open thread – January 2, 2015

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 :)

{ 733 comments… read them below }

  1. Tigress*

    Yay, finally open thread time! Does anyone have any advice on what software would look good on the resume for someone who will be looking for jobs in PR/communication/marketing? I’m a grad student, I study strategic communication, and I really need to improve my resume. My previous background is in journalism and video production, and my resume currently mostly lists software and equipment that’s highly relevant for those jobs. I figured I could use my time as a student to learn to use some new software that will be useful to me when I start job hunting. The only one I can think at this point is Cision Point, and I guess it’s a good idea to figure out Google Analytics and Google Adwords. Any other recommendations? Thanks, everyone!

    1. BRR*

      Forewarning I’m not in that field. I would also say probably the goggle products. What about adobe creative suite? You can always look at the job descriptions of positions you would be interested in and see what they are asking for.

      1. Tigress*

        Ah yes, that’s a great suggestion. I know Premiere Pro and After Effects from filmmaking, but I should probably dig into Photoshop and Illustrator some more. And looking at job descriptions is a great idea! Thank you.

    2. Julia*

      Hootsuite – there’s a Hootsuite University where you can earn some sort of certificate. Its good if you know the ins and out of that program.

      In addition to Google, check out some other digital tools as well, like Hubspot. They have an inbound certification that is free to get. Some agencies also use tools like LexisNexis, so if you know how to use that is helpful.

      The video stuff is very useful! So make sure to keep that on your resume.

      1. Tigress*

        Oh yeah, I’ve heard of Hootsuite, but I didn’t know there was a university for it. And I’ve been reading Hubspots blogs, they’re awesome. I’ll check all that out. Thank you!

        1. Audiophile*

          FYI on Hootsuite University – to get their certificate, you have to pay for a pro account plus $21 (may be a little more than that) to access the uni courses. Once you have the certificate they list you as certified but you have to maintain that paid account in order to be included in the list. I opted not to do it, it’s too expensive.

    3. Cherry Scary*

      HTML/Wordpress has been fairly useful for me. Just having basic web design skills has been helpful as well, but my positions involves blog management.

    4. WednesdaysMisfit*

      I work in marketing/pr. Adobe creative suite (or any kind of design software skills) seems to be a popular request in job listings. Several companies and nonprofits these days want to hire a jack of all trades when it comes to marketing work – they want to hire someone who can not only handle the strategy, but also do the design work as well. I don’t have a design background and don’t really have a desire to go back to school to get one but for newer grads, I would strongly encourage it.

      1. Tigress*

        This is great to learn. I hope that if I am able to properly combine my background with my new degree, I should be able to decently fit into the jack-of-all-trades “template.” Adobe is definitely on my list! Thanks.

    5. Hermoine Granger*

      That’s a good start if you’re planning to go into digital. Google Analytics, Google AdWords, WordPress, Adobe Creative Suite (if you’ll need to create marketing materials / assets), and some familiarity with the social networks would be most useful. You can also teach yourself basic HTML and CSS.

      There are some other programs such as SalesForce and a few social media analytics programs but those aren’t as widely used in all positions so might not be worth the investment at this point if you’d have to pay for access. Positions that focus more on offline marketing or inventory / sales will either use basic stuff like MS Office or specific enterprise software.

    6. Persephone Mulberry*

      Adobe Suite, particularly InDesign and Photoshop
      SharePoint (this is more internal comms oriented)
      Not a software, but understanding HTML/CSS beyond the basics

    7. EE*

      I wouldn’t shy away from promoting the software that is probably on your resume already. It seems our career path is similar (journalism/video background, I now work as a web producer for a large company in the marketing department). I would suggest Google Analytics, AdWords, if you have any HTML/CSS/additional coding skills, PhotoShop is huge — along with the entire Creative Suite. Good luck!

      1. Tigress*

        It’s nice to learn that there are more people like me out there. :) Your suggestions are in line with what others have posted too, which is great. I’m starting to see a clear to-do list, hehe. Was it difficult for you to make the professional transition?

    8. soitgoes*

      This isn’t quite what you’re asking, but in general, QuickBooks is a good basic to have. A whole world of mid-level office jobs suddenly opened up for me once I put QuickBooks on my resume.

      1. Tigress*

        I did NOT know that. Will definitely look into QB. Might be useful for bookkeeping and budgeting in my personal life as well! :) Thank you.

    9. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Since all the other good suggestions were already mentioned, I’ll just say that MailChimp puts out an incredibly good newsletter about all aspects of email mass communication, and a lot of it is applicable to online marketing in general.

      1. Tigress*

        Ah, great advice. I have a MailChimp account, but I think I’ve opted out of their newsletter. I’ll revisit my preferences. Thanks!

      2. Bekx*

        Seconding MailChimp!!!! I read their blog religiously. My boss and I keep joking that if we are ever at a conference where they are speaking we’re going to wear our MailChimp t-shirts and hold signs up like concert groupies in the front row.

    10. MissDisplaced*

      I work in communications and came from a graphic design background. I would say that knowing some Photoshop basics would help you (less so with Illustrator and InDesign for Com jobs), in addition to HTML/CSS basic web formatting so that you have the ability to prepare blogs, newsletters, e-blasts, social media posts and the like. You’re not expected to be the designer or web developer generally, but it definitely helps if you don’t have to call in the designer every time you need to reformat or resize a logo or photo. Having knowledge of digital photography and basic digital video can also be helpful. ++ What everyone else said about Google, Hootsuite and web and SM analytics reporting.
      Software I use a lot: Photoshop, Dreamweaver (or other HTML authoring), Silverlight, Constant Contact, MailChimp (we do a lot of e-blasts), WordPress or Joomla, Acrobat Pro, GOOGLE (Adwords, Analytics, Alerts, etc.), Hootsuite, Powerpoint, Word, Excel, SharePoint. Of course it goes to say that you should be very familiar with all of the popular social media sites and how to use them. For PR you may be expected to know more on the database search end such as LexisNexis and media clipping services.

      1. Tigress*

        This is super helpful! Wow. Thank you! I’m so glad I posted my question here. I’m taking notes and making a long list of all this. I really appreciate all the great advice. I’m glad to learn that Photoshop is more important to learn than Illustrator and InDesign, because I already have some basic (self-taught) Photoshop skills, and should be able to hit the ground running when I practice.

    11. Elaine*

      I would recommend any of the “canned” content management tools- e.g. drupal. Yes, much of this is setup so that local admins can update content, but it’s nice when the marketing professional can dress it up and provide design input.

  2. Dan Crawford*

    So, I imagine this question has come up before but was still wondering about it. I’m about to apply for a job at an institution, and I have incidentally spoken with the director in a professional context (library stuff, I helped them get an obscure report). At which point during the application process should I bring this up? Cover letter? Wait to see if I get an interview? Should I shoot her a quick email to let her know I applied?

    1. louise*

      Personally, that’s the kind of thing I put in the cover letter as an opening line: “I was excited to see the opening for X position because I had the opportunity to interact with Jane Smith last year when she needed Obscure Report. Since then, I’ve admired the work of XYZ Company and believe my experience would be an asset to you.” Not perfectly worded there, but it’s a start.

    2. DL*

      Is the Director definitely going to remember your name and the interaction? If not, I wouldn’t mention this at all.

    3. AnotherHRPro*

      If the Director would recall the interaction (it was either a huge help or it was fairly recent), I would send her an e-mail letting her know that you had applied for the position.

  3. Alex*

    Does anyone know of any great resources, online quizzes, etc. that would help someone discover a new job path, based on their skills, interests, things they enjoy, that kind of thing? I’m looking for something quite robust that would include more obscure positions vs. common type positions. Fee based is fine as long as the info is robust and discovery is thorough. Thank you!

    1. Coelura*

      One of the best spots as it lists almost every kind of job out there. You can do all sorts of searches & as you browse, you can see other positions that are related. It tells you what the pay ranges are, what the education requirements are & all sorts of things. It is the number one tool used by the vocational rehab specialists.

      1. Curlicue*

        What a great website! I just sent it to my 20-year-old daughter who is struggling with her college major/career choice.

      2. Mimmy*

        I’ve used O’Net before and while it’s definitely comprehensive; however–in my honest opinion–unless you have a really good sense of what you want to do, it can get pretty overwhelming.

  4. Foxtrot*

    How do people list intermediate or advanced Excel skills on their resumes? I know all the “tricks” like pivot tables and linking multiple spread sheets. I’ve also done some advanced VBA editing. Since I’m still a student, I don’t have a lot of internship level achievements with Excel to add. It seems like something worth noting, however, especially since I’m in a technical field that deals a lot with number crunching.

    1. BRR*

      We had a candidate who showed in their cover letter how they used these skills related to the position. I used pivoted tables in my chocolate teapot analysis. Much more convincing the way they did it though.

      1. Graciosa*

        The key is adding an impact – not just using pivot tables, but using them to discover a way to save 15% per chocolate teapot on manufacturing cost.

        1. Foxtrot*

          I totally agree that it’s knowing what to do with the numbers once you have them. But it’s nice to get those figures faster. :)

        2. Bea W*

          Good god I love pivot tables! This is the kind of thing I do with them, but I swear some of my co-workers’ eyes just glaze over…or they’re too invested in maintaining the status quo to bother actually looking at them.

          1. Preston*

            Getting back to the OP, I personally never say I am an expert in Excel, because frankly nobody is. What I do is ask how much the job uses it OR describe things I have done with it.
            Just depends on the interview or cover letter I am writing. That is just me though.

          2. azvlr*

            I would love to learn more about pivot tables and have done some online courses about them. As much as I love Excel, I don’t get very far with pivot tables because I don’t understand how I can apply them to my own circumstances. Is there a list out there somewhere that can suggest all the really cool ways to use pivot tables.

            I know we don’t work together, but apologies on behalf of your co-workers with the eye glaze. I’m definitely interested, just overwhelmed.

    2. Hermoine Granger*

      I’ve started using my cover letter to promote my soft skills and other knowledge that can’t quite be expressed on my resume. I’d suggest seeing if you can find a way to explain how you’ve used your Excel skills to efficiently / effectively crunch numbers.

    3. Helen*

      I have a “related skills” section on the bottom of my resume where I list various proficiencies

    4. Dan*

      These days with anything tech, nobody knows all of anything, so I’d shy away from using that phrasing (you “all of the tricks”) particularly coming straight out of school.

      Also what technical field are you actually in? The real serious number crunchong ones want you to know things beyond excel, and won’t give excel proficiency much more than a passing glance. The only thing I use excel for in my data analytics job is for viewing CSV files, and making the random chart.

      You want to pick up business intelligence tools like tableau or microstrategy, and something like R for the more stats heavy stuff.

      1. Foxtrot*

        I’m not sure those are the right fit for me. I’m in a science/engineering discipline. I’m looking at lab statistics, not so much business data.

        1. Bea W*

          It depends on what companies in your field use. R or SAS (basic or Enterprise Guide) may be on that list. Looking at job postings will give you some idea of what software skills beyond Excel are needed. There are different lab data collection programs out there. “Business Intelligence” tools can totally be of a use in sciences. Don’t let the name fool you. If you are working with anything stored in a database that needs to be analyzed, it wouldn’t be unusual to have one of these programs in use. There are probably programs specifically geared toward engineering or at least preferred by your field.

        2. Dan*

          You’re not giving us a whole lot more to go on (I understand people like to be vague for reasons, but it’s hard to give specific advice then). Are you actually in the lab, doing the work, or in an office, doing the number crunching? The “more like engineering” types that I know all learned Matlab in school. I’m not a huge fan of it (licensing issues are a royal PITA if your whole team isn’t on the Matlab train, and the platform itself doesn’t give you enough to warrant using it if your team is split).

          SPSS, SAS, and R are rather popular for the “more like stats” people, and many lab-centric jobs I’ve found require knowing one of them. R is open source, so you can get it for free and learn it on your own. Most places who for example use SAS instead will talk to you if you can show mastery with R and assume you can learn SAS on the job.

          I think the point we’re trying to make with you here is that to be competitive with anything involving data, you really want to grow your skills beyond Excel. You’re in school, now is the time to do it. These days, knowing Excel is a given, and those that want a power user will tell you. If they’re not asking for it, it’s not terribly important to them, so trying to highlight it on its own won’t do much. Figure out what your field uses, and learn that.

    5. Formica Dinette*

      I have categorized my software skills by skill level, e.g.,
      -Advanced: Word, Outlook, Excel
      -Intermediate: HTML, various email marketing platforms
      -Entry: Google Analytics, Photshop, Acrobat Pro, CSS, SharePoint

    6. Tiffany Youngblood*

      Have you considered looking into getting certified? The tests through Microsoft specifically can get a little pricey if you do them all (there’s 5) but there are plenty of other vendors you can get certified through, some of which are Microsoft-certified vendors.

  5. a.n.o.n.*

    Happy to say I have nothing to ask about this week. I’m loving my new job. I have lots of freedom, a laid-back boss, a great team, and I feel USEFUL! Oh, so useful! In direct contrast to my last job. I even have the freedom to let my team members duck out a little early from time to time and still pay them. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but considering the last job where everyone in the department was watched closely, it is.

    Isn’t it amazing how changing your place of employment can have such a sweeping positive effect in other areas of our lives? I’m no longer depressed, miserable, and grouchy. I no longer dread going to work. I don’t try to stay up as late as possible the night before in order to suck every ounce of life out of the day and delay the inevitable. I still hate getting up in the morning, but that’s just me; I like my sleep and hate having to get up at a certain time.

    Great way to start off 2015.

    Now if, I could get rid of my non-paying tenant at the old house….

    1. Remaining Anonymous*

      It’s crazy how much a bad work environment can negatively affect your life outside of work. My last job was okay, but my boss was a total MORON, and at the job before that I was surrounded by the rudest, meanest, most insufferable people I’ve ever met. I’d come home and find myself doing nothing but complaining about my job to my family and friends (which they found highly annoying after a while lol). I’d feel stressed about having to go to work every day, and the anxiety just kept growing and growing. I literally felt sick some days.

      Now I’m at a job that I really enjoy, and the people are all normal, intelligent, and kind, and it’s like I’m a whole new person! So congrats to us! :P

      People, if you’re at a job that you hate, please think of your mental and physical health and try to find something else!

      1. Ali*

        I really wish I could be like you guys right now. I’m in a miserable environment, on a PIP, I work every weekend and holiday and I have just about had it with my line of work. It really makes me feel hopeless when everyone but me is coming to AAM bragging about their new job and how happy and perfect things are.

        I have been searching for six months. Four interviews, no offers. :(

        1. Nan*

          I’ve seen you say that on several open threads, as well as that you’re fighting negativity in yourself. Would it make sense to stop reading the open threads for a while if it’s bringing you down?

          1. a-n-o-n*


            Or at least don’t reply to other people’s good news with it, Ali. It’s a little like covering their sunshine with rain.

          1. Bea W*

            BTDT too. My previous job was a living hell and made me think I just didn’t like my line of work anymore. It sucks. Keep up the search and think how exciting it will be when you can post your own brag.

        2. A.n.o.n.*

          I felt like that for most of last year and it’s really tough when work sucks.

          I started searching 2 weeks after I started the last job and it took me about 9 months to find this job. I submitted so many applications and only got called by my current company. It was really tough because the companies I really wanted to work at and where I had a lot of knowledge of their products just wouldn’t call me.

          Maybe you need to further edit your resume and work on your cover letter? I found that once I ruthlessly edited the resume and totally changed my cover letter, that’s when I got a call. And when you apply for something make sure you really go through and think about whether youre truly right for the job in terms of qualifications, knowledge etc. There were a few that I applied to because I was desperate to get out of a job I hated and it was really too much of a stretch for me or just not the right qualifications.

          I know it’s totally frustrating but it will happen for you. It doesn’t gel like it but it will.

          1. VictoriaHR*

            Methinks that she’s getting interviews but no offers, so the resume and cover letter are doing their job. She’s stalling on the in-person stage, so I’d recommend working on the interview skills. Do you research the company before going to the interview and drop that into the conversation somehow? I.e. “When I was doing research on the company in preparation for this interview…” Managers love that stuff. Also, she can try mock roleplaying an interview with a friend she can trust to be completely honest and tell it to her straight what she needs to work on. Roleplay as the interviewee AND the interviewer.

              1. Ali*

                It also doesn’t help that I’m in a crazy competitive field (communications/media). I work in media, but the 24/7 stuff has now worn me down and I’m tired of missing out on weekend and holiday stuff because I am always working. I used to not mind, but things have really gone south in the last 9-10 months.

                In fact, the last phone interview I had, the recruiter said I seemed like a good fit and that my background would be transferable to the job. However, the hiring manager wanted someone with more experience. I can’t even change jobs at my current employer, as the hiring manager told me something like, “You could do this job well and I could teach it to you, but I want someone with experience in X.” They ended up hiring outside the company.

                I just keep trying to make my resume and cover letter as perfect as I can since the four interviews came over six months, not all at once like some AAM success stories talk about.

                1. ExceptionToTheRule*

                  I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but depending on what part of the media/communications business you’re in, it could be a long time or ever before you’re free of weekend/holiday hours. I’ve been with my company for 18 years. I worked Christmas this year along with the majority of the other holidays (I had off Memorial Day & Thanksgiving) and I’m the senior person in my department. I work a share of the holidays to keep things relatively fair, but not all places are like that. It was about 8 years before I got off weekends.

                  You might be at the point most of us come to in which you need to decide if this can be your life. There’s nothing wrong with deciding it isn’t for you.

        3. Remaining Anonymous*

          Don’t worry, we’ve ALL been there. It took me over a year to find my current job, and it was a mix of job hunting while I was still employed at the place with the moron boss, and then a few months without a job entirely (because I eventually ended up quitting). Don’t give up! You never know what’s around the corner. I found this job because one day a friend (who knew I was job hunting) texted me and told me about it — totally serendipitous. Wish you all the best!

        4. Stephanie*

          Methinks there’s confirmation bias going on here. Not just you! I posted earlier about how to navigate my way out underemployment. Really, six months isn’t super long for a search. I went seven months with no interviews for full-time work. If you’re worried about getting canned before you find something new, just save, save, save. That and continually job searching are about all you can do at this point.

      2. Remaining Anonymous*

        Well, they’re all “normal, intelligent, and kind” except for the one guy who doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge that I work here… But thankfully he’s out of state lol

    2. Folklorist*

      I’m in the exact same boat, job-wise! It’s flexible, and I’m GOOD at it! In my first few weeks, I doubled our newsletter readership and saved the day on a couple of problems that my bosses were totally stuck on. They don’t micromanage the time I get in or leave, and I’m free to do things that look like goofing off, but actually feed my creativity and ability to do my job better…these things would have been looked down on at my last two places. I’m feeling my anxiety and paranoia from my last positions melting away slowly and am enjoying the hell out of my new position and colleagues. I’m excited to prove to them that I can keep this trajectory up and can’t wait for what the new year brings! Huzzah to great work situations!

    3. A.n.o.n.*

      One thing I will add is how much a previous job can affect the current one. I find myself hesitating on things I never would have though twice about at my last longterm job. Like surfing the net during lunch or a little here and there to clear the mind. Or like taking the reigns and making a decision. In my longterm job I had free reign and never thought twice about doing something. But my last job made me hesitant to do anything because I was micromanaged and so many things were a no no. My current boss still had to sometimes tell me “it’s ok to surf the net a bit” or ” just make the decision and tell me later.” I feel like he thinks I’m dependent on him or afraid to take charge when really it’s the effects of having a shitty boss last year.

      1. Folklorist*

        Yeah, it’s a huge deal. At my last job, they didn’t care what you did when you got to work, as long as your butt was in the chair at 9am. In my new job, they don’t care when your butt is in the chair, as long as you make it to meetings and do great work. I’ve been fighting sickness for a while, and was in at 10am on Monday because I overslept (yay, hydrocodone cough syrup!).

        I was having a panic attack about getting in an hour late. They didn’t notice or care that I was late, but they did notice when my first project that I completed gained a massive amount of readers and attracted positive attention to the organization–and they stopped by my office to thank me! It’s such a huge relief to find bosses that work on my same wavelength. That gave me the confidence to make some executive decisions and take a few more chances.

    4. Apollo Warbucks*

      That’s really good news, I’m gald you’re happier in your new job

      I hate morning too I’d enjoy the du so much better if it started later.

    5. Dan*

      I’ve been lucky. I’ve liked all my jobs. I get paid reasonably well, so I always wonder if it’s worth taking a job I don’t like so much to make a lot more money, say an increase of $20k-$30k or so.

      1. A.n.o.n.*

        I think it would depend on a few things. Is the boss cool bit the work boring? Sure, I’d do it. Is the work good but the boss sucks? Maybe, if the pay was high enough.

      2. Revanche*

        There was only one time in my series of jobs where the pay was excellent but the job was mind-numbing and perhaps it was just youth/naivete but I didn’t think it was worth it. Now? I rate my salary as a very high priority that I wouldn’t sacrifice but I would also not sacrifice enjoyment of the job and a good working environment. Basically I want it all and am happy when I get 90% of “all”. :)

        So is it worth it to you? Well, what do you want to do with that money, I guess I’d ask. If you had a goal for it, maybe?

        1. Dan*

          Pay off my $82k in student loan debt, buy a condo/house/townhouse in the DC metro area. That’s what I’d do with it.

          This was really an abstract question — I’m not job hunting nor do I have plans to do so in the near future. I think I’m with you in that I have 90% “of it all”. I mean, this mythical $20k-$30 is what it would take to even get me to think about prying me out of my current job.

          The thing that sucks is that salary and benefits are something that can be listed on paper, “good working environment” can’t be. So really, you get the extra cash and take a gamble.

          1. Revanche*

            Ooof, student loans. They’re a bugbear alright.
            But, yeah in your abstract case, it sounds like it’d really have to be a mythically high number and require a real scrutinizing of the team you’d work with etc. to be sure you’d want to give up what you have. It’s not a bad position to be in :) Plus, there’s almost always negotiating at your current job for some industries/companies. I’ve negotiated raises at all of my professional jobs to make up for not taking a higher paying – maybe bad environment job elsewhere.

  6. Remaining Anonymous*

    This is going to be long lol… I just started a new job at an investment firm in November and so far I’ve really enjoyed working here, with one exception… A major part of my client services job involves dealing with our financial advisors – many of which are out-of-state – on a daily basis. One of the out-of-state advisors is an older man (late 60’s at least, let’s call him “Bob”), and he’s been very difficult to work with.

    The “minor” problem is that he’s very slow and unresponsive to emails (never responds), phone calls, and general job duties (accounts usually take a week to open, but he’s got pending accounts from August and earlier). Most of my backlog is due to him, and all my other coworkers – even my boss – have similar complaints about him.

    The “major” problem is that he has no respect for me. Before I started, another coworker, who’s about 30 years older than me (“Jane”) used to do my client service job, but I was hired to take over all client service aspects of her duties. Bob is still always going to Jane with questions that he should be asking me; I get forwarded emails from Jane with questions from Bob several times a week. We’ve asked him to send inquiries to me, but he doesn’t seem to care.

    One time Bob thought I forgot to do something, so he called another person (“Mary”) and told Mary instead of me (btw, I didn’t forget – Bob was just lagging as usual). One time Mary was talking to Bob on speakerphone, and Bob referred to me as “whatshername.” It was so embarrassing and degrading to hear that.

    When Bob asks me to do something, he always phrases it like this: “I need a ___, Jane will show you how to do it.” I’ve already got several weeks of experience here (not counting over a year of prior experience at my last job) especially from working on the same things with other advisors, yet he assumes I’m clueless. He won’t even give me a chance, yet all the other advisors have been telling me how great a job I’m doing.

    The worst encounter happened a couple of days ago, when we received a check from Bob for one of his clients’ accounts (envelope addressed to Jane instead of me). The check was made out to the wrong name, and so I called Bob to let him know we’d need a new check. He wouldn’t let me get two words in. He just kept saying, “no, no, let me talk to Jane. I want to talk to Jane.” I was so shocked by his reaction, and was seriously about to cry. So I transferred him to Jane, and Jane later came back and told me that “he’s horrible” and that she would have a chat with him about how he treats me. Btw, I was right.

    How should I handle this? I’ve been wanting to address this with Bob, but I don’t know how or if I should. My boss, who’s also an advisor and owns this firm, has several relatives working for him here, and considering Bob’s bad tendencies, I have a feeling that Bob might be one of those relatives. I know that Bob won’t be easy to discuss this with, and frankly his volatility scares me. Should I go to my boss directly? He seems like a fair person, but I don’t want to look like a baby for not talking to Bob first. Thoughts? Advice?

    1. fposte*

      First, I’d recast it; it’s not about whether Bob respects you or not. That way leads to taking it personally and making it a no-win situation, because you can’t argue him into respecting you. Stuff like “Jane will show you how to do it” isn’t worth paying attention to; the refusal to work with you is.

      The terminology is a little murky (I’m not sure whether he’s a client in the way most of us would use the term, since he’s connected to your firm as well), but it also sounds like your company isn’t severing the relationship any time soon, so what’s needed is a way to deal. What you can do is clarify some things: if he’s determined to deal with Jane, can he just be one of her clients? Does he have the prerogative to request other support staff, or can you simply say “Jane’s great, but I’m on your account and I’m the one who’ll be handling this”? Do you have the prerogative to end the call if he gets obnoxious? (Though the reported conversation doesn’t sound like he was volatile, just stubborn–maybe he’s been wilder in other situations.)

      He’s always going to be slow, and you’re almost certainly not going to change that. (You may be able to find a wavelength with him by asking if there’s anything you can do to help make it easier to get those accounts processed.) But mostly, this is the annoying guy that you have to deal with at a lot of workplaces; bosses generally can’t change those people for you, and realizing that it’s not about you is the best skill you can learn here.

      Random side note: I’m not crazy about any financial firm that’s tolerating delays in opening people’s accounts. That’s not a good sign.

      1. Remaining Anonymous*

        Thanks for your response. He’s actually not a client — he’s one of the financial advisors at our firm. We have several advisors around the country, so he works from another office in another city.

        Also, as far as the delays go, most of our clients are pretty slow too (they’re usually very busy doctors, business owners, etc). We get things done quickly by being on top of our game, which is why it’s twice as frustrating when one of the advisors — who’s supposed to help speed things up — is the slowest person in the equation.

    2. Dawn*

      OK so it sounds like Bob is a total stick in the mud who has decided that he’s going to be a stubborn mule and do whatever he wants until he’s good and ready to retire. There’s just people like that in the workforce, and in life, really. He sounds like a miserable man!

      My advice:
      1- document things for a couple of weeks. You sent Bob X on Y date and told him you needed it by Z date, and you haven’t gotten it, and here’s how you followed up, and here’s how he reacted. Make a list of all outstanding stuff that you’re waiting on him for. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
      2- Once you’ve got some documentation, go to your boss, and calmly and professionally say “I’ve noticed that Bob isn’t X, Y, Z” (where X, Y, and Z are objective, factual things- not “he made me feel blah blah blah” but “I need the teapot report from August and Bob has not finished it despite me reminding him on these three occasions through these three channels”) Just lay the facts out there and see what your manager does. He might tell you to ignore Bob, that’s just how he is and we’re all waiting for him to retire, or he might have some suggestions for ways to get Bob to warm up to you. Your manager’s response is going to indicate very clearly what kind of manager he/she is.
      3- Additionally, talk to your manager about the Jane thing. Maybe Jane can take on Bob and the whole thing suddenly becomes Not Your Problem Anymore.
      4- Otherwise, don’t take it personally. It sounds like this was a problem long before you showed up and all you can do is do the absolute best that you can, and if Bob is preventing that then document the hell out of why you can’t finish X (hint: it’s because of Bob). If your paper trail indicates perfect performance AND an utter willingness to do whatever it takes to work with Bob but the problem is obviously on his side, then you’re in the clear (unless your employer is insane).

      1. Sharon*

        +1, I think this is the best approach. Something else jumped out at me:

        “even my boss – have similar complaints about him…
        … My boss, who’s also an advisor and owns this firm….

        Major red flag here. Your boss owns the company but does nothing more than complain about Bob? It sounds like either your boss is a weak manager, afraid of confrontation, or

        “… has several relatives working for him here, and considering Bob’s bad tendencies, I have a feeling that Bob might be one of those relatives.”

        If this is the case, I don’t think there’s much you can do at all. After reading your description, it sounded to me like Bob is one of those people who are protected politically by someone higher up in the company. Nepotism would explain that!

    3. ActionableResearcher*

      It sounds like you’re taking this personally which isn’t in your interest. The situations that you mention in your post about Bob forgetting your name being embarrassing/degrading and that you were about to cry when you were shocked that he wanted to talk to Jane about the check are indicative that you’re sensitive, but letting this person have too much power over your feelings. Its best to ignore these type of things, you don’t need Bob to validate your work, you need to do that for yourself (you mentioned above that you were in fact correct when telling him he’d need a new check). Once you let go of taking his obtuse comments personally you’ll feel much better.

      1. Remaining Anonymous*

        True, perhaps I’m being a bit sensitive or taking things a little personally. It’s just frustrating because I take a lot of pride in my work and doing a good job, always putting in 100% effort, etc, and when someone doesn’t appreciate that or treats me like I don’t know what I’m doing… gahhh… I’m not looking for validation from him, but at least some basic respect. I DO work here and I would appreciate it if you would stop going around me all the time… lol

        1. catsAreCool*

          Bob sounds like someone who won’t give anyone respect if he can help it. It’s not about you. He’s probably one of those people who are so obnoxious at restaurants that he’s eaten a lot of other peoples’ spit (ew!)

          Try not to take it personally. If you can sound slightly amused when he asks to talk to Jane or acts like you don’t know something, that may help get him to stop.

    4. soitgoes*

      Bob sounds like one of those older people who uses his age as an excuse to avoid email. If the company knows he’s a problem, I’d start going over his head whenever possible.

      1. JMW*

        I would disagree with this. The OP is new to the company, and it is likely that Bob has a long and possibly even revered history with the firm, even if he is problematic. The new person who can find a way to gain acceptance with the established members of the team shows herself to be a versatile team player. The newbie who starts going over people’s heads could get a reputation as the one who cannot adapt.

    5. JMW*

      Some people don’t adapt to change easily, and you have not been with the company very long, so you may need to give Bob a bit more time to come around. I think you need to get Jane on board with referring him back to you to get his questions answered. She needs to keep telling him that you are the one who will answer his inquiries and that she has full confidence in your abilities. I expect you will win him over with time as you competently handle his business. A positive attitude will be to your advantage (“I know you would rather work with Jane on this, but I am sure I can help you” said in a cheery voice).

    6. AnotherHRPro*

      If I am following this correctly, Bob is essentially your internal client. Your job is to help him. You have only been there a few weeks and I assume Bob has been there for a long time. He is probably being resistant to change, so I wouldn’t take this personally. Any change in support may have resulted in the same dismissive behavior. But you need to find a common ground. If it were me, I would schedule a call/meeting with him to discuss how you can work together effectively. I would ask him what his take is on how it is going so far. Ask him for his advice. After all, while he may not do everything the way you want, he does know the company and the clients. Ask him how things are working in your interactions. What is working well, what isn’t working. I would be prepared to tell him what is working and isn’t working for you as well. Let him know that your goal is be able to provide him and his clients with great client services support.

      1. Remaining Anonymous*

        I must have phrased something in a confusing manner, because you’re the second person to think Bob is a client lol. He’s actually one of the financial advisors at our firm. But I think that sort of phone call might be a good idea.

        1. Nashira*

          No, I think it’s a concept that they’re assuming everyone knows, which I’m going to explain inadequately. My coworkers and I work in a client’s office alongside the client’s staff, as subcontractors. As a clerk, I have “internal clients” aka my coworkers/fellow subcontractors whom I support, and “external clients” aka the client we’re contracted to and that client’s staff.

          Sometimes it’s useful to consider the people we support as a different sort of client, in order to engage our customer service skills in a different way. I find it especially useful when there is a seniority/position asymmetry that the higher ranked person is bound and determined to pretend doesn’t impact our interactions…

        2. fposte*

          For me it was “A major part of my client services job involves dealing with our financial advisors”–made it sound like those were among the clients. I think I now get that you work on client stuff but are often not talking directly to clients but to the advisors who serve them.

    7. Observer*

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

      This is not about respect. That is important for two reasons. One is for yourself. Understand that his issue is not about YOU but about doing his job and dealing with change. He doesn’t want to learn a new name, he doesn’t want to learn how to deal with a new person etc. That’s HIS problem, and it wouldn’t make a difference who you were or what you were.

      The other issue is framing. If you do decide to go to your boss, it’s far easier to present it and make a case for action if you frame it as a work related issue rather than lack of respect. “Bob doesn’t respect me” can easily come off sounding like “Waaaah! Bob MEAN. He’s a MEANY!” On the other hand “When Bob insists on discussing x, y and z with others, even though I’m the one who is dealing with those things, it wastes everyone’s time and makes it difficult to make sure that customers are being served appropriately.” is far harder to twist. It’s also less likely to come off as a personal attack on Bob, if there are personal issues at play.

      1. catsAreCool*

        “it’s far easier to present it and make a case for action if you frame it as a work related issue rather than lack of respect.” This!

    8. LV Ladybug*

      It sounds like Jane is on your side with this as well. Perhaps instead of having her forward the emails to you, have her send them back to Bob and advising him that he needs to send them to you and that she is no longer handling this work. With her sending them to you, it is just enabling the pattern. Perhaps she can cc a mutual boss or something so it is getting out there that he is not changing after being advised that he needs to do so.

      1. Graciosa*

        She could even set up an automatic reply that only goes to Bob, along the lines, “I’m sorry I’m not available to respond to your inquiry. Any questions about Bob’s account should be directed to Remaining Anonymous. All other inquiries should go to [Remaining Anonymous’ boss].”

        In Outlook, I think you do it with rules rather than the Out-of-Office tool, but you can accomplish a lot. The logic is along the lines of IF message is from Bob THEN reply with form letter AND move message to Junk E-mail folder [possible AND forward message to Remaining Anonymous]. This can all be done with no effort on Jane’s part after the initial set up.

        She may also have to watch her caller id and forward Bob to voice mail, or practice politely refusing to engage with Bob and just referring him to Remaining Anonymous. Bob needs to be politely trained that going to Jane will not get him what he wants.

        1. fposte*

          And if you can’t actually set it as an autoresponse, you can copy and paste it where it looks like an autoresponse and Bob will be none the wiser.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I’m agreeing with everyone who said this is not personal. I know it’s tough when people circumvent you, but I would be willing to bet that Bob has done this to others also. It’s a way of life for him.

      I agree with documenting. This will be a big help. Write down the calls and the emails and write down when you get a response, if no response then write that down.

      The little bit I know about financial services is that it involves lots of licenses and lots of CE courses. I am willing to bet that Bob does not stay on top of them, either. It would be consistent with not staying on top of his accounts and not even being able to remember your name. Disrespect is a way of life for this guy. (I can’t stress this enough, apparently. I am repeating myself… sigh.)

      Perhaps your manager can intervene, here. He really should because this is ridiculous. Or perhaps other people can just start telling Bob “no”. As in “NO, [OP] does this work and you need to email it to her directly, I will not be forwarding it. [or call or whatever]”
      It starts out as a good idea just to answer Bob or forward it to you, but all that does in enable Bob to keep doing what he is doing.

      You are saying you have a back log of work due to Bob’s stubbornness. If you can, make a list of what you need from him. I bet there is stuff sitting there with deadlines that have gone stale. Your boss would be very interested to know that deadlines are being missed and he should be interested in what is falling behind because of Bob’s issues.

      Please also consider telling the boss if this puts your job in jeopardy if you miss a deadline because of Bob, which in turn could possibly hurt the company. (These types of things basically show the boss why it is in his interest to keep following up here.) If you have licenses for your work, please check to make sure that you are following the regs that come with your license. If you are going to be in hot water for this- make sure your boss is aware that your licenses are at stake because of something you have no control over.

      Frankly, I have not got a decent thing to say for people who do as Bob is doing. I have seen this game before and I often wonder why people do this. Maybe it takes the focus off of how badly they are screwing up their own work.

      I think your leverage in this situation comes from two places- one, if Bob is out of compliance or he puts you out of compliance with state/fed regs. This is something that will impact the company. And your other point of leverage is to encourage people that they should tell Bob that they will not be relaying messages for him anymore, he must speak with you directly.

      [Thirty years ago, I worked in a male dominated field. Even WOMEN would come into my workplace and ask to talk to a man. It was awful. One day I had six people in a row ask for a man. What worked was when the men got together and agreed to redirect the customers to the women employees.
      hehehe. Sometimes people would wait 45 minutes to talk to a man. The men would finally get to them and say, “Gee, you need to ask NSNR about that. She knows more than I do.” 45 minutes. heeee. )

      Please don’t let this eat you up. The Bobs of the world are stomach ulcers waiting to happen. Decide you are not going to carry around his problem for him. In time, if you see him doing this to another new hire- you will know how to help her.

  7. kozinskey*

    Does anyone have advice for lower-level employees when upper management is changing? I’m relatively new to a goverment office, and the head of our office is an elected position and will be changing to someone new next week. Our office is pretty casual on some things that aren’t standard for comparable non-government positions — long lunches, casual dress code, many people come in late and/or leave early with no problem. I expect that will change for a while, and I’ve also heard that the new guy will be more hands-on than we’re used to. Any general advice or words of wisdom from people who have gone through a similar transition?

    1. some1*

      It sounds like you don’t report directly to the office head, so it’s your direct supervisor’s job to find out what operational changes and policies will or won’t happen. If you have concerns in the meantime, ask your supervisor. “Do you happen to know if Casual Fridays will continue now that Jane is leading us?”

    2. Katie the Fed*

      My advice – just wait and see. Listen. Take your cues from the folks above you.

      If the new head asks you what you think needs to change or what you think about x,y, or z – be VERY diplomatic until you know this person is someone to be trusted.

      Resist the urge to say things like “this is how we did things under {previous head}” and just be flexible. Choose your battles very, very carefully.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        That’s very good advice.

        We just had an upper manager retire, and I was apprehensive about that. Then I found out that my current dotted-line manager got the position and I relaxed. I know he’s competent, and he knows my work.

        In the past, I’ve gone through a CEO being killed: it ended up destroying our department and I ended up leaving that job (it was clear the IT manager brought in by the new CEO didn’t want me). I’ve also gone through a manager retiring, and I wasn’t able to survive layoffs with an interim manager that didn’t know my work and didn’t like my supervisor.

      2. kozinskey*

        I was hoping you’d weigh in on this! Since this is my first permanent, full-time job I’m always afraid of opening my mouth and stepping in it, and I’m doubly paranoid with the new administration coming in. I’m hoping that if I get any “what would you change around here” questions I can still defer to my relative lack of experience and stay noncommital. Thanks for your help =)

        1. Katie the Fed*

          You’re welcome :)

          I once had a “what would you change around here” blow up in my face in a big way – the new person was sniffing for dirt and also trying to identify the malcontents – she branded me as one (which I wasn’t – but I quickly became on). Those can be such loaded questions so I stick to small things to that anyone can agree on in any office – more feedback, flexible schedules, transparent communication from management, etc

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Not a whole lot of advice, just best wishes! I’ve been there recently and it was…not the best experience. (The higher-up who decided to change everything was fired after one year, but that was long enough that he totally screwed MY job up. Grrr.)

      The one thing I would say is to pay as much attention as you can to power dynamics and working styles for this person’s first several weeks. Listen more than you talk. I made the mistake of being too outspoken in this new person’s first few weeks and I feel like it tainted his opinion of me for the entire time he was here.

    4. Dawn*

      I don’t work in Gov, but one of my best friends works for a Rep on Capitol Hill and he says that it’s usually business as usual whenever an elected official changes over. All of the advice here is great- ask your boss what to do, and keep your head down until things settle in place, but otherwise don’t panic!

    5. Brett*

      It all depends in how many layers are between you and the elected position, and whether those layers are merit (due process required to fire) or patronage (serve at the pleasure of the elected official, and can be replaced at any moment). In local government, patronage positions are almost always completely replaced when a new elected official comes in.

      Because of the way in which they chance, patronage and elected positions can have abrupt shifts from previous regimes with little effort to transition smoothly. Our organization has one department that is all patronage positions (even the highly technical positions), and this basically creates constant chaos for the people there.

      As of today, that same transition is now happening in our government organization, with a new elected executive officer. All the new people are starting their jobs today. From what I have seen so far, everyone immediately below the exec having completely restructured their offices. This has affected the next layer down of merit employees pretty significantly, and this seems to have gone one layer down from there.

      This two layer deep penetration of change from the patronage positions seems to be pretty common in other governments too. If there are no patronage positions in your office, I would expect significant changes at least three layers below the elected official (i.e. bosses two layers below will be expected to change how their units function).

      Of the specific things you mentioned, dress code is normally the first thing to change. Long lunches also tend to change too, because there will be urgency at the beginning to get a lot of work done and an expectation that people are not off at lunch; by the same token, long lunches are easy to get back. While coming in late/leaving early tends not to change, you also are making a new impression on a boss who does not know you at all, possibly several new layers of bosses. That means keeping strict hours for now so that the new boss(es) do not see you being the one arriving late from the parking lot or with the empty desk before the end of the day. The office environment might not change on this, but that doesn’t matter compared to the impression you can leave. Even as a merit employee, the patronage people can still make life very hard for you and still have a lot of influence on chances for raises or promotions.

      1. kozinskey*

        Thanks, this is helpful & insightful. I’m definitely seeing the two-layer-deep changes already. I’ve been enjoying the flexibility to come in a little later in the mornings and skip rush hour, but I think you’re right that I’d better be strict on my hours until I get a feel for how the new administration perceives that sort of thing.

    6. Stephanie*

      How many levels are we talking about? I was a fed peon during the last administration change and a couple of the higher-up appointed officials changed after Obama came into office. I didn’t notice any change, to be honest. That being said, my agency isn’t super prominent and is a lot less politicized than some others. I’d imagine a something like a DoD switchover may be a bit different, especially if there’s a less hawkish president in office.

      I would just wait and see.

      1. Brett*

        Federal and national level in other countries seem to be much less chaotic and abrupt than local government. At national levels, there is more of an emphasis on keeping competent people on board for smoother transition and retention of institutional knowledge. At the local government level, clean slate transitions are more accepted (partly because there are less patronage positions around to reward people who worked on the campaign).

        1. kozinskey*

          My office is in state government. We’ve had some abrupt changes, a lot of retirements, and some minor reorganization already. It’s definitely enough change to make people take notice, and enough to make me a little nervous that there are more big changes to come.

    7. Malissa*

      I do not miss the days when elections could change my job.
      Keep an open mind and do the basic job you were hired to do. Sit back for the first 30-90 days and see what the shiny new elected person wants to change. Chances are things won’t change as much as they want, nor will your job change much at all.
      In the three elections that I lived through in my previous job, the changes were always better and only once did I have to tell an elected official that they couldn’t do what they wanted to do.

  8. AnonymousForThis*

    Can someone confirm that my understanding of hourly break law (in a state without special requirements) is correct?

    My understanding: My employer is not obligated to give me any sort of break other than “reasonable bathroom access.” However, if a 5 or 10 minute break IS allowed, they are not allowed to force me to clock out for it.

    I fill out a time sheet with the amount of time spent on specific projects, not specific hours that I’m working. (I’m a direct hourly employee, not a contractor or anything, and my time isn’t charged to projects, it’s just to track productivity I think.) I’ve been tacking on 5 minute bathroom breaks and such between projects to the project times or to my general administrative tasks category so that I’m not, say, paid for 2.8 hours when I’m really working 3 hours without a considerable break. Making sure I actually have a justification for doing this.

    1. fposte*

      DOL website says: “Breaks from 5 to 20 minutes must be counted as hours worked” and gives bathroom, smoke breaks, making telephone calls, and getting coffee as examples of things people might be taking short breaks for. Sounds like you’re understanding correctly.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I’m in a somewhat similar position and that’s how I do it. We get a 30 min lunch break so we work 8 hours over a 8.5 hour period, but we also get two 15 minutes breaks that just get counted as part of other activities on my timesheet which tracks hours on tasks.

    3. Graciosa*

      There are two different issues here, and you need to make sure you’re not conflating them.

      One is whether you need to be paid for this time (a five minute bathroom break) by your employer, which should count toward your hours worked.

      The second issue is your timekeeping records for projects. If these are billable, you need to be really careful about how you’re handling these. You should not just pick a client and decide to charge your bathroom breaks – or any other administrative overhead – to that project if that’s not consistent with the billable arrangement and rules with that client. It’s not fair to clients who reasonably expect O&A to be covered in the hourly rate, and also reasonably expect that they will pay only for time spent actually working on projects.

      For these types of situations, the employer understands that you will not bill every second of your time in the office to a client, but the employer pays for it anyway. This is the model I’m most familiar with (legal), however it is not the only model. There are situations where an individual is, for example, assigned full time to a contract under which the salary is fully covered and includes normal breaks.

      You need to make sure you understand the proper way to handle your billing records, which should start with a conversation with your manager. I say “start with” because if what you’re hearing does not make sense to you, you need to dig a little further to make sure your behavior is always both ethical and legal.

      The last is very important in any type of government work, as overbilling the government can be not only fraudulent, but actually criminal. If you’re involved in this type of work, your office is likely to have written policies on these matters, so you may be able to gather more information that way. A manager who is telling you to do something contrary to those policies is a huge, huge red flag.

      Hopefully none of these are an issue, but make sure you understand which issue you’re addressing (payment or client billing) and that both you and your manager are clear on the applicable rules.

      1. Graciosa*

        Apologies – I misread the part about general administrative as your having tacked this on to your project time rather than calling it out as a separate category (which avoids a lot of the problems which led to the lengthy answer – sorry).

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yes, but on the other hand, we were expected to charge our short breaks to whatever we were working on at the time. They even went so far as to tell us if there was a weather delay to charge that to whatever project we were planning on working on. The clients wanted us to be safe too, and that was part of the agreement.

        2. AnonymousForThis*

          Yeah, it’s a separate category, and the timekeeping is not for billing purposes but for internal metrics. The clients are charged a flat rate based on an estimated time and we report our hours so we can be sure that our estimating protocol is accurate. So I try to keep things as accurate as possible, but tend to keep little 5 minute breaks with whatever project I was working on when I took them for simplicity’s sake. (Filling out my timesheet would become pretty complicated if I tried to subtract every bathroom trip or waiting in line for the water dispenser from the projects and add to the general category.)

    4. Karowen*

      I think what you’re doing is fine, but I do want to note (in case other people see this and get upset because they have to clock out) that my company handles it a bit differently – here, you have to clock in/out for your 10-minute break because they want to ensure that you’re not taking more than your allotted time, but you’re still paid for it. So they can force you to clock out, but they can’t not pay you for it.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, interesting; I always think of clocking in and out as being entirely about the meter running or being stopped.

      2. AnonymousForThis*

        This is a good point. I track my own time so I was using “Clock out” in the figurative sense only (i.e. not get paid for the hours). I assume that companies with structured time-monitoring systems can make you account for the time however they want, so long as they pay you for it.

  9. WednesdaysMisfit*

    I had an internal interview the week before Xmas. After meeting with the team, I was even more encouraged that it would be a good fit and good next step for me. I’m really hoping for some good career news in 2015. I had several interviews last year (internal and external) but nothing ever materialized and it was really discouraging. I should know something in the next week or so. :)

  10. Shell*

    Happy new year!

    So we’ve had discussions on smelly foods in the office, but there were tons of variety for the offending foods that depend on the office.

    Well, now I’ve a complaint about foods…not by the people in my office, but people on the same floor (several small suites per floor, office tower). We don’t have a lunch room, we eat at our desks. But the complaints are about microwaving the food on the first place. I guess our microwave is close to the indoor air circulation system.

    The microwave can’t be moved, and I’m unwilling to give up hot foods. So what are the most frequent offenders on the microwaving list? This is just for smells. I don’t even know which office, much less which person, logged the complaint, we heard from building management.

    No seafood, no broccoli. Anything else? I can try to minimize offending items, but I cook with onions and garlic and all sorts of things, and I don’t want to give up hot lunches.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I’m interested in hearing responses. I too bring hot lunches and heat them up at work. In my experience I feel like the only true offender is fish and that’s because the smell lingers. I guess burned popcorn is also on the list. I find that other foods have a strong smell when heated up – leftover pastas with garlic in the sauce, chills – but the smell doesn’t linger the same as fish.

      Can the microwave be moved to another side of the kitchen/break room at all? I think it is unreasonable to expect people to stop using the microwave altogether beyond nuking cold coffee or a muffin because of smells.

      1. Shell*

        Sadly, no. We can’t move the microwave–the kitchen is maybe 2.5 metres wide and doubles as a copy room, so literally everyone has its one place and one outlet and we don’t have anywhere else to put it. Even if we could, considering the room itself is so small it probably wouldn’t make an appreciable difference.

        1. AnonymousForThis*

          Could the microwave be moved outside the kitchen? It’s not ideal, but people might accept it if you explain that the alternative was to extensively ban foods with any scent to them.

          1. Shell*

            There really isn’t anywhere to put it unless it’s on the floor, and even then the only free outlet would be in the boardroom…which is unacceptable for client reasons, obviously. (This is a…REALLY small office.)

            I’m actually asking mostly for myself here–I bring lunch daily, whereas the others sometimes go out to eat, therefore the probability that my lunches were the offending ones is very very high. (Yes, I did bring seafood because no one in my office complained about it and I genuinely didn’t know it would be an issue; at my last workplace everyone brought in whatever and I’ve never heard of a complaint, so I figured if no one in my office complained I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Ah, indoor circulation systems…) So this isn’t at the point of having to convince others that moving the microwave to the floor in the boardroom is an option, but just at the point of keeping a mental checklist of what not to bring to the office for myself.

            For the record, I can smell other coworkers’ foods (coworkers from my office; not other office’s) when they heat it up too…but food smells apparently don’t bother me like they do some other people.

            1. fposte*

              Can you reach the intake vent? Would you be able to block it while you nuke and then free it up again?

              1. Shell*

                I just wandered into the kitchen/copy room to take a look and…I don’t see anything that looks like an intake vent. There are lights and two sprinklers. With how easily smells seem to spread I presume there’s an intake vent somewhere, but I have no idea where. The ceiling is made up of those foam-like tile things that rests on plastic frames, so maybe the smell seeps through to the air space beyond? I have no idea.

                So far only seafood (fish) has been expressly named as a culprit, though in the interests of peace building management has said to please not microwave anything “strong smelling.” So maybe I’m worrying too much as I haven’t (yet?) received complaints for my other foods? Although I’d really rather not receive another complaint.

                Ugh. The idea of moving to cold lunches for the sake of offices/people I don’t know makes me sad though.

                1. fposte*

                  I think that would be overreacting–nobody’s asked you to do that, and that’s not really a reasonable request for a place that actually has a microwave so that you can do exactly the kind of heating you’ve been doing. I’d skip the seafood, anything bacony or super-spicy, and popcorn, and I might, just to show willing, drop a note to whoever the warning came from and say “I know I microwave a lot, so here’s what I’m planning to do to minimize the impact–let me know if you think other action should be taken.”

      2. AnonymousForThis*

        “Can the microwave be moved to another side of the kitchen/break room at all? I think it is unreasonable to expect people to stop using the microwave altogether beyond nuking cold coffee or a muffin because of smells.”

        And even then, someone would complain because coffee smells!

        1. Jennifer*

          I hate coffee, but I know better than to complain about the smell. I am vastly outnumbered and would get killed :P

    2. Stephanie*

      -Bacon (it always smells awful when cooked in high-powered industrial microwaves)

      1. Wonderlander*

        Oooooo eggs is something I’ve never considered, but just imagining the smell I can see it. Adding eggs to my mental list of no-nos!

        Side note – my co-workers have this weird game about food smells. They all try to “guess” what the food is they are smelling. When I warm up my brown sugar Poptarts for breakfast, I hear “What’s that smell? Smells like….. cinnamon!” from 2 cubes over. And then another co-worker chimes in with “Hmmmm, I smell oatmeal… is it oatmeal?” This happens every time someone warms up ANYTHING. And it drives me nuts. Can’t I just eat my Poptarts in peace? /rant, sorry…

      2. super anon*

        A guy in my last office started to microwave eggs every day 2 weeks before my last day, and as my desk was outside of the kitchen I thought I was gong to go crazy from how unpleasant the smell was.

    3. AnonymousForThis*

      This is tough imo because removing the most popular offending foods eliminates certain ethnic cuisines almost entirely. Indian food gets complaints, and often Italian – anything with garlic, onion, or pungent spices. Any cruciferous vegetables. Popcorn. I personally feel like all-or-nothing food acceptability is better because otherwise you’re alienating people who want to eat their own ethic cuisines, pescetarians, or others on diets considered “smelly” by eaters of the Standard American Diet and those people still have to smell things that reek to them. (Ham smells like dog food to me, chicken is repulsive, etc.) There’s not really a way for this rule to be fair and inclusive unless the only allowed foods are, like, bread and boiled water.

      Are there really no options for moving the microwave? If it’s built in, could a cheap microwave be purchased and placed outside of the kitchen? Could a fan be added to divert the food smell from the air circulation system?

      1. fposte*

        I really like the fan suggestion. That’s also, I think, a reasonable and responsive answer to the query–“We’re going to try this solution first, and let’s check back again in a month or so to see if it’s helping.”

        1. Camellia*

          How about, in addition to the fan or maybe even instead of it, keeping a can of Febreez (sp?) that could be sprayed during and after cooking?

          1. Gwen*

            Only if it’s not the non-scented kind! The worst thing in the world is that sickly sweet flowery smell layered over the offensive smell. Awesome, now it smells like fake flowers AND fish (though I’m not someone who’s generally bothered by food smells, so I would rather just smell food any day!)

            1. AnonymousForThis*

              Yes! It’s a different topic than food smells but there is nothing worse than going into the bathroom and smelling both someone’s potent #2 AND sickly sweet synthetic “Mountain Meadow” or whatever. Give me just the nasty food/#2/other natural smell any day, at least I won’t get a migraine from it.

      2. Jennifer*

        Honestly, I think people are probably just going to have to eat their food cold. There’s really no way to block out offensive smells from the microwave.

    4. Sunflower*

      For me, eggs are the worst. I just. can’t. I personally love garlic so the smell of it doesn’t bother me at all but not everyone feels that way. I agree with the suggestion below of trying to move the microwave. Asking people to give up microwaving foods is a HUGE deal. I would be livid to say the least.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      Cauliflower :(

      I used to make mashed cauliflower when I was off carbs and found out very quickly that people find the smell very offensive. Best to stay away from all cruciferous veggies – which are my favorite. Sigh.

      1. Shell*

        I just looked at the list of cruciferous vegetables on Wikipedia and saw that daikon is on the list.

        I’m very sad now. :( I always thought that was one of the mildest vegetables in existence.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Daikon is pretty mild… until you try to pickle it. DO NOT do that inside your house, because it emits the most noxious sulfur smell, worse than any other radish I have ever pickled. I put up some daikon pickle once and have yet to live it down. Delicious, though!

          Daikon should be fine if you simply stir-fry it– it tends to absorb surrounding flavors. Raw or pickled, though, it will make you run for the VapoRub under the nose.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup, all the cruciferous ones are noxious– brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc. This means my entire winter diet is un-microwaveable, basically! But I’m a weirdo who actually likes cold food, especially leftovers.

    6. MaggietheCat*

      Both people on either side of my cubicle eat hot tuna… it’s been real. One person eats it as a morning snack too so I don’t really get a break from that smell until after 2 pm.

    7. Ann Furthermore*

      Seafood and popcorn are the most universally reviled items for the microwave. I think banning those 2 things is the best you can do without making the list too restrictive.

    8. Vancouver Reader*

      That sucks. I worked in one office where we would ask about people’s lunches because they smelled so fantastic. I am guilty of sending the husband off to work with Indian food for lunch. Thankfully he has a big lunchroom at his workplace so no one complains.

      I would think most tomato based dishes would be the least offensive because who doesn’t like Italian food?

    9. Graciosa*

      Is not reheating food a possibility?

      I am not suggesting you restrict yourself to cold food, but there are all sorts of insulated food containers that hold hot food (some with their own heating elements sealed inside). Given that there are now other options for hot food than soup in a thermos, I just wanted to ask if something like this might be workable for you. If you don’t have to heat your lunch in the common-area microwave, the scent might be less noticeable.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        Yeah but the issue isn’t just the microwaving of smelly meals. People down the hall from my office regularly get a pungent Japanese soup from a nearby sushi bar and it penetrates the whole building and they don’t even warm it up.

    10. Bea W*

      Brussel sprouts, there was a woman at one place who would put them in a container of water and microwave them for 30 minutes. We had to close the door. OMG!

  11. Ali*

    I have a question about a job I applied for. A contact of mine tweeted out a position that sounded interesting, so I e-mailed her privately about it and she gave me some further details. She told me to go through the application process but also to send her my resume so she could forward it to the hiring manager. I know with the holidays, the process probably didn’t move along very far, if at all.

    The job ad says no phone calls and I don’t plan on reaching out to the HM. However, if after a week or two I don’t hear anything, is it OK to ask my contact how the process is going? I don’t know how involved she is in hiring, or even if she will be at all. This job does sound interesting and have good benefits, and being that I’m on a PIP (see open thread from about three weeks ago with my special snowflake story), I am looking to resign appropriately as soon as I get a decent offer. I really don’t want to be fired before I find something else, but I also don’t want to appear desperate on my job hunt.

    Any ideas? Or, I’ll even take general advice on job hunting while on a PIP. I was hunting before the PIP, but now that I’m on one, the pressure is on.

    1. StudentA*

      Since your contact forwarded your resume to the HM, I don’t see why you can’t follow up with your contact after 2-3 weeks. One week is not enough, especially with the holidays. Good luck. I know what it’s like to need to get out asap.

    2. Graciosa*

      I wouldn’t. You don’t want to create pressure on your contact to pressure the HM to get status information. The most you can expect from your contact is to make sure your resume makes it to the HM (rather than being lost in screening) which has already happened.

      Otherwise, I would treat it like any other application – which means do not follow up unless you have been interviewed.

    3. Tiffany Youngblood*

      I don’t really have any advice for you on this, I’m just curious as to what PIP is? I just recently started reading this blog, but I’ve seen that a few times and I have no idea what it stands for.

      1. StudentA*

        It stands for Performance Improvement Plan. It is sort of like performance probation in some companies.

        1. Stephanie*

          I’ll add that in a lot of jobs or companies, it’s not a good sign. FirstJob, or performance was quota-based (it was like 80% of our rating or something). If you got on a PIP due to missing quota and were able to get your output up such that you met quota, you survived PIP fine without any longstanding repercussions.

          My next job, a PIP was basically step one toward getting fired (and a way of documenting that you were given chances to improve and not fired unfairly). Even if you survived, the credibility hit was impossible to overcome (because you weren’t viewed as a top performer).

  12. Weasel007*

    This is work related…basically lamenting the fact that I have to go to work on Monday after 2.5 weeks off. Oy…I’m so not looking forward to it.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Funny, I was just coming to post about how I’ve got three days left jn my 11-day break and I’m torn about going back to work on Monday. On the one hand I’ve got some interesting projects waiting for me, on the other, I’ve also got some not-so-interesting ones and I’ve really enjoyed having just straight days of ME TIME.

    2. AmyNYC*

      Yep, I’m sitting here trying to look busy while half the office is out and I don’t have anything to do… I’m making flashcards for an upcoming exam and checking out projects I’m not working on, but am curious about (basically, falling do the rabbit hole of our company server)

    3. Felicia*

      I was coming to post the same thing – I haven’t been to work since noon on December 19 and i’m anxious about going back.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I went in for a couple of hours this morning and brought my dog. Helped ease the transition.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Several of us were talking about retirement & retirement benefits earlier this week. I decided I needed to make a serious effort to win the lottery because I’m not sure I can keep going to work for another 25 years. I would be AWESOME at being retired (aka – only taking freelance gigs that interest/challenge me).

    5. Dr. Doll*

      We go back on Monday to full-bore classes after being out since Dec. 19. My spring semester is going to be a sprint pace but the length of a half-marathon, and I am terrified.

    6. periwinkle*

      On the other hand, my employer gives us a paid holiday break from 12/24 to 1/1. I’m thrilled to be back at my desk today because I got so bored at home! No work, no classes – and almost no new listings on Redfin so I couldn’t even drag my husband out house hunting.

      Of course, I can’t actually get much done at work today because almost everyone else in my department took PTO to extend their winter breaks. It’s too flippin’ quiet to work. And that’s saying a lot when your office is on the 2nd floor of a factory.

    7. Jen RO*

      I’ve also been off for 2 weeks now and I really don’t want to get back to work… O spent my time doing jigsaw puzzles and watching Fringe and it was sooo good.

    8. Jennifer*

      I’m at work today. Sadly, it is just as busy as ever. I was hoping most people wouldn’t be coming in here, but here they come! And I was the only one staffing the counter this morning officially, so that was uh, fun.

    9. Rebecca*

      Me too! I’ll be off for a total of 11 days in a row, and now I’m dreading going back to work. I can’t even look forward to a long President’s Day weekend. That paid holiday, along with Good Friday and the day after Thanksgiving, went bye bye starting in 2015. Sighs.

  13. Laurel Gray*

    I don’t know if it is the new year and new goals I set or my birthday being soon that I am thinking about career steps, school, relocation and juggling it all on top of being a single parent.

    Has anyone ever relocated/changed jobs while in the middle of getting a grad degree (100% online program)??

    Also, I don’t have a Linkedn, I actually got rid of ALL social media (and gained back the brain cells lost) — but in all seriousness, should I be on it?

    My mind is just in brainstorm mode at this point (will be in cake, no frosting and extra ice cream please mode next week though)

    1. hermit crab*

      You might as well set up a LinkedIn profile — think of it like claiming your professional online identity, so that if someone searches for you, they will find some basic content that you approve of, instead of potentially confusing you with someone with a similar name. You don’t need to ever check it or use it, so the brain cell loss is minimal!

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Thanks and thanks for the bday wishes! I don’t even know how to navigate the site! Going to set a goal of creating a profile by a specific date. Until then I have to think about what I want to include and leave off…and if I will put up a pic. Probably will be a good opportunity to start connecting with my school’s career services.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Yep. I don’t use LinkedIn as social media, really – mine’s static except when my “resume” data would update, or when I get or give a recommendation to someone else (which I do periodically). But I don’t chat and share things there. I know there are people who do, but I simply don’t have the time and focus to do that well, and it seems better to just have a static presence than any half-effort.

      2. Anna*

        The nice thing about LinkedIn is it’s not the kind of social media that sucks a lot of time, like Facebook or Twitter. You can do a minimum amount of maintenance and it chugs along on its own. I would definitely recommend it, especially since you should probably have some sort of social media presence.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I don’t know how important LinkedIn is while job hunting (for some people and industries I think its very important), but I’ve found that it doesn’t take many/any of my brain cells once it is set up.

    3. Miss Chnadler Bong*

      I started a new job and moved (within the same city but to a new apartment) in one month while I was taking two online courses for my masters. It was definitely not my best semester – ended up getting a C+ in one of the courses (got A’s or A-‘s in every other course). But hey, I did finish the masters, and I needed to get out of that apartment and that job. So it can work.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        In the next 2-5 years I want to relocate. I want to stay on the same coast, but definitely to somewhere with a better cost of living and and also family friendly. I would love for my next employer to help with my masters. I definitely WILL NOT move without a job lined up. I also have a small child who will be in elementary school by then so I will have to think about schools also. I am currently only taking one class at a time (10 week semesters) so I am definitely pacing myself in the meantime.

    4. Dawn*

      I think of LinkedIn as part of the trifecta of “Why I Am Awesome And You Should Hire Me” that includes my resume and cover letter. Resumes and cover letters should always be personalized to the job you’re applying to, but to me a LinkedIn profile should be kind of like a “Get To Know Me as a Professional” supplement. I want hiring managers to be excited by my relevant experience as outlined in my resume and cover letter, then go to LinkedIn to get a more broad sense of who I am and what I’ve accomplished in my career- in a more general way that wasn’t covered in the Cover Letter or Resume.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Thanks for this. I am going to tackle creating my profile with these words of wisdom. I definitely do not want a profile that basically is a resume and cover letter because I currently am employed, and love my job, I just know that for the pay and upward mobility I will eventually have to leave.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Whups, and, one word of caution – be careful how _quickly_ you poof from no LI to a full LI, _mostly_ how fast you link with coworkers and shiny up with recommendations.

          Or just be ready to earnestly say ‘no, I love it here! But someone told me this was a good idea, and I thought I’d set it out, and then I got to fiddling.’

          I had a _very_ basic LI that I hadn’t maintained, and decided to clean it up in a fit of Fix Alllll The Web Presence one year…including asking for recommendations, which as it turns out, I got quite a few of. Lovely ones. My coworkers and former coworkers are awesome.

          ‘Bout gave the VP of my division – who was linked to me – a heart attack, apparently. Shiny up your LI too fast and it reads like ‘she’s about to start a job hunt’. Luckily for my longevity here, and his heart, he believed when I said, no, no, I was just doing it because I’d seen some clients browsing it (true!) and it didn’t represent me or us well (true!) and it bugged me too much not to try to fix (true!). And that I loved my job and the company and wasn’t going anywhere.

          I’m still there, and now I try to make changes a little more incrementally. Heh. (This is, however, also a very good reason to start working on it when you’re not looking to move on – so you don’t send up red flags when you are.)

    5. Karowen*

      While I’ve read articles about hiring managers avoiding candidates that don’t have Facebook or that don’t have the “right” number of friends, I can’t imagine why you’d need to have social media unless you’re going into PR/Advertising/Marketing. (And, honestly, I don’t think I want to work for someone who judges me based on how many Facebook friends I have.)

    6. SherryD*

      I’m *not* on LinkedIn, but after hearing accounts recently of acquaintances who were head-hunted through LinkedIn (I didn’t even know there WAS head-hunting in our industry!), I’m starting to think I should give it a chance. I’m a private person, and I hate the idea of someone googling my name and reading the equivalent of my resume, but maybe I should get over that.

    7. SD Cat*

      I’ve found LinkedIn helpful for keeping track of contacts/former coworkers/professors/other people I know and researching potential employers/jobs. For example, looking up current employees to see if I know any of them or anyone I know does, looking up alumni for the same reasons. I’ve done 15 minute phone calls with people I’ve contacted (informational interviews) which have been very helpful for my job interviews. A lot of companies have LinkedIn pages which can provide or lead you to useful information. Also, as mentioned above, I can expand on my resume and provide information for potential employers and others who might google me.

      1. Judy*

        I think the biggest help Linked In has been to me is in using my contacts to research companies locally. I was contacted by a friend of a friend about a company, and was able to tell that a current co-worker’s son worked there. I was able to talk to the son one evening before the interview, just to understand about the culture and things about the place. (I’ve always worked at large companies, this one is 100 people.) I had done this with every company I was in contact with during my most recent job search.

    8. INTP*

      I’ve considered relocating in the middle of mine, but decided against it. It would just be to save money on my part though, not for any professional advantage, and I wasn’t able to schedule it to coincide with a between-semesters break.

      As someone who has looked at thousands of resumes, if you aren’t currently working in your field of study, I do encourage you to try to change jobs to a related job, especially while you have access to the contacts of your school department’s contacts or internship office. I’ve noticed a general trend toward people working an obviously to-pay-the-bills job all through their online graduate degree not winding up in their chosen field later. A move in that direction is worth the hassle.

      1. Nashira*

        Do you think this would be a concern with a partially online undergraduate degree? Specifically, I’m doing boring clerical stuff while working on a computer information systems degree, but debating the merits of jumping ship to something IT as soon as I can.

        1. INTP*

          It’s a concern with any degree, really, but yes, it would be a concern in your case. In my recruiting experience I found that employers are extremely hesitant to be your first employer in the field. It is sooooo much easier to get your first full-time job if you have a year or two of part-time, relevant experience in the field. A paid or prestigious internship is also a good option. Even with in-demand degrees, students without relevant work experience can have a hard time finding their first job out of school. I would recommend pretty much any student get a job relevant to their field of interest as soon as it’s possible (this might vary since there are fewer flexible part-time jobs in some fields).

  14. IrishGirl*

    This is an interesting article I fond about regulations regarding letting go of or sacking employees in different countries.

    What do people think of these cases? Personally I think that some of these employee protection measures are ridiculous – the Italian case for example; but on the other hand it feels odd to hear US employees refer to having a ‘permanent’ job when most could be terminated immediately without cause.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      The Italian one is stupid. Sorry, but it is. It’s not on the employer to keep the employee from stealing. They basically just ensured that he’ll do it at his next job–if he can find one.

      Gardening leave–I like that term, in the UK one. (I also like the picture of the Gherkin. That’s my favorite modern London building. :D) I suppose I got that when I was laid off at Exjob–they gave me six weeks severance, which was a huge help in prolonging my unemployment compensation.

      As for the US, the employers seem to have all the breaks these days, except maybe in California. A permanent job is not permanent, and hardly any companies retain employees long-term these days. Exjob, which had several employees who had been with the company for over twenty years, got a new executive and he got rid of a bunch of those tenured people.

      1. fposte* blocks UK access? That is very weird. If you change the domain to does that get you in?

        1. TheLazyB*

          Good suggestion! But no. This is the message:
          “We’re sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes. You can find out more about BBC Worldwide and its digital activities at”
          Not impressed!

    2. danr*

      Well, do you call 30 years at a company permanent? All in at-will positions. Just revise your definition. A “permanent” job is one where you’re not a contract or temporary employee.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I have to say that I am not familiar with Americans saying that we have “permanent” jobs. That might be a Irish, UK, European usage.

      In general we have just have jobs – jobs that don’t have a fixed end date are different than seasonal employment, temporary jobs, or contract jobs which do have a set end date.

    4. Worker Bee*

      Nine weeks?! They should have looked into German law.. I have 3 month of notice and my position is considered junior. It is not uncommon to have half a year of notice period for management. Also our maternity and parenting leave is crazy. (Maternity is 6 weeks before birth and 8 weeks after, paid!) And you can take parenting leave for one year (receiving 65% of your last pay with a max of 1800 EURO from state)

  15. Stephanie*

    I’m wondering when and how to go about asking for a referral from my temp job.

    Currently underemployed in an admin-ish type job in a shipping warehouse of one of the big logistics companies (FedEx/UPS/DHL). Company is very big on internal promotions and transfers–I actually applied for a seasonal truck jumper job and this position (that paid more and wasn’t seasonal) opened up. HR saw I had some relevant skills and asked if I’d rather do this instead of the jumper job.

    Anyway, so far, so good. It’s still underemployment, so I’m trying to figure out how to ask about getting into something that’s more in line with my skills and background in the company (I’m still applying elsewhere as well!). I’ve applied online and mentioned currently working there as a temp on my application.

    A few pertinent things:
    -I am a contractor, not an employee of MegaCorp. The agency said my initial assignment would be for a year. My trainer (who does my function at another site) said she was a contractor for two (!) years before they converted her.
    -I never see my supervisor as he works days and I work nights. He asked how things were going and said he’s heard good things. I don’t think there’s any kind of probation period and there aren’t performance reviews (as the metrics are pretty obvious: did the teapot boxes get shipped out?)
    -While I’m not represented by the union, there’s a strong union presence at the company and a big pay-your-dues attitude.
    -There’s nothing really at my site I could switch to in terms of white collar work.


    1. cuppa*

      I was in a similar situation about ten years ago, but I was lucky in the fact that an opening came up in my department and so the transition was pretty easy. I think the harder part for you will be working the opposite shift, because you really need someone in your corner for this (not that your supervisor isn’t, but you may not be in the front of her mind much because she doesn’t see you all the time). I would work the network you do have at night (if there is one), stay friendly with HR, and go for an opportunity on the day shift even if it is still underemployment to enhance your visibility. Other than that, I would probably look to waiting for at least six months before you ask about transferring without a direct opportunity opening up. My company was not union so I don’t really have any considerations for that. Good luck!!

    2. Dan*

      Give it a long enough time where you can use your knowledge of your current job to help you with your next one, say a year or so. I had my blue collar job for a year and a half, and at that point I was really ready to talk about my understanding of things, how the operation worked, and what we could do to improve it. If I were interviewing you for a job where the background from your current one would be relevant, I’d want you to know your job well enough to really hit the ball out of the park when I start asking you questions. Do that and you ace the interview. Stumble and struggle, or don’t have the experience that I would expect you to have because you haven’t been there long enough, and you won’t stick out as a strong candidate.

      BTW, even if you have an admin type job, merely being out on the floor is going to expose you to tons of operational stuff. Good interviewers are going to know that, and will expect you to be able to speak confidently to them.

      My real background is in aviation, and one of my cover letter schticks was “from my experience on the ramp, I came across many problems that needed to be solved, but realized that I didn’t have the technical knowledge to solve them. I went to blah blah school to get my Masters degree in order to do that.” My ramp experience was as an $8/hr entry level employee, nothing more. Go figure, during an interview for one of the jobs in my field, I was actually asked what good analytic problems actually needed solving. So I told them. I’d look like a real doofus if I couldn’t.

  16. Anon for this*

    We just had a secretary promoted to a manager and I’m having a hard time adjusting to it. She is doing all the same work, plus a few more administrative tasks, but she is now supervising another secretary- I think that is why her title changed.
    I just feel odd sending work to a manager and saying “will you add this to the slides” or asking her to make lunch orders.
    Has this happened to anyone else?

    1. fposte*

      So it’s not the promotion, it’s that you feel weird telling somebody with a manager title about tasks that need to be done?

      I can assure you, managers get told all the time about tasks that need to be done :-). By people above, alongside, and below them in rank. I wouldn’t worry about the “manager” thing–if it’s still part of her job, it’s appropriate to ask her to do it.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        This. I often send tickets/requests to heads of departments because I know they want to monitor and direct the workflow. Some of them I’ve talked to and they’ve said “Go ahead and send any Teapot Optimization requests directly to Wakeen, I know he does all of that and he copies me on it.”, so you could always ask her if she prefers to get them or if there’s someone else to whom she delegates who should get those types of tasks directly.

    2. Helen*

      It sounds like her role is similar to that of an office manager. I think you’re overthinking it.

      1. Anon for this*

        Maybe I should think of it as a an office manager. It is just strange for our organization because we don’t have any middle management, so being a manager here is like being a VP in other places I have worked. Going from Staff to Manager is a huge jump.
        I’d never ask a manager to assist in editing or typing up my work. It’s really weird.

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      My company is very very picky about how they assign the title of manager, and this is probably part of the reason why.

      That said, fposte is right, as usual. Her job is still her job. Your relationship with her in that respect hasn’t changed.

    4. Iro*

      It’s a very common set-up, don’t worry about it. Besides if you ever make your way to a VP or even AVP level you will be requesting managers to get stuff done for you on a regular basis.

    5. Dan*

      If you’re struggling with saying, “X, do this” because you can’t tell her what to do, “X, could you please add this to the pile of things to get done? Thanks!” is going to be easier to say.

  17. Hlyssande*

    Around Thanksgiving, my manager (M) pulled our small team into a conference room to tell us that our supervisor (A) has decided to take a different internal position. He came across as bitter and angry that she hadn’t told him in advance that she was applying for it. I think the announcement really threw him off kilter and that he’s trying to recover from that, but he seems more unstable and prone to fly off the handle at things these days. His emails and phone calls are more aggressive than he used to be and it’s sort of frightening. We’re all tense about it.

    Over the years, A has been a buffer between us – taking the brunt of his frustration on things/calming him down out of it and translating M-speak into something actionable. One of our team members was hired earlier this year to take over some of the supervisor’s duties, so she’s the obvious choice to be promoted, but I’m worried that she won’t be able to manage up with him as well as A could.

    I’m really, really concerned about the future environment here. The same day he told us that A was leaving he pulled me into his office to tell me he wanted me to head a huge project that I’ve been our SME on since it started (we’ve been developing an application that allows internal users to request customer name/address setups in the shared global database and I’m the primary tester/QA for four out of five world areas even though my job description is basic customer record data entry). This would be a huge responsibility and frankly, I don’t know if I want it (or the increased hours). I’ve been trying to work on putting my knowledge into documentation so they won’t be high and dry if I leave, but it’s hard to know what you know when all that information has been gained organically as you go. Know what I mean?

    I think it’s time for me to move on too, but I also worry about M’s health if that happens. He’s already a chain-smoking workaholic and has generally been good to us (especially when expectations were filtered through A) so I feel guilty. I know it’s not my problem for what happens as long as I work to the best of my ability and pave the road for a replacement as best I can, but…yeah.

    I’ve been here 9 years because it’s a comfortable rut even though I hate the industry (support for big oil and fossil fuel refining, etc etc etc). I’ve been promoted up pay grades twice in the last two review cycles – including to an apparently ‘exempt’ level despite no changes in job description/duties as far as I can tell. I actually enjoy the work itself, but I’m really not happy here and never have been.

    I think it’s time to dust off and update the resume, I’m just having a really hard time psyching myself up for it. After my performance review a few weeks ago, I asked A if I could have electronic copies of my previous reviews, and explained that I wanted them to be able to see my accomplishments, but I think she knew that it was for resume purposes.

    1. Sunflower*

      Sounds to me like A felt similar to you so she got the heck out of there. Regardless of whether you stay or go, M will continue to be M. It’s hard sometimes, esp when you’ve spent so many years with these people, but remember that everyone is looking out for themselves. Meaning, don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and everyone you’ve been working with is gone. Certainly sounds like it’s time to move on.

      1. Dan*

        My last company falls under the category of “wake up one day and everyone you’ve been working with is gone.” They laid off 10% of their staff over the course of 2013 (including me) and lost another 30% over the course of 2014. My old coworkers tell me that that place keeps looking like a ghost town.

        I recruited one of the more junior employees to come work for my current company. He told me that he didn’t want to leave X hanging. I said that’s all fine and good, but the company isn’t looking out for you or X. Remember, when they laid me off, they laid off half of X’s team without telling him. Being loyal to X isn’t going to do your career any good. So, you have to look out for yourself and get out if you find something good.

        The youngster is coming to work with me in a couple of weeks.

    2. Anony-moose*

      This happened to me recently. My manager left and I realized just how much she had been buffering. I also realized that I liked working for HER more than the company I had been at. After a few months she offered me a job at her new company, under her, and I gladly took it. And I have had NO regrets!

      Good luck with your job search!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Just a couple of thoughts:

      I had a boss that was nervous when our supervisor was out. I mean realllly nervous. I cannot imagine what he would have been like if she left. But once she returned, he went back to his usual self. Maybe M will calm down once he has a new person in place. Maybe the thought of extra work is throwing him over the edge.

      As far as the new person, she may not seem like the type that would be good at controlling the situation, but she may turn into one who does well. Nobody wants to get fired, so when she sees what it is maybe she will step up a notch or two.

      All this to one side- it does sound like new job time. I stayed too long at a job for reasons like you are- it’s familiar, etc. Wrong reasons. It was way scary to leave. In retrospect, I should have done it much sooner.

    4. Revanche*

      Yeah, M’s health and inability to cope or manage effectively without being unstable is really M’s problem, not yours. It’s easy to keep staying in an environment that keeps devolving (like the proverbial boiling frog) but that can leave you, as Sunflower says, finding yourself without your previous buffers and friends that once made it tolerable. Only you can steer yourself towards better, and being prepared to do it actively is much better than having to panic search when you find yourself in an untenable situation.

  18. Sunflower*

    I’ve been at my job for 1.5 years. Applying for new ones. The biggest issue is the toxic workplace- plus we are a very small company so there’s no promotions or growth available. It’s been here 1.5 years and I’ve almost hit my growth plateau. My job isn’t really hard. It’s a lot of staying organized and project management but for what my company does, there just isn’t much left to learn. Reading this blog, it seems like 1.5 years isn’t short but it isn’t really long either. Can I say I’m looking for new challenges? Is 1.5 years enough to say that? It’s the truth but I don’t want to come off looking naive. Side note- I’m in my second professional job and grad. college in 2011.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I think the fact that there’s no upward growth for you is the biggie so I would try to work in that in at your current small company there’s no promotion potential so you’re looking outside the company for it.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think 1.5 years is plenty– it shows you gave it more than a solid try and you need new challenges, which isn’t so odd when you’re first starting out on your career. The difficulty for you might be that you didn’t stay in your first job out of college for much longer; why did you leave that one? That might affect my advice a little (but probably not much). My bf’s sister started a job back in April and is already feeling burned out, but I think she’s completely in the clear to start looking because she was at her prior gig for 5 years. Context is everything.

      1. Sunflower*

        Well my first job is interesting. I interned there summer of 2008 and I did remote work for them all throughout college. When I graduated, they hired me full-time and I was there for 2 years exactly after that.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Then you should be completely in the clear, because that’s not 1.5 years– that’s, what, 5 years? 4.5? Staying with one company for that long, especially through college, is a big boost. Even if you were doing different types of jobs, the important thing is that the company kept you on and hired you full-time immediately after you graduated, which is huge. This makes your current job look like a bump in the road.

    3. Sidra*

      Wow, we are in nearly identical situations, except that my workplace is not toxic. As this is your second post-college job, I don’t think it looks bad to move on after 1.5 years. That said, make sure the next place is somewhere you will want to try to stay much longer.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t say “looking for new challenges” after only 1.5 years — honestly, I think moving on before 2 years is always short, and even 2 years is a little short in many professional jobs, especially as you get more experience. If you used that language, I’d think you were going to be looking for a new job after 1.5 years with me too, and it would be a huge red flag.

      Not everyone feels like this, and it can certainly vary depending on the type of work you do, but enough people feel like me that I think it’s really risky.

      1. Preston*

        I also agree with AAM here, I know the 1 year number is thrown around a lot, but a string of shorter term stuff isn’t good IMHO. Job hoppers also tend to leave a lot of money on the table when it comes to 401K savings.

    5. Dan*

      For the sake of discussion… in my line of work, the structure is very flat. What that does mean is that while we have structure and theoretically things to promote into, the opportunities are few and far between. In my department of 60, there’s the department head, the associate department head, and six leads. But our true promotions are almost independent of your rank on the org chart, I work with technical staff two levels above me who have no managerial responsibility.

      In my line of work, I’d also say that a year and a half ain’t jack. For me, you won’t get to the next level if you don’t have 3-5 years of experience. At 2, you’re in this middle ground of “not really looking for ‘college graduate’ job, but not qualified for the ‘experience required’ jobs either.” It’s a sucky place to be.

      As with all advice, YMMV depending on your field. BTW, “experience” isn’t about years of getting a paycheck, it’s about mastery of skills and growth. If you’re ready to move to the next level, I’m going to be evaluating that in the interview. That requires knocking the questions I ask you about your current work out of the park. Aka, if you were just a “doer” I’m looking to see that you picked enough to take ownership of a project or some reasonable subtask of it. The same is true with five years of experience — it might be easier to get the interview, but I still want to know that you’re ready for the next level. If you’re not, you’re not.

      1. Preston*

        I agree with Dan, for some jobs 1.5 years in experienced in others it doesn’t mean anything. So field dependent….

  19. Paulus*

    I’ve got an externship coming up this semester where the office manager had said to contact her after the first of the year to get things set up. Is there any way I should be handling this other than “Hi, this is SoandSo from XYZ about the externship. My availability is suchandsoforth”?

    1. some1*

      I would email rather than call. That wording works, and you might want to add lines about how you are looking forward to the position and ask her to let you know if she needs anything from you.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yup, email her. You can be a little more conversational, like, “I wanted to follow up with you about a start date for my externship– I’m available Monday, Tues, Thursday and can start any time. I’m looking so forward to working with you! Please let me know if there’s any additional information you need from me.”

  20. Raine*

    I hate to be “that aunt,” but here’s the deal: I spend a lot of time thinking about Christmas gifts for my young nieces and nephews — I have several scattered across the nation. And I happened to spend a lot of time (and money) shipping this year to one brother and his wife so that their two children had the gifts. Not only do this brother and wife almost never bother to say thank you (does it really take that long to send a text that just says THNX?), but this year I think they still haven’t even bothered to pick up the gifts from the post office. I sent this a long, long time ago, just after Thanksgiving, and alerted them the package would be coming; they live in a rural area and most everything they get has to be picked up at the post office. I had a tracking on this but after I saw that it had arrived at the post office there threw the tracking number away.

    Anyway. They posted a photo of the kids in front of the tree with all the wrapped gifts — mine clearly were not there. They again never bothered to say thanks. And worst of all, I have no clue that they’ve bothered to pick the package up. They’ve given no indication they know what the gifts even were. I know it’s stupid but I feel devastated on several levels: They’re so ungrateful for how much work it takes to actually gather gifts together and send them, they make me feel like a rube for wanting to know that the gifts even got there, and the worst slight of all is that it’s clear when anyone on the wife’s side of the family sends gifts to the children they make sure to pick them up and thank them (publicly even, on Facebook, for example). I don’t know what to do except never send anything ever again.

    1. Alex*

      I hate to sound insensitive, but I think this is sort of an issue that you’ll need to work out on your own, and it’s really the fault of the ungrateful relatives. While I was also raised to say “Thank You” when someone goes out of their way to do something nice for me, it isn’t useful for you to expect others to do the same, and it isn’t really fair to be angry with them for lack of appreciation that you are looking for. When you do something nice, IMHO, it should be under the expectation that you gain satisfaction from the act itself, and not how the recipient reacts. If your act of kindness is tainted by a reaction that you don’t enjoy, then your gifts were maybe more about you than they were about a kindness to the recipient. A joyous response would just be a pleasant surprise.

      At the end of the day, I’d say just skip doing it if their lack of appreciation bothers you.

        1. Raine*

          I guess I was unclear: It’s not just that they never bother to say thank you, it’s that I don’t even know that they’ve received and given the gifts to the niece and nephew. And I respectfully disagree: That is their fault entirely. It’s appalling. If the post office winds up mailing the package back, I’m gifting it to needy children, and that’s also what I’m going to do from here on out — buy gifts as though they were for those two children but gift them to local charities.

          1. catsAreCool*

            I think they should say thank you at least verbally, and they should let you know if the gifts got there. Giving the gifts to charity sounds like a good idea.

            If your brother complains, you can tell him “It always seemed like a burden to you when I sent gifts.”

        2. HannahS*

          I think that’s really unfair, Alex! Yes, there are some aunties who give gifts because they want to be lauded, but it sounds like Raine wants her nieces and nephews to get some pleasure from their gifts. The issue isn’t that she isn’t being publicly thanked, it’s that the parents aren’t even giving the gifts to the kids at all. When you live far apart, sending thoughtful presents can be a way of expressing affection. The fact that her brother isn’t putting in some bare effort to give the kids something to remind them that their auntie loves them is unkind of him. I think it IS reasonable to be hurt that they aren’t doing that. They’re family; you’re allowed to expect (and ask for!) basic respect and common manners from your family.
          (sorry Alison I won’t write any more)

          1. Alex*

            It’s TOTALLY fair to feel hurt that the kids aren’t getting their gifts, and I do understand feeling hurt by the parents. I’m just trying to say that it won’t do you any good to stew over trying to change other people’s behaviors, so it might be better to make it right with yourself in some way and sort of move on from the situation, which it sounds like OP has found a way to do by giving to charity instead. I just don’t think it’s fair to force behavior expectations on other people, family or not, but I understand I tend to be in the minority with this stance.

          2. Ruby*

            But she doesn’t know they aren’t getting the gifts. She’s assuming that from the lack of thanks and a photo.

            Maybe it’s time to actually try directly asking the parents if the kids received the gifts, rather than getting upset with the lack of thanks and drawing all the conclusions from limited information.

    2. No to Stella and Dot*

      Please post this in Sunday’s thread because I’m so curious to hear what others think. I was in a very similar situation – I used to buy gifts for each of the little kids in our family but stopped a couple of years ago because the kids (and parents) couldn’t bother to say “thank you.” It’s hard to want to give a gift when the kid opening it makes a “face” and tosses it in the pile like a used Kleenex.

    3. Dan*

      When you repost on Sunday, please separate out the issues of “didn’t get the package” and “don’t say thank you.” I certainly don’t thank people for things I’ve never received, so if there’s no indication that they actually got them, I think that’s a serious issue.

      I will ask, have you actually called and asked if the gifts were received? It’s sort of passive-agressive not to. You’ve got a day and a half to call before Sunday’s open thread ;)

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Please call their post office. Google the number. Rural post offices are the size of a closet. They should be able to look around and see if your package is collecting dust. You may not need a tracking number to do this. I have had to do this recently for something I sent to a business.

      If it’s not there find out where they send unclaimed packages.

      I am pretty rural here, and the postal employees that I know are amazing in their willingness to help someone.

      (I’m answering the business/work aspect of the question- I hope this is okay.)

  21. Rebecca Too*

    I got offered a job today. I still have to get the official offer, but it’s a job I’m really interested in and I know the salary range and would be happy with the lower level, so it’s unlikely I’ll say no after I get it.

    Reading this site, and slowly actually applying the advise to move on as soon as you’ve applied or interviewed, as really made the whole process a lot less stressful. I interviewed two days before Christmas (and I’m in a country where Christmas is a big deal and the whole country pretty much shuts down for it) and they said they would get in touch with me between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so when I hadn’t heard by yesterday some friends and family were presuming that I hadn’t got it, but rather than getting despondent, I was able to put my Alison hat on, and remind myself that they were barely one day after their deadline, and things could come up, so I couldn’t read anything into it. And neither could I read too much into them checking with my references, because I know from reading here that some organisations will check the references of their top two or three candidates, so it didn’t mean I had it in the bag.

    Just from my nature I generally find it hard not to obsess and read into everything when I’m job hunting, especially as my last contract had just ended so was more stressed than if was job searching while employed, but trying to apply Alison’s advice and just take it as it was (and keep looking, so I didn’t feel all my hopes were wrapped up in this one job) definitely kept my stress levels down and meant I could enjoy the holidays a bit more.

    So many thanks to Alison and all the regular commentators here, for constantly reinforcing that advice. The first few times I heard it I thought it was impossible, but after been a regular reader for about a year, it seems to have finally sunk in, and it definitely makes for a less stressful and emotional job search.

    1. Jean*

      Congrats on the new job, and on successfully applying the advice from this site!

      “I was able to put my Alison hat on”
      I’m enlarging on your language, but in addition to my Alison hat I also will acquire the hats of other wise people (on or off AAM), thereby simultaneously indulging my millinery fondness and developing my character without exceeding my budgetary or storage space limits!
      Gotta love linguistic multitasking.
      Imaginary millinery: veils? swooping brims? ostrich feathers??

  22. Jordi*

    I’m looking for advice on when I should give an official resignation to my Manager. I know I will be leaving my job this summer because my visa expires and I chose not to extend it. My manager knows this, or at least he knows I didn’t extend but he may not know exactly when it expires. So I have a date that I must leave by, but depending on if my house sells quickly, I may leave sooner–basically there is a two month window when I plan to leave.
    Finding a replacement for my position will likely require a national search with a very high probability that a new hire would have to move from out of state, or the other side of the country–so there would be at least a month or two before they could start after accepting an offer.

    I don’t want to make things official too soon, especially since I have such a big window for when I would leave, but I also want to give then enough time to find a replacement. I’m also not too keen on answering questions from coworkers about where I’m going to when I leave, since I really don’t have answers for any of that yet.

    1. fposte*

      How have other people been treated after announcements that they were leaving? Would your manager be willing to keep the plans just between you for a while if you told him earlier, so it didn’t translate to making it fodder for co-worker discussions?

      1. Jordi*

        Well people hardly ever leave (mutliple people in my department have been here 30-40 years) and those that do have always left for a very good new opportunity.

        People in lower level positions than mine generally give two weeks notice, while those at a higher level have given up to 6-12 months (these are very upper level professionals who had new out of state positions lined up that far ahead).
        Nobody at my level has left in my time here (6 years). I have a feeling my manager would want to start a search as early as possible so it wouldn’t stay a secret for very long.

        1. fposte*

          I would worry less about conversations with co-workers about your future (“Still pinning things down” takes care of that) than about setting things up as appropriately as possible for hiring your replacement. But I’m still not hearing the answer to how people get *treated* once they say they’re leaving–do they get marginalized or ranted at, or are they treated respectfully? If they’re treated respectfully, I’d lean toward more time–at least a month, and I’d go for two if you can swing it.

          I’m biased because I’m in academics and we give tons of notice, but it also sounds like you might not be in the private sector either and there are some similarities there.

          1. Jordi*

            I guess how people are treated when they say they’re leaving is really dependent on their own attitude after that announcement–nobody is treated badly unless they bring it on themselves. Most are treated very respectfully, with people generally very curious about their new opportunity and very supportive of their move.

            And I am at an academic medical center, so not pure academics but not private sector either.

            I was thinking 6-8 weeks but was worried that wouldn’t be enough time.

            1. fposte*

              Well, you’re not required to make sure they have a candidate ready to go the day after you depart, either; dealing with transitions is just part of the workplace deal. Two months/eight weeks seems like a good compromise in that they can get the search well underway, and it should give you some time to tie things up and prepare to pass them along. Since it doesn’t sound like they’re likely to make things unpleasant for you after the announcement, I don’t see any real justification for cutting notice time shorter that balances out the inconvenience factor.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        I agree, depends on your manager and how he has treated others when they resign. Managers get the amount of notice they deserve. The ones who don’t build trust with their employees get two weeks — or they might even get none, if they are known to force people out. On the other hand, my old manager knew that a direct report of hers was planning to go to grad school for months before her actual last day — she said nothing to us until a month or so before this person’s departure. Direct report knew she could be trusted, she had time to plan for a replacement but didn’t replace her and then kick her out, and the rest of us knew we could trust her with a long notice period in the future.

    2. Helen*

      How much do you trust your employer? Personally, I would be wary of giving more than 2-3 weeks notice. I know of several people who gave more than a month, and then the employer found a replacement and asked them to leave early.

      1. Jordi*

        I’m lucky enough to have an amazing employer (and especially manager) who really values my work and is very appreciative of everything I do. I don’t think I would get pushed out early at all. But at the same time, I’m generally pretty private and with a lot of uncertainty about when I’ll be leaving, and especially what my next steps will be after I leave, I’m not sure how soon I want to have to make an official “I’m leaving” announcement.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It sounds like your hesitation isn’t about how you’ll be treated or being pushed out early, but solely about not wanting to answer questions. If that’s the case, I’d err on the side of more notice rather than less, because it sounds like it will be appreciated, hugely helpful, and your manager has earned it. Dealing with people’s questions doesn’t need to be a big deal.

          1. Jordi*

            Would you give more than 2 months though? By then, things will be more finalized but if I should be giving 4-5 months notice, then I won’t be able to give a final date.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Depends 100% on how you’ve seen your employer treat others who give long notice periods like that. If it’s clear it’s safe to do that, then yes. Most managers would prefer that even if you can’t give a precise date.

    3. Hillary*

      One of my managers once told me to always give two weeks notice (or whatever is standard in your country), when he knew that I’d be leaving within a year after I finished a degree. It’s the manager’s job to be prepared – how would they cope if you won the lottery or were hit by a bus?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m going to to totally disagree with that manager, if he meant never give more than two weeks. First, there are some more senior jobs where it’s expected/convention that you’ll give more notice than that. Second, it’s a great way to sour a relationship with a good manager, if it’s a situation where it’s clear you knew much before that (in an environment that makes it safe to give more notice — otherwise, ignore all this). Third, generous notice can be hugely helpful — if you can safely give it, why deny it on principle?

        Just because managers would handle it okay if you won the lottery doesn’t negate how helpful it is to have more notice when it’s possible.

        If your employer has a track record of accommodating long notice periods, has been grateful to employees who provide long notice, and has generally shown that employees can feel safe being candid about their plans to leave, you should take your cues from that.

        1. Dan*

          The flip side is that the further you go up the food chain, longer notice periods can work against the rest of the team. My old boss gave a month’s notice or so, and we all couldn’t wait for him to leave because he was pretty much short-timing it. And instructions that he gave that we didn’t like? We ignored them, because he wouldn’t be around long enough to 1) Figure it out and 2) Actually do anything about it.

          That might all sound petty, but he wasn’t that great of a boss, and would have just done us all a favor if he gave his two weeks notice and just wrapped his stuff up and got out.

    4. Sunflower*

      It sounds like you have a pretty good relationship with your manager. Maybe approach your manager and just be straight up. Moving to a different country is not something you can just do over the weekend. It takes time and I’m sure your manager understands that there are lots of factors that will play into when exactly you leave.

      And just because you talk about it with your manager, it doesn’t mean the whole office needs to know. Just tell your manager that you would rather keep this conversation private and you’d like to tell your coworkers yourself when the time is right. It sounds like he will understand.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      I do ERP implementations and support work, so the work ebbs and flows. When I’m working on a project, the hours ramp up the closer you get to the launch date. The month or 2 before going live, I can work up to 70 or 80 hours a week. Then you’re live, you hold your breath for a couple weeks, do some hand-holding and get things stabilized. Then it slows down until the next project starts up. In the beginning, it’s 40 hour weeks, with a few longer days here and there when you’re preparing for testing events. Then you start closing in on the go-live date, and the hours start increasing again.

      Since the hours ebb and flow, I don’t mind the longer hours when they’re necessary. The payoff is that when things slow down the hours ease up.

  23. Jake*

    How many folks here work 40 hours a week, are exempt and wouldn’t be paid overtime? For those that do work over 40, what is your standard hours per week.

    I ask because I’m working 60 a week minimum in that situation, and I’m not sure how common that is outside of my industry.

    1. AmyNYC*

      I’m a salaried, exempt white collar worker – since I don’t get overtime, I try not to stay late on principle. I usually work about 45 hours a week, but many people in my office work a lot more.

    2. Sunflower*

      I work 40 hours a week usually, sometimes more depending on the season. The majority of my friends who are exempt work around 45 hours a week. We all work in marketing and client services I would say.

      My friends who work long hours are in public accounting firms. Right now, they are working literally around the clock and it will probably be that way for the next couple months. However, it’s only like that for a couple months and they barely work during the summer. Not sure what your industry is(law?) but 60 hour minimum sounds like a lot to me

    3. Iro*

      The US National average is something between 45 -55 hours per week for an exempt employee. 60+ is on the burnout end for most in my experience, and that was when I worked in the financial industry.

    4. fposte*

      I would say I work 50-70 hours per week, with some seasonal variation. However, a good chunk of that happens at home in evenings and weekends so doesn’t have the same impact.

      My impression from reading AAM is that 60 is somewhat high but not shockingly so, and that in some industries it’s standard or even low, so it may be hard to assess without knowing the field we’re talking about.

      1. Cat*

        I don’t think it’s shocking in modern America, but I do think that, say, 80% of people cannot work consistently for 60 hours a week without burning out or experiencing other serious negative life consequences, and a significant fraction of the other 20% usually doesn’t need as much sleep as most people. (I’m a lawyer in D.C. so I get to observe this a lot.)

        60 hours a week being the buys weeks with, say, 50 hours being more common seems more sustainable for most people to me.

        1. fposte*

          My impression is that the industries that run higher than that tend to be things like startups where you only do that for a few years and/or places were compensation is accordingly high, but I certainly don’t know that for sure. I did 60-80 for a while and it was tough, even with part of that being at home; I could never have coped with that in the office the whole time.

          This would be a really interesting poll-type thread sometime, like the “what do you get paid?” thread.

          1. kozinskey*

            Yes!! I’d love to see this posed as a question (and then maybe put into a spreadsheet because AAM commenters are awesome).

      2. Jake*

        My field is construction, and it is definitely a normal thing to work this much, I’m just curious as to other fields. It seems like construction is on the high end, but not the ridiculously high end based on these comments.

    5. hermit crab*

      We’re generally expected to bill a 44-hour week on average, but individual weeks vary a lot depending on workload. This is in a technical (i.e., not management or financial) consulting environment .

    6. Coelura*

      I work 50+ hours with rare 60 hour weeks. I also have significant flexibility, so there are many days that I leave early & come back to my email in the evening. I rarely have true time off (I’m almost always on call for my employees). But I love, love my job & am okay with the hours.

      On the other hand, I really aggravate my exempt employees if they work over 45 hours.

    7. Jordi*

      I’m salaried and exempt. I average 45-50 hours a week in an allied health field. Many of our physicians will be close to 70-80 some weeks.

    8. Stephanie*

      I’m guessing you work in law, finance, or consulting? Or a field like teaching or social work, where you’re expected to donate your life to work?

      Underemployed now, but my last two jobs were in the legal industry (but I was in a non-lawyer capacity). I worked about 45-50 hours a week, closer to 60 if it was a busy period or nearing the end of a quarter.

      1. Jake*

        Construction actually. I work for a general contractor, which means a client gives us a contract to construct something. Then we go out and get several (20+ usually) other companies to actually do the work while we manage the chaos that inevitably ensues. This means we need to be here if ANY of those 20+ companies need to be here, and by rule of averages, there is always a couple stragglers that need to work significant overtime to keep up.

        I’m not complaining, and I enjoy my job, not to mention that I’m compensated accordingly. I just look at exempt workers that I know in other industries working 40 hours a week maximum and wonder if I’m alone out here.

    9. Joey*

      People are all over the place. I work 40-45 unless there is something pressing. Although many of my colleagues feel the need to be with the last group out the door. That is-they stay as late as the boss does. The boss has no life and gets pulled in far too many directions. I find it better to model the work life balance I want for my employees and take calls/emails, etc as needed after I leave.

      I used to bust ass for 60 hours per week until I realized that plenty of things can wait, I can still get the job done, and I can still make significant contributions in other ways.

      1. AmyNYC*

        +1! My office definitely has a culture of “race to be last,” so much that I feel slightly guilty leaving at 6:30, even though I’ve been there since 9.

      2. Graciosa*

        I LOVE your comment about modeling – this is so true and so important.

        There was a WSJ article a little while ago that said your boss’ behavior was the best predictor of your own work life balance.

        There have also been studies to show that after a couple weeks, any hours worked over about 55 produce the same total productivity as about 55. The additional time invested is offset by slower decision making and other effects of overworking that mean it starts taking longer to accomplish anything. There is literally no work benefit to having employees regularly working longer hours, and it does a lot of harm to the employees.

        1. fposte*

          Mostly when I see those they seem to focus on time in the office–I’d be really curious to see if this remains true if you can break the time up and do some at home. My personal impression is that I get much less burnout from doing a separate shift in the evening after a break–and doing work that fits easily into such a situation–than I do staying at the office for the same amount of time.

          1. Cat*

            I suspect that is highly individual dependent (though you’re right, it would be interesting to see data). For me, working at home actually makes it worse–at least insofar as I can subjectively perceive it–because it makes me home feel “contaminated” and never truly relaxing.

            1. fposte*

              Well, and I really don’t want to suggest any study that finds a way to excuse greater time demands on workers, either.

              (And in full disclosure what I’m doing at home is often reading books and proofreading copy, so it’s pretty low-impact–but it does have to be done and it takes a fair amount of time.)

          2. Jake*

            I agree whole heartedly. Getting 2 hours of work done over the course of 3 hours in the evening keeps me far fresher than staying in the office an extra 2 hours.

    10. LAI*

      I am exempt and work about 40 hours per week. The vast majority is in the office; I do work a few hours from home here and there, but I also have flexibility to come in late and leave early so I’m pretty sure it all evens out.

    11. Graciosa*

      I am salaried and exempt, and would guess I average about 45 a week – it’s hard to be sure because it varies a lot. A few closing weeks or special projects have probably been in the 60+ range, but I also have weeks when I’m definitely under 40.

      A large part of being responsible as a professional for certain work means that I step up when needed to cover the crises – but it also means that I don’t sit around in the office unnecessarily. I take time for myself when I can (yes, even when the office is open and other people are working), which helps offset those occasional heavier weeks.

      This is a bit of a button with me – so many people focus on the first part (stepping up to do what’s needed without overtime pay) but don’t pay attention to the second (managing your own schedule, including deciding not to be there during normal office hours or for 40 hours in a week). I also think that it needs to average out to something reasonably close to 40-50.

      Regularly working more than 60 hours a week means you’re either a CEO of a large company (those huge salaries buy your life, so this is fair and known if you take that kind of a C-suite job) or your company is understaffed. I would suggest a conversation with your manager about this to figure out what work can be dropped if this is not going to be corrected soon.

      If your culture involves *everyone* regularly working 60+ hours consistently, you might skip the conversation and start looking.

    12. Brett*

      I’m exempt and generally end up at 40 hours. We have an Administrative-Time system where, if I work past 40 hours, I can shift that time to leave early on other days within two time periods.

      Because of the nature of my job, I occasionally have stretches where I am working a lot of consecutive 12 hour days, and even once had to work 4 straight 16-20 hour days. Because of the nature of those bursts, it is pretty hard to take all of the a-time within that time period, but I normally get to burn myself back down to only 50 hrs or so total work. But that is only 4-8 times a year.

      Not accounted for in this is the amount of work I do while not at work, e.g. I have to monitor weather with the national weather service when a thunderstorm rolls through or I run training or outreach meetings after hours. Those are not formal hours and do not go under a-time, and probably add an extra 5 hrs a week in spring.

    13. BRR*

      I work 37.25 a week and rarely have to go over. If so only by a few minutes. My manager also lets us go early sometimes like if someone has a kid doing something at school or when I had to pick my mom up from the airport.

    14. Hillary*

      I’m salaried and exempt, but work for a company that both emphasizes work-life balance and where everything HR is colored by our manufacturing setup. I range from 35 (rarely) to 80 (also rarely) hours a week, but my normal target is 45-50. I’m at the office 7:30-5:00 with at least 45 minutes for lunch, and I’m online occasional evenings and weekends.

    15. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’m exempt and I work exactly 40 hours every week unless my contract is up for renewal, which takes some evening and weekend work but nothing too strenuous.

    16. AnotherHRPro*

      I work between 55-70 hours a week depending on the time of year. I would say that the number of hours an individual works will vary greatly by:
      – level
      – discipline
      – company
      – industry

      1. Joey*

        55-70? Whoa! Are you looking for a new job or is this of your own volition? Id be doing some serious work load evaluation, like looking where I can cut back, re prioritize, or hire some help.

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          This is really the norm at my company for my level. It is a large organization and I am compensated very well. I could probably work fewer hours, but wouldn’t be able to job at the level that is expected or that I want to in order to advance further.

    17. Dr. Doll*

      My boss told me straight up that she expected about a 50-hour week from me, but that doesn’t mean 50 hours of fanny-in-the-seat time. My exempt team members all work 40 hours and they are pretty rigid about it. Faculty will typically brag about working 80 hours. Yes, it’s a brag and I think it’s ridiculous because I wonder what the extra 30 hours of mostly sleep-deprivation accomplishes. I would rather brag about being calm, cool, collected, and effective.

      1. Jake*

        I love the humble-brags about hours worked. I’m far from proud that I’ve worked 80 hours a week (luckily it was only for about 6 weeks because I got burnt out after the second week). I’d say 50-60 a week is standard in my industry, and my 60 is because I’m in a transition period where I’m serving two roles at once.

        I was simply curious as to how many other industries do this because I come from a distinctly blue-collar background and only know 2-3 exempt workers outside of my industry.

    18. Sidra*

      I am salaried and not eligible for OT. I work 37-42 hours a week. If we’re counting the fact that I often check email after hours it’s solidly above 40 every week, but I just about never go above 45. I think this is fair given how flexible my job is, and that I have the freedom to do personal things while at work. Most of the people I work with put in the bare minimum hours-wise.

    19. islandgirl*

      I am pretty surprised by a lot of the responses. I rarely work over 40 and I have a lot of down time within that 40 hours. I guess I am pretty efficient at what I do because it seems that my peers are a lot busier than I am. I volunteer for special projects on a regular basis and always offer my help to others. To be honest, I couldn’t put that kind of time in–my personal life is very imporant to me and working 60 or more hours a week would exhaust me.

      1. velociraptor*

        I’m in the same boat as you hours-wise. I do get a lot of downtime, with bursts of busy days or weeks here and there. My industry tends to skew towards the 60-80 hour week range, so I count myself extremely fortunate that I’m in a company where a lot of people work fewer than 40 hours most weeks because of generous PTO policies.

      2. Jake*

        It is exhausting, but (at least in my industry) we are compensated accordingly. Just about everybody in this industry knows that once you make the leap to exempt status, you need to understand the type of work hours involved with that commitment. I know many workers that would have excelled in exempt roles, but they turned them down to remain in a non-exempt position to protect their personal lives.

        Overall, it is definitely a personal choice, and one where it bugs me when people complain about it. If I didn’t think my compensation was worth the time I put in… I’d leave.

    20. periwinkle*

      Salaried and exempt, and I work 40 hours a week. In extraordinary circumstances my boss will authorize overtime pay for exempt folks, but he prefers that we maintain a happy work-life balance. If we have to work late on Monday, he encourages us to skip out early on Wednesday so we’ll stay at a level 40 hours.

    21. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m salaried and exempt and just started a new job where I will probably average about 36 hours/week of office time and a little over 40 hours of actual work. When certain projects get underway, I will probably have a few weeks where travel and special projects will require up to 12-hour days, but there will be flexibility when those projects are completed. At my last job, I was paid for 40 hours/week but had very few projects, so it was mostly just butt-in-seat for 40 hours. At the job before that, I averaged about 44 hours/week.

    22. Anon because yeah*

      Salaried, 35 hours a week, exempt. Usually work 35-36 hours per week, occasional bumps to 40. (I negotiated the -5 hours in the first place as a perk in lieu of a raise during a year with a salary freeze once.)

      My co-workers in our group are largely salaried, exempt, 40-hours workers, and by and large I think they work 40-45 hours, with the exception of one person who routinely works more while our manager pleads with him not to overwork himself. :)

    23. Dan*

      My office is pretty much all straight 40 hour weeks. There’s exceptions from time to time, but those are not sustained. I went the whole calendar year without ever having a two week pay over 80 hours. (I can’t say working more than 40 hours in a week, because we have flex time, so I’ll work longer one week to take off a Friday the next.)

    24. Bea W*

      Salaried exempt – spent much of last year working 50-60 hours/week, and one week I put in about 80 (and made myself super ill because I had caught a cold early in the week and then all hell broke loose). 40+ week is typical in my field, but it will really depend on your employer. One of my resolutions this year is to stick closer to 40-45 hours and not take work home. (We are seriously under resourced!) Pushing burnout is not working for me! My boss seems to be online 24/7. I don’t even want to know how many hours she was putting in. She’s been trying to reign that in also.

      My co-workers are non-exempt hourly contractors and can’t work more than 40 hours (no OT). The other salaried employee strictly works an 8 hour day that ends promptly at 3 PM, exceptions only for super extenuating circumstances. She also works from home as much as she can get away with it. Don’t get me wrong. She’s not a slacker, but in an office full of people who make the effort to either be flexible with hours on occasion or put in extra time and be physically present more often than not, it doesn’t go unnoticed by the rest of the team, especially when 4 out of 5 people are busting butt over a weekend and at odd hours to monitor and test a deployment. /end rant

      A friend of mine got a new job and a big raise. It also put her back working as salaried exempt. She told me she was going to work 10 hour days. I asked if she was looking at doing 4 days instead of 5. Nope. She figured 10 hours, 5 days a week was a fair exchange for her salary. LOL! That’s not how it works! They offered you $$ expecting you to work a 40 hour week (not a job that would require more than that normally). If they thought that was too much, they wouldn’t have offered it.

    25. Revanche*

      I’m exempt and have worked anywhere between 40-80 hours per week depending on what my workflow needed, usually more on the high side, working late nights and weekends continuously. Not totally standard in my industry (though often my personal experience due to poor management in the past), rather a bit unique to the particular job and the position that I hold.

      The hours are finally coming down to a more reasonable level now and I may be able to work closer to 50-60 a bit more often in coming months, though. The tradeoff has been getting much better work conditions though, so I’m ok with the load being what it was knowing that it can and should improve over time. Just not overnight.

  24. Hermoine Granger*

    A few weeks back in one of the open threads I asked for some advice on what to do in preparation of my unemployment benefits possibly ending before I’m able to find a new job. Someone recommended that I signup with temp agencies in the interim and I just wanted to say thank you for the advice. I can’t remember which thread it was so I can’t find the poster’s name but the advice was very helpful. I’ve signed up with a few agencies and have started going in for first meetings and software testing.

    I also reached out to a non-profit to inquire about doing some volunteer work (related to my profession) and the founder who has a long history in the corporate world offered to help put me in touch with some contacts.

    I further tweaked my approach to resumes and cover letters so they’re both more customized for each position.

    I haven’t received any assignments or interviews as yet (most likely due to the holidays) but getting out of the house to meet and speak with other people has been pretty energizing. I’m back to feeling optimistic about finding a good position in the near future. Thanks again!

  25. Helen*

    Any ideas for how to put a hiring manager at ease regarding my “job hopping”? Basically, I have had three completely unrelated jobs (for 1 year, 1 year, and 1.5 years), plus a humanities master’s degree that I got to “wait out the recession” (hah!). I’m really not a flake, it’s just that I graduated in 2008 and have pretty much been forced to take whatever I can get. I’ve gotten pretty good at making my resume look like my career has had a semi-coherent path, but I still get asked about it.

    1. fposte*

      Were any of them contract jobs or jobs that were eliminated? That would be different than your choosing to leave three jobs after less than two years, so make that clear if so. If it was your choice, that’s a challenge, because presumably you’d be willing to leave the job you’re interviewing for after a year too. If there’s something that’s changed that means you wouldn’t, foreground that.

      1. Helen*

        1 was a layoff (the company shortly went out of business), and one was a two semester (paid) internship. The most recent I resigned.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I agree with fposte, and seeing that two of them weren’t your choice, I wouldn’t worry too much about those. You’ll need a good explanation for why you resigned after only 1.5 years without something else lined up, though. Can you share that with us?

          1. Helen*

            I worked in compliance at a company that processes foreclosures. When I took the job, I thought that it would be all regulatory compliance, ensuring that the company complied with laws/regulations made to protect the rights of homeowners. It ended up being about 20% regulatory compliance 80% contract compliance/client services, so I basically ended up being just another cog in the foreclosure machine. I wasn’t comfortable with it and it was nowhere near the direction I want my career to go so I decided to focus full time on finding something else.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Honestly, I think this will be a tough one. Do you have a set focus/plan for your career and the resources to pursue that? The resigning without something else lined up, even with your reasons, would give many hiring managers pause. I would recommend focusing on a “false start” with your compliance job and telling hiring managers that you realized you wanted to pursue a career in X.

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s not really job-hopping, then. I might have stayed at the last job longer just to get more duration on my record at that point, but I don’t think you’re likely to get much pushback about an internship and a layoff.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Also make sure the resume indicates that was an internship — that “excuses” the short-term-ness of it, so you want it to be clear from the resume.

        3. Dan*

          If you’re unemployed *now*, your biggest issue is that you quit that job without something else lined up. People are going to look at your resume and think you left under less than favorable circumstances, one way or the other.

    2. Iro*

      Are any of those contracts/set time programs? I was in a similar boat, I got a Fulbright fellowship (1 year non-negotiable) followed by a 1 year internship (again, not really an option to get hired full time) so when I was asked about why I hopped around I’d just be upfront and say that these were 1 year non-negotiable contracts.

      One thing that helped my resume, and may apply to yours, is that I combined all of my academic part-time/volunteer work/work study at the university into one job. I felt comfortable doing that because I was on laboratory rotations that would make it look like I changed jobs every 3 months, but the reality is that all the work was related and for the same university, I essentially just had a new supervisor every couple of months.

      Another potential option – did you happen to volunteer or work part time/freelance during any of those jobs? I had a low hour, but consistent freelance job for 2 years that I comleted in addition to those 1 year here 1 year there type jobs that I would include to help the resume look less erratic.

  26. AN*

    I’m accepting an internship position (in international business) in Mumbai, India this summer. I’m a young woman of Indian ethnicity, but culturally I’m American. Anyone who’s worked in India have advice on differences in corporate culture? Also — what do Indian women wear to work here? Any help much appreciated.

    1. Cristina in England*

      I am hoping there is an American expat in India forum somewhere that will be of use to you, as I can’t speak to that, but I am wondering if being of Indian ethnicity /American culture will be the hardest thing. It might throw people off a bit, at least at first.

      1. INTP*

        I would think this too. I don’t know any Indian Americans who have worked in India, but I do know several people who did the teaching program in Korea. Korean-American women (culturally American, non-Korean speaking, etc) were subjected to public criticism from complete strangers if they did things that were not considered desirable for proper Korean girls to do, like associate with American men.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I’ll have an Indian American friend who lives in Delhi now – I’ll ask her and get back to you.

      I suspect that one of the biggest challenges will be gender relations in the office – I would expect (based on my own experiences in India and what my friend tells me) a lot more open harrassment than is generally tolerated in modern American office environments. I’ve been all over the world and India and Egypt are the two places I felt most uncomfortable as a woman with the gawking, touching, skeevy looks, etc.

    3. Dr. Doll*

      You should wear MODEST Western business formal clothes, unless you get there on the first day and find that everyone is wearing salwars or sarees. No cleavage, no knees, ever. Be careful with jewelry so it doesn’t get stolen. If you have a contact in the office, email her and ask; she’ll be tickled to help you.

      Practice the Indian lady handshake too — not string bean fingers, but a very light fingertip clasp.

      Full disclosure — I have not worked in Mumbai myself but my family has a thriving business there.

    4. TL -*

      There was a discussion on an open thread a while back about Indian working norms vs. American that was super helpful for me – in the context that I work with a couple of Indian people in an American company.

      Anyway, one of the biggest things that I’ve noticed is that there’s a lot less direct communication, a lot more expectation of super-respectful (read: deferential) behavior, and a lot more anger when things aren’t done they way they think they should be. (I think this is exaggerated some, because at least one of them just doesn’t seem to able to adjust to American cultural norms and has a lot of frustration built up because he’s not being treated the way he expects.) The thread I read really backed up my impressions.

      1. Bea W*

        Where is this thread. I work with a team in Mumbai and would love to see this. They are a bit of an enigma to the US team and they seem to have ways of doing things that we don’t quite get. My field has exploded in India in recent years due to outsourcing. I have worked with a lot if Indian immigrants, but they have gone to school here for grad degrees and stayed, raised families, and become Americanized after many years.

  27. GiantPanda*

    Just venting:
    In the past few weeks I spent a lot of time and money on a teapot expert certification exam and failed (it was close).
    Deservedly so. It turns out that the preparation materials I used skipped some topics and I didn’t know them well enough to improvise during the exam. Also, there are much better materials available online (of course I only found them today) – should have been a breeze to get just 2 more questions right.

    And I can’t even print the stuff out and start working because the reserve black toner cartridge I have (thought I had) is nowhere to be found, new one to be delivered on Monday.

    I was hoping to get this certification before my annual appraisal interview…
    Aargghhh! My fault, but things can only get better in the remainder of the year.

  28. Katie the Fed*

    Anyone have any new years resolutions for work?

    I always say I’m going to clean out my inbox every week, but I never do, so I’m not even going to bother with that.

    I want to increase the amount of informal 1-on-1 time I have with members of my team.

    I want to help the top performers get promotions or good developmental opportunities.

    1. AmyNYC*

      I’m trying to focus better a work, a less bumming around online between tasks. Of course, I’m not counting today….

    2. Laurel Gray*

      Yup I do. Let me list them here and copy and paste them to an email to email them to myself when I return Monday

      1.) Clean out/de-clutter/arrange my drawers and desk storage
      2.) Box and store my 2014 files (I do this every January for the previous year)
      3.) Call document shredding company to remove and destroy old files (auditor gave the thumbs up)
      4.) Improve my time management with specific tasks (going to start setting a timer)
      5.) Improve my follow up time with customers
      6.) Go a whole quarter without any re-classes

    3. Lizzie*

      I’m resolving to ask for more feedback (formal and informal) – and to push for it (in an appropriate way) with one particular supervisor who has a track record of dropping the ball when it comes to overseeing and evaluating my work. This is both because I feel that I need some support and guidance to improve in certain areas, but also because there are some things I think I do well and I want to make sure that she notices! (I’ll be job-hunting starting in the late spring, so I’m trying to think ahead.)

    4. INTP*

      Check my email more regularly. Hopefully daily. It’s not an issue with my work email, but I have been putting off my school emails long enough that the thought of opening the inbox and seeing things I am far behind on dealing with fills me with so much anxiety that I put it off longer. Not good! I’m going to set a reminder for a certain time of day.

      Also, be more focused when working from home. I wind up succumbing to the temptation to fart around on the internet far more than at the office (where I know IT can track me, even though they probably don’t and even if they did would not care about the occasional blog check).

      1. Bea W*

        I assume as long as I am on VPN or using my work laptop even on my own network, they can still track me. :D

    5. catsAreCool*

      I want to get faster at what I do (without sacrificing quality) and to get better at working with some of the programming languages that I work in.

    6. Bea W*

      More balance, less taking work home, and less staying late. I had to force myself to shut down after a full 8.5 hour day, and when I got home it was really hard not to go back to work. The last few months of the last year I would come home late on Fridays (everyday really!) and spend the rest of the night on the couch BUT working easily another 3-4 hours. I was on vacation as of EOB Dec 19 but I came home and worked and I worked on the Monday. :( I feel like I’ve been on this kind of nutty schedule so long, it has become my default. So while I was feeling pretty burnt out the last couple months of the year, I just couldn’t stop myself. Nothing good can come of that. I need to pull it back. I said that a year ago and it seemed more urgent while I was really having trouble getting cardiac symptoms under control, and that lasted maybe a few weeks before things got crazy and I was back to late evenings and taking work home.

      I wanted to start my year with a clean inbox, but I had to cut myself off from my work laptop for my own good.

    7. Revanche*

      I have opposing goals. I’ll be on leave for a while but I’d like to come back with fresh focus. I’d also like to work on developing my own personal business enterprise so I’m not tied to my old job anymore if it no longer feels like a good fit.

  29. Anony-moose*

    It’s the new year (yay) and I am ~3 months into a new job, which I love. OldJob continues to haunt me with toxicity, though, and it has me down.

    I know I made the right decision leaving. I love my new job. Other OldCoworkers are leaving OldJob in droves. So now I’m trying to calmly move past the bitterness and sadness of relationships fading and a place where I spent years working becoming toxic.

    Anyone else have a hard time letting go of toxic situations? What worked for you?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It is SO HARD. I’m dealing with that now– less than a month into a job that is really, really great, very flexible, very excited to have me on board, and I still feel like I have to tread lightly because I was always second-guessing every action at my old job. I think it takes time and open eyes; my manager told me flat-out that there would be a learning curve and that the environment would take some adjustment, and I have to have faith in that. SO HARD. One of my co-workers has been there for four months and has obviously been having a tough time with things, but if I knew her better, I would (figuratively) shake her and tell her to step back and listen to what people are trying to tell her, because it will help her in the long run.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I was able to get out of an extremely toxic situation a few years ago and move into a new department. The thing that made it so toxic was my awful boss, who I spent 6 miserable months working for. I was holding onto a lot of negativity from that horrible experience, and it showed in my attitude. In my first performance evaluation with my new boss, she correctly called me on this, and put some comments in my review about how I needed to let go of the past and stop brooding and stewing over it. She was right, and I tried — I *really* tried. It was hard but I was able, for the most part, to leave it in the past.

      I think it just mostly takes time, which gives you distance and perspective. In my situation, I did acknowledge that I was pregnant while I worked for that horrible boss, so I certainly didn’t make things any easier for him, since I was much more high strung and emotional than usual. And I’m pretty sure he was given a very lopsided view of the team he was inheriting by the upper management of the department, who thought that everyone was a bunch of slackers (even though just about everyone routinely worked 50-60 hours a week) and that the answer to any problem was to simply work more hours. So I’m sure that factored into the way he felt about and treated everyone, which is understandable. It’s easy to say that you’ll reserve judgement and draw your own conclusions about new people and situations, but how many of us could really, truly do that after being given an earful by your new boss?

      I ended up having to work very closely with that same guy on a big project later, and we actually got along very well. He even gave me an apology of sorts for the way he treated me. The biggest, most valuable lesson I learned from that was that working with someone as a colleague and working with them as a boss can be 2 entirely different experiences.

    3. Revanche*

      Yay new job!

      It took me 2.5 years to really let move away from the toxicity of a place I worked for more than 5 years. Took a lot of conscious effort telling myself to focus on developing a good new baseline for normal and slowly paving that foundation instead of reverting back to coping mechanisms from the toxic workplace.

      I still don’t trust people at the workplace and keep a distance from colleagues because I haven’t shaken that very well-worn mental pathway that colleagues will turn on you. But it’s not the worst thing – I spent many years holding everyone at a distance because I’m at work to work, not make lifelong friends. Today, I can find a compromise between only being totally professional and making friends by being friendly but not involved in each other’s lives outside of work commitments.

      It also really helped meeting people who worked with my horrible boss in the past (like, DECADES before) and shared horror stories with me about working with him back in the day. Even better they were more impressed with my leaving him with my professionalism intact, and that was due in large part to working so hard at making the most of the fresh start.

      You can do this!

  30. CJ*

    I had to take a phone interview call in our garage today because the reception is bad in the house. There were emergency vehicles a couple of condos over, but I didn’t think much of it. While talking to the manager, I heard the most heartbreaking, anguished cries. A man in the condo had died of a heart attack and his family member found out while I was on the phone. Needless to say, the cries made it difficult to concentrate, and the interview could have gone better. Not that a flubbed interview is at all important right now. I feel terrible for the family.

    1. Iro*

      I would not worry too much about being a little off in an interview, especially a phone interview. I’m currently employed at a company who completely surprised me with a phone interview (due to their email going to spam) and at the same time my current boss (who did not know I was job hunting) started IMing me questions. Needless to say I was a little flabbergasted but I made up for it in the in person interview.

    2. Mimmy*

      I cannot imagine having to hear that :(

      I definitely try not to worry about it. They may not have even noticed the noise and you may not have done as poorly as you thought.

    3. Rebecca Too*

      I’m so sorry you had to hear that. It must have been very difficult, and I can imagine it would leave you shaken no matter what you’d been doing.

      And the interview may not have gone as badly as you thought. I mentioned up thread that I was offered a job today. I had to do a phone interview for it and I thought it went terribly. I was in a very remote location, and so were they, and it took us ages to connect, which left me very flustered, and I felt like I never recovered, and spent much of the interview rambling about nothing. I tried to move on very quickly, and started looking for other potential positions almost immediately after (after I’d given myself a few hours to mope), which is good to do either way, but it clearly didn’t go as bad as I thought, and about two weeks later they got in touch to set up a second interview.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      Oh, that is terrible. I’m sorry that happened to you, and also sorry for the man’s family. :(

  31. Gingerbread*

    This is for you project managers out there. I know a variation of this question has been asked many times, but what are your duties at work and what field do you work in? I’m a recent grad with no previous PM experience but am happy to have been able to land a position as PM for a retail design/wholesale company.

    My responsibilities include carrying out email marketing (from creating the graphics to sending the emails to customers), managing the company’s social media pages, running/analyzing sales/operations reports, posting job listings and reviewing resumes, preparing sales agreements, and assisting the VP with budgeting and other accounting work.

    My question is: is it normal for a PM’s duties to vary this much? I truly love my job, but I’m afraid that, since my duties vary so much, I won’t be as good at completing the tasks as someone that just focuses on a few of them.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I am an IT project manager and to me it sounds like your company’s/industry’s definition of a PM is nothing like I think of as a PM which is the PMP (certification)-type definition*.

      What is your project? I ask because it doesn’t sound like you have a project in the sense that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. All this is just to say you should remember this area of potential confusion when looking for jobs in the future – not that there’s anything wrong with your job now.

      My job as a PM is actually quite varied. I’m repsonsble for ensuring a software application is developed. Everyone else on my team might be able to say “that’s not in my job description,” but I can’t because if it needs to be done and there’s no one else to do it I have to do it.

      * Project managers can have the responsibility of the planning, execution and closing of any project. A project manager is the person responsible for accomplishing the stated project objectives. Key project management responsibilities include creating clear and attainable project objectives, building the project requirements, and managing the constraints of the project management triangle, which are cost, time, scope, and quality.

    2. CaliCali*

      I second the fact that this isn’t true “project management.” You manage a number of tasks, but if they’re looking for a PM, they want someone to run a singular effort from start to completion, which includes creating schedule, analyzing and securing resources for completion of the project, holding regular meetings and communicating to your client about project status, performing risk analysis and mitigation measures, etc. I hate that “project manager” is such a broad term when anywhere I’ve worked, it means something a lot more specific.

    3. Gingerbread*

      Thank you both for your responses. It’s so hard to find clear answers on the Internet because, as you mentioned, “project manager” is such a broad term. I’ll have to find a way to bring this up to my manager because I definitely want to have a job title that accurately reflects my responsibilities.

      1. abby*

        I agree with both The IT Manager and CaliCali. I worked as a project manager in two different industries and they were both very different, but definitely project-based and involved managing all things related to the projects. It sounds to me like you are handling ongoing tasks related to the operation of the business, and not necessarily any specific singular effort, and if I had to pick a job title based on your brief description, I would consider “coordinator”.

  32. Iro*

    Am I overly concerned about this 401K plan?

    I recently got all the information about our 401K plan and there are few red flags that have me hesitant to participate in the plan…

    1) The company (healthcare) happens to own the financial institution where are accounts are stored.

    2) “Matching” funds are accrued in the company’s interest bearing accounts for several months before being dispersed to the employee account. So the employee loses the interest. Also accrued matching funds are only dispersed if you are employed on the date of the dispersal.

    3) Employee paycheck withholdings take several BD to appear in the account.

    4) No one can give me a straight answer as to what the vesting period is and what portions (matching, core contribution, etc) it applies to.

    5) We were auto enrolled into the plan, with no way to “opt out” until the financial institute mailed us a pin #, so essentially I was forced to participate for a month.

    6) Additionally, I discovered that I had also been auto-enrolled in an increasing employee contribution plan (which no one had ever mentioned to me). It took me a while, but I *think* I managed to turn this off (website is very confusing).

    All of this has me seriously considering not participating in the plan at all. Has anyone ever had an experience like this with their 401K?

    1. fposte*

      If there’s matching and the funds’ expense ratios aren’t so absurd as to cancel it out, you still want to participate because otherwise you’re leaving free money on the table. I’m skipping links to avoid moderation, but if you Google 401k and ERISA you’ll find some DOL information about what a 401k plan is obliged to do, so you can find it if yours is legally compliant or not. Feel free to ask who is technically the fiduciary–that often creates a rather interesting kerfuffle :-).

      I wouldn’t worry about #3–that’s true of my 457 with T Rowe Price, too, and it’s a great plan. I also wouldn’t worry about #5 or #6, to be honest; I understand it’s personally annoying, but I don’t think it’s the sign of a problem. #4 would bug the crap out of me and I’d push on that.

      1. Alicia*

        I don’t have a 401k because I am in Canada, but we have similar with RRSPs. My employer is allowed to hold the funds for 30 days before they are deposited with the financial institution, even though they’ve been off my paycheque for weeks. It made for an interesting first month when I thought they messed up my retirement deposits. It all showed up, it’s just a month behind.

        I would echo fposte – if the MER isn’t horrendously high, and there is a match, stay in it. If you can’t handle the increased contributions then take it down to the minimum to get the match. It’s one of your benefits and compensation – use it as much to your advantage as you can.

    2. Brett*

      #4 is scary. Vesting periods can have huge variance and might result in you losing a good chunk of deferred income. This is related to the pension vesting issue, and it can have a significant effect on timing of when to change jobs (also can, sadly, affect an employer’s decision to retain an employee who is close to vesting even though this is technically a violation of ERISA).

      1. Judy*

        I’m pretty sure that your core contributions are yours with no vesting at all.

        I’m also pretty sure that any matching or company contributions have to be vested before either (1) 5 years of employment OR (2) 20% at 3 years, 40% at 4 years, 60% at 5 years, 80% at 6 years and 100% at 7 years of employment. It can be vested earlier than that, but it must be vested at that point.

        My current company vests the matching immediately, but the company contributions are vested at 2 years of employment, so I’m pretty sure they can have different criteria for different types of contributions.

        #3: My last company took 3-4 days to get my contributions into the 401k, so it’s not entirely unusual.

        Unless there are very strong extenuating circumstances, put in at least as much as it takes to get the maximum match.

        1. fposte*

          Here’s what DOL says about vesting schedules (in addition to confirming that your own contributions must always be yours to take back if you go):

          “Currently, employers have a choice of two different vesting schedules for employer matching 401(k) contributions, which are shown in Table 2. Your employer may use a schedule in which employees are 100 percent vested in employer contributions after 3 years of service (cliff vesting). Under graduated vesting, an employee must be at least 20 percent vested after 2 years, 40 percent after 3 years, 60 percent after 4 years, 80 percent after 5 years, and 100 percent after 6 years. If your automatic enrollment 401(k) plan requires employer contributions, you vest in those contributions after 2 years. Automatic enrollment 401(k) plans with optional matching contributions follow one of the vesting schedules noted above.”

          1. Judy*

            Cool, glad it’s better than I thought.

            I still think those are the latest dates vesting can happen, and companies can choose to do it earlier.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, I agree–this is the minimum standard, and any company that wants to vest interest and matching out of the gate is free to.

    3. BRR*

      #4 Is the biggest concern to me. If you have a problem with understanding what you’re enrolled in do not hesitate to contact your benefits department or the financial company the fund is run through.

      1. LovingTheSouth*

        This sounds like a pretty typical plan to me — in fact, it sounds better than a lot of them because it has matching. Not all funds match up to the maximum, so you might want to limit your contributions to the same percentage the firm matches. If you do that, you are getting a 100% return on investment without doing anything — assuming of course that you stay long enough for the corporate match to vest. This is the only concern I’d have about your list — when the corporate match vests should be spelled out very clearly on the website or in the financial documents you were given. If it isn’t, then go to the administrator and find out. But I would still take part in the plan no matter the answer — the funds you contribute are always yours and beginning to save early is the key to some day being able to retire.

        1. Judy*

          You would get 100% return if your company matches 1 to 1. Many companies match $.50 per $1 for the first 4% of contributions, for example.

          It’s still almost always best to contribute what it takes to get all of the company’s match and not leave free money on the table.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      #5 and 6 are really just bungled best practices. It is a good idea to have people opt-in by default (although why we can do this with retirement contributions but not with organ donor status like many other countries is beyond me), as many people are realizing too late in life that they haven’t saved enough for retirement, and if they had saved even a small amount when they were young they would have, through the miracle of compound interest, been MUCH better off. So opting in and automatic tiny bumps in the amount contributed are good defaults, but they should explain all of this very transparently and make them easy to change right from the start.

      #4 makes them sound extremely shady, so you may want to (anonymously) talk to the IRS and/or your state’s Attorney General about all of these concerns.

      1. fposte*

        Until I dug further I’d give them the benefit of the doubt on just being opaque and disorganized. I’d do a formal email to HR and mention your concern that answers (or non-conflicting answers) on this important topic aren’t available to employees, and that you’d like this information.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I know, I want to agree…but IME when there are actual crimes being covered up, asking too many questions about questionable practices can be like painting a big bullseye on your back. I’m concerned that if they make too much of a fuss, there may be drastic retaliation.

          1. fposte*

            But there’s no indication that crimes are happening here at all, and it’s not like calling in enforcement isn’t going to get a target painted on your back too. One more email isn’t going to make the difference here.

    5. Iro*

      Thanks for all the advice!

      So no one is concerned about #1? Because honestly #1 and #4 were my biggest concerns. I was at a financial institute prior to this, and even though we owned a big investor firm, we still had our 401ks through a different company so I thought that was standard.

      I wish getting the vestment anwswers were as easy as “talking to my HR rep” but that person has given me SO MUCH misinformation before I was hired. Just a few examples: Told me the 401K match was 4%, it’s only 3% and they only do $.5 for each $1 not dollar for dollar match as I was told; Said my salary request was out of range, it’s not; said that performance was not measured on a forcedbell curve, it is; Said we get bonuses annually base on merit, we do not …… and sadly the list continues.

      1. fposte*

        Not talking, emailing, and requesting a link to the plan documents. It’s possible the plan administrator isn’t in HR; if so, go with the plan administrator. (How long have you been trying to get this, by the way? If it’s “for a year” I’m more concerned than if it’s “since I was hired in December.”)

        I’m not quite sure what you’re saying with #1, because I’m not familiar with healthcare that also owns financial institutions and you probably can’t explain without being more identifying than you want, but if it’s something like “I work for Lincoln and the 401k is through Lincoln as well,” I wouldn’t have a huge issue with it–ERISA requires the money be kept separate. That would be another reason why I’d hit the IRA after I funded the 401k to the match (whether I’d go to taxable or back to the 401k after that would be an “it depends” thing) just to max my institutional diversification, but it wouldn’t be something to convince me to miss the match.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, and the DOL page says, “You should contact the EBSA regional office nearest you if . . . [y]ou are unable to obtain information or documents about your benefits or related to your pension or health plan.” So if there’s a long-term stonewall that may be the place to turn.

          1. Iro*

            Thanks Fposte!

            The situation with #1 is this. Company A owns company B. Company B keeps its own name, however all their financials are tracked on our books. Company B manages all employees from company A’s 401Ks.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              So if Company A tanks, does Company B go down with it?
              How does anyone figure out if the books are getting cooked, because the money from both companies is mixed?
              The set up does not feel transparent.

              But I see a lot of variations on this same idea. There is an appliance retailer near me. If you call for service on something you bought there, you call their repair department which is a separate company.
              Likewise with a car place near me. They sell and rent cars. They operate under two different companies- but use the same staff/buildings to run both companies.

              No answers from me. But I would not feel comfy here, either. I would want to know what is being done to protect my interest/my account.

              1. fposte*

                The money is legally forbidden to be mixed by federal law. Can’t swear that it’s not happening from here, of course, but it’s also not uncommon for closer relationships than the one described–Vanguard employees have a retirement savings plan, including a match, that’s in Vanguard funds, and it looks like Fidelity’s 401k has access to Fidelity funds.

                I agree in theory that it’s not as diversified as you might prefer–though it’s not nearly as bad as company stock–but anybody with a government pension is dealing with the same situation, where the employer and the retirement guarantor are one and the same.

  33. Cristina in England*

    I am applying for a remote position at a university in the US. I live in the UK but am a US citizen with a US bank account. They have suggested that they might have many fewer institutional hurdles to go through if they could pay me in dollars to my US account. Is this a good idea (for me or for them)? Apart from having more complex tax forms to file next April, should I be worried about any of this?

    1. Iro*

      I can understand why the university would want to do this, that way your salary becomes a fixed expenses, versus a variable expense tied currency exchanges.

      On the other hand, if I were you, I would want to get paid in the currency of the country you reside, because otherwise your pay’s purchasing power will seriously fluctuate.

    2. Malissa*

      It’s a great idea for them. The savings on not having to do foreign payroll is a great bonus for them.
      For you it means a better chance at getting the job. It should also mean getting paid at the higher end of the scale because you are saving them money.
      It also means more fluctuation in your income because you will be taking the risk on exchange rates not them and it’s a lot more complicated for you to hedge those risks in the market than it is for the company.

    3. AnotherHRPro*

      You should talk to an accountant. I’m not sure if the currency will make a difference from a tax perspective, but it is always best to get accurate advice.

    4. Colette*

      Who would pay your taxes, and what country are they paying them to? What kind of tax liability will you have if they pay US taxes but you owe UK taxes?

      I’d recommend talking to an accountant who specializes in this kind of thing.

    5. fposte*

      If you were in a situation where you could be mostly supported by partner’s income in the meantime and you planned to retire in the US, there could be considerable advantage–you could whack most of your pay away into 403b/457 accounts so there wouldn’t be much left to have currency risk with.

      But that’s a pretty specialized situation; I agree with the folks suggesting that consulting with an accountant is the way to go.

    6. Cristina in England*

      Thanks very much for the help!
      Yes, good points about dollars meaning a fixed cost for them, Iro & Malissa.
      I hadn’t thought about being able to put the money into retirement accounts like that, thanks fposte!
      I agree, good idea to talk to an accountant, AHRP, Colette, and fposte. If I get the job I will definitely do that.
      Thanks again!

  34. the_scientist*

    An update to my last open thread post!! I received offers from two of the positions I interviewed for and was able to choose the offer that was best for me- a permanent position with a salary that is a 12% increase on my current one, and with significantly better vacation and benefits (i.e. better than the none I had before). This would not have been possible if not for the knowledge I gained through reading AAM and I’m beyond thrilled with such a great start to the new year!!

    1. Rebecca Too*

      That’s fantastic. Congratulations, you must be thrilled, especially for the opportunity to chose between two and pick the best one for you.

  35. april ludgate*

    I work at a college and I’m hiring a student worker (this is my first time hiring anyone and I’m pretty excited about it) and I just received an email from a freshman asking me if I know of any non-work study campus jobs (the position I’m hiring for is for work-study eligible students only, for budgeting reasons) because she’s “desperate” for money to pay for books and school supplies and doesn’t have a car on campus. First off, I’m definitely not the appropriate person to email about this, we do have a campus career center that helps students find jobs on and off campus. Also the campus is in very reasonable walking distance (five-ten minutes) from a dozen shops and restaurants downtown.

    I’m just not sure what level of advice to give her. I’ll probably send a generic “Sorry, we have no non-work study positions at this time.” With the added advice to check out the career center. But I also want to mention that it’s really unprofessional to email anyone about how desperate you are for a job. Since she’s a freshman I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt that she just doesn’t understand those boundaries yet, but I also don’t know how to point that out delicately. Should I even bother?

    1. fposte*

      I wouldn’t–in her position it’ll read more like a reproof than useful advice. Just say that you don’t have any jobs and direct her to the career center; if you know that the shops and restaurants downtown are actually hiring, rather than merely just being proximal, you might mention that thought too.

      1. april ludgate*

        That’s part of what I was worried about, I didn’t want to seem like I was scolding her or something. Thanks for the advice!

    2. Iro*

      Students aren’t employees who need to be professional in their day to day dealings with university staff and faculty, so I really wouldn’t bother. If she heard you had an open position I don’t really see a problem her sending an email. Also the university atmosphere freqeuntly asks the poorest students to be open about their situation. “Seek help”, “tell us your story”, “we can’t help you find grant money if we don’t know your stuggling!” etc.

      1. april ludgate*

        That’s a good point. This is my first non-student position in a university and it’s so different from any other work environment with things like this that it’s taking some getting used to.

      2. TL -*

        Yeah, I agree with that. I went to a fairly pricey liberal arts school and most of the students came from fairly affluent backgrounds, so just saying you were looking for a job/more money from the financial aid office wasn’t actually helpful at all. (They seriously thought we were all being bankrolled by our millionaire parents, sigh.)
        But contacting your department or group that you were involved with and making it clear that you had a good reason – your parents cut you off or you were heavily dependent on financial aid and had unexpected expenses that couldn’t be covered -often would make them look around to find money that could be given.

    3. BRR*

      You could always through in a unfortunately I only deal with the student jobs in my department. The career center will be able to offer advice regarding your situation. Here is the link to their website.

      1. april ludgate*

        That’s more or less what I’m going to say, adding the link to the career site is a good thought since the university’s website is kind of annoying to navigate.

  36. Good_Intentions*

    Auspicious omen?

    On the first business day of 2015, I was invited to a first-round job interview! I have been seeking a new job for the past five months, so this is good news.

    The interview itself was a 25-minute meeting with the HR generalist, who is a very kind and upbeat young woman. Things were going well until she began asking me incredibly specific questions about social media platforms with which I have little to no experience. From there, things became increasingly awkward as she told me that the company is growing quickly but lacks structure and is doing “everything from scratch.”

    As a type A person who really needs structure and enforced guidelines with clear communication to succeed, the “everything from scratch” comment really threw me for a loop and sent off some alarm bells in my head. The HR rep and I finished our meeting with a light discussion about the success of the local sports team and parted ways.

    I reflected on the interview on the drive home and decided that the position is not a good fit for me because of the focus on the minutiae of specific social media and the absence of structure. My boyfriend and I discussed it further and thought the best course of action was for me to professionally remove myself from consideration for the position via an email to the HR rep.

    With all the above info, tell me, dear AAM readers, can I claim today’s job interview as any type of omen for 2015?

    1. StudentA*

      Sure, an omen that you are a desirable enough candidate to be asked for interviews :) Many of us have applied to hundreds of jobs with very little return.

      Seriously, though. I salute you for knowing what you want and don’t want, and for having the forethought to evaluate a job sufficiently, then deciding it’s not the right job for you.

    2. LisaS*

      Maybe consider that you’ve done an excellent job of internalizing Alison’s advice that the interview is also a time for *you* to figure out if the position/fit would be good for you? Seems to me that if you were able to take in everything that’s said here & use it to keep a clear head during the interview, and afterwards to come to a logical decision that you wouldn’t do your best work in this company, you’re way ahead already!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree, you did a great job of sorting through that one while remaining logical.
        I think it’s an “omen” that when you find what you want you will recognize it almost immediately. You have a very clear vision of what is right for you.

  37. Anonyby*

    Okay, I could use some perspective on this…

    So, I’ve been working for Company for five years now. I worked weekend and floating reception at Office A within the company (which also happened to be the company hq) when I started, though after three years they unexpectedly cut the weekend hours from my schedule. I stayed like that for a while, though I was desperately searching for a full time position elsewhere. A year ago Office B asked if I would take over their weekend slot (and continue the floating), and I agreed to it since it was better than floating only. I ended up loving Office B, and my supervisor there knows I’m looking for full time still.

    This week someone from Office A called to ask about my availability since they want to shuffle around positions for the new year. I asked for a few days to consider.

    I’m rather upset and torn at this. Yes, I’m in the process of moving, which puts me physically closer to Office A now, but… I never really felt appreciated at Office A, plus even though I tried to move past it I’m still a bit bitter at how the cut to my hours was handled. I genuinely like my manager and coworkers at Office B more, and the atmosphere there. It’s at a point that I’m strongly considering staying there a while even after I get a full time job, just for the people. And from the way it sounded with the person at Office A… I might not even get as many hours as I had pre-cut if I go back there.

    Either way I’m still working on trying to get a new job elsewhere, but without much luck. In two years I’ve only had two in-person interviews, one of which I feel like I only got because I had a referral. I know my materials aren’t the best… But that’s for another post.

    1. fposte*

      What does “availability” mean in this situation? Can you figure out your breakeven point–how many hours you’d need guaranteed from company A to work there instead of company B?

      (Mostly it sounds like you want to stay with Company B to me. Maybe seeing any dollar difference as being not enough to compensate would help clinch that in your mind.)

      1. Anonyby*

        I’d need full time and a significant raise to go back to Office A… And I’m unlikely to get it. The Company is stingy that way. I was at Office A for four years without a raise or bonus… And while I just received one with Office B, that was more because we were recently purchased by another company that mandated it (and both were low). I was talking to a coworker from Office A who’s been there pretty much since Company was founded, and this was her first raise too!

        1. fposte*

          So either say “I’m interested but would need to get $XXX to make it worth leaving my current situation” and see what happens, or just say “I’m not going to be available.”

          1. Anonyby*

            Thank you! I just couldn’t figure out in my head if it would be okay to say no to them, or if I was being unreasonable.

  38. cuppa*

    I just wanted to thank fposte and Not So New Reader for their advice in last Friday’s open thread — I got back too late to say it there, but you both really helped me reframe things in a way that I haven’t been able to do on my own. I knew that was what I needed to do, but you both helped me get there. Thanks so much!

  39. Elkay*

    I’m starting a new job on Monday. I’m really nervous because I’m not good with new situations. I’ve got all my paperwork straight and in a folder ready to go with me. Has anyone got any good first day tips?

    1. Sarah Nicole*

      I’ve got a few tips!
      1. Try to look as professional as possible, but remain comfortable. You will likely be walking around meeting folks and getting tours, so you don’t want to be fidgety or have trouble moving around in your outfit. Especially important for women who may want to wear heels or dresses that need to be adjusted periodically.
      2. Bring your passport, SS card, or whatever other new hire documents you may need if this paperwork has not already been taken care of.
      3. Eat a good breakfast. You don’t want your stomach growling when you’re meeting others in your office!
      4. Smile smile smile! Just remember to be friendly.
      5. Wake up extra early, drink some water, and get your things straightened and ready to go. Being up for a while in the morning will help you to be alert, reduce your nervousness, and get there on time!
      6. Have fun! You have a new job, you deserved it as you were the best candidate for them, and it’s all very exciting. Enjoy your first day!

      1. fposte*

        These are great! I was also thinking about keeping expectations for yourself reasonable. The first day isn’t about generating a ton of productivity, it’s about the stuff Sarah Nicole says, so if you negotiate all that it was a successful day. (And remember you’ll probably be really tired at the end anyway.)

        1. Sarah Nicole*

          fposte, so true! I think it’s all about orientation and getting a feel for the place. Oh and I forgot to mention that you’ll probably be doing some online or video training of some sort. Depending on what your job is, you may be logging time, watching HR videos, or something else like that. Be prepared to learn typical stuff about your new workplace.

    2. Helen*

      Bring a bottle of water and lunch. My first day at my last job, they didn’t give me a tour and I was too nervous to ask about the water cooler. Then on my lunch break, I wasn’t familiar with the area and couldn’t find any place to get a quick bite, so I spent the whole day starving and thirsty. Not a good start!

      1. Elkay*

        Bottle of water is a good idea, thank you. I decided not to take lunch because I know where I can get lunch locally, I will take snacks though just in case I don’t get out for lunch.

    3. LisaS*

      Bring a small notebook & a couple of pens. I like to write notes as people tell me things, particularly if they involve if:then scenarios or steps, and having to ask for a piece of paper can be awkward. (The extra pen because if you have one, you won’t need it, somewhat like an umbrella on a potentially-rainy day).

    4. Camellia*

      Wear comfortable shoes since they may walk you to and from HR and your work area, give you a tour, etc.

      Pack a snack or two, like energy bars, in case no one thinks to give you a break. You can hit the restroom and scarf one down as needed.

      Take your favorite pen, since you will probably be signing a lot of paperwork, and also take a small notepad. You may want to jot down some info and not have immediate access to office supplies.

      If you are not familiar with the area and don’t know if the company has a cafeteria, scout out and decide where you will have lunch. Being prepared with this lets you relax and not worry about it and just enjoy your much needed break.

      Don’t be afraid to ask questions and listen more than you talk.

      Decide what you will wear and make sure it is ready to go. Do everything you can to avoid last minute changes or surprises while getting ready and getting to work those first few days.

      Take a deep breath and remember that they hired you and want you there! You’ll do just fine!

    5. catsAreCool*

      Take lots of notes. Be nice to everyone. Take it easy on yourself – you probably won’t learn everything the first day :)

  40. Em*

    Hi everyone!
    A quick question, then a little background: when is someone no longer a “recent grad”? 1 year after graduating? Longer? Shorter?

    I’m 4 years out of college, and looking at a management training program that is advertised towards recent grads. I realize I might be pushing the recent grad definition, I just can’t tell if I’m crazy for even considering it. The ad doesn’t define recent grad. I’m probably going to apply regardless, I’m just trying to figure out how much of a long shot this could be :)

    1. Elkay*

      My friend’s company would take people even if they’d been through another company’s grad program. As long as you haven’t got enough experience that you’re qualified for the next level up then you’re probably fine. Of course it depends what you’ve been doing in those four years.

    2. Ruth*

      Hi, I graduated 3 years ago and I would definitely still consider myself a ‘recent grad’ unless something specified how recent they meant (eg. I have seen some positions or internships say they want people who graduated either this year or last etc) but if it just says ‘recent’ I don’t think 4 years is especially pushing it.

      I’m sure different people have different ideas what counts as recent, but in my head if it says ‘recent grad’ it’s something like this:
      graduated 1 or 2 years ago: definitely a recent grad
      graduated 3 or 4 years ago: I’d still consider you a recent grad
      graduated 5 or 6 years ago: I wouldn’t call you totally crazy if you called yourself a recent grad
      graduated 7 or more years ago: You’re really pushing it.

    3. Graciosa*

      I think one or two years out would be recent, but I don’t think you can consider yourself a recent grad after that unless you have no work experience. A couple years out of school, you really should be comfortable in a professional role rather than still adjusting to moving out of a student one.

      That said, you don’t have anything to lose by applying if you think you would otherwise be a good fit for the program. Polish up your resume and write a fantastic cover letter – then follow Alison’s advice and let it go after you submit them. If you hear, great – if not, you’ve moved on.

    4. Joey*

      You’re no longer a recent grad when there are many others who are more recent than you. Short answer-it’s relative.

    5. LisaS*

      Depends on the field, I should think – sometimes “recent grad” is also code for “we’re not going to pay you much.”

  41. Knee brace*

    I hurt my leg and I’m wearing a brace. How can I wear work-appropriate clothes with a knee brace?

    It’s black, about a foot long, and tight. It can be worn over skinny jeans, but nothing thicker or looser. It’s too bulky to wear under pants.

    Any ideas?

    Hard mode: Too cold for skirts.

    1. Karowen*

      Oh, I did this last year! Sprained my knee about 2 days before Christmas, came back to work on crutches and in a brace.

      Best thing I found was skirts with leggings. The leggings are heavy enough to protect from the cold but light enough that you can definitely get the brace on over it.

      Good luck healing!

    2. Sarah in DC*

      Can you wear tights under it to make skirts/dresses more comfortable? You can get sweater tights or fleece lined tights if it is really cold where you are/

    3. fposte*

      Meaning it doesn’t fit under pants or it looks ugly? If the latter, I’d just embrace the ugly. This might also be a time to wear one thing for commuting and then change at work. (I’m also a big fan of long wool skirts with wool tights for winter for situations like this.)

      1. Karowen*

        I can’t speak for OP, but mine flat-out didn’t fit under pants, even super-baggy sweatpants.

          1. Karowen*

            Maybe my pants weren’t baggy enough! (I also may be completely mis-remembering.) :) Because the brace is intended to be easily removable, unlike your typical non-air cast, I think it’s just not designed to go under clothing.

            1. fposte*

              There are also a billion kinds of braces for every joint, so I’m sure there are some huge ones among them.

    4. OhNo*

      Can you wear the brace over leggings or long underwear, but under a skirt? A lot of people where I live combine tights/leggings/long underwear with skirts in winter time to stay warm, so that’s an option.

      There was a fashion some time ago for big, flowy pants that almost looked like skirts. Any chance you can get your hands on a pair or two of those to wear for the duration? They’re so loose I imagine a brace would fit under them really easily.

    5. Gwen*

      Fleece leggings are a gamechanger. I’ve been wearing skirts and dresses all winter without fear, despite the frigid temperatures. If you can get leggings on under the brace, I highly recommend it.

        1. Celeste*

          Nordstrom has them. I bought them for my daughter who walks from the bus. She loves them! My nieces in college are hooked, too.

    6. TL -*

      My legs are always cold, so I do skirts, fleece leggings, and either leg-warmers or knee socks for the road. (I take them off when I get to work.) Plus I have a huge jacket that reaches below my knees.
      You could add long underwear underneath, or do tights under your leggings. The brace might slip a bit over the leggings, so I would probably shed down to tights when you get to work, as it’ll be more likely to catch on the tights and stay in place – make sure they fit well! My leggings are much looser than my tights, so that was part of my problem. And don’t wear tights/leggings that you’ll be sad to get runs in!

  42. OhNo*

    Anyone have any advice on how to go about getting away from working during lunch breaks and such? One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to get better about balancing work and personal time. I do take lunch breaks currently, but I usually eat at my desk, which means that my coworkers frequently stop by and ask me for one or two little things that interrupt my personal time. At least half the time I end up skipping part of my lunch break to do some form of work.

    Eating at your desk is pretty standard where I work, so moving to another area to eat would be weird (plus it always results in me being late to get back to my office, because I have a terrible sense of time). What are some good ways to tell my coworkers, “I’d love to help you with that, but not for twenty more minutes, because I’m on my lunch break right now”?

    1. Karowen*

      When you’re eating at your desk, are you on your computer or are you doing something different than usual? I’ve found that if a co-worker is eating at her desk and on her computer, I assume that she’s working through lunch – but if she’s on her phone or a tablet, or reading or basically anything that allows her to turn even the slightest bit away from the computer, I figure it out and stop harassing her.

      1. OhNo*

        I’m usually on my computer, actually. There are some computer games I like to play, and sometimes I read this blog on my lunch break, too. Maybe shifting those activities over to my tablet instead would help?

        1. Karowen*

          That’s what I would suggest. Even if I can tell it’s non-work related, if the person is on their computer for some reason I assume it’s a 2-minute brain break instead of an actual lunch/break. If you already have a tablet it’d be worth a try, at least!

    2. Graciosa*

      Getting off your computer will help, but you can also add other visual cues – like a cute sign saying out to lunch, back at X:XX, or a clear place for people to leave work or notes for your return. I’ve even seen people put a barrier up across the cubicle opening (rope or chain with hanging sign) although that may look a little more off-putting so I’d try the other ideas first.

      Good luck.

    3. chai tea*

      At least at my office, using the term “lunch break” would probably be frowned upon, but you can accomplish the same thing by saying something like, “I have to grab lunch” or “I have an appointment” or even “I won’t be in the office until 2, but I’ll look at this then.”

      My office has the same culture. Many people buy their lunches, and the time spent going out, waiting in line, buying the food and bringing it back to their desk is effectively a break but doesn’t seem to be perceived as one. I bring my lunch, so I feel that I can go for a 15-minute walk at another point during the day and it makes up the time. But it’s seen as strange to just go for a walk with no purpose, so I don’t mention where I’m going.

      Office culture is so bizarre when you think about it!

    4. Beezus*

      This is one thing I want to work on this year, too. I’m planning to schedule an errand during my lunch hour at least once a week, and bring a book to read. It’s not weird to leave your desk in my office, but the office lunch area is also a high-traffic impromptu meeting/independent work area, and if I’m sitting there with my computer, I’m more likely to be interrupted with work questions by people sitting around me or walking through. People seem less likely to interrupt if I’m doing something clearly not work-related instead.

    5. Jennifer*

      You HAVE to leave your desk if you don’t want to be harassed.

      In my experience, we do tell people that we’re on lunch right now, but whether or not that is respected depends on if there is anyone else to ask or if there’s an emergency. Usually we all just cave in and start working again because everything is an emergency and we’re always shortstaffed.

      1. Rebecca*

        That’s what I tell my coworkers. They’re always complaining that their unpaid lunch break is interrupted, and they end up working or answering the phone. I tell them to get up, walk away, and take the 30 minute break someplace else! You can only be interrupted or put upon if you allow it to happen.

    6. Bea W*

      Most of my co-workers eat at their desks. I long ago reached a point where I didn’t care if I went against the grain. I was finding if I ate at my desk, I didn’t really eat. That’s bad news for someone who needs a ridiculous number of calories just to maintain a stable weight. Lunch is my biggest and usually most complete/balanced meal of the day, mostly because I don’t have to cook it myself or think about it. I go to the cafe and someone hands me a plate with all of the food groups already on it.

    7. Vancouver Reader*

      I don’t know if you’re still reading at this point, but what about eating and working and then going for a walk? Having a walking partner will help as well so you can have the excuse that so-and-so is waiting for you.

  43. Gingerbread*

    How many miles is your commute to work and how long does it take you to get there? I’ve been thinking about moving but this would make my commute to work 45 miles each way.

    1. The IT Manager*

      It’s not the miles; it is the time and quality of commute matters too.

      45 miles on interstate is better and faster than 45 miles of rush hour stop and go, but it might be that 45 miles on interstate is better than 10 miles on rush hour stop and go because of both time and stress.

      My commute is one of my favorite times to listen to podcasts and audiobooks, but its not generally stressful.

      1. no-fire*

        Agreed. My current commute is 10 miles – 25 minutes without traffic, 45 minutes with traffic (most mornings). My previous commute was 20 miles – 30 minutes without traffic, about 45-1 hour without. Even though those commutes sound similar in length of time, it is a *huge* quality of life improvement for me to have the new commute, because I’m not battling rush hour traffic on the highway, I’m taking the regular roads, which takes about as long but is much less stressful.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’m about 5 miles from my office, so can cycle which is great I leave an hour or so before work and have time for a shower and coffee before work. I’ve always lived close to work but have had to get the train to another office about 60 miles away which is 3 hour round trip that was too long for me I’d hate to do It everyday.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      11 miles through main roads (not highways), 25-35 minutes during the bleeding edge of rush hour. (I’ve shifted my work schedule to make my commute easier, plus family reasons.) I though that was pretty good, but my partner’s went from that down to about half that, and they’re much happier.

      I interviewed for a job that would require driving for about 15 minutes then taking a train for about 45, and I figured they’d need to pay me at least $20K more for me to even consider it…but then, I like my current company and co-workers a lot. But that would still have beaten driving for an hour each way.

    4. danr*

      Look at time rather than distance. Are you driving or taking mass transit or a bit of both? 45 miles can be an hour commute in no traffic or an hour and a half or more in rush (ha!) hour traffic. If you are driving are there alternate routes or will you be stuck with everyone else when there is an accident or other problem. If you take mass transit, the same question applies.

    5. Wander*

      Seconding The IT Manager that a 45 mile commute will vary drastically based on traffic and roads. Can you test drive it beforehand? I know that can be difficult, especially if you work a Monday – Friday schedule, but it can be worth it.

      That being said, I moved last year from an 8 mile commute to a 45 mile commute (each way). It took my commute from about 15 minutes to about an hour. It’s mostly been worth it for me; I like this area much better, and long drives don’t bother me. Gas costs obviously go up, and I do need to get oil changes more frequently, but I factored that into moving. The only time when it’s been trouble was during our busy season, when it wasn’t uncommon for me to be working 16 hour shifts. For anything shorter than 12 hours though? It’s been a definite improvement.

    6. CheeryO*

      Mine is 14 miles, about 75% on highways. It takes 15-30 minutes depending on traffic and how many lights I hit.

    7. Gene*

      About 13 miles, mostly freeway, and opposite the normal rush flow. Takes me ~18 to 22 minutes. This is the longest commute I’ve ever had and I probably wouldn’t go much longer.

      As others have said, it’s time, not distance; if I were going 13 miles the other direction, my time would at least double.

    8. periwinkle*

      To echo what others have said, consider the time as well as the miles. I’d take a 45-mile reverse commute over a 10-mile one through horrible traffic. Most of my co-workers live a couple miles closer to the office than I do, but they live to the north and deal with heavy southbound traffic; I live to the south and breeze along with the light northbound flow.

      Keep the time of day in mind as well. I had an 18-mile commute for a while that took 1/2 hour if I left home at 6am but closer to 70 teeth-gnashing minutes if I left at 7am.

    9. INTP*

      Right now – 3 miles each way, about 15 minutes by the time I park and all. It used to be 15-20 miles depending which freeway I took, 30-40 minutes in the morning and 45-60 minutes most evenings. (It was almost all freeway miles. Less than 5 miles off the freeway.) Never again. That made me so miserable. I am a super relaxed, laid back, non-competitive driver and I was honking and flipping people off every day. If the traffic is very light, 45 miles might be more tolerable than 15 in cutthroat traffic though.

    10. Agile Phalanges*

      My old job was 6.6 miles, and Google says the commute is 13 mins, but I was able to make it in 12 on a really good day, and up to 15 or more on a bad day. The drive took me over a hill on a curvy road with a couple of steep sections, so in snowy or icy conditions I’d have to take a longer way, plus that drive would be slower and you might end up behind a plow or whatever. The entire route was 2 lanes with no passing, so you could also just get behind someone going slow even on a nice day.

      My current commute is 14.5 miles, and Google says it takes 21 minutes, but it’s actually 18 on most days. It’s almost entirely 4-lane highway, so I can maintain a consistent speed even if there are slower (or faster) drivers than me. It also clears off quickly after a snowstorm, unlike my prior commute. Hence the much more consistent travel time. So even though it’s a different town than where I live, and former job was in the same town, I prefer my commute now, to be honest.

      1. Agile Phalanges*

        Oh, and I live in a small-town type of area. The town I live in has 80,000-ish people, and the town I work in is around 30,000, I think? People actually comment about the poor saps that have to commute between towns, or ALL the way across town (each about a 20 minute drive) instead of just five minutes. We’re spoiled. :-)

    11. Sail On, Sailor*

      I used to drive 45 miles each way in the suburbs of a major city—never again. One of my requirements when we moved was a shorter commute. Now I drive 17 miles each way, which takes about 20 minutes, and am so much happier!

      1. Aam Admi*

        My commute is 7km one way and takes about 10 minutes. But there is a LRT crossing just before I get to the office building. If I don’t time the drive right, waiting for the trains to pass adds 10 minutes to my daily commute. Next week, my office is moving to the building on the other side of the rail tracks and my commute will be cut by half as I don’t have to cross the train tracks.

    12. Bea W*

      7 miles if I went by car, but the traffic is awful. I take public transit, about 35 min in the AM and 45 min coming home. A 45 mile commute from my house in any direction would suck too much. That’s easily 90 minutes of torture. Some people don’t mind this kind of commute or can at least tolerate it, but driving commutes are really stressful to me. If it was on a train where I could sit back and read or just relax, that I might consider. I also might consider a longer commute if I were renting and could decide to move later. It really depends how you feel about commuting. Some people actually like the “me” time in the car. (I’d rather have more “me” time at home!)

    13. Sophia*

      I’m in a similar experience. I accepted a job that’s an hour and a half train ride from where we currently live (and in another state). It made more sense for me to commute than uproot my whole family since my husband does not have a geographically flexible job

  44. Sabrina*

    Question for folks in IT: How do you get out of help desk work? My husband has done this and hates it. It seems like companies will advertise for a job and after he’s started it morphs into working on the help desk. They say it’s temporary, but it never is. It’s like they see he has experience doing it, is good at it, and they push him towards it, even if he doesn’t want to.

    1. Bea W*

      Internal transfer (I know some people who have escaped that way)? If it’s a large enough company it might be easier to get away than if he works for a smaller company where there can be a lot of cross-over and filling in.

      Has he talked to his manager about wanting to get away from this work? A manager who is willing to move him in other directions will be his best asset.

    2. Joey*

      Be good at something that’s more of a priority. I have a couple of buddies that started at the help desk, but ended up in jobs utilizing harder to find skills.

      1. INTP*

        This. Also working for a very large company where the hiring department will be further removed from the help desk department might help. It’s more complicated to “borrow” a worker when the teams have no interaction with each other.

    3. periwinkle*

      Your husband has to push back! Internal transfer helps, too, if he works for a company with a variety of IT roles/departments. My husband started at his current employer as desktop support, but worked hard on acquiring knowledge and experience for network admin stuff. That positioned him to transfer into the network group, and he’s still there.

      What kinds of positions is your husband accepting that shuffle him back into help desk? It might help to avoid small companies with one-stop IT shops and instead focus on bigger orgs that have separate IT groups for desktop support, infrastructure, DB support, security, etc.

    4. catsAreCool*

      Can he apply for a job that’s more what he wants to do? If he gets a good reputation for working well on help desk, it will probably make it easier for him to transfer – people like to hire people with good track records.

  45. LizB*

    I’m coming to the end of my work’s two-week winter break, and I am absolutely dreading getting back to my regular schedule. I’m trying to do a little bit of work today to get ahead of the chaos I know is coming, and it’s already making me feel overwhelmed. The high-priority stuff is either boring or anxiety-inducing, but I feel bad about doing lower-priority things with so many high-priority tasks looming over my head. Sign #958762 that I’ve put too much on my plate. I can’t wait for this school year to be over.

  46. Bea W*

    Happy to be back to work after about 2 weeks off. There’s only so much puttering around the house I can do in the middle of winter. A lot of people took today off or are working from home. The not so great part is that means it’s just me and the loud awkward guy in our corner of the building today.

    Hoping 2015 is a bit saner.

  47. Daenerys*

    Several years ago, I was convicted of felony drug possession under the very, very draconian drug laws of the state I was living in at the time (during a traffic stop, a cop found two Aderall pills in my purse that I didn’t have a prescription for).

    I ended up pleading guilty and taking probation, fines and community service in exchange for an expungement of my felony conviction after successful completion of my debt to society.

    This was a several year long process — the conviction and sentencing took place while I was still in college, and over the next eight years I moved out of state and got an hourly paid customer service job. I received several promotions and ended up as a manager in my company’s IT department. While I’ve held several job titles over the past eight years (each one corresponding with a promotion), I’ve only worked for one company as an adult in the workforce. The initial job I got there didn’t require a background check, and because I kept moving up as an internal candidate, I never had to go through the process (which was a blessing, as finding employment as a convicted felon is very, very difficult).

    I recently started job searching, and went through a few interviews for a job that I think would be a great fit. At the most recent interview with this company, I was asked to fill out a background check form, and they would move forward with scheduling a final interview if all came back clear with the background check.

    My felony was expunged in July of 2012, and I had thought that meant that I wouldn’t have to worry about it showing on my record. Now, however, it’s been three weeks since I submimtted the background check, and I haven’t heard anything from the company I interviewed at. I’m trying to keep in mind that it’s the holidays, and that background checks take time. But I’m very worried that something has gone wrong, and my record is showing that I’m a convicted felon.

    Does anyone have any knowledge of how long it takes post-expungement for these sorts of things to not show up? I’m beginning to wonder if I should have said something when I submitted the paperwork, but I didn’t want to take myself out of the running if the check had come across without any issues! I was told by my lawyer back in 2012 that I was free to check “no” when asked if I had ever been convicted of a felony, because the expungement eliminates it.

    I’m trying to write an email to the hiring manager to inquire about the status of my background check, but I keep getting hung up on what to say — I’m really hoping that this is just a delay and that I won’t keep encountering this issue as I am very desperate to leave my current job!

    1. BRR*

      You don’t really know what the hold up is. Especially at this time of year it could be people are on vacation. My background check took a week and mine should have been pretty straight forward. I would email Monday afternoon (give them time to check their email in the morning) and ask about an updated timeline moving forward. Don’t assume it’s the background check. While it is impossible to know what is going on over there I would be it was expunged fine.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      3 weeks over the holidays doesn’t seem unreasonable.

      But – I would make sure the form didn’t require you to list felonies that had been expunged. For example, if you’re applying for a government security clearance – you still have to list it.

      1. ac*

        I had the same thought — if you answered in (what could be perceived as) a dishonest matter by not disclosing in response to a question that would require you to disclose, this could be a problem. Hoping it is just a holiday-related delay.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I’m trying to keep in mind that it’s the holidays, and that background checks take time.

      THIS! You should not even be mentally concerned about this until 5 weeks because the week of Christmas and New Year’s are a wash for getting work done at so many companies and then the first full week of January will be playing catch up. Also it sounds like you don’t have the job yet – “final interview after background check” – so you should try to follow Alison’s advice of mentally moving on and forgetting about it.

      I would trust your lawyer on this one. Sometime next week – at the end of the week – make a status inquery without mentioning the background check specifically. “I was wondering if you had an update on the status of the process/”

    4. fposte*

      I wouldn’t email for a couple of weeks, and if I did, I wouldn’t ask explicitly about the background check; I’d just ask about the timeline for moving forward. (I’m presuming the prospective employer isn’t something like law enforcement or the FBI where they’ll be able to see expunged records.)

    5. Daenerys*

      Thanks for the advice everyone! I deleted my draft email and will wait until at least next week to check in about the timeline/next steps with the hiring manager. It’s a private company, not govt (I haven’t applied for any government jobs — I figured that having an arrest record would probably knock me out of the running).

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Not necessarily. You just have to disclose it. There are mitigating factors that can be taken into account :)

      2. some1*

        It might be worth speaking to an attorney about this for piece of mind sake — can employers find out about expunged convictions, will an arrest disqualify you from any jobs, etc.

        1. Graciosa*

          There was an interesting WSJ article about this recently. Unfortunately, many of the services used to perform background checks do not update the records when a conviction is expunged.

          I don’t recall if this was due to variability in the record feeds from each jurisdiction or some other factor, but I believe that the author recommended contacting all the major background check providers separately to ask to have the records updated. An attorney who practices heavily in this area may be better able to help with this, or you could try to find the article. It was within the last few weeks, and the theme was the difficulty of finding a job with even an old or expunged criminal conviction.

          I’m not trying to cause you to worry about this job – it’s probably fine, and I wouldn’t assume otherwise without reason – but you might want to think about following up on this in the future just for your peace of mind. If you already knew this was cleared up with all major background check providers, you wouldn’t be worrying now.

    6. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I’d keep in mind that the past two weeks have included holidays, so that’s probably going to slow things down a bit in terms of getting the background check back and acting on it. I’d wait to send an email until the end of next week.

    7. Future Analyst*

      My background check took much longer than expected, because two of the companies I previously worked for didn’t respond to requests to verify my employment. Naturally, I was furious and quickly addressed it, but you never know what the hold-up is. Good luck!! Also, I work in records, and from what I know (in the specific area where I work), when records are expunged, they’re deleted from the records of the county/state, etc. We cannot even confirm that there was a record that was expunged. So I highly doubt that’s cause for concern.

  48. no-fire*

    Any tips for pushing back when someone higher than you in the hierarchy is just plain wrong about something?

    I recently (less than a month ago) started a new job with major responsibilities in Area A. However, in my interview, my manager and I came to a mutually agreement that I would also be doing a lot of work in digital communications for the organization because they don’t have a dedicated person for that role and that’s my background.

    A lot of the digital communications center around Area B. The director of Area B has a lot of strong feelings about formatting, and a lot of what she wants is just wrong and against digital communications best practices. I’m trying to gently push back against these things, but I’m annoyed because not only are these changes bad, but they’re *my* job and *my* area of expertise, and I feel like that’s not being recognized.

    I’m setting a meeting to talk to my manager about it, but I would appreciate any tips, both on talking to my manager about it and on dealing with the other director. Thanks!

    1. JMW*

      You’ve been there less than a month. I am not sure “pushing” is a good idea at this point. Be prepared to not be able to influence things much until people have had a chance to get to know you and to gain confidence in your abilities. You can certainly speak to your manager to confirm your job description and to ask about the best way to work with the director of Area B, but it may take time for people to come around to your way of thinking, and you would probably be wise not to butt heads with someone higher up who has “strong feelings” about something. You need to win them over with finesse, patience, good ideas, gentle suggestions, and competence. Doing a good job isn’t just about getting the work done, it’s also about working well with others.

    2. Joey*

      You’ve got 1 shot. Tell her you have some concerns and ask if she’d like your feedback. If so, it’s going to resonate more if you can articulate why the better option is better. And it can’t be better because “best practices.” You have to show how those best practices will produce a better outcome. If she still pushes back, lie down and accept that she disagrees with you, but is still the boss.

      1. fposte*

        And specifically a better outcome in *this* situation. I had a great staffer once who really wanted us to follow best practices in areas where it would actually have created a ton of extra work.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Well, unless it was made clear to her that this is supposed to be your area of responsibility, then you’re not going to come across well trying to do this. Can you go back to your hiring manager and ask how you’re supposed to do this part of your job – what the process and chain of command is?

    4. Beezus*

      I agree with the above commenters on being *very* cautious about pushing back when you’re so new, and having a discussion with your manager about how she expects it to work.

      You need to find a non-adversarial approach to this. She’s a manager, so she out-ranks you, and you’re writing about her area, so you’re in her territory. You’re not going to win any head-butting contests, and your manager might not be able to win any either – you really don’t want to put her in that position. I’d find a neutral position to approach from. You mentioned that some of the things you object to are against digital communications best practices – is there a published authority on those that you can agree to reference?

      1. fposte*

        And I would also recommend inquiring if there’s a reason why the org does it the way it does, because often enough there is, and insisting on doing it a different way without knowing that is going to look tone-deaf and uninformed.

    5. no-fire*

      Thanks for the feedback above. Very helpful to hear that I should slow down and not be territorial about this.

      When I say best practices, I’m not just talking about “nice to haves.” I’m talking about pretty basic stuff that makes us look unprofessional and behind the times in our communications (inappropriate, incompatible & inconsistent fonts, double spacing after periods, way too much text, etc). To me, these are things that are just as wrong as a misspelling or grammar error; I feel like I’m doing a disservice not to speak up.

      Does that change the equation to anyone, or is this still a matter of opinion and something I need to take my time on and establish myself before pointing out?

      1. fposte*

        I would inquire, not push. “It looks like we don’t have an in-house style sheet–I’d love to create one based on our past documents, if that would be useful.”

        Remember, this isn’t a ticking bomb here. They’ve been double-spacing after periods for a while (it’s a habit I haven’t managed to break yet, but fortunately stuff gets formatted after it leaves me) and nobody’s died from it; it’s not like it has to get changed tomorrow.

        1. no-fire*

          Thank you sincerely for your patient response. I think I am being a big pigheaded on this issue and need to value the relationship more than Being Right so I’m going to take a deep breath and keep my larger goals in mind.

      2. danr*

        Take your time on it. Get established in your position first. Look at the background. Does your company have a style manual? My old one did and it was developed for the linotype and typewriters. When we moved to computers it took some time for folks to realize that what made sense previously would have to be adjusted. And it was adjusted, slowly.

      3. The IT Manager*

        I know that double spacing after a period is no longer needed, but I don’t even consider that nice to have since it is not noticable to me.

        However I have found that there are people that don’t notice different fonts in the same document much less different font sizes. I do not know how they don’t see them, but they don’t. I find that very distracting myself because my eyes are drawn to it.

        fposte’s style sheet suggestion is great.

        I do think your planned conversation with your manager needs to clarify two things (1) if you are now responsible for digital communications as you discussed in your interview and (2) if Director B knows this. If those are both true engage your manager in help with dealing with Director B. Perhaps a process where Director B provides content and you edit it into appropriate format for release.

      4. Colette*

        I’m concerned about your examples here. You mention “too much text” as a problem, but the amount of text that is reasonable could be different on a site that, for example, sells to businesses instead of trying to catch the public’s eye. Similarly, I doubt anyone has ever made a business decision based on the number of spaces after a period.

        Are the standards you’re promoting appropriate or important for the audience of this particular site?

      5. A traveling Anonymous*

        I agree with other commenters that you’re going to want to be careful if you decide to speak up, or you may want to wait a few months before you bring your revolutionary ideas to the table.

        What is your field and/or what type of communications are you working on? For example, I do a lot of communication of technical work to the public/a general audience and yes, there are best practices like keeping the text short, repeating the “ask,” creating some urgency, removing the jargon, etc. These are best practices because they are effective in meeting the “goal” of getting them to take action: shorter text produces more action from the e-mail reader, removing the jargon keeps them reading the e-mail instead of clicking the X button, repeating the ask makes it clear what action you want them to take, etc.

        In the paragraph above, I’ve explained why shorter text, removing jargon, and repeating the ask produce a better outcome. As another answerer said, you’ll need to justify WHY your best practices will produce a better outcome than what’s already been done. You may also want to couch your language in something like, “You need digital communications to do X thing for Area B, and I’d like to help you get more out of it by doing it this way, which will produce more results.” You don’t want to switch to these best practices for the sake of being modern, you’re trying to do something good for the organization, and to make her work look better.

        That said, I would still wait at least a month before attempting to change a long-ingrained process (no matter how good of a best practice it is), and talk it over with your boss before you talk to the person in area B. Good luck!

  49. louise*

    Performance Reviews – No question, just a whoohoo!

    I was charged with implementing performance reviews this year–never been done before at this company. We were shooting for finishing before the end of the year, but didn’t make it. What we did get done went great, though!

    I helped one supervisor lead his because he’s neither been reviewed nor done a review and had no idea how to handle it. First we role-played, then he reviewed his actual employees. Every employee said they really appreciate that the company is starting to open up communication a little more. I told each employee that our goal in these reviews is to motivate them by pointing out what’s going well and giving concrete suggestions for where to improve/grow. Each employee said it was indeed motivating, even those that had a lot they need to improve!

    I’m glad these are going well so far and love that employees appreciate the one-on-one time with their supervisor. I’ve been trying to explain to supervisors that employees really do want conversations with them but nothing convinces them like seeing it.

    Here’s hoping I’m still just excited about it all when we’re through…

  50. Bea W*

    I’d chalk the wait up to people not being around for the last 2 weeks of the year. The felony conviction should not come up if it has been expunged. I’m not sure if any of the court appearances would still be listed on a CORI (Mine show even though charges were dropped and I was told the report lists all court appearances regardless of outcome.), but that wouldn’t necessarily take you out of the running if you are a strong candidate.

    Not all employment background checks include a criminal record check. It could be a simple verification of work history and education. Hang in there! Many people will not be back in the office until Jan 5.

    1. Daenerys*

      Thank you! I hadn’t even thought about court appearances. I’m assuming those are like the arrest record — no way to get rid of them, but they hopefully don’t disqualify you from employment?

      1. Bea W*

        You’ll be fine! Even if this job doesn’t pan out, it’s probably not going to be on account of the background check. The guy who explained what shows up on those reports was a hiring manager interviewing me. He’d seen enough of them to know a lot of good people do stupid things around that college age time period.

        I actually had an outstanding warrant that was 6 years old. I didn’t know about it (because I was too high to remember being arrested in the first place) until I went to renew my driver’s license literally the day I applied for a job that required a criminal background check. Still came out okay, but boy did I think everything was going to come to a screeching halt right then after 6 years of getting my crap together and working hard to keep it together!

  51. Beezus*

    I have to do my self-assessment today. Argh. I’ve held 2 jobs this year (transferred from one to the other), and had 5 different managers (3 at OldJob, 2 at NewJob). I left OldJob because my workload was impossible and there was constant turmoil. Team turnover, management turnover, and lacking resources made it too unstable an environment to make any progress in, and I’d been there 4 years anyway so I’d pretty much gotten all of the growth out of it that I was going to get.

    Looking through my goals…I didn’t make half of the goals for OldJob this year, not even when you adjust for the number of months I’ve spent at NewJob. The goals were written with the manager I was going to start the year with; she was a very promising young manager who understood the group’s challenges and had plans for making things better, and with those plans in mind, the goals we developed for me were challenging but reachable. But she left in February (for a better job elsewhere), and none of those plans ever took shape, and with that interruption, the goal plan was completely unfeasible. Unfortunately, I never renegotiated those goals with subsequent managers – I was too focused on getting OUT of there.

    The worst part is, my formal assessment/review is going to be a collaboration between my current manager and my last manager from OldJob. I only officially reported to the last manager at OldJob for about 8 weeks. I completely torpedoed my relationship with her during my exit process, I’m embarassed to say. I was overworked and burned out, and she had evidently been taught that yelling at people was the best way to make sure they knew she was In Authority, and it was too much. She didn’t understand the work I was doing, or what the dependencies were to prioritize anything; she added work to my already-impossible workload and refused to take anything off or listen to my suggestions on priorities, so I wound up making unassisted priority decisions regarding what was and wasn’t going to get done. She refused to admit what she didn’t understand or ask for information, and instead made decisions without having the whole picture, snapped at anyone who tried to point her in another direction or explain details she might be missing, and then blamed the people around her and under her when the decisions didn’t work out. In her defense, she is brand new to managing, completely overwhelmed in a new company, and at one point she blurted out to me that absolutely nothing about her job or the company matched what she expected from the interview process, which I understand and can sympathize with, but…the snapping, refusing help, and fingerpointing still continue to this day, so I can’t help.

    I’m kind of at a loss for how to handle this on my self-assessment, though, without sounding bitter. She’s still overwhelmed and angry about it, and it’s convenient to blame me for some of her frustration. She did midyear assessments on the rest of the team, and I heard they were brutal – no kudos or extra credit for any achievements or additional work, every mistake and failing pointed out and docked for. One of the other more experienced team members told me it was the worst score she’d ever gotten, and she has since left the team. I have goals in my goalplan that read, figuratively. “Waters flowerbeds regularly and sees to fertilization and deadheading of flowers as needed – measure, 50% continual plant bloom rate, average of 3 blooms per plant” where, um, the plants all died, because half the time I needed to keep the hose trained on the massive fires that kept trying to burn the house down. I’m really at a loss for how address this goalplan.

    I’m also at a loss for how much and what to tell my new manager about this mess. I got through the interview without saying a word about any of it. I talked to my first manager at NewJob about the situation, a few weeks into the job, in the barest details – he also had a few interactions with her, so he understood. My current manager is an interim manager, and hasn’t interacted with her, and doesn’t really understand HOW BAD things were on my old team. Any managers out there who can explain how they would see this and what the best approach would be to bringing this up?

    1. Mockingjay*

      Orient your self-assessment to focus on the goals, not the personalities. Analyze the issues and provide concrete mitigations. Rather than blame bad manager, look at improvements to make (possibilities!) and provide the solution (action!).

      “2014 was a year of transition – I changed positions and didn’t meet goals X and Y. Going forward in 2015, here’s how I plan to meet those goals and/or restructure them to make them attainable. I have drafted a standard work process for Task A. Implementing this process should result in a 10% improvement in Teapot quality, meeting Goal X. I’d also like your input on the direction our department is going, so I can align [my goals/steps/actions] with them and help make this year a success.”

      1. Beezus*

        Thanks! The goals I didn’t meet were from OldJob, though, so I’m not responsible for them going forward. NewJob is pretty different – it’s the same field, but that’s about it. I can illustrate that I know what my shortcomings were, and how I’ve addressed them, though – my main failings were not asking for help as loudly as I should have (I did ask, multiple times, and felt at the time that I was asking enough, but in hindsight I should have been a LOT more assertive about it), and not making it quite as clear as I should have exactly what I had on my plate and what was not getting done, and how big the backlog was.

        In my new department, everyone is cross-trained on the work, and the staff level is appropriate for the workload, so if I need help, it’s not a big deal to say, “Hey, I had twice as many teapot test failures today as usual, can you help me tackle getting them all logged and looked through?” I can point to a couple of instances where I’ve done that. I am not currently behind on anything.

        In hindsight, it’s shocking to me that my management team overall had so little idea of what anyone’s day-to-day tasks were, what the significance of each task was, what happened if they didn’t get done appropriately, how long any of it took, or whether it was all getting done and done well, or if it was all falling apart. The managerial focus always seemed to be outside the group, rarely internal. My old team is a mess; staffing levels haven’t been right for ages, turnover is a mess, processes are not documented or standardized across roles, and cross-training is virtually nil anymore. Nobody helps anyone because everyone is overloaded with their own work, similar processes aren’t standardized from role to role, training takes time nobody has, and chances are good that the person you trained would be moving on to a new job before you get a payoff on the training time investment, so it was better to duck your head and try to get it all done yourself. I am SO GLAD I left.

        I think I’m also going to touch on what I was doing and when, to paint a picture of HOW disruptive all the transition was. “I didn’t meet goals X and Y, but I spent significant time providing coverage for Role Q in Weeks 4 through 16 due to Apollo’s departure, and I trained new hire Waukeen on Role Q responsibilities from Week 17 through Week 24, and then I needed to dedicate 20 hours of work per week to the team for Massive Project Z from Weeks 24 through 27, and I departed Week 30.”

  52. LUCYVP*

    I seem to have developed a bad habit of interrupting people when they talk. This may have been going on a while, no one has ever mentioned it to me, but I have recently noticed it especially when talking to one of my managers in particular.

    Any ideas on how I can keep this from happening. I notice after the fact, not during.

    1. fposte*

      As a fellow interrupter, I get you. But it’s not good that you’re not noticing at the time–that means you really aren’t listening to what the other person is saying if you haven’t noticed that they’ve not finished. Can you find a way to think before speaking? Can you ask yourself “Is she done?” before you speak (or “what word was the period after there?”–if you don’t know, you weren’t listening)? Or if there are situations where you’re less likely to interrupt, like in a big group meeting, can you think about what makes the difference and whether you can consider one-to-one conversations in the same light? If you do it particularly with one manager, is it because you feel like she’s in a rush and you need to get your point in, or is she maybe interrupty too so you’re just mirroring her and it’s not much of a problem?

      While some people may mention bringing this up to the people you’re talking to and asking them to remind you, I’m not a big fan of making other people police me–that’s my job.

    2. Sarah Nicole*

      Same! OMG I am an interrupter majorly. I figured out how to better listen and stop interrupting: I breathe in and out deeply and make eye contact the whole time, of course nodding or whatever when it’s appropriate. I make a mental checklist of things to address about what they just said so that I can do so when they are finished. Just these couple of steps have helped me so much at work.
      Of course I still interrupt my boyfriend and it bothers the crap out of him, lol. I am trying in that area, too.

    3. Gwen*

      I also will be following this thread for advice! I had no idea I was an interrupter until my roomie told me that a third friend of ours asked “Does it bother you that Gwen always finishes your sentences?” It was a How I Met Your Mother-style glass-shattering moment. I just get excited about the conversation…I’m trying to take care not to do it at work, mostly through trying to listen actively, and make eye contact & nod so I’m actively not to say anything until the other person is done speaking.

    4. JMW*

      I do this too. When I am in a meeting, I usually make a point to have paper and pencil on hand, and I jot 1-2 word notes to myself while the other person is talking so that I can follow up on my point later. In a chatting situation, when I notice I am doing this, I will physically bite my lip or I will hold my hands behind my back (I tend to use hands when talking) in order to remind myself not to talk.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        Making notes of what you want to say is a good trick that works for me. For me it is about capturing the thought. Once I write it down, it is easier for me to listen to everything the other person is saying and then respond when they are finished.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      Thank you for making an effort to get a handle on it – I get really internally frazzled when get interrupted a lot, and I start to shut down mentally in meetings where people are talking over each other. I’m getting stressed just thinking about it – ack.

    6. LUCYVP*

      Thanks everyone for your replies.

      It happens most often in small group meetings – 3-8 people. I think I do a good job of listening and waiting my turn in a 1-1 situation.

      And the manager is happens with the most is also an interrupter and tends to make snap decisions so I think I trained myself to get my point in quickly before she decides anything. We had a new employee about a year ago who was horrified at how meetings can occasionally dissolve into everyone talking over each other. I think this is definitely a work culture thing but I really dont want it to bleed into other aspects of my life or become so ingrained I cant get rid of it.

      I also tend to finish peoples sentences when they aren’t expressing themselves clearly and I think I can be more concise. I’ve been working on this and I think it’s getting better but I have some horribly long winded co-workers who make this a challenge.

      1. TL -*

        Call yourself on it – when you notice yourself interrupting, stop, apologize, and ask them to finish their thoughts. You’ll notice it more, be seen as less rude, and be more encouraged not to do it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It’s tough with a person who makes snap decisions because it’s easy to feel like you have to rush to get to the decision before they do.

        Why? If they have reached the wrong decision then ask a question about that decision or express concern that a particular point was missed.

        One thing that I have done to interrupt less is to remind myself that desperation takes many forms. Some people see interruptions as someone who is desperate to be heard. UGH. I don’t want to be thought of that way.
        Another thing I have done is asked myself “is the person actually saying/asking what I think they are asking or are they asking/saying something else? Have I listened closely enough to know what their real question/statement is?

        I think that it took several tools to slow me down, not just one idea. Part of that is because of the variety of situations that come up. I am less apt to speak up in a group, but my real problem was in one-on-one conversations, where I needed to listen better. Sometimes I react to the person in front of me. If Jane always has an excuse why her work is not done, I might have an answer before she is finished speaking because I have decided that I am tired of her woe-is-me stuff. Interestingly, in situations like that and other situations, I have found that my silence is more effective than my talking, sometimes.

        I think if you break it down a bit, you will find it easier to interrupt less. Never forget, there are rare times where interrupting is acceptable. “NO, boss, you need to know that there is a FIRE over there and that IS the most important thing at this moment. We need to call 911, right now.” Make sure that what you are saying is HIGHLY urgent, then go ahead and interrupt.

    7. Formerly Bee*

      I have a *really* bad habit of interrupting people, just from being around other people that do it. It was normal to do it around them, and then it spread to other conversations… It helps me to focus completely on listening to and understanding everything the other person’s saying, so I’m not thinking about what I want to say next. The whole “active listening” thing.

  53. Kate, Chicago*

    Hi, all, my workplace’s HR director is having all directors interview their senior staff as though they were applying for their jobs again. Makes me a little suspicious as I am over 50. Also, questions like “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Strike me as dubious at best. Perhaps I should consult the runes for insight. That seems as sensible as the questions.

    1. Graciosa*

      Let’s start with the basics.

      Why is the HR Director doing this?

      I would not start with the assumption that there are no legitimate reasons for this type of activity – there are. This can actually be an important and useful part of a talent review, reflecting a helpful focus on employee development, succession planning, or just checking in with employees to see if you understand their career aspirations.

      If you don’t know why they’re doing it, just ask. It’s fine to say, “I was really surprised to be asked to interview for a job I already have. Was this prompted by any particular concerns, or plans to restructure the team?” Then listen to the answer with an open mind.

      It’s very unlikely an entire team of directors is being asked to interview all their senior staff members as a pretext for discriminating against you. Even assuming evil intent, there are much easier ways to get rid of an employee.

      I would prepare for the interview just as you normally would. Think about where you want to be in five years, and decide how to answer the question. I generally recommend honesty, however I had a co-worker who honestly told her manager that in five years she wanted to be retired with very positive results so I may be overly influenced by that. Her manager was perfectly happy to support whatever the co-worker’s plans were – all she was trying to do was figure out how to do that.

      If you really feel your honest answer could be problematic in your environment, think about how you can frame it appropriately. “I want to be working on exciting new projects and developing my skills,” can cover a lot of area.

      You can choose not to mention that your exciting new project involves cross-country travel, and the skills you plan to develop include woodworking, pottery, and macrame.

      I wouldn’t stress over this too much.

    2. Malissa*

      Start practicing and have your answers ready! Make them a little worried that you come off very polished and professional in an interview. Like you’ve done it many times recently. ;)

  54. SevenSixOne*

    I was in the elevator with my company’s president today, and I acted like he was any other person because I didn’t know what the etiquette is in this situation. An effusive OH HELLLOOOOOO MISTER PRESIDENT SO GREAT TO SEE YOU seemed really phony, since there’s zero chance he has any clue who I am.

    Should I have said something like “You’re Firstname President, aren’t you? I recognized you from the company newsletter. I’m SevenSixOne Lastname, I work in the Teapot Department”, or was acting like he was a stranger the right thing to do?

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed. And most of the time, it’s awkward to say something that’s not organic. If you had recognized him immediately and just said, “Good morning, Mr. President!” that would have been better than saying something halfway through the ride.

        I once rode the elevator with an executive at my company who is also an author and critic. He’s somewhat recognizable in the Sunday morning news world. After about two minutes, I said, “Aren’t you X? I just read your new novel, I really liked it.” We had a nice conversation– he couldn’t believe anyone had read it, but the subject was related to my industry– but every other time I ran into him in the elevator, I figured he didn’t recognize me, so I said nothing. Awwwwwwkward.

        1. fposte*

          I think there’s also quick “length of ride” math. If you’re going down from the third floor in a crowded elevator, there’s probably not much time or room for introductions, whereas if you’re the only two people in the elevator and there are twenty-five floors to go, an introduction might fit in nicely.

    1. Gwen*

      Agreed with fposte. It would have been fine to greet him (I’m sure he’s used to it), but there’s nothing wrong with just taking a politely quiet elevator ride.

    2. JMW*

      Or you could say, “Hi. I’m Jane in the Teapot Department. I really enjoy my job here.” It’s always good for you to get your name on people’s radars, but more than that, I think people in positions of responsibility often hear what is going wrong, but rarely hear the positives. It could be your good deed of the day.

    3. Beancounter in Texas*

      Sometimes people in higher positions appreciate folks who treat them like regular ol’ joes and not try to flatter them. Depends on the person! But your suggestion of recognizing him and introducing yourself is a good start too, so for future chance encounters, he will be able to greet you by name too.

    4. Graciosa*

      This depends a bit on your personality and the length of the elevator ride. If you don’t normally chat with strangers in an elevator, it’s fine not to. Nobody expects you to fawn – that can be off-putting even when it’s authentic, and it wouldn’t have been authentic coming from you at that point.

      That said, company presidents in the office can be a bit like politicians in their voting districts – they have experience being approached by strangers as a result of their jobs and usually know how to manage it. My recommendation is to keep it brief, polite and professional while staying alert for cues that Mister President was deep in thought about whether to accept the offer to merge with Cocoa Teapots and really not inclined to chat.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      Oh man, sorry to hijack this, but once I saw my agency’s director in a Costco. I knew him from briefings and he recognized me, and I kept running into him around the stupid Costco so I finally just had to acknowledge him. THere’s really nothing quite as awkward as making small talk to your boss’s boss’s boss with 20 pounds of oats and a decade’s supply of tampons in your cart.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        This reminds me of the time I ran into a very senior executive at the local grocery store. I now know he is lactose intolerant and likes 2-ply. He knows I have a cat and buy way too much cereal. :)

        1. Stephanie*

          The two-ply is probably for when he decides to say “eff it” and eat some Haagen-Dazs. (No, not speaking from experience…)

      2. Graciosa*

        I’m trying to think about what could be better than tampons –

        Lice treatment?

        I’m not sure of the final order, but tampons have to make the top three most embarrassing items to have in your cart meeting a higher up from work. ;-)

      3. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Been there, done that on three straight Sundays. You know what makes it better? When the man has a over month’s worth of diapers in HIS cart that he’s buying for his grandkids.

    6. AnotherHRPro*

      In talking to our last CEO, I learned that he often wished more people would approach him. I think it can actually be lonely at the top. After all, everyone knows them but they don’t know everyone. I think it is fine to causally say hi and acknowledge them. If you are comfortable saying more, great.

      1. Revanche*

        Actually this is an excellent point that a CEO friend shared with me. He said people wouldn’t just say, casually have lunch with him, or really casually anything because he was too far up the chain and they were reluctant/afraid/felt awkward/reticent to.

  55. A. D. Kay*

    I found out a couple of weeks ago that I will require surgery to repair my rotator cuff. It would keep me out of the office for a week, and I would need to wear a sling for about six weeks. At what point in the hiring process would y’all bring up this issue? I passed the phone screens with flying colors and will have onsite interviews sometime next week.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      How urgent is the surgery? I’d mention it during the onsite interview if it will have to be within the next three months or so, but not if it’s the kind of thing you can postpone for a while.

    2. fposte*

      Another vote for offer stage–that’s what Alison traditionally advises for upcoming absences.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’ve seen Alison advise to deal with these sorts of requests / concessions at the offer stage, let them be sold on you as a candidate before you ask for something.

    4. Cupcake*

      I think it may depend upon a lot of factors. Are you a major-league baseball pitcher? Then they may be more interested in that. Will this be covered under your company’s health insurance? Some companies may be concerned about another claim. If it will be covered under your new company’s health insurance? And do they have a pre-existing conditions clause? Can the surgery be postponed another six months or so w/o significant damage to your shoulder and subsequent recovery? If I could put the surgery off for several months, I would not even mention it at the interview or offer phase. If I was covered under a spouse’s insurance, and surgery needed to be performed soon, I would let them know at the offer stage, and advise that I was covered elsewhere for the cost of the surgery.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think they can have pre-existing conditions clauses any more, can they? ACA forbade them. Is there an employer-provided loophole?

    5. A. D. Kay*

      Thanks for your feedback everyone. I’m going to wait until the offer stage. And, no, I’m not a professional baseball player! I do want to get the surgery sooner rather than later, since I’m starting to have trouble with simple things like getting dressed. I’m going to ask about their telecommuting options too. I will be able to use a computer, but I don’t want to drive wearing a sling.

  56. MH*

    Seeking advice from any freelancers or Accounts Payable people! I freelance for a major web outlet and they are in the process of switching over systems from manually processing freelance payment invoices to a computerized system. I’ve been following up with their AP contacts for payments on stories dating back to October and mid November. I know that payments can take up to a month or so but I was told that they were going to finish up 2014 payments by this week. I try to be nice and not pushy but now no one is responding. I don’t know what to do and the amount is a significant one. I even check my banking statements but nothing new has come in. Help!

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      Is the back office closed for the holidays? Maybe they’re extra swamped with a new system and the holidays, or as I suspect, perhaps their cash flow wasn’t as improved by the holidays as hoped and they don’t have the cash on hand to cover your invoices. Keep politely checking by phone, once a day. Offer to send them a copy of the unpaid invoices.

      In my office, if a payment is somehow delayed, a polite and understanding vendor will be paid first, even before the squeaky PITAs. Stonewalling you isn’t a good sign, unless they’re simply out of the office for holidays. January is the busiest time for accounting departments, but if you don’t hear from them at all by the 16th, I’d consider small claims court. If this is the first time you’ve had an issue, perhaps give them the benefit of a doubt. But if it’s not, it could be a sign of a struggling business. Good luck.

      1. MH*

        They are a big site, you can get a personal email account with them. The manager sent a response email with me and the person who was responding to my claim in early December. The second person never responded. I thought that maybe I would wait until mid-next week to respond. I want to still do work for them and have been thinking of writing to my editor about what’s happening but I don’t know if it will make the situation worse.

    2. Hillary*

      Chances are decent that the person who authorizes payments was on vacation last week, this week, or both, and may be caught up in year end close. ACHs and wires also suffer out-of-proportion delays around banking holidays. Beancounter in Texas’s advise is excellent.

  57. Masters Degree Searcher*

    I received an invitation to interview at a place I’m really excited about **but** they keep delaying with the details. I received the invite Wednesday, the in-person interview was supposed to be today but the company closes early for holidays and they asked my availability on Monday, so I transferred today’s leave hours to Monday. I had to wake up 6:45 am today and come to work early to make up the time I ended up not needing to make up at all.

    Why do interviewers take so long to get back to candidates? I feel like I just wasted a colossal amount of time and the whole thing’s really frustrating.

    (Oh, and this came after I had a job offer rescinded after I tried to negotiate salary).

    If there is a heaven and hell and karma wins out, I hope there is some justice. Some day.) *insert cranky, sleep-deprived puppy dog face* X/

  58. justine*

    Hi! I have an interviecoming up, admin position, should i I wear a suit? I had an interview a few weeks ago for a different job and i didn’t wear a suit, just nice slacks and a blouse…didn’t get the job, doubt it was because if my wardrobe, but trying to cover all bases.

    1. some1*

      I’m an admin and I always wear a suit to interviews, even though I never wear them to work. Always best to go more formal than you would dress for the job.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      Do you know how that office environment dresses? The general rule is to dress “up” one level. So if they wear nice pants and shirts, you should wear a suit. If they are in kaki pants and polo shirts you should wear nice pants and a shirt.
      If you don’t know, you may want to drive by their office prior to start or just after close and see what people are wearing. In the end, if in doubt wear a suit.
      Good luck!

  59. Amanda*

    I’ve recently made the decision to put a greater emphasis and focus on a side project of mine. It’s not a business or any other income-generating effort; more of research & writing one. It’s really important to me. It has some crossover with work, but in the work I’ve done on it so far I’ve been very careful and clear that I’m not doing it in my capacity at such-and-such organization.

    I have hundreds and hundreds of hours of vacation and comp time. My boss is strongly urging me to use it, and taking a day or two off every two weeks would do that, at least in a small way, and allow me to focus more on the project. On the other hand, I feel like there’s a serious disconnect between the amount of work on my plate (small nonprofit, critically understaffed), the amount of time I have to put in (50+ hours, closer to 70 some weeks), and the urging to take time off. I’ve tried pointing out that to follow that, some work projects would have to be set aside, and I do think she understands that, but we’re at bare bones and all the work projects are essential services at this point.

    I have a pretty good relationship with my boss and I feel comfortable having the conversation with her, but I’m struggling with finding the line and forcing myself to take the time. Has anyone ever faced a very busy job situation and tried to find time for a side project? It’s not that I just need a few more hours in the day, it’s that I need more focused time in longer chunks, which would necessitate time away from work.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I’m thinking your interest in the side project while relevent to you should not be mentioned in your conversation with your boss.

      Your problem is that you need to take more time off for personal reasons/not burning out/etc, and you are unable to do that because your work demands 50+ hours a week and when you are off it only builds up so that you have to work extra long hours before and after a vacation to stay “caught up.” It seems like this is the “I have A, B, and C on my plate, but I can only do two of the three. What can I turn over to someone else/let slip/do less thoroughly so that I can work less hours a week and start taking time off like you keep telling me I should?” I would mention your idea to start taking one day off every couple of weeks, though.

  60. Beancounter in Texas*

    I think I want to be a data analyst. I love dumping data from QuickBooks (bookkeeper by trade) into Excel and manipulating it. I have a spreadsheet that calculates my savings from a buyer’s club to which I belong and I intend to start one for Sam’s Club this year. I track how many cloth diapers I have, their status in my stash, the material from which they’re made, how much I paid for them and their color. Also, I created a sheet that calculates my diaper laundering costs and compares it to how much I would have spent if I used paper diapers. I LOVE doing this stuff. But I’m clueless as to where to even start as an analyst, as I don’t know much beyond Excel and QuickBooks. Classes may be an option. Suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Hillary*

      Since you already have the math skills as a bookkeeper, I’d focus on statistics and database work. I mostly use visual database tools at work, but having a grounding in SQL helps enormously since I understand what’s behind the universe. The hard part of data analysis is usually getting the right data.

      Advanced excel is more critical than I’d like to admit. Being able to manipulate big data sets and tell the story in them, especially without pivot tables (they suck up too much computing power when you’re working with over 25k lines) is the key skill under most of my data work. My business leaders don’t care about the best fit regression, they care about what it means in dollars.

  61. erin*

    My new coworker doesn’t like me. I didn’t do anything to her I’m new and on my best behavior, she’s just sour…to every one!

    I told my supervisor I’m having difficulty working with her and she told me everyone does, to not take it personally.

    What i didn’t tell my supervisor but did tell my family over the holiday break, is that the woman called me a nazi. My mom flipped out.

    Now i have stress at work from the sour woman and stress from my mom.

    I don’t think i can do anything my cowirker

    1. Colette*

      1. Tell your mom you don’t want to talk about it anymore. This is not her problem, and it’s not in your best interests to keep her involved.
      2. What did you do when she called you a nazi? Did you ask her not to call you that?
      3. She doesn’t like you – so what? There are always going to be people who don’t like you, and life is easier if you accept that. What practical, work- related problems is it causing you? How can you address them?

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I cannot agree with Colette enough. Your mom should not be bothering you (or anyone else) about this– you told her something that went on at work, that’s the end of it. No longer her problem.

        Sometimes people are difficult. Sometimes they’re grumps in general, sometimes two people don’t mesh. It happens. You find a way to be civil, polite, and get the job done.

        The “nazi” thing, though, is troubling– did you tell your manager as well as your mom? Why on earth would this woman call you a “nazi”? What did you say to her?

    2. Katie the Fed*

      There are a couple REALLY hard things to get used to when you’re young and new to the workforce – and I think especially for young women. I struggled with them too (and still to). They’re:

      – Needing people to like you
      – Thinking you can’t be direct or set boundaries

      These are very hard, ingrained behaviors and they take work to modify, but it’ll be worth your effort to get a handle on it now.

      For 1 – You need people to be able to work with you – whether they like you is THEIR problem, not yours. What people think of you is frankly not your concern, as long as you’re conducting yourself professionally and doing a good job. . Focus on problems with working with her, not personalities. Personality conflicts you should let slide.

      For 2 – It’s OK to be direct and set boundaries. I had a problem early in my career with a really skeevy guy in the office saying inappropriate things. I told my boss about it and he said “well, what did you say to him?” and I was like “errrrr???” because the thought of responding never crossed my mind. You don’t have to sit there and take it, and it’s totally ok to say “Please don’t talk to me that way” or “please don’t call me names” or “I don’t appreciate you calling me a nazi and I expect to be treated professionally.” It’s fine! You’re not friends with this lady – you can set healthy boundaries.

      Do it sooner rather than later and make it a habit. It’ll help you a lot in your personal and professional life. It doesn’t have to be hostile at all – just calmly and directly establish what you will and will not tolerate.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        Katie the Fed is exactly right! People at work don’t have to like each other. You just have to be able to work together. And you must, professionally of course, stand up for yourself. I am always amazed when people make a complaint about someone’s behavior/comment and they have never said anything to the individual in question. If someone calls you a name, you need to tell them that it is not acceptable. Remember that you get to have a say in how you are treated.

    3. danr*

      If she calls you a ‘nazi’ or any other derogatory term, let your supervisor know. The result may be that she won’t talk to you at all, but that would be an improvement. Also, don’t take her sourness personally, since she’s that way to everyone.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Why go to the supervisor without saying something directly first? You don’t need to report every little thing to the supervisor – you can say “please don’t call me that again.”

    4. INTP*

      Besides the excellent advice on setting boundaries above, remember that it doesn’t really matter whether she likes you. All you need for her to do is to do the work needed to complete your own work and not poison others’ opinions against you. It sounds like she hates everyone, so she isn’t out to get YOU, and I’m assuming she’s doing her job as needed. I get that it’s unpleasant and stressful to deal with someone who openly dislikes you, but her feelings won’t hurt you in any actual tangible way, so it’s not something you need to worry about if you can learn to let go of the general feelings of rejection. Also remember that you’ve probably worked with people you disliked and it was through no fault of their own – work brings together people that otherwise wouldn’t choose to spend time together and not everyone is going to like each other. Dislike happens. I know I’ve worked with people I absolutely abhorred as human beings. It’s unprofessional for this lady to show her dislike on the surface, and it is crappy of management to allow her to continue to hurt morale, but someone disliking someone else is NOT a big deal.

    5. soitgoes*

      When I started my current job, I dealt with a very mild version of what you’re talking about. I have a coworker who has a very sharp personality and who lets her “personal time” issues affect her moods in the office. We’re civil, but I’m always worried that she’ll hear one of my goofy off-hand comments and hold it against me forever.

      These thoughts are common among people who’ve had lots of lousy low-level jobs, where your employment really does depend on being liked by your coworkers. It’s hard to get out of that headspace once you’re not working there anymore.

      1. erin*

        Thank you for the advice! I accidentally submitted my post before i was finished and what i was really looking for was help with my mom because i know the coworker is a lost cause, but she called me a nazi when i suggested my company save money by switching to a less expensive copy paper. The way i responded to her was stern. I asked her if she was trying to say I’m cost conscious. She looked surprised i questioned her but said “yeah” and walked away.

        I’m told there have been people brought in to help deal with the tension she causes but didn’t help.

        In my opinion she doesn’t do a good job because she treats clients the same way.

        Anyway, my biggest fear is that my mother will show up on Monday and I can’t even fathom what she might say. Should i just tell my mom they fired her?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Why would your mother come to your workplace? I’m guessing this is retail? Your mother even thinking about showing up at your workplace and saying anything to any of your co-workers beyond “Hello” is so, so, so out of line. Please tell your mother that you will handle it, in no uncertain terms. If your mother comes in and confronts your co-worker, you will most likely be fired, so this is Not Good.

          1. erin*

            I don’t know what my mother might do, but I imagine it would include a lecture and a song and maybe some soup. She’s not a violent or aggressive person, she’s just truly disappointed that this word is used to insult people, especially her daughter. I could also see her bringing photo albums.

            And it’s not retail. I loved working retail – always had great well-trained managers and I loved helping people – if mom shows up with coffee cake Monday I’ll be applying to the Gap. :)

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              This is not your mother’s place. Not at all. You have to fight your own battles and she has to let you do that. I get that she wants to fight for her child, but her child is old enough to work and therefore old enough to handle her own business.

            2. fposte*

              Okay, your mom shouldn’t come in to your workplace, but I kind of want to see the video of her coming in with a lecture and a song and some soup and photo albums. I certainly want to see that more than The Interview.

              Setting aside that, though, I think you’re going to want to start to work on putting space between your mother and your work life. If you know she’ll turn up to fight your battles or soup your battles, you may just need to keep quiet about your workplace rough spots to her for your own protection.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Oh, at this point I would just laugh at her. “Did you really just call me a Nazi for wanting to save money?” I mean, come on. Nazis didn’t cut costs at all.

          Your mom is a whole other kettle of fish. Make a New Year’s resolution to only tell her how great everything is going at work if she can’t respect your boundaries.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, that’s asking for a “Do you know who the Nazis even were?” question. This isn’t worth taking to a supervisor; it’s a a sourpuss prioritizing being sour over being coherent.

    6. Judith*

      Erin, It was terrible of that woman to call you that. I’m not sure what you can do about your mom, I actually understand her feelings and if someone called my son a nazi I’d want them fired. Keep a log of these types of interactions with this woman, I have a feeling if she said this she’ll say more inappropriate things and maybe one day you’ll get a manager who isn’t an ass.

    7. TL -*

      For the co-worker- see if you can find the humor in it. I have a co-worker who dislikes me for no reason that I can fathom; I talk to him for maybe five minutes total a month but man does he loathe me. I find it (and him) endlessly amusing. I generally try to avoid his company but if he’s in a group I need to talk to, I like to see how many sentences I have to say before he leaves.

  62. Dew E. Decimal*

    Library question! And apologies if this is not quite right for the open thread (Alison, feel free to delete). I work in a small special library. There are only a small handful of staff, all women on the younger side. We have one regular client who is increasingly giving me bad vibes. It’s partly his personality, but it’s also that he’s a “needier” client and it’s almost always of a “here’s this thing I need help with where I need you to come over to this computer and help me” variety – nothing overtly offside but somehow always needing to be in closer contact. I’m getting so squicked out with having to help him, but I can’t find a graceful way not to. There’s no one to hand off this to, and when you’re on the reference desk, it’s very rare that you can defer out of helping someone because there’s a meeting or some such. Any suggestions for how to deal with those a Bad Vibes clients in libraries?

    1. fposte*

      Does your library have a policy for problem patrons? If so, follow it (including seeing whether he qualifies); if not, identify what behaviors make him a problem and what you will and won’t do. (Like, how many times will you be able to leave the desk to help him? You can certainly put a limit on that.) Needy patrons aren’t uncommon, and they come in all genders and ages, so it’s not a bad idea to have some ideas of what limits you’d like to enforce when you hit one.

    2. Lizzie*

      I would add that you should speak to some of your colleagues and find out if they have similar problems with this patron, and if so, how they handle the situation. Try to come up with some solutions (in line with your policies if there are any) together that you can all agree to stick to so that there is a united sense of “this is where the line is.” Depending on your relationship with your supervisor, you might bring this up with him/her at this time as well to see what suggestions s/he has.

      1. Dew E. Decimal*

        We certainly do have a code of conduct, so I’m going to give that a re-read and see how this guy’s behaviour lines up with that. My coworkers and I are all stumped – I’ve started finding a way to not physically go over and help him (for example, after several days of asking someone to go over to a computer and show him how to log into his email, I just wrote out the URL for him and told him to go to that address). His behaviour isn’t so much obviously wrong, but more like I am uncomfortable with the amount of close contact he seems to require. My supervisor is a man so I feel a bit awkward about the gender differences and what that says about who’s in charge of things, but talking more with him about strategy is probably a good next step. Thanks Lizzie and fposte.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      What I would recommend is 1) talk to others and see if anyone’s on the same page as you, re: this guy being creepy and 2) whether or not they are, go to your manager and tell him you (or y’all) are not comfortable with this guy and you’d like to have some backup in drawing the line. Maybe something like, “This guy is often asking me to step away from the desk for extended periods of time, and seems to seek out opportunities to be in close physical proximity. It makes me very uncomfortable. Would it be all right if I tell him that we’re not supposed to leave the desk?” (Or “not supposed to leave the desk for more than a moment” or “can’t assist him for more than a few minutes at a time” or whatever works in your particular situation.) And then, if the patron objects, you can just kind of shrug and be like, “Rules are rules” instead of trying to explain yourself.

      This would’ve worked fine when I worked at a public library, but then, I was fortunate to have managers who understood that it was part of their job to make sure we felt safe and comfortable. Actually, when I started, we had one patron who was quite friendly but not unpleasant to assist. I was told used to be creepily flirty (up to lightly touching the hands of the circ clerks) and one of the managers actually spoke to him about it and told him if he didn’t stop with the flirting/touching, he wouldn’t be allowed in the library any more.

    4. JMW*

      This is such a difficult one because you are paid to help and he is asking for help. And he knows it.

      One strategy you might try which I have found helpful is just to delay helping: “I”m in the middle of some research for someone else, but I can help you in 10 minutes.” This person wants attention (probably lonely) and the more you feed his need the more he will come to you for it. If he has to wait, it is less gratifying and he might ask less.

      1. Dew E. Decimal*

        I really like that suggestion – thank you! It’s absolutely the case that we’re there to help and he knows it – he’s in all the time and of course sees us helping plenty of people.

  63. IT Kat*

    I’ve had a situation happen that I’m not sure how to deal with at work…. basically, I work IT (system administrator) for a consulting company. When I was hired, I was told that the job would be for in-house IT, but there would be occasional client work, which I clarified to mean it would be short-term, and 90% of the time I could work from the office by using a VPN to access a client’s network. I accepted, explaining I was not interested in being assigned off-site for more than a short time, because this was nearly the perfect, dream job for