years it’s a massive blowout that people talk about for years . . . and then the next year, crickets.

        Just got back from the party. It was a lot of fun. Swag (nothing huge, but nice stuff), beer and wine, food.

        But here’s the best part. Every year my company does a fundraising drive for a selected charity. Nothing high-pressure, just “hey, want to give to a good cause?” This year, our chosen charity was the Humane Society. And they actually came to the company party and set up a puppies-and-kittens area in a room off to the side of the main party area. Get us drunk and show us cute puppies and kittens available for adoption! Yes, please. It’s a miracle I escaped without a new cat.

        1. Persephone Mulberry

          I would not have escaped, and then my current cat and my husband would have both disowned me.

    1. Karowen

      That doesn’t sound ugly, that sounds delightful. I mean…Sparkles! Penguins! What more could you ask for, except maybe a polar bear?

      1. C Average

        This is the sweater in question: http://www.shopjustice.com/girls-clothing/fuzzy-holiday-critter-sweater/2931871/603?pageSort=eyJzaG9wQnlQcmljZSI6ImRpc3BsYXkgYWxsIn0&productOrigin=category%20page&productGridPlacement=2-2

        They have a polar bear one, too! http://www.shopjustice.com/girls-clothing/fuzzy-holiday-critter-sweater/2931932/610?pageSort=eyJzaG9wQnlQcmljZSI6ImRpc3BsYXkgYWxsIn0&productOrigin=category%20page&productGridPlacement=2-1

        (Justice didn’t exist when I was a kid, and I only discovered it when I acquired stepdaughters. I have to admit I love taking them shopping there and all-too-frequently pick up ridiculous things for myself, too. It’s good silly fun.)

        1. Karowen

          I went in there to buy some stuff for my cousin’s kids – I touched maybe 10 things, and came out covered in glitter. It was fabulous. And I’m super jealous of your sweater!

          1. C Average

            My sweater won me a $20 gift card! We had a sweater contest within our department and there’s a second contest later for the bigger team that’s putting on the boozy afternoon party.

  15. A Scoundrel Apparently

    I am at the lowest level of the ‘hierarchy’ of my office job, being the newest hire and an entry-level position. So obviously, I get a lot of odd jobs to do. This week, one of my supervisors, the head of our whole department, asked me to walk around to everyone’s office and update the personal phone list, because of the increasing risk of snow days and how there was an issue last year getting in touch with people about closings, as well as the birthday list. All of this is information they could easily get out of people’s files or get it themselves but they delegated the task to me.

    The way some people acted, you’d think I was asking for their social security numbers and the combinations to their lockboxes. Even saying the name of my supervisor still had my co-workers asking questions. Why do they need this info? Supervisor knows my details already so why are you asking? Isn’t there a list already? (there is but in the case of the phone numbers at least they wanted to make sure it was updated) Did Supervisor really ask for this? They gave me looks like they didn’t trust me; some even hesitated for a while giving it to me. I joked around with a few that I’m closer with that I was asking for the numbers so I could prank call them late at night but seriously, I couldn’t understand why everyone was so hesitant to give me their information.

    I asked my friends and family who all said that they might think it’s a weird request, mostly because their jobs already have that info, but they wouldn’t ask so many questions and be reluctant to share it. So is it me or are my co-workers being weird?

    1. Jubilance

      I don’t think it’s weird that your co-workers reacted this way. If your supervisor wanted this info, they should have asked everyone themselves or at least sent an email saying that you would be collecting this information.

      1. Adam

        I can see this being the case. Also this sounds like something that would be HR’s job anyways. My organization also keeps an “in case of emergency” contact list and they always just sent emails around to everyone asking them to get them their information.

        1. B

          In our organisation hr hold emergency contacts but managers hold the telephone trees in case of an office being closed and staff needing to report elsewhere.

    2. A.

      Maybe my office’s culture is different, but the reactions you describe are very weird, to me. If a co-worker came up to me asking for my phone number and gave the reason you listed, I honestly wouldn’t think anything of it.

    3. Frannie

      It’s routine for offices to update their call list yearly, because numbers do change, and people often forget to update the info. It goes easier, though if your boss sends out an email that you are updating the list – because people hate giving out personal phone numbers (a lot of us got rid of home phones altogether to avoid nuisance calls, after all). Your boss caused the problems you’re having.

      1. LCL

        Yup, your boss should have started the process by telling everyone you will be asking for info to update the list. I wouldn’t call their reactions weird, but rather exactly as expected. When I talk about a privacy fetish, the results you got are EXACTLY what I am talking about.

    4. matcha123

      I wouldn’t find it weird.

      But, at my former workplace, I had a European co-worker who was very picky about these types of private information. It might have been better if your supervisor or someone set out an email saying that you’d be going to collect that information on X day.

    5. puddin

      They acted ‘strangely’ because this information is on file, like you mentioned and like their questions suggest. Frankly, if a co-worker I did not know asked me for this info, I would refer them to my personnel file with HR. Too many posts on this site demonstrate people are willing to violate the office/home separation.

      1. Judy

        Every time in the last 15 years this has been done where I’ve worked, it’s been an email sent out, rather than someone walking around with a clipboard. That way the person doing the updating just copies and pastes the numbers rather than having to type them in.

    6. AdAgencyChick

      I have to admit I’d be reacting like your coworkers, but it’s not because of you — it’s because I guard my cell number like a hawk. Once it gets distributed, there’s no turning back, and suddenly coworkers who weren’t able to contact you outside the office (other than email) are able to call or text you.

      If you were asking, I’d want to know who had access to the list, and if the answer was “the whole team” or “I don’t know,” I’d be going to my boss and trying to limit how many people were looking at my number.

      I wouldn’t shoot the messenger, though. I’d just nicely tell you “no” or “not now” and also contact whatever supervisor wants the information to find out what his/her plans are for the number.

      1. Becca

        I said this below, but get a free Google Voice number! You can forward it to your cell phone and even text through it. I use this for online dating and for my old job because if I have to change the number I don’t have to tell all my friends and family anything since they have my “Real” number.

    7. Steven M

      I’d be hesitant to give out that information too. I limit who gets my contact info to those people I want to hear from – and when I’m not at work my boss/coworkers are generally nowhere near that list. Also, I don’t like to celebrate my birthday and dislike it when people do it for me anyway. As for communicating closings, everywhere I’ve worked has had a central number employees could call to get closing messages.

    8. Payroll Lady

      This is a fairly common request from management. You would not believe how many people move, change their phone number etc and do not notify anyone at the company. Every year I send out a form that shows what I have in the system for the employee and have them make corrections if necessary and return. I do agree the super should have sent an e-mail stating you would be going around collecting the information and why, however, your co-workers should chill once you explain why,…..

      1. cuppa

        I agree. We update it once a year because people do change their numbers all the time and don’t let anyone know. We do it similarly — I have the list and you have to come see me and check off that your number is correct or make changes.
        We had a potential emergency in our area recently that made this really important. You really don’t want to be caught without a number when you really need it.

        1. Arjay

          Yes, it makes more sense too to ask them to verify/update the current information instead of asking for it like it’s a brand new request. I’d be more cooperative (i.e., less paranoid) if someone asked me if my number was still 555-1212 than if they just walked up and asked me for my number.

    9. Becca

      I had to do this at my last job. Everyone pretty much hated the VP, as she was very manipulative and mean. I got a lot of these reactions, so I suggested people just make up a Google Voice account and tie it to your cell phone. That way, you can delete the number after you leave if you don’t want them having it. My old boss was crazy enough to keep harassing me after I left. I just deleted the number and didn’t have to worry about updating anyone else.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        But you don’t have to delete the number! You can set up GV to refuse calls from certain numbers, or go directly to voicemail for all numbers, or just for those that aren’t in your Contacts list. I only give out my GV number now, and everyone who isn’t in my phone list goes right to voicemail, with a few spammers blocked permanently! :)

    10. Jillociraptor

      I understand getting a little cagey about this information, especially if there’s already any level of mistrust. I’ve seen in challenging circumstances people get instantly defensive about things that are really innocuous, just because it always seems like change and challenge is lurking in the background.

      HOWEVER. Just want to send you some warm fuzzies because, as someone who often has to implement undesirable policies/practices that weren’t my idea, I just have a lot of sympathy for all the crap you get as a proxy for your manager on this stuff. Easily the worst part of my job, so I feel for you!

    11. Observer

      It’s hard to know, but the request is really rather bizarre. Why on earth wouldn’t your boss just send out an email to everyone saying “We need to make sure our emergency contact list is up to date and we need at least one personal number from each person.”

      1. LCL

        Because email can be ignored. Asking someone in person is more likely to get results, in many circumstances. But the boss should have started with that email, and had the OP follow up with those that didn’t respond.

        1. Observer

          Exactly the point. You start with an email. Then, if necessary, you send someone who says “Big boss asked me to come over in person for the information he asked for in his email from last Monday”

          Starting with someone going around with a clipboard is really, really strange. It is the least efficient way I can think to do it.

    12. Student

      Some of us have bad experiences with employers using our personal phone info to call us for work at crazy hours.

      Some of us have companies who will happily enter that stuff into a database that automatically publishes it on the company web site. Suddenly, you’re getting personal cell calls at all hours from overbearing clients, annoying co-workers with no boundaries and looming deadlines, a bunch of telemarketers who scrape websites for contact info, and also perhaps your distant relatives looking for money and your psycho stalker ex-boyfriend.

      I’ve had both, so I am very cautious about giving out my personal cell phone number at work. The psycho stalker ex-boyfriend getting info on me from the company web site incident was an extremely awkward conversation with HR, by the way.

      Also, not giving out my birthday at work, except on tax forms. Celebrating birthdays is a cultural thing. Some people love celebrating their birthdays all the way to their deathbed, and that’s great for them. I was raised in an area where celebrating your birthday past the age of 10 was bizarre and Not Done. I don’t want co-workers celebrating my birthday, as that seems infantilizing and weird to me due to the culture I grew up in. It’d be like having an imaginary-friend tea party at work.

    13. some1

      In the future, I’d make this request via an email to the group and specifically mention your boss asked you to do this.

    14. INTP

      I can see not wanting to share your personal contact information. Some coworkers or managers would abuse it, calling you at home at 2 am when you don’t answer your work cell. The people who acted like you were personally trying to collect their information, like the higher-ups didn’t really ask for anything and you were just asking on your personal time for your personal use, are weird, though.

    15. Noah

      We get a periodic email from people services (what our org likes to call HR) with the company phone list. It basically says here’s the info we have, look it over and notify us if it has changed. I’ve often wondered if anyone has ever complained about their cell phone number being on a company-wide list, but then I realized you can look up everything from cell phone numbers to home addresses in Outlook contacts at our company, so I guess they don’t consider that stuff private.

  16. GOG11

    Final Update on Office Move Situation

    For various reasons, I wanted to move offices. Due to the configuration of the building, various resources are accessible to anyone in the lobby, so my request to move wasn’t granted.

    The discussion regarding whether or not I could move offices reiterated my organization’s emphasis on safety and security in this particular building and the pressure to hold down the fort was renewed for me. I’m the first in this position/with my office arrangements (I’m in two buildings/offices throughout the day) and after having been here for a while now, various logistical challenges have made themselves apparent to me (though they aren’t readily apparent to others).

    I asked my supervisor if there was a written policy and/or some procedures regarding the building and, if not, if it would be okay for me to draft one (and I have to note that I probably wouldn’t have thought to take the initiative to do that if it weren’t for AAM). She thought it was a great idea! So, even though I didn’t get to move offices and I still have the delightful task of shooing my smoker-colleague away from the entrance, I get to write the policy (yay! I love this sort of thing) and, in doing so, I’ll get more clarification on what is expected of me in regard to my role.

    1. fposte

      Sorry the move is still blocked, but that’s good that it led to a broader conversation about your role–and good for you in taking initiative in seeking to make a bug into a feature!

  17. Beebs

    In the tradition of the Airing of Grievances, this one goes out to all of the remote workers out there or small satellite offices. When your core team goes out for fancy holiday dinners paid for by the company and then photos of the merriment and comments about the extravagance are shared, and no one even acknowledges you, no token gift, no card, no happy holidays email, for some of us it stings a little. It can already be a challenge to fit into a team from a distance and to keep your own morale and motivation up, this does not help the situation at all. I am sure I am not the only forgotten one out here. I will just have to find ways to reward myself and appreciate my own work and dedication!

    1. MT

      I feel you. 90% of my team is at the corporate location. I receive emails weekly about the events going on. But there are a lot of perks not being stuck in the corporate office.

    2. JMegan

      Oh, I’ve been there. Sorry, that really sucks. Definitely find a way to reward yourself, if they won’t do it for you!

    3. Sadsack

      Go ahead, Beebs, go out for a fancy holiday lunch on your own and expense it. Make sure to take a selfie with your food and send it to the crew so they can see you partaking in the fun! Seriously, though, that stinks that they excluded you like that.

          1. NaCSaCJack

            I thought it a great idea. Why not? if you’re remote and your boss is taking everyone else out for lunch, why not let you take one yourself? This thought has crossed my mind because although I sit in an office with 20-30 other people, my boss and team sit in corporate. In our culture, the managers take their team out, not the department.

        1. Beebs

          Not to worry. I doubt that would fly, but I am trying to come up with a friendly way to point out that I do still exist. Perhaps I will just send out my own holiday greeting message to the rest of the team (we are a small org) and pat myself on the back for being the bigger person. I have to admit that while I am not too concerned about it anymore, when it first happened (over a week ago) it really felt like being ignored by the other kids on the playground. It hurt my feelings, but I do know that it is not meant as a personal attack, just poor execution and not looking at the bigger picture.

    4. MaryMary

      I used to work with a guy who went to our office in India for six months. He had a really hard time adjusting to the local food (and eventually lost like 30 pounds). He was still on the US Team’s email list, and one day replied to all of us to say “STOP EMAILING ME ABOUT DONUTS AND COOKIES IN THE OFFICE, YOU’RE DRIVING ME INSANE”

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        Oh, man. I used to get, “There’s pizza in the break room,” from California, and that was just annoying. Poor guy!

    5. Nerdling

      As a remote employee myself, you have my sympathies!

      We have a setup where, if you pay $XX annually, you’re part of a club, essentially. It gets you discounted merch and participation in several events throughout the year: discounted minor league baseball tickets, food something like once a month, etc. But in the past, they only ever did those things for the people at the main office. Those of us in satellite offices would get our discounted merch if we wanted to buy something, but we never got to participate in the other events, because, seriously, who’s going to drive two or three hours one-way for a minor league baseball game with coworkers? Then they didn’t understand why participation among those of us in the satellite offices was so low. (I got a smashed up three-pack of Whoppers for the Easter egg hunt sent through office mail one year, that’s why I stopped. No pancake breakfast, no ice cream social, no chili cookoff, just smashed Whoppers.)

      This past year, we got a transfer in from another office who said, “Well, why don’t we offer the satellite folks discounted membership and send them the money to do their own events instead of having all the money be held at the main office?” The suggestion was greeted by stunned silence and, eventually, begrudging acceptance. So now those of us in the satellite offices organize our own events. And I will never get smashed Whoppers again!

      1. Beebs

        I just do not comprehend employers who think it is a good idea to reward some employees, but not others. I understand that the logistics for some things may be easier to do with only the HQ team, but to not acknowledge the remote staff or have an alternative reward/acknowledgement/sign of appreciation sends a pretty terrible message.

        1. Beancounter in Texas

          Agreed. You may just have to be direct and flat out ask when to expect your holiday dinner gift card or how much is approved for reimbursement of your own expense.

          If you’re forgotten this easily though, perhaps you need more visibility all around. I work in a corporate office with seven remote managers of teams. Some are more vocal and come to mind more often than others, because they call and after work issues, they chat socially a little. I personally prefer email correspondence for convenience, but when I have to list the managers, the loudest one comes to mind first. I don’t meant to put the onus on you to make all of the effort, but if you do, you might see things change a little.

      2. Not So NewReader

        Smashed Whoppers? I think something is wrong with my reading comprehension. Who on earth would think it was a good idea to mail you some Whoppers?

    6. Weasel007

      Something similar happened to me this week and I’m trying to navigate my reaction. I live 90 minutes away from my main office, and most (95%) folks are in the office 5 days a week. I am only in 1-2 tines a week, but that is about to change next month as they are relocating me back to the city (their cost). This past week, I was in the office on Tuesday and as I was leaving someone mentioned the party. Turns out the management of my group (of which I am one of) was having their party that night. No contractors, and no direct reports but everyone in mgmt in town. I had not been included because they still consider me “remote” and felt an invitation would construe an expense of an over night stay for me (I’ve never expected this to begin with). I’m still smarting from this exclusion. I had been in the office that day, on my normal day in the office. If someone hadn’t have spilled the beans I would have never known, but that makes it double deceitful.

  18. Savannah

    So….I’m writing up a real Hanukkah Balls update to send to Alison soon but I just wanted everyone to know that things have only gotten weirder and more awkward. Example: yesterday I found out that Hanukkah Balls Boss is married to someone who has a name that is basically like Moshe Goldberg. I wish this wasn’t my life but it is.

    1. SaraV

      I believe every reader of this blog is waiting for an update with baited breath.

      I tweeted this information to Alison yesterday, but two nights ago I had a dream that a couple left Hanukkah balls outside of someone’s residence as a surprise. (In my dream, they were just rose-colored ornaments in different sizes and shininess)

    2. Sunflower

      Can someone link to the original Hannukkah Balls post? I’ve been off the grid busy the past couple weeks and keep seeing references but have no clue where they’re coming from!!! I need to know!!!

    3. fposte

      Do you think their whole courtship was her introducing him to the wonderful world of Christian holidays? In her head, was that like when The Wizard of Oz went from black and white to color?

    4. LizB

      Yay, a Hanukkah balls update! I’m so excited!

      I sort of have the flip side of your situation: I had a co-worker ask me where to buy Chanukah candles* because he and his fiancee, neither of whom are Jewish at all, bought a menorah from Crate & Barrel and want to light it just for the heck of it. I gave him a super weird look and told him to go on Amazon, but the more I’ve thought about it the more annoyed I’ve gotten. Yes, it’s nice that you’re aware of other traditions, but copying those traditions because you think they look pretty is really bizarre.

      *First he asked me what the special name for Chanukah candles is. My response: “…candles. They’re literally just candles.”

      1. Audiophile

        Lol at “candles”.

        Someone said “Happy Kwanzaa” to me the other day and my response was a confused look.
        1) It hasn’t begun yet. 2) Even though I’m black, I have a very obvious (I think) Irish last name. I wasn’t offended, but this person knows me semi- well and I’m pretty sure we’ve discussed Christmas.

      2. Aunt Vixen

        In honor of this and of the recent departure of Stephen Colbert, I re-present “Can I Interest You in Hannukah?”

        Jon:
        Can I interest you in Hanukkah?
        Maybe something in a Festival of Lights?
        It’s a sensible alternative to Christmas
        And it lasts for seven–for you, eight–nights!

        Stephen:
        Hanukkah, huh? I’ve never really thought about it.

        Jon:
        Well, you could do worse.

        Stephen:
        Is it merry?

        Jon:
        It’s kind of merry.

        Stephen:
        Is it cheery?

        Jon:
        It’s got some cheer.

        Stephen:
        Is it jolly?

        Jon:
        Look, I wouldn’t know from jolly,
        But it’s not my least unfavorite time of year.

        Stephen:
        When’s it start?

        Jon:
        The twenty-fifth.

        Stephen:
        Of December?

        Jon:
        Of Kislev.

        Stephen:
        Which is when exactly?

        Jon:
        I will check.

        Stephen:
        Are there presents?

        Jon:
        Yes, indeed, eight days of presents,
        Which means one nice one, then a week of dreck.

        Stephen:
        Does Hanukkah commemorate events profound and holy?
        A king who came to save the world?

        Jon:
        No, oil that burned quite slowly.

        Stephen:
        Well, it sounds fantastic!

        Jon:
        There’s more!
        We have latkes!

        Stephen:
        What are they?

        Jon:
        Potato pancakes.
        We have dreidls!

        Stephen:
        What are they?

        Jon:
        Wooden tops.
        We have candles!

        Stephen:
        What are they?

        Jon:
        THEY ARE CANDLES.
        And when we light them, oh, the fun just never stops.
        What do you say, Stephen? Do you want to give Hanukkah a try?

        Stephen:
        I’m trying. See me as a Jew. I’m trying even harder.
        But I believe in Jesus Christ, so it’s a real non-starter.

        Jon:
        I can’t interest you in Hanukkah? Just a little bit?

        Stephen:
        No thanks, I’ll pass.
        I’ll keep Jesus; you keep your potato pancakes.
        But I hope that you enjoy ’em
        On behalf of all the goyim.

        Jon:
        And be sure to tell the Pontiff
        That my people say Good Yontiff.

        Stephen:
        That’s exactly what I’ll do.

        Both:
        Happy Holidays, you Jew/too!

      3. AvonLady Barksdale

        Heh, I was just thinking about this the other day and how a former co-worker once asked me for advice about Chanukah traditions because she wanted to start celebrating, being that Christianity came from Judaism and all. I was very young, so I obliged, but I gave private side-eye.

    5. ThursdaysGeek

      Well, the first Christmas after CrazyBoss and Moshe were married, he really liked the Moshe’s First Christmas stocking, so of course you will too. Aren’t all you people all alike? Oddly, I can’t find a way to word that last sentence to make it less offensive. I guess it’s because it’s inherently offensive, huh? And yet, that might be where she is coming from. :( I’m sorry; I hope someday she sees you as you, rather than a project or an excuse.

      1. Artemesia

        I’m finding this all hilarious and alarming as I am about to fly off to celebrate Christmas week with my new Jewish DIL and her family and our family which includes a small child so Christmas can’t really be downplayed. We are all doing stocking, each and every one. I have Hannukah crackers instead of Christmas crackers. They are bringing a Menorah. Chinese food will be eaten Christmas Eve/last night of Hannukah as part of the Jewish Christmas tradition in the US and we will cook a large merry Christmas feast, the day of. Wish us luck and avoidance of all that is offensive and or patronizing. If I can work in the Hannukah balls I will.

        1. VintageLydia USA

          My husband’s cousin had a Jewish father and Catholic mother and that’s pretty much what her Christmas week looks like whenever Hannukah coincided with it.

    6. Anonsie

      Maye her husband got a kick out of this at some point in the past and she’s assuming you will, too?

        1. Artemesia

          Great idea — the Hallmark plots have gotten really boring and with too much Shelly Long as obnoxious mother — time for Jewish in laws first Christmas.

  19. Jubilance

    My new department does Secret Santa, so I decided to participate. And I got ZERO gifts from whoever pulled my name. :-(
    The biggest bummer is that they operate on the honor system & allow people to pull names without anyone tracking who got who. I told the admins who were running the exchange that I didn’t receive anything & they were sympathetic but really couldn’t help. I wound up getting a pity gift from one of the admins so that’s better than nothing I suppose. I’m just really bummed tho and I won’t be participating again.

    1. Carrie in Scotland

      That is terrible. I will send you some happy thoughts over the internet for you…even though it won’t make up for the lack of thought on someone’s part :( (If I were clever, I’d go and find some witty meme or something but I am not, so this will have to do)

    2. Adam

      That sucks. I’m sorry you got a Scrooge. Here’s hoping the rest of your holiday is filled with much more warmth.

    3. Alter_ego

      When I was in 6th grade my (private school) did a secret Santa that was opt in. If you didn’t want to give a gift (5 gifts actually. A small gift each day of the week before break) you didn’t put your name in the bucket. Day 1, no gift. I tell the teach, she says maybe she forgot, there will be something tomorrow. Day 2, no gift. Teacher says maybe she forgot again. Day 3, no gift. Teacher talks abou assigning me to someone, giving them two people to buy for. Day 4, no gift, teacher tells a girl in my class who never liked me to get me something for the last day, day 5, assigned student gives me a bag of Hershey kisses.
      I found out later that the person who pulled my name was actually a good friend of mine, who also happens to be a Jehovah’s witness. So she was like “well I couldn’t give her any gifts, it’s against my religion!” Which is fine, but then she shouldn’t have been receiving gifts all week from the person who pulled her name, and she totally was.
      It’s just really dissappointing. Don’t participate if you only want to receive and not give. It’s not like there’s anyway for people to know that you didn’t join in

      1. Revanche

        Bad enough that she was happy to receive gifts and fall back on religion to not give back, it’s even more uncool that that was your own friend. Very not cool.

        1. NoPantsFridays

          Yeah, I always opted out of secret Santas growing up, being that I don’t celebrate Christmas. However, that went both ways — I neither gave nor received gifts. This friend was happy to receive presents but not to give them!

      2. louise

        The only thing that makes it forgivable is that at age 12 or so, unless she was a naturally empathetic kid (and obviously she wasn’t), she probably hadn’t developed the skills necessary to realize how selfish and inappropriate she had been. Or, if she did realize it, she didn’t have the skills necessary to resolve it so just hoped it wouldn’t be noticed or something. Would have been a great time for the teacher to gently explain a good life lesson there. And to require the friend to give up all her presents to you!

      3. Masters Degree Searcher

        Aw, I totally know how that feels! All through middle school/high school that happened (the person would forget maybe the first couple days then suddenly remember the third day). Then on the last day when others were getting fancy stuff from the Disney store, I always got regifted stale candy nobody in their right mind would eat. stale orange and blue candy in cellophane cheap wrapper. UGH. My freshman year got better though, it was opt-in and two people drew my name so I ended up getting double the presents, and a cute white teddy bear that came with a tiny box of chocolates….woohoo :)

      4. Lizzie

        In my 9th grade English class’ Secret Santa (which was likewise set up as opt-in with 5 days of giving), I received nothing for the first two days, a dirty, frayed piece of string (such as might have been the drawstring of someone’s gym shorts) on the third day, an empty Altoids tin on the fourth day, and a pack of Starburst on the fifth day. The kicker was that I, and everyone else, knew who had me, because he announced it loudly when he pulled my name out of the bucket.

        When Secret Santa time rolls around again every year, I always wonder what happened to that guy and if he’s still awful.

        1. fposte

          My sad confession is that I once, in a flurry of family dysfunctionality (mom back in hospital) and cash-flow issues, gave my 9th grade secret Santa giftee a ruler wrapped in colored notebook paper. Looking back, I wish I’d had the sense to say something to the teacher, because I imagine she had something lying around for such cases.

          Sorry, recipient.

          1. louise

            fposte, you are always a bastion of sense and logic…I feel good knowing you once had a lapse in judgement. Perhaps it means there is hope for us all!

    4. Jen RO

      Ugh, that sucks. This almost happened to a friend of mine. Secret Santa was optional, but this guy said he would participate. Of course, he ends up drawing my friend’s name. On Secret Santa day, the admin is chatting to the guy and finds out he didn’t actually want to participate, so he didn’t buy anything. The admin is horrified and suggests to at least buy a chocolate! An hour later, the guy shows up with one chocolate, not even wrapped. The admin ended up finding a nice gift bag and adding a few more sweets….

    5. AvonLady Barksdale

      I’m so sorry. That stinks. I will tell you a story: we did Secret Santa at my old company and my name was picked by one of the VPs in the department. Nice woman, we got along fine. She told me she wanted to get me a magazine subscription but she wanted to make sure she wasn’t duplicating. “How about Food and Wine?” she asked. “I would love that! Thank you! What a nice gift!” Never got it. People used to ask me about it! Nope, never got it.

    6. Midge

      We did a Secret Santa exchange in my office using a website that pairs people up. Except one poor person didn’t get anything, because the system assigned two people to give gifts to a single (different) person, and no one to her! Since the website is supposed to keep track, we didn’t realize this until the middle of our exchange. Luckily the host had something on hand that made a great gift, but still I would have been pissed.

    7. Anon1234

      In 7th grade my secret santa wrapped up two partially-used pencils in a piece of notebook paper. Then he stabbed my hand with one of them. I still have the scar. On the plus side, based on that alone, I’m pretty sure my life has proceeded along much better lines than his.

  20. The IT Manager

    Great news on two fronts:
    #1 – My project was delivered – later than my customer preferred (I mentioned my customers unrealistic schedule demands back in a fall open thread) – but it was deliveried successfully. I am closing out the project now and will start a new one after the holidays. Oddly enough after we passed the somewhat arbitrary deadline (it was a firm deadline at one point in the past but then the law delayed the change for a year), the customer stopped bugging us about it. We passed the “deadline” and no mention was made as we just kept chugging along to completion. Of course by then it seemed clear that we were going to delivery and I guess attention was changed to other topics.

    #2 – My supervisor submitted me in for a rather large monitary award for the year, and I got it. I work for the goverment; we don’t get bonuses, so the mney is great is its own right and also a sign that my supervisor (not in the project chain of command) thinks I did an awesome job despite everything.

    1. GOG11

      Congrats on your award! I’m glad your work was recognized – both in compensation and in buy-in/recognition from your supervisor :)

  21. Masters Degree Searcher

    My government contract role is finishing and I got another (four-year!) contract offer two weeks ago. However, I was holding out for a full time long-term government role more in my line of work (ie policy and legislation instead of writing). I stalled on the offer, asked/negotiated for more pay—and radio silence.

    Apparently, they don’t like it when a female negotiates pay, because I’ve heard nothing and they readvertised the role. Ouch. In the meantime, I got to the second round of a government full time long term job (phone interview only) this Monday, and they’re quiet till after the holidays b/c the office is on vacation. When would I hear back from them? The third round would be an in-person interview on-site and I’m so exhausted by all this already.

    And today, I heard from a PR communications firm recruitment director who got my CV and asked if I’d be interested in a 3 month internship and it’s been my life dream to work there or someplace like that—but only in a junior full time role (not intern). I have two masters, a government contractor role, coauthored documents, and wrote publications, etc. so I got lots of experience already. I responded to his e-mail that it was a goal of mine to work there, my attributes, my updated CV–and nothing yet.

    TL; DR: Short contract offer vanished; waiting on govt full-time role w/no guarantees, current contract ending, panic ensuing…

    1. Artemesia

      So sorry to read this. There is research to suggest that men who negotiate pay are highly regarded and women are often stigmatized. My daughter had this issue when she negotiated for her second major job. They had recruited her but when she tried to negotiate up from the bottom of the announced range, they were obviously unhappy about it. She got a signing bonus instead but she felt that it hurt her relationship with the rather dysfunctional bosses going forward. I hope you get something great somewhere else and can symbolical give them the finger.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Oh, that’s so wrong! Is this very recent? Any chance you can contact them again and say something like “Hi, I never heard back from you after I asked whether you had any flexibility on the salary, so I was wondering if that was your final offer?”

      1. Masters Degree Searcher

        Thanks for comments; it sucks. The worst part is, is that I have job searches on glassdoor sent directly to my e-mail account, so that contract job keeps popping up in my inbox, adding salt to the wound. I’m on my 3rd cup of coffee today kind of wishing that this whole thing would work itself out/go away :(

  22. Sadsack

    I really enjoy reading this blog every day. It has helped me in working on my job search and navigating through other work-related issues, but also provided countless hours of entertainment for the past couple of years. Thank you all for your thoughtful, sometimes hilarious commentary. This blog has often been the highlight of my work day.

    Happy holidays!

  23. Joss

    I am getting more and more frustrated with my direct boss. He’s the director of admissions for the school I work for, but he was hired because he has the degree we award, not because he has any experience working in admissions or recruitment. He’s a nice, nice guy and I do like him — but he’s so INCREDIBLY inexperienced and unqualified for the work that I am starting to go a little bonkers.

    1. Revanche

      Nothing useful except a lot of empathy. Worked for someone like that who started out nice so it was easier to try and wave off the fact I was doing his job, but then his true colors showed (manipulative, played favorites, ran the rumor mill) and it was pure hell for a while. Here’s hoping something breaks the right way for you here!

  24. AnotherAlison

    We’re career planning with our 17 year old HS junior & need perspective.

    His grades suck. Semester grades were C-Algebra, C-Chemistry, B-Drawing, B-History, C-English, A-Marketing, A-Weights. He failed the math & chem finals. His cumulative GPA is ~2.7, with a fairly easy work load & not having much other responsibility outside school. (Chem is hard, but his weights, drawing, art, history, and marketing classes aren’t.)

    His college goals are to play baseball & he says he wants to be a chiropractor. (I think the chiro field is a little saturated, but that’s another discussion.)

    He does have the baseball cred to get on a juco team or D-III, possibly D-II, but my husband and I think academically our son has no business in college, particularly a 4-year college, and particularly in a SCIENCE field, when he barely passes high school Algebra and Chemistry.

    We think he should look at a trade school or associates degree that’s more career training than prep for finishing at a 4-yr school.

    I’m asking for input because our POV is skewed. I was a near-straight A engineering student in college, and my husband was a D high school student and went to trade school 3 yrs after high school, once we were married & had said son. We don’t know what it is like to be an average high school student or college student. I know there are people who barely passed high school because they didn’t care, who sailed through college, but we’re also not big on “thou shall go to college” for life success. We don’t think we need to drop $50k for someone to go to college and get Cs in generic classes, when he could do well for himself through other avenues.

    What advice would you give such a student?

    1. louise

      Drawing and marketing were the highest grades? I have no idea how the corporate graphic arts market is, but that sounds more promising than the chiropractic field.

    2. MT

      I feel like high school has very little to do with college success. I was a b/c student, mainly because I couldn’t care less and didn’t put any effort into it. I had one teacher comment when i stopped back during my freshman year of college that they were surprised I went to college. I started in college, I found my motivation and did fairly well.

      all that said, there is nothing wrong with a trade school or a couple of years at a community college.

      1. Nerd Girl

        Agreed. I had a 1.9 GPA in high school. I hated being there for a variety of reasons. Learning wasn’t one of them. I went to college. I had a 3.95 average. (Damn math class tripped me up!) Why? Because I liked being there.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Similar for me. I was just average in high school. College was much better. Part of the reason was the environment in high school, very heavy drug culture. The year after I left the gangs came in.
          To the OP, I am suggesting this- you may think you know what his day at school is like but you may not really know. My parents had absolutely NO clue what an average day in high school was for me. I am not saying that you are like my parents, I am suggesting that his grades are not horrible and in a different environment you may see him excel in ways he is not right now.

      2. Anoners

        Seconding this. I slacked all through HS, with barely decent grades. In uni I got mostly A’s in a pretty competitive program with little effort. You never know, he may excel in Uni. Another thing, if he has his heart set on Uni there might be little you can do to sway him (aside from not funding it). 17 year old me would never considered college, no matter what my parents thought. But 30 year old me would probably do the college route. Good luck!

      3. Monodon monoceros

        I was a terrible student in HS also. I hated being there, I hated my home life at that point, and generally just hated life, so I put zero effort into school. I almost failed out my senior year because of my English grade (even though I was in honors English all 4 years, I got horrible grades. I’m surprised they kept letting me take honors English). I didn’t struggle with the material at all, I just never sat down and did any work. So I had zero study skills. Anyway, I ended up taking a few classes at the local satellite campus (kind of like going to community college I guess) the year after HS and did really well. I used those classes to actually learn how to do work for a class and study for a test. Then I applied for a good school and got accepted.

        I am all for community college/satellite campuses for people who have crappy HS experiences. Its a good way to transition out of the bad habits and/or just get back on track.

        I haven’t kept in touch with anyone from my high school (see above where I hated every minute of it) but every once in a while I wonder how surprised my teachers and the other students would be knowing that I have advanced degrees in science and am fairly successful in my field. I’m pretty sure they probably think I’m living on the street instead.

    3. Sunflower

      I think you really need to talk to him. Have you talked to him about his grades? Is he not interested in what he’s learning? Does he just not care? Is he trying hard but not seeming to get anywhere? Maybe not a therapist but some other type of counselor might be able to help. There might be other issues going on. I believe everyone can be good at something and it might take a little more to see where you son’s skills are.

    4. A.

      Is it possible baseball was a distraction and negatively impacted his grades? He can always begin at a two-year school and transfer into a four-year if his grades and study habits improve.

    5. LiteralGirl

      If he really wants to go to school, have him start at a community college. If he does well, then he can get into a four year university from there. If not, he can decide whether or not a trade school is for him.
      Just my 2 cents.

      1. straws

        +1 I know a lot of people who have done this. The community college near us has special transfer programs that are specifically tailored to move the students to 4-year colleges after they obtain their associate’s. It’s less expensive and from what I’ve seen is a better transition experience for the student. It also has nothing to do with grades. One of the friends I know who went this route sits firmly in genius territory and is at a top university after his transfer. It’s a great option.

        1. WanderingAnon

          I’ll second this. I went to college straight out of high school and for a lot of reasons, it didn’t work out. I worked and attended community college over several years before transferring to a 4 year college. Community college can be a good stepping stone and can allow you to experience many different courses without being forced quickly into a degree.

      2. LoFlo

        +1 I know of many people in our area that did this while they were figuring out what they wanted to do.

        After being on my third remodeling project in the last two years, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the skilled trade people that did our work. Some of these folks very good money plus don’t have the burden of student loans and dealing with office drama. Also, the guys that worked on our house had the flexibility to take off for family stuff, while their wives had to be at the office.

      3. JC

        I think this is a good idea, but I also wonder what to advise kids who really just aren’t college types and who might be better off doing something else from the start. School and I always agreed well (my husband and I joke that we wish real life had standardized tests) and my parents are both college grads, but my younger brother was just not into school. He ended up getting an associate’s degree after 4 years at community college, and then spent 2 more years at a 4 year school before dropping out. My parents and I always wanted to help him find something to work towards that he was better suited for/that interested him for, but we just didn’t know what since that’s a path we didn’t take for ourselves.

      4. OhNo

        + whatever number we’re on

        My brother also had poor grades in high school, and went straight to a four-year college on a sports scholarship. Those scholarships don’t cover everything, and eight years later, having gone to two different four-year schools, two different community colleges, and one technical school, he finally dropped out for good. His college career ended up being a huge waste of money for the entire family (including two of my uncles, who co-signed loans for him).

        If your son really wants to go to college, start him at a community college and make it clear that if he does well, then maybe he can transfer up in a year or two. If his grades aren’t up to snuff, then tell him that you won’t be paying the giant tuition for a four-year school. Be firm and stick by it, otherwise you may end up financing an academic disaster like my brother’s.

        I would also strongly suggest he start getting work experience ASAP. If his grades are already a bit low, that might have to wait until he graduates high school so they don’t sink any more. But the point is that getting started on real work experience early could help him figure out what he wants to do AND mitigate any poor school performance that would otherwise be front and center on his resume.

      5. L.L.

        Agreed. I hear what everyone else is saying about how high school success doesn’t necessarily predict college success, grade-wise…but sometimes, it totally does. My younger brother was an average/below average student in high school, but followed my sister and I to StateU right out of high school (with financial support from our parents, because it wasn’t “fair” for them to suggest he go to community college instead) and ended up barely squeaking through after five years there. There were exasperated conversations about his grades after every. single. semester. Nobody was happy. My mother has said, on more than one occasion, that she wishes they’d made him transfer to community college after the first semester when he failed two of four classes – or that they’d just insisted on that option in the first place. Obviously every family is different, but establishing a less expensive option as the best option right off the bat may save you a lot of headaches down the line.

    6. Sascha

      I’m always a big proponent of community college. So if he does want to eventually attend a 4-year university, get the generic classes done at the less expensive community college first.

      Reading up on education for chiropractors, it seems he’d need a good 10 years minimum of education to go that route. Ask him if he’s prepared for that. Have him talk with chiropractors about their education and what it’s like working in that field.

      I will say that I was one of those people who did badly in math and science in high school, and then choose a liberal arts path in college, because I was “bad at math.” I wish I hadn’t done that. I wish I had pushed through and challenged myself, because I’m not in the field I really want to be in (which is medicine – I’m in IT, which is enjoyable and I’m doing fairly well, but ultimately not what I really wanted). My parents had a big influence on this decision – they didn’t push me to overcome the hurdles I had with math and science. Not to place the blame solely on them – I could have challenge myself more – but I think if I had more of their support in that area, it would have helped me. So my advice to help him understand the seriousness of the paths he is considering, and how important math and science will be, and also strategize about how to do better in math and science (like getting a tutor or figuring out problem areas in those topics).

      1. NaCSaCJack

        I support community colleges but I have a caveat. Due to medical issues I went to community college and then to a four-year institute 4 years late (Mom & Dad didn’t pay for college so I had to work fulltime for two years in there). When I went to the four year college, both my parents and I were so ready to get me the h&&& out of the house. If I were to do it again, I’d insist on going away to school as soon as the medical issue was resolved no matter what or do something to deal with it while away at school. I was so immature and I was so late getting to a four year that I feel I missed something. That being said, I am still lifelong friends with some of the people I met in community college and none of the buds I hung out with in @ the four year. Some of the buds from four year graduated while I was still finishing my second degree and some graduated after me. Timing of life events helps in maturity aka growing up.

    7. puddin

      So, not to be too harsh, but his grades don’t success. You have a solid above average kid on your hands. He probably does well in things that don’t take up too much time and/or he has a natural skill in. Typical teen underachiever. If the concern is money wasted – which is perfectly valid. My suggestion is tell him you will pay a total of X$ for school. He can/do whatever he wants. But when that money is gone, he is on his own. Alternatively, you can reimburse him. Set up an agreement that he fronts the money and you will reimburse for every grade above X per semester or whatever time and result terms you choose. Finally, have you thought about military service? Lots of benefits there including learning how to do things that you do not like to do.

    8. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      I’m a big believer in the community college system. Our local colleges have partnerships with good four year colleges that allow an easier onboarding of a student who might have question marks re “is he going to hack it or not”.

      Son #2 is very bright but there was no way in hell I was going to throw money at tuition for an away school until I had some substantial proof that he was going to be serious about college. (I didn’t get that from high school!)

      In a miraculous turn of events, he’ s just finished up his A.A with a 3.8something GPA, been inducted into the junior college honor society and is on his way to (name) four year college to finish the last two years of that name college degree, with a partial academic scholarship.

      tl;dr During CC he learned to pull his head out of his ass and also saved us buckets of money on tuition during those years

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        p.s. Son was mightily irritated at me that I only let him take two classes his first semester and that I didn’t want him to work. I didn’t care. I’m one of the least “top down” moms on the planet, but launching his future as an adult was way more important to me than making him happy at that moment.

        Once he had a successful first semester, he could do anything he wanted and we paid for it. I’m still shocked that what he wanted was to go to school just about year round. He didn’t take any breaks. We handed him the credit card, he got A’s in the classes.

        I can barely recognize this grown man vs the high school student he was a few years ago!

        1. AnotherAlison

          That is encouraging! I’m also not a helicopter mom, but for college, it will be “here’s what you can do and have our support,” and if he chooses not to do that, he can move out and get a job, join the military, or figure out his own way through school. I know that’s risky, and we don’t want him to have $100K+ student loan bills, but we told him *our* deal straight up in 8th grade and he has had 2.5 years to NOT make the grades that we required for US to pay for college.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            I don’t think our actions mattered substantially in his outcome. If I had to bet, the most significant outward influence was two childhood friends who went to MIT and Stanford respectively. That sort of shook him up. But mostly, he got serious when he was ready to get serious.

            I think we mostly mitigated possible damage from financing an un-serious swing at College Life.

    9. A Temp

      I also agree that high school is not a good indication of college success. I did medicore in high school and graduate with a 4.0 for college. For me it was the very long days, not being able to focus on so many subjects and the early mornings. I couldn’t pin point those issues until college though. He might find he is not great at science but take different subjects and figure out what he is good at. A lot of people don’t know 100% or change their minds in college.

      All that being said it might be beneficial to him to take a year off and work or start at a less expensive school until he figures it out.

    10. matcha123

      I don’t know if I’m going to sound harsh or not, but, I’d tell him he needs to think about what he wants to do with his life. Are the Cs because he’s just doing what he needs to do to get by? Or are they because he wants to do better but isn’t able to understand how to get there?

      Whether he goes to a community college or trade school, or a traditional 4-year university, he needs to look at how he studies and learns. What’s more, you’re under no obligation to pay for his university schooling. I had zero help from family for school. I am still paying off my loans, but I feel that the time I spent at university was well worth it.

      My perspective is somewhat different because I grew up hearing my mom tell me that without a university degree, I could do nothing. (We are minorities and female and for her having a bachelors was the bare minimum to start your life.)

      I think you should talk with him about the types of jobs he could get with an associates v a 4-year degree, the options available to him and competition/what’s expected of him in certain jobs/etc. I get that a lot of parents don’t want to kill their child’s dream. I really wanted to go into art school and work in a creative field when I was in high school. But I had to take a step back and think seriously about whether or not I’d be able to get a job and whether or not I could be a better artist than the people around me.

      This is going to be a trying time for him and you.

    11. The IT Manager

      If you don’t pay for junior college or D-II or D-III college, can he get a scholarship? If you don’t foot the bill for college, do you think he’s willing and able to play minor league ball?

      That last one might be my concern as a parent, because minor league baseball pays terribly is is really not a viable career path.

      I’d also try to access if he has any actual interest in chiropractry or is that a kind of random fallback plan. Did he make good grades in biology?

      I think you’re instincts are right, but I was also a straight A student and loved school. My brother hated school and despite a full ride academic scholarship quickly failed out. But he didn’t know what he wanted to do and mainly went to college for a semester just because that’s what my parents wanted. It sounds like your son might have an interest and plan or he may really just want to keep playing baseball.

      1. AnotherAlison

        Baseball scholarships are partial (11 for the whole team of 20+). His grades won’t warrant an academic scholarship to supplement. IF he got a juco scholarship at one of the ones in driving distance from our house, I would pay for the rest of the tuition. IF he got one not-driving distance, I’d pay tuition & he would have to work to pay room/board. 4-year is probably more than I want to pay at all at this point, even with a partial athletic scholarship. There are some D-I, D-II schools in driving distance, but he’s probably not D-I material, D-IIs close are private and pricey. (He is an LHP and should throw over 85 by the time he graduates, but he’s only 5′-9″ and likely done growing. He can throw just over 80 now at 150 lbs. He’s got a good change up and curve.)

        He plays on a juco-sponsored college prep team right now, so he has the right connections.

      2. AnotherAlison

        Also – we RATHER he didn’t do minor league ball. We saw the HBO special & know a few guys. : )

        I’d be fine with him taking a “gap year” to do that, and then getting back to reality. He’s short. We’re in KC & huge Royals fans, but how many Tim Collins are possible? That’s a lot of work.

    12. Brett

      Coming from the sports angle…
      At the right juco, he will get a lot of extra support as an athlete (priority registration, tutoring etc, but depends on the juco) and, more importantly, he will have a coach who can lean on him academically. As well, if he really has the upside for college ball, a juco coach can get him there and market him to Div I/II schools that are a good fit. Meeting the coach and seeing how he runs the program and relates to 4-year coaches is extremely important when picking a juco program.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule

        This is what I was going to suggest. Lots of JuCo’s have solid athletic programs that can lead to 4 year institutions, or give him a solid foundation to figure out what he wants to do. If you go to NJCAA(d0t)org(slash)colleges, you’ll find them listed by state.

    13. C Average

      Awww, man, I sympathize so much with you and with your son both.

      Although I’m bright by objective standards (I’m actually freakishly good at standardized tests), I found school really unenjoyable and was rarely anything close to an excellent student. My high school grades were somewhat better than your son’s, and my college grades were comparable.

      The real talk that got me through was from my dad. He explained to me that in order to succeed in life (i.e., get a job that enabled me to support myself), I had to do well in school and go to college. Had to. Not optional.

      He had himself flunked out of college, joined the Navy, and returned to college later and done very well.

      He emphasized that this was an inefficient method, and that if you don’t love school (as he didn’t), the best approach is to buckle down and get it over with. Because the only way out is through.

      I am one of the only people I know who finished college in four years. I had a countdown calendar the whole time I was in college. I announced to my roommates every day how many remaining days of college I had left. I didn’t change majors (as many of my friends did) and I stuck to a carefully planned class schedule to ensure I’d graduate on time. I had one goal and one goal only: Get the school portion of my life over with for good. I pursued that goal single-mindedly.

      So I guess my advice to someone like your son is this: School is a finite part of your life. There’s an endpoint. It WILL be over and you will get to move on and do things that aren’t school, and you’ll likely find those things more enjoyable than school. So buckle down, get school over with, and then you can get on to the fun stuff.

      (I know a lot of people have tales of loathing high school and loving college, or loathing college but loving grad school. I’ve tried to go back to school several times, for several things, and all attempts have been failures. I have come to accept that I am an auto-didact by nature and need to embrace that, and that I’m never going to thrive or absorb much in a classroom. I’m glad that part of my life is in the rear view mirror.

      1. catsAreCool

        I was brought up with the idea that college was my best path to a better life and that I should pick a major that I could make a decent living in (and also liked). Since we were kinda broke-ish sometimes when I was a kid, a better life sounded pretty good.

        My parents also would say that some college classes were more like weeding out classes than anything else. Those classes might not be all that useful themselves, but it was part of what I’d need to deal with to graduate college. Sort of like an initiation.

    14. Joey

      Educate him on what it takes to make it in his preferred career paths. Show him the kind of careers that are open to him in trade, juco and with a 4 yr degree. And this is super important, talk to him about his chances of success in each path. Then, let him decide. Military might be a good option also.

    15. AnotherAlison

      Thanks to everyone. . .these are ALL great responses. I’m really appreciating the questions & personal stories. I’m going to chime in on a couple questions before a meeting, but I hope I can get time later to answer everyone who took the time to respond.

      (Also – I don’t think anyone’s being too harsh! My husband is at the point with this kid: “You are a lazy bum and if you think we’re paying for anything with these grades, keep dreaming. You’re way, way out of your league for your academic record.” Nothing anyone can write here is worse than what we’ve discussed privately. )

      1. Anonsie

        Aw man. People said this stuff to me when I was younger and if I was any less of a rebellious little shit, it would have crunched me down away from the track I really did need to be on. It definitely delayed me and caused the whole track to be more tangled up and difficult than it needed to be. I got bundled into “bad at math, can’t do science” and that was both untrue and detrimental in the long run.

        I’m now pretty firm that science and math are not more difficult than other disciplines, they just require you to study differently, and the teaching style becomes more important.

        1. AnotherAlison

          Just to clarify, we didn’t say THAT to him. It was more gentle, like, “If that’s what you really want to do, you need better grades. We had this conversation last semester, and nothing changed, so how are you going to show that you’re serious about this?”

          The other factors in play are that he doesn’t have a job & is barely looking (interview at O’Reilly’s on Monday though!). He doesn’t want to work here or there or there. . .kind of a “too good” for fast food attitude. My husband asks for him to help out at home and he does the bare minimum, wanders off mid-task, etc. If he just showed motivation to do something besides hand out with friends, that would be a starting point that we could encourage him from.

          1. Anonsie

            Heh heh I also didn’t work until college and was useless at home. I didn’t really think about it until now. I like to think that teenagers are still learning how to be human beings and that’s why they can just generally suck sometimes. They seem like they’re as aware as a normal adult, but they’re really not.

            Have you guys looked into any volunteering and/or on the job shadowing for health care, though? I’m not surprised he’s not excited about working at Target or something, but he could both get a picture for his goals and get good experience for his applications by trying to get some health care experience. When I was in high school I volunteered summers at a medical center at the front desk. I got to shadow a little when there were a lot of volunteers around and they didn’t need all hands on deck. I also got to do odd jobs that showed me how a big hospital manages its supply chain, fundraising, feeding inpatients, etc. At some hospitals, those positions are paid, mine used volunteers.

          2. catsAreCool

            I worked in fast food for a while when I was in college. It really motivated me to get good grades – I did NOT want to spend my life asking people if they wanted fries with that. It wasn’t terrible though. Some customers were rude, and some managers were kinda jerks sometimes, but it was honest work, and they paid me, and there was no heavy lifting.

    16. Snowball II

      I’d look for a community college with a baseball team – he can start there, and if his grades warrant it, he can move on to a four-year school from there, but if they don’t, he can bail while still getting at least some kind of degree (associate’s) and without bankrupting you.

      Chiropractor strikes me as a weird choice for a 17 year old – what is it about that field that he thinks he likes? Are their other fields that would offer him the opportunity to do those things that are less saturated/less science-heavy?

      I volunteer with high schoolers, and many, many of them tell me they want to be lawyers or doctors. Some are going to be, no question – lots have no business in pre-med or law school, though, and while I’d never say “hey now, you’re not cut out for that” to any of the kids I work with, I will ask them what they like about the idea of being a doctor or a lawyer, and then educate them about other career fields that use those same skills that are perhaps more realistic. (Example, lots of my kids who want to be lawyers “really like writing and speaking” – there are dozens of careers that use those skills that don’t require the same educational investment as law, and I make sure they’re educated about those fields as well.)

    17. AndersonDarling

      I agree with comments about Community College or Trade School, but you have to be sure they have good programs. My hubby did a Mechanic/HVAC program at the Community College and it was a joke…didn’t learn anything. And a handful of trade schools are just gimmiks to get government $$ or are cranking out students into a market saturated with their profession (massage, medical coding).
      But, if he wants to do chiropractic, many community colleges have pre-med or nursing programs. To get an associates in a medical program would be quite an accomplishment and he would certainly be able to find work in the field.
      Oh, and CLEP out of all the basics, it saves so much classroom time.

    18. Pneia

      I am a high school drop out who is also a Ph.D program drop out. When I got my masters degree I had a 3.8 average on a 4.0 scale. High school grades are not destiny. And getting mainly B’s and C’s means your kid is average. If he is into marketing and drawing, commercial art would be a great direction to go. I know someone who worked as a graphic designer and got a job with a major sports team.

      I recommend you encourage him to look into a community college and work towards an associate degree. If he hates college, he will at least have a degree, and if he loves it and wants to go further, he will have those credits locked in and transferable. Avoid the for-profit schools, as their credits usually do not transfer to universities.

    19. AnotherAlison

      Chiropractic: Since several have mentioned it, I’ll just write a separate response.

      He actually IS somewhat interested in chiro. It is weird for a teenager, but he’s been an athlete all his life. He broke his collarbone when he was ~12 and had chiro care after, and has seen chiros for other sports injuries (along with PTs, orthos, and other medical professionals.) I think he knows how hard the med school path is and knows it’s not for him, but might also know chiro school will accept lower tier students (not to offend any chiros on the forum). . ..we love the ones we see. As a freshman, he was interested in being a “spinal surgeon” or orthopedist.

      He’s also been weirdly interested in prosthetics. I think this is partly because I’m an engineer, and talked about biomedical engineering around the house (my field is power, but I always thought biomed was cool).

      That’s part of why it’s hard to say, sorry buster, you blew it. Enjoy your phlebotemy career (or whatever). He has had the interest, with zero academic performance to back it up. If he had a D in history and an A and chem, I could be more supportive, but, nope.

      1. AnotherAlison

        (And geez, I didn’t mean to stick my foot in my mouth and insult phlebotomists. I don’t think it’s just, ah, well, I guess I’ll be a phlebotomist if I can’t do anything else. I am just aware that it is a medical career you can do with technical training. . .which was the direction we are thinking of steering him.)

        1. fposte

          I think there are a lot of technically sided health careers these days, though; is there anything like a virtual careers fair where he can learn about more possibilities? It sounds like he’s really interested in the mechanical side, and there are clusters of people of various technical certifications everytime I deal with sportsmed. (There is also a specialty of orthopedic chiropractic.)

          1. De Minimis

            Maybe physical therapy also, although I believe they just changed things to where it requires more education.

            People can really change their study habits in college…I was a really good high school student and became more of an underachiever in as an undergraduate [actually was on academic probation at one point, then turned around enough to have just over a B average by the end] and then did a lot better in graduate school. But it’s true that if he’s legitimately struggling with certain subjects in high school, he’s not going to suddenly do better with them in college.

          2. The IT Manager

            I think this is your way to go. Research what it takes to be a chiropractor, phyical therapist, massage therapists, related fields, and try to figure out what he’s interested in and where’s his next step.

            My cousin with a bachelor’s in business and who worked as a financial planner for a while finally found his calling as a massage therapist. He ran his own business for a while and now works at a place where he just has to meet with the clients. He loves it.

            Oddly enough my brother who failed out of college in a semester found his calling as a chef without going to culinary school. He’s now the most well-known chef in our small town and the kids from the local culinary school come to learn from him.

            So I think the hardest part is figuring out what your son might be interested in exactly.

            I fully suspect so many college-bound kids say doctor or lawyer because that’s the professions they see on TV along with police and fire fighters, and they’re just unaware that there’s more options.

        2. Clever Name

          Prosthetics. Hmmm. Is he mechanically inclined? Does he like making things with his hands? He could work making and fitting prosthetics. Each one is custom made for the individual who will use it. It fuses science and art. No idea how one would go about getting the right training or education for this path.

          1. Mephyle

            Seconded. As for finding out what training or education is required, some research should be able to point in the right direction. I started typing what education is needed to make prosthetics, and that search looks like a good place to start.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I’m following this discussion with great interest. My 14-year-old niece, who’s incredibly smart (reading at a college level, fantastic writer, able to carry on pretty intellectually rigorous conversations about most topics — and yes, I adore her) and who has always gotten As until this year is letting her grades drop (to low Bs, but this is a kid who could do a lot better). My sister/her mother (a classic high achiever who always got As herself) is horrified and they’re locked in battle over it. My sister’s worry is that if it continues, my niece will really limit what college she can go to, which is true — and it sucks, because she’s capable of getting the sort of grades to go to an excellent school. My niece wants to be social rather than studious, and keeps pointing out that I myself totally messed around in high school and college (completely true) and ended up doing fine anyway. I keep pointing out that luck played a big role in that, but she’s skeptical, and keeps telling me that she’s smart and she’ll be fine. I totally see myself at that age in her — it’s exactly the way I thought at the time. And obviously I feel guilty for being the un-role-model she’s looking to. I want to lock her in her room and force her to study, and my sister does too but realizes she can’t. It’s very frustrating.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          And I should add: I know going to a great school isn’t everything in life. But I also know how much it can help, and I hate to see her throw that away, at an age where she can’t appreciate it.

          1. Joey

            Can’t you show her with stats? Average salary for those from better schools. I know I was in the same boat in high school, but I never saw how likely I was to succeed because I assumed the exceptions were not exceptions.

              1. fposte

                Are there any stats about correlations between GPA, financial aid, and debt amount? I’m suspecting it’s not just that she’s risking a lower income, she’s risking it with more debt.

                (Which sucks, societally speaking. But that’s not the point of this conversation.)

          2. jamlady

            I can vouch for that – I went to UCLA. My program was overrated and mostly it just felt like I was spending a lot of money to hear scientists talk about themselves. However, I’ve been hired for jobs simply because they were impressed that I went there (people in my field opt for cheaper state schools and better graduate schools usually). Sometimes a name can get you far.

          3. jesicka309

            I was a classic overachiever in high school and just about busted myself trying to keep up with my own high standards until I got to uni. By the time I got there though, I was completely burnt out. I got a high grade, but didn’t really know what I wanted to do with it. The trauma of sitting my final exams in year 12 had given me a complete aversion to doing any more exams ever, and I picked electives at uni that were project based. I picked fluff subjects like cinema and creative writing and popular music because I was avoiding anything that required me to work too hard, or that I couldn’t get an easy HD in. The worst part was that I was proud of it. When my friends would moan about their exams, I would proudly proclaim that I had submitted my last project two weeks ago and was on holidays, and hadn’t done an exam since I was 17.

            Looking back, I was an idiot who threw her uni education out the window, with honours. I was so proud of graduating with a great score, that I didn’t realise I had squandered all these opportunities to stretch my knowledge, learn about things that I didn’t know, make concrete steps towards a goal career and learn transferable skills. Instead, I got a HD in Popular Music and Society.

            For your niece, I would find out what she wants to do with her life – what is her goal? Doctor? Lawyer? Hairdresser? Chef? And position school as a way to get her there. Too often, parents and teachers focus on the scores (you’re so talented! you could do anything! What great grades!), which in turn makes the kid focus on the scores. When they hit a subject they struggle with (for me, it was chemistry) they don’t try to improve – they just call it a day, give up, and go study something that they’re naturally good at and don’t have to try. Which ultimately results in a kid studying what they know they can get a good grade in, instead of what they want to learn/need to pursue a future career.

            It sounds like your niece has disconnected from what school and learning is really for – why wouldn’t she? Even when she’s not trying that hard, she’s still getting Bs, which I’m sure is better than many people she’s friends with. Encourage her to find meaning in what she’s learning, and excited about future learning/what she’s passionate about/a dream career, and she might engage again.

        2. C student

          There is a lot of pressure at that age that is hard to cope with: Have perfect grades, have a good social life, participate in sports, be active in extracurriculars, etc. It’s hard to find a balance, and I think the best thing you can do is offer help (study space?) without pressure.

          1. Ezri

            And it’s really easy to push kids too far the wrong way. I had ‘A- isn’t good enough’ parents. In retrospect they were just trying to help me succeed and get to a good college, but when I actually went to college I was a mess. I tried to do too much and be perfect at it all, and ended up having a gaudy meltdown each school year like clockwork.

            Good grades can be useful in life, but only if there’s a healthy work attitude backing them up.

        3. Jillociraptor

          My brother was like your niece. Extremely capable, but just not as invested in the “badge” of the grade, much more committed to his social life than his school life. He went to a solid state college, did adequately well, grades-wise, and ended up getting a job through personal connections in our home town. Frankly, he just has off-the-charts relationship building skills, and is doing great in his job.

          One thing my partner’s parents always told him, that might speak to your niece, is that it’s not so much that you have to check off this or that box, or do this or that activity, but more that you shouldn’t unnecessarily close off opportunities for yourself with your choices. There’s definitely the strong likelihood that she’ll be perfectly successful with a 3.0 and a great HS social life. My brother did just that, as did lots of folks. But she should know that she’s also closing off options that could be really great by making that choice.

            1. Student

              I’d talk to her very frankly about the recession and its impact on her life compared to your life. She’s not just competing with her own classmates for jobs. She’s competing with a 6-year backlog of people who want professional-track jobs but got stalled when the 2008 recession started hitting hard. She’s competing with those people for the professional-grade jobs AND the survival jobs that they’re taking while they wait, so it’s not a competition she can avoid by simply setting low aspirations. The would-be librarians, could-be engineers and might-be doctors are eating up the best of the waitstaff jobs, the best of the retail store jobs, the best of the coffee barista jobs while they wait for their big break.

              When you were starting out your career, you had less competition, less scrutiny, to get your foot in the door and demonstrate your abilities. The world is a lot less forgiving. It’s a lot easier to filter people out of college or jobs based on small but measurable factors – like grades. She’s going to have to be significantly better than you to have a shot at success that’s similar to you.

        4. C Average

          I talked a little bit upthread about the impact my dad had on my post-high-school trajectory, and looking back, part of the reason it made an impact is because he was the only person in my life who presented school as a necessary obligation to get out of the way, nothing more and nothing less.

          Everyone else in my life was doing an endless amount of speechifying about how I wasn’t living up to my vast potential, or how college opens up endless gleaming vistas of opportunity. I had three boxes of Ivy League junk mail. (I had crappy grades, but I was a National Merit finalist, so I was on everyone’s mailing list.) I had all these well-meaning adults asking me what I was going to major in, what I was going to do with my life. We had assemblies at school where career experts and college recruiters blew sunshine up our asses and subjected us to PowerPoints. All that felt like noise.

          And then my dad presented this clean, simple message. You have to do this because it’s part of becoming a grown-up. You don’t have to be enthralled about it. You don’t have to have mighty ambitions (I didn’t). It’s like washing the dishes after dinner or learning to drive or paying your bills. You just have to do it. And the more quickly you accept that and apply yourself, the sooner you’ll be done.

          1. catsAreCool

            Good for your dad! Sounds like what my dad would say before I had to get a vaccination – it is going to hurt, but it will hurt less if you don’t tense up your arm when they give you the shot.

            1. C Average

              Yeah, my dad rocks.

              I guess the point I was trying to make is that even for some talented-on-paper people, college isn’t a Gleaming Pathway To Opportunity; it’s a slog. Like so many other things in life, you don’t have to love it. You just have to show up and do the work.

              It was really useful to me to have someone acknowledge this out loud, and definitely helped me show up at college with more realistic expectations than some of my classmates.

        5. AnotherAlison

          Ha, well, I see both sides. I think that smart people who work hard mostly do okay in life no matter what path they take, as long as they take control of their situation. I reference my husband, who literally was a D student. He’s fine. He still can’t spell his own name, but he runs his business. There’s a back door nontrad way to get on every career path.

          But, OTOH, if your niece knew she wanted to work on Wall Street, it is a helluva lot easier to follow the normal career path than be that weird guy scratching his way to the top with unusual credentials.

        6. JaneJ

          This was totally me! Perhaps your sister has already tried this, but I’ll tell you, no amount of warnings, threats, facts, etc. about my future changed my attitude. Absolutely the only thing that would have worked would have been if my parents were involved in my school work in a pretty intense manner. Like, “You have a paper due in 2 days. Let me see it or you’re not leaving the house.” I’m not sure how high school is now (I’m 10 years out), but I know many schools post assignments etc on a website to make it easy for parents to see what’s going on.

          I know many parents think that their kids are practically grown ups and should be responsible enough to manage their studies. And that’s true. I grew up to be an independent, capable, successful person. But as a teenager, the only thing that would have gotten me to do my work is if my parents were micromanaging it. I simply did not care enough to do it on my own. Real world threats meant nothing to me, because I had never been in the real world.

          As a side note, I think the “guidance departments” in schools do kids a real disservice. I got terrible grades throughout high school but scored extremely high on standardized testing. I’m smart, and did fine in college. Not once in my 4 years there did a guidance counselor ever try to meet with me or my parents to find out what was up. I know educators are busy, but I feel like they could better team up with parents to try to help kids like this stay on top of their grades.

      3. Going Anonymous

        Woo-hoo!!! We need prosthetic makers! He should find a couple prosthetics makers and find out what it takes to be one. Used to be a trade school program. With more and more vets surviving in the battlefield, the future for the field is awesome. And bionics???? Totally cool. Also, do you have a Shriner’s hospital or Vet’s hospital nearby? They have prosthetic technicians on site. Maybe he can shadow them for a day?

        1. AnotherAlison

          Interesting. . . I wondered where to find those folks. My uncle is an administrator at a local VA hospital. It’s not the biggest one in town, but it’s at a base, so they might have that dept.

        2. catsAreCool

          Prosthetics does sound like it would combine his interests. It probably takes a lot of technical skill and artistic skill.

          1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)

            They don’t just make artificial limbs either– I needed a custom-fitted removeable cast after surgery to fix a broken humerus, and a prosthetist came to my hospital room to measure and fit it for me.

      4. The Cosmic Avenger

        To me this reinforces my initial thought that maybe he likes the feeling of working with his hands and making something. Not that that is incompatible with academia, but recognizing and working with rather than against his preferences, whatever they are, will help him make better choices.

        Depending on how things turn out for him, you might find some very useful information on vocations and training on Mike Rowe’s website http://profoundlydisconnected.com/ . I love his work, and I’d recommend reading now as a potential resource.

      5. Mitchell

        My sister was a poor student for most of high school. Smart, but didn’t care and had the grades to go with it. Second semester of Jr. year she decided that she wanted to be an architect. My parents were skeptical, but helped her research what she needed to do. She found a job at an architect’s office, convinced her high school to let her substitute community college drafting classes for some of her high school requirements and raised her grades. I have never seen her work so hard. She ended up being waitlisted at her second choice school and was admitted right before the semester started.

        Junior year is not too late to turn things around. If he is serious about wanting to be a chiropractor, I would use that enthusiasm to motivate him, rather than trying to steer him towards something more realistic.

        1. catsAreCool

          What Mitchell said. If you know where you want to go, it gives you a lot more incentive to work hard to get there.

      6. Anonsie

        You know, as long as he does well in college he can get into a medical program. He hasn’t blown anything yet! And even people who do poorly early in college often to post-bac to raise their GPA and try again for med school. It’s also not uncommon to apply more than one year to get in somewhere you want… You can do it if you keep working at it, even if you have major setbacks you can still do it. This isn’t unusual for med students at all. DO programs are also getting bigger and bigger, I know several DO surgeons who are phenomenal. They emphasize personality fit more than grades (generally speaking) but you get the same training. DOs go on to the same residencies as MDs. If he’s more interesting in a holistic approach, this isn’t a bad idea.

        I gotta say, I was dead set on going to med school when I was younger and ended up being convinced it wasn’t possible for me when it most certainly was. I would recommend to any student who thinks that’s where they want to go that they should absolutely try it. Do the shadowing, take the classes, do the research projects. Worst case scenario and he decides not to go to med school, so what. He still has a background to go into a different part of health care.

        In fact I would recommend he start shadowing right now. That will give him the best possible clues about whether he’d enjoy it– though honestly I was put off by the shadowing I did and came back around anyway, at least I saw the gritty bits up front.

      7. Cat

        He absolutely hasn’t blown it at 17! He has to make the choice to turn it around but nothing you do in high school is irredeemable career-wise unless, I guess, you get a felony conviction or wanted to be an Olympic athlete.

      8. catsAreCool

        Sounds to me like this is a great time to talk about goals and options and say “Start out at a community college. If you do well there, we’ll help you with a university.” At this point, he’s going to be more and more in charge of his own destiny, and he’s going to need to own that.

    20. C student

      I had grades like his and I was fine in college. No problem.

      My mom had a similar experience. She wasn’t expected to graduate from high school, but she did, and got into college. Her parents refused to pay because they expected her to fail. Anyways, she graduated from college.

      I think there is something to be said for having faith in your kids.

      College could be a good choice for him. His grades don’t rule it out. A trade school or a gap year are also good options. Or he could spend a year or two getting his footing academically at a community college, then consider transferring to a university. The last option would have been great for me when I was in his position.

    21. TL -

      Tell him if he wants to go to college, that’s fine but you’re not paying or your financial support is dependent on a certain gpa. Be clear about the strings, don’t change them, just let him know what your expectations for your money are.

    22. Calacademic

      As an academic who’s on the other side of things at the 4 year college thing, wanted to throw in my perspective:

      The big “brand-name” public universities (your Ohio States, UCLAs, of the world) expect their students to be VERY self-sufficient and self-driven. It doesn’t sound like you’re envisioning going to a D-I school, and I would not recommend it for this student at this time. (Things could be very different in 2-4 years though.) Look for smaller schools (public or private) where class sizes are small and the expectation is that professors are paid to TEACH not research. Community colleges also have this focus.

      As an aside, doesn’t it suck that we expect 16/17/18 year olds to have mapped out their lives? That “screw-ups” at this point can totally derail you… ugh.

    23. Anonsie

      True story, I graduated high school with a 2.3 GPA after failing more than one math and science class. I went straight to college and fumbled a little the first year, but then I found my track into health care and went on to do very well. That goal changed everything. I graduated with honors and I work in biomedical research now, I’m prepping for grad school and I’m a pretty competitive candidate for some rather selective programs.

      I just didn’t care as a teenager, and my school was generally crummy. I didn’t have a goal I was working towards so I didn’t have any motivation, but being in university and having that beacon of grad school and a job I would like were plenty of motivation. If he’s interested in health care, see if he can shadow some various care providers (physicians, PAs, NPs, specialized techs maybe in radiology or in clinical labs) and get a picture of whether he’s excited about the field. I can tell you, being excited about getting to see patients was entirely what turned me around.

      I think it’s a mistake to write someone off as incapable of going into the sciences before they’ve tried it, but you’re right that he has to find that drive to do anything. Starting in a community college is a good idea regardless since it’ll save money (I still wish I’d done this) and then his immediate goal can be doing well enough to transfer or finish a certificate or whathaveyou for the field.

    24. Ellie A.

      So, I would put the burden of figuring this out on him, not on you. It’s his life, right? If he wants to be a chiropractor, then he should research various schools chiropractic schools and figure out the following:
      1. What undergraduate prerequisites are required by the schools he is considering applying to?
      2. What is the minimum GPA required?
      3. What else is required for admission? (Shadowing? Volunteering? An entrance exam like the MCAT or the GRE? Etc.)
      4. Of the colleges he’s considering for undergrad, which of them have good life science programs? How about their premed programs? Is there a local university with a pre-health or premed advisor who would be willing to make an appointment with a high school student to talk about what’s needed to become a chiropractor?
      5. What are the job prospects and potential salary for chiropractors in your area? (The Occupation Outlook Handout and ExploreHealthCareers.Org can both help with this.)

      I think if you put him in charge of this project, it will have one of two possible effects: either he’ll really take ownership of his future and become invested in doing well, or he won’t bother to do much research.

      It’s it’s the latter, then he might not be ready for college yet. There’s no law that says that students have to go straight into college from high school; in fact, I think quite a few students might benefit from taking a few years off to work in the “real world” for a while. It gives them a chance to grow up a little and to earn a little money — and it gives them a glimpse into the kinds of careers they can expect to have if they never go to college. If he’s happy with that, then more power to him. If he’s not, then it might be the kick in the pants he needs to take college more seriously when he eventually goes.

    25. Liane

      Something I didn’t see addressed here is that it is not necessary for him to decide what he wants to be before he applies to college. Which means it doesn’t have to be a big part of these conversations. I could have written a similar post when Freshman was a junior; heck I could have written it last April of his senior year! Well it would have been more like, “Son has middling to high grades, has *no* idea what he wants to do (unless you count presenting Surgeon As A Job in an 8th grade career investigation activity). Plus has No Idea At All where he wants to go to college–except in-state because he does get the costs money part–much less applied anywhere. And he’s smart according the every teacher he’s had in 2 states. Help!”
      When we had talks with him, we focused on “Find schools you want to go to & apply. Then choose the one best for you. Once you’re there, get the best grades you can–that way, when you do decide on a major/career, you won’t have any problem getting into that program.”
      A couple months later, he was applying for college & financial, then got accepted to a good state school with a lot of support for Freshmen. He just did quite well his first term–and told me a field he was looking into, including talking to one of my friends who just graduated with a degree in a related area.
      It’s still early in his college life–but I hope this helps, or at least shows you it can change & how fast.

    26. Hillary

      I work for a manufacturer that’s pretty good by mfg standards, but the jobs are still physically demanding and the plant isn’t air conditioned. I work in the office with a fair number of people who say their summer helper jobs pushed them to work hard in college. They knew what they’d be going back to if they didn’t. A gap year might be good for him, especially in a manufacturing or warehouse job.

    27. INTP

      I think there are plenty of B and C students who go to college, use it to find a career, and it winds up being the right decision. I wouldn’t say he doesn’t belong in college. It’s not just required for especially cerebral careers that he isn’t cut out for, it’s a basic entry level requirement in many other fields. Just because someone isn’t a genius or doesn’t love high school doesn’t mean they need to be a plumber. I wouldn’t worry about the chiropractor plans immediately. He’ll have to take a variety of courses his first year and will have a chance to see what he’s good and not so good at.

      I do think that it would be reasonable if you don’t want to pay for a 4-year college until he has proven he can do well, and instead he takes the first year classes at a community college. I’m also assuming that he’s not trying super hard. If the 2.8 is the best he can do studying his butt off for every class, then yeah, college might not be for him.

    28. Not So NewReader

      My father got mostly Cs and Ds in high school. He went on to be awarded numerous US patents during his working career.

      He used to say that grades have very little to do with what a person has learned. I only did a tiny better than he did in high school, but I found what he said was true. I would sit and explain material to classmates that were honor society students. My grades did not reflect my understanding, nor did their grades truly reflect their understanding. When we moved on to college, one friend dropped me off when I was explaining her homework to her and I was not even taking the course. (I read her text book, hmmmm.)

      The most important thing to me, the thing that carried me through all my struggles with Chem and Calculus etc, was my father’s faith in me. He kept telling me, “I know that it feels like everyone else is doing better and it feels like the stuff does not make that much sense. But as you go through life you will remember some of this stuff, it will make more sense and you will have invested in training your brain how to tackle these topics. Do the best you can each day. And remember that you are equipping yourself to cope in the world we will have when you are an adult. Because the world is going to be very different by the time you get into middle age.”
      Yeah, he got that right!
      My father’s support and faith in me was absolutely critical for me. There were too many times where I would have just given up, but he said “It’s okay, keep going anyway.”

      Just an idea- Would the chiro your son went to be willing to talk about his career/education with your son? I mean just one-on-one, the two of them sitting for a half hour or hour talking about all that is involved in becoming a chiropractor.

    29. non profit gal

      Hi
      One suggestion I haven’t yet seen is to suggest doing a year of service. A great program for those who are just finishing high school is AmeriCorps NCCC. The members live in and work in teams of around 10-14. They do different types of things and switch tasks every 6 to 8 weeks. There is a team leader who provides a lot of guidance. There is a small living allowance and at the end of the year an educational award for college. There are many different AmeriCorps programs but I think this one is especially good for those just out of high school because it provides that oversight and is open to kids with less experience.

    30. Poe

      I am late to this party, but on the off-chance you subscribed to the replies…I was a bit like your son. I am smart, but after about 8th or 9th grade it never showed in my marks because I was more interested in sports, and because school was hard and the work was wearing me out. I went to a 4 year university and I have a Bachelors degree in Kinesiology. I took the “Ds make degrees” route, because no matter how hard I tried, my grades stayed stubbornly just above passing and no higher. I had hoped to go into physio, but my grades weren’t up to it. I went to university right after high school because my parents told me if I wanted a gap year to work, figure out what I wanted to do, save money, I would have to move out and do it on my own (which would have defeated the purpose). I wish more than anything I had that year. I am now about 5.5 years after uni graduation, I ended up not being able to find a job in sports that paid enough to live on, and I work at a low-level admin job in an unrelated industry that really doesn’t require a degree. Talk to your son. And then listen to him. I wish my parents had talked to me and listened to me, so I would have been able to sort myself out before I had sunk 4 years and thousands of dollars into something I realized I didn’t want to do. I think distance from high school (I went to a sports school) would have re-connected me with other parts of my life and might have gotten me back to animals, I would love to be a vet tech, but I just can’t afford another go through school, and on my current salary there is no room for saving at a rate that will get me back in the classroom without debt before I am 40.
      Also, and I know for parents this is hard…sometimes you have to let your kids fail. My parents had to let me fail once (by virtue of timing and distance, there was nothing they could do), and I learned more from that moment than from anything else in my life. If your son wants to play baseball, you might have to let him live that to the end of the road. You want the best for your kid, but that might not be what he wants, and in the end, you have to remember that it is his life and his choice. You can (and should in many cases) choose not to financially support him, but it is his path to walk, and not yours.

    31. asteramella

      I was a very average high school student and attempted to go to a four-year college immediately after graduating. It was a mistake. It would have been better if I had worked a low-level job somewhere for six months or a year and then went to community college, where the cost of classes are low and it’s easier to experiment with new subjects without much financial pressure.

      FWIW I flunked out of my first four-year college, took time off to work min-wage jobs for a while, then went to community college and eventually transferred to a four-year institution where I graduated with highest honors. Sometimes a break from school–and working in an environment where the financial consequences of not having school or training is clear–can help underachievers clarify their vision and become more ambitious as young adults.

  25. Sunflower

    Where do people find networking events? I only seem to find them on Linkedin. What are good places to network besides events that are blatantly described as ‘networking events’. Also, how do you make yourself a valuable person to network with? I work for a small company in support services so the majority of my contacts are outside of my company and I really want to grow my network so I can be a more valuable source.

    Also why is networking such a basic concept but so hard to execute in real life it seems!

    1. Brett

      Meetup can be very useful too. I look for meetups with interests related to my career field. Even if the first one is not a tight fit, you can meet other people who will know which Meetups make better networking events. This is more useful in tech fields than other fields, but there are definitely Meetup groups for most areas of business.

    2. Gwen

      Obviously this is age dependent, but most of the ones I go to are “socials” put on my local young professionals groups. Can you join an association for your field?

    3. RR

      Are there professional associations and/or similar membership-type organizations related to your field? Or the field(s) you support? I’ve had good luck with these

    4. louise

      Our local chamber of commerce is wonderful, though I don’t know if that’s true everywhere. They also have a thriving young professionals sub-group that does community service, has quarterly lunches/business tours, has speakers, etc. I’m a huge fan of our chamber.

    5. SD Cat

      I’ve found them through Meetup groups, professional associations, college alumni groups, and chambers of commerce. Also, as I run into people who do a lot of networking, I ask them for suggestions.

    6. WorkingFromCafeInCA

      +1 to Meetup.com. I got an informational interview from one, and then 2 job offers from others. I went to work-related events (like a talk about something in my field) and met people that way.

      Also, try looking at Eventbrite for events near you. I’ve also found a few great things that way.

    7. Hillary

      I do professional and alumni associations. College career day? I’ll go. (Industry) Club? Sign me up.

      They’re not always fun because I work for a well known company and everyone wants to sell me something, but it does mean I meet a lot of people.

  26. TheExchequer

    The other day, I got a lecture from my boss about priorities and efficiency. As I sat there holding the commission check that was three days later than he said it would be because he was too busy, I managed to keep my job by keeping my mouth shut. Now, here’s the question: my bosses claim that everyone in my role managed to finish the emails on a daily basis while I struggle with it. According to the only coworker who has been here long enough to know, the way they did that was to come in an hour or two early and not get paid for it. As I am unwilling to do that, any advice on either how to manage expectations or manage the email?

    1. Judy

      Not knowing what the email is exactly, it’s hard to say, but can you use mail rules to help sort things in a way to help you? Another thing I’d think about is what the emails mean. If they are client emails from 20 clients, can they be sorted that way, or even somehow managed into a database so the other information you need is “near” it.

    2. Revanche

      My way would be to break down the numbers and present the data. For about a week, classify and record the incoming emails and then assign expected average times to respond to them.
      Ex: “easy” email would be a standard FAQ for which you can plop in a canned response, assign that 1.5 minutes to open the email, read it, drop in the response (assuming you’re not having to type them up, if you do, I create an Excel sheet with standard responses), and send. “medium” would be standard FAQ + custom request, assign that, say, 5 minutes. “complicated” would be a totally custom response and assign that, say, 15 minutes. Of course your actual time increments would vary and you might want to record actual times to confirm your averages.

      But laying out the number of each type you have to do each day over the span of a week or two would give you both a real total amount of time you needed to do the work and give you a leg to stand on when you go to the bosses and say: whatever happened before, this is what we’re looking at now, generally, and I either need some help or …. well, if you don’t want overtime, then just: HELP.

    3. louise

      This doesn’t help you, but it’s a GREAT example of how people working off the clock can set up unrealistic expectations from the higher-ups. If they don’t know email responses are happening off the clock, then they are going to assume you’re just getting less done in the same amount of time as the others, which isn’t at all true.

      I’m really sorry you’re in this position.

  27. Yikes

    The people I work with do awful things in the bathroom.

    I’m used to it, but there is a new development. Long cell phone conversations in the stalls.

    Nobody else in the bathroom can do anything loud, like flushing a toilet, until the calls end.

    I am considering flushing maliciously.

    1. Allison

      You know how we used to have phone booths, where people could make calls in quiet privacy while out in public? I feel like we need a modern version of this in places like office buildings, train stations, etc., where people often need to make calls but don’t want to do it in front of everyone. It sucks that people feel they have no alternative than the bathroom. I don’t want to talk on my phone in bathroom stalls, but when I’m at work and need to make a personal call I feel like there’s nowhere I can do that without disrupting people or having people hear details of my life I’d rather not discuss to everyone.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny

        I agree! I’m trying to quietly push my department to designate 1-3 conference rooms as ‘phone call rooms’ that are just always open if you need them.

        There’s always the stairwell, too.

        1. AnotherAlison

          Stairwells: I do find it annoying though, when I walk in on someone’s “private” convo in the stairwell, esp if I’m walking up several flights and will be in there a while with them. I feel like I have to apologize for using the stairs for their intended purpose. (Yup, I realize this is more me than them.)

      2. Alter_ego

        I’m an engineer that works basically entirely on office renovations. A lot of bigger offices, at least in downtown Boston, will have 2 or 3 phone rooms that just have a chair and an outlet. As far as I can tell, they’re becoming pretty common.

        1. Judy

          I’ve seen that in renovations at one company. They were tiny little “phone rooms” with a chair, a counter, a phone, an outlet and an ethernet jack.

        2. Allison

          My company’s office has a couple of rooms like this, but people hate using them because they’re so small and stuffy.

      3. Jennifer

        I really, really, really wish there was somewhere where I could make a private call on my cell where I didn’t have all these ears having to listen in. Can’t do that at work, and I don’t get cell reception even if I had a private office. I do therapy calls with my shrink and I have a hard enough time wandering far enough away so that only a few people will inevitably wander by and hear everything (or there isn’t a loud machine mowing something or construction happening) when the weather’s good–but on rainy pouring days? Where the hell am I supposed to go for an hour to not be overheard? Nowhere.

      4. Noah

        Our open plan offices have several huddle rooms and phone rooms that you can take private calls in. When we moved to a new building that is essentially all open plan, no one, not even the CEO has an office anymore. Lots of conference, huddle, and phone rooms was the concession.

        At my old job I would go out to my car if I needed to make a private call, but it was a small company (less than 100 people total, less than 30 at my location).

      5. Collarbone High

        Yes! I realized this when I was asked to do an afternoon phone interview on a day I was driving long-distance, to another interview. It was over 100 degrees and the interview was scheduled to last 90 minutes, so I didn’t want to sit in my car (or do it while driving, obviously), but since the demise of phone booths, there’s no public place to go to have a private phone conversation. I ended up parking in the shade and rolling down all the windows, definitely less than ideal.

      6. Tris Prior

        This is a fantastic idea. I have the same issue at work, and we only have one bathroom (with one toilet) as we’re a small company. If I have to make a personal call, I have to go outside. Less than ideal at this time of year. :(

    2. JMegan

      I would totally flush! And have done, actually…after all, that’s what bathrooms are for. If the person on the phone is embarrassed, that’s on them, not me.

      1. Windchime

        Same here. It’s a bathroom, not an office, and the only expectation of privacy a person should have is that you are in the stall by yourself. Nothing else. I would just flush as normal.

        If a person really needs a private place to talk on the phone, then find a conference room, an empty office, a hallway, a back porch….it seems like there are usually plenty of options other than a bathroom. Yuck.

      2. Not So NewReader

        So would I, not seeing a problem here. It’s a bathroom.

        Additionally, I see plenty of women and men go into a restroom while on the phone, then I hear a flushing sound and they come out STILL talking on the phone. I guess the person on the other end of the call does not care, either.

    3. Artemesia

      I would so be ignoring anyone else and going about my business as usual, unless the whiner who wants others to consider the restroom her office is your boss, in which case I have nothing.

    4. C Average

      Why do people do this??! We have a couple of restroom talkers at my office, too. This is in an office with a jillion conference rooms and hallways where one can get some privacy to make a phone call.

      Gahhhh.

      I just go ahead and flush if someone’s talking on the phone in the restroom. It’s a RESTROOM, for Pete’s sake. Don’t poop in phone booths, and don’t make phone calls in restrooms. There are times and places for these activities.

      1. Yikes

        Nobody’s shushing us, we just don’t want the person on the other end to hear flushing toilets and other … bathroom noises.

        100% with you on there being a time and place for everything. The times and places for pooping and telephones should not be overlapping!

        1. fposte

          Hey, that’s the fault of the caller who’s exposed them to the bathroom sounds, not the people using the bathroom for its intended purpose. Plus you’re making that bad habit much more convenient for them, so you’re going to be stuck with it longer.

          If you really are noise-shy, bring in your phone and crank the tunes up on it to drown everything out :-).

        2. Liane

          I am very much on the side of Team Just Flush It! We have a lot of problems* at work with employees who go into the bathroom on the pretext of Legit Use so they can take/make calls since they aren’t supposed to have their phones out while on a register. I also suspect that some customers do the same thing [snark]because they can’t do all their calling at my desk while I am trying to help them[/snark].
          So IMO, Caller deserves it if their Callee overhears a flush–or other bathroom noise–& takes it as “Callee has no respect for me.”

          *I know this is a problem because of the number of times I’ve told my supervisor, “Restroom break” & the reply is “OK & if Raquel is still in there, tell her to get back to work.”

    5. Betsy Bobbins

      wait, why can’t anybody do anything in the bathroom during these conversations? Is person making the calls actively shushing people? How are they policing other peoples actions in bathroom?

      And forget flushing maliciously…this calls for bigger guns. There are plenty of fart apps for smart phones, delploy that during one of their calls (or the real thing but that seams labor intensive and awkward) and you’ll see and end to the shenanigans immediately.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        I remember back in the late 80s or early 90s my friend had a keychain fob that had 4 or 5 buttons, each played a different sound effect. Bodily function-related sound effects. Of course this was the coolest thing EVER.

      2. LawBee

        I’d find a way to remote activate that thing though. I’d rather be the person coming out of a stall horrified at the sounds from another stall than the sound maker.

    6. Kai

      Yeah, I can’t stand this. If I need to make a private phone call I usually just take my cell outside. Even if it’s cold, that seems more palatable to me than talking in a bathroom stall.

      A former coworker of mine once went to the restroom and got chewed out for flushing, using the sink, and using the hand dryer by someone who was talking on the phone in there. Unbelievable.

      1. Frances

        Ooo, man, I am *super* easy going, but that person would have gotten chewed out right back. It’s kind of making me mad right now. ;)

    7. littlemoose

      Just flush when you need to. Your coworker is the one being inappropriate, not you. They can take their phone call elsewhere, but you can’t (or shouldn’t!) relieve yourself elsewhere. Don’t let the potty talkers hold you hostage in a bathroom stall!

    8. MarieK

      I would definitely flush… and have done so! The bathroom by my desk has a small couch in it and people set up shop there for personal phone calls. I think once someone was actually doing an phone interview in there. And I’ve seen a startling number of people napping on that couch.

      I wholeheartedly support the idea of phone booths/small conference rooms/offices where you can make a phone call or have a quiet conversation. It would make the day so much easier! I’m a manager and if I need to have a sensitive conversation with someone or make a private call, I have to kick my boss out of his office to do it. Not ideal.

    9. fposte

      Of course you can flush. That’s not a request–let alone a demand–that deserves the slightest consideration. You don’t get to go into the kitchen and demand nobody eat. If the flusher attempted to upbraid me, I’d go back in and flush some more.

    10. Elizabeth West

      Flush anyway. The bathroom is for elimination and washing hands, not for cell phone conversations. If they don’t like it, they’ll go somewhere else. Honestly, who the eff do they think they are?

    11. cuppa

      I know someone who learned their lesson (or at least I hope they did) about using their phone in the bathroom when they dropped their phone at just the right moment and ended up flushing it down the toilet. (This was in the era of flip phones when they were smaller).

    12. Joey

      Makes me think of a guy I was calling for a professional job. Mid convo I hear a toilet flush not once but twice. Bye bye, thanks but no thanks.

    13. INTP

      We have a cell phone talker. I haven’t flushed maliciously, but I have made sounds that I certainly hope (for their sake, not hers) the people on the other end can’t hear.

      Once she was on a PHONE INTERVIEW FOR A JOB when I went into the bathroom to pass gas. I was on a deadline so I certainly didn’t wait for her.

      Another time she was planning a party and talking to various people, and let’s just say I had waste to expel in all 3 states of matter, lol.

      Both of these convos happened when the weather was suitable for standing outside. I can almost get it when it’s 10*F outdoors and you don’t want coworkers listening in, but when you could easily and comfortably step outside, WHY?

  28. Allison

    I’ve been a bundle of nerves these past few days. Contract is up at the end of the year (y’know, a week and a half away), and my manager put my contract extension in his budget for approval. He said he’d let me know as soon as he heard anything, so if I need to find a new gig I can get searching right away, and he expected to get word yesterday. Naturally, he hasn’t told me anything, and I’m wondering if it’s because the approval was delayed or because he’s waiting for our 1:1 meeting this afternoon to tell me the bad news.

    Plenty of people here have great things to say about my performance, from my peers to my manager to the higher-ups in my department, but I’m afraid the CFO will only see unsatisfactory numbers, and thus me as a waste of money.

  29. en pointe

    Don’t you love companies that lay people off in November and then still manage to find money to pay for a dozen girls to do slutty dance moves at their executive’s only holiday party?

    I’ve been sitting on that one all week. Thought y’all might find it interesting/disgusting.

    1. fposte

      While the numberhead side of me understands that party dance girls cost nothing, in organizational terms, while actual employees are incredibly expensive, I headdesk at an organization that thinks it ever makes sense to bring in party dance girls for an office occasion.

        1. Allison

          Kinda, there services that let you hire dancers for events. My cousin’s bar mitzvah party had some. Not really there to be sexy or titillating, because many attendees where in middle school, but they would either get up in front of the crowd and dance, or go into the crowd and dance, basically to encourage other people to dance. Gotta say, it worked.

          Simiarly, there’s a band called Post-Modern Jukebox that plays old-fashioned jazz covers of Top 40 songs. When they go on tour they contact organizers of local swing scenes and invite dancers to go and swing dance before the band opens, which in theory will encourage people to dance before the show. They’re not paid, but they do get to go to the show for free, which if you like the band is pretty awesome.

            1. GOG11

              Huh *shrug*

              Other than the example of swing dancers (who are really an extension of the band…and in a way that makes sense to me), I don’t understand how dancers are required or appropriate for a professional event. It seems like something that belongs in a talent show after a magic act or something.

              1. Allison

                I guess they’re not, really. Maybe they really, really wanted people to dance at the event, but dancing never seems to go hand-in-hand with work events.

                1. en pointe

                  Oh, it’s just sexualised dancing t0 entertain old, rich straight dudes. We’re supposed to chat, drink, flirt, pretend to find them charming and attractive, etc. also.

                  I so don’t want to go. I’m not like morally opposed to it or anything, but it just seems really gross in this context because it’s a work event.

          1. en pointe

            Yeah, that’s about right. I don’t do that much myself because I’m in school, but the group does festivals and private events, in various styles. We send different people to different gigs, depending on what the client wants.

      1. en pointe

        Yeah, I realise the cost isn’t comparative, but it still rubs me the wrong way. Like, if they’re doing layoffs (due to the fact the company’s in bad shape; they were in the news in November), then they should be tightening their belts wherever possible, right? So why does perving still make the cut?

    2. long time reader first time poster

      Gross!!!! Even if the company is making money hand over fist, it’s wrong.

  30. RandomName

    I’m going to be giving gift cards to my direct reports as Christmas gifts. Would it be weird to put the gift card I give to each employee in an envelope that also has my family’s Christmas card in it? It’s a Christmas card that has pictures of us on it. I’m wondering if I should just buy generic holiday cards though.

    1. GOG11

      Unless they know you and your family, a personal/family card would seem like a stand-in somehow. It seems a bit too intimate/familiar to me.

      I would go with generic holiday cards and write a note inside each one if you like.

    2. Sadsack

      One coworker sends a photo card every year of his two daughters; he actually mails them to my home. I have never met these people. Never going to meet them as far as I can tell. I don’t even talk to him very often as our work is not at all related, and I don’t even know his daughters’ names. I don’t care about these strange children. Not trying to be grinchy, but it is the truth. Maybe your employees know more about your family, but I doubt they really would appreciate having a photo of your children and/or pets hanging in their homes. Do that for people who really know and care about your family.

      1. RandomName

        We are a little closer than probably most companies. It’s very family friendly here. My boss has brought his kids in, as well as other higher ups, and my kids have stopped by the office before at the end of the day or on my days off when I’ve needed to drop something by the office, so everyone’s met them. Plus the company offers to employ the highschool or college aged children of employees during the summer so I’ve met 2 of my direct reports’ kids.

        But after reading the responses, I figure I’d better play it safe and put the gift cards in generic holiday cards! :)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Yeah, this is not from you and your family. This is from you, their manager, and the fact that they know your family is not relevant to the gift thanking them for their work for the company (not for your family).

          Sorry, that seemed a bit like I’m rubbing it in or something upon re-reading, but I’m just trying to be overly obvious about the distinction in order to highlight it.

      2. MaryMary

        One of my coworkers’ wife has added me to their Christmas card list. I say it’s his wife because the handwriting on the card is clearly not his. Last year I thought I had accidentlly gotten one of my neighbor’s cards, it took me a while to figure out who these people were. It’s a nice gesture, although I’m slightly weirded out because I’ve never given him my address.

  31. kflemin3

    I have a question about how to respond to a solicitation cover letter that uses the logo of the organisation where the applicant is applying as part of the “design” element. I’ve receive a few applications recently for a communications internship I’m hiring for where the applicants took our logo off our website to include in the cover letter. I know I don’t have to respond to this, but since they are generally students/fresh grads who are probably following crappy advice, I thought it might be nice to clue them in on the fact that their first impression isn’t really doing what they hoped it would. Anyone else notice this trend? Have they corrected the error?

    1. GOG11

      I’ve never encountered this, but if you felt providing feedback to a certain candidate or to each of them (which would be up to you to decide) I think you could let them know that, while you appreciate that they wanted to tailor their application materials to the position and to your organization, the best way to do so would be to provide a well-written cover letter explaining how they are a strong candidate for the position and a good match for the organization.

    2. Lizzy

      Don’t know about trends but I appreciate your post because I had thought of doing this recently, as a way to show my skills in a way but thought better of it. I figured it could be going a little too far. From your comment I guess I was on the right track.

      1. Kflemin3

        For me it signals that the candidate doesn’t understand that a company’s logo is the property of the company and can’t just be copy+pasted from our website by anyone for any reason. For a communications position this is a big issue, perhaps less so for other fields.

        As a side note, I also feel as if it comes off a bit presumptuous — as if the candidate is already positioning him/herself as a representative of the company before even getting an interview. I get the idea behind it — attempting to show that the letter is, in fact, tailored to the specific position or to indicate enthusiasm — but there are much better ways to do this.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule

      I’d almost want to contact them to say that grabbing a company’s logo off a website and using it for your own purposes is probably copyright infringement and they should maybe not do it.

  32. GOG11

    Any advice for finding a mentor? I’ve been mulling over how to go about this for a while now and something clicked a few days ago while reading a post on AAM. An AAM regular commenter (some1, actually) mentioned that he or she is a “lifelong” admin. At that point, I realized that I haven’t had anyone stick out for me at my organization because most people who are a role similar to mine (Administrative Assistant) consider this the sort of job that you stay at for a year or two for experience and then leave or who are working there simply for the paycheck and/or benefits (rather than being in administrative/support roles as a chosen career path).

    I like what I do more than I thought I would and I there are specific areas I’d like to improve in and I think finding someone to bounce ideas off of and to point me in the right direction in terms of resources would be really beneficial. How do I go about finding someone like this?

    1. Christy

      Find someone who does what you do, but at a higher level. Maybe an executive’s admin? Or maybe someone at a larger company? Do you have contact with admins at other companies?

      1. GOG11

        There are a few executive administrative assistants who work at my organization. I don’t know any of them and would have to figure out a way to connect with them that isn’t weird, but that’s a good option. Especially if any of them have worked for Departments as I do (most of the challenges I’m struggling to address stem from the structure of things I think).

        For some reason, reaching out to someone at another organization seems like a better option (or one I’m more comfortable with), but I don’t know any at other companies either. I could reach out to a few people in my network to see if they know of anyone.

        Once you find someone, do you simply ask if they’d be willing to mentor you? I’d prefer for something to evolve more organically, but I don’t have any contact with others at my level or higher up where I am.

    2. Mal

      Yes, this!
      I’ve been an office admin/office manager since 2011 and I used to feel guilty that I didn’t have loftier ambitions, but I finally realized in the last couple of months as I’ve been job hunting, I really like my work and I’m good at it too! But it seems almost impossible to find a company that wants a career admin and instead is advertising for $10 per hour admin positions, which I’m not interested in as I have some project manager responsibilities in my current role.
      It’s frustrating and it seems that the jump from Office Admin to Executive Assistant isn’t any easy one to make(how or why, I have no idea, I would much rather coordinate schedules and travel and what-have-you for one to three people than for an entire office).
      In short, I’m frustrated and I’ve been looking into health insurance related positions just because they seem to pay more than office admin positions and have similar needs/requirements.

      1. GOG11

        I was in a more specialized role before and the deciding factor for me in whether or not to take the role was benefits/pay. Now that I’m in it, though, I realize that it can be much more challenging than you’d think, especially if you strive to be really good at your job (rather than putting in the time and moving on in a year or so) and if you actively work to expand your role/responsibilities. It’s frustrating that things are structured so oddly for whatever reason.

        I would be really interested to hear from others in administration, especially support roles, regarding their career…story (“river of life”?!) and if their move into administration was intentional or not.

    3. Nanc

      I’ve heard IAAP, http://www.iaap-hq.org/, is a very good professional organization. They have certification and training that is quite rigorous (I haven’t taken it, but I know folks who have and said it was well worth the time and money) and they also have chapters around the country. That may be a place to start. It’s possible your employer might be willing to pay for part of the certification or give you time on the job to work on the coursework.

      1. GOG11

        Thank you for the link! I took a quick look at it and saw an article on the potential disparity between admin job titles and descriptions and their actual responsibilities. I am excited to peruse this while on vacation!

        1. GOG11

          *which is relevant to me right now because I was just given a copy of my job description and will be able to comment on how well it fits what I am actually doing.

          My mind has apparently embraced my vacation more thoroughly than I realized…

    4. Ella

      Well I’d like to wish you good luck on finding a mentor. I’m a career admin and in my experience all the admins I have met, short of the temps who are really actors that need a day job, have all been admins that aren’t looking to move on in a short amount of time or use it as a stepping stone. I had wondered about a mentor at one point but at that point in my career I worked in an environment where the more senior admins felt a bit threatened of you gave the impression you wanted to learn and grow a little too much.

      I myself made the transition from admin. asst to exec. asst when I changed jobs but every place I have worked has been a bit different. I once tempted in a place that would not promote someone to EA unless you spoke French (French parent company). I’ve worked in EA roles that were very catered to the Executive, almost like a personal assistant and others where I was very involved in projects and given things that other staff members needed help with, outside the admin scope. Some companies value their support staff more than others. I feel like it’s easier for us to see where our skills would fit, companies and even recruiters at times seem resistant to thinking outside the title and can be a bit myopic if things aren’t spelled out specifically on the resume. I’ve had recruiters frustrated if every single job on my resume didn’t say EA as title, I could not get a job in Finance as an EA until I had Finance experience… it can be taken a little too far IMO.

      So that’s my river, so far ;) please report back on the mentor. When you find someone I would think it would be great to invite them to coffee to pick their brain and see where it goes. Sounds like fun actually!

  33. Anon Teapot Designer

    I’ve been at my current job about a year and a half and it’s…. fine. The people are great, benefits and pay are decent, but the actual work is kind of boring. I’m a designer at an architecture firm that has been working on apartment buildings for 30 years, and there’s very little creativity. We take layouts from past projects and make then fit the specific site. I’m still new-ish to the work place (5 years) and my previous two jobs were short, 9 months and a year, so I’m committed to stay here awhile (3-4 years?). Since it’s not intellectually challenging, I’m tackling bigger things outside of work – concentrating on professional exams, trying new hobbies. Any other suggestions to combat workplace ennui?

    1. Carrie in Scotland

      I have no suggestions but given your previous stints are 9 months and 12 – 18 months doesn’t seem too bad…by which I mean, I think you could start looking at other opportunities when you hit 2 years, bearing in mind it might take you a while to find suitable opportunities.

    2. GOG11

      I work with a lot of bureaucratic processes that aren’t all that thrilling and certainly don’t allow for creativity. I like to listen to music while I work. It’s a small thing, but it does help to pass the time and it is something interesting that (for some people) can be done while doing the boring stuff.

    3. Judy

      Can you do some things in either the green or disabilities arenas as far as the designs are concerned? I can’t imagine that designs that are up to 30 year old are up to date in those areas.

      1. Anon Teapot Designer

        Good tips guys!
        I usually listen to the news all day with a smattering of podcasts, that helps make the day go by.
        We do have to do a lot of ADA work (did you know if you get any federal funding or tax breaks ALL the units have to be ADA compliant?) I wish we could do more LEED/green projects, but the clients we work with just want $$$$ – cram as many apartments on the site as possible.

        1. Judy

          From my past apartment living, unless the utilities are paid by the owners, they certainly didn’t care about energy usage. (For example, we moved from a 1800 sq ft house to a 1000 sq ft apartment when moving cities and not finding a house we liked. We paid TWICE as much for the heating and cooling in the apartment. )

        2. Collarbone High

          Could you propose doing some sort of survey work, like interviewing actual apartment residents about what they want and don’t want in a design? That might get you some offsite work or even travel, and could possibly be a selling point for your company’s designs — “based on feedback from your customers!”

          As a longtime apartment resident myself, I would LOVE to have a designer ask my opinions. (Top of my list: I know people SAY they want community rooms, business centers etc., but they never get used. I’d so much rather see the money spent on soundproofing between levels.)

    4. Craigrs1

      It’s interesting – when I was younger (like, high school) I was fascinated with architecture, and residential architecture in particular. I had a sort of knock-off version of AutoCAD and I would spend my free time doing stuff very similar to what I imagine you do in your job (although in a totally amateurish way, of course.) I didn’t pursue this at all in my career, but still, there is something appealing about the idea that I could (in theory) get paid to sit and do this all day.

      1. Anon Teapot Designer

        There are parts that are really fun and interesting, but there’s a lot more paperwork and busy work than is ever shown in movies or on TV. (cough, cough… TED MOSEBY)
        The initial schematic part is fun – deciding how to position the building, where the entrance is, basic layouts – but beyond that it’s a lot of back and forth with engineers and ownership. Picking finishes is kind of fun too (but for my last project, I specified everything and after that the owner said, “eh, I like how X street turned out, just do that again”)

      2. Anon Teapot Designer

        Also – there’s a HUGE difference between multi-family and single-family residential. If I had my druthers, I’d design beautiful single-family homes all day. I like working on smaller scale projects with a client who’s invested in the space rather than the bottom line.

    5. Steve G

      Move to NYC or work for a firm that designs buildings in NY? I keep seeing one-off apartment buiding designs going up in north Brooklyn, all different sizes and layouts, different ceiling heights, different fixtures, some designed as duplexes, some with traditional windows, some with floor-to-ceiling windows, some with sleep-lofts, others with real bedrooms…seems to be the place to be if you want to design things creatively..

      1. Anon Teapot Designer

        Ha! I am in NYC, and while there’s tons of new buildings going up, it seems we only work with 2 or 3 developers who aren’t interested in creativity.

    6. catsAreCool

      Are there classes/books you can take/read after work to help you learn even more and stay current so that 1. you have something interesting to do, and 2. when you are ready to interview for a new job, you’ll look even better?

  34. Manders

    How on earth do parents of young children manage a full-time job?

    I have a coworker with a young son. When he was in preschool, she had to be out during working hours many times each month; there were parent teacher conferences, parent participation events (where volunteering was not required, but there was a ton of pressure not to miss too many lest your child lose his place in the preschool), field trips that required parents to chaperone, and so much more. Now he’s in kindergarten, and she’s still expected to participate in bake sales, car pools, conferences, and so forth during working hours. And of course she’s stuck leaving work or finding someone to care for her son every time he’s sick or there’s a school closure (and the school seems to close a lot, in situations where other workplaces stay open).

    She’s lucky that she and her partner both have flexible schedules. That isn’t the norm for our city at all; in fact, the live-at-your-desk mentality is much more common here.

    So… how do you do it? As someone who’s thinking about children in the distant future, if ever, I can’t imagine being in a working situation where I could take so much time off without doing serious damage to my career.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      This TERRIFIES me. Most of the people I know in advertising who have young children have a spouse or partner who works fewer hours than they do. I do not; although my husband’s hours are more predictable than mine are, they’re not light and easy by any means.

      I know a lot of women solve this problem by going freelance for a few years — but it’s very hard to find off-site freelance gigs. Most places want to own you for a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

      I don’t have to figure this out now, but I’m old enough that I don’t have THAT long before I do :(

    2. MT

      I send my daughter to a private school, and they require a lot of volunteer hours. I think its something like 8 lunch shifts a year, and like 40 hours volunteering. Luckily I have partner who can handle all of this.

    3. Artemesia

      I was lucky to have a lot of control over my hours so I could do some of this but it was my observation that working Moms were not in fact expected to take time off work for things like helping in the classroom and chaperoning trips. They often made other contributions e.g. one of the working moms at my daughter’s school organized the annual giving campaign that we substituted for the horror of selling wrapping paper. It was something she could do in the evening. I bet plenty of other working mothers whose kids go to school with your employee are not taking time off work for these things — perhaps the pageant and the occasional conference, but I suspect this is mostly her choice. She wants to do these things and presents it as unavoidable. If it creates a hardship in the office, I would not authorize so may of these absences. Notice working Dads are not doing this.

    4. Sascha

      We’re going to be able to do this because of the generosity of our parents. All the grandparents live close by and want to help take care of our impending baby, for which I am eternally grateful. Also, I work from home 60% of the week, so I’m planning on working some at my parents’ house while they watch the babe.

      Also when she gets into school…we’ll just have to see. Probably we will rely on grandparents and nearby family again. But I would also just say no to a lot of stuff, as is my nature. Of course, if my daughter wants to be involved in something, we’d make it work out, but I can’t see us getting involved in too many extra things like bake sales.

    5. matcha123

      When I was a kid, parent-teacher conferences started around 6:30 and went until 8pm. I guess it depends on the school district? Also, teachers would pass out schedules for the year with their home phone number and email address. I guess people don’t do that either?

      Really, you don’t need to be there for all of that stuff. My mom was there because she was struggling to find full-time work and was probably hoping to connect with other parents.
      I only know about the area I was raised in, but I think that if you’re in an area where a lot of parents are working full-time, there’s less mandatory stuff. The teachers are overworked and appreciate any help they can get. If someone can’t do something because they have to work, if I was the teacher, I’d hope that they at least make sure that their kid behaves and is respectful while in school. Good listeners are great help for any teacher.

    6. Jenny

      I have two kids under 7 and honestly – it’s not super duper hard. First of all, maybe I’m lucky but at my older son’s school they put out calls for volunteers and I tell my son I can help out with one thing every year. Last year I helped out at lunch one day. This year I am doing two things – guest reader one afternoon and then helping out at a Valentine’s Day party. But that’s it. Parent teacher conferences are scheduled in the evening. Bake sales, field trips, and school parties are put up for volunteer and there are enough stay at home moms to volunteer for those events. When he has days off from school their latch-key program has camps. I don’t use those though since I have family in the area and he enjoys spending a day with grandpa. Usually I only have to take a day off if they’re sick and with my husband we alternate depending upon who has fewer meetings those days. It helps to have a flexible boss. I have to take my son to physical therapy twice a month (well, I do once, my husband does once) but I made the appointments at 4 p.m. on a Friday and my boss just lets me leave early.

      I think at a certain point you have to plan in advance for the things you’re aware of and accept that you can’t do everything for their school. You can’t go on every field trip or go to every party. It just can’t happen. And the school releases days off at the start of the year – if you do a little bit of planning to account for those, you’re only left dealing with snow days and sick days. Those are few enough that you won’t anger co-workers.

    7. Elizabeth West

      I don’t remember my parents ever doing these things. But I guess stuff has changed; the school always organized events / pageants / classroom activities / extracurricular activities (that were school-related). The only things I ever saw parents volunteer for was Girl Scouts, etc.

      1. Judy

        Our school is locally known for having very involved parents. But especially in lower elementary school, there are lots of things that can be done outside of school time. All those art projects need prepping, and at least at our school, the teachers send home interest sheets. I spent many evenings when the kids were k-2nd grades cutting out pumpkins/trees/valentine hearts. The teacher would send home construction paper, stencils and instructions, and I would send back smaller pieces of construction paper.

        Most of our field trips are by lottery, so there are many parents who want to come that don’t get to. I help with choir at times, the vocal music teacher at their school taught at my high school a long time ago. They need props, costumes and “herders” their shows.

        I lead a girl scout troop (cookie pre-sales start today in our council! YAY) but we meet in the evening.

    8. Nerdling

      When a school (a preschool particularly) gets so wrapped around the axle over parental involvement that not being able to attend volunteer stuff because you have this thing called a job to pay for your kid to go to said school can get your kid kicked out, it’s definitely a sign that that school’s priorities are out of whack. Or that they’re so saturated with families where one parent stays at home that they’ve lost sight of the fact that many families need two incomes to make ends meet. It drives me bonkers.

      My son’s daycare/soon-to-be preschool is much more laid back. I sent in food for his Christmas party today. Neither of us were able to make his Thanksgiving lunch, but we weren’t the only parents who couldn’t. They accept that they exist because parents have to work. He’ll be going to public school down the line, so it’s not as though he can lose his place if my husband or I don’t volunteer “enough”. We’ll continue to do what we can, when we can. If that means that we contribute more on the “money” end than the “time” end, then so be it.

      1. Nerdling

        I will say that I’m at a point in my career where I earn quite a bit of leave, in addition to what I roll over from previous years. And I have a very family-oriented office. So if I need to take time off, I can and do. In the past, my husband has been the one to do most of these gigs, because he was self-employed and then employed part-time; now, he’s working full-time and has much less time off than I do, so it’s my turn to be the runner when necessary.

    9. Joey

      Yes. Your career may be and likely will be sacrificed to a degree. I’ve accepted that those with no children (or grown children) can and do work longer days than I can and therefore have the availability to produce more. I’ve accepted that my career progression may not move as quickly because of that. And I’m perfectly fine with slowing down my career path for the 10-15 years while my kids are growing so I can be there for them. It’s well worth it to me.

      1. Artemesia

        My husband and I wanted a life in balance and so we accepted early on that each of us would have a less stellar career than either of us could have if we had a wife. My brother had a supportive wife who took care of the home front and he worked long hours and became a very successful and very wealthy as in many many millions man.

        We had two good careers — mine even garnered a bit of national prominence — but we also were active in our kids lives and enjoyed our family and he pursued personal interests in music as a hobby and was active in that. We also did a fair amount of international travel because he was a partner in a small firm and could take 3 weeks in the spring and I had a job with ample time off. We uprooted his career once for mine with a big early move; after that I accepted that it would be too disruptive to uproot again which meant my career had limits.

        We are entirely happy with what we chose. We have had a good life, made enough to retire although not enough to be crazy wealthy and we raised two great kids to become productive and interesting adults. We are going to be spending Christmas week near one of them and the one we live close to will be coming with her family as well — Life is good.

        The secret to having it all is recognizing that you have to make choices — when young people asked me how I managed to ‘have it all’, I just said ‘by doing everything badly.’ Joking a bit but the fact is if you want to climb to the top of the career tree you won’t have time for other elements of your life (unless you have a wife of course.)

    10. Rin

      This is insane. Why do parents have to do anything at school? We had lunch monitors at my grade school so the teachers could have a break, too, and those women were the same ones all year (don’t know if they were volunteers, or if they were employed). I could see the field trip chaperone maybe once a year, but if my kid’s school asked me to be a guest reader like someone said, I think I would just stare blankly and say, “You want me to take time out of my work day to read a 10-page mostly picture book for 5 minutes?” After school/work, I’m all there, but during the day, I’m trusting you to take care of her.

    11. The IT Manager

      lest your child lose his place in the preschool

      I’m kind of suspcious that this is an expensive private school that assumes that students have a stay at home Mom. I think schools with a different dynamic must exist.

    12. JoAnna

      I have five children (oldest is 9, youngest is 1) and it is incredibly difficult. I’m usually out of flex time by June and need to dip into vacation to use for sick days and etc. My husband works full-time as well and it involves a lot of juggling. I’m also fortunate to have a very flexible schedule plus the ability to work from home 3 days per week. However, I rarely volunteer at my kids’ school or participate in activities during working hours (unless I am WFH on that day, in which case I can start earlier or work later to make up the time I’m gone). But it’s not easy, that’s for sure. My husband was unemployed for 5 months earlier this year and in a way it was a relief because he was able to take the kids to appointments, handle them on days they were sick, etc. If not for the fact that making it on one income is so difficult, it’d be so much easier to have one of us stay at home.

      1. Artemesia

        It is only since the advent of antibiotics and vaccines that it was even possible for a woman to have 5 young kids and work outside the home unless she had a large extended family to help her. Five kids is a huge workload even without working outside the home.

    13. long time reader first time poster

      Well, if you are an executive, you have a stay at home partner. That’s pretty much expected at that level.
      If you are a regular joe, you either have a job with flexibility or you brace yourself for missing out. Which, FWIW, is not the end of the world. Nobody really *has* to do all the stuff described in the OP’s post.

    14. Darth Admin

      You figure out what’s a “have to” and what’s a “want to,” basically, and you prioritize. My kid is 6 and at his school there are a lot of things during the workday. PTA meetings are at 4pm. Fundraising goodie pick up is from 3:30-5:30pm. The have volunteer parents who stuff folders every Friday from 9am-11am. There was a student award assembly from 9:15-10:15 this morning. You get the picture.

      I have a stressful career managing a bunch of people and a lot of money. My salary is considerably larger than my husband’s. Ergo, my job is a “have to.” All that stuff at school? Is a “want to.” It just is. I participate in stuff at school when I can. But most of the time I don’t. (And when he’s sick, my husband stays home or grandma takes him or, if he’s not feeling terrible, he goes to school.) My kid understands this – I’ve explained that mommy works hard, and we spend time together outside of work hours. And frankly, the people at his school get it too, because this issue is kind of a hobbyhorse to me and I consistently decline volunteer pressure with something along the lines of “Oh, would love to, but have this side gig called a JOB. Hahaha.”

      Bottom line – you work it out based on your individual situation.

    15. CandyCane

      Some of it depends on your work situation – I have a really understanding boss (who gave birth about 9 months after I did, so that helps). She lets me do some work from home, let me change my hours to start late so I can have mommy time in the morning, and let me reduce my hours to working 4 days per week. Even if you don’t volunteer at school, doctors appointments and sick kid will do in your schedule.

      My husband has a flexible schedule as well, and he is invested in being a dad. He changed his hours so between the two of us and helpful family, we could avoid child care for the first 18 months. We also have very supportive parents, who are in mostly good health, who help HUGE amounts. They pick up from school, and do activities several days a week. We are very fortunate.

      But, to address your question – if your kids are in the future, lay the groundwork now. #1 is a partner who wants kids and wants to actively participate in raising them. Build a support network – if you don’t have family who can help, maybe make sure you live in a kid-friendly area. Our neighbors have a lot of child care help from a ‘first-time parents’ group that they joined. Another friend has a live-in nanny, which costs them only slightly more than full-time infant day care, and she CLEANS THE HOUSE (nope, no jealousy here). They don’t have to stay home for a sick kid, and the nanny could do doctor’s appointments if needed.

      You can also check out the schools in the area you want to live – are the parents expected to volunteer? Are dads? In terms of work – people who excel are probably given more leeway, so be a super star! Look at employer’s family leave policies, and really ask about office culture in your interviews. If they work 80-hours per week, it is going to be really difficult to work the schedule. I wouldn’t ask about people’s families in an interview, but look around at photos, any young kids?? Are there positions in your line of work that offer more flexibility? If you are hourly, can you move up to a salaried position where some work from home is possible? Prep financially to see if you or your partner can reduce work hours for a few years. I thought I would still want to work full time – but once the baby arrived I just wanted to be with her. Anyway, happy planning!

    16. Observer

      You learn to say no. You push back on the pressure. If you have a good school you work with them on scheduling to minimize the hit to parent’s schedules. And, sometimes you change care providers / schools. Also, you trade days of with the kid(s) with Dad. Many of the activities you describe do not strictly require parent presence, and you learn to choose which ones your participate in.

  35. Katie the Fed

    I’ve been waiting for this thread all week to tell this story!!

    So, a woman at my husband’s work (also federal) came up to him earlier this week and asked his shirt size. He told her, and she handed him a dress shirt she picked up at a thrift store for $1. Apparently she’d bought about 3-4 men’s shirts at a thrift store and then been asking the men at work what their size was, and gave them all out.

    The shirts are definitely secondhand, and un-noteworthy in any way. It’s not like she found brand-name shirts with the tags still on and decided it was too good a deal to pass up.

    Yeah…WTF! Why would someone do this? It’s so weird, such a strange violation of professional boundaries and really odd.

    1. fposte

      I’m trying to fit some kind of logical narrative to this and I just can’t find one. Closest I’m coming is a shopaholic who justifies it by giving the stuff away. What did your husband say? I can’t imagine what I’d say, though I’d be thinking “How well will it clean windows?”

      1. Katie the Fed

        My theory was that she’s a hoarder who is trying to get a handle on it, and is giving away things she’s stockpiled over the years. Similar to the shopaholic theory. Deals just too good to pass up.

        What’s odder is he says she’s never done this stuff before either.

        My husband thought it was weird, but in the moment I think he was like “ummm…thanks?” and is planning to take it to Good Will. It’s…unremarkable.

        1. De Minimis

          I never heard back from my interview last week. According to the timeline they gave me, that means they decided to move on with other candidates. Either that, or the whole thing is delayed.

          It’s not a huge deal, my wife applied to the position at her former employer earlier this week, so it was looking unlikely I would have been able to take a new job anyway. I am a little concerned that they weren’t interested, though. I feel like I’m a decent candidate, but I’m worried this may be an indication I may have a tough time finding another job if I quit my current one. But I’m not really going to have a lot of choice in the matter unless I want to undergo a long term separation from my wife for work, which neither of us really wants to do again.

    2. Artemesia

      Of course these guys were caught flat footed here, but if it happens again they need to hand them right back, with ‘thanks, but I take care of my own shirt shopping.’ And yes — if it was a stack of new designer shirts she got for nothing, that would feel different — a sort of ‘I couldn’t believe this bargain and couldn’t pass it up, but no one in my family wears these sizes.’ There is a bit of a creepy vibe to her wanting to clothe her co-workers in someone’s castoffs.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Yeah, I was a bit annoyed with him for taking it, but I don’t think he had the first clue how to respond. To be honest, I’m a wee bit uncomfortable with someone buying my man clothes :). He dresses himself or I dress him!

              1. HeyNonnyNonny

                There’s your solution– if she ever does it again, just have your husband look awed and say ‘master gave Dobby clothes!’

            1. fposte

              Now I’m thinking about a house elf no-call/no-show from a management standpoint. Is there discipline for the person who gave the house elf clothing? Was the rule against that disseminated effectively?

          1. De Minimis

            My boss gave me a weird ham pink polo shirt for Christmas last year! It was weird..though at least it was a new shirt!

            My theory was it was to be worn for things like “wear pink for breast cancer awareness day” but it wasn’t a case where that was approaching or had just past, so I’m still mystified about her reasoning.

        1. The IT Manager

          Well, to be fair, she wasn’t trying to dress your man specifically just the first man she found who wears size XY.

          “You fit the suit.”

    3. Revanche

      Our secretary did this to me once! Picked up a 50 cent sequin dress that was about 2 sizes too big for me and presented it to me. I was caught totally flatfooted.

    4. Craigrs1

      I kind of see this as a harmless gesture that is just a tad inappropriate, but not exactly a WTF??? thing or something to be really weirded out/concerned by. This is totally the kind of thing me and my friends will do for each other for the holidays. I think this person is just missing the inappropriateness of it in a work context.

      1. Katie the Fed

        I’m not REALLY weirded out, but it’s definitely weird. They’re not friends. They’re not even close colleagues – they’re just work acquaintances. It’s really weird to buy used clothes for someone you don’t know well.

        1. ProductiveDyslexic

          It’s really weird and inappropriate to ask your coworker what size shirt they wear too. This is very puzzling indeed.

        2. Windchime

          Yeah, I’m in the “that’s weird” camp. I’m sure she meant well, but there is no way in hell I would buy an article of (used!) clothing and give it to a married man at work. All kinds of oddness there.

  36. Lizzy

    Was waiting for this thread, have two questions if anyone has any feedback, I could really use some help.

    1. I’ve been an administrative pro for over 18 years with no degree. Was an Executive Assistant in NYC for 10 years and that included working for some C-level execs but now that I’ve left the city, and live in a rural area in South Jersey I’m finding it’s a real challenge to get interviews, especially when I feel I have some great qualifications to bring to the table. Any tips on how to highlight myself as a great candidate? I’m concerned I’m getting written off immediately because I have a GED and no college degree. And the jobs that do show interest I’m overqualified for and usually pay very little.

    2. I’ve been thinking of commuting into Philadelphia and try to get an admin position at a college or university – use my administrative skills and position myself in an environment that could allow me to go to school. But I’m thinking having worked in corporate that the academic community may not be impressed. From the research I’ve done I get the sense it’s a tight knit culture. Would it be an uphill battle to be seen by HR without academic experience in this instance? Again they usually want a degree as well and I’m guessing they could be the least likely to overlook that. :)

    Again any tips would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    1. Beebs

      If you have been in the field for 18+ years, do you have to list your academic background. Perhaps only list your work experience and really highlight your achievements and successes.

    2. GOG11

      I work as an admin assistant in an academic environment (private university) and I know of a few AA’s who worked in the corporate world before our organization. I think it depends on the University and its culture, though.

      If you wanted to get into administration at a higher level, that may be a different story. At my org, all of the higher ups have advanced degrees but, again, this may be more an individual thing than something that can be applied to higher education across the board.

      I would look at what’s required in job postings. I’ve never used it myself, but Chronicle of Higher Education does have a jobs section and you can filter the results to show only administrative positions.

      Lastly, my org does indeed provide courses as part of its compensation package. I think this is fairly common in the industry.

    3. Olive Kitteridge

      Sounds like networking is going to be the key for you to get your foot in the door, either to a good EA job or a position in a college/university. I’d really comb through your LinkedIn connections for anyone who works in Phila, and set up informational coffees with them. South Jersey is probably not going to offer you the opportunities you would like, so commuting to Phila will be your best bet.

    4. Frances

      Honestly it depends on the college and the department and what they are looking for. At my last job in academia, my boss (the administrative director of a graduate school within a much larger university) had come out of an entirely corporate background, and in a lot of ways she was great — the school itself was very new, and had been set up entirely by academics with little administrative experience, so she was able to point to some super obvious policies and processes we were missing. The thing I think she found most frustrating was that there are certain ways (and speeds) of doing things that get entrenched in academia (often specific to the institutions) that just would not fly in the corporate world and that she couldn’t change even though her way would make more sense and waste a lot less time.

      1. GOG11

        +1 to the speed of getting things done in academia. Things definitely tend to move at a slower pace and some might find it difficult to adjust to.

    5. Sunflower

      I applied for a job at UPenn in I think it was the Executive Education Market dept? They told me that they do not run their dept like the other’s and they are run much more like a corporation. I think most people in that dept came from corporations so I wouldn’t shy away from colleges just because of that.

    6. AcademicAnon

      You may have more problems getting an academic job than a corporate one without a degree, some academic places have a major emphasis on degrees…even if the position doesn’t warrant it, or the person being replaced never had one either.

    7. Lizzy

      Thanks everyone for your feedback here. Given I’m so unfamiliar with the academic arena I see I’m second guessing myself a bit more than I should. Will jump outside the box and see what happens! So thanks again and enjoy the holiday season people! :)

  37. Hanukkah Balls

    I know there are a lot of tech people on here, so here’s my Friday question. Any tips for working with an IT Director who’s feet aren’t planted firmly on the ground when it comes to practicality? She’s a lovely person, but some of the things she suggests are so pie in the sky I don’t know how to respond. We struggle with some really basic problems with our main software program (which handles project management as well as customer transactions) and when I go to her to try and get those issues addressed she starts going on and on about how they will make the system perfect in no time at all and we’ll have great productivity and it will change the way we do business. That never happens and my simple, mundane issues never get solved.

    Help!

    1. Sascha

      Can you talk to someone lower than her, who actually works on the program? They might be better to talk to about fixes. Or ask her who the best “fix-it” person is?

      1. Hanukkah Balls

        Yeah, I’ve had some luck with the worker bees — they’re great at quick fixes to help me out. It’s the bigger problems that require some new features to be developed or fixed within the software that aren’t being addressed. I know she’s getting a lot of pressure from her boss to make slick reports, but when the data she’s pulling isn’t accurate (because of the software problems she doesn’t fully understand or address) it’s really frustrating to me. When I try to explain what’s going wrong, she nods and smiles and seems to understand and appreciate how important it is to get fixed. Then we go back to our offices and nothing happens.

      2. straws

        I manage our tech areas, and I’d definitely be redirecting any suggestions to our product owner or system architect for full details. I’m happy to validate an idea as good or feasible, but when it comes to working it into the schedule, how long it might take, the specs needed, etc, there are better people to get into those fine details.

        On another note, if these are actual defects with the system, is there no process for reporting it outside of asking the director? A ticket system or something like that?

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      IME, I’ve never know a technical person, especially a head one, to be pie in the sky. What I have known is technical people who are the best conversation deflectors in the universe. (said with love and admiration for the conversation deflection skill set)

      If you’re trying to pin down an IT person or a programmer who does not want to be pinned down, you’re going up against masters. I suggest making sure everything is in writing via the tech person’s preferred method – email, ticket system, however they have communication set up but writing. Be very clear about the issues. Be Specific. Don’t lump issues together. Don’t write paragraphs. Use numbers or bullets for separate issues or separate emails with specific subject lines.

      Ask for progress updates on the specific issues.

      Loop your boss in. Your boss may have more information as to why you’re not getting fixes, or she may be able to escalate to her boss to get fixes faster.

      1. Hanukkah Balls

        That’s a good idea — clearly spelling things out with lists and bullets points. We’ve been having one-on-one meetings that I then summarize via email, but I wasn’t going into too much detail and maybe that’s what’s needed. So instead of: “IT Director will work with Software Provider to create better solution for XXX problem.” it should be “IT Director will work with Joe at Software Provider to develop a new tool that will allow staff to directly access customer records (including personal data, purchase history, and special notes) but that won’t break the logic of XXX report.”

        1. Sascha

          My director is actually one of those pie-in-the-sky tech heads, and I can say the bullet points work very well. I have to be VERY specific with him. He’s one of those people who gets details mixed up in his head, and also will think of something, but not say it, and then wonder why no one did what he asked – because he never actually asked it out loud. So the best methods for working with him are short bullets or paragraphs being very specific and concise about what’s needed, and always put things in writing.

          1. Hanukkah Balls

            I’m also thinking I need to give her deadlines. I mean, I know that something needs to be fixed before we need to use it again, but she may not realize what that timeframe is.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              This is so important.

              Now here’s the thing. Unless you have a LOT of power, you can’t make deadlines for IT people and programmers. What you can do is negotiate them.

              I’m above the highest IT folks in the food chain, and I finance a big chunk of their budget, but they don’t report to me. They have to juggle the needs of my division with the needs of several other divisions and business units, so I can’t say “this must be fixed by Friday!”

              Literal example from the last three weeks. Our semi-weekly email campaigns for three brands always take about 20 minutes to run, total. The time of day we send these emails is important to us because there is always a batch of responses (orders, quote requests, sample requests) etc., and we’re sending to business customers so we have them timed to arrive when it is most convenient for a business person to receive them.

              Welp, something happened and instead of 20 minutes, they were taking 10 hours.

              I would have loved to say: FIX THIS IMMEDIATELY! But, it’s not a critical fix. If the websites go down, they fix them immediately. Important fix, not critical fix.

              I had to negotiate a time frame for fix, which, I got in about three weeks and in the meantime, started our email campaigns at 7 in the morning so they would at least mostly arrive during business hours. I make sure our people understand how the issue is impacting business and then follow up periodically (in this case once a week) and it mostly works out, for fixes.

              Programming new things………. it’s been a rough year. I’m not the one to advise on how to get deadline commitments with deadlines met on that one. :/

              1. Hanukkah Balls

                Nice to know I’m not the only one struggling with this kind of thing — that scenario sounds so familiar! In my case, my timeline for fixing problems can be measured in weeks or months, not days. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect those to be met, but I totally get that they have other priorities. I am pretty high up in our hierarchy so I can be a little pushy about things (but not to the extent that I strain our relationship). We’re supposed to get a big upgrade in January and I’m hoping that solves some of our problems — but the last upgrade we got just crippled our operations for several weeks this past fall — it was horrible.

  38. Frazzled

    I’m incredibly frustrated at work and I’m worried it’s going to become obvious to others. Without going into too much detail, I’m in a dysfunctional environment, and my options are to put up with it or leave. I’ve given a lot of thought to this over the last year and there are pros and cons to both choices. How do I give myself an attitude adjustment in the meantime? How have others coped with this?

    1. Sascha

      Take some time off. Find a hobby that you can put your energy into – even if it’s as simple as watching a new TV series. Just something to look forward to when you get home. Remind yourself this job is to pay for the things you do enjoy, like hanging out with friends or doing a hobby.

      Focus on the pros if you decide to stay. I’m in a similar spot right now – very frustrated with the job and with management – but I got some hella awesome benefits, one of which is working from home 60% of the week. I’m looking for a new job, but being very picky. My benefits are really important to me right now, so I definitely don’t want to jump into something that’s going to be worse.

    2. danr

      Separate your work time from not-work time. I was in a similar situation at one point and doing this cleared up a lot of problems. I left my work problems there and by coming in refreshed every day, they soon became manageable.

    3. Revanche

      Not sure if this would work for you but when things turned sour in the last 3 years of my stint at Highly Dysfunctional Job, I didn’t deal with it WELL but my tactics were: focusing on turning out a quality work product, deflecting spurious rumors my boss would pass around as gracefully as I could, and having a LOT of private sanity checks with good friends and mentors to remind me not to normalize it, that I would get out when the time was right for me and my career path.

      Careful about staying too long though, if you can help it, the detox from that job even with friends reminding me every day that yes, nothing about that place was normal or professional, took a very long time. I *still* don’t automatically trust friendly gestures without looking for the knife.

    4. RR

      Hi Frazzled, are you my cube neighbor? What has helped me in very similar circumstances is focusing on the aspects of the work and the organization I do like; reminding myself they are paying me a decent salary and so I owe it to them, and, more importantly, to my own sense of self, to do a good job; and that at least it’s not toxic. (ExJob was so very very toxic — I knew my current place was dysfunctional, but I also had to leave my old job; it does help me put things in perspective.) As others have noted, it’s also really important to have healthy non-work activities so not all of one’s creative and psychic energies are consumed by the dysfunction at work. Make sure you are taking good care of yourself. I think it’s not put up or leave, it’s put up until you can leave, which, with the job market, may be a while. Good luck!

    5. Not So NewReader

      Picture yourself on a job interview telling the interviewer what a fabulous job you did at Current Job. Look around you right now, in current time and say to yourself, “What can I do right now that would be a good accomplishment that I can use in an interview?”

  39. Confession about Open Thread

    I love reading these threads (and any/all of AAM’s posts!), but I’ll be honest–there are SO MANY posts on here that I end up not even reading any of them! I just scroll down and wish AAM could limit each week to x number of posts, or have 5 categories of open forums, or a ranking type option, but then that would defeat the purpose of “Open Thread”!

    1. Allison

      Or maybe let us tag threads? Or have everything collapsed by default, and let people open replies as they wish.

      1. Confession about Open Thread

        (Oops sorry that was supposed to be a separate thread)
        I mentioned your “collapsed-default” suggestion to AAM, but she said that the majority of people prefer the default to be “non-collapsed.” Not sure if she can make an exception with the Open Thread…
        Love the tag idea!

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        There’s an option at the very top of the thread to collapse everything. You could try that. (It reverts to the default if you reload the page, but it just takes a single click to reset it.)

        1. reader

          Yes this works but then you have to find where you were which is a bit of a pain when there are hundreds of comments.

          1. Gene

            Not really, just find a key word in the top level of the thread you’re in, write your reply/refresh the page, click on “collapse”, then search for that key word. In this case it will be “confession”.

            1. Windchime

              This is exactly how I do it. I find a word in the post that I’m reading/replying to, copy it, then post or refresh. Collapse the threads again, search for the word and I’m right back where I was.

              There are over 1100 posts in today’s open thread, so I won’t get to them all. But I know there are people who come to the open thread and start at the bottom and read up specifically so those later posters won’t be ignored.

        2. Persephone Mulberry

          I’ve also advocated for default collapsed – or a cookie or something that keeps it set to your preference. I do know enough about web design to know those things don’t happen like magic, or without a cost.

          However, I do somewhat argue with the statement that it’s “a single click” on refresh. It’s scrolling or paging back to top, click to collapse, Ctrl-F, think of a unique enough keyword that will get you back to where you were, type, and then click (click, click, click, etc. depending on the accuracy of your keyword) until you find the spot where you left off. Or skip ctrl-F and scroll-scroll-scroll. Since commenting always triggers a refresh, I find myself not even using the collapse because it’s less effort just to scroll.

          Alison, I LOVE your blog and I LOVE the open threads, and I will continue to participate no matter how much scrolling and clicking and re-collapsing is required. Apparently my current work project, which actually involves designing a web form for an individual who is obsessed with minimizing clicks, has made me a little sensitive on the subject. /rant

    2. Katie the Fed

      I know – sometimes I don’t even stop in the open threads because I show up late and get overwhelmed :)

      1. De Minimis

        I almost always miss the Sunday thread now. I often don’t do a lot on my computer on weekends. Sometimes I try to look at it on Monday, but I usually don’t.

    3. The IT Manager

      I agree with you. I don’t think there’s actually a solution, but I will the threads wouldn;t blow us so much that I can’t keep up.

      Best I thought of which is not technically feasible (I bet) and relies on users following the rules would be to limit the number of new level 1 comments. ie First 100 people get there comment out there and then everyone else can still respond to their hearts content.

      I think we just have to live with the open threads that have 100 posts 30 minutes in and 800 by the next morning. :) It’s a first world problem.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, I know these get long, even with having separated out the work and non-work stuff into separate threads. I don’t think there are many solutions, at least not ones that I like. I’d be hesitant to increase the number of open threads per week because it’ll start to clutter the archives (and ultimately I think would move the site away from its fundamental mission). And I don’t think I’d want to limit the number of posts in an open thread (I think that’s what you meant — not number of total article posts per week, right?) because it seems unfair/arbitrary.

      But it’s okay if people aren’t able to read everything in an open thread! Read what you feel like, skip the rest. And make liberal use of the “collapse comments” button if a topic doesn’t interest you! (I’m no longer able to read all the comments on the site — not just on open threads — and I’ve made my peace with that, so it can be done!)

      1. Confession about Open Thread

        Yup, I meant limiting posts of open thread, not total articles! But yes I understand that limiting is not good solution. I do end up just trying to read what I can, but in general, it just feels so overwhelming that I kind of avoid it (which is sad!)…. It also feels like your post can quickly get lost, so it feels like it’s more of a “rant/rave/confession” forum. That makes me think: What if there were a few threads like “Rant/Rave,” “My job search” and “some other appropriate category”?

      2. Confession about Open Thread

        I have another idea! Maybe on Mondays, one of your entries can be an “Allison’s Pick” of 5 posts from here that you thought were interesting/funny/helpful. You wouldn’t even have to add additional comments.

    5. danr

      Start reading from the top down, then from the bottom up once the numbers pass 300 or so. Then I usually search for a couple of folks who are good commenters. I usually get most of the comments that way.

      1. reader

        After about 50-100 comments total I will collapse the threads and then start from the bottom and expand the threads as I go up if I want to read more.

  40. Trixie

    Anyone else a little jittery about ending (another) year without a job? I know something will turn up but still…

    1. Lizzy

      You’re not alone. I’m in the process of taking a very low paying job to pay the bills while I continue to look. I’m not even sure if that is the right thing to do but I’m trying to stay open and do something different and stay hopeful. It’s so hard to swallow. So I hear you. Hang in there!

      1. Ali

        I am employed, but miserable and I really wanted to have another job by the end of the year. It didn’t happen, and now I’m on a performance warning, in a second job that can’t afford a full-time salary for me as they’re still growing and just feeling generally stuck.

        I’ve even considered avoiding the open threads because it seems like everyone is getting their dream job with amazing pay and the perfect atmosphere. I keep coming back, though, because I occasionally respond to other questions and I don’t entirely want to lose hope that someday I’ll be the one squealing in excitement about a great new job.

        1. SD Cat

          Holding out hope too. I’ve had internships and phone interviews, but no luck with a regular job yet. At least the phone interviews keep coming.

          You’ll get there!

    2. Mimmy

      Yup, it’s been awhile *coughfouryearscough* since I’ve had any sort of paid work. My volunteering has been mostly awesome, but I’m ready to get back to something more steady. Although, at the same time, I feel a bit skittish too. New Years resolution: Get out of my comfort zone!!!

    3. voluptuousfire

      Yep. Oh yes. Actually, I did have a job at the end of last year but it crapped out by April. :\

      I seem to get a lot of nibbles on my resume but I can’t seem to pull the trigger with any of the roles. Someone seems to have that x factor I don’t have. I also seem to keep running into interview mishaps, especially recently. I was due to have a phone screen last Friday and when the interviewer called me, the call went static-y and dropped. Twice. I called him back and left a voicemail to reschedule and also sent a follow up email but never heard back. It sucked because it was an interesting role and I was really excited to learn more about it.

  41. Golden Yeti

    Our office party totally broke one Alison’s rules of holiday parties: we got company stuff. And not even subtly. In the am, manager went around asking us to name 2 products we hadn’t tried yet but wanted to. It was very un-subtle and obvious where this was going. Also, the warehouse is in the back of the same building, so it’s very convenient for them. In the pm, we were presented with these as our Christmas gifts. Sigh.

    1. Judy

      I think Alison was talking about company swag. Mugs, shirts, etc with the logo. Not specifically company products.

      Some of the best holiday door prizes were company products when I worked for a company that produced things that retailed for $25 to $5000.

      1. Golden Yeti

        I realize the original post was more referring to “branded” type things. To me, company products fall under that category, too. Definitely, if your company sells cool stuff, it’s exciting to get free products. If they sell more boring stuff, it’s a slight let down. It could be my personal preference, too.

    2. Monodon monoceros

      Depends on where you work. Maybe you work at Bose and got some kickass speakers or the fancy noise cancelling headphones to drown out the noise of your candy-sucking coworker.

      Maybe you work at Apple and got an ipad. Maybe you work a REI and got some awesome tent or snowshoes.

      But since you sound disappointed I’m guessing this isn’t the case.

    3. Artemesia

      I think stuff the company makes unless it is like gaskets or framis filters or something is a fine gift — like trying the pumpkin bread,or the blender, or the croquet sets. That is a more decent gift than a mug with the company logo.

    4. Megan

      I just got an xmas gift from my casual job yesterday. It’s a branded Compendium. Even the full time supervisor who gave it to me handed it over with a ‘don’t get too excited’. More than half the staff are teenagers and one yesterday didn’t even know what a compendium was. I said it was used to take notes at conferences. She said, ‘oh yes, this will be great for all the conferences I go to!’ I would have much rathered the $5 or however much it cost to make them!

  42. BrownEyedGirl

    Can anyone help with a dress code question? We’ve had some changes at work and there’s a new emphasis on dressing professionally, however, there is no written dress code. Recently, my boss told me that a new dress was inappropriate despite the fact that I’d worn it in the office multiple times before and it’s similar in style to what I wear every day and it’s similar to what one of the other women in the office wears (however, I am curvier than her). I spent a lot of money on this dress (and another one just like it) because they were work appropriate (I went shopping with my mother! They’re long sleeved!) and I don’t want to make the same mistake again. Without a written policy I don’t feel like I can buy new clothes. Do you have any recommendations?

    1. Olive Kitteridge

      Can you make it more appropriate with a cami underneath, or blazer on top? Can you post a link to the dress? That might help for ideas.

          1. Frances

            Yeah, this totally seems like the women with curves penalty in action.

            If this isn’t the hill you want to die on, would it be too hot to throw a scarf or cardigan on over it? If the problem is they think the top is too form fitting that would at least soften the outline. I used to do a lot of scarfs when I gained some weight and went up a cup size.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              I am frowning so hard.

              I do think a cardigan or a soft jacket would help. It irritates me to flag a dress like that as not being business casual, though. The younger women in my office wear them all the time and they look smashing. It’s a normal dress!

        1. fposte

          Looks business casual to me. I’m thinking your org is not only vague, they’re using the wrong term–they don’t want casual, business or otherwise.

        2. plain_jane

          Could it be that they’re reacting to the colour/stripes being bold vs. the cut & fit?

          I hate figuring out office wear. I wish I could just do jeans & tshirt & cardigan&runners every day like at my first job.

          1. Observer

            That’s a real possibility. I have a black and yellow sweater (which I only wear at home) and the first time I wore it my tactful son blurted out that I look like a bumble bee.

        3. Parfait

          That seems totally fine to me. The only thing I can thing of is if it’s too short/tight on you, or you’re styling it too casually – with tennis shoes and a jean jacket instead of flats and a cardigan/blazer, say.

          I wear dresses like that to work all the time.

      1. BrownEyedGirl

        We’ve asked multiple times and been told that the new expectation is ‘business casual.’ I was specifically told that the dress was too tight–but it’s less tight than the cardigan/pencil skirt combos that everyone wears all the time.

        1. Beebs

          Sounds like people are not being treated with the same standards here. Discrimination, but as we know weight and body image are not protected classes. Unless your dress was somehow very casual (pattern, material)

          1. BrownEyedGirl

            I said this up above, but it was an acrylic dress designed to look like wool (when I first pulled it off the rack I was so surprised it wasn’t dry clean only) in black and green stripes. Definitely designed as a work dress.

        2. The IT Manager

          Uggg! I would tempted to say just that. “You say this is too tight, but is not as tight at A, B, and C’s cardigan/pencil skirt combos so I do not undestand your guidance,” but are you comfortable calling out the different standards for women of different body types?

          Mostly I feel like you’re in a now-win situation and I’m sorry for that.

        3. Ask a Manager Post author

          Can you point that out? “Can you help me understand? I’m looking at the cardigan/pencil skirt combos that people frequently wear here and this is less tight than those.”

          You might even want to say, “It sounds like there might be different standards for different body types, but this is less tight than the very popular cardigan/pencil skirt combo I frequently see people here wearing.”

          1. BrownEyedGirl

            Lol, I’m one of the women wearing a cardigan and pencil skirt today… which appears to be fine (it’s my standard uniform, I was just looking for some variety).

            1. Observer

              I’m not surprised. Cardigans usually go over something, and pencil skirts tend to have a bit more structure than the dress you linked to. So, unless someone is popping out of her shirt, or is showing panty lines, it will still seem more business like even though it really is just as tight as something like this.

        4. Elsajeni

          Hmm. Worth noting, maybe, is that a cardigan and pencil skirt would be tight on the bottom, looser on top; the dress you linked to is the opposite, with a snug bodice and fuller/looser skirt. Especially since you mention that you’re one of the people wearing pencil skirts with no objections — so it presumably isn’t purely a “no tight-fitting clothes on curvy BrownEyedGirl” issue — I wonder if, more specifically than “too tight,” it’s that the dress is striking her as too tight across the bust. It’s still a problem that you’re being told not to wear something that’s apparently fine for your less-curvy coworker (although, if she’s significantly less curvy, a similar-cut dress might legitimately fit her very differently), but it might help in your future shopping to know that your boss is okay with tight skirts but not tight bodices.

    2. littlemoose

      I’m trying to think about what the issue with the dress might have been. It it was perceived as too low-cut, can you add a camisole underneath? If it was seen as too short, can you add some thick opaque tights? Maybe you can salvage wearing it.

      Other than that, I think dress pants can be less risky. No need to worry about hemlines there.

      1. BrownEyedGirl

        I’m not going back to pants. After the switch from jeans to business casual, I wore a pair of dark corduroys and was told they were too casual (contrary to Google and corporette).

        1. fposte

          This is why I *hate* vague dress code terms like this. (I can actually see cords as being too casual for some workplaces, but the office owes it to its employees to give them a chance to succeed by being clear rather than just dinging them for failing to meet a standard that it hasn’t identified.)

          1. Turanga Leela

            Yeah, I wonder if part of the problem isn’t that the boss is saying “business casual,” but really means something more formal than that. In a lot of offices, “business casual” means khakis and a button-down for men and pretty much anything for women. Maybe BrownEyedGirl’s boss means something more like “business attire, not exactly business casual, but also not business formal a.k.a. suits.”

            This is the case in my office, where there’s no written dress code but we are expected to “look like lawyers.” I wear a lot of structured dresses with jackets.

            1. fposte

              Yes, like MaryMary’s “third piece” suggestion (never heard it phrased that way, and that’s so clear!).

              It’s okay to say you’re not casual, people! There’s nothing superior about casual, and you’re confusing your employees.

            2. BrownEyedGirl

              The men in my office do wear khakis and button downs. The women are more of a range. It makes it difficult to know what’s required.

            3. LawBee

              Jeans! Jeans for life! I dread the days I have to go to court because ugh, suits are the worst. JEANS FOREVER.

    3. fposte

      My recommendation is that your boss be clearer on the new dress code. No wonder you’re thrown–that really wasn’t helpful feedback. Is there any possibility you could bring this up with her at another time and say that it would really be helpful to you to get some guidelines about what *to* wear, not just what not to wear, since you’re planning to shop in accordance with the new policy?

      In the meantime, I might look at jackets or at least some relaxed-fit sweaters (belted for added polish) to wear over dresses–that can be a way to render clothing more businessy. You also might be stuck in the conundrum, since you say you’re curvy, where lower necklines show more on you but you generally stay away from higher necklines because they’re not as flattering. You might need to bite the bullet and consider some crew necks, using scarves or something to break the neckline up.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I second this. I’d go back and say, “We need to have a written policy that spells out what people can and can’t wear, to help transition and inform new employees.” Then I’d see if maybe you can volunteer to help draft it along with relevant personnel. Then the boss won’t think she has to do it. It may not be a thing because she’s thinking, “Oh fudge, I don’t have time to do that!”

    4. MaryMary

      I agree with everyone else that your dress code is vague and seems unfairly enforced. To deal with the stupidity, have you thought about going the “third piece” route? Basically, it’s adding a blazer, jacket, or cardigan to your outfit (even though if you’re wearing a dress it’s technically the second piece). Somehow it reads more dressy to people. That might also be why your pencil skirt and cardigan combo passes the test, but your cute dress does not.

      1. Turanga Leela

        Dress + blazer is my go-to in my office, where our dress code falls somewhere above “business casual” but doesn’t require me to wear a suit. I wear a lot of dresses that look like BrownEyedGirl’s, and I agree with MaryMary—a dress by itself reads as more casual than a dress with a jacket.

        A blazer would also add a more structured shape to the dress, which might make it seem less tight/provocative. To be clear, I don’t think the dress is inappropriate at all, but if the blazer can solve your problem, maybe it’s worth it.

    5. Tiffany In Houston

      OK, let me ask you this. If you are curvier and you have a booty then skater skirts are going to ride up in the back on you. Are you checking your back view?? I wonder if that is causing the concern, and your manager is scared to tell you that.

      If that’s not the issue and it’s a neckline issue, then you need a cami underneath or a cardigan on top. Just some other suggestions to think about.

        1. LawBee

          aw, it’s not that short. It’s maybe two inches above the knee – it would have passed muster at my high school for sure.

      1. LawBee

        I was thinking the same thing – it happens to me, so I’m wondering if that’s the case here as well.

      2. Hillary

        This. The skirt might be a bit short, or it might look short if you wear it with tights and heels. It could be fine with leggings and tall flat boots.

    6. catsAreCool

      I would ask the boss for guidelines. Even if there aren’t official guidelines, the boss probably has some idea of what is and isn’t OK as far as the boss is concerned. Maybe the problem is the length of the dress?

      I could be wrong, but it seems like most of the things that aren’t OK for work are too casual, too low cut at the top, too short on skirt/shorts, too shear. If the boss could give you generalities on this, that would help.

      I might phrase it as “I want to make sure that when I buy new work clothes, they are work appropriate, so I want to make sure I fully understand what to check for.”

    7. asteramella

      I used to have a very large bust (yay reduction surgery!) and when you’re busty, some people will just never see you as looking “appropriate” no matter what you wear. But I had some success with distracting from my bustline with accessories. You might try buying some lightweight scarves and tying them French-style, kind of like this: http://hellonatural.co/how-to-tie-a-scarf/ Fashionable, easy, can be dressed up or down, and best of all scarves are cheap.

  43. SuzanneM

    I had an interview on Monday, 12/8 at Local University. I was told we’d be notified by Friday, 12/12, or by today at the latest. One of the candidates had to postpone, and I’m guessing they were interviewed this week because one of the committee members was out of office from Tuesday through Friday last week, and then at a campus event for most of Monday and Tuesday this week.

    I haven’t yet heard anything, and the suspense is killing me! Is it reasonable to send an email around midday, asking if they are still planning on making notifications by today (not asking for the decision)? I’m concerned that not contacting them will mean that I don’t hear anything until after January 1st because of holiday closures and such. Thanks!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      No :)

      You can’t contact them the day they’d said you’d hear, asking if you’re really going to hear. I’d just decide in your mind that you won’t hear until January and let it be a pleasant surprise if you hear earlier. (Or even better, decide you didn’t get it and let it be a pleasant surprise if you did.)

      1. SuzanneM

        Thank you! I was iffy about emailing, hence my question. I decided after not hearing anything last week that I probably didn’t get the job. It’s a great defense mechanism. :)

        1. fposte

          It’s absolutely the way to go.

          And you know, I think they were overoptimistic on the time frame initially–speaking as an academic myself, I’d have immediately translated “12/12” to “mid-January.” Academic standard time gets exponentially slower (is that a thing?) when break approaches.

          1. SuzanneM

            Perhaps I’m extra slow this morning, but which is the way to go? To ask or not to ask?

            This university has been good about sticking to their timelines. Also, hiring for staff positions (at least at the universities where I’ve worked) tend to be treated differently than faculty positions, so I figured this one would also be fairly reliable.

            Either way, at this point I’m fairly certain I’m not in the running for the position. I could be completely wrong, but at least there’s less disappointment if/when I get the rejection because I’ve already planned on it.

          2. AcademicAnon

            Yes, this. An academia runs on a different timeline anyways. Hard deadlines are usually not that hard or even a deadline to some people.

    2. Frances

      Yeah, if this had been my old university employer there’s no way they’d have a decision made and be ready to contact people before January. In my ten years in academia, everyone always made super ambitious plans for December, and they almost always got kicked to “after we get back,” either from an unforeseen delay (weather, forgetting that a crucial HR rep was going on vacation early, a round of flu taking down half the office) or just biting off way more than they could administratively chew in the three weeks between Thanksgiving and semester break.

    3. Calacademic

      Nope. Don’t ask. If your university is like my university, everything has already shut down and will start back up in January.

  44. Betty

    I’ll try to be brief.
    Male supervisor of 7 months makes comments about not like to work with women, women being complainers, office problems being because we’re women, and when he first started shock in a team meeting that the highest person in our organization is a woman.

    Some of these things he’s said in front of his manager as well as me (she said nothing at the time, just sat there in shocked silence). Some of these things I’ve told his manger he said as well as the company sent out a sexual harassment survey and I mentioned what I’ve experienced with him.

    He keeps saying these things about women and other women in the office went to his manger.
    I took it a step further and filed an EEO complaint on him because it’s been going on too long.

    The HR lady wants to know if I’ll do mediation with him and what I want to “make me whole” and it can’t be anything against him. My initial thoughts are, it’s not a problem between me and him to work out it’s more his issue, and I can’t think of anything that would “make me whole.” Like I filed the complaint so someone would do something about this guy because and as I understand it’s just not allowed in a federal job to talk like this and the manager might not know how to handle this.

    What’s the PC response from me here?

    1. BRR

      I would say it’s not between you and him, it’s an ongoing problem with women in the office who have all raised the issue.

    2. Katie the Fed

      What he’s doing is very out of line but unfortunately not at all uncommon, at least in my experience. I’ve heard stuff like this my entire career.

      I’ve been involved in the governemnt EEO process before – they try to resolve the issue at the lowest possible level. Mediation is an option but you’re not required to participate.

      What you need to do is think about what you want. Don’t focus on the language of “making you whole” – think about what your ideal resolution of this situation would be.

      Things that might be possible: making him go to training, asking to be moved to a different team where he’s no longer your supervisor, asking for a grade/step increase if you feel you’ve been denied one because of his sexism, asking for an apology.

      Things that might not be possible at this level: asking for him to be disciplined (chances are he will be but you’re not going to be privy to it), asking for him to be fired, etc.

      What I would probably do is this:

      Agree to mediation but only with HIS boss, not with him. You don’t owe him anything. But you CAN request mediation with his leadership. That’s the only way I’d agree to mediation. Otherwise go forward with your complaint without agreeing to mediation – you’re under no obligation to do so.

      Also, I’m sure it goes without saying but keep good records and print out/bring home copies of it all. And watch out for retaliation – someone this brazen won’t think twice about trying to retaliate and he’ll be in a world of hurt if he tries.

      Good luck – it’s a terrible situation to be in but I’ve done it and you’re doing the right thing.

      1. Betty

        Thanks Katie! I was thinking he needs some kind of help/therapy, and if I can say I’d like him to have training I think that’s the best start. Any specific kind of training? We’ve actually had SARC training as a team and he laughed during some of the videos and left early, so can I say I’d like him to have a more personal therapy session?

        1. Katie the Fed

          We have sexual harrassment and diversity training for managers, which is a start. I mean, I frankly doubt it’s going to do much good if this guy is fundamentally a boor, but being told “you need to go to remedial training” isn’t a great thing for anyone’s record.

          But you should also think about what you want – do you want a different opportunity or something that they can do to make it right by you?

          I’d also have him apologize to everyone, in writing. They might not agree to that, but it would make me feel a lot better.

          Don’t forget you don’t have to go to mediation, and even if you do, you don’t have to agree to anything. They’re offering mediation as a way to settle this quickly so it doesn’t go on the agency’s “permanent record” because you’re actually still in the pre-complaint process. If it doesn’t get resolved in mediation, then it becomes part of the official record and they HATE that.

          Seriously, I want to give you a high five for raising a stink about this. It’s not easy or fun to be the one who does this (nobody wants to be a troublemaker) but it needs to stop.

          1. Katie the Fed

            Also, make sure you use the exact terms “hostile work environment because of my gender” a lot. As in “my female colleagues and I are being subjected to a hostile work environment because of our gender.” Unless HR is idiots, that WILL get their attention.

            1. Betty

              Ok, I answered HR back after your first reply. I said I’d like his demeanor toward the females to change and that he get counseling or to reassign me.
              She answered back that I couldn’t make the first request because it was against him, then suggested I talk to him directly, like sans mediation.
              Yeah, they must really not want to deal with this.
              He’s never prevented me from getting a promotion, but he doesn’t respond to my emails which hinders my work, if he’s doing that because I’m a woman I don’t know but based on his history of comments about women it’s a theory.
              And he’s rather pleasant compared to my other coworkers although he doesn’t do anything about some of the more serious work issues, he said the problem is we’re women and we gossip.

              Ok, so I’ll tell HR again I don’t want mediation. I’ll say it’s “hostile work environment because of my gender” … which reflecting on it now I see why my all female team is having trouble and the team with the guys on it is ok…he’s actually managing them.

              Thank you for all your help, I really appreciate it.

      2. fposte

        Secondarily thanking Katie for providing so much information about the EEOC process–everything you say is brand new to me about an area that’s always been just kind of a murky “things happen.”

        It’s a bit out of the usual, but I’d really love to see this kind of thing laid out in a post on its own sometime, either as a guest post or, if Alison has similar experiences, her laying it out, but obviously that’s a blog-owner’s call. It’s just so informative about something that gets frequently referred to but not really explained.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          It’s outside my area of expertise but I’d be glad to run a guest post on it. Katie, do you feel authoritative enough on the topic that you’d be up for turning this into a stand-alone post, by any chance?

          1. Katie the Fed

            Well, these comments are specific to the EEO process inside of government agencies (which this is, I’m pretty sure), but are similar to the EEOC process. I could do some general comments on “what you should know when filing an EEO/EEOC complaint” (like – have an idea of what outcome you actually want), but the details should probably be left to the lawyers.

    3. Helka

      Something along the lines of “He needs to stop making these comments. That is the only acceptable solution. Whether that’s because he is disciplined and changes his behavior, or because he’s not here anymore, or something else, these comments need to stop.” That is the problem. It’s not about “making you whole” or making it up to you or anything like that. He needs to stop saying that. Period.

    4. Artemesia

      “His behavior of constantly making demeaning remarks about women in the workplace is creating a hostile workplace for women. What would make me whole is for him to stop remarking that women shouldn’t be bosses and that he doesn’t like to work with women.”

      I would entirely resist that this is an interpersonal problem between the two of you. Don’t let them frame it that way.

      1. Katie the Fed

        “I would entirely resist that this is an interpersonal problem between the two of you. Don’t let them frame it that way.”

        They’re not – this is just the standard response of government EEO offices when trying to resolve an EEO complaint at the lowest level. They ALWAYS offer it as a solution.

    5. beyonce pad thai

      I resent that “make you whole” language, it’s like she’s implying the fault is somehow with you.

      The guy needs to stop making these comments. That’s what needs to happen, period.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Well, not exactly. Because when you file a complaint you’re basically saying “this person has damaged me in some way” so they’re asking what they can do to fix the damage. It’s awkward language, for sure, but this is where you say “well, I think I’ve been prevented from professional advanced because of this person’s expressed attitudes toward women, so I’m going to need 1) him to go to mandatory training 2) me to be promoted to the position I would have gotten if he wasn’t blocking me. If it got to the lawsuit point, this would be the bottom line anyway – what specific actions is it going to take to make this better?

    6. MsM

      How about a working environment in which you and the other female employees can be confident you have the respect of your colleagues and that discrimination – blatant or otherwise – is not condoned? That only works against him if he wants to continue being an ass. As for mediation, I think you can say you’re skeptical it’ll achieve anything, since he’s made it clear he’ll perceive anything you have to say as “complaining.”

    7. catsAreCool

      Can you say that you’re concerned because you think the stuff he’s saying is going to make the company vulnerable to serious legal issues, and it seems like the best thing for the company would be to deal with this before it gets into serious legal territory?

    8. Anx

      This is off-topic a bit, but I’m throwing it out there.

      How do you know when you’re in an environment where sexism should not be tolerated? As soon as you are doing white-collar work? When the company offers most full-timers benefits and it’s a so-called ‘real job?’ When clients/customers/etc. aren’t usually around?

      Idealistically I know it should never be acceptable, but when does it stop being industry standard? I ask because I know it’s not normal to have to ignore the C-word at many jobs, but I wouldn’t know when to stick my neck out? Also, is it ever really okay to actively discourage clientele/patrons from that behavior?

      1. Greggles

        It should never be tolerated. Tolerated makes it ok, and it’s not. We need to have the same outrage about sexism as racism. End of story.

  45. straws

    Happy update to share! I posted awhile back because my husband had a phone screen, had his status updated to be scheduled for the next step, and then hadn’t heard back. Turns out, their first few steps are really, really slow. He heard back almost 3 months later, but they moved much more quickly and he starts the new job next month! :)

  46. Olive Kitteridge

    I recently put on a big event that went really well. Since then I have gotten some great and of course very appreciated feedback about how happy everyone was with the event. There have been a few “reply all” emails going around about it, amongst the board of directors and head people.

    However, one person thanked me for all my hard work and then added in ” and X’s outreach over the past few years has really paid off!”

    X was my predecessor and she has been very unhelpful to me: withholding information, not responding to emails, etc. She has moved onto the board though, so she is still involved in the organization. And from what I have seen, X did not do a whole lot during her tenure, though she can talk a good talk and snowed a lot of people. She was in this “reply all” email chain.

    Do I just let it go? I know I am being emotional about it, as she has been so annoying to deal with for the past year, but it doesn’t sit right with me for her getting any credit for something I worked my a** off for.

    I did thank the person that made the comment and didn’t say anything at all about X in my response. That’s probably where I should leave it, but X drives me a bit crazy!

    1. Artemesia

      There is nothing you can do without hurting yourself and looking petty. The responder was brown nosing. It sucks.

      1. Olive Kitteridge

        Thanks, that’s what I was thinking too. I certainly don’t want to appear petty.

        I’m always dreaming of that *perfect* sentence to say that will work in a situation. Though I”m realizing that whenever I wish for that, it usually means that there isn’t one…

        1. TheExchequer

          Maybe something like, “Oh, yes, it paid off in so many ways!” And you can think to yourself: *Just look at all the things I will never do!*

  47. Cath in Canada

    I passed my PMP exam yesterday! I am very relieved, and a little hungover (but that’s OK because I’m on vacation now).

    I wrote a whole big rant about how painful the process is, how terribly written the textbook and exam questions are, and a whole lot more, but it got lost (I think the site went down for a little while just as I hit Submit). Oh well, probably just as well! Suffice it to say that it wasn’t fun, I haven’t learned anything that’ll change how I do my job*, and I’m glad it’s all over!

    Thank you, Alison and commentariat, for an informative and entertaining 2014, and happy holidays to all of you lovely people!

    *we already do all the interesting and relevant parts of their best practice process, just under different names, and none of the new stuff I learned was relevant to my industry. But somehow you must have the certification to have a chance of being promoted at my organization.

    Thank you, Alison and commentariat, for an informative and entertaining 2014, and happy holidays to all of you lovely people!

  48. Employee63

    Should salary be based on personal experience, or experience the job
    requires for the position. For example, I have about 3 years of
    experience, but if I get hired into a senior or manager position that
    requires 5-7 years of experience, then should I expect a salary of
    someone with 3 years or 5-7 years of experience? Also, how should this
    affect my conversations with the headhunter/company managers when they
    request my salary history (and/or they talk about desired salary)?

    1. Joey

      Three. So don’t freak if you get a lowball offer. That might mean the bottom of the range or it could mean below the range depending on how quickly they think it will take you to get up to speed.

    2. Joey

      If I were you Id shoot for near the bottom of the market rate, but not at the bottom unless you’re have high demand skills.

    3. jamlady

      I am currently in this position right now. I have not been offered the position outright, but when asked about my salary, I gave them a lower range to let them know I understand that I’m reaching in this position, but not the lowest because I have a skillset/education combo that’s really hard to find in my industry (because of luck mostly). If offered the spot, this will likely be the agreed upon salary. I think it just depends on your industry and what you think you’re really worth (and why!). Do you have the knowledge of 5-7 years despite not reaching that actual experience in years? Do you have coveted skills that made you worth consideration in the first place (especially considering you don’t have the experience in years they are looking for)? I’ve found in the past that companies like candidates who have a good sense of what they’re worth. Though figuring this out sometimes (especially if you move to different areas with different markets) can be difficult.

  49. Midge

    Hopefully I can make this clear in as few words as possible.

    I’m a remote project assistant over 21 (it varies, it will soon be ~40-50) remote IC workers. The projects we work on are all completed online, and we communicate by email. The work is very independent and the workers have no need to be in contact with each other. There are throughput and quality metrics they must meet, but otherwise they are free to work on their own time whenever.

    I have the power to “fire” if someone isn’t working out, but the projects we work on are always on a deadline and having fewer people working means I have to go recruit someone else to fill the gap, which means putting them through a testing process and getting them up to speed, which can take several days and be a pain.

    The problem we’ve been having lately is that a lot of the workers are not meeting their throughput obligations. Threatening them with dismissal from the project does not seem to motivate them, and as they are all remote, there is really no way for me to encourage them to work more other than send a bunch of emails (which I have done). I can’t lose the majority of my team just because they’re not doing enough, because then I’d have to go replace them all and the projects would suffer; it’s just not an option.

    Does anyone have any tips for motivating a team of completely independent, remote, IC workers to do the jobs they agreed to do?

    1. fposte

      Is it possible that your targets aren’t meetable by the average worker?

      Other than that, I’m thinking mostly that it’s really tough to motivate people if they’re contract and management isn’t on site, and that lower productivity may be the price your organization pays for those cost-cutting conveniences.

      1. Midge

        The targets are set by the client. We don’t have any control over them.

        The method of working is also set by the client, so they are not really “cost-cutting conveniences” the company I work for is making. This is how the client has instructed us to do it.

        1. Midge

          To further clarify, I think the targets are meetable because I have some great people who do manage to meet them without working every day. The position only requires 20 hours a week if you work at average speed, so it should absolutely be doable even for someone who is slow. I understand that people who take these types of jobs usually have other obligations and priorities, but that’s the kind of thing you weigh before getting involved. The requirements for hours/throughput are very clearly stated up front.

          1. fposte

            Hopefully somebody with specific experience in this model will be able to give you some suggestions, but I think you’re in a situation where you really don’t have much in the way of tools, unfortunately.

            1. Midge

              That’s what I was afraid of. I just hate to be that guy, spamming everyone’s inbox trying to get them to work, Work, WORK! I feel like that probably has the opposite effect.

          2. The IT Manager

            Sounds like you’re recruiting the wrong people from the start. Do they understand that to do well the average person needs to spend 20 hours a week on it or whatever. also need to be recruiting conscientious workers who can self-motivate.

            Can you make an example of the worst offenders by firing them and warning the others that they’re next if they don’t meet goals?

            1. fposte

              I’m trying to think if there’s a carrot that’s offerable rather than going straight to the stick. Is there any way to increase their buy-in to the overall project? Do they have any sense of investment in the outcome?

              1. Midge

                I don’t know if there is a way to increase their investment in the outcome, and if there is one, I don’t know what it might be. I would love to not have to resort to threats to encourage them to work more. When I was a remote IC working for another company, the top 10% for quality each week/pay period were rewarded with $20 gift cards. It was really nice to be recognized for making an effort. I would love to offer some kind of incentive for the top 3 workers or something, but that would be a personal thing for my team only and I don’t know if it would be approved by higher-ups. It’s unlikely they would approve a monetary incentive; I don’t mind paying it out myself, but I don’t want to have to hide what I’m doing, either.

            2. Midge

              I agree with you that we’re recruiting some of the wrong people, but there’s limited recruitment as it is since we can only work with people who have 20-40 hours availability each week. They absolutely understand before they even test for a project that the expectation is 20 hours/wk. We expect them to be honest about that before we bother spending the time to test them. I think part of the problem is a lot of people are unable to accurately estimate their availability. They think sure, I have all this time in the evenings and weekends, I’ll totally work then! But then that time comes around and they don’t feel like it and put it off again and again. Or they realize after starting that they don’t like the type of work we do and just kind of flake out and disappear. What we do might come naturally to some people, but for most, there is a learning curve, and some people may have believed they wouldn’t have to put that much effort into it.

              There’s no way to really “make an example of” anyone because they don’t work together, so they aren’t aware of (nor do I think they would really care) when other anonymous people are dismissed. They are repeatedly warned and reminded of the goals, but I can’t dismiss left and right or I’d have no team left.

              1. Greggles

                Something jumps out at me here. You mention this is a 20 hour per week commitment. Is there ever a time when that commitment needs to turn into 25 or more ours to make the deadline?

                1. Midge

                  Re: deadlines, it’s more that we are meant to be delivering a certain number of projects a week to the client and we have not been doing that because of the amount of work being done. Only a few people are working at the level they should be, so I doubt anyone is even hitting that 20 hour mark unless they are extremely slow. So to answer your question, it could be >20 if you were doing all your work and did it very slowly, but it’s not happening right now. If there is a crunch because the client is tired of waiting on the projects we’ve been working on, the high achievers are the ones jumping in to get that done.

            3. AnotherFed

              Seconding this. If you can reward your best performers somehow, absolutely do it. They might also be willing to temporarily pick up some slack (assuming that you can give them some) while you bring new people on board. Yes, new people absolutely slow things down while they come up to speed, but if you want better workers, you will probably have to replace some of your less productive ones. If you look at your top performers and identify what characteristics make them top performers, then set up your hiring process to select for candidates who share those traits (as well as any other qualifications you need), it’ll be worth the temporary transition pain.

    2. Angelfish

      Can you talk to people on the phone/Skype? Maybe just talking through why they are having difficulty meeting the throughput will (1) give you something to address that they’re doing wrong or (2) be harder to ignore than emails they can just delete.

      1. Midge

        Not over the phone, but I do make myself super available via Skype and my Skype address is in my email signature. They know they are welcome to get in touch with me. If they don’t have/use Skype all the time, they wouldn’t get any messages I send there. If I have to send an email to get them into a Skype chat, I may as well say what I need to say in the email itself, right? I do like the direct approach, however, and I may try this in the future with the new batch of workers we’re about to get. I think being “directly” confronted might make them feel a little guilty for not meeting obligations and they may need to be reminded that there are people on the other end of this who are relying on them doing what they agreed to do to get their own jobs done.

    3. Clever Name

      i don’t find threats to be especially motivating. Honestly, if people aren’t meeting expectations, they need to be let go, even if it’s temporarily inconvenient for you. I happen to know many people who would die to be able to work 20 hours a week from home. Where are you posting positions? A website called 10 til 2 is a job board specifically for part time work.

  50. Noelle

    I have a phone interview on Monday for a job I’m very excited about! I’m also relieved, because the last time I started a job search I looked for almost a year and didn’t get a single call. This time I’ve been looking about a month and a half and this will be my fourth interview. Definitely a morale booster even if I don’t get an offer!

  51. Tricia

    Why does my employer want me to fill out an accident report for a car accident I had while I was not at work or a work related function?

    1. Mal

      So this happen to my office in 2012.
      Employee tripped at work, said, “OW! My knee!” filled out an accident report(he was working at the time he tripped) then went to the doctor, few weeks later, they do an MRI(or something like that) and he has a torn MCL. We all feel terrible for him, he goes out on Work Comp, has surgery and is out of work for 3 months.
      Has follow-up appointments, turns out the graft used on his knee didn’t “take” and he has to go through surgery and recovery of three months AGAIN.
      Some point in this second round, the work comp insurance company is completing their investigation and turns out the employee was in a motorcycle accident two days before he tripped.
      Guess who’s torn MCL is attributed to according to two surgeons? His motorcycle accident NOT tripping.
      Guess who is responsible for the employees work comp medical bills and wages? The company I work for.
      This is why people who get in car accidents off duty need to fill out accident reports so their back pain/neck pain ect. won’t be contributed to work related injuries.
      It sucks, it’s extra paperwork for everyone, but that’s why.

      1. Seen That

        A former boss complained he hurt his back doing some type of yard work over the previous weekend. Two days later, he was going to the doctor saying he hurt it in the office (probably picking up his sandwich). WC paid for every thing. He also filed false claims with the company’s auto insurance carrier for a different matter. They were two on the long list of reasons I provided HR when I quit.

        The 0.5% (made-up statistic) of deceitful people, make it harder on the 95.5% honest people.

        1. catsAreCool

          “The 0.5% (made-up statistic) of deceitful people, make it harder on the 95.5% honest people.” This!

          I think a lot of the hassles and red tape people go through is because of the (hopefully) very small percentage of dishonest people.

      2. Sunflower

        Yes this is probably it. But certainly ask before filling it out!!! And make sure you keep a copy for yourself.

  52. Hello humans

    Has anyone switched fields without a college degree? Any tips? I’m trying to go from hospitality to, er, pretty much anything else.

    1. m

      What specifically do you do in hospitality? What field are you looking to move to? There are places that need people in administrative positions who also know how to plan events, host meetings, etc. I’m thinking of nonprofit organizations, membership organizations, and even higher education institutions. Basically, any company that hosts a lot of meetings. These positions might not involve event planning as the foremost duty, but any experience in that could get your foot in the door.

      1. hello humans

        Right now I do customer service at a ski resort. I have also done bartending, serving, cooking, housekeeping, etc, but no event planning. It’s easy for me to get jobs within the industry but leaving seems impossible. Most of my coworkers are stuck too.

  53. Brett

    Sad trombone moment of the day….
    I received a call for presenters for an annual tech event in our area. The call started with explaining how much notice presenters received and how past presenters often receive raises and special recognition from their companies, and that’s why I should present.

    That just really dug it in that I have not had a raise in 7 years, because I have been a selected presenter at this event for the last three years and my presentation from last year was linked from the email as an example presentation.

    Oh, and I am writing up my Antarctica story (related to https://www.askamanager.org/2014/12/we-have-to-make-powerpoints-about-our-personal-lives-and-present-them-to-coworkers.html#comment-620540) for the Sunday Open Thread.

    1. MsM

      Maybe you should ask the organizers if they have any examples of these companies, and use the event as an opportunity to network. (Or forward it to your boss as a heads-up regarding the call for presentations, and ask about finding a time to talk “on an unrelated note.”)

    2. Golden Yeti

      That is a kicker. I’m sorry they aren’t recognizing you in the way you deserve.

      Maybe you should use this to make a case to your boss for a raise?

    3. Treena Kravm

      You work in tech and haven’t had a raise in 7 years?! Do you work for a tech company or a tech dept in a corp?

  54. Alternative

    I came here just to say I am SO GLAD that I am unable to attend our company holiday lunch today. This years theme is “ugly sweaters and black slacks.” Yes, they specified the type of pants that people should wear, and caught on to the ugly sweater craze 10 years after it was cool. It’s a mandatory buffet with no drinks and four hours of long boring speeches about finances, policies and procedures, and insurance renewals. Two years ago the HR director announced people’s weight loss achievements without their permission (“Sue lost 22 pounds! Sue, come up here and get your gift card…”). This was part of his speech about the wellness program. It was excruciating. It is the worst, least fun, holiday lunch ever.

  55. AggrAV8ed Tech

    Is it bad form to add a Coursera class under ‘Education’ on my resume? I just completed an Introduction to Python course in an attempt to start expanding my skill set, but I’m honestly not sure if listing a free online course (even though it was through the University of Michigan) on a resume is a faux pas or not.

    1. AndersonDarling

      I think it depends if you have any other experience or certifications. I’ve seen resumes listing free online classes that supported their current fields and that was positive.
      But… we also had an IT resume with no experience, classes, or certifications, just free online classes. We laughed.

    2. Golden Yeti

      I think I saw somewhere previously that something like that should be put under Miscellaneous, so that’s what I’ve done, as I have a Coursera class, too.

  56. Ali

    I have had the week off work, and it’s been so amazing for me to recharge, but I’m dreading going back tomorrow. I got a performance warning last week, and I now know the pressure is on. My supervisor has already encouraged me to relax, check all my work over before submitting it, and ask questions regarding anything I’m unsure of. Despite his help, I’m still trying to knock out all the negativity that comes with performance warnings. I know that in the majority of companies, this means you’re basically being fired. I did try to turn things around and tell myself that this is a wake-up call and a chance to get better, but I’m also worried that the inevitable is coming anyway no matter what kind of effort I put on. I already know from being here that performance counseling is generally the last chance you have or you get fired.

    I’m just scared of being on unemployment and having only a low-paying part-time job to sustain me, losing everything I’ve worked for (including saving for an apartment…it’s gonna be hard to do that on the paychecks at second job if I get fired) and having to go through the shame and stigma that still exists around people who can’t find a job.

    Then again, maybe my boss is really truly being genuine and wants me to succeed. Hard to say when I’m remote and we’re meeting in person maybe two or three times a year.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      As someone who’s put my share of people on PIPs: It doesn’t mean you’re basically getting fired no matter what you do. It means you definitely are going to be fired if you don’t make serious changes to how you’re doing your work. But I’ve seen people turn it around and go on to stay and do well. It’s true that more people don’t than do, but it’s not impossible. You want to really understand the changes that are being asked of you, and ideally you don’t want to just meet the letter of the plan; you want to hit it out of the park — and you need to sustain those improvements even once the PIP is up.

      The big question I’d ask in your shoes is: Do I fully understand what they’re looking for from me, and can I make the changes I need to make, and sustain them even past the PIP’s ending point? That’s what it all hinges on.

      1. De Minimis

        PIPs really vary….sometimes it is indeed just a “check the box” thing when they want to eventually fire someone. This one honestly doesn’t sound like that, though…your supervisor seems to be giving you concrete advice on what to do and how to improve. I think usually the more specific things are about what needs to happen from now on, the better the chance of a good outcome.

    2. Elizabeth West

      Here’s what I thought when it happened to me:

      I knew I had been f***ing up. I knew I needed to be on the PIP. I knew the whole PIP stigma, etc. but my manager was insistent that they were really giving me a chance to shape up. So I took them at their word.

      I decided that I was going to bust my ass to do what the PIP said I was to do. That way, even if they DID end up firing me, nobody could say I didn’t try. I did so and was praised for my improvement. Plus, things got slightly better at the workplace (it helped that I stopped caring about things I couldn’t control and was getting upset about, like vendor issues) and I was able to endure going to work a bit more, though I did brush up my resume and start half-ass looking.

      When I did get laid off, they tripped over themselves to tell me it was NOT performance-related. I was not the only one who got swept out; they hired a new executive and he began this huge purge and brought in his own people, not only at my workplace, but at another company in the organization. They did not hire a replacement for me, either. My tasks were spread out within the office staff–they had to do things I formerly did for them. After I left, others with very long tenure were let go as well.

      So even though I ultimately lost the job, I figured I did the best I could and the rest was out of my hands. When I got laid off, I immediately went home and filed for unemployment THAT DAY. So my advice would be to keep it in mind, but don’t obsess over it, else you won’t be able to concentrate on making the effort. If you decide that you want to, that is. And good luck.

      1. Ali

        This sounds like me. I was upset about being PIPed at first, but after some time off from work and reflection, I know now I’m going to treat it like a wake-up call, make every effort to improve and hopefully be de-PIPed. Like you, I know then if I get let go, I don’t want it to be for lack of trying.

    3. Janis

      History is always the big thing, but we just de-pipped someone who had been on the thinnest ice possible. So it’s not a walking death sentence, necessarily.

    4. Jennifer

      I think this varies from situation to situation. I got my probation extended on a new job (I’d finally gone to full time) for a month and told that my phone voice was awful and a few other vague things, so I did my very best to improve–but in reality she just intended to lay me off and hire someone else she had her eye on and whatever I did made no difference in that decision at that point. Sometimes PIP’s are like that. Other ones, you might have a shot. One friend of mine did get off PIP’s at a job, so sometimes it can happen. But it’s pretty much Schroedinger’s job at this point–you may get canned, and make life plans outside of work assuming that you’ll be canned and act accordingly (save all money, job hunt), but while at work, be as perfect as possible. What else can you do?

  57. Amanda

    Oh boy. I’ve actually been waiting all week for the open thread to talk/ask about this.

    I work in a nonprofit, in what we’ll call a remote office. Two of us are full-time, in programming. One part-time, in operations/finance. Different departments, different bosses, only very occasionally overlapping job duties.

    Part-timer is 78 and is the fussiest person I have ever known in my life. Everything needs to be complained about. Everything needs 20 minutes of explanation about all its complications and what she is doing to try and deal with them. She’s very nice but wow.

    She got a new boss about 6 weeks ago who is doing a lot to update our financial policies and learn about the org at the same time and accomplish a lot of herculean tasks. Part-timer has taken a really amazing dislike to the new boss, who seems to me to be perfectly amiable and hard-working and is doing much more to understand part-timer’s work and manage her than either of her two previous bosses. She’s asking lots of questions while trying to understand basic things: ie, can you describe to me what’s in that storage room (in the remote office, remember) and how we use it? what about that procedure?

    Part-timer has taken real exception to this, is complaining constantly, is even complaining to our volunteers in nasty language about her new boss. This week, on Monday, she quit, saying that it was just too much. There was a great deal of drama. We were all left in the lurch. Coworker and I ran around trying to figure out coverage going forward.

    Wednesday, part-timer’s new boss comes over for two hours and the end result is that part-timer un-quit, at least until the spring, when she says she was planning on leaving anyway. Cue much smugness about how she got what she wanted, ie made new boss grovel.

    I am so flabbergasted by the whole thing. Coworker and I like part-timer well enough but we are horrified at how it all went down and generally of the opinion that if you’re that done, then you should just be done, already. We don’t want to hear complaining for 6 more months, or try to navigate that minefield.

    Ugh. Anyone ever had to deal with co-workers quitting, un-quitting, and generally throwing hissy fits about new managers?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Can you just be direct with her: “Jane, it really brings me down to hear you complaining so much. And I don’t think it’s appropriate to complain about Sarah to volunteers. Can you rein that in?”

      Frankly, I’d also tell the new boss this complaining about her to volunteers is going on, since it’s pretty outrageous.

      1. Amanda

        I have occasionally dreamed about saying basically just that to her but quite frankly even my objective comments along the lines of “I don’t see it that way at all. I think X is simply laying out new procedures, and it’s what we’ll need” get met with blank stares and renewed hand-wringing, both literal and metaphorical, about how I just don’t understaaaaaaaand. She is amazingly sensitive and fussy and unreceptive to any comments. She really, really needs to retire. She’s just done. It was almost a bit of a relief that she quit, so the un-quitting is…kind of frustrating.

        I straightened the volunteer out as soon as she mentioned what part-timer had said to her. If I hear that she’s complained similarly to any of the other volunteers I’ll absolutely bring it up & talk to the new boss about it. For now, it seems to be under control but given how recently it blew up things may get ugly again soon.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          But those are two different things. What you’re doing it trying to change her point of view. What I’m suggesting is abandoning that and just telling her to be quiet about it. Much harder to argue with.

          1. Amanda

            Fair point. Thanks. I’ll see about giving that a try next time!

            (Or maybe she’ll quit again? I get irked out of proportion with its actual impact on me when people manage to control entire offices by virtue of throwing a hissy fit…)

            1. fposte

              Yeah, I tend to think I’d have let her stay quit. I doubt she’s going to be a great asset between now and spring anyway.

              1. Observer

                I suspect the boss knows that. He probably is going to try to get as much knowledge as he can from her, and start looking for a new person. This stuff can take a LOT of time, as you know.

    2. A Female CoWorker

      Hi, I work in a office with a woman in her mid-70’s. She is a complainer as well. She hates learning new technology (and puts down the organization’s system and website in front of clients), talks about others behind their backs (both clients and other coworkers), and whenever she has a problem, she expects everyone to stop what they’re doing and come help her, but doesn’t really listen to them when she does. She also asks the same questions over and over which either tells me she wasn’t listening when I told her the answer the first five times, or she really doesn’t want to figure something out and wants you to just do it for her. She also makes inappropriate comments, makes personal phone calls on the company phones, and I could go on and on. However, she’s also the person with the most longevity at the job (she’s the daughter of the woman who started the organization and has worked here for over 38 years) so I think everyone just tolerates that behavior. But she is really unprofessional and I feel like if anyone else, acted the way she did, they would be fired. I’ve been working here a year and I’m trying to figure out if she is this way because she has been working here so long and things just get on her nerves easily or is this and has this been her personality for the last 38 years (I think its the latter).

    3. MsM

      I think you just make it clear in as diplomatic a fashion as you can that you’re not her ally on this: “Wow, I didn’t get that impression at all. I think she’s just trying to get her arms around the process.” Or, “Actually, I’ve always wondered why we do X that way, too.” Or, “You’ve always complained about how much work Y is; maybe she’s got some helpful ideas?”

      1. Not So NewReader

        This. If nothing else it may tend to shut off the steady stream of complaints that happen in front of you. Holding things in a positive light tends to drive away people like this.

  58. Dasha

    Does anyone else struggle with looking like a job hopper because of the current job market? I’ve had to move around because of grants ending, low pay, layoffs, etc. Now my current company is having financial problems and I’m worried. They are a small company but they have been around for 30 years so I thought it would be a safe place but current conditions are proving otherwise.

    Does anyone have any advice or can anyone relate? I’m really struggling with this and I’m having such a hard time making a decision as to what to do. Should I wait it out or jump ship?

    1. Zillah

      I’d at least start looking. If the financial problems straighten themselves out and you like your job, there’s no need to leave, but if you get a good offer to go elsewhere, you can weigh the possibilities and make a judgment call then.

      I worry about looking like a job hopper too, though.

      1. KJR

        In general, I think most HR people and hiring managers wouldn’t consider you a job hopper for the reasons you listed.

        1. Zillah

          I agree they wouldn’t if you got far enough to explain it — but while you can indicate that a position is grant funded on your resume, there generally isn’t a way to indicate that you were laid off, so it may not be immediately obvious. :/

    2. BRR

      There are ok reasons to leave a job such as it being grant funded or certain reasons for being laid off. If they’re having problems I would start looking.

    3. HAnon

      Yes. Definitely feel that stress:

      first job – part time, converted to full-time. Employer fired me when I got carpal tunnel and couldn’t keep up with the volume of work without taking 5 minute breaks every hour (doctor’s orders btw). Also did not get time off to recover from carpal tunnel, so it is still an issue many years later.

      second job – started as a freelancer/contractor, had to be on call 24/7 even though she only gave me a few hours per week of work (maybe up to 20) so I couldn’t get another job, eventually became part-time and started at a very meager salary working around the clock crazy hours. Never got the promised raise, went to a meeting expecting a promotion (boss told me the month before it was going to happen) and got fired instead (have no idea why, they never told me). Boss was a piece of work (I actually recently heard that her bad deeds caught up with her and she was fired and they changed the locks on the building, lest you think I am the crazy one!).

      third job – after 9 months of submitting resumes, going on interviews in town, driving 5 hrs to interviews in a neighboring city (was willing to move, no jobs where I was located), finally got a job with a start-up. Low starting salary, but still – job’s a job. Was ok for about 3 months until BLATANT sexism and sexual misconduct in the company became apparent, then started looking for other jobs. Got to the point where I didn’t feel safe going to work due to the kinds of comments and incidents I would encounter from male colleagues (were directed to all women in the office), threats of violence against company from a male colleague (who was eventually fired), my boss would yell at me about things that weren’t under my control and threaten to fire me and colleagues because of same things on an almost daily basis. I was at that company for over a year before job 4.

      fourth job – started working for a company located about half an hour from home. Company ended up moving three months later (didn’t mention this in the interview process btw) to a town much father north, more than doubling my commute both ways. It’s not an American company, and can be very cliquish culturally. Staying put for a little while (maybe another year) but I absolutely hate the commute :(

      So…we’ll see how long I can stick it out. The thing to me is I wouldn’t have taken a lot of those jobs if it hadn’t been necessary…but I don’t know if employers in the future will be able to see that.

      1. Seen That

        I read this and thought you had foraged through someone’s lunch and ate it; but then I thought…noooo….there’s no way!

        1. De Minimis

          I ended up winning a t-shirt and we actually had enough food for people to take stuff home, which hasn’t been the case in the past.

          Two parties down, one to go, but this next one will involve the most work [and will have the Dirty Santa game.]

  59. Anon for this

    I have a slightly weird question:

    I’m an archivist, and lately I’ve been working with a collection that includes interviews conducted over the last ten-ish years. I know that some of the interviewees have been really involved and invested in the collection, including donating other materials to accompany their interviews in the archive, speaking about it in official public forums, and recruiting other people to contribute to the collection. However, I only joined the project about six months ago, so I haven’t actually met any of them (though my boss has).

    Would it be weird for me to connect with some of the more active participants on LinkedIn? I feel like it might be overstepping my professional boundaries, but they’ve been major contributors to the project and it’s not like I’d be friending them on Facebook. And, some are either in my profession or in a related field. But I don’t actually know them, so I don’t even know if there’s a point.

    Thoughts?

    1. Amanda

      I wouldn’t until you actually meet them. I do a lot of similar work in my job (and used to be a research archivist, hi!), but I don’t really feel comfortable connecting with content-related people like the interviewees you describe on LinkedIn, even when I do know them.

      The ones in your profession, maybe, once you’ve actually been introduced to them. Otherwise it’s a bit too much connection-mining, if that makes sense?

    2. fposte

      I’m warier than many people, I admit, but it might creep me out if I were the interviewee. Your relationship with them is kind of like watching somebody on television, in that you feel closer to them than they do to you.

      1. Lamb

        And that’s if they realize what the “link” is; they might think you just shoot connection requests out randomly (which I think is a thing they can complain to LinkedIn about?). Regardless of LinkedIn’s policy, it’s a thing that people don’t respond positively to.

  60. A Female CoWorker

    Whenever a female employee in my office gives this one particular male employee advice, behind their backs, he is always quick to call the Bossy, even when they are telling him how to fix a problem that he brought up to them. (I’ve noticed when a male employee tells him something to do, he does not call them bossy but just accepts it and does as he told.) As a woman, I get annoyed by these comments but just keep my opinions to myself. But, he most recent comment was just ignorant. There was a heavy box in the hallway, so one of my female co-workers walked in to reception area where this male employee works and asked him to pick up the box from the hallway (and it is going to the reception area that he is in anyway.) He went to go get the box, but came back to the room saying that he feels discriminated against because he’s a man. When asked how? His response is, “She just asked me to pick up this box and it’s not even heavy.” When I went to go look at the box, it was indeed heavy, but not for him because he is a big guy which was why he was asked to pick up the box in the first place. Then he said, “she is always asking me take stuff down from top shelf or fix a light-bulb just because I’m a guy.” Well, he is 6 plus feet tall and can easily reach the light bulb. Then he calls the women who give him this direction “bossy” once again. I consider being discriminated against, not getting equally pay or passed off on promotions or things like that because of your race, gender, etc. But feeling like your discriminated against as a man just because a woman asked you to pick up a box? REALLY?!

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      mmmmmm…..

      “Bossy” is not subtle coded language for a “woman who doesn’t know her place”, in my book. So, I don’t like this guy already.

      However, just because he’s a guy doesn’t meant he is Maintenance or The Box Lifter anymore than having ovaries means a woman has to make the coffee. I always lift my own boxes or get somebody from the warehouse to lift them. I never ask a man who happens to be near to lift them for me.

      Don’t make me agree with him.

      1. Anonsie

        I had the exact same reaction.

        Though if this guy is over 6 feet he may very well be the only one who can reach some things or lift some things (I say grudgingly, because I’m short and people always insist on getting the biggest male in the office to help me every time I have to move something larger than a ream of paper and it really burns my grits) so it’s not outlandish that he may have been the best person to ask to move the box.

        1. fposte

          And if he didn’t work there, what would people do?

          I think if somebody doesn’t mind being the go-to on these things, that’s fine (I’m the bug-stomper, and I’m okay with that), but this guy does. His colleague is out of line in making it into his job when it’s not, and I can understand him being annoyed with this, especially when it’s stuff like changing light bulbs and moving boxes for which helpful tools are readily available in most workspaces.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            It’s always been against my religion to ask men to do things because they have man parts, but it’s pretty funny now I’m about 20 years older than most people I work with (and I sport naturally silver hair). The men, especially, practically tumble over themselves to help me (stop me) from whatever crazy thing I’m doing — carrying a carton way too large or stand on a rolly chair to adjust a ceiling a/c vent. (I had a spotter, okay! I’m not old enough to actually break my hip! I don’t think!)

            It’s good for me. Back up well-meaning-Jack!

            1. Anonsie

              This happens to me being short, too. It’s kind of crazy how many people think it’s totally ok and not at all weird to just grab a suitcase out of someone’s hands as they’re lifting it into the overhead bin, push that person aside, and put it in the bin for them because they’re “little.”

              People, don’t do this. If you ask if I need help and I say no, don’t do it anyway. And double don’t do it without saying NOTHING to me, like most people do. It’s weird. It’s extra weird because I can do this with no struggle on my part as fast as anyone else, I don’t hold up the boarding line. Which you would have known if you’d not grabbed my bag from me before I had the chance.

              And triple don’t do this to me without asking and then say “you shouldn’t bring a bag you can’t lift” as you walk to your seat, because I will hate you forever.

            2. Not So NewReader

              Funny thing you mention about the silver hair. Mine came in and people started acting differently. It’s been… interesting.

          2. Anonsie

            For the record though I think we can all agree that this dude is generally way out of line like all the time, which is making it awfully hard for me to feel bad for him.

      2. Revanche

        Not that I’m assuming this issue with this particular female coworker, but to offer another perspective:
        I was always like you, Wakeen, and never asked anyone to lift and carry and reach. Then, unfortunately, there came a point in my (invisible) illness that I had to ask for help with things like lifting things that would otherwise absolutely wreck me for a week, and sometimes that meant asking a male. It *really* bothered me, because I’m a very small framed female and I *hate* that it could come off as me thinking males should do the lifting/carrying or that I’m weak because you simply cannot see what’s really wrong with me. In the workplace, I hide my chronic pain and fatigue so well that most people never know I’ve got it unless I tell them.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Ah, I had a bout with something similar myself. I’m in remission atm so I can go about and do what I like, as long as I don’t push too hard, but I do definitely hear you.

          I made sure my requests for help weren’t gendered and they were typically made of people who knew what I was impacted by.

          Annoyed the hell out of me but it was better than relapsing and being no good to anybody while I was in bed for a week.

          Best best wishes at recovery/remission for you! It was five years for me and I still get nervous when my joints get achy.

    2. fposte

      I think guy needs to cool it on the bossy but woman needs to learn where the stepstool and dolly are located.

    3. PuppyPetter

      Depends on how it was asked and also her own circumstances.
      I have joint problems and some other issues that mean I should not be lifting anything or carrying anything heavy. I can do it if I have no other option, but my Doc and my body tends to throw fits when I do.
      Fortunately, most the people in my building know this and when I ask if they would give me a hand, they are always helpful.
      Hope they don’t think that I’m “bossy” because I’m a gimp!

    4. Student

      As a very short woman, I think your office ought to buy a step-stool, a short ladder, and a general-use moving cart. These are basic office staples, like a garbage can and a printer.

      I don’t like asking a man to get the printer paper down for me any more than the man I ask likes being a walking ladder. They’re cheap, they help improve efficiency, and even the 7-foot-tall former football player will eventually find something he can’t reach easily or something too heavy or large for him to carry easily and make use of them.

      You have an entirely separate problem with the co-worker regarding his use of the word “bossy”. Start out by asking him not to use that word with you, as it has specific gendered implications he may not be aware of and it rubs you very much the wrong way. Yes, you know darn well he’s using it in a sexist way deliberately, but pretending that he might not realize it’s sexist gives him a face-saving way to knock that crap off so that this doesn’t blow out of proportion.

  61. Anonasaurus Rex

    So a friend just called me in a panic because she got a letter from the federal Dept of Labor (Wage and Hour Division). Apparently they are investigating her employer. The letter said she needs to call them as soon as possible. I have no idea what to tell her other than, yes do call them.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Yep, at least find out what they want. It could be that she does not even know anything about what they are investigating.

    2. Noah

      I received one of these regarding a private employer several years ago. I guess someone complained that department managers at the store level (this was a retail job) should have been non-exempt and paid overtime. I was a part-time, non-exempt, customer service manager, not a department manager so it didn’t really apply to me. They asked lots of questions and I just answered as honestly and completely as I could. Not sure what the final outcome was, but it really wasn’t that big of a deal for me because I wasn’t working there anymore.

  62. Nyna237

    So half my department is out with the flu including me. Except I’m working from home while sick because of course there are 99 problems this morning that no one else can handle. *eye roll*

    1. PuppyPetter

      eh, the day after surgery requiring an overnight hospital stay I was working at home via computer because apparently, even in a drugged (painkillers) out fog I was faster and better at solving problems than half my office….

  63. T

    So I’ve finally found a job in my field (yay!) 8 months after graduating, but now I suddenly feel worried about it. I don’t start until the beginning of January and I can’t stop myself from worrying about it being HORRIBLE and what if I’m terrible at it!? Logically, there’s no reason why I wouldn’t be completely competent at it. The exact position isn’t really an ideal one (I wouldn’t have wanted to work in this area of my field 8 months ago), but I’ve heard good things from people in this field/mentors in the field. I don’t have any “bad feelings” or anything about that position, aside from my irrational fears.

    I guess part of me feels a bit bitter that I wasn’t able to enter the field in a position I wanted “more,” if that makes sense. I still feel like something is “wrong” with me from all those rejections. How can I forget about those and focus at the job at hand and enjoy that one? Any advice?

    1. A Female CoWorker

      I would just look at this current position as an opportunity to gain work experience and learn from your coworkers and management until you get the job that you really want. You’d be surprised, sometimes jobs that are not ideal, you can learn the most from and gain a lot of skills that can be useful later on.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      Take a big, deeeeep breath. What you are feeling strikes me as totally natural. It took me 8 months to get a job in my field after grad school, and like you, I took a job that was in a different area than I wanted. I took it because I needed that “in”. I hated the field for years, but it eventually morphed into something I enjoyed, and now, 10 years later, I feel great about the twists and turns my path took. You will gain work experience, office experience, maybe some experience with software (my first post-grad school job included what was basically a graduate course in Excel that has served me extremely well). You’ll make contacts. You’ll learn how different areas of the business work. All of this experience will be very, very valuable, even if you don’t reap the benefits right away.

      But I do want to address your bad feelings: don’t let them make your decisions, but don’t ignore them completely. I had a bad feeling before I took that fateful first job, and it ended up being because my boss wore her crazy pants every day and had no idea how to manage. None. This is different from your Spidey sense, sure, but in retrospect I wish I’d paid attention. As it turned out, I left for a much better position 5 months later, so things ended up ok, but the scars lasted way too long.

      One thing I tell every student I speak to and every person who asks me for an informational interview: your first job will not be your last job. It shouldn’t be. Take this opportunity and give it a fair shot (at least a year if you can), and if it doesn’t work, network yourself around to a position that does. I know tons of people who shifted focus after 2-3 years of entry-level work and some more who moved after 8-10 years of working their way up.

  64. Epilo

    I have what is kind of a strange question. At my job (a tiny place, with the owner, one full-time employee, an intern, and me at 3/4 time) I spend the vast majority of my day on one of the two computers. Both computers share the same files, which technically live on my boss’s computer in the other room.

    In searching for files in the course of doing my job, I have run into multiple files of various kinds that are sexual in nature or reference things of sexual nature. I believe they belong to my boss, who is likely unaware that I can run into these files (she is not very computer-savvy).

    I can ignore them, but they make me very uncomfortable when they pop up in my searches, and I have accidentally learned way more about my boss than I ever wanted to know. I am also on my way out of my position soon, and I don’t want to leave them there for the next person to encounter.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for what to do about it? I don’t know if it qualifies as creating a sexualized workplace but I certainly am unhappy seeing them.

    1. Sadsack

      Maybe a private note/email to your boss saying, “Boss, I think you may want to have the computers checked for viruses. I have run across some strange, sexual content in our files. I hope we haven’t been hacked.” And then never speak of it again.

      1. Epilo

        Thanks for the suggestion! I would do it in an instant…

        … except this fall we had a terrible virus infect her computer and she’s still freaked out about it.

        I’m filing that one away for later use, though, because it’s a great idea.

        1. Gene

          These two things are likely related. The top source of malware on the internet is porn. Interesting that her computer was the infected one, and that her computer has the sexual-related data.

          Only thing I can suggest is for someone to put the strongest anti-malware products on the market on her computer – after doing a nuke and pave on her hard drives.

          1. fposte

            It sounds like Epilo isn’t even IT, though. Honestly, unless I really liked this woman I might just let it go if I were moving along soon anyway. Her folly, her consequences.

    2. Katie the Fed

      Oh lord, I don’t even know what to say on that. I mean, part of me wants you to be up front and say “Boss, you know these images are popping up when I’m accessing files – you might want to put them in a seperate location” just like you happened to find a sock in the wrong room or something. But, eww I have no idea. Ack.

    3. Student

      Delete them. She isn’t tech-savvy enough to figure out how they got deleted. Odds are pretty good that she won’t start complaining about her missing files to you.

      Yes, they may reappear. You’re leaving, so that’s not your problem, eh?

      Honestly, I think this is probably due to a virus. You don’t really present a case here as to why it’s your computer-illiterate boss instead of, say, a virus or a different co-worker. Viruses aren’t usually malicious code sent out to annoy people. They’re money-making tools for criminals. One very common use of viruses is to create pron servers on equipment that can’t be traced back to the person making the money off the site – to avoid lawsuits, legal requirements, and to host some of the extremely vile illegal material.

    4. Clever Name

      Ugh. Something like this happened to me when I was looking through some old files from my boss’ old computer. I saw files I couldn’t un-see. Blech. I didn’t say anything about them. He is not a nice person and was a terrible boss, so I saw no reason to protect him from his own stupidity. I doubt anyone else had the misfortune of seeing them.

  65. Sadsack

    Maybe a private note/email to your boss saying, “Boss, I think you may want to have the computers checked for viruses. I have run across some strange, sexual content in our files. I hope we haven’t been hacked.” And then never speak of it again.

  66. Cilantro

    Any of you faked it til you made it? If so, how? Any tips?

    I’m in a stretch position as a director and would like to exude the unwavering confidence some of my counterparts have (yes, I’m female, they’re male).

    1. Turanga Leela

      Every day. One tip: admit when you don’t know something, but don’t be apologetic about it. “I’ll look that up and get back to you.” “John, you said something about the TPS process. Can you fill me in on what that is?” No one knows everything, and being apologetic or defensive about not knowing can undermine you.

      Similarly, ask for things pleasantly but assertively. I think a lot of us apologize for asking for things (“Sorry to bother you, but…”). Don’t do that with the people you supervise or with other directors. Just ask for what you need—although it’s fine to thank people for their work or genuinely apologize if you’re asking for something unusual, on short notice, etc.

    2. plain_jane

      Stand up straight. Drop the tone of your voice so it is lower pitched. I listened to lots of business podcasts to steal their language and stalling techniques (“that is a great question”). Read the first three chapters of the 3–5 business books “everyone” read last year, or the year before that. (They probably only read the first two chapters).

      Get a person you can talk to about your fears outside of work. Practice elevator pitches (even if you aren’t pitching to clients, you are pitching _something_) out loud.

    3. Clever Name

      Yes. I was shocked in my first job when in a meeting my boss was asked a question and he said, “well, let’s check with our teapot expert” and turned to me (man, he was a great boss).

      Look up imposter syndrome. You’re definitely not the only one. Smart, competent women seem to be the most common with feeling this way.

      As Turanga suggests, saying, “let me check and get back to you” is a powerful statement. Nobody really expects you to have all the answers at your fingertips.

  67. Lost in Translation

    What is some of the craziest or most opaque corporate phrases used at your workplace? I’ve seen some doozies lately like “Realigning for more effective adjacencies” (we’re moving where people sit). This language has made it into actual job titles. “Head of Product Patrimony” and “Director of Organizational Competency”. The former is (according to Google) not actually a thing. The latter makes me feel like I’m living in a Dilbert cartoon strip.

    1. Joie de Vivre

      My current most hated phrase is “bio-break”.
      Used in the context of a long meeting/all-day conference – “We’ve been at this for a couple of hours now – anyone need a bio-break?” Can’t we just stick to the old school “Let’s take 5.” I really don’t need to know what particular biological need is going to be handled during the break.

      1. B

        It’s called a comfort break in our org. I wouldn’t mind so much if we could wrap ourselves in blankets and drink hot chocolate in the break…!