open thread – December 5, 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 :)

{ 997 comments… read them below }

  1. Christy*

    So what do you do when you’re a manager in an environment where you can’t fire anyone? Say you work for a school or a college or the government? What then? Like, it’s clear that Allison doesn’t recommend taking the job at all, but what do you do when it’s your job? How do you deal with problem employees?

    1. Christy*

      Context: my girlfriend manages part of a public university’s library, and she definitely has some problem employees. In a perfect world, they’d’ve been fired long ago. But how does she deal with them? Are they capable of making improvements? How do other readers manage in such an environment?

      Also, sorry Alison for misspelling your name!

      1. Robin*

        If she has any control over job responsibilities, can she shift the boring, tedious, low-stakes tasks to the problem employees, and give her star employees, the fun, exciting, risky ones? (After she’s had clear talks with the low-performers about what they need to do to improve, and get the good tasks.) If people complain, she can explain: “I’ve had X problem with your work, as we’ve discussed. I need someone I can trust will get the details right.”

        1. AMT*

          Love it. Fun/boring job responsibilities might be the only incentives you have when the lure of a raise or promotion and the threat of firing are both out of your hands.

          1. Windchime*

            I used to work in a place where getting fired was almost impossible. (Someone literally got caught stealing cash and just got moved away from the cash area–not fired). Instead, they would start shifting you to less and less desirable jobs. From Manager, to Supervisor, to “Special Projects” (you knew it was getting bad then). Usually people would resign after being demoted to doing Special Projects, but if they didn’t, there was always The Switchboard. We had several permanent employees on the Switchboard; they were/are professional people who excelled at the job. But it wasn’t a place where most people wanted to work and once they were moved to the switchboard, people would usually quit on their own.

      2. danr*

        She can still discipline them and provide a written trail of problems. While your friend can’t ‘fire’ anyone directly, truly bad employees can be removed, but the proper processes need to be followed.

    2. Adam V*

      Why can’t you fire someone at a school or college or government? I know there may be extra procedures, but why wouldn’t you start down that path even if it’s going to take a long time?

      1. Christy*

        It’s almost impossible. Plus, it’s just generally an environment in which people are not fired. Plus it’s not like he’s causing direct harm, it’s just that he’s not very good with his coworkers or at his job. I think it’s pretty common that you basically can’t fire people in these environments.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Does he make actual mistakes or do things wrong, or is it more that he’s slow, or out of touch with technology or otherwise just kind of mediocre?

          In this kind of situation, especially if its a union position, job descriptions are key. Pull out the job description and go through each item on the list and explain how he needs to be doing the items, if he isn’t currently. Make him go to computer training if that’s the problem. If he has disciplinary issues, chances are there is some kind of official formal “write-up” policy – use it. If there is a PIP policy – use it. It might be long and convoluted and take forever, but its better than dealing with this person forever -which is what will happen if she doesn’t deal with it.

          But you are right, unless he’s doing something blatantly wrong or refusing to work or not showing up, its really difficult to fire him. The more common way to get around this is often to find another job description he is actually qualified for elsewhere on campus and then highly recommend him for it. Not exactly a good solution for the university, but seems to be the common one where I am :-/

        2. Katie the Fed*

          “I think it’s pretty common that you basically can’t fire people in these environments.”

          It’s not. What IS common is that managers DON’T fire people. Doesn’t mean you can’t. It means they chose not to.

          1. AMT*

            Or they do try to fire people, but aren’t supported by upper management. It’s unclear whether Christy’s girlfriend even has the authority to fire someone on her own. (Christy, could you clarify?)

            If she DOES have the authority and it’s just culturally tough to fire someone, then I totally agree with you. Firing these people might be a horrible experience, but probably not as horrible in the long term as keeping them on. I can almost guarantee that the high performers on her team are frustrated and demoralized by working with the lazy ones. The morale hit of firing someone is temporary. The morale hit of working in an office that rewards crappy behavior and poor performance can drain the life out of an office for years.

            1. Christy*

              Sorry, been doing work. She’s starting on the discipline process for this guy, who isn’t great at his work processes and is bad with people.

              And I’m honestly just curious in general, not just for her situation. Like, Katie the Fed, how do you handle discipline issues? Have you fired anyone?

        3. Julie*

          My last workplace was one of those. An employee was fired and the higher ups in government unfired her. Thankfully she got an upgraded PIP and lost her Fridays off and will be retiring in under 2 weeks. Even from a distance I’m celebrating for those left behind. The lack of firing did lead to one casualty – me. I couldn’t work in a place like that. Luckily alls well that ends well.

        4. Amy*

          I have known someone in a government job who had a chronic AWOL who was protected by political connections. She documented everything, tried to get compliance, and got no support for firing him. I suppose in the end all she did was document that she’s good at documentation. The higher-ups could at least have given him a bogus title that had no job responsibilities so she could transfer in someone reliable to do the job. This guy had been transferred to her after being AWOL in his previous position. Apparently that supervisor was better at the politics of it (literally).

      2. Artemesia*

        You can but management above you has to support that and often they are lazy. I have worked in this environment and watched lazy coddled do notings mope along for years and then be fired when new managers come along. I have fired people in those settings. One was continuously insubordinate and undermined an office I was asked to trouble shoot; after making sure the manager was cross trained and held accountable for making the office work, I was then able to identify, progressively discipline and dismiss the employee who was creating problems. But I had the backing of my boss. In another case, I fired a secretary who had resented a departmental merger and was trying to continue to fight that war; she gave keys out to old hands of the old regime who had no need for access after we rekeyed after thefts occurred and she had been expressly told who was and who was not to have keys.

        I observed several other firings of long time poor performers when new people came on board and were unwilling to put up with the incompetence.

        People can be fired. Someone has to be willing to do the work to make it happen. In government offices it is more difficult.

        1. Joey*

          I can tell you I’m management and the times I’m not supportive is when the immediate supervisor didn’t do a good job of managing performance.

          That usually means the supervisor comes to me, wants to fire, and I see little, if any, documentation the issue or of efforts to correct the issue. Or the supervisor is basing the decision on emotion and not actual evidence.

          And when I push back the message that sometimes gets heard is “management won’t let me”, not the more accurately “I haven’t done a good enough job of managing performance”.

          1. Amy*

            I have documented everything: goofing off, failure to respond to coaching (same mistakes over & over), chronic attendance issues & insubordination, have micro-managed, have sent the employee to training germain to the poor performance issues only to be told “But if we fire him the next person could be worse.”

      3. LCL*

        In large organizations, the person who has the responsibility of work assignments and basically making the work group function doesn’t have supvervisory authority. Supervisory authority is held by someone above the work assigner, the Supervisor is responsible for more than one group and doesn’t see the day to day problems unless they blow up.

      4. De Minimis*

        I work for the government and we fire people when necessary. I don’t think it’s any more difficult than it is in any other large organization. We also have a union, but if someone really performs poorly they can be removed…and sometimes pretty quickly depending on the issue.

    3. The IT Manager*

      Is it impossible or just hard to fire them?

      Talk to them and tell them they are not meeting standards and what they need to do to meet standards and document, document, document this fact. (The talking may or may not do any good depending if the employees are actually trying or not.) These people can be fired, but there needs to be the documents to support this. The problem is the firing process seems more effort and risk to the manager than putting up with the problem employee so they have to be consistantly terrible for a long time to be fired.

      1. fposte*

        At my university, a lot of academic staff are on yearly contracts, and your termination basically involves getting a yearly contract that says you won’t be renewed after that. So it really is pretty cumbersome–it’s well over a year between the decision and the departure.

      2. doreen*

        And the problem with that in my unionized, government experience is that when people wait for them to be consistently terrible for a long time to even start the process, what happens is they end up “unfired” and sometimes with a lengthy paid vacation. As an example, my former agency tried to fire someone for a long term pattern of sexual harassment (years not weeks) . He went to arbitration, but by that time he had been “fired” and off the payroll for months. The arbitrator decided that the appropriate penalty was a two week suspension- because even though he had been harassing people for years, the agency didn’t actually do anything about it until the last incident, which in itself didn’t justify termination. If disciplinary action had been taken each time, with progressively more severe consequences, the firing would have stuck . Instead, he got paid for all but two weeks of the time he was off payroll.But it was a matter of his supervisors and managers wanting to ignore the problem until something (I’m not sure what, but I suspect a lawsuit by one of the victims) forced their hand. Same does for attendance or performance problems- it doesn’t matter how long it’s been going on if the prior behavior wasn’t addressed. It’s the fault of the lazy or conflict-avoiding supervisors and managers. Which is why I curse some of my predecessors every single night. I shouldn’t ever see someone with an attendance problem going back 20 years to her probationary period- but I have more than once.

    4. Celeste*

      Valid ideas here, but sometimes the only thing you can do is change the position descriptions to shift work away from them and abolish their position in your budget. If it’s union, they’ll make him/her somebody else’s problem. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does.

      1. Christy*

        Shifting problem employees around doesn’t seem to me to solve the problem. Like, it’s all still the same organization.

        But then, I suppose that person getting another job with another company is still making them someone else’s problem.

    5. MK*

      I think it depends on the nature of the problem they are creating and what you want to achieve.

      Is this about finding a way to discipline them and get them to improve? Then I would search for other consequences for their behavior; firing and threatening to do so is not the only way to go. For example, it would totaly fair that the top performers should get any opportunities for growth, further education, perks that is in the discretion of the manager. Making it clear why it is that specific people get the rewards could also help, because it might motivate some of the problematic employees to improve. The opposite can work in the same way: the problem workers could be assigned the boring/unpopular duties. Of course, you have to be sure you have the discretion to manage this way and also be transparent about the fact that you are operating on merit.

      Is this about their problematic behavior affecting productivity? Find ways to work around them and/or utilize them in ways that minimise their flaws. If you have someone lazy, it might be a good idea to hand them a duty that operates on deadlines, so that (unless they are totally impervious to feedback) their slacking off would be more difficult. Alternatively, you can give them many non-essential and not-time-sensitive tasks, thus freeing better employees for the important stuff.

      Basically, it depends a lot on the power the manager does have, the nature of the job, the personality of the employee and the kind of problem they are creating. It’s a case-by-case process.

    6. Katie the Fed*

      You know, it’s really, really not true that you can’t fire people in government. It’s that most managers don’t want to be bothered with the odious process and paperwork involved. That’s a shame – if you don’t want to manage, you shouldn’t be in the job.

      There are processes everywhere for removing problematic employees. Short of that, I have disciplinary actions at my disposal and other actions short of disciplinary actions. To give you some examples:

      Small problems, I might do:
      – Verbal and written warnings
      – Poor appraisal which removes possibility of getting a bonus, nice rotation, etc.
      – Remove flexible work schedule and/or telework (I’ve done this with employees who aren’t getting their work done on time)
      – Don’t allow them or endorse them for competitive training or rotations

      Bigger problems, solutions include:
      – PIPs
      – Written warnings
      – Unpaid suspensions (we have absolutely done this, but the process is hard)
      – If it’s a case of fraud like timecard fraud, involve the inspector general
      – Take steps toward termination. Most people are on a 2-year probation when they get hired and it’s easier to remove them then, but it IS doable.

      Now, all that said, I’ve only seen one person outright fired, and that was during his probationary period. But I have seen plenty of people in the midst of disciplinary action who chose to resign rather than be fired – that happens quite a bit when the writing is clearly on the wall.

      It really is doable. You just have to do it.

      1. De Minimis*

        I think it depends on the nature of the agency, too…my agency is healthcare related, and we seem to be more like the private sector as far as being able to fire people.

      2. Christy*

        I scrolled down, and this is really informative. Thank you! Do the employees on probation or the like actually improve, and do they improve to an acceptable level, or are they just better enough so that they’re not really fireable?

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Well, probation is the first two years for anyone who starts – that’s supposed to be the time when we can get rid of someone with little fuss. Reality is that most of them make it through that period.

          For the others – I’ve dealt more with conduct issues than performance, so I did have a timecard fraud case. I think conduct issues in general are a lot easier to address because the rules are pretty cut and dry – show up to work on time, have an accurate timecard, etc. Performance is harder – work smarter/better is kind of a tough thing to capture and give concrete suggestions on improving.

          So with performance issues, I want to make sure my bases are covered and that I provide the necessary amount of training to ensure that I’m giving them a fair shake. Then I set very specific expectations in terms of the quantity and quality of what I want them to do. But realistically, with substandard performance related to innate ability and not motivation/conduct – it’s really hard to fix permanently and most likely they just get moved to a position with less responsibility where they can’t do as much harm. That’ll limit their promotion/professional development opportunities.

        2. Julie*

          At my last workplace, 2 employees were put on probation at the same time. One for absences (as soon as she got PTO she took it which always left the rest of us in a bind if others had scheduled a Friday/Monday off) and the other didn’t work and fell asleep on the job.

          The former is basically off her PIP. The supervisor screens her PTO requests and does not allow unpaid time off without emergencies. It was a change from the previous supervisor so once the issue was identified and the new expectations communicated, there was immediate improvement. She then came to the supervisor and told her of the problems she’d had with employee number 2.

          Employee #2 never stopped being surly and defiant. She was fired and brought back by the government agency. They escalated her discipline to include a rotating day off, made her hours match the office hours, and literally logged bathroom and lunch breaks since she kept disappearing. It got to the point where they logged all her daily tasks down to the minute too. She gave in and will be retiring. I think her retirement will finalize the improvements for #1.

      3. Julie*

        This is exactly how you have to do it. Read any personnel manuals and follow them to the letter. Escalating discipline helps. It’s a long game but I guarantee the slacker employee has been playing the game a long time too.

      4. Csarndt*

        Document everything. Ev ry thing. Everything. I had to do it once, we basically did an assessment of the workplace needs, met with the employee about the minimum requirements, documented on a weekly basis where the employee was falling short of the minimum requirements and followed the ‘educate, incremental punishment, terminate’ protocol to the letter. And documented it all. Customer complaint? Documented. Employee complaint? Documented. Safety violation? Documented. Nonperformance? Documented. It took most of a year since this was an employee who had actually been fired and gotten her job back on a technicality once before, but the key points are clear expectations documented, necessary resources documented, and shortcomings documented.

      5. Cassie*

        I wish supervisors at my work would take disciplinary actions seriously – the attitude is “we can’t fire anyone so why even bother?”. While it’s true that it is tedious to fire someone (especially for performance issues, rather than attendance or something like that), you can still take steps fix problems. And if the underperformers feel pressure, maybe they’ll either shape up or ship out. If they quit or retire, all the better.

    7. Aaorn*

      There are some very helpful suggestions here. I’ve been in and around this situation many times. Times when I’ve wanted to fire someone, and times when one of my direct reports wanted to fire someone. The first tactic is to start having documented conversations with the employee. Review the job description with them, point out where they are falling short, write it down, and then give them a copy. Move toward a PIP (performance improvement plan). Once you have a strong documented case of conversations and underperformance the upper manager will start to take notice and support the firing.

      It’s not easy, pleasant or quick but it can be done. Also, as you go through this process and the employee sees you’re absolutely serious about improving performance, things change. In my experience about 20% will improve, 50% will quit on their own.

    8. Christy*

      You guys, this was so helpful and informative. I’m sorry I couldn’t be a more active participant in the thread, but I learned a lot. Thank you for all your insights.

  2. Ann Other*

    Hey everyone! I’m a long time lurker. My question for you all is this: What factors should I consider when relocating for a job? Here’s the background – I live in a major Canadian city that I haven’t been particularly happy in. 5 months ago, I applied for a government job in a different city and at the time I was more than happy to relocate. I didn’t hear back until last month, when they contacted me to let me know that they wanted to interview me.

    Yesterday, I received word that I’d passed the interview round and they’d like to contact my references & I should get a Criminal check. I’m excited, but I’m also panicking a little bit because in the last 3 months, I’ve become happier in this city. Not only that, the city I’d be relocating to is Iqaluit, Nunavut: population 6,700 and slightly south of the Arctic Circle.

    The job is exactly what I’ve been looking for, the interviewers sounded great (although who knows what working with them will actually be like), the pay will be more than double what I make now (which will help me reach my financial goals faster), and I’m up for the adventure of living in northern Canada again.

    I’ve lived north of 60 before (not in Nunavut) and I loved it, but I’ve been informed that the Yukon and Northwest Territories are quite different from Nunavut and life there may be tougher. Also, I’d be moving for a minimum of 2 years (in my mind at least) and I’m in my early 30s – I want to settle down & maybe have kids in 3 years. I’ve been dating in my heavily populated city and although I haven’t met anyone special yet, I want to meet someone. That’s going to be a lot harder in a city of less than 7000 people (although I met someone in a town of 800, so that’s not saying much). If I move there I’m planning on getting a dog.

    I’m still leaning towards taking the job if I get an offer, but what else should I be thinking of? I know there’s more than a few Canadians here – anyone with advice about living in Nunavut? I don’t want to relocate somewhere that isolated without considering all my concerns.

    I look forward to your responses!

    1. fposte*

      I have no information, but I’ll be interested to hear what experiences people have with this! I know you mention that the pay is considerably higher–how does it track against the COL in someplace like that? Will a higher cost of living eat away at the difference?

    2. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I am not from Canada, but I do have some advice. More like, some things for you to ponder as you decide. You say that you would be moving for 2 years, but that settling down and having kids feels like 3 years away. I would seriously think about these 2 things – because they sound mutually exclusive (or close to) to me. I think its really important that you weigh the risks on your personal life and personal goals. If you were young and just starting out, I would say GO FOR IT! ADVENTURE! But starting a family can take time, and taking this job might cut 2 years off that time for you. OR, you might meet your future husband at this job! Who knows? Just some things to think about. Good luck to you! I admit, that job sounds neat and interesting, so I understand your dilemma!

      1. Celeste*

        I completely agree with this. I think the adventure vs nesting is the crux of your decision more so than the job or locale. If you’re happier where you are now, and think your odds of meeting someone are better, I’d push forward on that. Who knows, you might even find somebody who wants to go back north and raise kids there. That sounds to me like a best-case scenario. Just switch the sequencing.

        1. Ann Other*

          You’re right – adventure vs. nesting is the dilemma now. The thing is, I don’t like big city life – I’m definitely more of a rural, outdoors type of person, which is why I applied in the first place! And just to complicate matters extra, I’m an immigrant to Canada and going back home permanently is also in the back of my mind – not in the next 2-3 years, but probably in 5, so the kid raising would happen wouldn’t happen in Canada at all.

          1. Celeste*

            Well, that goal does complicate things. Your scenario is your partner would want to leave, too. My take is you should go have your adventure and figure out the rest as you go.

          2. Anonsie*

            Maybe I’m speaking from the ignorance of someone who isn’t interested in the nesting end (AND knowing nothing about Nunavut) but does moving there and having a family really need to be mutually exclusive? Is it entirely impossible that you’ll meet anyone in Iqaluit? I get that it’s tiny, but people in small towns can and do meet people and start families.

          3. MK*

            I don’t want to turn this into a discussion of your personal life, but do your think it’s wise to look for a partner in a country you don’t intent to spend your life in? Saying the kid raising “wouldn’t” happen in Canada does not sound reallistic to me; you are basically assuming that anyone you might meet will have no problem with immigrating to your home country and raising their child there? If you plan to live in a rural area of your home country, is it really a good idea to look for a life partner in a Canadian city?

            I would advice against making career choises based on a relationship you don’t yet have; you could stay where you are and not find the right person, you could go to a town with three other singles and find them. But if what you want out of life is to live in a rural area in your home country and raise tour family there, start working on the part you can control.

            1. Ann Other*

              Here’s the thing, I’ve already been here for over a decade (not intentionally), with that exact mentality – why look for someone when I know that I want to go back home? Well I’ve missed out on a lot of great people and I’m tired of it. I don’t like flings and I don’t like just dating around. If I meet someone great and moving back home with me is the dealbreaker, then so be it. I’m not going to opt out of looking for someone I genuinely like any longer.

              I also have a friend who came here from another country, met a Canadian, is now engaged and he’s moving to her home country with her. So it happens!

              1. MK*

                Of course it can. I am a bit confused as to why you had to stay so long in Canada unintenionally and how it’s going to be possible to move back home in a few years with a family in tow, if you can’t do it now when you are single.
                What I meant was that, since you know you want to live in your home country and a rural area, it might be wiser to concentrate your efforts in moving back there, instead of commiting to live in the far north for two years.

                1. Ann Other*

                  Why I’ve been here so long when I want to go back home? Immigration paperwork and the economy mostly. The economy where I come from is volatile – there’s a lot of highly educated people with no jobs/low-paid jobs. If I go back and I don’t want to be poor, I need to have some serious savings + solid work experience in an in-demand area.

                  That’s how I’ve been here that long ‘unintentionally’ – building up savings and getting work experience. Some things haven’t worked out and the economic crash made it a lot tougher to achieve my goals.

    3. Robin*

      If you get to the offer stage, can you maybe ask to talk to a few employees at New Job who are around your age about what it’s like to live there? They know they are geographically isolated, I don’t think the question would surprise them.

      1. YourCdnFriend*

        I’d do this and ask if they are willing to cover (or partially cover) the expenses of an exploratory visit.

    4. Diet Coke Addict*

      I can’t speak to the job itself, but there used to be a (now-defunct, I think) blog called I’ll Have Nunavut, which was about a couple who relocated to Iqaluit. There are a few other blogs out there that have some really interesting information for new Northerners! Link to follow.

        1. fposte*

          There’s a great satiric Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie Song about Nunavut that plays a lot on that:

          When the white man came up North
          dressed in his finest furs,
          he told you that he owned the land,
          You just smiled and shrugged and you said “Ppphhbbt… sure.”

          Uranium, oil, and gold
          Man, he took a ton of it.
          You asked him what was left for you
          and he said, “Nunavut.”

              1. EE*

                After Y2K
                When the ozone’s gone away
                I think I’ll come to Nunavut for a post-apocalyptic holiday.

    5. Anoners*

      I think this really boils down to if you can handle living in that kind of isolated environment. I’m also Canadian, early 30’s, originally from the Maritimes (so, isolated small village), and now live in a big Canadian city. For me, moving back to a small village at this point of my life is out of the question. Three years is a long time to live in that kind of environment, and you really need to weigh if that’s the kind of lifestyle you can hack.

      Also, this is a broad generalization, but this point in your life is really the ideal time to experience big city life (or at least has been my experience). Would you miss all the fun things that come along with the big city life (theatre/bars/whatever you’re into), or are you more of a small town rural fun kind of person? And yes, dating would probably be hard, but honestly, there are so many loons in big cities that you might actually have more luck in the rural area.

      Other things to consider:

      Internet. Do they have good internet service there? Or is it unreliable? In such a small town, you are probably going to need the internet (again, maybe you’re a super non internet person and just love the outdoors, so might not be a big deal).

      Food: Good god the price of food up in those areas can be astronomical. So, maybe look into that.

      THE COLD: There are not many people who know cold like Canadians. I can’t tell if you’re in Vancouver (yay warm) or Toronto (meh, sometimes warm), but where you’re moving will be very cold I’m assuming. So, can you spend three years in the kind of weather?

      Good luck on making your decision!

      1. Ann Other*

        Thanks! I hear you on all the loons in big cities… I may have met a couple.

        I’ll definitely investigate the internet thing. I’m actually one of those people that can easily live off the grid – my family really hate it and find it very annoying. I could easily get by without it, but I’ve made some really good friends here in the last year that I’d really like to keep in touch with and the internet is the easiest way to do that.

    6. College Career Counselor*

      While I can’t speak to the specifics of where you’re considering going, I can say from personal experience that the right job in the wrong place can be awfully difficult. I’ve worked at places where I loved my job, my colleagues and the work I was doing, but the overall area didn’t have the resources, activities, amenities, etc. that I and my family needed.

      If you decide that the place is “wrong” for you in the longer term, I think you’d be wise to have an exit strategy and timeframe when you take it. If your industry/field doesn’t allow for frequent moves, that could mean starting a job search 6 months into a position, which employers often look askance at.

      Everyone’s got a different idea about what is untenable (or will become untenable over time). You just need to be as clear in your own mind about what your deal-breakers are. Will this job be a benefit to your job search in a couple of years? Very difficult decision process–good luck!

      1. Ann Other*

        Thanks! The advice on dealbreakers & exit strategy is great – even if things start out well, I need to know how/when I plan to leave. Part of the reason I want to take this job is because I think it’ll greatly help my job search down the line – I’m finally switching into the area that I studied for!

        This job search has been tough because I work in a different career now and it was tough to get a response to my applications. This new job is a mix of skills that I use in my current position + what I studied for, which works out really well, especially since this is a career I’d like to stay in for the next decade or so.

    7. Jennifer O*

      As others have said, I’d look at your timelines again (e.g., 2 years in Nunavut; having kids in 3 years).

      I’d also suggest looking into the cost of living in Nunavut. When I was job searching, I’d looked at positions in Nunavut and other north of 60 towns. The salaries were *very* appealing (double or more what I’d be making in a large Canadian city). However, the cost of living was exorbitant. Rental housing was difficult to come by, so the rent was very high. Costs of groceries and food was also very high. You may not be saving as much as you hope.

      1. JuniorMinion*

        I know this might be an unpopular opinion but I have been in a similar situation (never in Canada but I did move from global city to Texas in the US – so a huge culture shock), and I thank my lucky stars I made the move every single day (I am mid / late 20s for reference).

        My resulting happiness in my renewed career path made me a person that more men wanted to be around. I ended up meeting someone here (and ironically one of the things he really liked about me was that I was a go-getter who moved across the country to follow my dreams) who is definitely my forever man who is NEVER EVER LEAVING TEXAS UNLESS THEY PAY HIM $$$$$$. So now I am here, for the forseeable future. There are moments when I miss my former global city, but my life happiness is so great here that those moments are eclipsed by all the things I am thankful for.

        I understand the desire to have children (I have been hit hard by the baby bug as well), however 3 years is a pretty tight time frame and would require you basically meeting the man you are going to marry tomorrow. You say you want to raise your family where you grew up – but how do you know that the man you ultimately meet will be on board with that plan and your employment situation will allow that to work out – Mr. Texas and I could never move back to where either of us grew up – the job market in both of those places is terrible and wouldn’t support what we both do.

        I don’t mean this to pile on you, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way. I just want to urge you to think through the potential ramifications of turning down this job. Will you still be happy you turned it down if you don’t meet a man? Or if you find out someday that children are not in the cards for you? These are things you should reconcile within yourself before you decide. Personally I have never regretted jumping in to adventure, I have regretted the adventures I didn’t take much more because they led to a wonder of what might have been.

        1. Ann Other*

          I’m definitely leaning more towards it – it’s less about whether I go and more about what I should be considering. You’ve given me plenty to think about and your story is really reassuring!

          I haven’t been happy in this city – I’ve become *happier* in the last 4 months, but the happiest I’ve been in Canada was when I lived in the north. I’m wary because I was there under very specific circumstances and I don’t want to assume that I’ll have as great an experience as I did the first time around.

      2. Ann Other*

        I’ve definitely looked at the cost of living – the salary also includes a Northern Allowance that is supposed to offset that. Subsidized staff housing is available which would have been my biggest worry, because I know how difficult housing is to come by.

        As high as other costs are, I’d get more than double what I make now, but the cost of living isn’t double that of where I live. I looked at my current budget and even if I double what I currently spend, I’d still be able to save double the amount that I save now! (I’m a very conservative saver though, I’m single & have no dependents.) There’s also a lot of tax incentives for people living in the North as well.

        You’re right about the timelines though, although I now think they’re a big mess regardless of whether I move or not.

        1. Alma*

          Does NewJob provide opportunity for longer visits home – or to other locations (where you may have made contact with someone interesting)? All in all, it sounds to me like you have processed your life plans, ability to thrive in a small village, and job possibilities thoroughly and sensibly. And you are young enough to give it 3 to 5 years, and then move on with the benefit of this great life and vocational experience (with most of your eggs intact). I made a major vocational change committing to very rural communities that put me in the field at 40 – too late to find a fine man and have the life I still neeeeed 16 yrs later.

          I have a colleague who is here in central US farm country ready to go back to the Yukon and dog sledding and living in the wonderful communities you describe. He is 60-ish, and he has found home there – and is fluent in several native languages.

          Do go for an extended visit. Be sure you meet the locals, and explore the life of the community, as well as the people at work and what they have to show you. I do want to hear your update!!

    8. GrumpyBoss*

      I’ve relocated for a couple of jobs. I’ve lived in major metropolitan areas and tiny towns.

      I move or stay for the job, not the locale.

      I think where you live isn’t as important as how you live. Sure, when I’ve moved from large to small, some aspects of my life change. I find different hobbies. I rely on a car more. But ultimately, I’m able to find friendships and activities that keep me stimulated outside of work, and focus on the job, which is where I’ll spend the majority of my time.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. Part of the move is committing to making it work out. This means filling up your non-work time with something of meaning to you-friends, hobbies, groups. Very few people can go to work, come home, go to work, come home. They need more to life than that. OP, take a look at the area and try to estimate what you might do to round out your 2 year stint there.

        1. Ann Other*

          Definitely! I’ll be happier to be in a place where I get to do more outdoor sports/activities for sure.

          My stay there probably wouldn’t be just two years, that’s just the minimum time-frame that I have in mind, assuming that there aren’t any major issues with the job/move in that time.

      2. Zillah*

        I think where you live isn’t as important as how you live.

        I think that this can really depend.

        Some people don’t have a super strong preference for location – they can be happy in a lot of different places. For them, what you’re saying is absolutely true. But, for some people, it really does make a difference, and all the hobbies and positive thinking in the world will not make a place a good fit.

    9. BethRA*

      On the “2 year adventure now vs. settling down in the near future” question – I really don’t think it’s quite so either/or. True, 2 years in the North may make a 3-year timeline a little less realistic, but bumping that timeline out 2 years doesn’t put the kids-and-a-picket-fence out of reach. People are starting families later and later in life these days – and I think it’s worth considering the benefits being more financially stable when you do start your family (as you had mentioned the Great Northern Adventure job would pay you more).

      10+ years from now, what do you think you’re more likely to regret? Not starting a family 2 years earlier? Or missing out on an opportunity/adventure?

      1. Cat*

        This reminds me of some advice I once heard which was to consider the worst case scenario of each option. If you stay in the city, you might continue to be miserable in the city and not have met someone you want to spend the rest of your life with in two years and be left regretting that you didn’t take the adventure when you had the chance. If you take the adventure, you might know you gave it your all career-wise but not meet someone and wonder if you would have if you stayed in the city. Which position would you rather be in?

        1. Ann Other*

          Thanks guys! Truthfully, the “settling down in the near future” is a much hazier plan than the going back to the north – as you’ve both pointed out, there’s no guarantee that I’d find someone even if I stay here.

          BethRA – you mentioned why I wanted this job in the first place: career is important because it also impacts my ability to be financially stable if/when I start a family.

    10. Office Worker*

      I have no experience in living in Iqaluit but I have a friend who lived there for three years and enjoyed the adventure of it, it is a difficult way of life for sure but an adventure. I recently watched a tv show on Iqaluit which was fascinating, it isn’t available on the IPlayer but with a little digging you may find it online somewhere.

      Good luck whatever you decide.

    11. Alder*

      I think moving sounds exciting! And if you’re more of a rural person, I bet you will find that you will connect with more of the people who live there than where you are now, even if the population is smaller.

      But moving to a new place can also be really lonely and terrible for the first year or two. If you were offered the same job in your current city, would you stay?

  3. AnotherAnon*

    My current job is super-flexible, which is a fantastic change from my last position (very long, rigid on-site work hours that would leave me extremely drained at the end of the day). About 75-80% of my work can be done at home on my own schedule, while 20-25% of the work needs to be done at the job site, which seldom takes a full day.

    On days I work from home, I keep a set schedule – early morning gym outing, followed by blocks of work (with time outs every few hours for meals/breaks) until the early evening. I keep track of my to-dos (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) on a spreadsheet on Google drive, and I have a good amount of motivation to tackle my list.

    However, on days when I need to go to the job site (1-3 days/week, for 4-5 hours/day), I find my productivity plummeting, especially after I get home. I feel like I need at least an hour (sometimes two) to unwind and try to persuade myself to start working on my to-dos again. Even after I unwind, I still don’t feel like I’m as productive as on the days when I work entirely from home. I’ve tried doing yoga, drinking coffee, etc., but I still feel in a funk. Any tips on keeping my energy levels up and getting work done on days like this?

    1. GOG11*

      Are you able to make the blocks of time when you go in at the end of the work day? If you’re more productive at home, work from home and get a lot done then go into the office. Once you get home, just unwind for the rest of the day instead of trying to get back into things. The biggest challenge for me with work is often orienting myself and focusing my focus, so, while circumstances aren’t the same, I can definitely empathize. Good luck :)

    2. Mela*

      Is there any chance you can do the to-dos before going to the job site? Is stuff at the site required to be done in the morning? I’m assuming that after commuting and feeling “done” working, you don’t want to work more at home.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        Thanks, GOG11 and Mela. Unfortunately, the on-site times are not flexible (determined by upper management, with required attendance), and they’re typically mornings (so usually when I have to go in, it’s 8 AM – 12 PM or so). My peak energy levels are in the mornings, and I experience a bit of afternoon slump even on days where I work from home, so I think part of it is just feeling like I’ve spent the highest energy part of my day sitting in meetings/seminars instead of working on the stuff that requires the most focused attention.

        1. GOG11*

          In another comment further down the thread, Jessica said “Sometime taking the time at the beginning of a project to organize all my materials and map out my plan of action helps me get more enthusiastic about actually doing it – though it can be a form of procrastination in and of itself – it’s kind of productive procrastination.” I think outlining what you need to do is helpful for another reason – if all the planning is done, you can simply carry out what you’ve already set up. For me, it takes a lot of mental energy and focus to map things out and a lot less to just do each individual item on the list, one thing at a time.

          1. AnotherAnon*

            That’s a really good point, GOG11. I am a compulsive list maker, but I think sometimes I’m too ambitious – like I’ll write down in advance on a day I’m on-site that I want to accomplish tasks A, B, and C when I get home, and then I realize I don’t have the time/energy to get to B and/or C, and I get frustrated with myself. I think one positive thing I could do would be to have more realistic expectations for on-site days – that I will be satisfied if I finish task A, and any work I can do on B or C is an added bonus.

            1. GOG11*

              I think that’s a good idea. If you don’t already plot out your schedule by time (rather than just a list of tasks to finish each day), perhaps you could try that. It would encourage/force you to think of your work tasks in terms of time you anticipate it will take to complete them which may help you evaluate how much work really is realistic.

        2. Judy*

          Could you head to the gym on the way home, so that you “trick” yourself into believing it’s morning. Or at least reframe your mind and body. Maybe something completely different, like swimming if you don’t normally. (When my kids are having a really bad, frustrating time, I send them to get their baths or showers early, then return to homework. At least at our house, water seems to calm and reframe things.)

          1. AnotherAnon*

            That’s a great point, Judy! I usually go in the mornings because it’s less crowded and there’s free parking from 6-8 AM, but parking is also free after 4 PM (though it’s a lot more crowded then). I’ve been contemplating buying an elliptical for my home for years, as I’ve been working out at gyms 5-6 days/week consistently for the last 8 years, so maybe it’s time to look into that more seriously. That way I could hop on it after coming home, and also use it on days where my schedule is crazy and I can’t make it to the gym.

          2. Alma*

            Light box – I had a friend who set her alarm with a timer that turned on the light box simulating sunrise. She was able to reframe her day into beginning at o’dark-thirty. There are now alarm clocks that begin with low light and increase to full light like sun rising.

    3. Miss Chnadler Bong*

      I wish I had advice on this! I started a very flexible job in August — I’m supposed to log a certain number of billable hours and most days I usually have 1 – 3 site visits or meetings, and I can do paperwork on my own schedule at the office or at home. I find the flexibility to be both a blessing and a curse as I have ADHD and don’t have the best time management skills. A lot of the visits are in the late afternoon/early evening which works well for me, but if I have a late morning or early afternoon meeting I feel like it takes me forever to get back on track. I don’t have a full caseload yet and I know it’s really going to be tough once I do. I work well with deadlines, and fortunately my most important tasks have strict ones, so I accept that there are some later evenings at those times.

      It sounds like your work-from-home days are really productive — do you feel like you’re really getting behind on your to-do list to the point where it’s a major problem, or is it just that you don’t like feeling less focused on those days? In an ideal world you could just go straight from the job site to super focused on work at home, but in actuality does the focus on the work from home days balance out the need for a break on the other days?

      1. AnotherAnon*

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with this! I think sometimes I need those breaks, and that sometimes I am too ambitious in what I plan to do or hope to accomplish (even on my work-from-home days, I seldom finish 100% of my to-do list). I’ve been getting good performance evaluations at this job so far, but there are definitely areas I need to put in more effort and time to get better results, hence why I’m pushing myself.

    4. Jillociraptor*

      I have come to just accept that when I have to head into my office, I’m just not going to get as much done. If I’m looking at a 5 day week with 2 days in the office, I just anticipate that I’m going to get 80% of my work done on the three days I’m at home, and the remaining 20% on the days I’m at the office. I try to schedule anything big that requires focus for days I’m at home.

      I wonder though: what about the experience of going to the work site brings you stress/the need to wind down? Are you on a tight timeline? Do you have to get up earlier? Is the site itself a stressful place? Or is the challenge just changing gears from a more interactive to a more solitary environment? If you can identify that, it might help you figure out your solution, whether that’s switching up the hours you’re on the job site, or taking a long break when you return home.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        Those are some great points, Jill! I think my biggest issue is just the environmental switch. I’m a textbook introvert, so I anytime I go from a public place where I’m interacting with people (whether it be work, a lunch with friends, an evening out) back home, I need time to recharge.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Your solution maybe that you have to have the down time when you come home from work. I enjoy people, but, man, I can get tired from the activities and conversations. I have learned that if I come home and sit down to read or whatever, I will not stand up for an hour. I just need that decompression. However, I can come in start dinner and sit down with my dinner for an hour. Having dinner and sitting for an hour does recharge me. You might want to look into having a snack mid-afternoon when you are at work or maybe some type of a protein drink. I noticed you said you tried coffee and that did not help much- coffee will make me even more hungry. It could be that you burn more energy when you go into work and need something extra to eat in conjunction with trying other ideas, also.

    5. ali*

      I work a very similar schedule and my WFH days are always more productive than my in-office days. When I get home from the office I’m burnt out already and don’t feel like doing anything.

      What I figured out, in my case, is that it was not the time in the office that was burning me out, but it was the commute and dealing with traffic. Obviously on WFH days, I don’t have that. I shifted my in-office schedule to be about 10 minutes different, which was just enough to offset traffic most days, and stopping trying to run errands while going to/from the office, and things have improved dramatically for me. Now of course there’s construction on the highway interchange right by the office, so traffic has gotten worse again.

      I also try not to push myself so hard while I’m in the office. I don’t feel like I have to accomplish any more just because I’m physically in a different place.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        Thanks for the comment, ali! I’m glad you figured out what your energy drains were and have been trying to work around those. With me, my commute is mercifully pretty short (about 25-30 minutes, and I listen to audiobooks or relaxing music in my car to try to take control of that time). I think my bigger drain is just the on-site environment – it’s nowhere near as judge-y as my last workplace, but I still feel like I need to focus on looking, talking, and acting a certain way to make a positive impression on others in my organization, especially since I’m off-site most of the time. Being introverted and reserved, that takes a lot of energy for me.

        1. ali*

          I feel your pain. I’m also in the introverted and reserved bunch, so just the being around people is definitely energy draining. I’m very lucky in that my office environment is extremely relaxed and the people are all very easy to get along with. But still draining nonetheless!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Ahhh- the contrast- workplace vs home environment. Can you make it into a game inside your head where you do some of the looking-talking-acting a certain way when you are at home, so the days at work are not as different from the days at home? I am not sure what you target as goals for yourself but maybe you could do some of those things at home when you are on the clock so it will not feel so different when you go into work.

          I know I would have a problem like this if for example, on my at home days, I ate snack food all day long while I worked. And then in the office, no snack food. ugh. That shifting back and forth would not be easy for me.

          1. AnotherAnon*

            Thank you for your comments here and upthread, Not So NewReader :). Those are all great suggestions! I think if, like you suggest, I consciously plan to have an hour of downtime as soon as I walk in the door, that will give me something to look forward to on the commute home and hopefully make it easier for me to then get back into a work mindset afterwards. Often when I am working I set timers to go off every 15, 30, or 60 minutes to make sure I’m being mindful of what I’m supposed to be working on, so if I ‘locked in’ that 60 minute downtime with a timer going off at the end of it (so I wouldn’t have to worry about guiltily checking the clock!), that would probably help too.

    6. Aaron*

      Hi AnotherAnon –

      I used to be in a similar work situation and once I left the morning worksite, I would crash and be unable to get moving in any productive way. What I found to be helpful was to find a place out of the way at the morning worksite and work through the afternoon. That way my rhythm wasn’t disrupted and I could carry the momentum from the morning into the afternoon. I don’t know if that’s an option for you, but something to consider.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        Thanks Aaron! That’s a good idea as well. While I don’t have an office on-site, there is wifi in the building and a few quiet places here and there. For instance, there are a couple of nice conference rooms which we have access to whenever there’s not a meeting going on in them (unfortunately we can’t make reservations for these rooms ourselves!). Sometimes I use those conference rooms to get an hour of work in when I have gaps between meetings on-site. Although I prefer to get work done in the comfort of my home, if I can find a quiet place and stay on-site enough time to make progress on at least some of my other work, it might be worthwhile to do that once or twice a week.

  4. Zero Dollar Paycheck*

    My husband is a salaried engineer, and he was injured on the job at the beginning of September. He was out of
    work, on worker’s comp, until November 3, when he started working 12 hours a week from home. He turned in his
    timesheets for the next two weeks, and on the following paycheck, was only paid for 12 hours instead of 24.

    Because he has been on worker’s comp, the company deducted health insurance premiums for September and October and he got a $0 paycheck. When he twice brought up the fact that he was only paid for 12 hours and not 24, they promised to add it to his next check, due today.

    His timesheets for the next two weeks show that he worked 13.25 hours the following week, and then 24 hours the
    week of Thanksgiving (and Thanksgiving and Black Friday are paid holidays at the company, so it should have been
    worth 40 hours.) The pay stub for this morning is for another $0 because of his health insurance premium, and they
    only paid him for the 13.25 hours the week before Thanksgiving. There is no back pay from three weeks ago, and
    they didn’t include last week at all.

    What does he do? This is a big company (~10,000 employees), and not likely to bounce paychecks. Does he threaten
    to call the Department of Labor? I’m suggesting he e-mail HR, point out that they’d promised to pay him that back
    pay and that they missed last week, and tell them that he can pick up a check at close of business today.

    Obviously, we can’t afford for him to work for “free” (and our finances were pretty constricted by the lower
    checks from worker’s comp, so we’re really low on wiggle room here.) Help!

    1. GigglyPuff*

      Personally, I’d try contacting HR again, and CC his manager, and head of department (if different/is one), and maybe head of HR/payroll.

    2. fposte*

      Definitely HR before DOL. I would phone and email, just to cover bases; I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be able to cut a check on the day, but I’d be firm about not waiting until the next pay cycle.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, email. Did he keep a copy of the timecards? If they are paper, scan them a copy (or even take a picture of them with your phone). If electronic, send the screenshots.

        At some companies it would be appropriate to talk to the payroll department (if they are separate from HR) to at least determine that the timecards were actually received – but others need you to go through HR or your manager first, so he needs to know his own office situation for this.

        1. fposte*

          Excellent point about including the documentation–you want to make getting this handled as easy as possible.

    3. LoFlo*

      It seems like the back and current insurance premiums combined with the hours paid are the issue. You should ask the payroll department when the insurance premiums will be paid up, and if future insurance premiums can be spread out over future checks. The process to collect back and current insurance premiums is automated in many companies, and not reviewed unless questioned by the employee due to the volume of transactions and limited resources to do these type of reviews prior to processing the payroll. Payroll might not agree with your request because unwinding all of these automated feeds into the payroll system and baby sitting them is a pain in the rear.

      Even though your situation stinks, technically your husband is not working for free. The insurance premiums he is obligate to pay are wiping out his net pay due to his reduced hours.

      1. Zero Dollar Paycheck*

        Right, but they also haven’t paid him for 52 hours of work he has done. Well, 36 hours of work he has done, plus two holidays. With that math, he should be completely over his back premium obligation and still have SOME money.

        1. LoFlo*

          It could be a timing difference with the pay period ending and the pay date for that pay period that is causing a logic disconnect. I would have your husband talk to payroll and see if they have all of his current pay information. I worked in payroll for large companies, and WC situations were always hairy because HR had to work with the WC insurance company before hours were reported to Payroll.

    4. Kay*

      There are two things that I can see working okay here:

      1) Get your husband to go see his manager and make sure he knows what’s going on and ask if there’s anything that can be done to get him his check sooner rather than later. Waiting for ANOTHER payday would be another 2 weeks or so and when they’re already 3 weeks late, that’s not really acceptable.

      2) If HR is in the same building/nearby where your husband works, he could go see them in person and say he’s happy to wait for them to cut the check now because it’s so late at this point. I believe there are laws about how many days/weeks a company has to pay people for hours worked in the previous pay period. Hopefully it’s not necessary to go to the department of labor over this, but that’s definitely available as a last resort.

      Hope you get this resolved soon!

    5. YourCdnFriend*

      This is super irritating and potentially financially challenging. But, do consider that it may be an honest mistake. Sometimes in big companies with lots of wheels to grease things get caught up and confused.

      It legitimately could be them trying to screw him over but it also could be an honest mistake. If you operate under the assumption, it’s an honest mistake, you’ll get farther faster. (But there are limits. Once certain lines have been crossed, you start playing hardball. Although I’d push that line out as far as your comfort level allows)

    6. Joey*

      Call HR and ask who handles workers comp benefits. I bet it’s a third party administrator who isn’t aware that he’s only working a partial schedule. I don’t know what state you’re in, but I bet he should be getting a portion of his normal salary via whomever handles their workers comp claims.

  5. Trixie*

    Did anyone catch Terry Gross interview with Josh Brolin? I kept hearing AAM tidbits pop, including lying on your resume, imposter syndrome, alternative work while you’re just trying to pay the bills, and the employee who asked the same question 150 times but got in on the 151st. (That last tidbit was Brolin learning about stock trading between acting jobs.)

  6. GOG11*

    In a previous open thread, I’d asked for advice about communicating to visitors and students that I don’t have access to scheduling information for the other individuals in my building (I sit in the lobby and many people assume that I am the go-to person for that sort of information).

    This morning, a student wearing very strong cologne was taking his test near me (we have a desk set up for this purpose in the lobby), so I moved to a mostly-unused office. Working in here, without drafts and cigarette smoke from outside and smells and distractions from inside, is amazing! I have asthma and bad allergies, so these smells are very difficult to cope with. I realized a few other benefits of having an actual office (ability to better secure sensitive data, for example) and sent an email to my supervisor outlining the challenges of being in the lobby and the benefits of having a secure-able office.

    I am really hopeful that I may be able to move. With a couple of slow weeks ahead, this would be an ideal time to do it, too! :D

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I remember your story. Good luck with it, hopefully your boss is able to see the logic behind it – and update us with what happens :)

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Wait, you aren’t the receptionist and you sit in the lobby? What’s the reason for your sitting there?

      1. GOG11*

        I am an administrative assistant. The reason is there’s a built in desk in the lobby and some of the other offices are available in case others want to use them. I did include a line stating that, though other AA’s here have offices, our location may have needs that are different that I’m not aware of. But other than those two things, I don’t really know.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Ugh, that sucks. I’m an exec. assistant who sat in the middle of a huge open area until last week. It was maddening – so many distractions from people stopping by to ask questions – which really adds up to a lot of wasted time helping random people who aren’t even in my division. I finally got them to move me to a more private spot and it’s been heaven. I really hope it works out and that they let you move!

          1. GOG11*

            It does at times. I have learned to better focus my focus by developing visual and auditory blinders…the downside is you have to get my attention very explicitly now or it’s all just background noise. It’s also forced me to figure out ways to address my role and boundaries in professional ways. So those are good. But the rest is, as you put it, a bit “maddening.”

            May I ask how you convinced them to move you? I had some decently compelling points, but if there are others I haven’t thought of, I’d love to bring those up, too.

            1. Lily in NYC*

              I don’t think my experience will be all that helpful to you. I was only supposed to sit in the open area as a favor for three months and it lasted three years. So they already knew it was a crappy spot. I started working for a different division last week and even though I am still in the same part of the office, I asked if I could move to an empty cube closer to my new boss and they said yes. When I asked I had a bullet point list of reasons but they said yes right away without even looking at the list. I love my new boss.

    3. Mz. Puppie*

      I was an administrative assistant who sat in a front desk even though I wasn’t reception. Here’s how I got moved: For one day, every time I was interrupted by anything having to do with reception (i.e., NOT MY JOB), I put a hash mark on a piece of paper. At my next one-on-one, I told my boss, “So for one day I decided to tally up all my interruptions. Over one day, I was interrupted 20 times with things that aren’t my realm. Research says it takes 15 minutes to get back on task after an interruption {actually, it looks like it’s 23 minutes source:} so I’m losing 5 hours out of an 8-hour workday just addressing things I’m not supposed to be dealing with and trying to get back on task”.

      I was moved within the week.

  7. Ali*

    How important do you guys think networking is really? I have obviously heard all the lines about the “hidden job market” and “X high percentage of jobs are never listed” but what are your thoughts?

    Lately it seems like a lot of people I know have gotten their jobs either through being approached when they weren’t searching, having a connection or hearing from a recruiter. One girl who got her job through a contact even told me “applications don’t work.” Another former coworker who just landed a desirable position said he made friends with the right people knowing they could help him someday. Sure enough he had lunch with someone this summer who told him about the opportunity that led to his job.

    I have never been referred to a job or gotten one through a connection. In fact, I have gotten nowhere when people say they will pass on my resume or put a word in for me. But now I am questioning whether I will even get a job without “knowing somebody.”

    So how much emphasis should I *really* be putting on networking? That is my question I guess.

    1. LOtheAdmin*

      Hi Ali,

      I think networking is important in a certain sense, but I’ve been applying for jobs the old fashioned way (though job boards) and have gotten great response from that. I think as long as you have a solid resume and cover letter, the door can be opened no matter what.

      Plus, networking is something that takes time. You have to grow and build your networking base. None of that happens overnight.

      To answer your question, I think your focus should be on making the best impression you can on the people you interact with in your journey for work. You truly never know what could happen by just smiling and listening to the right person.

      Good luck to you regardless.

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

        Very good points! Networks and Rome were not built in a day. A lot of my current network was naturally acquired as I worked hard in my early career and left a positive impression on people. You just never know who you will cross paths with again some day.

      2. plain_jane*

        I got my latest job through a LinkedIn posting. But I checked in with a couple of people in my network who had previously worked there and people who knew the people I was interviewing with (which again, I could tell because of LinkedIn) to let them know I was thinking of applying and getting their thoughts.

        So when it came up in the interview that I had done my research via these connections, it meant that instead of a formal reference check they were calling mutual connections. One of those connections was someone I worked with almost a decade ago and have kept in touch with ever since. Another one was someone I had worked with three years ago, and again, kept in touch with semi-regularly.

        It isn’t really about having a network of your own. It’s about having good relationships with other people who have networks :)

    2. BRR*

      Networking is important but it’s definitely possible to get a job without knowing anybody. Networking is helpful because it’s considered safer to hire a known entity than an unknown entity. That being said when I was job hunting I think I got somewhere around 10 phone screens and 5 in-person interviews without knowing anybody. I really think since the job market is tough people tend to believe advice that sounds right versus what is factually right.

    3. SD Cat*

      That’s something I’ve been trying to figure out too. I got an internship through networking (someone passed on my resume), though I’m still searching for a regular job. I guess I figure I may as well use all the methods that seem to make sense until something works (send in regular applications and spend time reaching out to people/meeting people). Figure it can’t possibly hurt my chances of getting a job. Plus it’s fun to meet people and figure out how I might be able to help them. [I just used the word figure way too many times]

    4. soitgoes*

      Networking can be nice, but I don’t depend on it. I’ve gone to networking events and had people throw a lot of promises at me, and exactly 0% of them have ended up playing out.

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

        Networking events feel forced to me. I consider networking much more to be the things that naturally happen. Here’s an example: A girl I went to High School with worked in my building for a different company and we ran into one another one day. Turned out we were both working for HR and had lunch a few times, talking about the old days, etc. She is now in my network. When I had a job opening, I reached out to her for referrals. And if I am job searching one day, I will reach out to her to see if she’s heard of anything. There is a difference between this and going to an “event” where you don’t know anyone in real life. Plus, I feel those events would be full of people all hoping to expand their own network to help themselves, vs networking to help other people.

        1. Kelly L.*

          This. I’ve gotten a job in part because I knew someone else who worked there–we’d known each other for many years in a completely different setting. It was because of her that I heard of the opening at all, and she put in a good word for me with the supervisor too, which helped because my previous experience was in a different type of job. But I give a little side-eye to any event that specifically bills itself as “networking.” I figure it’s just going to be full of MLMs anyway, and besides, you can’t build the relationships that quickly. And how sincere will any of the relationships be, when everybody knows everybody else is just there because they want something, kwim?

        2. soitgoes*

          I’m not sure if this is true across the board, but the networking events I’ve gone to were full of people who were promoting their own startups, which meant that they generally didn’t have a good handle on what they are allowed to ask other people to do for them in terms of employer/employee relations. I do some freelance writing as a side hustle, and the amount of people who expect free or plagiarized content for their sites is appalling.

    5. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I would advise, a lot. Job postings are basically shots in the dark. People DO get hired that way, but its very random. The odds that someone is even looking at your resume can range from 100% to 0% depending on the company. Networking can really get you more results – or at least, more consistent results. I’ve been with the same company for 8 years, I originally applied via employee referral to the job site. I’ve been promoted 4 times, 3 of which were direct results of my networking (who knew me and what I could do). Start building your network. When people like you, they want to help you. It sounds like your network is small now, which is why you’ve never gotten a job that way. And I look at networking as a long term benefit. People I work with today might help me land something 10 years from now, you just never know.

    6. Mela*

      The problem with networking is that you’re playing the really long game. You cultivate professional relationships with people and keep nurturing them, but if you want the pay-off to be fast, it’s going to be disappointing. It’s a lot more like waiting for an oak tree to grow than waiting for grass to sprout.

      It also depends a lot on your job function, I think. If you do something in-demand, then people who need someone who does it will remember the person they know who does it. If it’s more generic, you may not come to mind for your contacts, when they hear about openings.

      1. C Average*

        Yes. It’s definitely a long game.

        There’s a guy who works for my company who got here by networking with me. I liked him tremendously the very first time we met (he was volunteering at one of our out-of-town event) and kept him in mind whenever an opening came up, but it took two years for the right match to emerge. When it did, I put a very enthusiastic word in for him, and he got the job.

    7. JC*

      Networking, and getting a job through networking, doesn’t have to be what you think. “Networking” helped me get the job I have now, but the story really is that I knew a couple of people at my current organization through work-related things. I told them I was applying to their listed opening, and the people I knew were able to vouch for me. Another time, my husband and I were relocating, and my husband sent a facebook message to a woman he knew from college who worked in his field in our new city letting her know he was looking for work in new city. She ended up forwarding his resume within her company, and he got a job offer there.

      Neither of those things are “networky” in my opinion, yet they are examples of getting jobs or a leg-up towards jobs from personal connections. On the other side of things, both of us have also gotten jobs as adults from answering ads at organizations where we knew no one.

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

        I think both of these are perfect networking stories. I actually think that these types of networks produce far better results than more forced kind of networking (such as trying to network with random strangers on LinkedIn, which is nearly pointless in my opinion).

      2. Judy*

        I got my current job because when it was announced on the local news that my company was closing this location, some companies mentioned to their employees that they might be willing to increase headcount if there were engineering skills that matched their needs. An acquaintance at the Y thought of me, and the next time he saw me, he mentioned that I should submit my resume to their online system, even though they didn’t have any openings. I did have several approaches like that during the time the announcement was made.

        Would I have approached the company based on the list the outplacement firm gave me? Maybe. But knowing that this person worked there made me more interested in the company. It turned out that another former co-worker’s son also works here, and I talked to him before my interview to scope out the culture.

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think a lot of it depends on your industry. I work in media, and networking is HUGE– so many people want to work in my industry, jobs get snatched up almost immediately. The way you network, though, is really important. I got my start in my career because of networking, but it was very professional stuff and very carefully managed. I asked for a lot of informational interviews, talked to everyone, asked them about themselves, and never asked for an opportunity or for them to pass on my resume. I reached out to most people through my graduate school’s alumni network, and many of those people put me in touch with their friends/contacts. I networked like a fiend, but I never let anyone know I was a fiend. Still took me a good 9 months to get an entry-level job after graduation. Now that I’m in a position to do so, I take every politely worded (this is so important to me) request for an informational interview, I respond to requests to keep in touch, and I have helped about 2 people get actual jobs. I have put in a good word for several more.

      My last job and the one I’m about to start, though, I got because I applied. My network did help me clinch the new one, in that the CEO at my new job used to work with my manager on my old job and she eagerly responded to an informal reference request. Keeping your network solid and your reputation good is important in any industry.

      1. Ali*

        I work in media at the moment, but I am burned out and looking for more general communications jobs. Haven’t picked an industry yet but I have an interest in nonprofits and higher education.

      2. Vanishing Girl*

        This is similar to my experience, in libraries/archives (academic/non-profit, now corporate). I networked like crazy in grad school, meeting people at conferences and doing informational interviews. It helps that I am genuinely interested in what other people in my field do, and how they got to where they are. I ended up volunteering for several of my networking contacts after graduation, and they became enthusiastic references for me during my job search because I treated those as jobs. One of those even led to a couple consulting positions that gave me new references and helped me pay bills. (It took me 8 solid months to find a job.) Networking and introductions led me to people who provided me with the chance to learn important skills and those people were, I think, very important to me getting both my former job and my current one. I didn’t ask them them to pass on my resume, as it seemed rather forced and as if I wasn’t interested in them personally.

        I like going into networking with the idea that you are there to make connections, but also learn more about your industry, rather than just thinking of it in terms of needajobneedajobohgodIneedajob (which was very difficult for me when I was really broke and desperately needed a job).

        I used to hate networking and trying to strike up small talk, but I’ve found I like it if I approach it honestly and just talk and listen to people about what they do and what I like to do. It’s just conversation then, but useful conversation that may lead somewhere.

        1. Vanishing Girl*

          Oh, and all the jobs I’ve gotten (even the one where I knew everyone because I had worked there in grad school) were through the official application process in a specific job ad. When you apply to something, you can mention it to your contact and they may be able to ask to get your resume specifically. But it would never guarantee more than that.

          That said, in my field, there are not many or any “hidden” jobs. I am not sure how it is in media.

    9. Adam*

      When I was in college I heard all those lines and they convinced me (wrongly) that NETWORKING was the only way I was going to get a good job ever. Thankfully reading AAM and general experience has taught me that’s just not the case. Networking has only gotten me one job in my life, and that was to be a busser at a casino bar when I was technically too young to do so (my aunt knew a guy).

      So now I see networking as one of many tools that can assist you in finding a position. It can certainly help and I imagine a lot of jobs are found that way, but it’s by no means a letter of the law necessity.

    10. Lillie Lane*

      I think networking is very beneficial, but not necessarily in the way some people operate as networkers. For example, at my industry’s professional meetings/events, there are some people that go around “networking”, but it’s very superficial — a conversation over lunch or a drink at a mixer, that kind of thing. Those types of interactions have never really benefited me. However, more substantial working relationships, where someone at a different org can see your value, can yield some fantastic opportunities.

      One data point, but I got my current job because of a prior business relationship built by my husband with someone he knew in the business years ago. My company did not have a job opening, but my connection was desperate to get help and convinced the president to write a job description specifically for me. So in that case I was approached and did not have to apply.

    11. C Average*

      I think it’s crucial, but not necessarily for the reasons people traditionally think.

      We all have certain people in our lives who bring out the best in us and who see us at our best. It’s important to recognize these people when we encounter them and maintain our ties with them. They may not offer a direct link to an obvious job right this minute, but they may prove helpful down the road. Or not.

      I think networking has become this weird, talked-about phenomenon that’s completely centered around getting a job. That’s messed up. The network should exist independently of career needs. It should be people who interest you, people whose company you enjoy and who enjoy yours. When you have career needs, you leverage your network. You don’t build a network purely to meet your career needs.

      There also has to be give and take. What are you doing for the people in your network? Are you adding value by being interesting, positive, affirming, and helpful?

      I like thinking of the circle of people who surround me as my village rather than my network. We like each other, we help each other, we look for the good in each other. Sometimes that’s career-focused, sometimes it’s just having a beer together.

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        I like this way of thinking about a network. It’s how I’ve viewed mine, but put into more specific ideas. My professional contacts are part of my village who also work in similar fields.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        I think this is really true. To be honest, I’m not a great networker. I try, and I know a lot of people that are great networkers so that helps, but it feels really superficial.

        My partner, though, is a crazy great networker, but he doesn’t think about it as “networking.” To him, it’s keeping in touch with old friends/acquaintances that he likes. But if I have a question about anything, or he comes across something he wants advice on, or if one of his friends mention some issue they’re having, he ALWAYS knows someone who can help them. And he has no awkwardness about reaching out to any of them for assistance or a favor (which is also something I’m terrible at). He’s introduced several couples to each other that have gotten married or have had long-term relationships, he’s helped people get jobs, he’s helped people through positive and negative life events. I like to think that my terribleness at networking is somehow balanced out by his awesomeness at it, but at the very least, he’s slowly helping me become better at it.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Right on. Be sincere and network with people who are sincere. This sincerity can be based on a common interest or on a mutual personal/professional respect. I like to think of it as keep it real.

        I went to a networking event of sorts and one woman was on her phone constantly. “Oh I have 800 people in my network and I can’t find a job.” hmmm. This to me is a variation on, “I sent my resume to 200 companies and I can’t find a job.” You don’t need 800 people or 200 companies, you are only looking for 1 job.

        Support the people you admire/respect and ask them to help you, too.

    12. Dan*

      To echo what others have said: 1) I find it very important, albeit not the only way to do things and 2) It’s generally a long game.

      To #1, I have gotten in-person interviews from blind resume submissions. It happens. But I get job offers from contacts. Although, sometimes what I do is find openings on the web, and reach out to see who knows who. I’ve found it to be very effective.

      To #2, I’ve gotten jobs through people I’ve met only once. This happened at an industry conference I attended after grad school, I met two people from two different companies, and those contacts resulted in job offers. I accepted one of them. Later on though, my network is primarily current and previous coworkers. During my latest job search, I got jobs because of the impressions I made with the higher-ups who put in good words for me.

      Also, I just referred two coworkers for positions at my company. These were people I’ve known and worked with for years. Both people accepted offers (two referral bonuses for me, yeah!)

    13. Felicia*

      I got my current job by applying on a job board, and most people i know have gotten their current jobs that way. The few times i had worked with someone at the company and they passed on my resume/put in a good word for me, i ended up not even getting the interview.

    14. Alder*

      Twice in the past year I’ve gotten and accepted job offers out of the blue from a former supervisor at an internship I did a few years ago, at an organization I still volunteer for. She called me up, let me know a position had opened, and told me I was her first choice to fill it. (Both of them were temporary positions.)

      I think I got really lucky, ended up in the right organization, and impressed the right people. I certainly could have been just as good and gotten nothing out of it besides experience, if I had a different supervisor or had interned at a different organization. (It was my third unpaid internship, and the first two didn’t lead to much- possibly because I didn’t stick around after they ended.)

      Also, this isn’t just someone I chatted with at an event or something- it’s someone I worked with closely full-time for months. And I got that position by applying without knowing anybody at all.

      1. Preston*

        Good resume that has experience that relates to the job with a good cover letter will open doors.

        Networking works though too. But I have found quite a few people use having a relative or in-law as networking. If I know someone is in the company and is related to someone even as a cousin or niece or parent. My opinion usually drops before even seeing their work product. Probably not fair but it is true.

  8. LOtheAdmin*

    YES! Open thread. Time to vent.

    I don’t know about anybody else’s office, but I’m finding that there’s been an uptick in petty office drama
    this month and I’m at my wits end with it all. It’s all hands on deck right now, but everyone is doing
    whatever they can to steal other people’s ideas, take credit for stuff they didn’t do, and generally just make
    themselves look good at the expense of those actually doing the work. It suuuuuucks. Badly. Getting up
    to go to work has been torture, but I’m making due for the moment.

    All that said, I’m having some great luck applying for other work. I have two phone interviews in the works and haven’t stopped applying in the meantime. I know i’ll get a hit on something one day. The other stuff just sucks to deal with at the same time as I’m trying to leave.

    1. Artemesia*

      I have this problem most with writing projects. My technique for that is to make lists and get SOMETHING done i.e. do the easy things on the list so that some progress is made. And that reinforcement tends to make it easier for me to tackle the stuff I don’t want to do. ie use procrastination time to get tasks done that require less intellect but still have to get done. So instead of dithering, I am knocking off minor tasks while dithering.

      In writing specifically, I just wrote the parts I was most interested in first and the hard parts last — it always felt like these things including books sort of got magically written this way. By the time I was down to the part I hated, that was all that was left and it was fairly easy to knock it out.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I’m all about identifying the low-hanging fruit and knocking it off. Then you go to the next-lowest rung of fruit, then the next-lowest, and so on. And during the process the absolute mare’s nest section that you couldn’t face begins to come into focus as step 1, step 2, and step 3 rather than being a slough of conceptual despond where you don’t know how to swim.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I have to do the opposite–write the boring (to write, not necessarily read) stuff first and save some of the good stuff for last. It helps that I write the way they film movies–I jump around a lot out of sequence and then smooth it all out when I’m done. If I space out the fun parts, it helps motivate me.

        Same at work–do the boring stuff first, and if I get it over with, I can reward myself with the fun stuff. Or AAM. :)

    2. Adam*

      Yep, I know how that goes. You want to talk drama? I work in what is basically (but not technically) a government organization run primarily by, directly serves/deals with, and completely revolves around attorneys. Drama control might as well be the first listed skill on the job description. Also the organization is marketed much more as a non-profit entity, so I get the all the lousy parts of working in non-profit (namely the less than impressive salary) and not a whole lot of the benefits (it’s hard to feel like you’re making the world a better place when the demographic you “serve” on average makes at least twice what you do).

      Good luck on your interviews! Hopefully some of your job hunting good luck will spread to me!

  9. Chriama*

    What do people do to stay focused at work? I always find myself either inefficiently jumping from 1 task to another, or procrastinating everything. What do other people do to be productive at work?

    1. GOG11*

      Are there certain tasks that you struggle with or with everything across the board?

      Additionally, do you have a certain number of tasks and a certain amount of time to finish them or does your job involve a lot of outside interruptions?

      I’ve struggled a lot with focus issues and have developed a couple of different strategies, but my recommendations would depend on the source of the task-hopping and procrastination.

      1. Lillie Lane*

        GOG11, would you mind elaborating on your different strategies? I also suffer from the same problem (in a variety of different ways, depending on the task) and would appreciate your insight.

        1. GOG11*

          Sure! This ended up being long, but I hope it’s helpful! It’s what works for me, even if it may seem a bit uber regimented.

          I work in the lobby of my building as an Admin Assistant (and in another building, too, but so I do switch to a somewhat quieter office for two hours each day). Because I’m so centrally located, I have a lot of visual and auditory distractions, occasional interruptions (that aren’t related to my job/people giving me work of some sort – work area and waiting area are right next to me), and the work itself isn’t exactly riveting as it’s a lot of administrative paperwork and keeping track of tiny components of larger projects.

          When I get a new project, I map it out in my notebook. I have one page dedicated to each work day.

          In the top, I write my to do list for the day, trying to word things in a behavior I could see or hear myself doing. For instance, instead of work on project X (in this case, supplemental contracts), I would plan
          – email so and so for enrollment numbers
          – update contracts & send to so and so
          – prepare interoffice and snail mail envelopes for contracts (to minimize turn around time for contracts)

          I do all the planning (for all the things I can anticipate) in advance and then when it comes to the day of, I just do x, y, and z. It really helps me to break it down into smaller steps at the start of the process. Each time a new duty is added to my job, I naturally find myself doing this.

          In the bottom of my planner, I write down need-to-know info. For instance, if I change my password, I write a note to jog my memory. If I learned a helpful hint for X and I know I’ll need that info later, I write it in and I might even highlight it. At the end of the year (and at the end of May), I look through my notebook to see time frames for things and to integrate that helpful hint into my other process guides. If I planned too much and didn’t get done, I mark it with an arrow, which helps me figure out how long things REALLY take so I can plan better later on. I’m not good at memorizing and, though my job duties repeat, certain things are only done twice a year, so this is really helpful for me. How does this keep me on track? If refinding the solution takes too long, I get derailed rather than just glancing ‘back’, getting the info, and then carrying on.

          Many of the processing I coordinate involve lots of little pieces, lots of steps, and quite a few people. As I figure out how to do things, I create worksheets that I can just fill in. For evaluations, I have a column for the course, and in each column after that, every step the evaluation goes through. When I’ve completed the step, I write the date in the box. I work with an assistant who does part of this process (and who works different hours than I do) so this is a wonderful way to collaborate and keep track of things. Even when I am hands on from start to finish, I can’t guarantee that I remember each little detail. Not having to go into my files and look up what stage something is in (or being able to look at my work sheet when something’s missing) saves me quite a bit of time.

          I guess most of what I do is create structure and accountability for myself (as well as a nice written record of my work). I’ve heard so many times that I’m so organized but, really, I’m just overcompensating for my incredible lack of innate organizational ability.

          Does this help? Do you have any questions? If you’d like more concrete examples, please let me know and perhaps I could find a way to get in touch with you directly.

          1. Busy*

            This is pretty amazing. I will be book marketing this page for later implementation. Thank you for sharing!

            1. GOG11*

              I am glad you think so and I am happy that this is actually helpful!! I worry sometimes that I’m neurotic or something.

    2. Chocolate Teapot*

      Sounds familiar, especially with the year-end holidays approaching and various things needing to be done before leaving.

      I find having a to-do list and crossing things off is quite helpful. That and regular rewards for work done from the very large box of chocolate biscuits a visitor recently brought in!

    3. SD Cat*

      I use incentives- When I get through x hour-long task I can spend up to 5 minutes taking a break (i.e. reading this blog). Also I use music, when possible.

    4. JMegan*

      I’ve had pretty good success with the Pomodoro Technique (Wikipedia has a good description.) Basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes, then put your head down and focus on your work for those 25 minutes, no stopping, no distractions. Then you take a short break, 3-5 minutes, and do another 25 minutes of work. When you have done four sets, you take a longer break.

      And as always, there are apps for that!

      1. Meghan*

        I love the Pomodoro Technique! I’m constantly interrupted by other people when I’m in the office, so it’s hard to use there, but I’m all about it when I’m working from home.

      2. CTO*

        I just tried Pomodoro this afternoon and it’s totally helping me grind through the boring and not-urgent tasks I had to work on today!

        1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

          Aaaand… it’s totally life changing. I’m using this every day from now on!

    5. Sascha*

      A to do list. I like to write it out on a notepad and keep it right in front of me so it’s always visible, it reminds me what I need to work on that day. I will jump around between tasks on the list, but I try not to deviate off-list.

    6. Jessica*

      I check my email only once per day and let my calls go to voicemail unless I know who’s calling. I have a list of projects and tasks arranged by due date, then importance. I start on the thing that needs to be done soonest, work on it until it’s done or I hit a wall (usually in the form of waiting on someone else before I can move forward), then move on to the next item.

      Procrastination is a hard one though. Sometime taking the time at the beginning of a project to organize all my materials and map out my plan of action helps me get more enthusiastic about actually doing it – though it can be a form of procrastination in and of itself – it’s kind of productive procrastination.

      1. Robin*

        Unfortunately, I don’t think this approach will work for many people, whose jobs expect them to be responsive to email more than once a day, and respond to phone calls, even when the boss is calling from her new cell phone number.

        1. C Average*

          Even if you have to be responsive to emails, turn off the automatic email pop-up that appears in the corner of your screen. You can still check your email constantly (I do), but you won’t have the pop-up yanking you out of your zone when you do need to focus.

          (I was skeptical of this advice when I got it, but no lie, it’s changed my life. There’s something about having to proactively look at my email rather than having it nagging me every second of the day that’s totally changed my attitude toward email. I no longer react with a mental, “Oh, leave me ALONE!” because it doesn’t feel like an unasked-for intrusion anymore.)

    7. Icarus*

      I’m talking from my own experience, when I find myself doing some boring tasks, I always end up procrastinating most of the time. In my opinion this will always happen, you will always end up procrastinating at some point, unless you are performing a task that you REALLY love to do. So maybe you could ask your supervisor for a more interesting task for yourself?

      1. Lillie Lane*

        Yes! Also, does anyone else suffer from extreme anxiety at work? I decided to go back to therapy because my depression leads to procrastination and paralyzing anxiety. However, I couldn’t get a therapy appt for over 2 months. I’d like some suggestions for coping until then. (Note: I work alone and am very isolated, which leads to the depression.). I’m very grateful for this forum because you all feel like my friends :)

        1. fposte*

          There are some online programs that I’ve heard good things about. Look, for instance, at the moodgym program (not linking to avoid moderation delays); it’s free, and I know some people have found it helpful.

        2. Nashira*

          Do you have an EAP that could potentially expedite getting you into therapy? That worked well for me recently.

        3. Natalie*

          Meditation or mindfulness practice might help. I used the Headspace app (10 day program is free) to get started with mediation. The guy narrating the app is very good at explaining how to meditate, and he has a pleasant English accent to boot.

        4. GOG11*

          I tend to get anxious about my work when I have little feedback to go off of (my brain: how am I doing? I don’t know, must err on the side of terrible!). Would developing a relationship with someone who does work similar to yours help? Perhaps you could find a mentor or peer to talk things over with and just check in with periodically. Though you said you are very isolated, not that you feel isolated, so maybe that’s a stretch and doesn’t apply here.

    8. C Average*

      I sometimes pick an arbitrary number and say “I’m going to do 36 useful things in a row and then I’ll take a break and surf AAM.” The useful things can be ANYTHING. File stuff, clean junk off my desk, answer emails, write some code, schedule a meeting, walk down the hall to ask a colleague a question, whatever. I make hash marks on my whiteboard to check each item off. The momentum is kind of fun.

      I do this at home, too. I’ll say, “I’m going to put 48 things where they actually belong.”

      Something about the arbitrariness of it makes it feel adventurous and interesting to me.

      1. Natalie*

        Hmmm, this is interesting. I may try that. Time based tasks (ie pomodoro) hasn’t been working very well for me.

        1. Felicia*

          Timed tasks don’t work for me – if i know ive timed ten minutes for example, i’ll be distracted even quicker than normal. But telling myself i need to do x number of things before I can take a break usually does. Like i have to email this person, enter this data and edit this article and then i’m allowed to take a break to do only x and y. I can’t time my breaks either or it makes me anxious, but I limit it to like 2 websites i want to check , which ends up being like 5 minutes. I work better with numbers of tasks rather than amounts of times. I have a running to do list with every little thing i need to do at work, even teh short small weekly tasks, and i find crossing things off very satisfying, but i can’t make time limits that specific.

  10. Alex*

    My company just went through layoffs!! I have no question, just wanted someone to commiserate with – we had 3 people in my office, and now it is just me. Alone. In an 1,100 sqft, 4 suite office. So sad. And on a selfish note, no raises for the umpteenth year.

      1. some1*

        I’ve been the one laid off once and the one left behind many times. Being the one left behind definitely sucks, but it was still better for me than being laid off in my situation.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Alone in an office = might as well DANCE *cue Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix*

      No, seriously, that sucks especially no raises. Are they going to transfer some people in? Close the office and have you work from elsewhere? I hope you’re looking; it sounds like they’re not doing too well. :(

      1. Alex*

        Noooope. I’m now reporting to someone in a different state. It’s really sad what happened, but now I really can just work remotely most of the time. They like to have a physical presence in the larger markets though so they’ll keep the office open. Being in there alone was creepy at first, but the bright side, like you said, is that I can dance, wear sloppy clothes and no makeup, turn on music, burn smelly candles, microwave smelly food, and have the office supplies all to myself. :)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            ha! I was going to ask if you could bring your dog– not like I knew if you had one or anything. But stuck there by myself, yep, I bringing my little buddy. He would learn about office life.

    2. Natalie*

      Whoa, that would be super weird.

      My company went through a huge layoff in September (at least 50% of the company was terminated) and our office went from 8 employees to 4, plus my boss has to travel a lot more now so we’re frequently 3. It’s so freaking quiet in here.

      If I was you, I’d put on some music at least. That’s what I do whenever I end up in the office alone, just because I find the quiet really unnerving.

    3. Bea W*

      The first thing I heard on the news this morning was a large company in my field laying off 900 workers. :(

  11. Annoyed Classmate*

    This is more of a musing than question, but I welcome comments. I am in an online training class so everything below happens in a forum environment – ie threaded posts and responses – we have a requirement to start a thread and respond to others’ threads.

    One of the first tasks is to introduce yourself and one of the student actually apologized to her fellow students in her intro because she’s inexperienced and feels she doesn’t have much to bring the class. Much of her other messages are similar deferentially – “you have so much experience compared to me. I’m in a room full of experts” – including one post to the instructor saying that she fears that she won’t be able to keep up.

    This is really annoying to me. According to what she said, I think she actually has more real experience in this area than me – a short time but this has been a large part of her job for the short time whereas this is something I’d do rarely. But the topic isn’t hard at all, and I am fully confident I’ll “pass” easily (the final result is a certificate and not a grade.) It’s not math or science or anything really technical. It’s a management process and like many management processes, it’s easy to talk about what to do and how to do it, but it is a lot harder to implement in the real world with competing priorities, lack of funds, lack of time, etc. So in part I think she’s, purposefully or not, misrepresenting her expeieince level.

    On another level, I feel like she’s doing a disservice to all women by being a weak female – “oh, I’m so dumb. I don’t know how I will pass this class.” She’s harping on her lack of confidence so much in the public forums, it’s like she’s begging everyone to swoop in and say “you’ll do fine” and maybe “we’ll help you through the class.” I don’t think it’s an act, but I feel like she’s really playing into and up a stereotype.

    I would never, ever do this. I am independent and actually have trouble asking for assistance because I don’t want to appear weak or needy. If I felt out of my depth, I might mention the concern, but I am pretty confident that my intelligence can carry me through most things easily. (Yes, I was a straight A student. My weakness are in management / human interactions area.) So this person is a polar opposite than me; although, she hasn’t really asked for help yet. Normally I’d be very happy to help others, but there’s so much misplace deference and lack of confidence (which seems silly given the topic) on display that I am really picturing a damsel in distress begging others for help.

    I trying to remind myself that maybe she was not a straight A student so something like this class might intimidate her, but it’s hard when she’s putting out that much weakness on display. Maybe that’s the root of my annoyance – she’s flaunting her weakness for all to see. I think that neediness is not an attractive trait.

    1. Christy*

      Or it could be that she’s bought into all of society’s bullsh*t. Like, the idea of a weak woman is a problem because our culture so values masculine traits and has assigned “strength” as a masculine trait. Do I think what she’s doing is ideal? No. Do I blame her for doing it instead of blaming society for giving her the idea to do it? Also no.

    2. fposte*

      Ah, prefacing behavior. Not my favorite thing, but it’s really, really common. I agree that it’s better to be avoided, but I think you’re taking her behavior too much to heart and should just let your mind wander while she gets into gear.

      1. JMegan*

        I agree. I find this behaviour immensely irritating as well, but it’s not really your problem to solve. Your best bet is to just ignore it, and respond to the actual content of what she’s posting instead. Which is easier said than done of course, but that’s what venting here is for!

        1. fposte*

          And for what it’s worth, I do actually coach students out of this behavior when I encounter it (though not necessarily in a space where other students could see it). But it’s really ingrained in a lot of people.

    3. Diet Coke Addict*

      Ignore her. You don’t have to help her if you don’t want to, you don’t even have to pay attention to her if you don’t want to. But the idea that she is “doing a disservice to all women by being a weak female” is very distasteful. She’s doing a disservice to herself, but she isn’t required to act in the service of Womanhood at all times. You may never, ever do it, which is good, but she’s not doing a disservice to all women by being “a weak female.” (Which is a pretty distasteful phrase by itself.)

      1. LCL*

        I used to think exactly like the OP, I believed that women who acted stereotypically weak and helpless hurt the cause of all women. Imagine my shock when I finally realized that people act that way because they have been conditioned AND REWARDED for that behavior.
        So OP, just tell yourself she can’t help it, ignore it, and when you do work with her show her how to be a little tougher without being judgemental about it.

        1. Nashira*

          Or conditioned and PUNISHED for not engaging in that behavior. The only reward behaving like a nice young lady gets me, is a stop to other people’s bullshit because oh noes I’m not behaving in a “gender appropriate” way. I’m obstinate enough to refuse to give in, since being true to my genderless self is more rewarding than feeling like I’m constantly lying.

          1. Zillah*

            I think I often just lack the attention span to give in – I’m not capable of being deliberate enough for that!

    4. My two cents...*

      she might just be seeking validation, honestly. maybe she wants someone to tell her she’s doing well and keeping up?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        She needs to get that from herself. I wouldn’t play into it – it just encourages the behavior.

    5. Meredith*

      I coordinate online continuing education courses. It’s extremely common for people to do this, even when they’ve got a good amount of expertise. Two possible reasons why:

      1) Online course environments usually demand that the participants directly engage by writing. It’s not the same as a physical course space, when you can often get away with quietly sitting in the back. If someone isn’t used to participating in a discussion in a course space, it can be very intimidating.

      2) This is just the way she is. She protects herself by prefacing her thoughts with insecurity, because it gives her an out. Really common (I catch myself doing it sometimes, eek!), often harmful to how others perceive the speaker, but ultimately something that you are allowed to find annoying.

      1. Amy*

        I always find apologizing in an academic environment annoying. I remind people that if they knew it all they wouldn’t need to go to class. Why do people think they have to know everything? What is wrong with just not knowing something just like everyone else?

    6. Not So NewReader*

      You never know what happens in private conversation. The instructor might be telling her to knock it off, or she might be coaching her through the process.

      If others seem to be ignoring her, then I would be more inclined not to respond myself. It might be possible that you can start a new thread that is actually on topic. This would act as a redirection of the conversation taking the attention off of her. Which, coincidentally solves her problem, too. Not up to her to fill the voids or lulls in conversation.

      I get that she is irritating to you and she probably is irritating to others. But maybe someone is not irritated by her and that person will jump in.
      Or maybe she will just quit the class.

      But yeah, she is speaking for herself not for all of womankind. FWIW, I don’t think that strong women speak for all of womankind, either. I think we are all unique and there is a full range of all types.

    7. Windchime*

      I’m going to respond before reading other peoples’ replies, because I’m sure that they are going to be a lot more understanding and charitable than me.

      We have someone like this at work at it bugs the heck out of me. It’s as if she is always cringing and acting like we are all going to pounce on her and call her stupid, so she does it herself first. Once in an email to a customer, she actually said, “Please forgive my ignorance, but…(blah blah blah.” Seriously?

      I understand that she has some kind of anxiety or low self-esteem and I’m sorry about that, but honestly it’s not my job to be constantly propping her up and saying comforting, reassuring things about how awesome she is. I’m busy doing actual work.

      It’s so annoying. Grrr.

      1. Observer*

        Unless she is really ignorant of the issue she was asking about, that was a really inappropriate thing to preface it with.

        And I agree that it’s not your job to prop up her self esteem. But it’s worth asking a few questions.

        Has anyone ever been kindly direct with her about the inappropriate things she is doing? For instance, if her supervisor and other people who deal with the client just roll their eyes when she does something like this, it’s not going to change. She needs to hear a direct response to this behavior – something along the lines of “When you apologize in advance for not knowing things, it generally reflects poorly on you and the team. Please do not do that going forward. If you need information that you truly believe you should already have, do some research on your own or check with the team. If that’s not possible, then just ask.”

        Do clients react positively to her? “Oh, Jane is soo sweet.” Even “It was so nice, she apologized for not knowing anything about our Teapot Ceremony before asking us for some details.” Personally, I would be cringing inside and probably give anyone who has to deal with that client a heads up to pour on the shmaltz. But, if that kind of thing happens someone probably needs to let her know that this is not what people typically expect. (You would think that this should be common knowledge, but if this is where she is getting the best results, it wouldn’t be surprising that this behavior is strengthened.

        Is there someone in the office, especially a supervisor who actually DOES “pounce on her and call her stupid”? Do people (or women) on her team tend to do substantially better when they grovel?

        Are you being directly affected by this? If not, then I understand the eye-rolling, and that you’re not going to spend your time propping her up. But why do you really care so much? She definitely has a problem, and it’s not your problem.

    8. Observer*

      I haven’t read the responses yet, so I may be repeating what others have already have said.

      I don’t mean to be harsh, but this is your problem, not your class mate’s.

      There are a number of things that strike me about your reaction. Firstly, I get that it’s annoying. But, it’s quite possible to be annoyed by something that is really OUR problem. And, to a really large extent this is really your problem, not something wrong with her.

      Another issue is this whole thing about “doing a disservice to all women.” Actually, that line does a whole lot more of a disservice to women. It’s not the job of any woman to make things better for “all women” – just as it isn’t the job of any man to make things better “for all men”. And legitimizing the idea that people can, and maybe even should, judge women in general by the behavior of SOME women is the biggest disservice you can do to women – in general and in particular. Yes, some people do that. But the pushback should not go to the person who is acting differently from you, but to the people who judge that way.

      You are a straight A student, and have apparently never had any serious negative repercussions from your inability to ask for help, and maybe have seen negative results from being “weak”. So, you have developed a way of doing things that mostly works for you – even though you admit yourself that it sometimes holds you back from doing what you really should. That’s fine. But, you seem to be totally lacking in any sort of awareness of the reality of other people’s experiences. There are many reasons why this woman could be acting the way she does, yet you acknowledge only one of them, and don’t even allow much legitimacy to that one.

      What is really disturbing about this is that most of the things I can think of are not obscure issues, but things that are well known. Whether it’s broader societal issues like women being generally penalized for being “too big for their britches” or more particular issues like a toxic workplace / home life where she is being made to feel like the stupidest person in the room on a regular basis, these are things known issues.

      Weakness is not a moral failing, nor is it a shameful thing to keep a deep dark secret. Neediness may not be an attractive trait to you, but it is to others. And to some people it is attractive in women. More importantly, “not attractive” hardly rises to commendable reason to change from your “normally … happy to help others.”

      In fact this could easily be read as “Normally I’d be very happy to help others who don’t really need much help, I like or who can be useful to me.” Of course, that is absolutely your right. But, do recognize that this is your doing and decision, not her doing.

  12. A.*

    Good news! I just received a job offer! This new job comes with a 33% (!!!) raise over my current salary, and it’s a job using my degree and skills! Finally, I’m about to start my career versus just having a job. I’m so happy and excited! Alison, I feel like I need to send you a fruit basket or something.

      1. Burlington*

        That is a great idea! Then, the two general categories of people I know about that have online wish lists for strangers to send them stuff would be management consultants and cam girls. :)

      1. Alma*

        Buy yourself some flowers today, and maybe a mani/pedi. Enjoy the day. This is giving me a great boost!!

  13. Elkay*

    Another venter here. I’m very much at the “the straw that broke the camel’s back” stage, I’m exhausted by work and ridiculous small things that could be fixed so easily being ignored by managers. The end is in sight for me but it’s a struggle to get there. My work ethic doesn’t allow me to throw my hands up and say “screw it” but I’m very close. I feel like I’m being picked at from all sides with no support.

    1. Nanc*

      I feel your pain. Many years ago I was laid off but because I was a government employee the terms of my contract said they had to give me a 1 year notice. Nice because I had the cushion to job hunt but sucks because they just kept piling more and more work on me up to and including planning the staff retreat which took place on my last day (and they wondered why I didn’t go–I stayed and covered the office!).

      About two months before the end of that job I re-read Little Town on the Prairie and something LIW described in the story of her teaching at the Brewster School stuck with me: you only have to get through one day at a time. I latched onto that thought and it really helped me cope and keep a positive attitude. Every morning I simply reminded myself that it was absolutely fine to just get through that day doing the best job possible.

      Hang in there. Just take it one day at a time. [insert your favorite coping cliche here].

  14. Jill-be-Nimble*

    I GOT THE JOB!!! I was the one who was put out by my temp office’s treatment of me–kind of treating me like an untrustworthy kid instead of someone that they kept promising to hire. When I turned in my notice just before the holiday, my boss told me that she was really, really planning on hiring me, and was going to move me into the new role just after the Thanksgiving holiday–she had just never bothered to interview me for the role or update me on any of the progress since I had applied for the internal position two months before.

    Today is my last day at TempJob, and I start Monday at RealJob. I’m so excited! It’s literally everything I’ve been looking for in a job–creativity, room to grow, lots to learn, but great ways that I can provide my current expertise. A relaxed atmosphere that lets you do what you want as long as you get your work done. ALSO, a real salary, benefits, and security!

    So excited for this. Thanks for everyone’s words of encouragement.

    1. Artemesia*

      Awesome and I hope your old boss struggles to fill her ‘job’. I hate it when employees are abused and kept dangling and suddenly in demand when they turn in their resignation. Congratulations on a fresh start and screw the last job and the horse it rode in on.

  15. Cherry Scary*

    How do you guys focus on the little things/become more detail oriented? I’m new to the workforce (first job post-college, been here 5 months) and my first feedback session/review mentioned that I often let small mistakes slip through. I agree with the assessment, I’m often so excited to get things moving I’m not always slowing down to make sure all the i’s are dotted. Many of these things are just things I forget to check, but leaving post-it-notes everywhere isn’t exactly ideal. I’m doing a lot of writing/editing work, so recommendations to force me to slow down and triple-check things?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Never start a big job in writing or editing late afternoon. I’ve found that by that point my eyes are tired and it’s easier to miss things.
      Related to the above, stop what you’re doing and do something else and then come back to it – half a day maybe (if timescales allow). It’s amazing how many little bits you may have missed.
      Thirdly, because you are still relatively new (and am not sure why this isn’t in place as a new person to the workforce and the job) is – is it possible for a co-worker or your supervisor/manager to check before you submit the work? That way you can see if there are any patterns to what you’re missing.

      1. Cherry Scary*

        As an answer to #3, I am having other people proof, the criticism was that I was missing errors that I should be catching (i.e. consistency of a term’s use, company style things that I had been informed of, etc.)

          1. Academic Counselor*

            Agreed, I think a checklist may be helpful. Add to it every time someone tells you that you forgot something, or even better, add anything new as soon as you learn about it if you think it’s something that you’re likely to forget in the future.

            I work in a role where I have lots of information coming in all different formats (sometimes it’s an announcement in a meeting, sometimes an email, sometimes an update on a website, etc.) and I have to remember it all. The trick for me is to write it down as soon as I hear it the first time – even if I never look at my written note again, the fact that I wrote it down makes it easier for me to remember later.

    2. Calla*

      Can you make a checklist that you use each time? When I start a job and am learning some new processes, I always write up detailed instructions for myself and save them in a document–pull them up the first few times I do it so I am consciously doing every step, and as needed once I get the hang of it. (As a bonus: in the future, when you prepare to go to a new job, you have the foundations of a handbook for your position!)

      1. Calla*

        Also, since you’re in editing, maybe this checklist looks something like (depending on what type of writing it is!) “Make sure all dates are the same,” “Confirm company name is consistent throughout,” “No typos,” “Check punctuation,” etc.

      2. Carrie in Scotland*

        Oh yes – a checklist is great! And then perhaps you could make into a document to help other new starts?

      3. SD Cat*

        This- I worked somewhere where we did a lot of really detailed reviews of reports, and they had a bunch of checklists, one for each report type, to help people reviewing the reports remember what needed to be checked.

        1. Cherry Scary*

          I love this idea! Many of the items I’m writing/proofing are a consistent process, so this would work well.

          1. Judy*

            And your checklist should be a living document, add to it if they’re finding errors of a certain type.

      4. ali*

        Yes, the checklist idea has helped me in just about every job I’ve been in. In my current job, which is very repetitive, I used the checklist probably 8-10 times a day for about 6 months. I probably didn’t need it after the first month or so, but continued to use it anyway because it made me 100% sure.

    3. fposte*

      What’s wrong with leaving post-its everywhere? If it doesn’t work for you, it’s a waste, but if it does, go for it. I’ve had several staffers who do and it’s fine with me.

      Also, for writing/editing, create an actual checklist and go through and check it. At this point you may have an idea of what specifically tends to fall apart, so you can add specific check requirements (“Check all names against sources,” say, or “Check all punctuation at end of quotations”). Then literally do checkmarks on the printed document against the instances. Editing and getting writing right involve several very different cognitive skills, and they can be tough to do all in one swoop; I’m pretty good at it after decades, but even I can’t proofread an index for entry content and alphabetization of entries in the same go. So you could also try to break down your steps so that your goals don’t need as much cognitive juggling.

    4. AVP*

      +1 for the checklist, those are essential for me. Hand-write it if you like handwritten things, or keep it in a computer sticky note on your desktop where you can’t miss it.

      Also, make sure you’re building in enough time to properly go over your work before you send it in. You want to save, like, almost the same amount of time that you spent writing the first draft for last revisions. DOn’t rush that part of the process, it’s just as valuable as the research stage.

      Sometimes I catch mistakes more easily when I print pieces out on paper and read over them with a red pen in my hand, circling and underlining things I want to take a closer look at.

    5. danr*

      If you need to proof read stuff, do it from the bottom up for spelling errors and such, then forward from the top for flow and grammar. If you can, put the item aside for at least 15 minutes, the re-read it and send if okay. Unless something is truly super rush, another 5 minutes to a hour won’t make any difference. As you get used to proof reading your own work, you will find that you get things out faster and correct.

    6. Meg Murry*

      Actually print out your work and look at on paper and mark it up with a colored pen. I know we are all so used to a “paperless society” and its “wasting so many trees” – but I catch so many more typos on actual paper than a screen. Reading out loud (or at least mouthing the words silently) also helps me slow down and find the mistakes where I left out a word or have sloppy sentence structure.
      If deadlines allow, leaving something that you think is done at the end of the day and giving it a fresh final look in the morning helps too.
      For non-writing details – make yourself make a checklist of tasks that need to be done, before you dive in and start actually doing. For instance, if you are planning a party, make a list of what you need to buy, who you need to call, what your budget is, etc before you dive in to making calls to venues and caterers, as a for instance.

    7. Robin*

      After you finish writing something and checking it once, before you hit send, get up and walk around, get a drink of water, let your brain wander to other things. Print it out, sit in a different spot with a red pen. Pretend it’s something someone else wrote, and you know she’s counting on you to find the mistakes.

    8. Julia*

      I agree with the comments above, I find printing things out and reviewing them away from the computer screen helps a ton. If you can, look at something the next day and review it.

      Do you have a coworker you can bounce things off of? In my previous jobs, sometimes I would hand things off to a peer for a quick review before I sent it to my mgr and I’d do the same for her.

    9. ProductiveDyslexic*

      I work as an editor.

      Two things:

      1) Checklists are good. For some of my work, tasks that were on my checklist are now macros. An example is my find and replace macro for changing all instances of “dataset” to “data set” according to the housestyle of one publisher I work for.

      Automating the stuff like this frees up brain power for other stuff. This will help attention to detail.

      2) Time how long your work takes you.

      I do this for all my work. Turns out I was faster than I thought, and in fact faster than one of my bosses liked.

      This week I slowed down in a controlled manner, and my boss has gone from being happy to very happy with my work.

      There are many caveats around the figure I’m about to give, but very generally 2000 words an hour on average is normal.

    10. Nobody*

      You might need to change the way you think about checking your work. My job is very detail-oriented, too, and there is a noticeable difference between the attitudes of the people who make a lot of mistakes and those who make very few mistakes. The people who rarely make mistakes treat double-checking as part of the task. They don’t think of it as, “I’m done with the task, and now I will check my work.” They don’t consider it done until they check it.

      The people who make a lot of mistakes tend to think of double-checking as an afterthought. Once they get through a task, they consider it done and mentally move on to the next thing, so even if they go through the motions of double-checking, they’re not giving it their full attention. Our software actually forces us to indicate that we double-checked our work, but it’s obvious that some people just click the boxes without really checking their work. If you use a checklist but have the attitude that it’s a burden, or something that’s slowing you down, you’ll soon find yourself mindlessly checking the boxes based on recollection without actually reviewing your work.

      By the way, it’s great that you’re listening to your manager’s feedback and working to address the concerns!

    11. Observer*

      I’m going to agree with all the people who say “check lists”. But I’m also going to agree with idea that post its are just fine if that’s what works for you. And you can even do post its on your computer (Windows 7 and 8 have a post it type of utility built in, and if Mac doesn’t I’m sure you can find one.) That has an advantage in that you can turn the post its on or off as you work. I’m also going to strongly encourage you to automate whatever you can. Whether it’s using style-sheets for your documents, search and replace or macros to insure consistent usage of terms, using the built in capabilities of programs rather than doing things manually, or even stupid stuff like copy / paste rather than retyping stuff, these things can make a huge difference.

  16. De (Germany)*

    When and how did the mothers and father around here tell their workplace that they were pregnant?

      1. Gene*

        I SO dislike the “We’re pregnant!!!11!!’ announcement. No, the female is pregnant, the male is a father-to-be. Last month a gay couple who were working with a surrogate made the “We’re pregnant!!!11!!’ announcement; it took all I had to not ask if they were going to name him Dionysus.

        This goes along with my dislike of joint email and social network accounts (yes, I’m looking at you, brother and spouse).

        1. Natalie*

          Email I can sort of understand, because it’s kind of like sharing a physical mailing address. But for some reason joint Facebook accounts just creep me out the door. You’re not the same person.

          1. bad at online naming*

            yeah, I’ve even done joint email accounts with roommates – so much better to have badatonlinenamingandfriend(s) than multiple email address to include.

            social networking: weird.

        2. C Average*

          Argh. YES. Me, too. Cosigning every single one of these peeves.

          Only conjoined twins and monarchs who use the royal “we” as a matter of course should be able to use the sentence “we’re pregnant.”

      2. Cherry Scary*

        one of the guys I work with edited the poster for “Knocked Up” with him and his wife’s photos and slipped it into a slideshow for the department staff meeting. Then they had another stating “twins!”

    1. Sascha*

      Mother here – I told my bosses first, around 8 weeks, because I was having terrible nausea and needed to work from home more often than normal. I told a few coworkers with whom I’m close around that time as well. After about 12 weeks, I told a few more people, including those I know to be the office gossips, and let them have the joy of spreading the news around. :) I didn’t want to make a big announcement in front of everyone, I preferred to let the information just float around.

    2. rek*

      I waited until after I was through the first trimester, and was reasonably sure I would carry to term. It was a few (ahem!) years ago, but I think it was around 4 – 5 months, when my regular business attire was becoming uncomfortable and I wanted to start wearing maternity clothes. You would want to allow enough time for you and your manager to plan your work transition for however long you plan to be out.

    3. Nerd Girl*

      Mom here. I had been trying for a good while and several of my co-workers had acted as my support system so when I found out I was pregnant I told them immediately but asked them to keep it on the down low. I was fully planning on waiting until after my first trimester to tell everyone but then the layoffs started. I ended up asking my boss if I was being laid off and letting her know I was pregnant in the same sentence. “Joan, I need to know if I’m on the list of people to be laid off because I just found out I was pregnant and need to make arrangements for health insurance with my husbands work if I am out of a job.” I wasn’t on the list for layoffs and she was thrilled for me. :)

    4. MJH*

      I told at 20 weeks. I wasn’t very sick, wasn’t showing, and didn’t need accommodations, so I could afford to wait that long. No one seemed phased by that and my boss still has plenty of time to work with me to create a coverage plan.

    5. Josh S*

      When my wife & I found out babygirl #2 was on the way this past spring, my manager was among the first to know. It was totally a “Hi Cathy! Just wanted to share some good news. My wife is in the early stages of pregnancy, and if all goes to plan, the baby will arrive sometime in Late October. Just something to keep in mind over the coming year. We’re not sharing this widely for a few more weeks, so please keep it to yourself for the moment, but I thought you should be aware.”

      I think that was around the 7 or 8 week mark. And yeah, a lot of people don’t say anything til after the 1st Trimester (when the risk of miscarriage goes down). But to my mind–I want my boss to have the context of the pregnancy for if I’m late because I got puked on that morning on the way out the door and had to change clothes, or if I need a few days off to deal with the grief of a miscarriage, or anything else. (For the pregnant woman who is working–same things apply: Need to be late because of morning sickness? Need a few days off to recover post-miscarriage? You want your boss to know that you were pregnant and this is the result of that, rather than wondering.)

      Caveat: All of this depends on having a boss who isn’t insane/won’t treat you negatively (illegally!) because you’re pregnant or father-to-be. If your boss has shown signs of idiocy in the past….use your best judgement.

    6. Schmitt*

      My boss left a copy of an ultrasound and a parenting book on his desk. We all politely didn’t mention it, and eventually his wife told us at their housewarming party.

    7. KJR*

      I waited the traditional 12 weeks — told my boss first, then the co-workers I was closest to. Everybody else figured it out as time passed.

    8. Lizzie*

      Not a parent myself, but two co-workers who are currently pregnant both announced at work around 12 weeks.

    9. B*

      First time, i went round and told everyone in person at 12 weeks. I then had a miscarriage at 17 weeks. (It was actually ok that everyone knew, horrible but it meant no one was speculating about what had happened when i was off sick for a long time.)

      Second time, i was off sick with mental health issues and came back 7 weeks pregnant. I told my immediate team straight away but in a much lower key way. I also told the health and safety manager. After a few weeks i asked the h&s manager to “gossip” – ie get the word out without me having to tell anyone. She understood and did a sterling job.

  17. Sascha*

    I get where you are coming from, I find that kind of behavior annoying as well. I have worked with a lot of professors over the years – I’m a system admin at a university – and so I often encounter this type of person, who is constantly apologizing and saying they won’t get the hang of it or measure up. In my experience, it was just because of technophobia, and it was more like a nervous tick than anything else. It was mostly women, but a few men as well. The programs I was training them on were unfamiliar and they just panicked. So in those cases, it wasn’t really flaunting their weaknesses, but just being the type of person who is vocal with their emotions, and their nervousness just kept coming through in that form.

    Who knows what her motivations are for constantly saying these things…for some people it’s just a nervousness thing, for others its a cry for attention. I think the best thing to do is just ignore those statements. Usually the person will stop once they see it’s not getting them any attention. If she keeps doing it all throughout the course, well…at least it’s just an online course and you won’t have to deal with her again!

  18. hermit crab*

    Has anyone ever been asked to do an online survey instead of a traditional reference check? I recently agreed to be a reference for someone and was sent a link to an online form. It had a couple of text fields where I could enter information on the person’s strengths and weaknesses, in addition to a maybe 30-question “skills survey” where I had to do things like rank the person’s professionalism on a scale of 1 to 7.

    On the one hand, it was nice to be able to write down my comments on my own schedule instead of being put on the spot during a phone call. On the other hand, though, how useful can these surveys possibly be? Is anyone giving a positive reference going to put less than a 6 or 7 on these types of questions? I could see this mayyyybe being useful to compare candidates, but this was clearly a pre-hire “we found a top candidate and just need to check his references” sort of assessment. What do you think?

    1. Calla*

      I have never done one, but I heard from my references that my current job utilized an online form when it contacted them (though I think it had more free text than the one you’re describing). I had never heard of such a thing before!

    2. Alex*

      I’ve been asked to do this – as the reference giver, I loved it! Re: your comment about how useful is it – how useful are any references, really? If someone agrees to be a references, they’re most likely going to only say glowing things. Although when the reference checker asks about a weakness, that can be helpful maybe. I think the whole reference check thing is maybe more of a gauge to show the potential employer that the applicant has a good enough reputation that they can call on people to vouch for them, rather than the actual answers the references give.

      1. Natalie*

        I think you’re incorrectly assuming that all employers are looking for the same thing. A reference can only be automatically “glowing” if there’s one universal standard for “good employee”, and there isn’t. I would get a good reference from my boss, but for certain type of work environments she would probably have critical things to say about my likeliness to perform well there, and frankly right so.

        1. hermit crab*

          I totally agree, but I think that’s the sort of thing that comes out much better in an actual conversation. In this case, the questions were like some strange workplace background check — like, on a scale of 1 to 7, rate the person’s ability to receive criticism without getting angry. I was ready to give some well-thought-out feedback about this person’s skills and the projects we had worked on together, but the survey just seemed like it would be unhelpful for everyone.

    3. AVP*

      I’ve had to do these for people applying to the types of jobs where there are thousands of applicants being winnowed for a set number of positions at the same time (Americorps, Teach for America). Like you I was happy to be able to think through my answers and edit them, but I can’t imagine they’re as helpful as a conversation. Just the process of editing means that the HM isn’t able to get my off-the-cuff evaluations, which are probably more useful, and they’re missing out on things like tone of voice, level of excitement, etc.

      1. hermit crab*

        I definitely think it makes more sense as a screening technique for large numbers of applicants! I can’t imagine that going through five written responses saves a significant amount of time compared to making five phone calls. For five hundred people, though, absolutely.

    4. Audiophile*

      I had a company I interviewed with do this. It was survey style, with boxes to check, so to speak. And then one box on the bottom of free text.
      All of my references thought it was strange, especially since at the end, it asked if they were interested in being contacted about job openings.

        1. Audiophile*

          They weren’t even a staffing agency though, it was a hospital. It really was strange. They wanted my references to rank me and then for the free text it was a question like: ” Is there anything else we should know about the candidate?”

    5. RG*

      I’ve actually done something like this for someone who works in state government. Maybe it’s a government thing?

    6. Robin*

      Yes, this is really lazy, your instinct is right. And it probably means that some bad candidates will slip through.

    7. Angie&herList?*

      I just had to fill out this exact form a couple of hours ago! I’ve used a few others but this seemed the most limiting of them all – no way to provide real context on the prospective employee. Ranking, them 3 strengths, 3 weaknesses.

      1. hermit crab*

        That’s exactly the one! It was a “360 skills survey” or something like that. Did you think the questions were odd? I felt that anyone who knows how to behave in a professional environment would pretty much automatically get the best or nearly the best rating in each category.

    8. Natalie*

      Yes, and the way the reference survey was sent to me was so badly thought out I considered writing the company about it. I received an email with the applicant as the sender, and the subject line was something like “Please take a few moments of your time”. C’mon, that screams any number of things besides “online reference check”.

      So, of course, the email and the follow-ups got spam-filtered. It wasn’t until our poor temp came and asked me about it that I realized I had even been contacted.

      1. Anx*


        I have had these sent to my references and it’s very embarrassing. I loathe that there is no opportunity to give your references a heads up (if you’re on a long-term job search).

        What’s worse is that I’ve had less than 48 hours to make sure my references submitted them. I didn’t think it was appropriate at all to insist on such a speedy turnaround when these people were doing me a favor.

    9. Nanc*

      Yep. Online survey followed by a phone call to discuss followed by an in person interview. It was for a former intern who was applying for a government job that needed a security clearance. The in person interview was an FBI agent who treked down to our little corner of the PNW to do a bunch of background check interviews for a bunch of candidates. I ran into him downtown the next day and he mentioned he loved coming to town because there was always something fun to do. Oh, and my intern got the job! But because of the security clearance I don’t know exactly which agency he works for or what he does.

  19. chewbecca*

    A coworker got me hooked on Serial and it made my workday go by so. much. faster. I’ve been having problems focusing lately, and for some reason listening a podcast really helped. I think it’s because since my job is so repetitive, it keeps my mind occupied in a way that just listening to music doesn’t. I can’t tell you how much of a relief this is.

    Since I’m (sadly) caught up on Serial, I’ve been listening to Stuff You Should Know. What other work appropriate podcasts do you listen to?

    1. The IT Manager*

      Wow! I love Serial, but my work is not repetitive and a podcast would be a huge distraction. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks while driving and doing household chores mostly.

      I’d recommend RadioLab (it has a huge backlog if you haven’t listened before), Freakonomics Radio, TED Radio Hour. I also pick and choose interesting topics from Fresh Air. Yeah, it’s almost all NPR.

      1. MaryMary*

        At my last job I had some responsibilities that were repetitive, and I’d listen to podcasts to keep myself from completely zoning out. I hated that part of my job, but I kind of miss the podcasts I’d listen to. I don’t have time to keep up with all of them now.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      Heh. Yesterday my wife came home and says “oh, I started to listen to this really good podcast called ‘Serial’ …” It seems to be growing legs!

    3. Janis*

      I love podcasts! I like Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me! from NPR, and Friday Night Comedy from the BBC (both topical humorous shows, although I miss a lot of the British references it’s still darn funny), plus assorted others: Travel with Rick Steves, The Story Collider (15-min. personal stories about science-related topics) and Here’s the Thing, a talk show hosted by Alec Baldwin who is, I gotta say it, a damn good interviewer and not nearly as much of a prat as I thought he’d be.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        BBC radio is awesome (my auntie listens to it incessantly, so I got to hear a LOT on holiday), but I can’t listen to radio shows or podcasts when I’m writing. For that, it’s always instrumental music.

        I do listen to old-time mystery radio shows when I’m cleaning, doing yard work (I don’t do that much anymore because of my shoulder issues), or sewing. I hate sewing. The Shadow or Ellery Queen and the like distract me from how much I hate it.

        And I just realized that made me sound really, really, really old. >_<

        1. Windchime*

          I’m planning to knit by the fireplace later this evening. I see your “old” and raise you an “elderly cat lady”.

      2. fposte*

        Small brag–I sent in a news clipping that was read aloud on the News Quiz. It’s one of my favorite geeky achievements.

      3. ProductiveDyslexic*

        There’s so much excellent comedy and drama on BBC Radio 4 and much is endlessly repeated on 4extra.

        My favourites at the moment are: The Maltby Collection, Paul Temple Mysteries, The News at Bedtime (although this is basically an in-joke about the BBC), and Milton Jones.

    4. Jubilance*

      I listen to a lot of NPR stuff – Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me; Planet Money; This American Life; RadioLab. I also adore Stuff You Missed In History Class.

      1. Alma*

        Terry Gross rules. I have picked up so many amazing books and music because of hearing her extended interviews with writers and artists. (I also leave the radio turned to “my npr member station” for my dog when he is at home alone.)

    5. wonkette*

      I love podcasts! Seriously, I subscribe to around 60 of them because they rock. My faves include the usual public radio podcasts by NPR/WNYC/PRI and news podcasts from 60 minutes, NY Times Slate, and PBS. The ones that are good quality but tend to be overlooked are: Hardcore History (history), DecodeDC (politics), You Must Remember This (history on Hollywood/music stars), Political Wire (politics) and Bryan Callen Show (he’s a comedian but he has surpisingly good interviews with writers and academics).

    6. Cherry Scary*

      Highly recommend Sawbones: a Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine. Its a husband and wife team (she’s a family practitioner, he’s a journalist) and they discuss the history of medicine. Not actually as gross as you may think, they mostly talk about strange cures and some of the more colorful people in medical history.

    7. Cath in Canada*

      A lot of my favourites have already been mentioned (Radiolab in particular is awesome!), but I also like pretty much all the shows at Radiotopia, especially Strangers and 99% Invisible.

    8. Blue_eyes*

      I love all the NPR podcasts already mentioned. I also like The History Chicks, Good Job Brain, and America’s Test Kitchen Radio.

    9. RB*

      Oh, podcasts are the best! I listen to a lot of NPR (Fresh Air, Planet Money, All Songs Considered, This American Life, Serial, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me). Anything from Maximum Fun is fantastic – Bullseye, Sawbones, and if a bit of giggling is ok – Judge John Hodgman, Jordan Jesse Go, and My Brother My Brother and Me are all fantastic. Stuff You Should Know is great, as is Stuff You Missed In History Class. Again, if giggling is ok, check out Wits and Nerdist too.

  20. Ask a Manager* Post author

    heavily under the influence of painkillers from hand surgery yesterday but pre-wrote this in advance:

    I’m putting together a list of contenders for the Worst Boss of 2014 voting (we’ll vote later this month). If you’d like to nominate an especially bad boss from the letters published here this year, please do!

    1. GOG11*

      Alison, was this supposed to be int he open thread or was it to be its own post? It’s currently in the open thread.

      Also, I hope your recovery goes well!

        1. GOG11*

          Ah, okay! I wasn’t sure but wanted to say something just in case.

          I hope you are loopy enough to not be in pain at least :)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Yes, I was going to say that one too.

        As well as the ones about buying the employees’ clothes (from 28th July), not approving time off unless a specific reason was given as to how it would be spent (14th July) and the pushy boss who kept forcing alcohol on the employee (27th August).

    2. Jamie*

      Ooh – how are you feeling? Wish you a speedy recovery – and the ability to learn to text without both thumbs in the meantime!

        1. Mister Pickle*

          Just make sure you avoid alcohol with that stuff. It’s got acetaminophen in it, so there’s a risk of liver damage if you were to drink. Probably telling you stuff you already know, but JIC. I’ve had several friends who thought the “no alcohol” warning was just boilerplate that meant “you’ll get extra f**ked up if you take these and drink”.

        2. louise*

          Oh! Be careful with that, though…I found I’ll say* some pretty ridiculous things while on painkillers.

          *Sing, rather. While on Vicodin after breaking my ankle, I called a friend to explain that I couldn’t make it to an event due to my injury, but instead left a voice mail singing extemporaneous lyrics to a spontaneously composed tune. Note: I have no composing or lyric writing skills. Between that and some serious nausea, I realized RX painkillers just aren’t for me.

          1. GOG11*

            When I was on Vicodin after getting my wisdom teeth out I watched the entire Life in the Freezer series hosted by David Attenborough on loop and I would narrate along with Sir Attenborough…

    3. Mister Pickle*

      I love painkillers! I know it’s not “right” to say that (and I haven’t had any in years and years) but I do. I hope your actual pain isn’t getting in the way.

      Sadly, my boss has been really good this year. He even gave me a raise on Monday. So I won’t be nominating him anytime soon, I’m afraid.

    4. Mimmy*

      No nominees yet (if I think of one, I’ll post later), but I’ve been thinking about you. I hope your recovery goes well. ((gentle cyber-hug))

    5. jordanjay29*

      I’m still fairly new to following AAM, but I’d like to know about the voting. Do you link to the nominees so we can read them at voting time?

  21. ACA*

    I work at a graduate school, and yesterday I got voluntold to coordinate our spring graduation ceremony (a 700-person event). I have no event planning experience. This is going to be insane.

    1. fposte*

      Emulate, emulate, emulate. This is not the first graduation they’ve had. Grab institutional knowledge and check all the paperwork you can find, and think of the assignment not as putting on an event but replicating last year’s task.

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            But you should have the same basics–if they want a new venue, you should have all the information from the old venue figuring what they want, so you can transfer that to a new venue. Same with the caterer–get the information from the old caterer (number of meals, number of subs, dates/times/whatever) and transfer it to the new person. Venues, caterers, printers, etc., will all be pretty similar with regards to a big event like this. And trust them–they do this for a living, yours won’t be the first major event they handle!

          2. Lynn Rainham*

            The number of changes they want is making me wonder if they don’t actually want a bunch of changes they actually want one big one.
            They may want these “small” changes because the venue was cold, the food was served cold and the printing wasn’t completed on time. These changes are totally do-able for someone who has never planned an event before (the notes below are really helpful).
            On the other hand these small changes could be a symptom of finding things to blame when the overall event needs to be changed. For example you may have a four hour pomp and circumstance ceremony and even the proudest parent is bored. Changing everything about the event but the core of the event won’t change that.
            Basically is this a bunch of small changes that are needed in the event, or do they really need one big overall change to solve all their problems? I’m thinking it may be worth sitting with the people who voluntold you, and figuring out if the whole ceremony was a flop, or if it was just several fixable things they don’t like and need you to fix.

      1. Cautionary tail*

        I had a situation like this. Big Fortune 500 company event with statewide exposure. No information from people who did the work in the past, no documentation, no nothing.
        I did three things: (1) Got a set of questions together for the person who led the activity in the past. Even though that person’s job was completely different now, that two hour interview gave me the basics. (2) I then got one person from last year’s team to be an associate team-member. That person didn’t know everything and for the most part couldn’t actively participate but was included on all the emails so they could inject when we were about to do something wrong. (3) Finally I documented, documented, documented so the person who does it in the future has an entire cookbook to go by. After the event was over I then emailed that ZIPped package of all the documentation out to a lot of people so in the event I’m not around people will have access to all the information.

        By the way we won an award from the state agency for the work we pulled off. :) I then gave all the credit to everyone on the team and thanked the people from last year’s team for guiding us.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          +10,000. Especially for giving credit to the team. Maybe someday I’ll get burned, but I *always* credit my team, and it always works out great for both the team and for me personally.

    2. Judy*

      Did the person who did it last have documents, checklists, etc? It seems like there should be something, it’s not like they don’t have to do it every year.

    3. Artemesia*

      Schools normally have an ancient crone who has done this since the dawn of time and very specific protocols. I bet there are detailed plans for this and that is the first thing I would find. It is incredibly complex to get right. Assuming that actual diplomas are presented, getting everyone lined up correctly, the names properly pronounced and the right diploma to the right person is very complex but most places have a system in place to know who will be there, to then line the people up correctly in diploma order, and a system for the announcer to guarantee s/he knows how to pronounce all the names including that Thai student’s name or that name with all consonants from Poland.

      Sit down with whomever ‘knows how its done’ and walk through the entire process with them visualizing each step, so you know what questions to ask. Find out who normally assists in the process and how they are trained and make sure this is done well in advance. e.g. There may be faculty who lead in the graduates and the faculty participants so that most people just follow the person in front of them — but those faculty leaders need to know what they are doing and there needs to be someone to train and direct them. There are probably staff in charge of lining up the graduates correctly; who are they and how are they prepared? Who provides the data about graduates needed for the presenter and those doing the line ups. The program usually lists graduates and degrees and special honors and such; who has the template, who fills in the data, when are those deadlines.

      This is a high visibility environment for screwing up, so be sure you know all the steps involved and who is responsible for the various components. Meetings are in your future.

    4. Adam*

      Thank you for introducing me to the word “voluntold”. I’m amazed I haven’t heard that before now.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        It’s often used in my office in conjunction with another great portmanteau:

        “I’ve been voluntold to organise the Christmas party”

        “Oh, congratudolences!”

    5. soitgoes*

      There is probably someone who really wanted this task or likes planning stuff and is upset that you got it. Let him/her “help” (ie control-freak the eff out of it).

    6. College Career Counselor*

      Good luck. I did that for over a decade in a previous job where I had no previous event planning experience (and if I can do it, so can you). That was when I learned that event planning was not something I enjoyed (because if everything goes smoothly, that’s your job–if something beyond your control goes off the rails, you’ll catch the flak for it). My advice is to make a list (contact the person that used to do it, if available) of all the tasks you need to do:

      A/V or other tech
      RSVP deadline plus how many guests (do you have limited space? do you control access to that space or does someone else? If not, book the venue NOW!)
      Make sure your caterer is reputable and will arrive on time (don’t let anyone bully you into the cheaper vendor if they don’t have as good a reputation)

      That’s all I’ve got for now–I’m going to have to jump out of this thread because I’ve got to go do some OTHER event planning stuff for my current job. Good Luck!

      1. Alma*

        At my Univ there was a Master of Ceremonies – someone from the Faculty – who took charge of all the protocol and who will probably be a wealth of information to you. He was the one with the walkie-talkie literally cueing every step of the ceremony.

      2. Lizzie*

        +1 for balancing cost and reputation of vendors. I once coordinated an event sponsored by an agency which required that I hire the cheapest vendor for services, and the lousy catering company that we hired as a result completely wrecked our schedule of events on multiple occasions, with meals often arriving in insufficient quantities multiple hours late. In this case, it was a new vendor so we didn’t have previous experience with them (and thus didn’t know that they were so awful), but I had some Words following the event and suggested that they might want to think about revising that policy…

    7. Josh S*

      Cynical response: Do a passable, but not fantastic, job. That way they’ll look to someone else next year!

      [Don’t do this]

    8. Frances*

      Ugh, I feel like this happens a ton in academia, primarily when the administrators are faculty who’ve never had to really plan an event. I got listed on a NSF grant to coordinate a conference that would take place over a week on two consecutive years, one year of which was in another state at a collaborating institution. They told me about it *after* the grant was awarded. (Also seriously, they’re just telling you this *now*? Do they expect you to do anything other than plan this event for the next 4-5 months? )

      Sorry, not helpful, but you have all of my sympathies.

    9. Academic Counselor*

      Rather than provide helpful suggestions like the other commenters, I’m just here to commiserate. I’ve had to do this for a couple of departments and I also had no event planning experience (or desire to gain any). My idea of fun is NOT a 20-minute conversation about which tablecloths go best with which tables. And I don’t know how many of those 700 people are your students, but it is not an easy task to organize an event that requires several hundred people to participate in a ceremony and be in the right places at the right time.

      The best university I worked at had a full-time person whose job it was to coordinate the commencement ceremonies each year. She would call for “volunteers” among the staff to actually man the events themselves, but we just had show up and follow directions.

      1. Rowan*

        We have a whole graduation department, thank goodness. We just have to tell them which students are graduating by a certain date.

    10. Anx*

      Schools routinely have students organize many large events and they typically are doing it all for the first time. Your communications department, facilities services, vendors, etc. should be used to first-time event planners.

  22. Moonpie*

    While I’ve participated in the interview and selection process in various roles over the years, for the first time I’m in the hiring manager seat. We’ve posted an entry-level position, and in the last few days I’ve had not one but two mothers of prospective candidates call me on behalf of their offspring! Getting directions, trying to pin me down for an “appointment” to accept an application in person… is this the trend anyone else is seeing?

    1. Artemesia*

      “I’m sorry but I can only deal with requests for information from the applicant; have your son (daughter) call me if they need information.” end of conversation.

      This is the natural extension of the behavior of calling college professors and deans about sonny boy or the little princess. The only way to deal is to reiterate the sentence above as appropriate. I would put an enormous black mark on the file of that applicant unless the applicant shows exceptional initiative and promise. Extra points for a quick apology about Mom and very efficient follow up behavior themselves.

      1. RG*

        Ahh, I just had a brief daymare about someone who isn’t aware that their parent is doing this. The horror!

    2. Josh S*

      Lol. Anecdotally, yes, I’ve heard of this. But Artemesia has the right response.
      “We expect anyone who fills this role to be able to follow the directions provided in the application and email communications independently. We cannot deal with requests for information from anyone but the person applying for the job.”
      Or, if you want to make them feel like a jerk about it:
      “I’m sorry. Are you an applicant for this job? …No? …Why are you calling then? …Oh, I see. How, exactly, do you believe you’re helping your son/daughter’s application by asking for this yourself instead of having them show the initiative and organization skills? You’ve essentially just told me that if I hire your child, I’ll be hiring someone who expects others to do their leg-work, plus I’ll be bothered by 3rd parties who have no professional relationship with our office. Is that the impact you were hoping for? ….No? Then I suggest you let your kid do their own job hunting.”

      1. catsAreCool*

        In some ways, Josh, I think your second suggestion might be more helpful for the parents. If they actually listen.

    3. pgh_adventurer*

      Oh god. No, but I’m cringing at the thought of it. I hope you told them you don’t deal with mothers of candidates.

    4. HR Manager*

      Not a recent trend, unfortunately. I’ve always had parents (usually moms) emailing, calling or inquiring about jobs on her child’s behalf. I only wish they knew how that makes a candidate look. Even if they have good resumes, this interaction lowers my view of their ability to work independently, be self-motivated, and resourcefulness significantly. PARENTS – please stop!

      There has been a lot of reporting how this generation of college grads have the worst job prospects and are living at home. Wonder if this would push parents to try to expedite their independence.

      1. Anx*

        Sometimes parents just don’t believe that you’re trying to find a job if you aren’t pounding the pavement and are willing to put yourself out there.

        It’s easier for an applicant not to push their job search or embarrass themselves, so choosing not to — even if it’s the professional choice — may read as lazy.

  23. Diet Coke Addict*

    My horrid boss has just now sent us information about Christmas hours, shutdown time, and so forth. We have been asking for months, literally, to let us know what he wants us to do, because some of us are making travel plans, and he waited until now.

    Managers: Don’t do this. Please give your people more than two weeks of notice.

  24. Cruciatus*

    About 2 weeks ago I applied for a job that is seemingly a step up, probably a better salary, slightly more exciting days on occasion, and will most likely open up a few more doors to me than I have now–and yet when I check my phone for any messages from them I vacillate between “Why haven’t they called yet!?” and “I hope they don’t call!” This happen to anyone else? There’s probably a little bit of imposter syndrome in there, but I wish my brain would be more consistent!

    In happier news, though our work never intersects, my workplace has hired 2 normal, competent people. This is not always the case, so it’s been nice. The one tends to talk everything out under her breath while she’s doing it but, hey, I don’t have to sit near her so it doesn’t bother me!

    And though I like my boss, he’s at a conference for the next 10 days so I get to just focus on what I need to do and don’t have to respond immediately to him saying, “I need this” or “Cruciatus, can you just _____. It’ll only take a minute.” I think “It’ll only take a minute” is one of the biggest lies of our age…

    1. Jax*

      I feel you on the flip-flopping! I had a phone interview and the lady grilled me, then did an about face and said the hiring manager will absolutely want to talk to me, and she’s forwarding my resume on to him to set up an interview. EEK! I’m terrified!

      This company runs off military contracts, making important products (tanks! armor!) and suddenly I’m feeling like a huge fake. My roots are small manufacturing plants. I’m imagining all my potential coworkers as grizzled GI Joes, sneering at me, the stupid girl who got her start as a receptionist but thinks she can run with the project managers.

      1. Nashira*

        If they sneer at you for working as admin for a while, they deserve the step on Legos eternally.

    2. HigherEd Admin*

      This is me right now. I applied for a “stretch” job that would be an incredible opportunity and one that I know I would succeed in. I would love if they called, but I would also be terrified to try to convince someone to give me a shot. My brain is trying to eloquently phrase, “hey I know this is a leap, but trust me, I would be great and I wouldn’t get bored and leave after 2 years!”

  25. Night Cheese*

    Does anyone have any best practices for kicking off workplace diversity efforts? I’m just curious if anyone know what kind of stuff works well and is inclusive instead of off-putting.

    1. Brandy*

      Food! Potluck. When we do it, I have to keep myself from physically assaulting someone over the last samosa. mmmmmmmmm samosas.

    2. Anon for This*

      What do you mean by workplace diversity efforts?

      When my organization kicked off our several-year plan to dig into our work around diversity and equity (including both programmatic work and internal work, e.g. hiring, culture-building, etc.), we started with a three-day-long conference focused on identity and reflection about our organization’s culture and practices. Reviews were mixed. I thought it was REALLY good and really important.

      1. Night Cheese*

        I believe the administration’s ultimate goal is to create a strategic plan/implementation strategy to address diversity and inclusion in a fairly large, homogenous organization. I’ve been asked to help. I’m interested in suggestions that will make the process more inclusive so nobody feels marginalized or like they aren’t being heard.

        1. Anon for This*

          I’d recommend that you build identity groups – safe spaces for folks with various identities (Black, LGBTQ, parents, White, religious, etc.) to talk through how those identities relate to their work, what their experience working for your organization is, etc.

    3. Joey*

      Yes. I focused on recent race events in the media, MLK’s “I have a dream” speech, and how they relate to where we want to be diversity wise.

      My goals focus though on awareness and efforts to make sure we’re providing opportunities for all even if that means reaching out to specific groups that don’t apply proportionately.

    4. HR Manager*

      What are they trying to achieve with these efforts? Better EEO reporting numbers? Remediate past grievances and concerns? Generally, do good? It will be helpful, if your management defines what the goal of these programs are (short-term and long-term). That will help you decide on what to focus on.

      I hope they are also realistic that if there are inherent problems with diversity in-house, there aren’t a lot of quick fixes. They have to buy into a long-term investment, and also take a hard look at themselves, practices, and policies and make commitment to wanting to change the culture.

    5. Nashira*

      Would Diversity Inc magazine potentially be a good resource? I get regular newsletters from them, via my company’s subscription, and they regularly interview execs from companies with solid diversity efforts, and have “meetings in a box” about diversity-related topics. As a clerical grunt who belongs to multiple minority groups and is a happy feminist activist on their own time, it mostly strikes me as pretty good.

      Just… make sure even your remote offices and middle managers buy in, somehow. It’s isolating to know the bulk of my company is pro-diversity, yet I work with openly racist, ableist, and homophobic people, who feel free to speak their minds.

  26. Rita*

    I’m looking to develop a “New Client Welcome Package” or something similar at my company. Any suggestions, things to definitely do, things to avoid? We had a long lull of not bringing in new customers for several months, so any program that was used before has fallen out of use. We have 3 new customers this month, and we hope to bring in 1-2 customers a month going forward. Also, we’re B2B.

    1. Burlington*

      Food! I don’t know that anyone actually makes decisions based on who sends the best treats to the office, but I definitely have resented vendors who DON’T send food at holidays. :)

    2. MaryMary*

      A one pager with contact information for their team. Names, titles, email address, phone number(s). Maybe even a quick bio and job description so they know who to talk to when.

  27. LouG*

    I work in academia, and have been in my current role for just over 2 years now. The position relies on salary schedules, so every year you are on the job you move up one step. I have never heard of anyone not moving up a step, you would need to do something pretty egregious to not advance. I’m struggling because I feel like I am really going above and beyond in this position, and get excelled reviews from my boss. But I still get the same salary increase that someone who is just scratching by gets. If someone has been in the job one year longer than me, they will always be one step above me, regardless of performance. I know I should be grateful for even these small increases, but it’s hard to stay motivated.

      1. Frances*

        Yup, me too. I did manage to get a bit better raise when I got promoted and when I did an internal transfer to a higher level job, but in my experience academic institutions really don’t reward peak performers on the administrative side the way other sectors do.

    1. LJL*

      What worked for me was focusing on the job I did and how it made my co-workers’ and the students’ lives and learning experience better. Also, focusing on the increased time off helped.

        1. Academic Counselor*

          Yes, I agree with LJL. It also helps me to consider the alternative – sure, I could try to leave academia and might make more money, but I’m assuming that the environment would be more competitive with less job security – and most importantly, I love my work and it’s not something I can do outside of academia. I’d much rather have a job I love for lower pay, then be getting paid a lot more to do something that doesn’t motivate and inspire me.

    2. Artemesia*

      This is the way this job works so your choice is to make peace with it and focus your energy on the other rewards of the job or to get another job.

    3. Anon4This*

      I feel your pain wholeheartedly. Everyone gets the same % increase, and only a select handful are actually promoted. The promotions are not necessarily given based on merit, so while I kicked butt this year, I didn’t get to move up to the next level, but my colleague who barely scrapes by got promoted just because he had been around long enough and the higher-ups thought it was time. It absolutely kills morale and motivation. (More so, because I specifically asked my supervisor what I could do to advance next year and his response was to keep doing what I’m doing.)

    4. fposte*

      Are there any positives to offset this? Job security, flexibility, good co-workers, good bennies? I’m in a similar academic situation, but the good side really outweighs the limitations of salary growth for me.

    5. Dan*

      You know what’s funny… there’s a lot of people who work for companies without those kinds of “dependable” pay increases, think they work hard, and get the complete shaft.

      I’m not trying to minimize your frustration, just pointing out that the “outside” isn’t a place where everybody gets fat raises because they think they go above and beyond.

      Lots of times, people misjudge their own performance. Lots of times, companies suck. I had a job where I got no raises for three years. I had to move on to get better pay.

    6. Windchime*

      OldJob did it this way. It sucked. I felt like I worked my butt off and I got the same (crappy) 22 cent raise that my lazy, error-prone coworker got.

    7. Anonymous for this*

      You might feel differently in a few years when you’re the one who will always be a few steps above the newer employees.

      My last job had a similar salary schedule for raises, while my current job gives raises based on performance. In theory, I like the idea of performance-based raises. I just had a performance review and got the maximum raise, but I actually think I preferred the system at my old job! Performance is always at least a little subjective, so even though I got the maximum raise this year, I worry that maybe next year, I’ll get a new boss who doesn’t like me or I’ll make a mistake that costs me my raise. There’s something to be said for always knowing how much your raise will be.

  28. AVP*

    I’m doing this incredibly tedious project this week, mining the internet for potential clients and their email addresses.

    The one fun part of this is looking at all of the lists of people and wondering who is the loud talker, who hates each other, who has a special work nickname for their drinking buddy in the next cube, which people are having affairs and which is the person who never cleans the microwave or pops their knuckles all day or complains about the temperature.

    This is more fascinating than you might think.

      1. AVP*

        More or less. I’m hoping TPTB don’t actually send anything and this turns out to be a lot of busy work.

  29. Alder*

    Here’s my current work frustration…

    I’m part of a small team- me and G, plus our manager M, who is wonderful but very over-stretched and fairly disorganized. We run a youth program that uses a community center after hours. Cleanup pretty much falls on us, which is fine and I’m used to it.

    I work hard to be conscientious about procedures and to clean up thoroughly. My coworker doesn’t do such a great job. Often when G leaves a mess, the larger organization will see it as Program’s mess, so it reflects badly on me. If G leaves equipment unlocked at the end of the day, etc, M will send an email to both of us about it, even though she knows it wasn’t me and will talk to him separately.

    Earlier this week, G and M left a mess in a shared space, while I was in a different location. The next day, when someone from the organization sent out an email about the mess, M responded with an apology and a promise to “talk to G and Alder about cleanup.” I’m frustrated, because that makes it sound like it was my mess, when I wasn’t even there! I mentioned this to M, and she just said, “I know that you clean up after yourself and are on top of things, so don’t worry about it”- but I want other people that I work with less often to know that, too. This is one small example that isn’t a big deal on its own, but it’s part of a larger pattern.

    I don’t want to get involved in a “but it wasn’t me!” game, because that seems really petty. But if everybody keeps seeing G’s messes as mine, thinking that I’m leaving messes AND not apologizing for them… that’s going to add up to a bad reputation that I don’t deserve and that could limit me later on. Any thoughts about what I can do, besides being REALLY REALLY NEAT whenever I can? Should I check in with my manager about this (wanting her to be careful she doesn’t make it sound like G’s messes were mine) or is that too picky?

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      No advice, but if it were me I’d also be really frustrated with this and would consider saying something. Your professional reputation is important! (Plus, getting blamed for other people’s messes is the WORST.)

    2. Frances*

      I suspect your boss’s intention is to avoid singling out G publicly, and because *she* knows it’s not you, she doesn’t stop to think that other people aren’t going to interpret the email that way. (Honestly, if she wants to avoid singling someone out she should take some of the onus on herself, i.e., “I’m sorry, WE’RE working on processes to try and address this issue,” but you can’t exactly say that to her.)

      I would keep your own reputation out of it, but I do think it might be worth discussing how frustrating it is that G keeps failing to do a pretty important process and how that can get fixed, because that’s really the issue here.

  30. KAZ2Y5*

    How can you ask a question you aren’t supposed to ask in an interview? For background–I just got laid off and (after getting my house on the market) will be moving back home and interviewing for a job. I usually working shift-work and greatly prefer working the night shift (for my profession this is usually 7-on/7-off). In my old job, I didn’t have problems taking time off during my night shift if necessary (and my bar for taking time off is way higher on the night shift–I realize it is harder to get people to work). But I know there are some places who expect you to never take off during your shift when you work nights and won’t make anyone else work the shift.

    So, how can I ask about coverage when interviewing for a night shift position? I can’t think of a good way to ask about taking vacation/sick days. Is it ok to ask about their procedure if I would call in sick and/or if they have enough coverage that it is ok to take PTO? I just can’t think of a way to word this, but this would be really important to me.

    1. Brandy*

      I would ask once you have an offer in place, before accepting the role. You can do this via HR, via the hiring manager, or ask to speak with a peer-level. If interviewing with a peer-level, you could pose it like, “how hard do you find it to be to take time off/coverage for sick/PTO?”

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I think you should wait until you have an offer and then ask. And then you frame it as – “something that is problematic where I currently work is vacation coverage for night shift workers; how is it handled here”
      I have a similar issue because if I move on, I want to make sure that my job wouldn’t include any event planning. I hate it with a passion and suck at it but many executive assistant/admins are expected to do it as part of the job. But it’s hard to ask without sounding like a slacker.

      1. KAZ2Y5*

        Thanks everyone! I totally blocked the idea of waiting until after I had an offer to ask this. And yes, I want to know this, but don’t want to look like a slacker during the interview.

        1. Dan*

          I don’t hire people, but I don’t think time off issues indicate slacker-ness. They’re a material part of our compensation package; asking how hard it is to use that benefit is just due diligence.

          That goes triple for the night shift, which I’ve worked. If there’s coverage issues, You. Want. To Know. ahead of time.

  31. Promo Day!*

    I’m super excited/nervous- I was just promoted from a product management role to a director level role in the spring, and have been approached by my company to take over the department. I was basically told, “tell me what I need to do to get you to take the role” before Thanksgiving. We’ve had a few conversations about the role/responsibility (it’s changing a bit since we just had a massive reorg), the budget/support/team I want, etc. and throughout, it’s been known that title & comp would have to be appropriate. I got the title last night, and I’m good with it (AVP), and today my boss is going to tell me what she’s proposing for comp. I have a number in my head, and I’m ready with industry comps to negotiate if she’s completely off, but I’m just anxious to get it over with. And it’s possible she comes back with a number higher than I have in mind (she sounded really excited about it when we were IMing last night after her chat with HR).

    1. Promo Day!*

      Oh, and I should add that I will be the youngest AVP in our business unit, and younger than 9 out of my 11 direct reports (first order of business: staff to have fewer direct reports).

  32. Ama*

    We should totally have an open thread “where are they now?” thing, like the updates to letters, with follow-up for what people have posted about in open threads this past year. Can this be a theme for an open thread this month?

    Here’s my small bit of news:
    I had previously mentioned that I told my manager I was burned out, and he planned to switch me to a lighter workload.
    Turns out the coworker set to take over for me is instead leaving the company and I’m the only one with enough experience to cover until the more junior member of the team is solid enough to run this himself, so I’m back where I started. Sigh. We’re also understaffed to the point that multiple duties are not being adequately covered, but they’re hiring more people soon. Hopefully there will be some promising replacements there too.

  33. Jenn*

    Tonight is Krampusnacht! This is tangentially professionally relevant because I wrote a blog piece about it, and I’m pretty proud of it. I’ve been waiting for a year for them to put out the piece I wrote for last year’s event! Everyone should see if there’s a Krampus fest in their neighborhood. It’s seriously the coolest holiday thing you can do this weekend, especially in the D.C. area!

    1. louise*

      Our priest dresses as Krampus every year and goes to the town’s Christmas parade wielding a switch. I’d never heard of Krampus before we found this church.

          1. louise*

            And…we’re global enough on AAM I should have prefaced that with midwest USA.

            (As a random side fact: the VAST majority of Route 66 tourists aren’t from the US, they are from Europe! I just think that interesting.)

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I have a bunch of friends in the Netherlands so I know what this is. It’s so cool–like a little bit of Halloween at Christmas. :3

      Sadly, I don’t think anything of the sort is happening in Jesusville. A Krampus would probably give people around here a coronary (though since I just learned CPR at work, I could attempt to save them, I suppose).

  34. Gotta Stay Anonymous*

    Is there a classy way to tell a recruiter that the job they’re pitching is great for me, perfect for my skill set, exactly the kind of work I want to be doing… but there’s no way in hell I’d ever work under the current VP of the department, who I’ve worked under once before and left a job over?

    1. Brandy*

      did the recruiter contact you on behalf of the company? Or are you working with a recruiter who found this role for you?

      1. Gotta Stay Anonymous*

        She was from a recruitment firm hired by the company. It’s a Director-level search, and it’s clear they’re really trying to find the right person. I’m the right person, but not under THAT WOMAN.

    2. HigherEd Admin*

      Maybe something like, “Thanks for thinking of me. While this job description matches what I’m looking for, I have previously worked with Mr. X and found that we did not work well together. I would love to hear about similar opportunities in other departments, though.” ?

    3. CollegeAdmin*

      Maybe “I love everything about this position, but when X and I worked together in the past, our styles really clashed. I don’t think we’d be a good team, so I’m going to have to pass. Please let me know if you have anything similar cross your desk!”

      1. College Career Counselor*

        If you’re going to go that route, you might want to consider adding “I appreciate your discretion.”

      2. J.B.*

        According to the poster’s response, this is an external recruiter. I doubt that what is said would get back to the company. The only possible advantage I see for saying anything would be if this exact company has other similar roles (kind of doubtful) and would be working with the same recruiting firm.

  35. Wendi*

    I just received a request from a co-worker at my previous job. She is planning an annual event that was formerly my project. She asked if she could connect with me to walk her through everything I did in coordinating the event since she wasn’t a part of it years past.

    I feel really uncomfortable about doing this. I enjoyed the job but decided to leave the company (nearly a year ago) when they gave me an ultimatum of relocating to their office headquarters or resigning. I want to maintain good ties with this colleague/company but I feel once an employee leaves, then it’s the company’s responsibility to figure out how to handle these situations.

    What is the best way to politely decline her request?

    1. Brandy*

      Don’t reply to the email/message. if you must, tell her where the transition documentation is…or…offer to do so on a consulting basis for $X.

    2. Artemesia*

      “I’m sorry but I haven’t worked at Nightmares Inc for over a year and I really don’t recall much about this. You will need to talk to people at NI for information on that.”

      1. Dan*

        Awesome response. The company I work for now works in the same space as the company I used to work for. In fact, some guys in a different division have been using some of our old software. When I came onboard, I offered to do whatever I could to help. But a year later, when I haven’t thought about that project at all? If they asked me something, I really wouldn’t know. And I’d actually want to help…

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I don’t agree that you shouldn’t reply to the email. But I totally understand not wanting to do this. I would just say “sorry I’m way too busy with my new role” and then tell her where to find your old files.

      1. Frances*

        Seconding this. I’m guessing she doesn’t know where the old documentation is and that’s why she’s reaching out to you.

        (Side note: one of the first things I do every time I get a new job is look through the files, not in depth, but just to get an idea of what kind of resources are available if I need background info. This is apparently a rare thing to do, judging by the reaction of my bosses, but it’s super helpful and a great way to fill those awkward first few days/weeks when you don’t quite have a full workload yet.)

    4. Wendi*

      She actually reached out to me via text. I responded politely and mentioned that I have been really busy at work (which is fact) and that I left all my notes, contacts, and reports with my former supervisor (who is still with the company) and encouraged her to reach out to her for advice. I told her good luck with the event and that it was a blast to work on last year. I haven’t had any response…

      thanks for your advice!

  36. Carrie*

    Regarding being manipulated into converting from Hourly to Salary pay:

    I have been in a middle-management position in my company for two years, but have been reluctant to make the transition to a salaried position because I know that I would be losing money. I have been told that I would not be getting a raise – my hourly rate would be converted to salary by calculating how much I bring home working full-time for a year. This doesn’t take into consideration that I work at least 50 hours a week most weeks, so I bring home more than just my hourly rate converted to a yearly rate.

    Last week I was told that they would do the changeover based on what I actually made last year, so I accepted the transition to salary. However, now that I see what I will be making in a years’ time, I see that they’ve not taken into consideration any holiday pay, vacation or personal days that I made in the year, which cuts my pay by about 3 weeks worth of hours (a not insignificant amount). I expressed this to the office manager, and she said, “Sorry, that’s just how it’s calculated.”

    I feel manipulated and lied to, and now I can’t go back to how I was being paid before. Is there anything I can do in this situation?

    1. Sharon*

      No advice, sorry but I feel for you. Way back in my first job out of college we had a night shift computer operator who was non-exempt hourly. Our management couldn’t convince the execs to give the operator any raise because he was so invisible to them, so he tried to convert him to salaried exempt thinking that would get him a pay increase. The salaried base pay was higher. However, it wasn’t until the operator got his first salaried paycheck that they realized they did not include the shift differential when they converted him to salaried, so he had a significant cut in pay. Our manager was MOST displeased with HR (who had guided him on pushing the change through and surely knew what the end result would be).

    2. Anonsie*

      “That’s just how it’s calculated” my keister. Did you point out that it would be a big pay cut at the time, and all you got was a shrug?

      1. Carrie*

        Yep. When I realized I was making $Y (my bring home minus PTO and bonuses) instead of $X (what we had agreed upon – my bring home minus bonuses), I asked my manager to remind me what we had agreed on. She even said it was $X. I explained that I thought there had been a mistake, because I was actually making $Y, which was a significant pay cut. Then she said, sorry, that’s how it is.

        So I ended up bringing in my W-2 from last year. I explained again that based on $Y I was taking a significant pay cut over what I was making previously. I asked if they were going to write me a separate check for my PTO time because I should not be losing out on that money just because I am being moved to salary – it should be calculated into my wages for the year. Finally she brought it to the accounting department and got it squared away, so now supposedly I am set to make $X. I’m glad it’s over but I’m ticked that it took so much time and frustration.

  37. AnonPhenom*

    Well I’m back to looking. My 3-month contract ended after 1 month because they ran out of work for me. I need a job by the end of the month, how panicked should I be?

    What I would like to do is go back to working at a local university. I’ve been in IT contracting for the last 2 years (terrible mistake) but before that I worked at a satellite of this university for 5 years.

    I’m qualified for several different types of jobs- project management, program coordinator, admin assistant, business assistant. I don’t really care what I wind up doing, as long as it’s not IT contracting.

    How do I handle applying across several job categories at one university? The jobs are in different departments at least, but the HR system is fairly centeralised. I’ve heard advice to just let one job close then apply for another open job, but universities move slow, that would take years.

    1. fposte*

      At my university, HR is centralized but the hiring is departmental, so if I’m on the hiring committee for an engineering AA I won’t see that you’ve applied for a PM position in chemistry.

      1. HigherEd Admin*

        Ditto this. Apply to them all. Tailor your resume/cover letter to each. Don’t wait for the job to close before applying to another — you could be waiting forever.

  38. Brianne*

    How can you handle it when you have been unemployed for over a year (!) and you’re in the position of just going to have to take ‘any job’ even if it’s awful/doesn’t match your interests etc, but will want to hop on out of there as soon as possible? I’m stuck applying for things like call centres now…

    1. Icarus*

      Maybe apply to an internship somewhere that you really want to work in, it may be temporary but it could open the interest for that company to hire you as full-time. Also, I would consider maybe a staffing agency for similar temp job opportunities.

      PS: I don’t know your major or your background so I’m sorry if this does not apply to you. :(

    2. Sabrina*

      I have no advice, but I have been exactly there. I lost a job and 13 months later ended up taking a job in a call center making less money than I made at my very first full time job almost 15 years prior. Some people did move up from the call center to other parts of the company, which I considered, except it became clear that if you agreed to a weekend shift, the odds of every transferring out of that job was slim to none. I ended up leaving after 6 months and went to a company doing data entry. Paid slightly better, had better hours, and my own desk. I wish I could say that it got better, but four years later I’m still there. It’s a job.

    3. Dulcinea*

      I was in that exact position. I am an attorney and I had to take a job at a call center for a few months a few years ago. You “handle it” by just taking one day at a time, continuing to apply for jobs, and finding other things to do that make you feel accomplished/smart. For me not being able to get a job using my degree this was a really big blow to my ego so that last one was the most important.

      I started taking a much greater interest in my houseplants and learning how to nurture them; it was really satisfying to see new buds and leaves. Also, as much as I despised every minute of working in the call center I decided that as a matter of principle I would do my very best work there and I let myself take pride in the fact that I gave an honest days’ work no matter what the job, and this might sound ironic but I took pride in not acting like I was too good for the work or better than anyone else (because I wasn’t/am not).

      Take time to acknowledge your feelings of frustration, anxiety, etc. And then remind yourself that you just don’t have any other options than to play the hand you are dealt. In other words, all you can do it keep on keepin’ on (by networking, applying for jobs; you can’t MAKE an employer hire you, and in the meantime you have to pay the bills. “Accept the things we cannot change” and all that.

      I have found that in life most of the time there is no point in saying “I can’t handle this,” because most of the time you just don’t have a choice. Your only choice is HOW to handle it.

      1. louise*

        I second this. My dad is a really humble man, but very smart (one reason he’s so humble is that he was held back in 5th grade and never realized he is smart). He was a pastor for a long time but it didn’t pay the bills and he needed supplemental income. Despite a bachelor’s degree plus part of a master of divinity, he took a job as a night janitor in a big factory. He quickly gained a reputation for cleanest toilets and regularly had people thanking him for being so thorough. I know he didn’t want to do that job, but gave it 100%. (He also got to drive a little cart from restroom to restroom and I think that’s really what got him through the difficult days!)

        1. the gold digger*

          I have two very shameful events I remember from my youth. The first is when I told my mom that it wasn’t her money, it was dad’s, because he had the job.

          The second is when I was in college. My dad had retired from the air force and was going back to school to get his teacher certification. He took a job at Wal-Mart to pick up cash. (Military retirees do not get a lot of money.) I was sooo embarrassed – my friends’ dads were VPs and my dad was working the loading dock at Wal-Mart. I said something to my mom about my embarrassment and she told me that my dad was doing what was necessary to take care of his family. She was not gracious about it and she shouldn’t have been. I was old enough to know better.

          Louise, your dad and mine were of the mindset that there is worth in any honest job. I tried to remember that after I was laid off from my corporate job and was working a cash register at Macy’s – and saw my former co-workers in line.

    4. Senor Poncho*

      Not to oversimplify it, because I know the feeling too, but just cashing a paycheck for an honest day’s work is a great mood booster.

  39. Friend*

    If a posting for an entry level position specifies that they want a Bachelor’s degree, how likely are they to consider someone who has completed all their coursework, but hasn’t actually received the degree yet?

    A close friend of mine and I have been job hunting for around the same amount of time and have been getting together regularly to talk about job-related stuff and motivate each other. We’re the same age and entered college at the same time, albeit at different schools. I graduated last year, but due to some personal circumstances as well as getting tied up in her school’s bureaucracy, she still has not technically graduated even though she has completed all of her credits and hasn’t been in classes for a year. When we’re together and she sees a posting that interests her but requires a degree, I usually encourage her to go for it anyway, but she hasn’t had much success. I know that there are other issues at hand – although she has a couple of solid years of experience from internships, she doesn’t currently have anything going on – but I’m starting to feel kind of guilty when we meet up to discuss things because I have had better luck getting interviews despite actually having less experience in some ways and she’s becoming increasingly frustrated. (Our fields of study are different but adjacent, so we’re applying to generally the same types of jobs even if not exactly the same positions. I’ve helped her with cover letters and ) Of course, I know that the poor job market is a contributing factor and her cover letter and resume are obviously important (I’ve helped her proofread and have passed on cover letter advice from AAM, so we’re both working on that), but I’m wondering how much the lack of degree is coming into play. At this point she should have the degree by January, for the record.

    1. BRR*

      How is she listing it on her resume? At this point since she’s getting it, it sounds like that won’t be an issue in a month. If any jobs pop up between now and then she wants to apply to I would list the degree and add something like “All coursework completed, degree will be received January 2015.”

      1. Friend*

        …wow, I just noticed my editing fail up there. Sorry guys!

        I think she has it listed as “anticipated January 2015 graduation” or something similar, and she mentions it in most of her cover letters as far as I know. It’s true that it’ll be less relevant in about a month, but we’ve been talking about it a lot and I’ve started feeling bad even mentioning that I have an upcoming interview even though I know it’s not my fault. I think part of me just wanted to vent a little by posting here, but I was also genuinely curious about how stringent hiring managers are with their requirements.

    2. Brandy*

      For me, it would be a non-issue. But I’d want it to be clear that all the work is done (ie she will not still be in school/classes) and the degree is pending, not “possible” (eg.”BA, Teapot Design, expected January 2015; all coursework completed.”)

    3. Treena Kravm*

      I’m confused why it’s going to take a year and a half to graduate/get the degree. Without knowing specifics, I might suggest that she just put that she has the degree. (If someone called the uni, what would they say? At least, she should put Jan as her graduation date. Is she already doing this?

      1. Friend*

        Without divulging too many details about someone else’s life, it was a combination of some mental health issues (which are now stable for the most part), requirements of the program she was in, and disorganization within the school itself. It’s a large public college within a local university network. I know several people who went there and I think literally one of them graduated on time. Doing at least one extra semester is the norm there because of the schedule setup they have and, like I said, disorganization – I know my friend had problems with the school recognizing transfer and study abroad credits, other credits suddenly disappearing from her transcript when she was able to get the study abroad credits, having to call several people who would just refer her to another person, etc. I went to a school where I was lucky enough to be able to just click “file for graduation” on our website and be done with it, so I don’t know 100%, but dealing with them sounded like a very stressful mess from the outside.

        She has put January as her graduation date as far as I know! I think if someone called the college they would say the same, that she was slated for graduation in January…probably after being shuffled through a few different people on the phone.

        1. Anonsie*

          So I had a similar thing where there were issues with my study abroad credits coming in time for graduation, and I technically got pushed back a semester over it (from summer to fall grad). But I mentioned this exact question to the office at the uni I was dealing with, and I can’t remember exactly what the deal was but I was told that if anyone called to verify they would say I had completed my degree. I was “completed” but not “graduated” but that only mattered to the school– they reported everyone who had all their credits, graduated or not, as complete… Or something like that. Anyway, they told me I could explain it however I wanted because they don’t give out specifics, and in their opinion I had my degree and encouraged me to say as much.

          The school policies will dictate this, however, I think she should ask the registrar or whoever handles this at her school.

    4. CheeryO*

      I don’t see this as very different from students who are on a typical four year path who get recruited/hired before graduation and start immediately after. Make sure it’s listed on the resume as “expected January 2015,” or something similar. I’m not sure if things will pick up after she has the degree. I hope so!

    5. soitgoes*

      It probably mattered in the past but now it shouldn’t. She could list her degree as “BA in [subject] – Jan 2015.” Any employer who’s been to college should understand the gap between finishing your coursework and getting your degree in-hand.

    6. Artemesia*

      I worked in an industry where an advanced degree was required, it was routine to hire people whose work was completed and the degree was to be awarded on X date. They listed it on the resume exactly like that. (degree completed; to be awarded June 21 2014)

      Most universities can certify graduation before the actual ceremony where the degree is awarded.

    7. Lia*

      It depends on the employer. Here, at Large Public University, you must have degree in hand. There is a teeny bit of wiggle room in that an internal hire/promotion who was just about to get the degree awarded could get the job, but not start until it was received, but in general, at time of application you need the degree.

      If you call the Registrar today and ask for the status for someone whose degree will be conferred in January, they will tell you that that person does not have the degree.

    8. The IT Manager*

      It sounds to me that your friend’s problem has been overcome by current events and will be a non-problem next month, but to be honest the situation sounds very odd.

      You explained it well, but I can’t say I ever encountered anyone who had this problem before so it’s the kind of thing that may be making employers wonder if she’s lying when she says all her coursework has been done but she has not graduated. Perhaps her explanation makes them suspicious that she’s lying. If the school can’t verify that she’s completed coursework because they still processing the paperwork, this may have been hurting her a good bit. OTOH if it’s a well-known problem with a local university then maybe local employers understand.

  40. TotesMaGoats*

    So got bummer news for most recent job application. They’ve selected someone else. Now, I didn’t even get an interview but got a personal call because the manager knows me really well, we’ve worked together, and it’s a former employer. So that was nice. They really liked my application (the 2 page cover letter) but the hire had 15 years to my 10. The slightly bitter part of me says how good was the candidate pool that a decade of experience didn’t even merit a phone interview.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Sorry Totes, I really thought this would work out for you (if it’s the same job you mentioned a couple of Fridays ago).

  41. Ella*

    I’d like some advice on reference selection–I’ve applied for a job that doesn’t ask for references until the interview stage. It’s a job that requires both a lot of technical knowledge (mostly of computer systems and software) and a lot of customer service (answering questions and teaching classes). I’m lucky in that my current supervisor knows I’m job searching and is supportive, so that’s one reference. She can speak mostly to my work ethic and some to my CS skills. So that’s one (I’ve interviewed at this place before and they typically ask for two). The problem with a reference that can speak to my technical knowledge is that he’s also applied for the same job, so I can’t use him. Any other references I’ve worked with on the tech side were 7+ years ago. Thoughts on whether I should use an older reference who can speak to a different set of skills, or should I use a more recent reference that has about the same insight on my skills as my current manager?

    1. fposte*

      Why can’t you use the one who’s applying for the same job? Is he unwilling, or is there a policy against it?

      1. Ella*

        There’s not, it just seems…not etiquette? Like, “Hey, I know you really want this job, but if you could help me get the job, that’d be great.”

        I’m still learning about references though, so maybe it’s more common than I think?

        1. fposte*

          I would just ask him about it. “I know we’re both applying for this job, so I understand if you’d prefer not to be a reference, but I thought I’d check with you in case you’d be willing anyway. (And good luck to you with the job! It’d be great if they hired us both :-).)” Anything other than a fairly speedy “Sure, no problem” gets treated as a no.

          And I understand your reticence on this, but I can think of situations where I would definitely give a reference for somebody competing for the same job as me.

  42. LinkedIn question*

    I sent invites to people on LinkedIn a year or two ago. I was in a job I thought I would stay in for a couple of years in a new industry. I am not in that job anymore, and will not work in that industry again (hated it actually). So these people are not colleagues/vendors anymore. Is it bad etiquette to de-connect from these people? In other words, is it appropriate to de-connect from people you barely remember who barely remember you? Or is there too much value in having a wide network, even if it’s in an industry you won’t work in again?

    1. HigherEd Admin*

      I’m not sure I understand the point of de-connecting with them. LinkedIn is most useful when you have as many connections as possible, since that widens your network to your connections’ connections. Not all connections are industry-based. So someone from Past Industry could be connected to someone from Future Industry, and that would be helpful to you going forward.

      That said, I don’t think anyone will notice if you de-connect from them, and if they do notice, they might think it’s a little strange but I can’t imagine someone spending that much more time thinking about it.

  43. CheeryO*

    It took a year, but I finally found my first post-college job in my field! It’s with a government organization that I’ve wanted to work for since the early days of college. Now, the question is, should I leave my six-month stint at my current job off my resume? Assuming that I stay in this new position for at least a few years, will a one year gap after grad school send up a bigger red flag than a short stay in a semi-related position?

    On a related note, is putting in notice via email ever acceptable? I am terrified of resigning in-person, mostly because my company is small and full of lifers, and I’m concerned that there will be some serious anger directed towards me for leaving so soon. People here speak badly of former employees who left after 1-5 years, let alone six months!

    1. Icarus*

      I would put the six-month experience in the resume anyways. I don’t think it would cause much issue, but you can explain in future interviews that the experience was not aligned with your field/interest.

      As for resigning over email, I THINK IT LOOKS REALLY BAD and I ADVISE YOU NOT TO DO IT. I understand that you might be afraid, but you will need to see those people from the period that you sent the notice until your final day, so you will still have to face these issues…

      1. CheeryO*

        Thanks! I figured that would be the answer for my second question. I’ll just have to set up a quick meeting with someone, since I barely see my supervisor.

    2. Observer*

      I think the gap will raise more red flags than a short term job that wasn’t in your field.

      Resign in person – just don’t give longer notice than necessary. Be very polite and grateful and don’t let yourself be goaded into saying anything harsh, or that would otherwise make you look bad.

      1. CheeryO*

        Thanks for the advice. I resigned this morning in person, and while it was fairly terrifying, it went well. I didn’t say anything stupid, and my boss was really understanding (if a little upset). I feel a little silly that I got so worked up over it, but I guess that’s normal when you’ve never resigned a professional job.

    1. soitgoes*

      People from English/lit and creative writing backgrounds don’t often learn AP style in a formal college setting. It’s something I picked up later on when I got into freelance writing.

      1. AP style*

        That’s right, but they studied journalism. I didn’t. I think if I could learn it for an entry-level job, editors with years of experience and a degree in journalism could.

        I’m sorry. I’m really just venting frustration at this point. :P

          1. AP style*

            They’re all different ages, from different places, and from different backgrounds. Who knows what’s going on?

            I’ll let it go. :)

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Wow, when I worked for a national news magazine we all had to know AP style. Especially the editors. I feel your frustration.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      BOO. There’s a woman in our org who writes press releases and it’s clear she has no idea what AP style is…I feel your pain.

    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      That’s nuts to me, but I have not one, but TWO AP stylebooks on my shelf – the traditional Stylebook & Libel Manual and the Broadcast News Handbook.

    5. Johr*

      I don’t even work at a newspaper, not even close, but as a former journalism student I still keep my AP Stylebook at my desk! That thing comes in so handy.

  44. CocoCoati*

    How do you negotiate salary in a big company where HR anonymously makes those decisions?

    I’ve been working well above my level for years and finally got the title and theoretically pay bump to go with it, only the raise I got puts me at the absolute bare minimum for the scale of my new title. They supposedly make the decision based on years of experience primarily, and I’m on the low end of their expectations, but I am the only person in my role in my division covering a ton of clients (~12 vs the typical 3-5) and I cover significantly more ground with more autonomy than others in the same role in different divisions. I don’t feel that putting me on the bottom just because I’m new-ish makes any sense, but that’s their system. It’s all done behind shared HR@blank email addresses after requests from your supervisor.

    The only person I know here who got over the HR offer got it because her supervisor repeatedly demanded it and fought for months to get it for her. My supervisor is not inclined to do this for anyone under any circumstances. I’m not sure how I can even suggest a negotiation with HR since it seems they Don’t Do That and too many people go into the decision for talking to anyone person to make sense. I’m really frustrated and I don’t know what to do.

    For reference, the offered salary isn’t great. It’s literally the minimum the corporate structure allows them to pay me and it’s low enough that I still could not afford my own apartment in this city with it. Which shouldn’t factor intotheir decision, but it gives you an idea of how insanely low it is and why I’m so miffed. I’ve been doing this actual work for 2+ years now before I was eligible to get the title, and I’ve been doing it very successfully.

    1. Judy*

      I’ve never found that big company HR would negotiate anything from their “formulas”. I’ve always done my negotiating with the hiring managers, they seem to have at least some influence if they choose to use it.

      1. Judy*

        Also, I’ve found that some big companies have limits on how large a percent salary increase someone can get per year. So if you’ve gotten a large-ish increase (15-20%) with this promotion, they may not be able to give any more.

      2. Anonsie*

        What kinds of companies do this? Is it like a large corporate thing? It seems like a recipe for demoralizing everyone into being a bare minimum performer.

  45. De Minimis*

    There had been this job at a local hospital that I’d noticed on the job boards over the past few weeks. I’d considered applying but was hemming and hawing about it. Yesterday I decided to go ahead and apply, and they contacted me within the hour. I have an interview next week with the controller.

    It would be more money [even at the low end of the range they give] and it’s where I live [right now I work in a small town about 60 miles from our house] so I’d have a more normal, less expensive commute. It would also be career advancement.

    I could go either way on it…if I didn’t get it or if I decided to turn it down, I’d just stay at this job until sometime next year, hopefully. I think my main misgivings are just an overall anxiety about change and also I might be closing a door as far as federal retirement. But I think it’s worth at least testing the waters. Another thing is that it would probably be committing to staying in this area another 2-3 years, which is something I’m not entirely thrilled about [we were thinking about leaving next year…]

    It’s weird. I haven’t had an interview in a couple of years, and I’ve never been in the situation where I already have a job and am just seeing what else might be out there.

    1. KW*

      If you’re at all considering it, it can’t hurt to go to the interview and just see what you learn. Maybe your gut will tell you no… or on the other hand maybe you’ll love the job/people/etc. You won’t know unless you give it a try.

    2. LoFlo*

      Health care accounting is a whole lot of weird. It is not unusual for different departments to have vastly different budget and spending rules due to grants and endowments. Also health care folks see the accounting department as the big bad meanies that put a dollar value on people and aren’t compassionate.

      Also, be prepared that little money is spent on employee amenities, like functioning office furniture. If it isn’t patient facing, it is very difficult to get spending on anything else approved.

  46. August*

    Hello Everyone..

    I had a question about timing pregnancy so that it doesn’t impact your career a lot. Did you plan your pregnancy around your career? How much impact did pregnancy and child birth have on your career progression? Did you miss promotions or good assignment which would allow you to grow?

    I am 31 and I am worried that getting pregnant in the next two years will impact my career big time. At the same time I am worried that I am running out of time. Every male colleague (say 10 -12 men) of my age who started his career at this company at the same time as I did has a child or two. But only one woman (say among 6 ) who started with me is now pregnant and she is two years elder to me. Also, I work in tech as an engineer where women are kind of under represented.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I wouldn’t, and didn’t, time it around my career. And I got promoted 8 months after returning from maternity leave.

      Work your tail off, figure out how much time and energy you want to give your job vs. your family and know that being a working mother is one huge, neverending juggling act and a lot of the time, something has to give.

      2 examples:
      My mom came for to help while I took a long overseas business trip while my daughter was an infant

      Last night and today, I worked late, went grocery shopping around 9pm, woke up with a sick kid in the middle of the night who ultimately needed an ER trip, was release from the ER at 9am, drove home, showered, logged on to meet a deadline, met my deadline, cleaned up odds and ends in my email and then drove to work where I now sit catching up on AAM.

      It’s incredibly hard but incredibly rewarding, and if you want a family I don’t think it makes any sense to plan it around your career. A career is a force relying on outside factors for success no matter how you slice it, so essentially you’re letting other people control your reproductive planning.

      Aaaaand I’ll put my soapbox away now.

    2. Artemesia*

      I have a philosophy about that, it is ‘some things are more important than other things.’ Having a baby is one of those. I was on tenure track and getting promoted and considered postponing having my second child until tenure. But went ahead as I was already 35 and had had problems conceiving the first child. Second child was on the way 30 minutes after the decision. When I was 5 months pregnant, my college merged with another and fired people by departments that were redundant. Mine was one of those. So I had no job. My tenure track that had looked sure thing, was gone. But I still had my baby. It as such a depressing time, made so much happier knowing I hadn’t sacrificed having this child for the surprisingly unreliable job.

      When my daughter (the baby from the above situation) was pregnant with her child, her company experienced problems and they closed the office in the city she worked in. Apparently it is a family tradition. But again — she had the baby so losing her job was not a total loss.

      Jobs come and go. Kids are not always easy to have and are with you forever. I would never prioritize career over starting a family. It is too easy to end up with no kids and a disappointing career.

      I have a niece who is in med school as is her husband — they have had both of their kids during med school on the grounds that it will never be any easier to be adaptable. I am filled with admiration.

    3. Adam*

      That’s a tough one. Being both a man and childless I have no experience in this area so my advice probably isn’t worth much, but my instincts tell me that when it comes to having a child there never really is a “perfect” time to have one. And that’s not even taking into account that there’s no telling when you actually will get pregnant once you begin trying.

      My guess is that having a child is probably going to impact your career to an extent regardless of when it happens, so if you really want to begin expanding your family and feel you are in a good situation emotionally, financially, etc., to do so you should probably just go for it when you (and your partner if you have one) decide you’re ready, and then work together to minimize the time it takes you out of work as best as you can while keeping yourself healthy.

      Good luck with whatever you decide!

    4. Darth Admin*

      I did not plan my pregnancy around my career, but I also didn’t decide I for-sure wanted children until relatively late (I was 38 when my kid was born) so I ended up being better-established in my career than someone younger would typically be.

      I didn’t miss assignments as a result of getting pregnant or having a kid – in fact, I was promoted while on short-term disability after the birth and I’ve been promoted since then (my kid is 6 now). I made an effort while pregnant to minimize the disruption my inevitable leave would have on my department and bosses; I still stepped up to stretch assignments while pregnant; I had a plan for my phased return after maternity; and when I returned, I made a conscious effort to separate “mom me” from “work me” so that I could focus 100% on my job when I was at work.

      However, I think much of this equation is workplace- and field-dependent. You need to look around at how other women at your work and in your field have navigated it and how they’ve been treated. Have they been “mommy-tracked”? If not, is it because of something they did (or didn’t) do? That woman who’s pregnant now will be a good litmus test for your company, and will likely show you some good “dos and don’ts” for how to behave.

      Also, if I may be so bold, examine your personal situation. If you feel like you “must” have kids now because of age… well, I’d say talk to your doctor about your specific situation. Your partner also has a huge amount to do with being able to maintain work and life, so frank discussions are in order if you have concerns about support from that person when you have to work late/more/take on more responsibility/etc. Finally, realize that you really don’t know how you’ll react to having kids until you have them. I was climbing the walls and ready to go back to work 3 weeks into my maternity leave. But I also know women with serious careers who, once the kiddo came along, ditched it to be a SAHM without a second backward glance.

      Good luck.

    5. August*

      You guys are hitting the nail on the head. I understand the fact that success in career is partly not in my control. The huge part of my frustration comes from the fact that I feel I am letting my career which in influenced by so many outside factor to control my life. At the same time I feel that I may be better off waiting a couple of years barring any worst case scenario.

      Financially we should be okay. Emotionally, both my husband and myself are scared of being responsible for another person and what if something goes wrong?. I will get a lot of help from my parents and in-laws (to the extent that we don’t have to send the baby to day care for first two years at least). My mother worked and she was very ambitious career wise. She gets that career is important as well and she will support me through anything. So I am in a better situation than many others who have to worry about finances, child care arrangements etc.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        I think your head is in the right place, but I think you may be asking the wrong question. It’s probably impossible to compute “career optimal pregnancy” – but what you *can* do is make sure that you’ve got the other aspects of your life under control and in order so that you’ll be able to handle a child plus a career at the same time. For instance: you’re okay financially? You have parents and in-laws who can help out? You’ve got a good marriage and a supportive husband? Etc. This kind of stuff will make more difference than any strategic timing.

        I don’t know you or your husband or your marriage, but if you a) really want to have kids and b) you’ve got all of the support stuff in place, I’d advise against postponing. Two years from now, people may have moved, circumstances may have changed. You can wait forever for things to be optimal; practically speaking, this is a case where you just want things to be good enough (and to be clear: “good enough” is a major accomplishment).

        My background: married father of two kids in college, many years working in the tech industry.

    6. The IT Manager*

      I don’t have children mostly due to lack of opportunity (ie lack of husband), but I still think if you know you want kids, you need to prioritize them over your career and don’t put them off. If your career is progressing, it’s not likely to get any easier to take that time off and be perpetually sleep deprieved when your responsibility increases.

    7. Judy*

      Engineer here. I did do one thing about timing my pregnancies, I had changed jobs about the time I was wanting to get pregnant, about your age, and I didn’t start trying until I had been there long enough so I’d give birth after being at the company for two years. We had been trying before, but stopped once we decided to move.

      Yes, it can be a struggle, and I did ask to limit my travel the first year after each child was born. With my first child, I went to a conference at about 10 months, and with my second, I took my mom and daughter with me on a driving trip at 6 months, since I was still breastfeeding. I was lucky my kids are very healthy, and that my parents live in town so they can cover some of the emergency sick days.

      There’s never a perfect time, so unless there’s a really big thing, just do it when it is right for you.

    8. LibbyG*

      No matter what timing you choose, there will be benefits and drawbacks. I had two kids pretty late (38 and 41 – I’m 41 now). It was nice that I was already firmly established in my career, but it has slowed down my mid-career stride even though my spouse and I are 50-50 on parenting. Some colleagues my age had kids younger, and they’ve got more flexibility for special opportunities now that their kid(s) are school-age or older. I’m happy with my situation, but I also would have been happy to do it younger. If you feel personally ready, there are a lot of benefits to getting going now — it would afford you more options if conceiving turns out to be a struggle, as it does for about 1 in 6 couples. Best of luck! I hope you quickly come to a decision that you feel great about!

    9. Lily in NYC*

      My sister is very career-driven and did exactly this. She waited until she was where she wanted to be career-wise and got pregnant at 38. It helped that she only wanted one kid and has a husband with a less demanding job. It worked out well for her – she’s now the #2 at a large federal agency and I don’t know if she’d have gotten that role if she took time to have a couple of kids in her 20s/early 30s when she was moving up the ladder.

    10. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Didn’t time a damn thing. If I planned kids the way I plan vacations, I’d still be waiting for them at 53. Is there ever a good time to be 11ty billion months pregnant, swollen ankles, with another rug rat hanging off your arm and no chance of sleep for years to come?

      I did fine.

      (and, for the record, the kids are best products I ever produced :-) )

    11. Observer*

      I haven’t read the responses yet, so I may be repeating things that have already been said.

      Firstly, yes, you are ABSOLUTELY running out of time. If have a child or two is really important to you (some women really, genuinely don’t care), then you need to start moving now. Fertility in women tends to start dropping quite significantly once they hit 30, and by 40 your chances of carry a child to term is quite low. This is true even if you take phenomenal care of yourself, you are in great health, and you otherwise seem younger than you are.

      Also, it seems to me, from what I’ve seen, having a child is going to hit your career no matter when you do it. How, and how much, depends on a lot of factors. But, it’s important to realize when thinking about this that the question is not “Will my career take a hit?” but “what kind of hit will my career take and how does that compare to the likely scenarios if I wait?”

      Lastly, you need to factor in the fact that there is only so much planning you can do. In general terms, “I’m going to have a baby in the summer of 2016” is not realistic. (Even with perfect health and everything looking good it’s anyone’s guess if you meet that narrow window.) “Once I hit the x years mark here, it makes sense to start trying” does work.

    12. Anonymom*

      DON’T WAIT!!!!!

      There is never a “good” time to have a baby. NEVER!

      And personally, as someone who started trying at 27 only to suffer a miscarriage and another 8 solid months of trying after that before finally conceiving my son (delivered 2 full years after we started really, really trying), I now laugh at anyone who thinks they can “plan” a pregnancy.

  47. Darth Admin*

    Last year my company provided funds for me to take my 12-person team out to a holiday lunch at a nice restaurant. I found out this week that the company can’t/won’t provide those funds this year, and it is not in my budget to spend $350 out of my pocket to take the team to lunch.

    Eight of the 12 are my direct reports, and the other team members with direct reports have one each. In years past, we had a lunch where each person paid for their direct report(s), and while that would still be a lot of money for my budget, I would be ok going back to that. However, based on past experiences I think that at least 2 members of the team will see this as “cheaping out”. I’m genuinely torn because for the most part they are a very good team and I want to thank them… I just don’t have budget to do so the way I’d like. So, I’m looking for script suggestions of how to talk to my team about this, and/or opinions on what direction to take.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I think anyone who thinks of appreciation coming from the boss’s pocket as “cheaping out” can bite you.

      Why don’t you do something totally different? Small gift cards, cookie swap or have a little happy hour and release everyone early?

      1. Sadsack*

        I had a manager who had about almost 20 reports, and he usually arranged breakfasts when he did stuff like this. I don’t think anyone thought badly of him for it, I know I didn’t. I thought it was a nice gesture. We met at a place near the office before work, so we got into the office a little last, instead of missing 2+ hours in the middle of the day.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      How about getting a bunch of pizzas and having a party during the day at work? I’d rather do that than go out for a group lunch anyway. Somehow I always get stuck sitting next to the boss everyone hates.

    3. sprinkles!*

      We had a very small budget for our team’s holiday celebration last year ($150 – 200 for about 20 people). I ended up having Qdoba to cater lunch and it was well-received. The staff had a potluck dessert bar that followed the lunch.

      1. Alma*

        Olive Garden caters trays of lasagna, huge bowls of salad/dressing, and breadsticks. Breakfast is a great idea, too – a big bowl of fruit, an egg strata or biscuits with ham, excellent coffee and half-and-half, a local specialty coffee cake or pastry.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      I’d go with “the company won’t fund a lunch for us this year”.

      There are probably reasons why this is a bad idea, but there have been occasions when I’ve taken the team out for lunch and paid for it out of my own pocket – and if anyone asked, I told a little white lie and said I’d be getting reimbursed. $350 would be kinda pushing the limit, but in the end, it all depends on how important it is. If I thought $30 per person would make a real positive impact on my 12 person team, I’d go for it.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Ha, that’s the opposite of my previous boss. On at least two occasions that I know of, she told the team she was picking up the departmental lunch on her own dime but later got reimbursement from the company.

    5. HR Manager*

      Is there a general tone of cost-cutting going on in the company that attributed to the lack of funds for celebrations? If not, why not be honest and say “Due to a tighter budget this year, we won’t be able to schedule a similar luncheon. However, it’s important to me to celebrate and recognize the work you did as a team, so I’d like to plan for something low key like xx option 1, yy option 2. Let me know what you prefer and we’ll plan for this.”

      Options of course should be as simple as pizza lunch, or whatever cost-effective option works for you (can you have a few beers brought in? potluck? some typical office game like the yankee swap). But if you also give them a voice, it might help make the celebrations more fun.

  48. sprinkles!*

    how do you work with a manager who is a “yes man?”

    a little background information: my team recently got shifted to a new manager. He is a very kind man however I learned quickly that he is a yes man in every sense of the word. For example he will not push back when other areas want to pawn work off on us, even though this work does not fall into our team’s scope. when I suggested that this could possibly cause more harm than good, he replied by saying that even though the work is not being done by the team responsible for it, it still needs to get done. I understand that, but I believe there needs to be some kind of accountability and it’s not our team’s job to be a dumping ground. I did mention this to him. He said nothing.

    Im hardcore job searching and I’m hopeful that I will find another position very soon. But in the meantime I’m just not sure how to properly deal with it.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      honestly, having worked for someone like this, you can’t. you just need to leave. if your manager doesn’t have your back you have no leverage.

    2. Rebecca*

      My manager does this. She said she is always happy to take on more work. Translation: happy to tell other offices her underlings will do more work. It doesn’t matter how busy or stressed we are. And when we ask for help? She has flatly stated she will never ask other managers for help.

      Yes, I’m looking hard for another job. This is nuts.

    3. Observer*

      The only thing I would add is to make sure your boss knows when the added work is going to have a negative impact on the things you are SUPPOSED to be doing. And document all of this to the nth degree. Keeping your boss in the look might get him to push back a bit – or not. And although you will hopefully you will find a new job before someone starts to look for “accountability” for problems on your team, you want to make sure you don’t get hit for things that were your manager’s responsibility.

  49. AnonThisTime*

    Anon for this one…

    I have been in my current role for 2 years at New Company. It was a transition from my old role at Old Company — current role is better paying and I have much more interaction with the top level executives at this place than I did at Old Company, where I interacted with just one particular unit 99% of the time, as my work was focused there. I am now in more of a strategic role.

    I left Old Company in large part due to bullying by directors and also because I had gone about as far as I could in that role. I do keep in touch with some of my former co-workers, though. I happened to know that my successor was a) not as skilled as I was and b) did not do very well in the role (this is all what former co-workers told me, not my own opinion). Successor bailed and they had a search for a replacement, which failed — in large part because they want someone with a specialized skillset (which I have) to work for much less than the going salary for that job.

    So, Old Director called me up earlier this week and said “what would it take to bring you back?” Director offered me the ability to work 100% from home (which is almost never allowed there) and the ability to “have more authority”. Director did NOT specify if the role would be a salary bump for me from now, and when I left 2 years ago, I asked if they could match my offer and was told “no” then (FWIW, it was a 10% raise).

    I decided what the hey, let’s meet for coffee. I am not totally open to going back, both because I am in a more important role now, and because I do enjoy my current tasks. I am trying to decide what might sway me…the bullying people are all gone now (1 fired, one almost fired but left before that happened). I am thinking:

    1. Private office (did not have this there, have it at current)
    2. Flexible start/end times (one of my kids is having some health issues at the moment that require almost weekly appointments to maintain healthy status, so I often need to leave an hour early one day a week if I cannot flex appointments) — current place is ok with this.
    3. 10+% raise over current job salary (raises are off the table due to contract issues at both places so a job change is the only way to get one)
    4. Software tools that I am accustomed to here (annual cost of ~$2K)

    Anyone else ever in this situation? what would you do?

    1. The IT Manager*

      What I am hearing, though, the only pros for Old Company (if they agree to your demands) are salary bump which you can only get when you change jobs and 100% WFH. Sounds like you’d be back to a place with no room for advancement, less strategic, less important role (“have more authority” is pretty vague). That seems like it would only be short-term improvement.

      1. AnonThisTime*

        Yes, this is what I am thinking. They REALLY want me back, it sounds like, but they sure did not try very hard to keep me when I left. I am afraid that it would be a net loss all around.

        There’s the faint possibility for advancement at my current role, but in reality, almost everyone in this field who gets promoted has to change organizations to do it. There is great resistance to promoting from within in the field in general. Very great.

        I could potentially shift to another department, but it would be a lateral move for most lines here.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Hmmmm …. tricky. Just one more piece of advice, try not to let the flattery of them practically begging you to come back influence you too much. It feels great now (“You like me. You really like me.”) but will they treat you any better once you return? Try to view the pros and cons rationally without giving that too much weight.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      I have a kid with health issues, and the flexibility my employer is giving me to handle them is a lifesaver. It’s hard to do that with an unknown quantity, plus can be hard to start out that way in a new role without equity built up.

      I vote stay where you are till your child is more stable.

    3. Jamie*

      I’d make sure the flexibility was a real deal and not just something they are saying and once there it will never be a “good time.”

      Because if it’s 100% work from home do you need an office there? Usually people who are 100% wfh camp somewhere when in the office because a private office doesn’t make sense unless someone’s butt needs to be in that chair on a regular basis.

      Also if you’re relatively happy where you are why 10%? Just because they didn’t bite last time doesn’t mean they won’t give it now, they are in a different position, but if you’re not dying to go back why not ask for jumping money – money so much better you’d have a hard time turning it down. You can always negotiate and settle for less if you want to move – but I wouldn’t start at your bottom line.

      And if you do jump – clarify what “more authority” actually means and get the work from home and flex time deal in writing – and whatever else is crucial to you. Doesn’t have to be a formal contract – but in the offer letter specified in non-ambiguous wording.

      1. AnonThisTime*

        The 10% is probably a) me underselling myself and b) due to the low salaries in general at both places. Union contracts outline the salary ranges for each band of titles (both places are with the same union). a 10% jump would put me in the top quarter for the band at Old Job — my current band is one rank higher. There is a possibility they could put the title into the next band, but that is the same as the current supervisor’s band — which is not commonly done. a 10% raise is about par for people in this situation in my area from what I can gather, although a colleague got 40% (!).

        I inadvertently left off that I told Old Director I did not need and was not really interested in 100% wfh. BTDT and it is not necessary. A private office, though, while not required, makes my life easier. I do a lot of complex analysis and was in a cube there previously, which made it hard at times to really focus.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t know that I’d worry about par in your situation; I’d focus instead on what would be enough to make it worthwhile to me and let them see if they can meet it. If they don’t give it, then fine, but now is not the time to ensure your requests appear reasonable. You’re being courted, and it’s by an ex who really needs to prove that they believe you to be extremely valuable to them after all.

        2. Mister Pickle*

          Did you ever watch _Breaking Bad_? Remember the episode where Walter is shopping for a car for his son, and they’re test-driving a Gremlin or something lame like that, and Walter Jr. looks out the window at a billboard ad for a Dodge Challenger and says “If you’re gonna buy me off, *buy me off!*”

          It doesn’t seem like you *need* this new job. 10% increase? Pfft. How about maybe a 30% increase? Stock options? ‘Golden parachute’? We always hear that executives get these fabulous salaries and employment deals because it costs a lot to attract and keep good people. Maybe your old company needs to realize that attracting and keeping a person with your skills is expensive?

  50. Maxwell Edison*

    I gave notice on Monday and feel so much better – like a huge weight has been taken off me.

    I was amused that my boss was nearly as happy about me giving notice as I was. This just reinforces my suspicions that I was next on the chopping block in the much-rumored layoffs coming in the new year and she’s happy because she’s been spared a really awkward conversation with me.

    Will be freelancing now and have already gotten some good nibbles on freelance jobs. And I’m actually sleeping well again!

    1. Blue_eyes*

      Congrats! Before I left my last job I thought I would never sleep through the night again, but as soon as I left I was sleeping soundly – amazing how much stress can affect you physically. Good luck with the free-lancing!

  51. Sherm*

    So, I had a phone interview 2 1/2 weeks ago (not with a hiring person, but with a scientist who works there). He said I’d hear back in a week. Should I shoot him an e-mail inquiring what’s up, or let it go? I’ve heard the advice about not pestering people in situations like this, but I wonder if showing my interest would help. Then again, odds are I am out of consideration, and I’d just be setting myself up for receiving a painful rejection as a reply.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think showing your interest will necessarily help, but I also think it would be perfectly reasonable to drop a note asking if a revised time frame is available if you’d genuinely like to know. And also, as usual, move on in your head.

  52. Clever Anonymous Name, Esq.*

    My boss/manager/owner (it’s a very small business) has trouble delegating and ensuring a smooth workflow. When snarls inevitably happen they* blame us to the customer (as in, they use the worker’s name, like “Oh, Brad didn’t finish these up, he worked on something else instead”). Not surprisingly the manager is defensive and we have gone into a mode where we run every decision by them in order to CYA (“What should I work on next?”). This is less than ideal and results in answers such as “You should know what to do next, please don’t hassle me.” Unfortunately if we don’t pick the “right” job the cycle repeats.

    I know this looks incredibly unprofessional to the customer. I guess I am asking, is there any way I can train my manager to be less defensive and take responsibility? The workplace is quite level, laterally speaking, so there’s not a formal process or hierarchy I can use.

    I am casually looking for other employment but since it’s a small business (many of the employees are related) I do not have a managerial reference. I’ve also been here for eight years and my previous manager at another job was the same way, which makes me worried I’m the problem.

    *Using single-person form of “they” because I’m paranoid.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      If you’re willing to step out, you could use some Alison speak in this situation.

      You could have a conversation with the the owner, “When we single out specific employees for blame in a conversation with a customer, it makes us look bad, and that concerns me. What do you think?” If the owner is receptive, the point of the conversation is to discuss how it builds more confidence in customers to think that their job is being handled in an orderly queue and not at the whim of some guy named Brad, even if there is no actual order to the queue at all.

      I suppose you could also ask the owner if he’d like you to manage the queue. Sounds as if somebody needs to.

  53. Satcat*

    My boyfriend recently got out the army and is looking for work. He has most of an associates degree in automotive tech and prior to the army, he worked on cars, however, he can no longer do this work due to injuries. He’s looking for car sales/management type positions at Jiffy Lube/Firestone-type places or dealerships. He’s holding out for a salaried position at $40k/yr (we’re in Texas, for reference). For those of you with experience in the industry, how likely do you think he is to find this position? I’m worried that his expectations are unrealistic and will keep him from taking a job that might otherwise be a good fit for him.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        My best friend’s brother did something similar and he I think heads up and manages the desk of a car dealership’s service desk. That may be a good option.

      2. NZ Muse*

        Yup, mainly commission based. When my partner worked in secondhand car sales it was 100% commission but some places pay a base rate.

        Based on his short stint, and what I’ve heard from a friend whose partner also worked in car sales, the atmosphere can be pretty cut throat and dysfunctional.

        Also (and this may be country/city specific….) lately we’ve noticed quite a few dealerships around us looking to hire ‘sales cadets’ – basically beginners, and train them up.

    1. Graciosa*

      What does his research indicate for the market? If he has just decided that this is what he believes he is worth in a vacuum, I’m not terribly optimistic, but this isn’t my field.

      A quick check of Glass Door shows most of the entry level positions (techs) are hourly from $9.15-11.00 per hour. Store managers were coming in at $42K, but I’m not sure whether he will be considered qualified for such a position without previous managerial experience in a retail environment. This previous experience was specifically mentioned in job postings available online for these positions. Jiffy Lube seems to have a fairly tiered structure (Operations Manager to Service Manager to Store Manager) and the higher level positions seem to require experience at the lower ones.

      I’m not sure how helpful that is, but the key to answering the question is evaluating the market. What are the required qualifications listed for these jobs, and what are the qualifications of the successful applicants? These may not be the same. My instinct is that he may be overreaching a bit, but I hope I’m wrong.

      Best wishes.

  54. Josh S*

    I’ve been meaning to write this one in to Alison (and I might still), but thought I’d toss it out to the comment hordes first:
    The manager of the team I’m on at work (TeaPots Inc) got promoted to another team recently. One of my coworkers, Mary, was promoted to be Manager on the team, and I took over her role supporting the ChocoTeaPot brand (a lateral move, but to a higher-profile portion of the team, covering $3Bn in revenue instead of $400Mn in revenue). I now “own” the relationship with that whole brand team. And a new Analyst back-filled my role on SnackTeaPot brand.

    However, the transition has NOT been a smooth handoff. While the roles all swapped at the start of September, we were in a ‘transition’ for a month, til Oct 1. My wife then had a baby at the end of Oct (yay!) and I was on paternity leave for a few weeks. Mary has/had a 2+ year relationship managing this client team, and they have a great deal of trust and rapport.

    Here’s my quandary–For my performance to be where it needs to be, I need to quickly develop a high level of trust and rapport. However, because of the strong relationship my client has with Mary, and the stuttering transition period, the client keeps turning to Mary for answers to things.

    Mary is happy to answer the questions, and often only lets me know about it after the fact–either to request that I do something, or to let me know that a decision has been made without my input, or to quote additional services, etc. All of which things are/should be my job.

    The result is that I am NOT building the rapport and trust I need in order to be most effective in my job. I’d really like to flat out tell Mary to refer all questions back to me to handle (even in the instances where I’d just have to ask her for the answer) so that I can be the ‘face’ of our team to the ChocoTeaPot group and really own that relationship.

    How do I get Mary to back off the relationship or redirect things to me more effectively?

    Other things I know/strongly suspect:
    -This is Mary’s first role as a Manager. I strongly suspect she is insecure in her role and wants to handle as much as she can herself for that reason.
    -Mary isn’t doing this to undermine me intentionally–she’s just trying to make things run smoothly with a blind spot to the consequences of how it impacts my performance/ability to do my job.
    -Mary has been a supervisor and informal mentor in the past, and she is known for a somewhat weak ability to develop her reports/mentees or delegate to help them grow.

    I feel like I’m in a hard spot. How can I navigate this to help accelerate the transition so the client trusts & recognizes me as the new person in the role?

    1. fposte*

      I think your plan is reasonable. Meet with her, thank her for her support and scrupulous care, and make your case that the organization is best served by clarity here. It may feel like better service for her to dive in and do your job (she’s probably thinking “It’ll just take me two minutes anyway, which makes more sense than spending that time forwarding stuff to Josh”) but ultimately that’s just going to confuse the client and limit your ability to serve them.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I would also suggest going over the account with her at that meeting, so she could clue you in on any issues with the client, special handling, etc. It will also show her that you’re serious about taking good care of them, which might help her let go if she’s feeling especially clingy.

    2. Jamie*

      The client has nothing to do with this, they’ll trust you once they get to know you and that can’t happen until Mary redirects them to you every time.

      Of course they are going to stay on the familiar path as long as it works – they are getting what they need and your internal stuff doesn’t matter to them. Fposte was right – just thank Mary so much and let her know why it’s important she hand off instead of just taking a couple of minutes to help them out. Given they have such a good relationship with her it would be awesome if Mary let them know you were there contact point and how awesome you are and that they are in good hands…but you can’t ask her to say that. Hopefully she will on her own.

      And congrats on the baby!!

    3. Chloe Silverado*

      Thank you so much for this post! I’m a newly promoted first time supervisor in a very similar position to Mary as far as the disrupted transition timeline causing clients to still approach me directly. My struggle with delegating might be different from Mary’s – I’m still experiencing discomfort with delegating certain tasks because I feel I’m inconveniencing others/saying I’m too good for it. This gave me wonderful perspective – by delegating, I’m giving my new employee the experience she needs to build rapport and further her career. I appreciate it!

      Hopefully, Mary will respond similarly – I would just explain that in order for you to be successful in your new role and best service your client, you need to be responsible for interacting with the client directly. Maybe ask if she has any concerns about you handling clients directly, and if she seems hesitant you can suggest a weekly update meeting/email or that you CC: her on important emails so she stays in the loop. Good luck!

      1. Aaron*

        Hi Chloe –

        Congrats on your promotion! Delegation as a new manager is really hard – what’s inconveniencing others, what’s important enough that I should stay involved, and what’s best for the client? Some questions I ask myself:
        – Does this fall into anyone’s job description?
        – Who can do this 80% as well as I can?
        – Who would be really good at this?
        – What can I NOT do because I am doing this?
        When I get shy about delegating I can usually get over it with one or more of those questions. If I’m still stuck then usually I find it’s my issue of not wanting to take the time and energy to properly train someone to take over when I hand it over!

        I hope this helps!

    4. HR Manager*

      Do you have a good rapport with Mary to be honest with her? Since you have noted she’s not doing this intentionally, can you address this as: “Mary, I know I have big shoes to fill, as I see you have a trusting relationship to build with Client X. Do you have some time for me to sit down with you to discuss and share anything would be helpful for me to build a similar relationship with them? [I’m concerned with whether they see me that way because they keep turning to you for answers that I should be providing.]”

      Throw that last sentence in if you think she can handle it. If you think she’ll see this as a knock on her, leave it out and see if you discussion with her can help her come to the realization that she needs to back off, and forward those requests to you as they come in.

      1. Aaron*

        Great advice from HR Manager. One other element I would consider is this: how can handing this client over to you benefit Mary? How much time can she have to work on her projects if this client isn’t reaching out to her directly?

      2. Josh S*

        We’ve had several small conversations with me requesting that Mary point the client back to me; and with Mary giving me tips on how to handle personalities, build rapport/trust, etc. It’s actually gone well from that perspective.

        But she is still fielding some requests anyway. (That’s why I dont’ think it’s intentional…just convenient for her to do.)

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe I am reading this wrong. But Mary is now your boss, right? And she is not strong in mentoring, training etc. But you are supposed to take over Mary’s old job.

      I think flattery is the route to go here. Don’t be insincere. Find things that she does well and ask her about those things in regard to the client that is now yours.
      Encourage her that with her new responsibilities it might be a relief to get you up to speed so that you can shoulder her old work and do it well. This would free her up to focus on her new job.
      Maybe the two of you can sit together and send an email announcing that you will be taking Mary’s place and giving your contact info.

      Use a tone with her that is complimentary/thoughtful. And, really, she probably will surprise you with some of the things she knows about this client.
      I think you can do this one very well. Am basing that on the insightful things you said here and the way you framed your statements. It is to her advantage to help you get great at your job because that frees her up to be great at her new job. You can add that you would like to be able to come talk things over with her once in a while regarding this client- this is just a wise thing to say. You never know you might need her inputs in the future.

    6. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Hey Josh,

      I’m the client on the other end. I am very stubborn about continuing to contact somebody I’ve built trust with and highly suspicious of “new guy”. Mary was working out very well, what I do need this person whatever his name is for?

      What does work is when “new guy” becomes Josh.

      So I think you start with Mary and ask her to help you make the transition with the client. Obviously she knows the client well, ask Mary how she thinks you can best win them over.

      What doesn’t work with me is feeling abandoned by original contact and being force fed new guy. What does work is Mary picking up the phone and saying mostly, hey, I am always here for you but let’s give new guy a chance.

  55. The thrill is gone :(*

    What do you do when you hate every job you’re in…and you know you’re the problem. For reference, I work in marketing/ad/PR.

    I’ve had three professional jobs. My first job was my favorite – I worked at an ad agency for several years, had great clients, and a wonderful boss. I left because there was no room for advancement and my salary was so measly I couldn’t afford to pay my bills/save for a home, etc. I was getting a little bored with the work as well.

    My second job was at a hospital. I loved the work I did (was actually a volunteer for the hospital before being hired). but I had a terrible, micromanaging boss who criticized everything I did. The boss was also not honest about the requirements of the job, and if they had been, I would have never taken the job. I would cry every day after work.

    My current job is in a corporate setting. The work is boring and I have absolutely no interest in it. This is a lot of room for advancement and I’m making pretty good money (more than I’ve ever made). My organization reorgs every three months (no joke) and I can’t stand my current manager. My team is very social and I have no interest in being friends with them outside of work, for many reasons. It’s a bad cultural fit overall.

    I have two side jobs that I’m very passionate about: writing for a niche sport and career/financial counseling. Sadly, I don’t make enough between the two jobs (not to mention having to buy my own insurance, etc.) to quit my full-time job.

    I know I’m the problem. I’m just at a loss what to do. I want to be one of those people who actually ENJOYS their job (for the most part) and can actually make a living at it.

    1. unemplaylist*

      You have a wonderful and varied background and there are a million ways you could go. Think about what makes you happy and go find a new job. I know, easier said than done, but with agency, corporate AND health care experience, you are in a great position. You said you loved the agency, maybe go back to that world? Good luck!

      1. the thrill is gone :(*

        Thank you for your kind words. It really does help me to feel better about my situation.

    2. HR Manager*

      When you say you know you’re the problem, what do you think that is? Do you think you have unreasonable expectations? Do you become bored too easily? Do you think you’re accepting jobs too quickly without understanding the business or the culture? Are you a ‘grass is greener there’ type of person? You write that you know the problem to be yourself, but then add that the reasons for departing the jobs as all external causes, which doesn’t jibe.

      Isolate and be specific for what you think is the root cause of your dissatisfaction, and start making changes to that.

      1. the thrill is gone :(*

        I think if I’m really honest with myself, I would have to say I have unrealistic expectations for others. I’ve been told by former managers that I hold myself to very high expectations (which they love). I’m a very hard and focused worker. But that means I also hold others to my expectations, not only for work ethic, but professional behavior and ethically as well. I realize that it’s unfair to hold others to my own set of standards.

        Part of it to is that I’m really an entrepreneur at heart and I think that’s a difficult thing to be when you work for someone else.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      You loved the first job, but each time you moved you got further and further away from even liking your job.

      Go back to the first job- what was it that you liked? By this I mean, set aside boss/coworkers/clients, how did your work differ at that job from your work at this job?
      I am guessing you had a lot more autonomy and used a lot more of your creativity. Maybe it felt like you were actually making a contribution as opposed to now which feels more like an assembly line?

      Are you one of those creative types of people that suffocates under structured work/workplaces?
      I am one who would rather be a big fish in a small pond than a little fish in a big pond. I know this about me.
      How does this apply to you? You’re not “the problem” you are just “who you are”. Consider it from this angle: Round peg, square hole.
      I did not like the idea of “little pond”. I thought I should be in a “big pond”. But any big ponds I have tried I have been miserable. PEACH. Now I have two problems I like little ponds and I don’t want to admit it to myself.
      Eh, I am who I am.

      So. What have you been telling yourself about you that is not true? (Other than “I know I am the problem.” You are not “the problem”, you are a human being. What else have you been telling yourself that is not true about you?)

      Take a second look at your finances. Can you keep the two side jobs and go to a smaller pond that you like better and allows you to be more in line with your vision for yourself and your work?

      1. the thrill is gone :(*

        I actually have been considering reaching to my first employer and floating the idea out there of coming back, but in a more senior role. The big concerns I have is the money. I’m single and have been saving for a down payment on a home. When I first worked at the agency, I made less than $30,000/annually. Now, I make just over $60,000 – a huge difference obviously. I’m not sure if the agency would be willing to pay in that ballpark.

        also, layoffs are often inevitable if you lose a client in an agency setting. As a single person, that is a concern to me.

        I consider myself a highly creative person who in many ways marches to the beat of their own drum. More than any other job, I felt like my uniqueness was respected at the agency and I do miss that.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Sounds to me like you have nailed this one down! Very cool. Maybe former employer can’t pay you, but maybe someone there would know of an employer with a similar environment and that could pay you.

  56. Schmitt*

    Guys, I feel like a million bucks. Today was headphones’ guy from last week’s open thread’s yearly review. It was not an overwhelmingly positive review and he can get cranky so I wasn’t sure how it would go. I used the “I expect better quality teapots from a person in your position” phrasing and that worked really well.

    I brought up the headphones issue with trepidation and was impressed that he didn’t get whiny, and after some discussion the big boss actually backed down and will consider a more forgiving headphones policy.

    Not only did the big boss compliment me on handling the review well, he asked for a copy of the self-evaluation questions for the department to use for his subordinates.

    1. fposte*

      Congratulations, Schmitt! Sounds like the kudos were well deserved, but it’s also great that you had a good outcome.

  57. in the mood for docs*

    Which document management system/ document repository do you use at work and do you like it?

    I work at a startup and will be picking one. We are a small team distributed in 4 offices and don’t have an IT department as such, so I am thinking it should be cloud based.

    TIA for your input.

    1. brightstar*

      There are a lot of variances in looking at a document management system. Are you looking for just doc management or more of an enterprise system. Will you be wanting something that will allow you to control metadata as well as the document? Are you going to build records management needs into the system? Will you want something that allows workflow and mobile support and functionality?

      That said, I’ve heard really good things about Alfresco though I don’t have personal experience with it. I’ve never been a fan of Sharepoint.

    2. Cee*

      Do you have the latitude to suggest something more comprehensive? There’s some great all-in-one business management software out there, WORK[etc], which has document management but also includes project management/task management, CRM, invoicing, all in one platform, and is specifically designed for distributed teams. (Full disclosure, I’ve done some contract work for WORK[etc], but I really do think they are worth checking out, especially for the size and type of your startup.)

    3. Kali*

      Also a small startup here! We’re using and I really like it. It makes it easy to work from anywhere, share documents easily, and it’s scalable.

    4. AnotherFed*

      We use SharePoint for many projects and PDM for a few others. SharePoint, used well (meaning you actually fill out the metadata fields, use workflows and permissions to archive the right things in the right places, and train the workforce to at least be moderately proficient at troubleshooting their own minor issues) can be good, but gets unwieldy with large quantities of documents. PDM is awesome if you have a lot of files, have consistent workflows, and don’t want to deal with Microsoft! The projects that use PDM have been much more able to find and retrieve the info they need in a timely fashion, manage different revisions of documents, and easily recover from user errors like deleting an important file.

  58. RainyDay*

    What do you do when you have already warned a recruiter about your timeline with other companies but they are still dragging their feet on providing you with a timeline?
    Long story short I am a candidate for a position where I basically have an “in” (an advantage over other candidates but not enough to be hired on the spot). I told them upfront that I’m in the final stages of other recruitment processes and could hear back at any time. With that said I inquired about a ballpark timeline and was not given one at the end of the interview. The recruiter made it seem like it would be up to the HM and the HM made it seem like it would be up to the recruiter. I’d prefer this job over the others BUT if offered the other positions would accept them on the spot. I wouldn’t want to accept the other positions to find out that the more-liked position was actually going to hire me. I’m thinking two things: Wait until I get an offer then approach company 1 and say I have an offer can I get a yes or no, or approach them now and reiterate my interest and ask for a timeline to the recruiter (1st I asked the HM during the interview) I must add that the recruiter never emailed me back when I asked her for the interview confirmation she said she would send. She never emailed or send it but luckily I was able to call the HM and get the address info and verify we actually did have an interview. So I’m not sure if the recruiter would even respond.

    1. Creag an Tuire*

      I’d say go with your first approach — if you get an offer somewhere else give the recruiter one last chance to get off the pot — and unless -they- respond with a firm offer (not a “timeline” or an interview), fuggedabout them. Alison has repeatedly reminded folks that you just can’t know when that job you have an “in” at gets eliminated, restructured, or filled by the Boss’s niece, so don’t wait up for it.

      1. RainyDay*

        Yep I definitely wouldn’t put off other offers waiting for the golden goose. There’s still always that pesky “what if” whispering in my ear. But it would make sense to give them one last chance like: “hey one of those other jobs I warned you about made an offer, is it a yes, no or still looking.” Well not in those exact words.

  59. futuremoneymaker*

    My husband won’t take sick days. He has a very good job at a company he has worked at for a long time, and as far as I know he has never taken a sick day. However he does get sick a lot! But decides to go into work anyway or work from home. Because he is not getting the rest his body needs a typical cold/illness for him lasts a week or longer. He is very busy at work but they give him a lot of time off. I know his coworkers take time off when they are sick. Is there any way to convince him to take advantage of the sick days he is given?

    1. GigglyPuff*

      He is a conscientious person when it comes to other people? If so, try to put it like this, when he goes to work, he most likely will spread the cold around to other people, people who may have chronic illnesses that compromise their immune system and make it much easier to catch colds. So even if he doesn’t stay home, the other people he ends up getting sick could be more seriously sick, or know they should stay home, but not have as much time saved up as he does, completely messing up any plans they might have had for their sick/vacation time. For example, most of my sick leave is dedicated to doctor’s appointments, so when I catch a cold, I will wipe out an entire week of sick time.

      And this isn’t even to mention what happens if those people have kids…and seriously if he’s getting sick a lot, it probably is because his immune system hasn’t had time to recover, so if he just took off during one of these colds, he’d probably stop having more.

    2. Jamie*

      What’s his company culture like? I am not condoning it, but in some places there is a price to be paid for this if the culture is to buck up and work when sick. I’ve been there and I wouldn’t take a sick day knowing it would change how I was viewed. If that’s the case it’s his call to make.

      1. De Minimis*

        Will he get anything for them in retirement or when he otherwise leaves? If not, I might play up that angle, that he might as well use them since he earned them.

        I did not call in sick very much at a previous job and had a bunch of sick leave that ended up just going away.

    3. Anonsie*

      NNNNNNNNNNnnnnnnnnooooooooooooooooooooo dag nabbit people stop doing this! Stop it!

      If it weren’t for coworkers coming in sick, I’d maybe get sick twice a year. But nooo, people come in the whole time they’re sick around here and I catch something off someone hacking and sneezing all over the desks saying “oh but I have so much to do here” like every other month. I have asthma to boot, so I always get sicker than they did and then I’m out and they weren’t and then I look lazy… Gaaaah!

      1. Formerly Bee*


        I volunteer at a place that hosts a support group for HIV+ people. Volunteers try to come in sick. WHY?

          1. Formerly Bee*

            They know they shouldn’t do it! They know why they shouldn’t do it! It’s crazy.

            It’s really hard to understand with the volunteers. They’re working while sick for free. Why would anyone do that?

    4. HR Manager*

      He should know how much this annoys others in the office. On my commute in today, a lady on the train was hacking all sorts of disgustingness into our compartment. She also wasn’t sitting back in her seat, and had her face 2 inches from the person standing in front of her. She had a mask, thankfully, but had to take that off half the time to blow her nose. The mask certainly isn’t impermeable. I am usually more sympathetic, but she was sounding so bad, I had to wonder why she wasn’t in bed and resting. I will blame this lady if I get sick the next week.

      I like good work ethic, but I am also highly resentful of workers who don’t care that they pass their germs on to coworkers. Some people have weak immune systems and it takes a long time to kick colds and viruses. Some people also can’t afford to lose a day of work (so many examples here!) and may not have PTO. And a rare few, ‘minor’ infections can be deadly. Please be respectful of other, and do not bring your colds and germs into their environment. Print this out and share with your husband.

      1. HR Manager*

        If your husband doesn’t care that he is annoying me, the grumpy HR person. Then he should know that if he were to infect other workers, his “good deed” of coming into work is likely to cost the company more with more lost man hours of work because others are getting sick. Unless he can single-handedly do everyone else’s job to keep things running, he should stop working sick.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Just my experience, the ones that don’t take sick days when they need to are the very same people that end up really, really sick. You could mention that to him.

      You could mention to him that he is taking too long to heal up from a cold and that is because of lack of proper rest.

      Or you could ask him why he does this.

      Some guys are just the types that go out the door to work every day no matter what.

  60. unemplaylist*

    My question is about the Second Interview. I interviewed with a small nonprofit. They seem very interested in me and vice versa. They’ve asked me to come in a second time and meet the CEO/President and another director. I’ve had lots of phone screens and first-round in-person interviews during this job search, but not a lot of second interviews. In the olden days, I used to consider this step to be just a formality leading to a job offer, but I suspect that has changed with the times, and from what I’ve read, it sounds like it could be quite the opposite and in fact a much tougher, deeper probe into my qualifications. I’d love to hear people’s opinions and experiences. Thanks.

    1. RainyDay*

      I’ve had lots of second and even third interviews and did not get the job. A second interview in my experience is just weeding candidates down from 10 to 5 or 5 to 3 and even then they might throw a last minute candidate in with some absurd attribute they find beneficial to the job but actually is totally irrelevant.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Sorry, it’s not a formality. Here, if someone does well in their first interview, they are brought back for a second interview to meet the higher-level bosses. We usually bring about 5 people in for a second interview and make our decision then. But I hope that you get the job!

    3. Anon Sequitur*

      I had a 2nd (3rd if the phone interview counts) interview this past Tuesday. I got the impression it was more about determining whether I was a good fit for the organization. I was told the top candidates would get 2nd interviews. Sadly, I don’t have a stellar employment history.

      Good luck to you!

  61. Sarah in DC*

    Alison, I’m wondering if you ever consider adding something an OP has shared in the comments to body of a post? I’m thinking specifically of the letter whose coworkers were pass around a list about what a bad employee they were and the OP shared in the comments that they were the only racial minority in a large office which I think would have changed the perspective of a lot of people who may not read the comments or didn’t see the OP’s comments.

    1. soitgoes*

      Ooooooh, I agree with this. Since I’ve been reading this site, it seems like most of the more contentious posts were aggravated by the OP continuing to post relevant information in the comments. Depending on whether readers bother reading the whole comments section before offering their own two cents, you end up with responses that vary wildly due to people having differing amounts of information.

      Either that or there should be some kind of moratorium on OPs coming to their own defense in the comments. Some OPs get defensive when we don’t say what they want to hear, even though we’re working with what they gave us in their emails.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I think it would be really unfair to prevent the OPs from commenting, though. And the rest of us can speak in our own defense, so why shouldn’t they be able to?

        I do like the idea of adding an update to the top post–it could also include the direct comment link–if something significant gets added, though, kind of how Alison adds on information that came out during a followup email.

      2. Jamie*

        A moratorium would be awful as I love OP additions and updates. I do agree their comments seem to get lost so it would be cool in a perfect world if their posts were in a shaded color (like Alison’s original comments in the comments) but I know what a PITA that would be for Alison as she’d have to add in their email addy for each post and personally I wouldn’t do it – lot of work behind the scenes and the second she’s late on it people would be posting like crazy that the OP wasn’t in the right color.

        It would be easier if people used “Original Poster” as their commenting name rather than OP – so a simple CNTL F and easy to find in the comments. OP is in so many words searching takes too long.

        1. soitgoes*

          I can think of a few instances recently where the OP would comment in ways that fundamentally changed the question that was being asked. Perhaps I was too general in suggesting a moratorium…maybe a rule about frequency of updates? Most of us don’t read the comments until after we’ve posted our own.

          1. fposte*

            Why not just start reading the comments before posting, then? Seems fairer than requiring the OPs to pipe down.

            1. Jamie*

              Yes – limiting additional information isn’t helpful – just keeps people going round the same tree when the problem is actually somewhere else in the forest.

              TWOP used to have a rule that people had to read through 15 pages of posts before commenting – we get long but not that long, so reading through is fair.

              1. fposte*

                I loved that rule. (Wasn’t it 15 pages or 15 days, in fact?) While they did get pretty draconian on forum rules, I think the requirement to read history before diving in and the ban on starting comments with “Umm…” were good ones.

                1. Jamie*

                  I don’t recall the 15 days but totally possible – I was a lurker and not a poster over there. I felt some moderators were too draconian for my tastes, but overall the rules were pretty fair and helped keep things interesting.

            2. Natalie*

              The problem with this approach is that you can ask as much as you want, but a lot of people just won’t comply. Unless Alison starts requiring registration or deleting comments, there’s no enforcement mechanism. I think an update in the post or pinned as the first comment will work better.

      3. Diet Coke Addict*

        Oh goodness, no, people should be able to add more content later! I know Alison asks that people keep their questions on the shorter side, and not everyone includes everything in their initial question but stuff may become relevant later on. The OP doesn’t always know what people are going to respond to most in their question.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Adding a particularly relevant comment from the OP to the body of the post: In theory, I think it would be great to do that consistently and I’ve done it once or twice. In practice, though, it often comes down to time constraints on my side. (I am sort of at the limits of what I can do with the blog time-wise.) I do like the idea though.

      1. Observer*

        Is there a way to to the color coded thing someone else suggested? Or some other way to tag comments from the posters? That would make it easier to find that stuff.

  62. C Average*

    I think a new job may be in sight!

    I had a great informal chat this week with a woman in a different department who will soon be hiring for two new roles. She knows my former manager well, and he gave her an enthusiastic recommendation. The roles align really well with my experience and skills; in fact, she says I’m overqualified but that she’d welcome an application from me. They’re looking to hold panel interviews in early January. The jobs will be posted next week.

    The new role would be in a much more visible department with much more room to grow in directions that interest me. They’re considering purchasing a program in which I’m a subject matter expert, and I could really help them get up to speed with using it. I’d get to use my project management skills more than I’m currently doing. And I just plain really, really clicked with the hiring manager and think we’d work well together.

  63. Janis*

    Update on little black dress interviewee: I wrote a while ago because three of us interviewers were flummoxed by a candidate for a fairly high level management job who came dressed more for an evening at the Kennedy Center. We didn’t hire her … but not because of her attire. We found someone who was a stronger candidate. However, the interviewing process dragged on for more than 2 months. The manager’s wife had to have surgery, then I was in a car accident (something to remember when the hiring process seems to be taking a long time!). Because the process was so drawn out, we started to forget candidates’ names and resorted to quick descriptives – the one from Canada, the redhead, the guy who was late, and … the lady in the little black dress.

    I enjoyed many of the responses but the one that resonated best with me was the person who said the best outfit to wear is “the one no one will remember.” You really don’t want to be remembered for your interview outfit, but I do recall that the candidate we hired wore a navy blue pantsuit.

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      I recently interviewed a candidate who seemed to have stumbled in the morning after an evening of clubbing. Smudged dark makeup, hair a mess, mini-skirt all topped off with a mostly sheer blouse! She then handed us a resume that had been crumpled up in her purse, and proceeded to give answers like “Yeah my last job was pretty crazy, I hated it.” This was for a junior (but not entry level) role at a professional services firm.

      I don’t remember exactly what the candidate we hired was wearing, but I do know it was professional. On the other hand, I can recall exactly what our party girl candidate was wearing, so that “wear the outfit no one will remember” advice seems to ring true!

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Ha, we do descriptives too with memorable candidates. My favorite is: Woman Who Was Drunk at her 10am Interview (and it was a second interview for an SVP role!). Oh, and: Woman Who Wore Mini-Romper To Interview (we are pretty conservative).

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Funny/odd- I had read a long time ago that the best color to wear to an interview was blue. The reason is most people like blue. Other colors people may have strong negative or positive feelings about. But most people like blue.

        1. Felicia*

          I wore a blue dress to my last interview too (also resulted in a hire for the job i’m currently doing. )

  64. EmilyG*

    I recently met with someone from my long-ago university’s career office who reiterated the hoary advice of putting an address in the location I hope to move to on my resume. I’ve heard this but always thought it was kind of cheesy and unbelievable, plus in my case I presently work for an organization that obviously does not have an office in the new location… like “EmilyG … 123 Main St. Palm Springs FL. … Current position: U.S. Dept. of the Treasury… ”

    Is there any point to this? Is it just a way to signal I’m really serious about relocating and have a place to stay?

    1. Judy*

      Yes, that’s the point. To say that you are committed to relocating, and also that you’re not expecting relocation allowances.

  65. anony*

    Just a vent. We just finished a huge project at work and now I’m cleaning up all the little less-important tasks that slid while we were pushing to get Huge Project done. Today I am working from home and I logged into my email to find a whole slew of emails from a co-worker, with my boss copied, listing a number of tasks that I have not yet finished cleaning up.

    This person does not supervise me. My boss knows that these tasks slid while we were getting Huge Project out and is fine with that. I have no idea what brought this on – especially since these tasks don’t involve him and I’ve been slowly working on getting caught up. This person also was not involved in Huge Project and honestly has no idea what all was on my plate for the past 4 months.

    Just… argh. I am having trouble formulating an email response that isn’t bitchy so I think I am just going to wait until I’m back in the office to deal with this. Sigh.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, annoying. Can you recast it in your mind–and maybe in reality–as a service? “Thanks for keeping track, Beth. That’ll be helpful to make sure we finish these in time.”

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Or maybe something like ‘Now that Huge Project is done, it’ll be nice to get back to these’– since you mention Jerk didn’t know about the project, this would be a nice pointed reminder that you’ve got your own stuff to do.

    2. Jamie*

      Been there – with the catch up, not the snarky email. I’d be tempted to email just my boss and ask if there’s been some kind of restructure where jerky emailer is in charge of tracking those tasks. But totally depends on the relationship you have with your boss – and if you can shoot a casual wtf email where it’s not like you’re making it an issue.

      1. anony*

        Yeah, my boss and I have a good relationship and I’m sure we will have a “WTF? I know you’re doing this stuff as you can” conversation when I’m back in Monday. It’s just…. seriously?

        I usually have a good relationship with this co-worker too so I have no idea WTF is going on. Someone clearly peed in his Cheerios this morning.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          If you know you’re boss is going to be equally WTF, I would just ignore them, personally.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “yes, thank you. (Boss) and I arranged to put these on the back burner while I was working on Huge Project. Now that that’s over, I’ll be able to tackle these but it was a deliberate choice to put them aside until now.”

      Because of hand surgery, I just wrote this with Apple’s Dictation. It worked pretty well!

      1. Elizabeth West*


        I got Dragon Naturally Speaking to spare my hands, but I haven’t finished training it yet. So far all I’ve done is teach it to spell naughty words, LOL.

  66. CoffeeLover*

    I have a question about striking a work-life balance when it comes to big life events. Last year I missed a very good friends wedding (even though I was asked to be the maid of honor). This happened because I was traveling for personal reasons. I now have another friend that is getting married and I was asked to be a bridesmaid. It’s a destination wedding, so I would need a week to go. My new job is starting in the same month, though I don’t have the specific start day. It’s not something I can control because it’s the national on-boarding day for all new recruits in that department. If I start work before the wedding, then I won’t go to the wedding and my friend is understanding. It has me wondering though how to handle these kinds of things in the future. I’m early in my career, but I don’t want to be the person with a good career that looks back on life and thinks I missed all the important things. What are your thoughts/experience with this? Have you made tough decisions to either miss a life event or miss work for one? How do you feel about it now in hindsight?

    1. soitgoes*

      I know they’re stacking up weirdly now, but I don’t think it’s a big deal to skip two (or three or four or five) weddings in your whole lifetime, especially it’s due to work reasons. You’re presumably somewhat young; I think your friend is the one who’s bucking norms a bit by planning a destination wedding at your age. I’m almost 30 and I’d say no to that wedding. It’s a whole year’s worth of vacation time for a vacation location that I didn’t get to choose.

    2. Shell*

      Ehhh…I think this one is really up to you personally. Me, I don’t like weddings and big events because they’re draining to me, and while I’d attend because it was important to the bride/groom/family/etc. that I be there, I can’t say I’d feel guilty if I have to bow out for work/professional or personal reasons. I know I’ve missed a few cousins’ weddings guilt-free. Especially since I firmly believe the marriage (not the wedding) is the important part and there’ll be lots of opportunities to see them after, whereas work may not be so accommodating if you’re trying to develop and climb the ladder.

      I think it really depends on how close you are to the bride/groom and what your personal take on events like this is. Though I admit I’m a grinch which may colour my response.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Well, with weddings in particular, I wouldn’t stress too much about it. Having just been a bride, I can tell you that I didn’t have much time to spend with people I actually care about, and I’d rather if they have limited time to see them another time. (I have a friend in India who was going to come for it, but after we talked about it decided it made more sense for her to visit another time when I can actually spend time with her).

      As for destination weddings, if you have one, you get what you get in terms of attendance. I won’t go into all my issues with them, but if you want people to be able to attend, don’t have a destination one. In fact, many people do them for the precise reason of keeping the guest list down. And I go on vacation where I want go – I can think of 300 places I’d rather go than an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or the Caribbean.

      Bottom line is this, in my humble opinion: make time for the people who matter. But that doesn’t have to be for their weddings, especially destination ones. Weddings matter a lot to the people getting married and their immediate families, but if you can’t make it, don’t sweat it. Just make some quality time outside those confines and spend time with them. It’ll take more work as you get older and have more responsibilities, but it’s worth it.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        She’s actually from Mexico, so she’s having it there so more people can attend (namely her entire family). Maybe I shouldn’t have called it a destination wedding, but I do still have to travel for it as I live in Canada. Anyway, the pressure to go is definitely coming from me rather than her. She’s completely understanding if I can’t go, but I really really want to. Not enough to actually miss the first week of work, but enough to be sad :P. I appreciate all the input you’ve all had so far. I think a lot of you are nailing it, that in the grand scheme of life I can still make it to the events that matter, and that compromising my career isn’t always worth it. There’s definitely a balance there I’m still trying to work out. And like soitgoes said above, I think the fact that I’m missing two weddings of important friends in a row is the thing that’s getting to me.

    4. Jamie*

      Everyone is going to be different, but I can’t imagine going to a friends wedding would ever be important enough to me that I’d be glad I did it if it would hurt my career.

      Remember too, these choices aren’t so cut and dried each time – or forever. Early in my career I’d have hesitated asking for things I wouldn’t even ask about now – I’d just tell them. But I know what I can and can’t miss at work – point being at some point most people have more options/autonomy in their careers than when they are first starting out.

      It’s hard when you’re young and there are patches where it seems like everyone is getting married or having kids or starting a career. It changes things and sometimes you can’t do what you’d like due to other commitments – if you do your best people who care about you will (usually) understand and if they don’t they are unreasonable, not you.

      It’s hard when you want to do stuff but you have to ask yourself if it will hurt you long term – if yes, then the bar should be pretty high for a one time event which will cause issues for a while at work. As you’ll be new get a feel for the culture and ask others once you make some relationships how that kind of thing is received.

    5. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I recently took a week off to travel to a wedding (it wasn’t a destination wedding, but since almost all of the guests had to travel to get there, is kinda was) and I actually did regret it– though that was more that it was a miserable experience, not because of work. Going forward, I’m definitely going to be more aware of whether I WANT to go vs whether I feel like I HAVE to go.

    6. Chloe Silverado*

      I’m right at that age where lots of friends are starting to get married, so in the past few years I’ve attended quite a few weddings. I’ve also had to miss some! Sure, it’s a bummer when all of your old friends are getting together to celebrate and you have to miss out due to a professional obligation, but there will most likely be another event right around the corner that you can attend. Unfortunately being early in your career comes with the occasional sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean you’re in for a lifetime of missing out on events with your friends and family. Since your friends are all probably at a similar level in their careers, I’m sure they will be understanding, and as your career progresses you’ll most likely have more flexibility with your time off.

      My closest friends and I initiated an annual girls’ weekend the year after we graduated from college. It’s a great way to make sure we get quality time together once a year, even though we may have to pass on other events due to work or family obligations. We make sure that the cost is kept low so no one has to pass because of money and we all select a weekend together so everyone can attend. Maybe this is an option for your friends to help mitigate some of the feelings your having?

  67. Anna*

    My old coworker just called me at lunch. The girl who took my old job just quit (I warned her it was a toxic environment) and they fired/told the creepy coworker not to come back.

    He apparently had to go to rehab for a mental illness and was gone for 2 months. They hired someone else during this time (I’m assuming this is a violation of FMLA but idk because the company is so small). During this time, they find out he has been hiding inventory and not doing paperwork or documentation for things. He was a quality checker.

    Apparently they are going crazy and I wouldn’t be surprised to get a phone call from evil old boss asking if I’m “bored” yet in my new job. (She told me I would be bored and that I would be begging to come back). It’s so good to be out of that environment. I LOVE my new job.

    1. Jamie*

      It’s not a violation to hire someone else – it would be a violation if they didn’t give him his old job or one similar in level and responsibility at the same or better pay when he came back. Barring finding fire-able offenses while they were away – FMLA doesn’t protect your job if there are valid reasons to fire you but the bar is so much higher to prove the leave had nothing to do with it usually employers shy away from letting someone go until they come back and can screw up again when not on leave.

      1. fposte*

        And if the company really is so small they might not be covered by FMLA anyway. 50 employees within 75 miles is the threshold.

        1. Anna*

          Yeah they have less than 20 employees, so it wouldn’t be covered. From what I understand they told him he was gone too long and they couldn’t pay two people….and then they found out he wasn’t doing his job.

    2. Sascha*

      “Begging to come back.” HA! That’s what my old cable company told me when I canceled my service. Last year. Glad you have a great job now!

      1. Anna*

        She said this to my old supervisor after I left.
        “You know…we should be happy we had Anna for as long as we did (1.5 years). Teapot designers only stay in a position for 6 months, so really we had her much longer.”

        I told my new boss that and she laughed and sent me an email after I had been here 6 months saying “It’s been six months and as a teapot designer I am expecting you to quit now since teapot designers only stay in a job for 6 months.”

    3. Observer*

      It’s not a violation to hire someone while someone is out. And if they can document the issues you mention, then should be clear, as long as no one ever documented this prior. Yes, the timing looks bad, but FMLA doesn’t require an employer to ignore significant misbehavior just because they found out about it around the time FMLA leave was being taken.

  68. ReadyToMoveOn*

    My current position is not working out, thanks to poor direction from above and an insulting and bullying new manager who’s actively thwarting my training plan, telling me not to do parts of my job and then telling me I’m not performing well a month later. So I’m looking to leave. I have two stellar references from my former manager in this position and another from a previous job. I’m not certain who to use for a third professional reference. I could go back to an internship (where they could basically confirm I was there but they have so many interns I doubt they remember me at all) or ask a current coworker, or possibly a different supervisor from my current job that just retired. She never directly managed me but I hope she’d be comfortable as a reference. Suggestions??

    1. Jamie*

      I’d go with another manager at your place even if you weren’t their direct report. I’d ask the person who just retired.

      I’ve been references for plenty of people without being their direct manager, if I didn’t feel I knew enough about their work to speak for them I would tell them.

      1. ReadyToMoveOn*

        Thank you! I’m only a few years out of college, so I wasn’t certain if that sort of thing happened. I will ask her right away.

    2. HR Manager*

      Do you have any colleagues or non-managers whom you worked with or for on a project? That could be just as good, since you already have some managerial references.

      1. ReadyToMoveOn*

        Yes, I have plenty of those as well. Maybe I’ll add one as a fourth reference or if the retired supervisor refuses.

  69. Incognito Christmas Grinch*

    Here’s my list for workplace Santa – what I’d like everyone to find in their metaphorical stockings this year:

    1. Bonuses and raises based on merit.
    2. Management putting the morale of high performers ahead of the “kindness” of coddling those who have never been and will never be competent for their positions.
    2.a. Capital punishment for rewarding subpar performance by removing core duties while maintaining same postion/pay whilst gifting the competent with the work of the lazy.
    3. Freedom from the personal drama of others.
    4. Time off which includes the workplace grid as well as the workplace itself.
    5. Regular half and half and not a zillion flavored creamers in the fridge. Coffee is lifeblood – not a dessert.
    6. A mute button which works on people.
    7. A desktop printer that doesn’t freaking hate me
    8. Individual bathrooms for everyone.
    9. Reserved parking for all.
    10. Societal shift to include reverence bordering on worship for those who oversee and attend to needs in IT, QC, and cost accounting.

    Oh and large bonuses. And significant raises. I know that was item one, but it bears repeating.

        1. Jamie*

          Cactus? It’s a Christmas tree! And I assume you are referring to me and not this completely unknown and unfamiliar poster of whom I’ve never heard before. Ahem. :)

          These gravatars are too small for nuance!

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I thought the kitty was running away, with a large green sack over her back. But I guess that red thing on the right with the white ball isn’t the end of the stick, but rather her hat. It makes more sense now.

            I already have reserved parking — I found the hardest spot in the lot to back into, the one that was always empty, and it’s mine.

            I want my milk/cream for my tea to be made of milk or cream, not petrochemicals, fillers, and dried artificial flavorings.

    1. Sascha*

      Yes to #5!!! I suppose I could just brig my own regular creamer…but when people do bring some to share, it gets used in less than a week. Because no one in my office likes all the flavored creamer!!

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Just forward all those unwanted flavored creamers to me. Bonus points for the Pumpkin Spice or Tollhouse Cookie (sorry, coffee purists).

    3. HR Manager*

      Free lunch every once in a while, not just greasy pizza or leftover sandwiches that have been picked over (ever just get a bun, with all the innards taken out? and that’s just left for people..sheesh).

      #2 – I hear ya, but on more than one occasion, a few employees see the #2 as ‘being mean or harsh’ to the underperformer’ and ‘adopting favorites’ for the overperformer. It’s a no win – damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

      #2a should be top of the list. Why do managers think less responsibility but same pay is somehow sending a message to the employee? The only message it sends is ‘”Yep, we’re ok with your doing less and making just as much. Enjoy, while we all put in extra hours to pick up the slack!”

    4. V. Meadowsweet*

      I agree heartily and would like to subscribe to your newsletter :)
      Though many days I’d be tempted to forego all the rest for #6…

  70. Cath in Canada*

    I’ve had a couple of interesting chats with different groups of friends recently about how some career paths lend themselves easily to an informal barter economy, and others (like mine) really don’t.

    For instance, my husband’s a carpenter, and has done odd jobs for various friends and family members. His friends and family have equally useful jobs, and have responded in kind – so his brother (roofer by day, rock star by night) has fixed our roof a couple of times when raccoons broke in, and also brought his band to play at our wedding (he paid the other members as his gift to us); his brother-in-law (ski school director) has set me up with free lessons; the friend whose deck my husband repaired once is a plumber who’s shown up a couple of times within an hour of us calling him in a panic, and refused all forms of payment; the friend who has a computer repair company and whose mother’s front steps my husband built has taken care of all our computer needs; another friend set up our TV and internet for us; etc.

    Meanwhile, I have pretty solid writing, editing, proofing, and project management skills to offer, but no-one seems interested in using them! I’ve offered to proofread a couple of friends’ websites that were riddled with spelling and grammatical errors (diplomatically – I said I’d “spotted a couple of typos”), but the computer repair company owner said “no-one cares about that kind of thing”, and the guy who was running for office didn’t even reply.

    So, after years of feeling a lot less useful than my husband and his barter circle, I was really delighted recently when a friend asked me to look at a proposal she was putting together, to persuade a local non-profit to create a two-year job for her that would also benefit them. I made some suggestions that she was really enthusiastic about, and the revised version has now passed the first couple of hurdles and is being considered by senior management. She said the first reviewer commented specifically that they really liked the Gantt chart and other features that I’d suggested. Finally all my years of grant writing and editing experience were useful to someone outside of work! It was a good feeling!

    How have other readers in not-obviously-useful professions managed to help friends and family?

    1. Jamie*

      This is a really interesting question. I have no advice since I spend all my time trying to duck people who want my obviously-useful help. :) Except for my sisters who pay me in schnitzel, love, tiaras, and swavorski Hello Kitty figurines.

      1. Judy*

        Yep. Going over to set up backups on my parents’ new computer on Saturday morning. They pay in babysitting.

    2. Shell*

      Ha, my mother used to joke that her friends’ kids all had useful jobs–even temporary ones–because they can get makeup samples, employee discounts on expensive handbags, baked goods, etc. but my profession would only be helpful if she needed a potion for a quick, painless death. (My answer: “Mom, I can think of lots of chemicals that’d kill you, but I’m not sure any of them would be painless.”)

      My useful skill is computers, and I spend a lot of time looking after my parents’ computers when they inadvertently install tons of malware, catch a virus, crash their system mysteriously, etc. without the faintest idea of how. But that isn’t my profession at all, I’m just good at googling–I’d be laughed out of town by anyone who was actually good at computers.

      I think a barter circle like your husband’s is really neat! I wish I was social enough to have a circle like that :) (My father, however, is really good at fixing random crap, though he’s very not-social so he hasn’t really built up a circle like that on his own. He does get a lot of calls to come look at everything from faucets to vacuum cleaners to jackhammers though.)

      1. Sascha*

        I’d love to have a barter circle as well, though we do have a couple of family members with very useful home repair skills – an electrician and an HVAC tech. Thank god for that HVAC tech – he saved us about $1000 when our system went out.

        We do have a very friendly handyman neighbor whom I’d love to get some woodwork from, though I don’t have much to offer in return, unless he needs editing work or a computer set up, or a website. :)

    3. Sascha*

      I do freelance editing/proofing and I don’t get many bites either – usually just a resume here or there. I did have a friend pay me for proofing a research paper, because he couldn’t really barter with me (he’s a civil engineer). But I’m also in IT and those skills definitely get used! My husband also works in IT, and together we’re quite the family IT combo – he’s great with hardware, set ups, networking, and I do more software and programming stuff. We like helping out people with their computing needs, even if sometimes we get paid with tequila (which some might consider the best form of payment).

      The only thing that gets on my nerves is when my parents ask me how to use Facebook. Something about that just irks me.

      1. Shell*

        Yup, Facebook, Chromecast, Gmail, etc… Any time there’s a slight change in UI my parents have to ask me where to find everything again.

        But my knowledge of cars begins and ends at “4 wheels and a steering wheel” and “how to jump a car in case the battery dies”, so hey, we all have our strengths and weaknesses… :)

    4. Cath in Canada*

      I forgot to mention that I’m often asked for medical advice, despite having no medical training. I do know a lot about cancer, genetics, and associated fields, but not from the medical side of things. This doesn’t stop people from asking me my opinions about how I think they should treat their asthma, arthritis, and assorted other ailments. And my parents think I’m a computer whiz because I know how to format Word documents and use Excel… so I guess my perceived skills are more useful than my actual skills!

    5. Felicia*

      I work in marketing/communications but do a lot of editing, but my sister/cousins are all younger, so I edit their school essays a lot :) And people will randomly ask me to read over their resumes because they think i know ALL about job searching…i just quote AAM a lot it makes me sound brilliant.

  71. Sascha*

    Planning for extended leave:

    I’m going on 3 months leave at the end of March 2015. What recommendations does everyone have for planning for this? My work is very project based, and not many of my duties are shared with anyone else, or can be shared in a short amount of time. I am training a coworker on some of the stuff I do – which is actually for transitioning me to a different role – but she won’t have the time or knowledge to take care of my projects. In fact, no one else in my dept has the time or knowledge. My current plan is to accomplish as much as I possibly can before I go on leave, and then what is left will just have to wait. I haven’t really talked much with my bosses about this – my director cares more about the projects than my manager – but I don’t get the feeling my director is too worried. Also I work for a state university, and everything moves at a glacial pace anyway, so if there is a period of 3 months where not much of anything gets done, no one will probably bat an eye.

    How has everyone else planned for leave?

    1. MaryMary*

      Create a formal leave plan, and document each of your projects and its status. Give a copy of the plan to your manager, to the coworker you’re training, and save a copy somewhere everyone can access it. That way, if something does come up with one of your projects while you’re gone, people know where to find information on it. If the company does find resources to pick up some of your work, those people will have something to go off of. And when you return, if someone complains about a lack of progress on your projects, you have CYA-ed and made sure your manager and team were aware of what was not getting done.

      1. Sascha*

        That is excellent, thank you! This is my first time going on leave and I have no idea what to do. Everyone else who has been on leave has just kind of left without having a plan, and my bosses are very hands-off with me anyway, so I’m not expecting them to give me guidance. I really appreciate your advice!

  72. Anon for This*

    I’ve been really struggling with confidence at work lately, and something I just read in a comment above made me realize that it’s something about this particular organization that’s causing it. There’s nothing tangible, nothing I can point to – I truly work for a remarkable place, with a kind and engaged manager. But in my last role, I essentially ran my organization (very small nonprofit) and led with confidence and enthusiasm. In my now much-larger organization, I find myself shrinking. It’s a bummer. I’m not sure if I should work to overcome it (how?) or just think about moving on.

    1. stillLAH*

      That’s exactly how in my first job. In grad school I felt really confident (took on leadership positions, felt like I had some authority in my job and that my ideas were worth something there/were valued by my boss) but once I got to my first job, I felt deflated and like my ideas weren’t worth anything. 4 years later, I’m still trying to build up that confidence again! I haven’t figured out how to overcome it either, but you’re not alone.

  73. stillLAH*

    Looking for good-manager vibes! I have to have what I think will be a difficult conversation with a part-time employee on Sunday. She has a spotty history of listening to what I say, so I don’t have high hopes for her following through on our conversation. Any tips on talking to people who don’t believe you have any shred of authority over them (but you do)?

    1. fposte*

      Be clear about quantifiable goals (what and when) and consequences; ask her to echo back to you what she thinks the takeaway from the meeting is; follow up in email or print.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      You control the direction of the conversation, not her. Don’t let her get away from the message – people try that. “But [other person] did [something bad].”

      You keep responding “ok, but we’re here to talk about you and this issue.” Keep the conversation focused and don’t let her change it or get you off track. If you feel you’re losing control of your emotions or the discussion, you can say “let’s revisit this on Monday” or something.

      If you can, do a practice run with someone. My first difficult conversation I had a friend role play and come up with the most difficult, ridiculous, and argumentative responses he could think of. I felt prepared for anything.

      Also, what fposte said about getting her to echo back what she thinks the takeaway is and following up in email.

      1. stillLAH*

        Ooh, role playing might happen this weekend. I’ve let her control the conversation before and need to be better about that.

        I think a major thing at play is that she’s been with this organization doing this thing for as long as I’ve been alive. She may have been good at it at one point, but with a lot of new people here in the last 4 years, standards have changed.


    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, you can certainly underscore the fact that you do have authority by talking about what the consequences will be if she doesn’t follow through. Imposing consequences = authority, usually.

      1. stillLAH*

        Unfortunately, my boss is content to wait this one out; after May we’ll be moving venues and someone else will be hired to take over her duties (and she may/may not be re-hired on by that person to do the most basic part of her current job). So I think the only consequence I have is “If you hire more people than we’ve agreed to in this document I’m handing you, you have to tell X number of people not to show up because they were not budgeted for.” :-/

  74. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

    My last workplace was a nightmare. I left several years ago. It was so badly toxic it caused my chronic PTSD and anxiety to flare up. My manager was nice but she was also just part of the problem. Her manager and the head of the Dept was ultra toxic and she was heavily invested in protecting her own ass at all costs which meant enabling and contributing to all of the toxic crap. She was also a bad communicator, indirect, expecting people to read between the lines in the name of “protecting” her reports from Toxic Boss. She didn’t have our backs when clients behaved inappropriately and were abusive because doing so would piss off her boss, and she discouraged cross functional communication and cooperation.

    I think I saw her at my current job today, and it caused an unexpected anxiety response – heart racing, feelings of panic, feeling super jumpy and weird in my head. There are other coworkers from that company here and I don’t have that visceral reaction. If she’s here it’s not my department, but it was just the visual that triggered this reaction. She wasn’t directly awful to people and was actually personable and easy to get along with but her choices as manager were part of the toxic environment that made that job so awful.

    Just had to get that off my chest. I feel weird I’m having so many bad feelings just passing this woman in the hall. I also hope she’s not managing here, because she’s just not a good manager.

    1. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      Update: I did check the employee directory and she is indeed here now. At the same time I feel happy for her getting out of there. Her boss was a nightmare and the company had too much dysfunctional management.

    2. 22dncr*

      WAY understand. There are 2 women here that could be twins to my old toxic boss and every time I see them I get the wilis (little ballet joke there (; ). They even have her personality a bit. One of them really wants to be friends with me but I just can’t!

  75. Brett*

    Well, no updates at all from the tech non-profit I applied to three weeks ago; just an automated email that they received my application. They did take the ad down, and I know they have hired at least part of the team.

    The part that is killing me is that I know half the organization, including the hiring manager, so I want to at least know what is going on, if anything. Just do not really feel like I can ask. I already knew I was a long shot because I required being a remote worker.

    At least this has motivated me to search a little harder for companies that slip past my employer’s ethics clause and vendor agreements, but still hard to find anyone local that does.

  76. SD Cat*

    Hi- I’ve been asking around, so I thought I’d ask here too.

    Anyone have any advice/suggestions about sounding more confident in phone interviews and/or on the phone in general?

    I’ve been getting better at in-person, but I’m having more trouble over the phone. I’ve been told I tend to sound really young and uncertain. Many jobs seem to do phone screenings first so this is definitely a problem, as I’m currently job searching. Panel phone interviews are particularly disorienting (I’ve had 2 of those). It’s not so much what I’m saying as how I’m saying it.


    1. Sascha*

      My pitch usually gets higher and I use more upturning at the end of sentences when I’m on the phone. I will also stutter sometimes. It’s frustrating because I can speak quite well in person! I just hate the phone. So anyway…practice listening to your speech for patterns like that. If you are doing the same things I’m doing (which I’m guess so, since those are often associated with sounding young and nervous), try to keep your pitch even and treat everything like a declarative sentence. Have a friend do some practice phone calls with you and give feedback. And if it’s because you’re nervous about talking to strangers…call up tech support or answer phone calls from salespeople. Getting some more exposure helps sometimes.

    2. fposte*

      Avoid uptalk and vocal fry. Make declarative sentences that clearly end rather than trailing off into ellipses. Take a pause, if necessary, before you start a sentence to know where you’re going to complete it.

      1. Intrepid Intern*

        Do you have any advice for letting an interviewer know when you’re done answering a question? In person it’s obvious, but in phone interviews I have trouble– I find it’s usually a long silence while the interviewer waits to make sure I’m done, or else an awkward-sounding “this is the end of my answer” announcement/ continuous “does that answer your question?”

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t know but I am absolutely going to start “this is the end of my answer” in person from now on. They already think I’m a robot – this will just get them out of my office faster.

        2. fposte*

          Or just go “beep.” That’s always clear.

          More seriously, I think there are various phrases you can use. “I think that covers my first thoughts. Would you like me to go deeper?” “I think those would be the most important considerations.” “Those are my top examples–I’d be happy to describe more if you’d like.” That kind of thing. And you know, awkward silences are pretty standard issue in phone interviews anyway, so I wouldn’t worry too much about them.

          1. Intrepid Intern*

            Thank you! I’ll save those phrases and use them. From the perspective of the person usually making the awkward silences, it’s helpful to know they were expected all along.

        3. MaryMary*

          I wouldn’t worry too much about ending with an awkward pause. I actually warn people I’m interviewing, whether it’s on the phone or in person, that I like to take notes and that they shouldn’t be concerned if there’s a long pause after they answer while I’m jotting down my thoughts.

    3. Jillociraptor*

      A couple of things that have helped me:
      1. Use speakerphone or a headset so that you can more easily use the body language you would use if the other person was sitting across from you.
      2. This is weird, but look at yourself in a mirror or put on your webcam. It helped me so much to be able to see ANYONE’s face, even if it was mine.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        I have also printed out my interviewers’ photos from the organization’s website and had those at hand for phone interviews.

        When I got a job that I’d done this for, I didn’t recognize one of the interviewers in person at first, because there’d been a glitch in posting his photo and the photo had come out weirdly compressed. I’d pictured him as short and round, and he turned out to be tall and skinny :)

    4. Diet Coke Addict*

      Practice! Practice, practice, practice. If you’re uncomfortable with the phone in general, that will bleed through, so can you practice just talking on the phone in general to people you’re comfortable with? Or having a mock phone interview with a friend or someone you’re already confident with.

      Don’t be afraid of declarative sentences and pauses. Don’t be afraid to end a sentence with finality. Pauses invite the other person to speak, so don’t second-guess yourself and jump in time and again to keep adding things. Don’t be afraid of a little pause!

      Be as comfortable as you can–if you like to sit somewhere comfortable and talk on the phone, do that. If you’re more comfortable pacing, do that. Make yourself as at-ease as possible and it will help you sound better.

    5. Jamie*

      I used to do phone interviews by looking in the mirror. When I am casually talking on the phone my face is more animated and I play with my hair – and I swear you can hear it in my voice. Looking in the mirror made me sound more professional – so weird.

    6. SD Cat*

      Thank you so much for all of the suggestions, these are really helpful! Time to spend more time talking on the phone.

    7. HR Manager*

      Can you have someone give you a mock interview and record it? Hear what you sounds like, and start practicing from there.

      Stop using words that aren’t definitive, such as probably, might, maybe, possibly, likely. There are times it’s appropriate, but in general, they get overused (I’m a culprit too). It’s not quite hedging our bets, but it’s growing up knowing nothing really is guaranteed and so we insert phrases like that as a precaution (it’s also what so many on the internet jump down each others’ throats for, but I digress). Eliminating those words not only sound more confident, but it cuts down on wordiness.

      Don’t feel you always need to talk because it’s silent. Take your time and pace yourself speaking, and just tell the listener that if you need a minute to think back to a good example of something. Do you stick a lot of ‘likes’ in your wording? That is often what causes a perception of being young. Try to cut down.

      I have a high pitched voice apparently, and I sound like I’m 16 on the phone. Nothing you can really do about that. :(

      1. fposte*

        There actually are things you can do, though. You might want to listen to some of Alison’s interviews, for instance–she has a high-pitched voice but she uses it very effectively and sounds authoritative because of her speaking style.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Definitely, record yourself. If you can’t come up with anything else, grab a book and read out loud from it, into the recorder.
        Then listen to yourself. Target no more than three things. (It’s too hard to target everything at once.) Work on eliminating those three things or putting in substitutes. Pick the three that embarrass you the most or make you the most uncomfortable. When you have that nailed down, move to the next three.

    8. KW*

      My suggestions:
      – Write down answers to common questions (things like “Tell me about yourself”, “why are you interested in this job”, “what are your strengths”). The advantage of a phone interview is that you can use notes!
      – Then PRACTICE these (or other) questions with a friend ahead of time and ask them to tell you when you do things like ending a sentence on an upturn.
      – With phone interviews I always felt really awkward at the beginning and had a hard time establishing rapport with the interviewer. I found that if I answer the call (assuming they’re calling you, not the other way) with “Hello, this is (Julie)” instead of my normal upturned “Hello?”, it sets a much better tone. I think it sounds more assertive and made me feel more comfortable starting off the conversation. Minor things but it helped me :)

      Good luck!

    9. Blue_eyes*

      You could also try lowering the pitch of your voice just a bit. You’ll sound older and more authoritative. My husband does it unconsciously when he’s on the phone with a stranger or ordering in a restaurant. We call it his “ordering voice.”

  77. AnotherAlison*

    My coworker called me this morning to basically tell me thanks for doing my job. I’m just helping him out on a project. My thought was wow, everyone else must suck, because, seriously, I’m only doing my job. It never ceases to amaze me how little is required to stand out at work. Actually doing what you said you were going to do makes you a rock star.

  78. Julia*

    Since I just hit that six month mark of unemployment, I decided to take on two pro bono marketing projects for 2 national nonprofit orgs while I continue to look for work. I am wondering how to present them on my resume. Do I put them under professional experience – say consultant and a bullet point or two about the work I am doing. Ideally, I’d like to get some paying projects, but right now I am taking what I can get. Or, would they be better suited for the additional information section of a resume? This lists my computer skills, languages and volunteer work. There are two lines there for volunteer work and I’m afraid it might get a little cramped and these ones listed right now are not really marketing focused.

    1. Burlington*

      I think if you already have a section for volunteering it would be weird to put other volunteering somewhere else. I’m generally a fan of formatting “Relevant Experience” versus “Other Experience” in a case like this, so you can put the volunteer gigs front and center and just include the phrase “pro bono” in each of them somewhere.

  79. Incognito Kitty Imposter?*

    Okay – so this will sound weird and naval gazing but I’ve been worried that because I am not falling under imposter syndrome at work all that often anymore (it used to be a frequent occurrence but in recent years, it’s not rearing it’s head more than once or twice a year and then briefly) that maybe I’ve gone all Dunning-Krueger on myself.

    I think it’s just that I’ve been at this for a while and I believe I’m good at what I do – and while the job stretches it’s not the leaps of expansion gallop there was in early years so I’m able to integrate new things at a reasonable pace. I recognize areas where I’m weaker than others and continue to improve and I can still certainly recognize competence in others ( so that rules out full on D-K I think); but then I wonder what if I not as competent as I think I am, it’s just being the only person here who does what I do I don’t have a reliable measure.

    On IT forums for instance when I see someone answer a question which technical expertise I don’t have I feel like I’m an imposter and it scares me to ever look for another job because clearly they will be expecting magnitudes of greatness over me. So I’ll keep reading until I find someone struggling with something I have the answer to and I’ll help them and feel better about myself.

    I do this on my free time as well – I’m not a healthy person in this regard.

    I mean how do you know if you’re actually good at something, or you’re just better than the people around you who don’t have any idea of what the job even entails?

    And yes, I think too much and yes, it’s been a very long week. Couple of months actually. This whole year has kicked my ass and I think I’ve done okay…but there is a lot of concern that I’m only doing okay because there is nothing to compare me to. I just vacillate back and forth between wanting to ask for a raise which I really think I deserve and fear that maybe I’m just overestimating my value and if I don’t ask and start looking I’ll find out I’m not even worth what I’m making now.

    It’s not lack of self-esteem – I honestly think a great deal of my performance and skill set (and myself on a personal and professional level) and I think that, while not perfect, any employer would be lucky to have me. And I think I should figure out if I could make more money with what I have to offer. But when it comes to putting it into action (asking for a raise, looking at other opportunities) I just keep thinking that this is exactly what the Dunning-Krueger people think of themselves and they are wrong…what if I’m wrong? And so wrong I can’t even see that I’m wrong? I could be one of them because those people aren’t even aware that they are those people.

    So I could slide back into the security of knowing my employer thinks well of me, that I think well of me, and leave well enough alone and ignore the voice in my head which keeps asking about money. Or I could rock the boat and see how it shakes out.

    Insecurity doesn’t grip me often but when it does it’s like a giant squid – all razor sharp suction cups on tentacles ripping at my skin while it eats me alive with it’s beak so drowning is the least of my problems. I am so much happier when lost in my own arrogance.

    Just a vent/ I’ll figure it out.

    1. Sascha*

      I know exactly how you feel. There is no one else in my department who is doing the work I do – so I’m not sure if I’m actually good at it, or just the only person who does it. I get especially insecure about this because I’ve been waiting on a promised promotion for over a year, and things keep “getting in the way” that delay the implementation of the promotion. I work at a state university, and things move slooooooowly here anyway, so this time frame is not uncommon, but I wonder if I’m really not as good as I think I am, because if I was, wouldn’t my bosses push for this promotion a lot harder? Who knows. Please share what you figure out!

      1. Incognito Kitty Imposter?*

        Nice to know I’m not alone – but sorry you’re mired in this, too.

        And I won’t figure anything out. :) I’ll wrestle with my own weirdness in my head for a while as it gives me something to worry about and then I’ll get completely buried in some work problem and forget about it until months later when I remember to worry about it again.

        That’s my MO.

    2. Schmitt*

      That’s about how it goes for me too. Especially at conferences – everyone is presenting really cool stuff and because I do it every day, it’s hard for me to see the stuff that I deal with all the time as innovative and cool, even when it is.

      I have a performance review coming up and I am really gearing up for the raise talk because I have done a kick-ass job, dammit, and so have you.

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      I mean how do you know if you’re actually good at something, or you’re just better than the people around you…?

      If you figure out the answer to this, would you let me know? :/

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I decided to answer that one by saying “there will always be someone better than me at what I do”.

        And in a way, that is comforting, I think it would be kind of intimidating to be the world’s leading authority on any subject. People would just expect you to KNOW. ugh.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          I hear what you’re saying, and philosophically I agree. But I’m in a similar situation to HelloIncognito, there, where I can’t tell if I’m actually qualified for such-and-such a role, because I have no real point of reference for how my skillset stacks up.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            hmm. Well, skills are learned. I tend to believe that resources are just as important as skills. If you don’t have the resources behind you, it is going to be more difficult to assess how much you can or cannot handle.
            I had a temporary job a while ago that I swear part of I was hired because of the people (resources) I know. It was not because I had a long track record of doing similar work! ;) I did not think I was the best person for the job however, I did think that I had enough of resources around me that I would learn as I went along. And I did.
            I am seeing this over and over where people are getting jobs/contracts, not because they have done it a thousand times before but because of the resources they bring to the table with them. “I don’t know the answer to your question, but I can find out.”
            A much younger me thought that we should know everything off the top of our head. So it is refreshing to see this “I don’t know but will find out” answer being acceptable.
            I think that the days of knowing everything are long gone and the new normal is focused on one’s ability and willingness to find additional inputs. I have seen several people around me grow tired of keeping themselves current and also let go of some of their resources. What happened next was not good.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Apples to oranges.

      You have to scales going on at the same time.

      When you read comments/articles on line you are comparing yourself to the global IT community.

      When you talk about work that is a very localized point.

      Just my thought, an honest person would have two different answers for those two different settings. Am I the best worker in the world? no, absolutely not. Am I the best one in my area? It’s very possible that I could be one of the better ones on the local level.

    5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Eh, I think it’s about capacity to learn.

      I have soaringly high self esteem in nearly every area (except management!!), because I believe in my capacity to learn + my dogged determination to not let any subject or situation get the better of me.

      Don’t you think you’re the same way? I do. Okay, just from the conversations we’ve had on a blog in the internet, but I do.

      You can’t judge your possible performance in mythical situations you haven’t been exposed to. You can only go by your track record of having been able to learn all of the things that you needed to learn to conquer situations set before you heretofore.

      * management, people management, I have been a very s-l-o-w study, and I can’t include that in things I have high self esteem about

  80. Icarus*

    (non-work related): This is the first week I’m reading this blog and I’m hooked! Thanks to Alison and all the people who share their stories here. Hope you all have a good weekend!

  81. Masters Degree Searcher*

    My contract role expires next month and I was just given the offer package via e-mail for a 3-yr contract role elsewhere, that pays more. However, I wanted $2 more per hour than what they were offering so I did a bit of gentle negotiating highlighting the additional assets I’d bring to the job, re: the job description (how I had publication knowledge, creative skillset). It’s now been 72 hours and I haven’t heard back. I’ve also read a ton of articles online how women are screwed when it comes to salary negotiation because of rampant workforce discrimination(?) So did I just shoot myself in the foot? All I wanted was say, $55k instead of $51k (assuming they’d meet me in the middle like my last contract company did). I’m young but I have publications/top 15% credentials/degrees/13 yrs presentation expertise. Thoughts?

    1. 1Off*

      In general, no, I don’t think you are shooting yourself in the foot. That’s not outrageous, like requesting $65k from an initial offer of $50k might be. Most likely, with the holidays, winter bugs, etc., the decision makers haven’t all been available to review your counter.

      My only question is whether you might be overvaluing your skills. You’re young & you have 13 years presentation experience. If that was me with 13 years post-college, professional presentation experience, I wouldn’t consider myself “young.” And if it was 13 years including high school and college, those years may not be relevant professionally. Some jobs are so competitive that the baseline is all the credentials you have and more, so maybe you aren’t bringing anything more to the table.

      1. Masters Degree Searcher*

        Yup, I guess. Thanks for the detailed advice, it helps. Also re: the 13 years, it is from when I was younger but I was teaching with those skills, and as I progressed in the field, I actually taught those skills to my own mentors/bosses and they knew it was an essential skill to have. I taught it at the nonprofit and federal level.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      $51 to $55 isn’t much of an ask after an offer.

      I’m sorry about the 72 hour waiting part. There’s no telling without knowing what’s going on inside the org. Could be as simple as the person who needs to okay this is on vacation.

      I can’t see how you shot yourself in the foot.

  82. Stargazer*

    Can anybody weigh in on the realities of, and advice for, pursuing a low-residency MFA in writing while working two jobs (one 40 hours a week and one 12-18 hours a week)? I’m 31, no kids, getting married in the fall.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      That sounds awful. I don’t know about an MFA in particular but grad school is a lot of work and the other jobs and wedding planning will take up a lot of time.
      That and I’ve never been completely clear what advantage an MFA in writing actually offers.

      1. Stargazer*

        The major parts of the wedding planning are done (venue, DJ, church, photographer, flowers, etc.) so I think the most time-consuming item I have left is getting a headcount and figuring out seating arrangements. I also might do just one semester a year instead of two, and I might wait until after the wedding to start…although I’m eager to get started and would rather enroll in the fall, before the wedding but after most planning is done.

        I agree that the MFA will likely not help my career. I actually just want it for myself, not necessarily to advance in my career. It’s more of a “want” than a “need.”

        1. Burlington*

          Is there a reason you’re going for the (possibly expensive, and not really career-advancing) credential over, say, joining an active writer’s group where you workshop each others’ writing once a week or something?

          1. Stargazer*

            I think because I miss Academia (writing classes in undergrad were the best!), and I want the formal structure and degree. Even though I’m not looking to change jobs it will be nice to have that formal designation, if only for myself. I want to be as good as I can possibly be.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      Good heavens. It sounds awful. My Master’s degree was a job unto itself, and I imagine an MFA is no less work–it was easily 40-60 hours a week alone. If I had been working a full-time job on top of that I would have been run ragged, and I don’t think there are enough hours in a week to work 40 hours a week at one job, 18 hours a week at another job, and put in a full course of study AND plan a wedding AND do things like sleep occasionally.

    3. AVP*

      I would read the book MFA vs NYC that came out earlier this year for published writer’s perspectives.

      1. Stargazer*

        Thanks for the feedback. My single-mom, full-time-working friend is getting her Master’s, so I feel like if she can do it, maybe I can too…and I want to do it before I have kids.

    4. StudentA*

      Is it a flexible program? Some programs make you finish it in two years or three years. But if it gives you longer allowing you to take one class at a time, it’s better. It is also more economical that way (a reason some institutions hate it).

      Honestly, I would drop the second job if I wanted to do grad school. There won’t be much satisfaction if it feels like a third job. Like you, I am someone who would get a graduate degree because I want it, so I understand your desire. You just don’t want to lose your mind in the process :)

      1. Stargazer*

        I actually just emailed the program coordinator asking about this. You can spread the 16 classes over four years. So I can take two classes a semester. (Maybe one, but I don’t want it to take 8 years.)

    5. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I did an MFA, and if you won’t be teaching as a part of it, I’d say it’s do-able…on the other hand, these rely on a lot of work, especially workshop participation (if this program has workshops), so you need to budget time for both writing and providing useful, thoughtful feedback. Think about your classmates’ needs and make sure you don’t start short-changing them. Don’t be that guy/girl.

      1. Stargazer*

        Good point, thank you. The way it works is, you have to spend one week a semester in residency, especially your first one. I’m fine with using one work vacation week a year on it. You can attend five workshops a semester for your second through eighth semesters if you don’t want to do the week-long residency.

    6. AnotherTeacher*

      The key here is that you (1) want to pursue the degree for personal satisfaction, and (2) understand it will not help your career. Don’t forget that. One of my graduate degrees is non-essential to my work but I love the subject matter. I’ve never regretted the time I spent on it because (1) and (2). If you love what you’re doing, you’ll make a good impression and build relationships, which is always a benefit.

      It sounds like you have realistic expectations, but I second AVP’s advice. The stories from that book reflect the range of experiences my friends with MFAs have had.

  83. Elizabeth West*

    The school sent me an email–“You can enroll for Spring semester now! You can still come back!” I keep thinking I should, because if I don’t get everything I can, then if I moved or something I’d still be unemployable, but I DO. NOT. WANT. TO.

    Stressing out. >_<

  84. No Name For This, Google*

    A question for all the hiring managers here:
    When researching job candidates, would you be potentially put off by learning someone had received an award from an organization whose mission you felt strongly opposed to, even if didn’t directly relate to the job?
    I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and don’t think it’s especially gracious to turn down an award, but I have real concerns about something like this coming up on Google. I’m in the very liberal NYC, and I’m referring to a nationally known organization that would be considered very conservative (although I would consider myself pretty moderate and generally very political, I just happen to care about this one issue). Any insight would be appreciated!

    1. Jamie*

      I wouldn’t (unless it was an award for being the best kitten murderer or something) but some may have issues with it. I would say as long as it’s not on your resume (you say it’s not job related) people shouldn’t hold personal activities against you if they found it by looking and you didn’t bring it up.

      That said – not everyone will feel that way – but as trite as it sounds if it’s important to you if someone were to hold it against you to the point of not wanting to hire you based on something legal they found out about you that’s no one else’s business then is that someone you really want to work for, anyway? But I know that’s easier said than done when you need a job.

      For the major hot-button topics most people have those close to them who they love and respect who don’t share their POV on those issues. Fwiw I’m pretty socially moderate (even liberal on some things – more like live and let live) and fiscally conservative and there are a lot of people who don’t tow one party line or another. Moderates outnumber the far right or far left by a large margin – we just aren’t extreme enough to get the same amount of coverage. And reasonable people can disagree on political or ethical issues.

      What is it Jon Stewart said once, something like “A good rallying cry should be even if you don’t agree with me I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.” Something like that. Words to live by.

    2. Katie the Fed*


      It would depend on the issue though, and I understand you don’t want to say more but from my perspective – if it was something related to fiscal or financial policy, then I probably wouldn’t care too much. If it was a cause related to, shall we say, equality in freedoms and rights – I would have trouble with that. I don’t know that it would affect any decision, but yes I might find it offputting depending on the issue.

      1. Jamie*

        We all have biases – I think we should make every effort to set those aside for issues which aren’t job related the same way we should be aware of and work to set aside our other biases (like being more comfortable with people who are similar to us, etc.)

        Just out of curiosity would it be a plus or neutral if you agreed with the cause and came across it?

        1. fposte*

          That’s an interesting question. I think there’s a possibility that I’d be indifferent because I don’t really know what a random award would prove, but I also think it could be something I’d believe to be neutral but actually treated as a plus–that I’d be more excited by the Supporting fposte’s Cause Award than the Working Against fposte’s Cause Award, but that I’d believe wrongly I was responding to the achievement and not the cause. (And a lot of this really would depend on the cause itself.)

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Yes, we all have biases, BUT some of the ones I’m thinking of would signal to me a level of intolerance that I’m not comfortable with. I expect you to work well with your coworkers and if you have been heavily involved in an organization that indicates to me that you think some people are less deserving of respect than others, that’s a concern.

          I’d probably be neutral if I agreed with the cause.

          1. Jamie*

            I would consider intolerance against other people to be work related. So yes, becoming the youngest Grand Wizard or whatever is an issue because I can’t possibly be expected to think you will behave in a fair and unbiased manner toward people you are make an effort to formally hate.

            But some causes may stir up deep emotions and strongly held beliefs but won’t come into play in the workplace ever, those are the biases we should be aware of and make sure we’re not acting on them.

            I personally don’t smoke pot but for a lot of logical reasons I think it should be legalized. If someone won an award for campaigning to keep it from becoming legal since our business has zero to do with anything even tangentially related to that I shouldn’t let the fact that I think they are incorrect factor into my decision because reasonable people can disagree.

            Ditto the choice issue as this is one that tends to resonate personally with a lot of people and is deeply personal. If your business has zero to do with anything even remotely related to reproductive anything and the position has zero power to affect health care choices in the company does it matter how they personally feel? If they didn’t bring it up and would never discuss it in the work place (which is most reasonable people) what difference does it make if the person in IT, or billing, or running the forklift has a different opinion on when life begins than you do.

            People in both camps on this issue can disagree on the nuances so it would be absurd to require everyone to share the same moral stance on something that will never be an issue in the workplace. If someone was vocal about their beliefs and it wasn’t appropriate for work you’d handle it the way you’d handle anyone being inappropriate at work.

            Knowing what to keep out of workplace conversation is crucial for all of us, or we’d only be able to work with people who think like us, share the same religion/lack of, same politics…and that’s the opposite of tolerance.

            A pro-life IT tech isn’t going to force people to remain pregnant anymore than a pro-choice accountant is going to require co-workers get abortions. It’s outside of the scope of the workplace.

            Granted – if the workplace deals with related issues then none of this applies – I am not arguing that it be ignored if it would render someone a bad fit for the mission.

            I guarantee you that we all work with people who have major differences of opinion on issues very important to us and it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t come up.

            I’m just uncomfortable with the idea that it’s okay to act on biases which have nothing to do with the workplace based on the hiring manager having a different point of view.

            Many people believe the Muslim religion represents a level of intolerance they aren’t comfortable with. There are some that feel that way about Christians. They may be completely wrong, but they believe it, and it’s not legal to allow those bias to factor in hiring when it’s not relevant to the job and I don’t see how this is any different.

            1. RVA Cat*

              This. To me it would entirely depend on whether the cause in question has any relevance to the job.

              If the hot-button issue in question is choice, I could see this as a problem if you work in healthcare or are involved with benefits. LGBT equality would be another issue that would be relevant if you would be working in benefits, esp. if you are opposed to the company’s current domestic partner policies.

              What is important is that you can keep your personal life and opinions personal. This goes double for a supervisory position. You need to make sure that should you find out a colleague or esp. a direct report is on the other side of the issue there will be no drama or retaliation.

      2. AVP*

        I agree with Katie…it really depends on the issue/organization. There are many “controversial” orgs that I wouldn’t care about, but a few that I definitely would. And my company does some advocacy work on specific issues, which might not be obvious from a quick website perusal. If you’re you’re coming from a background that’s diametrically opposed to something that we’re working on, you’re probably not going to be a great cultural fit. That said, it would be better for an applicant to self-select out of the hiring process that way than to get the job and be surprised on their first day.

        1. AVP*

          I had typed in mine before Jamie’s second post – just want to add that for a support role I wouldn’t mind at all. I was thinking more in terms of being unlikely to hire someone who had gotten an award from, say, the National Organization for Marriage to work on a pro-gay-marriage campaign. But if politics had nothing to do with the job or role I don’t think it would matter, particularly if OP isn’t putting it on their resume but just thinking it might come up on google.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Yeah, that’s the kind of example I’m thinking of. We have a diverse workforce and I’d be concerned about how you’d treat some colleagues. I doubt I would actually hold it against someone in the process, but I would probably pause a second at that.

    3. No Name For This, Google*

      Thank you all for the insightful answers. Your comments have helped me better wrap my mind around what my actual concern is– that I could potentially be written off as a bad cultural fit. Not necessarily because of this organization’s mission, but because it’s not that much of stretch to imagine that someone who so openly supports what many people think of as a right-wing cause (although I disagree) would also support the types of organizations that want to limit equality and rights for others, which I certainly do not.