open thread – January 23, 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 :)

{ 1,426 comments… read them below }

  1. The IT Manager*

    A question for the crowd regarding degrees (bachelors) for IT workers – which IT careers need degrees and which do not?

    Based on some comments from Computer Guy Eli and another commenter this last month, I’ve been thinking about this. Nearly 20 years ago, I graduated from high school, went to college and earned a BS in computer science, and joined the Air Force as an officer where I managed and led people who did IT/communications work for most of my AF jobs. Another path never occurred to me and mine was not entirely straight since I entered college planning to minor in computer science with an engineering major and then let the military pick my jobs. Eighteen years of government IT experience later, I think that many IT jobs don’t require a degree and degrees simply don’t prep for many IT jobs, but I am removed from hiring and working with young programmers so maybe my information is old and outdated. (The coders I work lately with write in MUMPS or M.)

    My computer science degree was heavily focused on programming and math. Comp sci required Calc I, II, and II, and linear algebra. The classes were mostly all programming including Assembler, Pascal (comp sci 101), C and COBOL (in its last few years of being taught) but no FORTRAN – none of the FORTRAN classes offered for the engineers at the university counted towards comp sci credit. I took one class on networking taught by someone who was not a professor, but rather the person who ran the university’s network. I graduated prepared to be a programmer only. The education didn’t prep me for other type IT jobs; although, many classmates played around and taught themselves that stuff on their own. Of course now there are Information Technology degrees which I think focus more networking and security and less on programming. I wonder low much things have changed since I graduated.

    I still don’t think network admin is really taught in college; although, some IT degrees probably touch on it a bit for a class or two, but I don’t think enough to make a person marketable to be hired. I think people wanting to be network admins have to teach themselves enough to get an entry level job and then work their way up. I also think many people aspiring to be high-level programmers just need to teach themselves the programming language through playing around or a few specific classes and then hand-on experience. I suspect a computer science degree is still relevant for the lower level programming languages, math-heavy data analytics work, and research. But I wonder, am I off base here?

    TL;DR: How relevant in a bachelors degree for people hoping to be hired in IT? Can self-taught hobbyist still get in the door as entry-level network admins and programmers?

    1. Scott*

      I agree with you completely about experience substituting for computer science degrees, but, unfortunately, most companies have H.R. Departments that screen out applicants who don’t have degrees so going that route has to be nontraditional.

      I have a degree in a different field, but what has gotten me I.T. jobs is attending user groups and contributing to the Open Source community. People have seen my work there and usually they come to me to talk about work vs. me having to seek it out so I’ve been lucky in that regard. However, most of this work is going to be in web technologies whereas most established companies still use more traditional back-end systems but those are the companies that require degrees. Go figure.

      1. Nashira*

        Thank you for mentioning user groups! There’s a coders/developers group, a Python-specific group, and a hackerspace near me. I’m still working on getting my comp info systems degree, but had been thinking of attending some group meetings/having an excuse to join the hackerspace and Build Stuff, in order to start networking now. And also to be able to play with CNC machines and build stuff.

        I’m glad to hear similar groups been helpful for you! Once I’m a more skilled programmer, I’m borrowinf your other idea and will start looking into OpenSource stuff I can help with. Do you have any suggestions for what to look for, or where, if I’d like to help?

        Thank you for your time and the advice already shared!

        1. Nashira*

          Oh my word typos. Can I blame them on recovering from the flu just this once? I promise I stayed home til I stopped being infectious, like a good teamplayer would.

        2. Scott*

          Re Open Source, it really depends on what you’re into. There are *a lot* of open source programs.

          1. Nashira*

            Understood, I didn’t phrase that well. I shouldn’t go out in public with flubrain!

            Most of what I am familiar with are the big projects like Linux distros, LibreOffice, GIMP… But where I’d feel comfortable pitching in, at this point, would be smaller projects. This is probably a self-confidence issue more than anything… I’m just not entirely sure where to find those smaller groups, and was hoping there’s maybe a secret gathering spot. A person can dream, right?

            I’ll hit the Google machine and dig around. I’m mostly interested in using games, graphics programs, and other fun things, but there’s a broader sweep of things that I’d like to help develop, if that makes sense. The husband and I are building a Python-based “weathervane” off an odroid, for instance, with a screen to print weather info and an alarm for certain alerts from NOAA, and a link to an outdoor temperature sensor. It’s been interesting, and has demonstrated to me that my developing interests and usage patterns can be two separate things. Pretty much made me realize I’m more flexible than I thought.

    2. IT Kat*

      In my experience (as a self-taught IT hobbiest who eventually became full time IT), you need ether a degree or job experience. In my case I didn’t have relevant experience so I got an IT degree to get my foot in the door; it didn’t really give me any skills that I use on a daily basis, but it proved to employers I at least knew what an RJ45 cable was. On the other hand, most places hiring for IT jobs usually have “Bachelor’s degree or relevant experience” with the key being ‘relevant’, and I have a friend with zero college degrees but 10 years worth of networking jobs on his resume and a host of certifications, and who regularily gets contacted by recruiters and headhunter a and has no problems getting interviews. Just my 2 cents.

    3. AnonAcademic*

      My husband didn’t finish college and has an associate’s degree in computer science. He has managed to rise to the junior executive level based on his work history alone. He is just now working on getting certifications, mainly so that he can argue for a higher starting salary in his next position.

      He is an autodidact who was raised on computers (commodore 64 era) so this path worked for him. He does complain about graduates of 1-2 year technical programs in IT, that they don’t understand the fundamentals of the field because their training is so task oriented, and he values the computer science training he did get during his 3 years of school.

    4. Sally*

      Most companies who hire entry level programmers are just looking for some kind of “proof” of ability. A degree is one way to show this, but since programming is a rare occupation where it’s possible to see someone’s work product before hiring them (from contributing to open source, putting personal projects on github, etc), many employers don’t much care about your degree if you can code. And more and more people are learning through short programming courses (like The Iron Yard: and getting great jobs with no degree at all. And with the slow pace of change in academic curriculum, people who did get a CS degree often lack most of the relevant skills to the current work force.

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      When I got my degree, the Comp Sci BS degree like you got was all that was offered. Almost every job I see offered now requires a bachelors, although a few (non-programming) will indicate an associates or experience is enough. Often my co-workers have a masters, although I don’t generally see that as required in the job listings (yet). If you’re doing programming or database work, the degree is almost universally required.

      I’ve worked with a few self-taught people, and one of the advantages to the schooling is getting a common foundation and knowledge of some common basics. Wild ideas can be good for innovation, but they are also often very hard to maintain and overlook some well known solutions. I’ve heard of companies that have been burned by having such cryptic code that no-one else can figure it out: they now require everyone to have a degree. So it’s not just HR putting up road-blocks and making people check a box.

    6. Recent Grad*

      My brother has some experience with this: He’s worked in software development at a Very Big Company for about six years ago. He was hired as an intern while attending community college based on his self-taught skills and, long story short, dropped out of school and was hired full time. Eventually the lack of degree became a bigger and bigger deal for HR.

    7. EmilyG*

      My impression is that getting hired in IT without a degree is to some extent an artifact of the fact that CS was available as a major only relatively recently. My father worked in IT before retiring and I don’t think his school offered it; he studied econ. If college grads don’t have *relevant* education, there’s less of a reason to insist on a college degree in the first place. Still, this seems kind of silly when, as you say, computer science is rarely applicable to everyday issues, and I don’t see many people with degrees in computer engineering or networking or things along those lines. Just because you can get a degree in CS at most college these days doesn’t mean you know how to do anything.

    8. Aspiring IT Student*

      I’m really interested in the responses to this as I’m about to start the bachelor’s in IT degree program (networking emphasis) through WGU. I have some experience doing extremely basic tech support, but there are few local entry-level openings and tons of new CS grads coming out of the university and community college each year. My local community college offers an AA degree with a networking focus, but the CS degree through the university doesn’t even require a networking class to graduate. I think they might have one networking elective, if I remember correctly. That’s why I chose WGU over my brick-and-mortar options.

      I know I could work my butt off and get some certifications and try to move into the field, but I’m getting the bachelors now because I think it will pay off in the future. The job openings I’ve seen for networking almost always mention a bachelor’s as a requirement, or 2 – 4 years of experience in lieu of it. I don’t want to get 5 years in to this new career and find I need a degree to move up or move on to a better opportunity.

    9. CreationEdge*

      A BS isn’t needed for a coder or networking admit position. However, in my experience at least an AS in a relevant field is. This is for people newly entering the IT field.

      My community college had 2 IT degrees: networking and tech support, and programming. Getting an IT job in that area without one of those wasn’t likely.

      The networking program used CISCO material that supposedly prepared you for the CCNA cert. (Although, I feel as if it were only enough for the ICND1). So there are programs out there to prep you as a network administrator.

      My current University has a Software Engineering program, but they say that most graduates from that program don’t go on to code. They said most coders just start with a 2 year degree.

      Anyway, I don’t think hobbyists can get in the field without some proof that they’re experienced. Coders can have portfolios, but network admits can’t really do anything but get some certs. A Bachelor’s isn’t required, except as some companies dictate, but an Associate’s is. Just like most want an Associate’s as a minimum these days anyway.

    10. Goldie*

      I work in IT and have a degree, and have a son who works in IT, who didn’t want a degree, but I teamed up with a few of his teachers and convinced him to get one. I think these days, it is impossible to get your foot in the door without one, because you’re competing, not only with college grads who went to school in your country and have the advantage of having a network of former classmates, colleagues from the internships they’d had while in college etc, but also with people from all around the world who all also have college degrees. My son is very very good at what he does, and started programming when he was ten years old. He thought he didn’t need a degree in what he already knew how to do. But I honestly think he’d have never gotten hired if he didn’t have one. Also, he’ll never admit it, but I think he learned quite a bit in college at his CS classes, lab projects, ACM meetings (he was required to join up in order to maintain one of his scholarships) etc. While it is true that most IT jobs require “a CS degree or relevant experience”, it’s super hard for a new high school grad to obtain this relevant experience. I know quite a few people who got a programming job straight out of high school in the 80s and still have one now. But I’m not sure that this is still possible today.

    11. Anna*

      My husband doesn’t have a degree but has many industry certifications. He started as first line support at an ISP and progressed to 3rd line support (networking) before taking his Cisco certifications (CCNP, currently working toward CCIE) and then various other Linux certifications. He hasn’t found his lack of degree to be a hindrance, but has said that his industry certs has opened more doors than his experience alone would have.

      He moved from networking into sys admin work and now works with Linux mostly and has self taught PHP/Pearl/ Python as it helps in his role. He has said that experience is the most valued commodity in the UK but since we moved to Canada recently (Toronto) certifications are valued more but most of the time it’s a tick box for recruiters.

    12. INTP*

      In my experience as an IT and software recruiter, degrees were very important for developers and coders, less so for IT support and admin. Entry level candidates really needed a degree either way – IT jobs mostly required experience, but in lieu of that, only a degree would work, never just a certificate or self taught knowledge. I think there was a time long ago when programming skills were rare enough that you could teach yourself and get a job but I don’t really see anyone getting into the industry that way anymore. Developers who did that are still getting jobs with their experience but are also missing out on some companies that require degrees for “cultural fit” reasons (more so than other kinds of IT workers).

    13. Laurie*

      In this time within IT, the degree that I highly recommend is Information Security. If you see all of the areas that are high demand and will continue to be such is Information Security. I wished I had my CISSP, which is a great certification to have as well. Too many cyber attacks on businesses and governments, they need highly trained IT professionals to minimize the attacks or even prevent them.

      1. Nashira*

        I’m really interested into moving into info security, but most of what I’ve read recommends a basic programming-centric type bachelors degree, a couple years experience in IT, and one of the entry level certs like Security+, rather than a purpose-built info sec degree. Mostly to give you a better grounding in computing as a field, before launching you into the specialization… and because academia isn’t the best always at teaching good habits. (Looking at you, ‘using namespace std’ in C++. std::cout is such better style!)

        My current plan is to stick in my current non-IT position until I’m closer to done with my major/as long as my mental health will stand it, since my employer offers no-string tuition reimbursement, and work on networking to meet the infosec professionals around where I am. Then hopefully land myself a job that’ll provide the two years’ experience that the Security+ requirements ‘suggest’ one have.

        Unless someone already in the field has suggestions? I would very much like to hear if you do, please and thanks!

        1. The IT Manager*

          20 years ago there were no Info Security classes much less degrees. Now it is huge, but I agree that Info Security training is not worthwhile without the background in the basics. I think Info Security is basically network defense so you need to understand how the network works in order to know how to defend it.

          FYI: I have the background education; although, little hand-on experience. I found the Network+ and Security+ certifications fairly easy to pass with a little test prep. But that also makes me question the validity of those certs for proving someone is qualified.

          I think your curent plan is a good one.

          1. Nashira*

            My younger brother just did Network+ and had mentioned it was very easy. I thought perhaps that was because our dad was a sysadmin and fond of hands-on learning, but… hmm. I’m glad to hear they’re relatively easy, just to be able to mark off the ticky boxes, but it definitely reinforces the notion that one keeps working towards better certs in the early part of one’s career.

            Thank you for the feedback!

            1. The IT Manager*

              The problem with being vendor agnostic is that these tests have to focus on theory rather than implementation in order to remain agnostic since implementing the theory must be done on a vendor’s equipment. On the other hand, I think these tests are most like those you’d encounter in university.

              There are definately harder certs, but I think these may good a place to start as long as you back it up with other experience and education.

              1. Nashira*

                In terms of long term planning, I do have my eye on something more substantial, like the certified ethical hacker cert, or whatever similar level things are desired in a few years’ time. There’s a lot of background info I need to pick up, as well as experience to gain playing tiger team against my husband with the home network, or via Hack This Site.

                This reminds me that we need to buy a router of our own so I can hack the home network. I don’t think it would be good if I bricked the ISP’s router. Ahem.

          2. CreationEdge*

            My AAS required an info security class. The book was geared towards passing Security+ certification. However, it didn’t seem particularly difficult. I didn’t have to learn exactly how to prevent counter certain attacks. It was mostly learning some best practices and what kinds of common security risks there are. I was tempted to get A+ certification, but the exam question examples seemed too easy, also, so I questioned if it were worth my money.

            I’ve never seen a CompTIA cert on a job listing, but I have heard people say they help negotiate a higher salary if you’re already offered the job. I don’t know if that’s still true, as those who told me hadn’t been in the IT field anymore for quite some time.

            I’m very interested in Information Security/Assurance, but I haven’t heard of a program specifically for that outside of a Master’s program at my college. Unfortunately, there’s no way I can afford that.

    14. Ann Furthermore*

      I do IT work, in the field of ERP implementations. I work on the functional part, meaning figuring out how to set up and configure the systems and use them from the front end.

      Depending on what type of ERP work you do, a degree may or may not be necessary. I have a BS in Accounting, and most of the work I do is for financial applications. In my case, because my users are mostly accountants, being able to demonstrate that I know the difference between a debit and a credit buys me credibility with them.

      On the other hand, a former colleague worked with the applications used for inventory, and in the warehouse. He started is career as the lowest guy on the totem pole on the production floor at a manufacturing facility, worked his way up, and then moved into an IT function. For him, having a degree didn’t really matter one way or another. What was important was being able to provide guidance about how to use the ERP system most effectively for things like Receiving and Inventory Control.

      1. Aardvark*

        You bring up a good point about field-relevant skills counting for a lot for some IT areas. I’m a DBA and border on an analyst role. My graduate degree and prior experience is relevant to what we do as a company and I’m mostly self-taught and have taken courses here and there on the IT side of things. The business knowledge counts for a LOT.

        I don’t think my role is unique, in that some of the more data- and business-oriented roles may require or strongly benefit from degrees even though other roles do not. However, these degrees might not be in IT/CS.

    15. Student*

      Well, there is an entire job field you seem to be omitting that overlaps with network admin and programmer. It’s called a system administrator. That is what my husband does.

      I think we all know that “IT” covers a smorgasbord of very different occupations now. Colleges are very much behind the curve ball on all things IT. Your best bet at the college level for IT is still to get a comp sci degree and play around with the sub-field you care about. That’s often still true even if your college markets other degrees that appear better-suited, like telecommunications (covers some IT things, tends to be overly vocational), video game design (programs are usually crap, and video game places know it), etc. The computer science classes at least teach some solid skill set and critical thinking about computers, whereas the newer stuff tends to be heavy on pandering, vocational training, unqualified professors in poorly thought-out programs, and unpaid internships.

      On your question, no, you can’t get hired as a young person in IT without any college degree at all. Your resume will not make it to a hiring manager. There are plenty of people ahead of you who completed some form of college, and loads of foreigners who will work more cheaply than you can. If you try to go with a middle-of-the-pack approach, no college degree you had darn well better be launching your own start-up. And most people just aren’t good enough at their hobbies to pull that off. You can get hired in IT without a relevant degree if you’re already established in the industry somewhere and have good skills.

      Back to sysadmins. Sysadmins don’t spend most of their day programming. They are the odd-jobs people of IT. They do network administration – and it’s a common way to get experience in networks without prior experience. They manage servers, they make backups. They deal with computer security at all levels, and with system redundancy for failures. They manage supercomputers, clusters. They may do help-desk work. They direct business hardware and software choices for maintainability and stability. They may deal with VOIP phones, email systems, software licensing. They automate tasks, like reloading 500 computers or managing 30 different switches.

      They also support programmers. They might manage build systems for large software projects, or set up and maintain software repositories. They fix the programmer’s computers, help find build failures or troubleshoot system-level failures (software A won’t play well with hardware X) and sometimes debug code. Sometimes they write code, too.

      1. C Average*

        I’ve read this whole thread with great interest and was thinking about sys admins the whole time. My team sits adjacent to the sys admin team for our department, and I’ve gotten to know them well over the years and have learned a bit about the background of each team member. It’s pretty fascinating.

        My thought on the degree / no degree question is that it depends entirely on the hiring process.

        If you can get your resume in front of the hiring manager, and if the hiring manager knows his or her stuff and has some leeway in hiring, your experience and knowledge is what matters. As has been noted upthread, many established people in these fields don’t have degrees (or at least don’t have related degrees) because such degrees didn’t exist a generation or two ago. If a person without a degree is the hiring manager, he or she may be more open-minded toward non-degreed candidates. Such a person, if experienced, will also have the knowledge and confidence to trust his or her instincts with regard to hiring well based on experience rather than a degree.

        The brightest guy on our sys admin team has a handful of community college credits. The manager of the sys admin team has a math degree and is also extremely bright. The until-recently brightest guy on the team (he got promoted) had a liberal arts degree but had taught himself to code, program, etc., and he was exceptional. Given the outlook of the manager, the needs of the team, and its historical makeup, a person without a degree WOULD stand a chance, but probably only if he or she got a strong internal referral that got his or her resume in front of the team manager without HR involvement.

        HR, on the other hand, probably won’t be able to look at the resume of someone applying for this kind of job and assess whether their experience is adequate. I can understand why they make a degree the standard–it gives them something solid and consistent to look for in a candidate, a place to set the bar. Bureaucratically speaking, it makes sense. It just screens out a lot of really good talent.

        1. C Average*

          And one other thing I’ve seen in my experience: the best people in these jobs combine high intelligence and extensive tech knowledge with a certain professional courage, for lack of a better expression. They are working on important systems and know that failure and mistakes have consequences, of course, but they go about their work with a kind of tolerance for risk that isn’t for the timid.

          The guy I described with the handful of community college credits is the guy we go to when we need something invented to meet an immediate need, and he thrives on being That Guy. He dives fearlessly into complex systems and processes that few people understand, and he seems to genuinely enjoy it. If you have that temperament and outlook and the brains to back it up, you’ll succeed in these fields even without a degree; it’s just a matter of getting a foot in the right door.

    16. Anonymous Educator*

      I can share only my own experience. I was an English major and had no IT background. I did some volunteer work at my jobs at schools and become the IT department’s reliable “friend” who helped out. Then eventually that landed me a job in an actual IT department. Since then I’ve been working IT with no computer-related degree and no certifications. I’ve worked in a small for-profit organization and also in a couple of schools. I wouldn’t recommend that path to other people, but it can happen, as long as you’re not looking for large corporate jobs.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          It wasn’t really a volunteer gig… just me volunteering to help out with tech problems as they arose. So I’d be going about my work and a colleague in my department would have a computer problem (can’t print, this program keeps crashing, how do I do a mail merge?, etc.), and then I’d just go over and try to help instead of saying “Yeah, we should call the tech folks to fix that.” Tech departments at schools are usually severely understaffed, so they really appreciate all the help they can get.

          In terms of how I taught myself, it was a lot of trial and error and exploring. Problem-solving (particularly for everyday computer problems) is just applied logic with the basic scientific method of controlling for variables. Just as a simple example—a website isn’t loading. Okay… is the website not loading because the website itself is messed up or because your Internet connection isn’t working. Let’s see if it’s just you. Okay. It’s just you. Is it this web browser alone or all your web browser? And so on.

          If you have a curious and logical mind and aren’t afraid to break and fix things, you can pick this stuff up. I’d also recommend joining some kind of online help forum (Ubuntu Forums, WordPress community, Stack Overflow) to see how others are solving problems, and then try to help out yourself (others will definitely correct you if you give incomplete advice!).

  2. Sunflower*

    Has anyone ever left an at will employment job for a short contract? I’ve been seeing some great jobs that have 3-6 month contracts and I’m very unhappy at my job. It also coincides that right around when a 3 month contract would end, I would have an opportunity to move somewhere for a couple months and be able to work a bit but relax and travel as well.

    All of this makes me EXTREMELY nervous. I’m not so much nervous about paying my bills after the contract is up – I have a lot of waitressing experience so I’m confident I could find a job to pay the bills plus I have some savings but I’m extremely nervous about finding a job job in my field when I have no job. The job market is tough enough while I have a job so am I an idiot to even consider this? I have no desire to become a long-term freelancer/contract employee so is a bad idea?

    1. kristinyc*

      Yes! I did that after my very first job. I was in a pretty bad situation and really unhappy. I ended up taking a contract job (with “potential for hire”) and leaving my full-time job. In September 2008. At the time, I didn’t even realize how incredibly risky that was. I went into the contract job and treated it like it was a full-time. The ended up letting the other, less professional temp go, and then they hired me after a few months.

      As long as you can figure out things like health insurance and have some kind of financial cushion (I didn’t at the time, but I was 23 and my parents would have helped me), I’d say go for it! Life’s too short to be miserable in a job. Good luck!

    2. Scott*

      I’m leaving my job of 15 years in March to start a one-year contract gig BUT I’ve been saving up for it for awhile and have done contracting in the past so I know that it’s a feast-or-famine kind of thing. If you can live with the uncertainty and are good at budgeting and saving, you can do fine contracting and maybe even like it. I remember gaps of 2-6 months between contracts and I would just enjoy the time off (though at the 4-5 month period a little panic would set in).

      It just depends on your risk tolerance.

      Also keep in mind that many contracts lead to full time employment. That was how I ended up at the 15 year job. I started as a contractor, they liked my work, and when the contract was up they offered me a job and I took it. In addition, contracts frequently get extended (and occasionally get terminated early).

      Hope this is helpful.

      1. Scott*

        P.S. I should have also mentioned that the 2-3 months “off” isn’t fully “off”–plan to spend 10 hours or so on your weeks “off” looking for the next contract, bookkeeping, taking a class or two to keep up your skills, etc.

    3. AnonAcademic*

      My husband was staying in a soul sucking job because we’re moving in “only” 5 months. Then he got laid off and was forced to look for contract work. Only after that happened did we realize how INSANELY toxic his work environment was. He has only been searching for a contract for 2 weeks and has already had a half a dozen promising leads (of course this can be field dependent). So if the job is affecting your physical/mental health like his was….definitely consider it.

    4. A Non*

      I don’t have experience doing contract work, but I do have experience with soul-sucking jobs. I’d say go for it! A short term job followed by some travel sounds like a great way to reset and recharge yourself before looking for more long-term work. And you may find once you’re not in a toxic environment, you turn out to be way more confident in your skills and your ability to roll with the job market than you are right now. Toxic jobs will drain all your confidence and make you feel trapped, whether that’s actually true or not. (It’s usually not.)

      1. Csarndt*

        Ditto! Don’t let your soul get sucked if there is a path out! I quit a job without another lined up which let me actually recharge and refocus on my career path which actually lead to a job I actually like. We had savings, cut expenses, and my husband had a job, so it was a worry but not a panic when it took a few months to get a job.

  3. Gene*

    Just to start the food at work thread, today my breakfast from the microwave is eggs with blue cheese. The guy who gave me the cheese said the place smells like feet.


    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      Yum. I’m a fan of feet-cheese (or any pungent cheeses for that matter). I’m going to have to try blue cheese in my scrambled eggs soon.

    2. Carrie in Scotland*

      Today, the home ec. class had some leftover food from the class (I work in a uni in Education) so I bought (for pennies or quarters) a portion of leek & potato soup and chocolate and courgette cake. So much yum!
      I could get used to this…

      1. Elizabeth West*

        OMG I love leek and potato soup. I had some great stuff at Cafe in the Crypt in London (had some elsewhere that wasn’t as good). I don’t care if it might have come from a packet–it was delicious and I practically licked the bowl. The cheddar and pickle sandwich was divine as well. (No it wasn’t as cheap as Trip Advisor people said, but I ate every scrap!)

    3. Nerdling*

      Oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar for breakfast, and we’re having pizza for lunch here after while.

      1. De Minimis*

        I just have my usual sandwich, but something sure smells good from across the hall. There’s a patient education program that meets a few mornings a week where they provide breakfast, I’m sure that’s what it is.

        There’s also a retirement reception this afternoon…hurray for cake!

        1. Nerdling*

          I’m guilty of smelling up the office with cinnamon and sugar pretty much every morning. :)

          Cake is fantastic!

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      It smells like the people in the basement had a very good breakfast this morning, but do they make enough for everyone? No! :(

      On the other hand, I helped make some bread last week, baked in the basement, and there was enough for all — since we had the smell of baking bread permeating the building. I’m not cruel like they are.

    5. Aims*

      A (super healthy) smoothie with banana, frozen raspberries and mango, a frozen wheatgrass puck, and water.
      And a (less healthy but filling) Tim Hortons bagel with cream cheese. Grabbing a coffee in a few minutes too.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I had a microwave-scrambled egg, a cup of Earl Grey, and a piece of sprouted wheat bread with butter and Marmite. This is my usual work breakfast. Sometimes I have oatmeal or if I don’t pack a lunchbox, a couple of granola bars and some almonds. But always the tea.

    7. INTP*

      I brought a salad and slice of “herbivore” pizza, but the cafe has Mac and cheese pizza on special today and it’s calling my name…

    8. HR Manager*

      Ha! Precisely why I don’t eat blue cheeses, because it smells like old, old, old gym socks left in a zipped up duffel bag through a hot humid summer of 100+ degrees, along with a pair of sneakers someone ran a marathon in. My kitties’ paws smell more appetizing.

    9. Artemesia*

      there must be a special hell for people who heat up blue cheese in the office microwave; karma is going to get you.

    10. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This just reminds me how happy I am to work in an office where people eat and love evvvvvverything. I think I asked four times if my sardines were offensive the other day, and I got, “That salad looks soooo good! Is that avocado?” They also understand when I stink up the office and get the sniffles after Sichuan takeout.

    11. The Other Dawn*

      Ever since i started the new job I don’t usually bring stuff that requires a microwave. Mainly because there’s always a line at lunchtime. Breakfast I’ll occasionally bring egg muffins (crustless quiche) and heat them up, although they’re good cold, too. I like them with sausage and herbed goat cheese. But mostly I bring Greek yogurt and mix in some dry roasted peanuts (I had weight loss surgery so this is usually my go-to for protein). It’s easy and I can just toss it in my bag in the morning.

  4. Eric*

    I’m going to be giving notice at my job next month–but I’m leaving to move across the country, and I don’t have a new job lined up. So I’m kind of at a loss as to how to frame it–“I’m quitting to abandon my life!” doesn’t seem very professional. What would you say in this situation?

      1. Eric*

        Well, I’ve lived in New York for over 15 years, and I’m ready to leave. I’m moving to Oregon for a better quality of life, slower pace, more opportunities to enjoy life.

        1. Sunflower*

          I definitely remember a thread about this not so long ago. Oregon and New York are diff worlds and the answer you just gave sounds totally normal and legit. I don’t think anyone is going to bat an eye at that reasoning. Congrats and good luck!

        2. Anna*

          I know other people who have made this exact move for those exact reasons. :) What part of the state are you heading to?

              1. C Average*

                Come visit! Set aside at least a day each for Powell’s Books, Forest Park, the Columbia River Gorge, and the Oregon coast. And if you want a tour of Portland’s most conspicuously schmancy corporate campus, ping me. :)

            1. Anna*

              Best place to move to! If you’re a geeky human who likes things like Firefly, Serenity, Doctor Who, I can hook you up. ;) Or even if you don’t. :)

            2. crookedfinger*

              Yes, come to Portland…we have beer…and food carts…and other awesome stuff…but maybe not jobs, so I’d suggest starting your search before you move!

        3. WorkingMom*

          “Well, I’ve lived in New York for over 15 years, and I’m ready to leave. I’m moving to Oregon for a better quality of life, slower pace, more opportunities to enjoy life.”

          I think you can say that, just like you did above!

    1. JC*

      I think it’s plenty professional to say that you’re quitting to move across the country, especially if you can give an explanation for why (to move closer to family, to live near a significant other, to live in a city/location I’ve always wanted to live in, to live somewhere more relaxed than here—these are all valid reasons).

    2. AVP*

      Someone did this at my company. They were pretty transparent and said, “I’m moving to LA to pursue a screenwriting job.” If you can just give notice and add a brief line about what you’re hoping to do there, or that it’s been a life dream to live in X, or to work in the main industry in that city, it’s totally understandable. Who knows, maybe someone at your company will have a contact in the new city for you.

    3. Gene*

      What’s wrong with the truth? “I’m leaving the job to move to BFE, I enjoyed the time I had here.” (assuming the place you are leaving warrants the second phrase; if not, leave it out.)

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yeah, I think you’re fine just telling the truth. Very few people wouldn’t understand the desire to get out of NYC for a slower pace– they may not empathize, but they get it and have likely heard it before.

      2. John*

        Agreed. I have done this at two junctures in my life and was amazed at the response. People were overjoyed for me and envious that I had the courage to do such a radical thing. (I didn’t find it courageous at all; I was just following my dreams, but I guess that speaks to how often people can’t/aren’t able to do that.)

        In fact, if you do it the right way, if you ultimately discover you want to move back, they may take you back.

    4. Scott*

      I would just say “I’ve enjoyed working here, but have decided to move to Oregon for personal reasons”. I did that a long time ago when I moved from New York to California and it worked out pretty well. My boss in New York told me that if I stayed two months so she could train someone new instead of two weeks she’d hook me up with a job in California. I trained my replacement and she got me the job.

      1. Jem*

        What an awesome deal! I desperately want to move to Idaho but I don’t think anyone at my current job in Chicago has any connections there :(.

        1. C Average*

          Where in Idaho? I grew up there, attended college there, and still have friends and family there.

          Idaho is WONDERFUL. It seems to always make the news for the wrong reasons, but it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and the people are generally lovely.

          1. Jem*

            Boise. I lived there for several years as a kid and have always longed to go back. The rest of Idaho is amazing too, though.

            I hear mixed things about employment opportunities out there though. If I could be assured I wouldn’t starve to death when I got there, I’d probably pick up and go right now.

            1. C Average*

              What are you interested in doing? I lived in Boise for a bit and still have a little bit of a network there. It’s a fun, fun town. I really loved it. I still miss running in the foothills!

              1. Jem*

                I’m currently a program coordinator at a medical school. It looks like my top options would be working for BSU or the State of Idaho, but I would be open to any possibilities.

                1. C Average*

                  Lemme ponder this one. And feel free to reach out. I’m clover dot neiberg at g mail dot com. I can be an inconsistent correspondent, I’ll warn you, but I like to help people out when I can, and I love the idea of helping someone land in Idaho.

                2. Jem*

                  Aw, C Average, you’re such a sweetheart! I’m planning to take my husband to Boise in the near future (he’s an avid mountain biker trapped in Illinois and thus very keen on the idea of moving to Boise, but he hasn’t actually been there yet). I will reach out to you after we get back and I’m sure he’s not having any second thoughts.

      2. Lily*

        I’ve also had a multiple friends make the New York to Oregon move, and in a couple of cases being honest with their employers led to them being able to continue their old job remotely for a little while, which really with expenses while they got settled.

        1. ChristinaW*

          Are there enough jobs in Oregon? It’s the fastest growing state population-wise, because so many people are moving there.

          1. Melissa*

            I don’t think so. I read an article recently about the job market in Portland not really being able to sustain the large population growth, which is in large part made up of people who have heard how quirky and weird Portland is and want to move there because of that.

          2. Emily*

            I live in Portland and there really isn’t. MOST of the people I know who move here from other places get stuck in call centers or retail/restaurant jobs while taking in roommates to make ends meet. Plus the population growth means they are constantly chopping down our gorgeous scenery to build more and more and more condos.

    5. Eric*

      Great advice everyone. I guess I’m just overthinking this. What a shock. :)

      Now–do I give two months notice, or one? We’re undergoing our Systems Requirement Analysis in January, February, and March for our conversion to a new CRM and I’m pretty integral to the process, which is why I’m not leaving until after that’s done at least. Still, it feels weird to have such an important thing going on, knowing I’m leaving.

      1. SherryD*

        When I quit my job to move across the country with nothing new lined up, I gave 5 weeks notice. I think that if you like your employer, and you’re able to stay long enough to see a big project through to the end, that’s nice. But, in most jobs, there’s ALWAYS something coming up, so set a date to pull the plug and stick to it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Think about the weather. I don’t know what you have in terms of stuff to move- but if you can avoid moving during winter that would probably be wise.

      3. C Average*

        You don’t want to come to Oregon in the winter or early spring anyway. Make your move in May or June, when the rainy season is over and the weather is at its best. Stay put, make money, and know that in Oregon right now it’s wet and grey and every enclosed space available is steamed up and smells like wet wool and dogs. Oregon in the spring takes some getting used to.

    6. Buggy Crispino*

      I might even frame it along the lines of – “I will be moving to Oregon soon and wanted to talk to you about this. I understand it will most likely necessitate resigning my postion here.” This could open up a dialog of how they want to transition your position. If they’re really crazy about you, they might offer telecommuting, or some temporary consulting work until they feel comfortable with your replacement. It could be a long shot, but if something like that helps your transition it might be worth considering.

        1. Buggy Crispino*

          :-) earlier in the year when people were talking about changing names and having fewer Steves and Alisons and Bobs, I wondered if I would be able to carry it off.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            My boy doggie was a stray, and a couple from work found him and took care of him. They named him Buggy Roadkill because he was covered with ticks & fleas, and was found on the side of a busy highway. I don’t know anyone else named Buggy…

    7. kristinyc*

      When I left a job in the midwest to move to NYC, I used “I’m fulfilling a life dream of living in NYC, and decided now is the time. I’ve been planning this for a year.” (Which was true). People were generally impressed with that.

      I think saying something along the lines of a change of pace, better quality of life, etc, would work. Those are all perfectly valid reasons to move. I think most people know that NYC is a very stressful/difficult place to live, even if they’ve never lived here.

    8. Jerry Vandesic*

      You might want to see if you could work part-time from your new remote location. Having a job, and income, would be good and your company might want to you to stay and keep your existing work going.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yeah, living on the beach in the rain and collecting cans for recycling will only last you so long.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I’m sorry, that was supposed to be a joke, and wasn’t against you at all. I’m from Oregon, and even in the rain, the beach is a great place (and I’ve met people who’ve lived there for a summer). Making jokes about the rain is almost required of Oregonians.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                :) The beach, even in the rain, is a great place to sit and let that edge wash away.

                And now I’m sad that I’m on the desert side of Washington instead of on an Oregon beach. Southern Oregon beaches are sunny today, too.

      2. Goldie*

        I’ll second this comment, since I know a few people from the Portland area, and have heard a few things about the job market there – none of them good. :(

        1. Eric*

          I’ve given this a lot of thought and I’ve talked to a lot of people that live in Portland, and I can live for 6-8 months on the money I have saved. I also have professional contacts out there and am looking to work in an industry that hires quite a bit.

          At a certain point you just have to take a chance.

          1. C Average*

            Eric, I pulled a Hail Mary and moved to Portland in 2006, when the job market was far worse than it is now. I had fewer resources than you, but was fortunate enough to have friends in the area, including one with a couch he let me sleep on for nearly a month. It IS possible to get a job in Portland.

            I work for one of the area’s largest employers, and my husband works for the other. What kind of work are you interested in and what is your background?

            (One of my unofficial work goals is to help one person get a job at my company for every year I’ve been here. I’ve been here for seven years and have been directly or indirectly responsible for getting five friends and acquaintances hired here. All of them are rock stars, and three of them now outrank me! I’ve got catching up to do on many fronts.)

            1. Eric*

              Thanks for the info! It’s nice to see that it worked out for someone, gives me hope. :)

              I do non-profit fundraising, and there are open positions posted nearly every day. Now of course some of that is development work and all my experience is in membership programs.

    9. HR Manager*

      For personal reasons I have decided to move to the Left Coast (or whatever region you are moving to) and will be resigning from my position as of xx date. What can I do to make the transition for you and the team as easy as possible?

    10. Angora*

      Just saying you’re resigning because you are relocating. You do not have to go into any further detail.

      I did that when I moved to FL, gave my 3 week notice and left. I than did contract work while living in a cheap furnished apartment. Had no cable or internet access, so I went to Starbucks for internet access, etc. Surprised they didn’t run me out after a couple of hours.

      It’s scary, but temporary and contract work can help you survive until you find something. You may have to take a low salary job just to pay bills, which is what I did. The first couple of months I was there I did a job that taught me to do billing via access, etc. Just look at it as an adventure, limit your expenses and go. I tput everything in storage, and went back a few months later after I found a permanent job.

    11. Future Analyst*

      I moved from WI to TX in August 2010. I resigned from my two jobs well in advance (3-4 months), and told them “I’m moving to TX because the weather there is better, and the job market looks promising.” Everyone understood, and no-one thought (or acted) like I was throwing my life away. I think as long as you act confident, and not like you’re making excuses, or like you think you’re doing something crazy, people respect that you’re making a change and will leave it at that.

      Good luck! My husband and I lived in hotels for a month and ran up a bit of credit card debt (even though we had significant savings allocated towards the move), but by the next Jan, we both had jobs, a nice apt, and we’ve never looked back. :)

    12. Artemesia*

      You don’t have to give reasons in a resignation letter. It is sufficient to say you are giving your two week notice and your last day will be February 13 — or whatever. If you can’t stand to leave it like that you could say ‘I will be moving across the country.’ There is no need to give details in a resignation letter.

      1. C Average*

        We have so many brewfests here that some friends and I have joked about how it would make sense for someone to just build a permanent beer-and-donut-themed amusement park on the waterfront. We’ve dubbed it Homerland.

  5. Ali*

    I had my interview today! It went well I think. It was at a nonprofit organization, and I appreciated that the hiring manager didn’t ask really any trick questions or go with the strengths/weaknesses questions. We just talked about the job and the organization and she answered my questions. I really do best when interviews go like that and feel more like conversations.

    I will know next week if I got the job. It would mean a paycut, but considering how poorly things are going at my job right now, I would welcome the change if it meant tightening up.

    For the record, I did mention that my position was no longer a fit, but the hiring manager seemed to accept that answer and didn’t probe for extra details.

    I am still excited about the job and organization, so please send good thoughts my way!

    1. Mimmy*

      I too like conversational-style interviews….so much more natural. I think it’s still okay to ask certain questions as it relates to the job of course. I’ll keep all my fingers and toes crossed for you!

    2. C Average*


      I really hope this works out for you! It’s amazing how much the energy in your posts changes when things are looking up; it would be amazing if you could find your way into a better environment!

    3. Barefoot Librarian*

      I’m glad it went well! I hope you get some good news soon. I’m glad you mentioned that you explained leaving your job as the job no longer being a good fit. I might steal that line for my interview. The truth is that I’m leaving in part because my whole institution is being poorly managed and my boss is crazy but you can’t actually SAY that in an interview. ;)

    4. Jean*

      Sending you good thoughts re today plus lots of respect and kudos for your enduring determination and persistence. I hope you have a restful weekend. You deserve it all.

    5. UnEmplaylist*

      Hi Ali. I start my new job at a nonprofit on Monday after a very long search. I hope this works out!

  6. C Average*

    Wow, am I really the first one here? Craziness.

    I’ve just finished my first draft of a 12,000-word history of the product line I’ve supported for the last seven years. It’s for my company’s archive. I believe it may be the best work I’ve ever done. It feels incredibly good to put my full energy into something that means so much to me.

    What’s the work achievement you’re proudest of?

    1. Mimmy*

      My proudest achievement was in 2003 when the senior data entry person had to go on medical leave for 3 months due to a serious injury, making me the de facto senior person. This entailed not just entering the data, but verifying others’ data entry for accuracy. I was praised in my year-end review for being able to handle that kind of pressure (!!!) and keeping errors from getting past our department, which was a Big Deal. Earlier that same year, I went on vacation for a week, and they noticed that data entry errors had skyrocketed during that time. Thus, my manager saw me as really valuable.

      Of course everything went to h-e-double-hockey-sticks after that year :(

      I promise that I’ve had good work achievements since then, LOL, it’s just that this is the one that’s always stood out to me, even though I’m in a completely different field now.

      1. C Average*

        Love this. There’s something so satisfying about knowing you’ve done your very best AND having other people recognize it, too.

    2. Scott*

      We were using the WORST system to approve changes. It involved filling out a form by hand then walking around with it to track down the people whose signatures were required. I wrote an automated system that handles the workflow and added an unasked-for feature that allows someone to delegate another person to act on their behalf if they’re out of the office. I programmed this 10 years ago and it’s still in use today with only minor tweaks.

      1. C Average*

        I love, this, too. A couple of our sys admin guys have written these kinds of systems and programs, and they seriously change lives. They don’t receive enough praise.

        *pauses to write thank-you email to sys admin team for general awesomeness*

    3. Lore*

      Great question! The generally coolest thing about my job is that I see the tangible fruits of my labors everywhere–I work in book publishing so every bookstore, or train car full of reading people, is an opportunity to see one of my projects set free into the world. But one particular project some years ago still holds the top spot. It would have been a very complicated project under the best of circumstances–tight timeline, major biography of prominent living person so every sentence needed a legal fine-toothed comb, nervous first-time author with highly unrealistic expectations about process that seemed impervious to explanation–but one of the very senior people meant to be driving the project was having some health issues that no one was willing to acknowledge, and (unbeknownst to me) the most senior leadership was fighting an ultimately losing battle against a merger and so didn’t step in. So I basically ended up running this very, very high-profile, nearly impossible book through to completion. I put in so many hours that my boss’s boss threw me a week of comp time when it was over (which never happens)–and then the merger happened. I had to reinterview for my job with several people…every one of whom said at some point, “Oh, you’re the one who handled *that* book.”

      1. Takver*

        What sort of unrealistic expectations did the author have, and what were the realities that were so hard to explain?

    4. Gwen*

      I wrote 40 content articles in 3 weeks (2 weeks of which I was still a PT employee) when we redesigned our website, filling up space where there was no real content before. I’m really proud of the articles themselves, especially with the speed in which they needed to be produced, and I think that it vastly improved the usefulness of our site & the user experience. (And it’s paid off in LOTS of compliments from partners AND increased site traffic, so yay!)

    5. Me again!*

      Right now I work in a specialty pharmacy and part of my work involves ensuring the paperwork and information is in place for our patients to receive their medications. I have a patient that I have been working on for a while, one that is rife with issues. Every time I get something straightened out, another thing falls apart. The patient is elderly and I’ve started taking the situation personally… to the point where I’ve gotten other teams involved in this case in order to get the medication sent. I am hopeful that I have finally gotten things resolved, at least to the point where the patient can receive care while still trying to hammer out the issues. I think about this patient all the time and will continue to do so until it’s resolved. I’m pretty proud of my ability to put the patient first.

      ** on a personal note: I think it’s horrible how the elderly are treated by our government! I work with a lot of elderly patients on fixed incomes and confusing medicare plans. These plans are confusing to me…and I work with them every day – imagine how it is for an elderly person! (Sorry…I know it’s off topic, but it hurts me to see so many elderly people struggling)

      1. kristinemc*

        As someone who deals with her grandmother’s healthcare/docs/prescriptions constantly, I just want to say thank you. It can be a nightmare.

      2. Whatever*

        I completely agree. It is why I am a social worker for older people. I love helping them navigate the best healthcare plan for them, and helping them find ways to save a little money for living in the process. It is worthwhile work to fight for them. Keep it up!

      3. Jazzy Red*

        Bless you, me again.

        I’m a recent retiree, and I’m disgusted with these over-complicated plans, rules, and regulations. When I first signed up with SS and Medicare, I declined prescription coverage because I don’t take any maintenance drugs, and now I have to pay a penalty for rx coverage for the rest of my life. I suppose they could have made all this harder to understand if they had tried just a little bit more.

      4. catsAreCool*

        I don’t know why it is that the government seems to specialize in writing things that look like English but make very little actual sense, even after reading them a few times.

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      At LastJob, most geeks wanted to just program the requested changes and updates to the software and be done with it. I recognized that there needed to be a process for getting it to testing and production, getting all the documentation in place, and communicating with all the users and owners of connected software. So I took on that role for the software I supported, resulting in smooth implementations as well as needed upgrades. My manager retired and new ActingManager thought I wasn’t as much of a programmer as the others, and I ended up being laid off.

      I’m not sure the feeling is pride, but when my former customer hears my name he starts swearing. Because every implementation since I’ve left has been messed up, testing is shoddy, and he misses the complete work I did.

    7. Muriel Heslop*

      Testifying against a child molester who abused one of my students. He was her brother-in-law and I was the only person she told.

      1. louise*

        Oh, wow. Sitting on a jury that convicted a child molester is one of my proudest non-work moments. It was awful to hear the evidence, but so gratifying to know justice was served.

    8. Aunt Vixen*

      Earlier this week, a former colleague forwarded a bunch of us a message she’d received about a project she’d been the big head-honcho lead on. It basically went, “I’m a complete stranger about to go on an assignment related to the work you spent five years slaving over, and I’ve got your product and want to thank you for producing such a valuable resource. Also, is it possible to get a copy of the related translation project Vixen did almost single-handedly? I’ve got the original, but having the English version would also be really helpful.”

      This was work that once drove me to tears in three meetings on three successive work days from the thought that we were killing ourselves for something nobody but us would ever clap eyes on, so it was really, really, really good to hear that people (a) know it’s there and (b) find it useful.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      Finishing all the novels I’ve written, especially the last one, which I’m querying now. I sat on that one so long I thought it would never get done. And I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.

    10. Cath in Canada*

      I wrote a progress report for a huge 3-year collaborative project between my academic department and a massive pharmaceutical company. I was given zero direction other than “you need to write the first annual progress report”, and I came up with something that both parties really liked. The pharma company actually made it their standard report template for all future collaborations.

    11. ActionableResearcher*

      I’ve been waiting for someone to ask this question on AAM.
      My greatest work achievement is one of the best and worst things I’ve ever done.
      Years and years ago, I co-created a statistical model which uses subjects’ specific geographic locations and the likelihood of default (along with other financial indicators) of the people who live near them, as a primary variable in determining their credit score. At the time it was innovative work and had never been done before, now it is commonplace in the credit industry. But yeah, the result is that your credit score is ultimately influenced by those of your neighbors.

      1. Ife*

        That is really cool work, and the mathematician in me would love to have worked on something like that. But on the other hand, it’s a little disheartening to know that my credit score is affected by where I live!

    12. Ife*

      In college, I was working at a disability services office that worked with students at my college. We were using an Access database to track information, but it was basically a glorified spreadsheet, and whenever you needed to find something, you had to check the database, the email, and a couple of paper binders. It was a mess for serving 100+ students.

      So I created a real database, with multiple tables and a nice user interface, and put all the relevant info into the database. And I generated reports. HUGE time saver! My boss loved it, and I learned a huge amount from it. It’s also how I began working in the wonderful world of IT and programming.

    13. justine*

      I was a copy editor when the Bush twins were in the White House.
      One night they were in a bar and had a run in with the cops.
      They weren’t charged with anything and we couldn’t say they were drinking, so my headline was:

      Bush twins
      on the rocks
      with cops

      I just always liked that headline.

  7. Barefoot Librarian*

    First comment! Woot!

    I’m leaving town tomorrow to drive to a on-site interview at a university in another state. Wish me luck and send me positive vibes during my presentation on Wednesday. I can’t predict much about this trip but I know my knees will be knocking together while presenting. :)

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        Thanks, Carrie! I’m a Glaswegian girl myself so I especially appreciate your positive vibes.

        1. Carrie in Scotland*

          I’m on the other side of Scotland but hoping to move your way in a few month’s time :)

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      And of course by the time I typed “first comment” there were half a dozen already posted! C’est la vie.

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        I’ll save my shoeless time for after I get the job lol. I actually keep bunny slippers (and not just bunny slippers but Monty Python sharp-pointing-fangs rabbit slippers) under my desk for daily wear.

    2. Night Cheese*

      Good luck! If it’s an all day campus interview, make sure they give you a bottle of water.

      There are so many librarians here. Anyone want to have a librarian role call? *raises hand*

      1. Ragnelle*

        Another one* here! So awesome to run into other denizens of libraryland on AMA.

        *I work in a library. I have a master’s degree. It is not a library degree. Never sure what to call myself.

      2. EmilyG*

        Me too, but I do IT (see first thread). That’s mostly relevant in that I don’t actually deal directly with users much so it’s a different kind of work.

        Love your username!

      3. Vanishing Girl*

        another one here! specialized in archives, but also not currently using that part of my degree.

  8. Cadence Issues*

    So I had a skype interview last night with a recruiter for a position. It went really well and she wants to put me forward to her client. She said that I had accomplished a lot thus far in my career, presented the information well, showed poise and confidence, etc. The one piece of feedback she had was to watch my cadence – that it seemed as though my breathing was off so my voice would go up a little at the end of sentences making me some young. Has anyone had experience with this? Any recommendations for how to catch this when it is happening or to practice so it doesn’t happen?

    1. Scott*

      I call it the “question voice” where people raise their voice at the end of a sentence and make it sound like a question instead of a statement. It can sound like a lack of confidence. Why not record a short video of yourself and then watch it to see what they were talking about.

    2. Barefoot Librarian*

      When I’m nervous, I tend to be a bit breathless too. I know your pain. I also speak faster. I’ve found that just reminding myself to take deliberate pauses and slow breaths during my presentation or conversation helps me come across as more poised and less nervous. It’s a hard habit to break though.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I’ll try to find the article, but I think NPR had a piece a while back on ‘uptalk’ and coaching women, mostly, to stop doing it.

    4. Pooski*

      I had a Spanish teacher in high school who brought this up with students (including myself) all the time, and it infuriated me. It still infuriates me.

      I’m a strong believer that it is absolutely possible to speak with confidence, knowledge and poise, still have this (very common) affectation, and be taken completely seriously. I know what I’m talking about professionally, always have incredible data and research to back my positions up, and have had no problems at all in my line of work being seen as anything but competent and sometimes even authoritative despite my voice edging higher at the end of a sentence.

      I would categorize this “issue” as something that if the employer really cared that it was happening, it would raise some red flags about the organization. I think there is an undercurrent of sexism as this being brought up as a problem which really rubs me the wrong way.

      1. MaryMary*

        I disagree that the interviewer mentioning this is a red flag or sexist. I think it’s nice that she passed the feedback on to Cadence Issues, since it is something that’s difficult to recognize on your own.

        And I completely understand why the “uptalk” issue annoys you, but it does make a negative impression on people. Yes, it’s something more women, and young women, tend to do. However, to a listener it’s just as annoying as other verbal tics, like using filler words (um, uh,) or speaking too fast. If you’ve been able to leverage your other talents so that it’s not a determent to you, fantastic. But for a lot of other people, training themselves out of the habit will help them be a better communicator and stronger performer.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I completely agree with you. Up-talk grates on me; it doesn’t matter to me if a person is male or female (and yes, I’ve heard guys do it too), young or old, experienced or entry-level, they sound like they lack confidence. Everyone I know has a verbal tic, and everyone I know who presents regularly (myself included) works on correcting them, so I’m frankly surprised that someone would defend up-talk at all. I don’t see the recruiter’s feedback as sexist at all, mostly because I see nothing wrong with someone in the position to give feedback telling a young woman that she’s great and she should sound like she knows she’s great. Heck, I’m close to 40 years old and present all the time, and when a superior in my new job told me several times during a presentation that I should slow down (via IM), I did it, because she’s the listener and I’m not.

        2. Cadence Issue*

          I agree, I wasn’t offended at all. I’ve heard others corrected for it many times over and was more mortified that I’d slipped into the pattern. I would like to think it was a combination of nerves and being rusty on interviewing but regardless, I’m glad it was brought to my attention and want to make sure I knock it off!

      2. Muriel Heslop*

        My Spanish III teacher brought this up to people all the time! Actually, she mentioned a variety of verbal issues that I think she noticed because we were bringing them over into Spanish from English and it was more noticeable. I am really grateful that she pointed out to me that I spoke too rapidly to avoid running out of breath at the end of my sentences (I couldn’t breathe and translate at the same time.)

        As a language teacher (English), I felt it was part of my responsibility to help my students work on things like verbal filler, speaking too quickly, and yes, uptalk. It is a common affectation and while it might not be an accurate reflection of someone’s ability, it is definitely a factor in people’s perceptions of someone’s ability.

      3. Artemesia*

        I couldn’t disagree more. The hesitant/question intonation projects callowness and insecurity. We can hate that it does this, but it does, just like using a heavy dialect will project unprofessionalism to many. Women tend to be socialized to be subservient and non-assertive and this uptalk habit is part of that. Using youthful slang, uptalking, using non-standard dialect are all things that create a negative impression. Giving feedback in this case was a kindness.

  9. kristinyc*

    So, last week I asked about wearing suits to an interview (wore a dress/blazer, nailed it). The week before I asked about cover letters…

    This week – salary. The non-profit job is a step up from what I’ve been doing. I had a friend who has access to Guidestar look up the org, and she gave me a lot of great info about what people at the next level up (& beyond) are making. (And they were surprisingly way higher than I imagined!) I think I know the range I can ask for, but I’m still really nervous that it’s too high. They’re asking me for salary requirements by next week (I said I wanted to do some research). I asked if they could share the range, and they responded with tips on how to research salary (and that they’re waiting on final approval from HR on the range). This whole stage is so nerve-wracking! I’m really interested in the job, and would probably still take it for less than I’m going to ask for, but I just read Lean In, and in my recent salary research, I’m realizing I’ve been grossly underpaid for the last few years.

    Any suggestions for how to approach this? (Or recommendations for career books to read next? )

    1. Emme*

      Well it sounds like you’ve done your research and know what the going rate is- so just ask! The worst they can say is no, and I’m sure they will counter with something. If they gave you pointers on researching salary, they don’t sound like the type to revoke the offer because you started outside the high side. Just present what you’ve found and negotiate from there- no need to undersell yourself!

    2. kozinskey*

      It almost sounds like they’re waiting to see what their candidates will be asking. I would probably figure out what I thought was a reasonable range from internet sleuthing, and then ask for something towards the mid-high end of that depending on your experience.

    3. Development professional*

      Guidestar is free for anyone to use with a (free) login, so go ahead and have a look at the organization’s 990 tax records yourself. That’s where your friend got the salary info. Non-profits are only required to list the very top paid employees, so the numbers you’ll see there really are very likely much higher than what you’ll be paid unless you’re in one of the top 5-7 positions in the organization. (But maybe you are?)

      I would lean more heavily on your research about what similar job functions pay at non-profit organizations in your city. All of those variables matter: job function, non-profit sector (vs. for-profit) and city. Sometimes the type/mission of the non-profit will matter too. The job title itself is not as good an indicator of salary, as titles can vary VERY widely, especially depending on the size of the org.

      1. kristinyc*

        My best friend has premium access to Guidestar, and she did some sleuthing for me. (I tried looking, but it wasn’t giving me any actual numbers with a free account) The role I’m interviewing for is senior manager level (so, not listed in there, but directly reporting to an SVP. I’d be ~4 levels down from the CEO). The actual title is different, but I was told to compare it to a senior manager role in my research.

        I’m not sure that there are similar functions at other nonprofits (or even for-profits, honestly) – it’s a pretty specialized, rare field, and this is a brand new position here. It’s the national HQ of a VERY large and well-known nonprofit, so I’m leaning more toward looking at competitive salaries outside of non-profits for comparison. I think I know what I would like to ask for, and how much flexibility I have, but I’m just really nervous since it’s significantly higher than what I’m currently making.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For future reference: The numbers you want are in the organization’s 990s (annual tax filing for nonprofits). They’re available with a free account if you register, but you do need to wade pretty far into the 990 to find the page that has the info.

        2. Emme*

          If its a very large and very well known nonprofit, have you looked them up on glassdoor? Even if there are no numbers listed for your position, maybe you can see the positions above you and the positions below you and compare to your outside research?

          1. kristinyc*

            That was the first place I looked. :)
            They had some info there, but most of it was for their other locations across the country (which had significantly lower salaries than HQ in NYC). But what I did find was in line with all of my other research.

            I know what I need to do, it’s just intimidating because this is a fairly significant step up for me.

  10. AVP*

    a quick vent for the phone-hating crowd! I have this intern right now who LOVES the phone and barely emails. I send him an email, he calls with a response, I tell him he needs to email me so I can keep track of what people are saying, he offers to call me later that day instead.

    I’m giving feedback and training it out of him…slowly…but ahhh I just wish he was trained on this and it was sunk in already. Any phone conversation that lasts more than 5 minutes for me has me tapping on my desk trying to come up with any excuse I can think of for why I need to hang up rightthissecond.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      When you hear it’s him, can you just say “Sorry, unless it’s an emergency I don’t have time to talk right now. Please put it in an email and I’ll look at it today/soon/eventually” (depending on the message you want to send)?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The thing is, this shouldn’t be a slow process :) Which makes me think the issue might be that you haven’t been really clear and direct about what he needs to do differently? (Apologies if I’m wrong about that! It’s pretty common with managers though.) More on this below!

    2. Sunflower*

      I think maybe give him a blanket statement like ‘The phone isn’t really the best way to get in touch with me since I’m moving from one thing to another and email makes it easier to keep track of things. Unless it’s an emergency, email is always the quickest way to get in touch with me” If he offers to call just say ‘sorry, I would really appreciate it if you could email it to me instead so I can look at everything in front of me. thanks!’

      Nowadays I’m finding that people say that text or email is the quickest way to get in touch, not phone so this isn’t just you conditioning him for yourself but really the future of his career.

      1. fposte*

        Go farther–it’s not just that email is the quickest, it’s that that’s what you expect him to do, and you’re in charge of what he does. “I need you to stop phoning me and stick to emailing me. I know you’re a phone guy, but part of a job is communicating in the way that’s most effective for your supervisor and your organization; here, it’s email.”

        1. puddin*


          I would also pass along that a good guideline for business is to reply back with the requested info in the same way you were contacted. Call=Call back, Email=Email back, etc. It is not a failsafe but it applies fairly well, especially with people you are not familiar with.

          It applies in social settings as well:
          If your friend texted you ‘where you at’ and you called them back, that would be weird right?

        2. Windchime*

          Yes, perfect. No hinting that if he wants a quicker response, use email. Just come out and say, bluntly, that he needs to email instead of calling you. Period. As Alison says, this shouldn’t be a slow process. Even if he’s never used email before (doubtful!), he should be able to make the switch instantaneously.

      2. Karowen*

        If he offers to call just say ‘sorry, I would really appreciate it if you could email it to me instead so I can look at everything in front of me. thanks!’

        I’d go beyond this – If he offers to call, say “No. I need you to email.” Repeat ad nauseam. Maybe it’s because I’m at my wits end in my own office today, but asking him to email hasn’t worked in the past, there’s no reason to think it’ll work in the future. You have to say it point blank and forcefully.

        1. Artemesia*

          Great insight. When hinting or tact fails once, time to be blunt. The world is full of situations where the same thing is done over and over and over without effect.

    3. Sadsack*

      I would straight out ask him why he calls when you have asked him to respond via email. Maybe he is not confident in his writing skills and believes that he can better convey his response verbally, which means he definitely should be writing more for practice.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Have you told him directly, “When I send you an email, I need you to respond by email, rather than calling”? If you’ve done that and it’s still happening, it’s something to address as a “you’re not listening to clear instructions — what’s going on?” But I wonder if you haven’t actually been that direct about it, in an effort to be more gentle — if that’s the case, you might not be doing him any favors by not just being clear and straightforward about what you want.

      1. JustPickANameAlready*

        My old manager had major issues with this– according to her, everything had to be button-down polite and offered up as a request instead of a statement. I got pulled aside for coaching when she overheard me tell one of our new folks “Stop logging tickets as Low priority. According to our SLA, all tickets coming in from this client should be treated as Medium or higher.”

        According to her, I should have stopped to praise this individual’s work before segueing into something like “Will you please remember to log tickers as Medium or higher, OK?” …The kicker? This person’s work was notoriously inaccurate.

    5. MaryMary*

      I’m also wondering if his aversion to email is hiding another issue. Maybe he’s a terrible typist, doesn’t have strong written communication skills, or is not comfortable with your email system. If that’s the case, it’s in his best interest and yours to find that out and address it.

      1. JustPickANameAlready*


        Everyone I’ve ever worked with that espoused resistance to email were completely unable to type.

    6. HR Manager*

      Can I just say that I wish you wouldn’t train him out of it? Let him know it’s ok to email a response back sometimes, but that you often don’t have time for an in-person chat, but that he should mix it up a little on what the appropriate form of communication is.

      I see way more people who over-rely on email than the other way around these days. I wish more people would just get out of their seat and clarify with the person than the series of 10+ escalating emails back and forth (often copying increasing number of peeps) and that could have been resolved in a 15 minute in person conversation.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s a good point. I think the thing here is to make it clear to him that it’s not about never calling, but about listening to your boss when she tells you what her communication preferences are!

        I also agree with others that it’s worth asking why he’s calling so much because maybe there is something going on with him and written communication that she doesn’t know yet.

    7. AVP*

      Thanks everyone! He did it again this morning when I was in a meeting, so I read this all through before I responded using a lot of your language. I think I was sugarcoating the issue up until now since he’s an intern (I know, not good for either of us.)

      For me, it’s a mixture of things: personally hating the phone, but also being in and out of a lot of meetings which means phone calls are hard to return promptly, and the fact that for this particular project I’m working with a bunch of freelancers and interns so if I’d prefer to have a clear email record of who’s agreed to do what by when (I’m keeping a chart, but again, running around all day means I can’t always update it instantly when I need to.)

      If he can’t get with it, Serious Conversation to come next week.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Remember– interns are there to learn. Think of yourself as a teacher; he is there to get advice and experience from you. Learning how to adjust to different work styles is part of the learning process.

        One thought… he might have trouble formulating his thoughts in writing. If that’s the case, then remind him that bullets and incomplete thoughts are fine (assuming they are) and you don’t need paragraphs, just pieces of information.

        I’m also totally intrigued that you have found the unicorn of interns. All the ones I know refuse to talk on the phone at all.

      2. Tara*

        As an intern who /hates/ email, could I suggest maybe asking him if there’s something about it that bothers him? Not to excuse him not following instructions, of course, but it might be an easily solved issue. I mentioned to my supervisor that email causes me some anxiety because I get “stuck” in an infinite loop of rereading and trying to make sure I have the right phrasing, checking for typos, thinking “how would she react to this” whereas speaking is very natural for me. She was really helpful and suggested imposing a one edit limit on emails I sent to her and reassured me she was really just looking for important details, not whether I’d used the right greeting!

    8. catsAreCool*

      I’ve noticed that some people do better with phones and some do better with e-mail. No idea why. I prefer e-mail, and I’ve found that some people are awful at communicating clearly by e-mail but are very clear when on the phone. I’m sure the reverse is true, and I know I feel like I can communicate more clearly by e-mail, where I have time to revise what I’ve written.

      I wonder if your intern is like this.

      Then again, he may be one of those people who simply prefers to talk. I know sometimes I’ve been on a 10 minute phone call that could have been covered in a short e-mail. Very irritating when you have a lot to do.

  11. Future Analyst*

    Anyone working as a database administrator? I have a bachelor’s in English, and am finishing up a certificate in database administration. I’m currently working in a field where I manage the indexing and categorizing of docs stored electronically, but want to move into a more DBA-specific field. Any ideas for where to start? Job titles, company types, etc.? Most jobs I see listed for DBA type work are “senior” and require 5+ years of experience. I’m all for reaching when applying, but there’s a huge difference between 0-6 months of experience and 5+ years. Thanks!

    1. Future Analyst*

      I should mention that the certificate I’ll be finishing in May is very Oracle heavy (but not officially through Oracle), though I’ve also worked with MySQL. Are there other databases I should investigate and learn to give myself a better shot at being hired?

      1. Scott*

        Two good places to start are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Public Sector always needs DBAs, especially those who are familiar with Oracle/PeopleSoft or SQL Server. Startups need people familiar with mySQL. The Public Sector will pay a bit less, but you’ll have a normal work week without a lot of extra hours whereas startups will pay the most but you’ll work crazy insane hours.

        If you decide a startup is for you, rather than go the traditional route (apply for a job, wait, apply for another, etc.) I’d suggest joining a DBA or Oracle user group just to meet people.

        You might also want to learn a database heavy content management system, such as Drupal.

        In addition, make your own web site that shows off your database skills.

        1. Future Analyst*

          I’m currently in govt. so I’ve certainly seen some of the challenges that accompany the bureaucracy, but the hours are definitely better than a startup’s would be. I’ll also look into Drupal… thank you!

      2. ali*

        Yeah, the instant I got an Oracle certification, I was suddenly very in demand. Granted, this was 1999 so things were a lot different, but I think it still very much holds true. If you’ve got MySQL and Oracle, and make sure you can write SQL by hand (or at least parse what it’s doing), I think you’re golden. You might consider learning some MS Access, too, because while DBA’s hate it, it is widely used and can be really powerful.

        1. Future Analyst*

          Ah, fantastic. I’m in the process of learning the basics of Access, so this is great news. Thank you!

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      I can only talk about Microsofts SQL server but I hope his will help:

      It very much depends on the job, organisation, and the set up you’re supporting. There’s a huge amount of variety in dba roles and systems, as a starting point you

      Brent Ozar and Kendra Little both have awesome blogs. Brent has a free guide called the accidental dba that I really recomend. Kendra is an indexing guru and they sell some very good training materials.

      Microsoft provide some very good tutorials and learning materials you can download a full version of SQL server as long as you keep your database under
      4Gb they also have very workable

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Test databases called north wind and adventure works, that you can download to practice on.

        Things like SSIS packages, SQL agent jobs, T-SQL programming (mainly stored procedures), index tuning, backups (including the different types) and restoring databases are worth researching.

        If you’re kookig for some cheap learning materials a site called vtc . Com has loads of tutorials for different IT subjects and is $90 for three months access. The first few videos of each course are free.

    3. CAA*

      DBA is one of those roles that people tend to move into. Some of the stepping stone jobs I’ve seen are IT Support, DB Developer, Database Report Writer.

      To be an entry level DBA, you probably either need a small startup company that’s just barely realized this is a separate job from what their network/system admin does; or a very large company where they have several DBAs at a variety of levels, i.e. a large bank, insurance company, or some other data intensive industry.

  12. All About That Lace*

    OMG, am I the first comment! woohoo!

    I just took on a long term contract assignment with a religious (Catholic) organization and I am wondering if anyone has any tips or advice… I’m not Catholic which did come up around some of the work to be done, which was fine… they seem very down to earth but I’m wondering if there is anything I need to be careful of.. I’m concerned I could easily offend people. I’m really excited about the position but once it sunk in I was wondering if I would not have to be mindful about saying anything about some of my personal views on current events. I don’t usually run around at work waving a flag of my personal opinions but my friends are kind of making a few jokes and now I’m just considering, I’ll need to be pretty… quiet maybe…

    Probably over thinking it… Just wondering if anyone has any experience to share. Thanks!

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I’d say you might be overthinking it a bit. The normal rules of the office still apply. It wouldn’t hurt to look up the things your company specifically promotes, so you know what the general vibe will be. It also wouldn’t hurt to know the big players by name. You know, the pope, your local bishop or things like that. I’m not Catholic but that might be helpful.

    2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      Just wait it out a bit and get a feel of things. I used to volunteer at a Catholic non-profit and there were basically no topics that couldn’t be discussed in a pleasant manner, even if people disagreed.

      1. Bea W*

        I agree – watch and wait like any other new job where you don’t know the culture. As Andrea mentions, Catholics are very diverse in opinions and personal practice (and may even not agree with the Church on everything). Ask questions when you’re not sure of something or want to understand something better. Working for a religious funded org is mostly like working anywhere else in terms of day to day things. There will likely be other non-Catholics there, especially if you live in an area that is not majority Catholic. You’ll be fine! Don’t over think.

    3. Andrea*

      We’re not monkeys and we don’t live on Mars. Catholics tend to be like most other people–including all the diversity of people and opinions that there is in the world.

      Catholic organizations are mission-driven in addition to having all the normal day to day office politics. Understanding what the organization does and why it does so from a theological stance is helpful because so much is going to come back to first principles in making decisions and setting policy. For instance, Catholic social teaching is big on the “option for the poor” which boils down to that society should especially be concerned with those at the margins. When I worked for a Catholic refugee resettlement agency, that meant that small things such as sourcing paper or hiring decisions were made in light of the option for the poor, among other things. We were much more likely to buy from a small supplier than a big corporation if we knew workers were treated better, etc. at the small place.

      Asking why they do what they do and understanding that is helpful.

    4. some1*

      My (raised Catholic) aunt was a social worker at a Catholic organization that helps expectant mothers who are in need. She was asked at one point about her stance on abortion. She said it didn’t matter what her personal feelings were because their clients had already elected to carry their pregnancies to term. They still pressed her for her response, and after she said she was pro-choice she was froze out until she had no choice but to quit.

        1. the gold digger*

          That’s what I was going to say. Do not discuss abortion. Actually, I think that is advice that would apply at almost any workplace except perhaps NARAL and PP. Elizabeth is right – stay away from anything about reproduction.

          I have discovered that life goes more smoothly when hot-button issues and political issues are not discussed at work.

      1. with a tiny little mustache*

        I was raised Catholic, don’t really practice anymore.

        I suspect that the Catholics you find working at a Catholic organization might be a bit more thin-skinned than the Catholics you’d meet “in the wild”. You might want to not get into any debates about abortion, birth control, priests molesting children, or the blasphemous practice of worshipping the Virgin Mary. Just kidding about that last one, but you should be aware that Catholic != Christian. I was shocked to learn this, myself. But most of the touchier aspects of Fundamentalist Christianity (creationism, the Bible as literal fact, and so on) are not shared by most Catholics. Including most recent Popes. Speaking of which: asking what they think of our current Pope should be a pretty good way to get a read on your co-workers. Unlike many previous Popes, Pope Francis appears to possess many of the same views and attitudes possessed by modern Catholics. Which is a good thing, but I’m not sure I can express just how radical it is, in the experience of many, many, many Catholics, to actually *agree* with the Pope.

          1. with her hand in the box*

            Yeah, he really is awesome. God (literally) only knows how he got the gig. It’s strange, though: I don’t know how much non-Catholics are aware of this, but for decades – generations, even – it’s just been this accepted thing that most Catholics disagree with Rome and feel the Pope is a relic. And now we’ve got a cool Pope. Maybe it’s a miracle!

    5. MaryMary*

      I went to Catholic school for 13 years, and I currently work in a business whose owner is a devout Catholic, as are many employees. Personally, I am not a practicing Catholic. I’d be careful talking about politics, particularly social issues, but honestly I wouldn’t suggest bringing up those topics in most offices. Otherwise, I don’t think you need to walk around on eggshells.

      You may also want to double check your employment contract. Some Catholic organizations have added a morals clause requiring all employees, Catholic or not, to behaving in a manner consistent with Catholic teachings. These clauses are often inconsistently enforced, but in theory you could lose your job if you are unmarried and pregnant (or even if you’re living with your significant other and unmarried), use IVF to get pregnant, have an abortion, or are gay.

      1. Observer*

        Well, I just saw a case where a teacher got her job back in a morals clause case. There were two main issues, one of which was that the morals clause was unevenly enforced – and apparently most of the enforcement was of issues that only affect women. Ooops!

        1. Zillah*

          and apparently most of the enforcement was of issues that only affect women.

          Imagine my surprise. *rolls eyes*

        2. Evan Þ.*

          Am I confusing it with another case, or was the problem that it was enforced only against women even when men were equally involved in the situation? In the case I’m remembering, an (unmarried) man and (umarried) woman both admitted they’d been sexually involved, but only the woman was fired.

        3. asteramella*

          Part of that decision was also due to the fact that she didn’t minister to the students–but as a non-Catholic, she (and All About That Lace) would be prohibited from ministerial functions anyway.

    6. HR Manager*

      My first gut reaction is watch language. I’ve worked in more casual laid back environments, where it’s not unusual to hear some cussing (with similar minded folks – not in front of clients) and hearing HELL just tossed about every which way. While I don’t have a potty mouth, I appreciate I can truly vent in my companies and that includes no judgment when I need to drop the F bomb.

    7. Wonderlander*

      Actually, my husband is in a very similar situation – he is a database manager/development associate for a Revivalist church and he is agnostic. He took the job because the salary was decent and PTO was excellent. Like 3 weeks off at Christmas excellent. I think the culture of your organization will really determine how much of a challenge it will be for you. I can see it going both ways – the co-workers you work closely with could be very devout, for example praying several times a day, at all meals, and/or listening to Christian music/gospel during the work day; or they could be more interested in keeping their faith personal and it might not ever be an issue. My husband’s challenges at his office are extreme examples, but they might be helpful. He has mandatory service/sermons on Tuesdays for all staff (part church service, part staff meeting); he has co-workers who believe in Creationism and admonish Evolution out-loud, for all to hear; and the co-worker that shares his office is partly responsible for their “prayer line”. It’s a phone line where the number is given out at Sunday service and the church encourages people to call the number if they need or want someone to pray with. When the line rights, his co-worker stops what she is doing and prays with the caller on the other end. Because Revivalism is so far from my husband’s beliefs, this job has been tough for him. He plans to stay for a year and then start looking again (taking the advice of “it’s easier to find a job when you have a job” to heart!)

      Anyway what I’m saying is, it could go either way. I can see no one judging you for your personal beliefs, or I can see them noticing that you don’t fit quite snugly into their culture and separating themselves from you. My husband’s experience is a good example of having to be mindful of what you say and your attitude during the day. The culture of his office does not jive with his personal beliefs and sometimes, it’s hard for him to keep that in-check. Good luck!

    8. AnotherFed*

      Catholics are normal people, too. :) Just be professional and polite, and understand that as a religious organization, priorities are going to be set based on that (though not to the exclusion of all else!) and not profit.

      As for anything in particular to pay attention to, keep an eye on when lent is – many people will not eat meat on Fridays in lent and will often have given up something else. There are also a few days of fasting (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday). It’s not the time to bring in treats until you’re sure how seriously your coworkers are taking it. Some people don’t practice this anymore, and some were taught that if someone has taken the time to make you food, you eat it and say thank you even if you are fasting or abstaining, so it’s better to ask or check in advance.

    9. catsAreCool*

      Like any job, don’t say much about current events until you get a feel for other people’s views.

      Which reminds me, I didn’t know how political some of my co-workers are until we became friends on Facebook. Sadly, I didn’t really want to know.

  13. kozinskey*


    Garage space in our office is limited but also insanely cheap ($24/mo). We have a waitlist which takes a couple years to get off, so when I started a coworker offered to sublet me her spot since she carpools. That worked for a year or so. This morning she texted me to say she was using the spot today. When she came into the office she asked me what I ended up doing and I said I paid for parking elsewhere. She got really upset, asked what I wanted her to do, and said “I thought you knew your rights as a tenant. You can find your own spot from now on.” I went to go check on the waitlist for our office garage, and when I came back there was a $5 bill on my chair with a sticky note that said “5 days prorated.”

    She never has been my favorite person, but I’ve always tried to get along with her so we can both do our jobs. How do I keep her craziness from affecting my work when we’re expected to cooperate on projects? I was trying to be as neutral as possible this morning even though I was annoyed with her, but clearly that didn’t work. This is my first salaried position and I really don’t want to end up involved in ugly office politics. Do I need to mention this to our manager in some way? I don’t think I did anything wrong, and it’s not directly related to our work, but she’s acting unpredictably and that makes me nervous.

        1. kozinskey*

          The only thing I can think is that I must have been visibly annoyed at having to pay for parking when I’d already paid for parking this month. I wasn’t trying to be catty, but I don’t have a great poker face so it’s pretty likely that she could tell I was upset. The fact that I no longer have parking aside, I’m concerned about how to deal with her going forward if she’s so easily upset….

          1. Mimi*

            Maybe she did see the annoyance on your face, which in turn made her feel embarrassed/defensive…..but I still don’t get the $5 on your chair.

            1. fposte*

              I think it’s a dramatic and defensive gesture reimbursing kozinskey for Annoying’s use of her own parking space.

      1. C Average*

        Yeah, I’m having trouble following this, too. Colleague leases a much-coveted garage space she normally doesn’t use and sublets to you. Colleague needs to use it today as a one-time-only thing and you find another place to park. So far, so good, I think, yes?

        I am as confused as you are, but I would NOT involve the manager in a disagreement about parking. If relations continue to be strained between you and your colleague and it’s affecting your ability to work effectively, try to define the specific behavior that’s a problem and see if you can work with your colleague to address the specific issue. If not, only then would I involve the manager, and I’d keep it behavior-focused: “I need Hermione to keep me in the loop on her collaboration with Hagrid, as that affects my ability to cast the right spells.” No need to bring the whole parking spot back story into it.

    1. Elkay*

      I’m confused as to what the problem was, she used her space today so you parked elsewhere. Why are you suddenly not using her spot?

      1. kozinskey*

        She is no longer going to let me sublet her spot. So I’m going to have to find a place at a city garage, which are a lot pricier and further away.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I get that part, but I think where we’re confused is why she’s mad at you about this. Is she angry at you? You’re the one who was wronged. I’d feel more kindly toward her if she gave you 30 days’ notice and asked you to make other arrangements, which would have sucked, but sometimes them’s the breaks.

          Do you have a written sublet agreement with her?

          And no, don’t mention this to your manager. Why would you? This sounds like an arrangement between peers. I also think that what she did was annoying but it doesn’t make her “crazy”… is there any more info you can give us?

          1. kozinskey*

            Yeah, I don’t really understand why she’s upset with me either. I would have been annoyed but let it go if it were just the one day, but ending the sublet agreement over this seems like a total overreaction. She’s losing out on $24/mo now since I won’t be paying her for a spot she’s not using, so I don’t know what she gets out of doing this. As to the manager thing, I commented below, but mostly I’m worried that she brings drama wherever she goes and I could see her bringing this up to my manager and painting me in an unflattering way.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              So, she needed the spot one day and you cancelled the subletting altogether? If so, that might be why she was upset. And you too, since if you can’t be sure of the parking spot, it’s hard to justify a steady sublet.

              1. kozinskey*

                I didn’t cancel it. She did. The only time she’s asked for the spot before was on weekends, which is no big deal since I wouldn’t be using it anyway. This is the first time she’d said she needed it during the week, and she told me the morning of. I thought that was annoying but by no means something I’d cancel the entire agreement over.

          2. kozinskey*

            And no, there was no written agreement. That’s why her “your rights as a tenant” comment is so bizarre to me.

        2. Sadsack*

          Just find another spot and don’t get into this arrangement with her again if she offers. Then just act normal and friendly at work as if nothing has happened. Do not talk to your manager about this. It is not that big of a deal. Now you know that she is a bit of a jerk, lesson learned.

    2. Future Analyst*

      Wait, she’s mad that you paid to park somewhere else, even though she said she’d be using the spot?? I’m so confused.

    3. Malissa*

      So she got upset because you paid for your parking else where?
      I’d stop subleasing her spot and find my own parking arraignments. When asked about I’d just say, “I’ve got it handled. Thanks”

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      She was “offended” because you made her feel bad about reneging on your agreement with zero notice by pointing out (when she asked) that you were inconvenienced. There will always be passive-aggressive people who invent drama like this. Just ignore it, it’s not about you at all, it’s all about HER.

      But next time you enter into any sort of arrangement with her, either don’t, or email her laying out things like notice and other terms.

      BTW, “tenants” are given a lot more notice than that, and can’t evict people without the required notice.

      1. Lily*

        Yup. She probably already felt a little guilty (or maybe someone else told her it was crappy to take the space with no notice), and is one of those people who reacts to guilt/shame by getting super defensive .

        I had a boss like this for awhile. It was not fun.

        1. Amanda*

          +1 to this. I think it’s a spot-on reading. The $5 on your chair is what seals it for me. She’s trying to make you feel bad because she felt bad.

      2. Melissa*

        That is the only thing I can come up with, too – that this is really about her guilt and discomfort for giving you the short shrift. Either that, or she wanted the parking spot back permanently and invented this little drama so she would feel better about taking it back.

    5. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      Was this a trap?? Should you have refused when she said she wanted to park in the spot? I’m so confused!

    6. Colette*


      If you sublet her spot, she’s the one in the wrong. You’re paying her to use her spot – she can’t decide on the spur of the moment that she’s going to be using it.

      The only thing I’d do now is ask her whether she is ending your agreement so that you can make other arrangements – i.e. was this a one-day thing, or does she plan to keep using the spot?

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah. I am not getting what you did wrong here. Maybe your voice sounded a little off when you answered her and then you walked away so she thought you were mad at her?

      I am not sure why you would tell your manager unless she is doing something to your work or your work area. Seems to me the parking spot agreement was a private deal between two people.

      I think you could have benefited from more lead time on relinquishing the parking space but that did not happen. It could be that she knew what she did was wrong and she was feeling awkward insider herself.
      This might be one of those things that if you let it die down, it could just go away.

      1. kozinskey*

        Well, the reason talking to my manager crossed my mind is that we’re a pretty small department and she usually carpools with him. So that’s 2 hours a day where she has him as a captive audience, and I know they’ve made decisions about work projects & related issues in that time before. She also has a history of bringing up drama unnecessarily to me & to others, so I’m a little concerned that she’s going to somehow spin this to our boss in an way that will be unflattering to me.

        1. Natalie*

          It seems to me that if she is generally overly dramatic, than the boss is aware of this and either a) disregards most of what she says or b) is totally on board with her weird personality. In other words, if I were you I wouldn’t worry about it because if it’s a) you’ll be fine anyway, and if it’s b) you probably can’t do much about it anyway.

    8. OhNo*

      I’m seconding (thirding? whatever number we’re on) the general confusion here. When you told your coworker that you paid for parking elsewhere, do you think she took it as “I’m annoyed with you and and ending our arrangement, so I’ve already paid for consistent parking elsewhere going forward”? Is that what you meant?

      That’s the only thing I can imagine leading to this bizarre exchange. Seriously, I’m confused.

    9. Anna*

      I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. She is doing some projecting and probably felt weird about using a spot that you’ve actually paid her to use. She may have been feeling weird about sub-letting it for awhile and now she’s decided to use this as an escape hatch out of the agreement. Essentially you’ve paid her for parking you couldn’t use and then were forced to pay for another spot. She might feel like she’s done something wrong. I wouldn’t call that “unpredictable”; I’d chalk it up to someone feeling like they were in a weird spot and not handling it very well.

    10. fposte*

      I’m with people in thinking that this is about her guilt and not you doing anything wrong. I tend to apologize in such a situation anyway, with the goal of moving things forward more effectively. “I appreciate your letting me sublet, and I’m sorry things got confused.”

      Also, is the sublet arrangement allowable by your employer? It’s not by mine–we’d get our passes revoked. If that’s the case, you might throw that in there as a cover for her. “Apparently we shouldn’t have been doing that anyway, so it’s probably good we stopped before it caused any trouble for you–that really wouldn’t have been fair to you.”

      1. kozinskey*

        I like that line. We’re not technically supposed to be subletting, but people do it anyway and our HR people pretend they don’t know about it. If she brings it up I’ll just repeat your line to her. Killing with kindness and all.

    11. HR Manager*

      Is the garage spot a company space? Does the company administer the parking space allotment? If so, who the heck gave her the right to sublet company property?!

      1. HR Manager*

        And I just see that a similar reaction was posted above, but there’s something wrong with her arrangement and her reaction. Weird indeed.

      2. RoseTyler*

        This was my reaction too. If parking is “insanely cheap” compared to neighboring lots, the company is probably subsidizing the employees’ cost of parking. I’m really surprised her manager would be aware and ok with her profiting on that instead of use-it-or-lose-it giving her space to another employee.

    12. Karowen*

      Everyone else has said this, but I have to add mine: Your co-worker is so very weird. I’m trying to reason out her thought process in my head and am coming up completely blank. I wouldn’t be nervous about it or anything, and I definitely wouldn’t talk to your manager – I’d just chalk it up to a weird idiosyncrasy and move on.

      I would love, though, to hear her side of the story… I wonder if it would behoove you to say something like “I obviously offended you this morning, can you tell me what I did so I can avoid it?” Then maybe she’d try to explain it and realize how insane she was. Or maybe it’d bite you in the bum.

    13. Cupcake*

      If you paid for this month in advance, the spot is yours for the month. She may have ASKED you if she could have the spot for the day, but she should not simply take it. You have every right to be annoyed, and to even show your annoyance with your facial expression. Her leaving money on your chair is very passive/aggressive and pretty “high-school”. i.e. “If you are so hung up on the money, here’s $5 to make you happy.” Usually people behave that way when they know they are in the wrong, but want everyone else to think that they were wronged. She should have parked elsewhere, knowing that she already sold her space, and sucked it up.

  14. LuLu*

    We’re in the midst of performance appraisals here and this year they’re adding a new step. Anybody whose manager recommends them for the highest rating will have their evaluation read by all of our executive team who can reject those people they don’t feel deserve that highest rating. Is this common? I’ve managed staff at a few different non-profts and never felt this much micro-managing from “the powers that be.”

    1. Judy*

      I’m from the world of “forced rankings” so it would be refreshing to only have to justify the highest rating.

      As I understand it, the managers rank their people, then the directors get all the managers together and try to align a list of the entire department. Then the General Manager gets all the directors together and aligns the entire division. It’s unclear to me how many levels of forced rankings happen, but it’s at least 2 levels. I’ve been involved as a lead engineer in helping my manager rank our team.

      Once the rankings are done, the ratings are reviewed so that the correct % of each rating is present, and that the ratings are consistent so no 3 is ranked higher than a 4. (Highest level – 5 no more than 5%, 4’s no more than 10%, 3’s approximately 70%, 2’s at least 10%, 1’s at least 5%)

      1. LuLu*


        Okay, so this doesn’t seem so bad in comparison — I guess what irks me the most is the fact that the execs really have no idea who these people are and what kind of work they do (like the VP of Overseas Teapot Marketing has a say in the ranking of a Junior Chocolate Mixer). Also it feels like a bit of a privacy issue for so many people to have open access to the appraisals of people not in their department. I always felt like your appraisal was between you, your boss, maybe their boss, and HR. Maybe I’m just a privacy nut.

        1. Graciosa*

          Such a limited audience for performance reviews is not appropriate to an organization with a strong focus on developing employees – having the accomplishments of the very best employees highlighted to the senior executive team sounds like a good thing rather than a bad one. I also like the idea that the executive team cares about calibration and talent review – making sure that the right employees are recognized across the organization. These executives are responsible for ensuring the company is successful in the future, and talent development is critical.

          Unless there are some other weird dynamics going on here, I’m not seeing the negative –

          1. LuLu*

            I think the “weird dynamics” caveat is what I’m worried about. I’m recommending somebody for that high rating and I’m worried that a very pushy VP who has a personal grudge against me and my team will try to stop it. Our org is also terrible about employee privacy (multiple people have been given access to all of our payroll info on several occasions and one of our HR staff regularly blabs about problems various managers are having with their employees).

            I agree that consistency of ratings is important, I’m just doubtful that with the personalities involved this will be an effective way to ensure that. But it’s good to know it’s not a crazy, out-of-the-norm practice.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      At first I thought this was crazy, then I remembered how I once worked for a boss with “favorites.” His two favorite employees would receive all the raise funds every year. They didn’t accomplish anything the whole year, but they got the only raises.
      The system you are speaking of would fish out cases where the boss is giving the best score to his favorite employee, even though there is no support for the score.

    3. HR Manager*

      Alignment is not uncommon, though I haven’t seen that particular approach taken. I don’t like forced rankings, but I do like some alignment. My last review sessions (where alignment is not yet a concept) I had one dept were 90% of the peeps were exceeds or greatly exceeds (4 and 5 out of 5). Uhhh…I think not, buddy.

      1. Joey*

        You make it sound like a lot of people can’t exceed. It is very possible you know especially if the team as a whole exceeded.

        1. Pedantic*

          If everyone is exceeding, either the standards are too low, or everyone needs to be promoted to more challenging work where their talents can be better used by the company.

          1. Joey*

            Ah, so if the company is say Apple and a team is blowing it out of the park with something like Iwatch then you’re saying someone set the standards too low?

            Look, I’m all for not giving Johnny Average an above average rating simply because you think your team is better than everyone else’s. But when you’ve got data to show your team made bigger contributions that changes things.

    4. NBF*

      Where I work (big organization, 2nd largest employer in my state), the highest rating needs approval from a VP. It just goes to the one VP in charge of the area you’re in, not the whole executive team. I don’t know if they ever reject any of the ratings, but it may partly work to prevent managers from giving out many unwararented high ratings. I’ve gotten the highest rating twice and both times it was approved without a problem. One of those times I even received a card at my house from the VP thanking me for all my hard work.

  15. Snafu Warrior*

    So I’ve decided to apply to grad school, and I need to take the GRE. Twist: I haven’t taken any standardized tests on a computer before. Isn’t the new GRE a computer-based test? Will it be totally weird to take if I’m used to paper-pencil versions?

    (Grad school for an MA in speech pathology, by the way – so I should have a job afterward, unless something totally nutty happens. /obligatory grad school disclaimer)

    1. JC*

      I took the GREs a decade ago at this point, but back then I did have trouble adjusting to their computerized format when I was used to taking standardized tests on paper (and being able to cross out answer choices, etc). My suggestion is to practice the crap out of taking tests on a computer. I’m not sure how true this still is, but back when I took the GREs ETS offered a free computer-based practice test. It had a limited bank of questions so if you took it multiple times some of the questions would repeat, but I thought it was very valuable to just practice taking a test in the exact format. I also found it valuable to take practice tests that were computer-based from other companies (like Kaplan), even though their computer-based practice tests weren’t exactly the same format.

      I took the GREs twice, about 2 months apart. The first time I studied content with flashcards and all that jazz, and the second time I concentrated on practicing taking computerized tests. My verbal score went up over 100 points after practicing the second way.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Yes, the general GRE is going to be computer-based, if you’re taking the test in the U.S. (overseas administrations are sometimes paper, depending on the country of administration, but even those are mostly computer-based now). The GRE was revised significantly in August 2011, with adaptive testing by section, not by question. The got rid of the antonym and analogies sections and reduced the emphasis on prior vocabulary knowledge. My understanding is that the quant section puts more emphasis now on data interpretation and using quant information effectively, rather than calculation.

      I’d do as much practice as you can with a version as close as possible to what you’re going to encounter to gain familiarity with the format, as well as figure out if there are areas where you might benefit from a formal gre prep course, targeted tutoring, or perhaps self-study.

      Good luck!

    3. Sofie*

      I think you’ll be okay. I took the GRE a year or two ago, and I wasn’t used to computer-based testing either. If memory serves, they give you scrap paper to scribble on, which I found helpful (I love taking notes and thinking with my pencil).

      Good luck!

    4. OhNo*

      Yes, the new GRE is a computer-based test. Yes, it will be weird if you are used to paper-and-pencil based tests. I took the new/revised GRE not long after it was changed, so I had to practice with all the old materials and then take the new test, which was… interesting.

      The good news is that there are a TON of resources to help you study for the GRE that will help you get used to the computer-based test and style of the GRE. I highly recommend buying or borrowing a GRE study guide that comes with some kind of software package, whether it’s practice questions or full-length practice tests. That will help a lot in getting used to the test.

      Good luck!

    5. Emme*

      I took the GRE in Jan 2014, and it is computer based. I didn’t find it troubling or difficult at all, and you can go back check your answer if you have time left at the end. When you sign up they give you free access to a practice exam or two- definitely take them at home. It will help with getting comfortable with the format.

      Also, just a general note on GREs- I hadn’t taken a standardized test in many many years, but found the GRE to be pretty simple. I think the recent changes made it much more applicable to real life- for example, selecting the right vocab word using the context of the sentence, rather than analogies (which I’ve always found confusing). Another great thing about the computer based test is that you get a preliminary score for everything but the essays, so you will know how you did when you walk out of the testing center.

    6. soitgoes*

      The GRE is scored very much like the SAT, or at least it was when I took them both. 800 points each for math and English/grammar, plus an essay. Since it’s on a computer, you’ll know right away how your scores were on those. The essay grade comes in a few weeks later. I scored pretty close to what I got on the SAT, but I was told that for a lot of humanities programs at not-very-competitive schools, getting a 400 on both sections is fine. Not sure how true that is, but I thought I’d put some numbers out there. Try taking some online free sample tests and see if you can get a 400 on both sections.

      1. CheeryO*

        The scoring changed with the switch to computerized testing. I believe the sections are out of 170 now, with 130(?) being the minimum for each.

    7. cv*

      Definitely download the practice software – running through a couple of complete computer-based tests really helped me a lot. You may be able to buy electronic practice tests from test-prep companies, too, but start with the free ones from ETS to get a sense of how you’re doing and what you need to focus on.

    8. EmilyG*

      It’s been a few years since I took it so take the details with a grain of salt… but I like the new computerized version better because it’s *shorter* compared to the pencil & paper version which I also took years and year back. What they do is start with some “seed” questions and if you get those all right, it assumes you would have gotten all the easy ones right and jumps right to giving you the hard ones. (If you get too many wrong, you only get a crack at the easy and medium questions and can’t get the highest scores.) So there’s more pressure to get the first few correct but my problem was always just getting bored and careless, so the computer version is way better for me. And you get your results right away!

    9. INTP*

      It should be much more intuitive than a paper test. If you are used to writing essays on a computer especially-so much easier than writing them on paper.

    10. nona*

      It’s computer-based but very similar to a test on paper. You click on bubbles instead of filling them in with a pencil, and you get to type the essays. It’s great (imo). You can also try some practice tests online to get comfortable.

    11. CheeryO*

      I took the new test in the fall of 2011, just after the switch. The only computerized test that I had taken before that was a CLEP test, and I did very little preparation for the GRE, so I found it a bit weird. But the scrap paper is very helpful, and I loved being able to type the essay. If you’re generally comfortable with computers, it shouldn’t be enough of an issue to affect your score, IMO.

    12. Emily*

      Other people have touched on this, I think, but you can download free practice software from ETS (it’s called POWERPREP II). It contains two practice tests and is almost exactly like the real GRE, including giving you a score estimate at the end.

    13. Artemesia*

      Of course practice on computer versions to get comfortable.

      I would focus practice review on math where we easily get rusty and it is easy to add a lot of points by being sure you have mastered basic algebra and geometry.

      Recognize that computerized tests are dynamic so if you quickly are faced with hard questions you struggle with it suggests you are doing well and have aced easier levels so don’t get disheartened if it feels like you are getting lots of challenges.

    14. fluffy*

      The public libraries here buy databases that include practice tests for all kinds of standardized test. I’d check with your library before I bought something.

    15. Hypnotist Collector*

      I’m 57, and I took the GRE last year with only a few weeks of intensive study. I used the free practice tests online. I did exactly as well as I did 25 years ago (98th percentile verbal, 51st math). It was stressful but fine. Just know that they have a really weird system of low grading on the essay, mostly designed to get you to pay $50 to have them re-grade it, which will result in you getting a letter saying they reviewed your grade and won’t change it (google it; lots of stories on the interwebs).
      Now, have I been able to figure out a way to go to graduate school in museum studies and have it make sense financially? Not yet.
      Good luck! You’ll do great.

    16. Is This Legal*

      I took in 2014 and I’m very positive GRE have the option for paper version. Check on their website.

  16. NewNeighborhood*

    Two weeks ago I started a great new job as a director. The position had previously been vacant for almost 2 years and the coordinator for my department has been here for 18 months, without a direct supervisor the entire time. He seems happy to have someone in the director position and I have been tasked with coming up with a strategic plan and adding some structure – he has been left to just go from one crisis to the next which isn’t reflective of him at all, just the circumstances. Question for all of you – have you ever had a new boss come in after being on your own for so long? What did they say or do correctly?

    I’m trying to be sensitive to him while moving things forward. So far I have openly acknowledged the situation with him and tried to keep the lines of communication open. Things are going well but I want to keep it that way long term. Thank you for any insight!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The best question I had was “What do you need to do your job?” And then he stood on his head to get it. My requests were very modest- I did not ask him to remodel the world or anything. He did the same thing with my coworkers- he got them what they asked for.

      I will say his question did send a signal. It signaled a new era in our place and it also signaled that slackers probably will not be tolerated any more.

    2. sophiabrooks*

      I have been the coordinator in this situation, and I now have a WONDERFUL relationship with my director.

      The best thing that she did was sit down and talk to me about what were immediate needs (things that had been waiting for a director), what were things I saw as long term goals, what things I was doing on my own that I didn’t want to do on my own any more, and what things I did. We set up weekly meetings for updates, but in the beginning we met more than that and she ended up taking me to most of her meetings.

      It might be a little different because we are a department of 2 and I was in the job for 6 years, only 1 year on my own.

      1. A Non*

        I concur with this advice! I’ve been on my own for only three months (after the previous boss was fired), but that summarizes the things I think my new boss needs to know quite well.

        My new boss is trying to be very sensitive about not stepping on my toes, which is nice of him, but not actually necessary in this situation. Everything’s screwed up, there are only a couple things here that I take pride in. And even those, if he said “yeah, that’s not actually how that should be done”, my reaction would be “Glad we have someone who knows that – I was making this up as I went along! So how should it be?” Asking me what I’ve done in this job that I’m proud of would have identified any touchy areas pretty quickly, at least with me.

        (Things I am proud of: No-one’s run screaming into the night yet. I have good working relationships with all my coworkers. I have kept a majority of the balls in the air. The one system that I overhauled is working reliably. Things I am not proud of: Everything else.)

    3. ElinR*

      Read the book: the First 90 Days. It has a lot of good advice about how make an effective transition to a new leadership role.

  17. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    Listening to my coworker talk on the phone is painful. Her lack of phone etiquette is truly amazing for a woman who is not new to the workforce. If I have to listen to one more conversation that goes “Hello….This is, um, The Mad Facer….from Poorly Run Business? Uh. …. [long pause] Do you have anyone there who teaches This Subject? Are they there? Uh…..I just want to talk to them?” And on and on it goes.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Yep. None of us are good at cold calling (and exactly no one will be surprised to hear that we received no guidance or training or suggestions) but usually we can manage to sound semi professional and not insert “Uhhhh. ….” in every other sentence.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Pardon me because I’m about to go into full “hey you kids, get off the lawn” mode, but I notice this so much with young women, and it seems to be increasing. The uptalking, the loud sorority girl/valley girl kind of speech patterns (with apologies to sorority girls – I just don’t know how else to describe it). I wish colleges offered some finishing classes or something people entering the working work. Curriculum could include dressing professionally, speaking professionally, etc.


          1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

            This woman is in her 50s so I don’t know if it’s generational!

            Uptalk doesn’t bother me a great deal, but the veneer of “I don’t know what I’m talking about” really does.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I’m consistently annoyed by people who call into my office with no seeming idea what they’re doing. On the one hand, they don’t work here, they haven’t received any training, I can’t expect them to sound like perfect professionals or anything. On the other hand, they simply cannot land the plane and tell me who they are and what they want. They called me, but it’s like pulling teeth to find out why, and oh, the mumbling. This is all ages.

              1. College Career Counselor*

                Maybe they were shocked to get a human being on the phone and expected to leave a voicemail? (But, I agree–talking on the phone effectively is becoming a lost art)

            2. super anon*

              I wonder if writing her a script to follow would be helpful for her (and everyone who has to do these cold calls really). My first ever job at 16 was as a telemarketer, and having the scripts really did help me, and as an added bonus I’m great at talking on the phone and doing cold calls from the 4 months I spent working there.

              Anyway, maybe someone who is good at these types of calls can write up a quick script if time allows.

            3. puddin*

              If many people are struggling with this new task, it might be worth the dreaded role play. Part of cold calling is simply rote or scripting but without sounding like you are reading or memorizing anything.

              The more practice everyone gets, the better everyone will be at it. If there is one or two folks that are very good at it, the rest of the team can copy phrasing and verbiage.

              Your role play or script should include intro self and company – elevator speech – purpose of call – who you calling for, at the minimum. It would also be good to practice handling objections with a collection of responses.

              ‘Hi, this is Puddin from Chocolate Teapots, we make tea a melty chocolatey mess. I am calling to introduce you to our culinary line. Who is the chef? [answer] May I talk to X?’

              Objection 1: chocolate teapots are a mess. ‘Yes, they are ha-ha. That is part of the fun, but you could earn extra income from the customized clean up cloths we package with our high end line.’

              yadda yadda yadda

          2. alison with one L*

            Katie, I totally agree. I am a recent grad from a technical school, and “finishing” is so horribly overlooked. Maybe it’s more a reflection of “the ratio” from my school (60%+ male), but I find that the young men have a harder problem with these areas than the young women. However, it may not manifest itself because these engineer men tend towards less “front facing” roles where they can sit alone with their computers.

            I also think that EVERYONE should have to have a job cold calling at some point in their life. I learned and grew so much in a role doing that for 6 months. My husband still refuses to call for a delivery pizza…

            1. Ebonarc*

              I experienced similar growth doing a job scheduling conference calls for a team of engineers with new customers. It wasn’t cold calling, but it was similar, and my phone and social skills improved by leaps and bounds.

          3. CreationEdge*

            I don’t think colleges need classes on this. There’s so many professional development clubs, groups, and services out there for free or small membership fees. Getting a degree already costs enough time and money, I wouldn’t want to force more of those costs on anyone.

        2. Tris Prior*

          Sounds like she’s really nervous. I can relate; I HATE talking on the phone (even when not sales-related) and if I do not have a script to follow, even if it’s one I make up in my head, for important calls my end of the conversation is full of “uh” and “um” and long pauses while I grope for something intelligent to say.

          You all have my sympathy; that sounds just HORRID.

          1. Lily*

            Yup. I am not a great expository speaker on the phone (I have less of a problem in a face-to-face conversation, for some reason), and it really helps me to have a script or a cheat sheet with bullet points of facts in front of me. Not having that pressure to store all the needed knowledge in my brain and access it on demand makes things *so* much better.

          2. aebhel*

            Same. I always write out a script. I’m still not anything approaching good at it, but at least I’m not atrocious.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          She needs a script or at least a list of talking points. It sounds like the effort to initiate a conversation is sooo hard that she loses her way- she stumbles to find what she should say next.

          I can still do that. My boss thinks I am great on the phone. Not kidding, once I dialed a number and forgot what I wanted. Maybe it is because of my introversion, but I usually have to take a minute to plan what I will say before calling. It’s not automatic for me. This could be what your coworker needs.

          1. alison with one L*

            +1 on using a script. The first few times will sound fairly rehearsed, but with time you fall into a natural rhythm and sound much more polished even when you go off script.

        4. the gold digger*

          Being told after I had started my new job last year instead of before that I would be expected to cold call was one of the (many) reasons that I was looking for another new job three weeks after I had started. I don’t know how much I would have to be paid to cold call, but it was a lot higher than what I was earning.

    1. Me again!*

      A woman I work with is the worst to listen to. It’s like the phone terrifies her. She even lunges at it when it starts ringing like it’s going to attack her. When she leaves a voicemail I can always imagine the face of the person who gets it as “Come on…get to the point!!!”

    2. Saleslady*

      Well, I’m not saying its the case here, but sometimes I use what I call “controlled unprofessionalism” on sales calls as a tactic. But often when we have training and listen to our calls, I will be mildly embarrassed that I giggle etc. on some of my calls when everyone else is super stern and professional, but it seems to work for me. Maybe she’s doing it on purpose?

    3. EG*

      Can you provide her with a sample script of what you use when making cold calls? Sounds like she’s uncomfortable knowing what to say, so giving her a little help might be appreciated by her.

    4. Anie*

      There’s a male co-worker of mine that is horrible on his phone calls. He stutters every other word, says ahhh (in a hesitant tone) over and over. The thing is, he’s our top sales guy! Makes us oodles of money. Makes no sense to me, because I always want to scream “Spit it out already!”

      Also, our lead reporter is almost identical on the phone. I’ve never come across so many stutterers.

      1. Saleslady*

        I find that people find it charming/makes you seem more human/trustworthy than if you are completely smooth talking

    5. Amber Rose*

      I have a coworker who made me cringe every time. My job is answering the phones but if I’m on another line or in a meeting he picks up and it was like:

      “She’s not here.”
      Hangs up.

      Augh. I hate the phones too but that’s just not ok for a professional setting. What I did may help you. I casually commented one day how much I dislike phones and calling/answering them. Under the guise of a friendly chat I shared my coping strategies for being nervous on the phone. Stuff like practicing a script or even having it written out.

    6. Purr purr purr*

      I do that too because of nerves. I hate talking on the phone and I particularly hate cold calling people. I used to work in a call centre back when I was at uni. I wasn’t selling anything but rather setting up appointments for their gas boilers to be upgraded (a free service required by law in the UK) and the first ever phone call I made? I was called a c**t and it was like that for the entire duration of my employment. Anytime I have to make a call now, my heart pounds, I get sweaty and nervous and my intelligence leaves me. Etiquette is also the wrong word because it has nothing to do with a sense of decorum but rather a lack of skill on her part. I don’t see that there’s anything you can do either since you’re not a manager, other than putting in some headphones so you don’t have to listen.

  18. Sandy*

    Thanks everyone for your takes on the fathers taking parental leave question from last week. When I have an update (likely in a year or so), I’ll share it.

    I thought I would share an article (link to follow so I don’t get spam-screened) about one researcher’s take on the major differences between men and women vis-a-vis their parenting and work responsibilities.

    Interesting paragraph:

    “Also of interest was the fact that they (men) didn’t look to formal arrangements to find the time for their children but in effect did it by stealth, taking the time they needed to pick up children or attend soccer games. They assumed they had the right to do this, whereas women – perhaps because they still have the greatest burden of child care, Prof. Ladge suggests – feel they have to forge a formal contract with their employer. She also notes that there is a greater stigma at work about mothers than fathers – more fear they won’t be fully present – so men feel more comfortable informally finding ways to handle their family responsibilities.”


    1. AVP*

      I missed mast week’s conversation, but did you see the lovely piece in the Atlantic by the Supreme Court clerk who took a year off to stay home with his daughter? I’ll post the link below…

    2. Catherine*

      I find this to be VERY true where I work. I came back part time after my first child due to some medical issues, and I have stayed part time (now up to 75%) so that I have time to take care of most of the childcare duties. My husband frequently travels, and so I plan around that situation (ie I have to get two kids to two places in the morning so I can’t get in until 8:45 and I ideally need to leave at 3:45 to have time to do all the evening things). I have a fellow male co-worker who was in a similar situation (except it was his wife who traveled and he had a 45 min commute). So he came in at 9am and had to leave at 3:30 most days, he simply said he made up the hours after bedtime… So I guess I’m not as dedicated as he is because I like to sleep more than 5 hours and have to do housekeeping stuff. As far as I know he didn’t have any special arrangements with work. Other dads have strict policies during baseball season of leaving at 2:30 2 days a week for practice, etc… I feel their stuff is not negatively perceived whereas my schedule is. I frequently work more than my 30 hours when I’m busy (and am compensated for it), but I’m still not seen to be as committed as others.

    3. JC*

      Thank you for sharing, this is interesting. I wonder if another reason for why women ask permission for alternative arrangements vs. men just doing them without formal agreements have to do with larger gender differences with how men and women tend to handle situations in the workplace. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if women tend to seek formal permission before doing things at work in general, while men tend to forge ahead.

      -a female who is definitely a permission-seeker and rule-follower in life and at work

      1. Catherine*

        YES! Exactly.
        I’m looking at summer programs for my kids, and they are limited hours (less than daycare) so 8:30-3:30. I should be able to work my 6 hours a day still, but I will have to walk out of the door on time every day, and especially the days my husband is out. I’m fretting over it, and thinking ‘how do I approach the boss…’ when if I were a man, I would just do it and not ask. So, I think that is just what I will do! I mean I’m going to get to the time of having two kids riding the bus soon, and I will have the same constraint of needing to walk out on time regardless of what emergencies fly in.

  19. Sufferin' Succotash*

    Going anon here to vent:

    So, I’m part of a blog community and one of the posters there is a few years younger than I (mid 20’s) and having a hard time getting a job, trying to go from retail to admin. As someone who has transferred over from the same, I offered some advice, plus of course links to this blog (hence going anon).

    The person said that they didn’t know why getting an admin position was proving so difficult as they have a degree – that’s all pretty much admin anyhow.


    I was like…erm no, it’s not.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yes, because so many retailing staff people do mail merges, book trips, prep PPs, [insert thousand other things I have not mentioned].

      1. GOG11*

        I’ve worked in retail and admin (retail first, then admin/support). Neither of them are nearly as easy as everyone thinks they are and the skills required for each don’t overlap too much…

        1. Joey*

          The most difficult thing about most entry retail jobs is standing on your feet all day and having the willpower to work retail hours

          1. GOG11*

            Don’t forget keeping a straight face. I’ve seen customers do some pretty ridiculous/rude/terrible/unbelievable things and it can be a challenge if you’ve got an emotive face…

          2. Anx*

            I strongly disagree, but perhaps that’s because I’m young and my joints are in pretty great shape.

            I think the hardest part of retail is dealing with customers that take advantage of your customer service position to treat you as a captive audience, try to get a rise out of you, and otherwise put you in an awkward position where you have to be pleasant at them no matter how nervous they may make you.

            1. GOG11*

              I am young and my joints are not in good shape (I won’t lie, I had a pretty hard time standing all day) and I don’t agree. I got a lot of practice in behaving diplomatically and with defusing emotionally charged situations.

    2. Lily*

      Eek. Yeah, if that attitude is coming through in their cover letter/interviews, I think I know what the problem is.

    3. INTP*

      It’s on of my pet peeves when people say they can’t get an admin position because they’re overqualified due to their degree or higher level work experience. No, you’re underqualified due to your lack of admin experience. Why does everyone think they have an innate ability to be an admin with no training?

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        I hate it when people say they are “overqualified” for jobs in which they have no direct experience or training! Such a huge pet peeve. They seem to have determined some positions are beneath them for some crazy reason, and that means they are overqualified when in fact they are completely UNQUALIFIED!

        1. nona*


          I am not “overqualified” for a job in retail, for example, when I have ~a degree~ and no retail experience.

      2. Anx*

        It’s annoying, but I think most people are just being mirrored what they’ve been told. How should someone get any admin experience? Everyone needs to start somewhere. Some of work you do as a student worker or club member is admin related. Some employers assume everyone that wants to do admin or support work will leave as soon as something better comes along.

        I suppose part of the problem is there is push to go to college and people have other reasons for wanting to go. I see very few universities offering minors or majors in administrative work, which is probably better than English or Communications or something more related to the work the company does.

  20. Calla*

    oh have I been waiting for this!

    I’ve complained about my job before because we use office software that is glitchy and out of sync and does not interact with the rest of the professional world, which makes my job as an admin 10 times harder than it needs to be. Although I’ve had some days where I want to quit immediately, I haven’t actually planned on leaving.

    BUT… the company is having financial issues. This is not something I knew when I was hired (about 7 months ago). There is a major financial benefit that is now on hold/not being provided for who knows how long (it would have amounted to an extra few thousand per year and only goes up the longer you’re there). Wednesday, we found out that it’s definitely serious and there are going to be layoffs next week. We don’t know how many.

    I feel that my particular position is safe, but should I start seriously searching now anyway? I have NEVER worked somewhere that had to stop perks/benefits or do layoffs.

    1. Anonercopter*

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, Calla. The organization I work for has been on a pay freeze for about 5 years now and we have had a few rounds of layoffs since I’ve been here (~2.5 years). If the information about layoffs came from a credible source, I don’t think it would hurt to start looking discreetly. It sucks to work amid this kind of uncertainty.

      1. Calla*

        Yeah, the layoffs were an announcement from our boss, and are definitely happening next week (company-wide).

        I figured it was time to look but like I said, I’ve never been in the situation and didn’t know if I was overreacting!

        1. Judy*

          If you’re in the US, and at a company with 100 employees, they have to give you written notice 60 days in advance if a layoff is expected be more than 33% of employees or 500 employees, whichever is less. Also if they close a location that results in a loss of at least 50 jobs. It’s called a WARN notice.

          Yes, I’ve gotten them, although before research, I thought it was a layoff of 10%, which is what I’ve seen, and I think it was written in those letters. Time to at least understand your options.

          1. the gold digger*

            The catch is that they might lay off fewer than 33%. I had no notice when I was laid off, although the fact that the company had gone through five rounds of layoffs in the eight years since I had started should have been warning enough.

            It does not hurt to start looking.

        2. puddin*

          I am so sorry you are experiencing this curve ball at your new job. I hate to say it, but start looking… financial trouble does not go away with layoffs. Most lay offs I have lived through have 2-3 rounds. The first is the ‘known fat’ then the ‘hurts a little’ and finally the ‘oh crap’. Hopefully it does not get past phase 1, but it very well could. One reason for this is that employers do not want to lay off more people than necessary, so they tend to undershoot in the first phases.

          Better safe than sorry, brush off that hardly dusty resume and good luck!

          1. Calla*

            Yeah, that’s my fear. Even if I don’t get laid off (I feel pretty safe that I won’t, at least in the first round), what else is going to come as a result of their financial problems?

    2. Colette*

      Get your resume ready and gather any information you may want from work (not proprietary stuff, of course, but performance evaluations, personal stuff you have on your computer, etc.). You don’t have to apply for new jobs, but it’s good to be ready.

      The next thing to look out for (if you are in fact safe) is whether the layoffs are enough to keep the place solvent – i.e. is this a short-term crisis or not? If it’s short-term, then it will still be hard but I’d try to stay if I could – you haven’t been there that long, so it will be good to stick it out. If not, you need to start looking.

    3. 22dncr*

      Poster child for layoffs here – been laid off 13 times! The MINUTE I hear anything about $ problems I start looking. Remember – if you wait till it happens that means you and the other 30 they laid off with you are all searching at the same time. That makes the pool very full. Start looking.

      1. Anx*

        Wow that’s a lot! That sounds incredibly stressful.

        Do you think you got caught up in a cycle of ‘last in, first out?’

    4. Graciosa*

      Unfortunately, I’m with 22dncr on this one – financial difficulty is a Very Bad Sign. You need to 1) make sure you are prepared to leave work on short or no notice (Colette’s advice was good on this point), 2) know your financial situation and do what you can to ensure you’re in the best financial shape you can manage, and 3) start looking for another job, even if you survive this round of layoffs.

      Do not approach this as a situation which should cause anxiety or panic – neither of those are very helpful. What it should cause is action and preparation. As long as you understand your situation, have a plan for responding to likely problems, and work that plan, you’ll be fine. Try not to let worry distract you from taking steps to protect yourself.

      Good luck.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        Yes: even if you survive the layoffs, the fact that people have been laid off means you can’t count on being safe. You need to have a long-term plan. Know where the lifeboats are, is what I’m saying.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Yes. When there were layoffs in my last company, they tried to keep as many jobs as possible at the expense of actually becoming financially solvent (they also cut salaries and benefits to try to save money). I admire the fact that they were trying to keep most of the employees on, but it didn’t really make me feel like I would be there for the long haul when they explicitly told those of us that remained “we don’t know if we cut deep enough in this round.”

          A lot of the employees that survived the layoff left the company within the next 1-2 years. However, they ended up doing a massive layoff about two years later in which most of the employees that survived the original layoff were let go. The last I heard the company is still struggling to find a sustainable business model in the changed economic climate and marketplace.

          So yeah, now if I hear the company isn’t doing well, I’m looking elsewhere.

    5. another IT manager*

      RUN. My first job out of college, I was told, “We used to offer direct deposit, and we’re hoping to do so again in the future.” The next month, the 401K match was decreased from 4% to 3%. Two months later, it was discontinued. That same month, I started getting collection calls for equipment that we’d bought and never paid for. Two weeks after I left, they asked a third of their staff to skip a paycheck (they were told to take a hike).

      They got bought out a year later.

    6. Natalie*

      There’s really no harm in looking. Places certainly do recover from financial circumstances that require layoffs, but many times they don’t. You won’t have lost anything if you take a better job somewhere else, and then 2 years later it turns out current company weathered the layoffs okay.

    7. AnotherHRPro*

      I am so sorry. You should totally start looking. A frozen benefit followed by layoffs is not a good sign. That means they are in significant financial distress that they were not able to (or just didn’t) forecast. A company should be able to determine their long term financial stability fairly well unless there is a huge disruption in the marketplace. If the leaders in your company are not able to see this coming, it does not bode well for their ability to manage their way out of this crisis.

    8. HR Manager*

      Yikes – yes, I’d start looking. To have to stop benefits is a big sign (unless it’s a traditional pension, at which I would say it’s quite common to stop those now). But with layoffs being announced soon, it’s certainly a side of things not in the right direction and better be safe than sorry. You can always not accept an offer if you find a job before you’re ready to go. Good luck!

    9. Observer*

      Start searching. And, when anyone asks you why, you say that the company has informed staff that there are serious financial issues.

  21. GOG11*

    Is it ever okay for an admin assistant to be “unavailable” to work on a project?

    In my role as an admin assistant, I strive to be prompt, accessible, and responsive. Most of my work allows me to do this because it can be worked on incrementally, so interruptions aren’t that big of a problem and I take care of things ASAP (and I think my coworkers have come to expect this from me).

    Another member of staff who was salaried (ie, wasn’t constrained by 8-5 hours if more time is needed on a project) and who largely worked on Big Projects has left our organization and their duties have been reassigned to other staff members. The Big Boss of my area reached out to me and asked me to take on one of these projects, and I am delighted!

    I need to learn some new software and this project has a very short turn around time – I’ll have less than 2 business days to complete it.

    Is there a way I can communicate that I need to have some time to work for a while? I’m really excited that I was trusted with this project, but after three weeks of trying to learn this software, I’m realizing that I’m having a REALLY hard time due to the piece meal nature of my normal work. I rarely work with the general public, so this would be something aimed at my coworkers.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      My workflow is similar– people just throw projects at me, and I’m expected to do them. However, I have not once had a problem saying things like ‘I’m really swamped with X right now, but I can get this to you by Y.’

      Also, if you have a direct manager, you could ask them to be your gatekeeper while you work on this project.

    2. AVP*

      There is definitely a way to do this, depending on your relationship with your direct manager – which must be good, since she gave you this project!

      When I was an admin, someone gave me a big writing project and I was having trouble making progress on it because the phone kept ringing and I kept getting pulled off onto different things. After a few days of this I pulled the person who had assigned the writing project aside and said something like, “I’ve been really excited to work on this, but I’m finding it hard to make any progress because, due to the rest of my job, I’ve had to work on it in 5-to-50 minute increments and as I’m sure you know, that’s not the ideal way to get a good piece of writing done. Is there anyway I can work on it uninterrupted in a conference room for 3 hours every afternoon for the next few days?” He totally understood that and let everyone know that I would be doing that with his approval, and they could either ask me to do things for them in the morning, or understand that it would take me awhile to get to it.

      1. Sadsack*

        I had the same experience when I was given a massive time-consuming project that took me away from my normal duties. my manager sent the rest of the department a message telling them that I would not be available to them for anything but the most urgent of needs due to my involvement with X project. That’s all it took.

        1. Sadsack*

          Something to think about: When the big project was over, I thought I’d pick up my former duties. However, the department became self-sufficient during my absence and my position was basically unnecessary, which coincided with our company having major lay-offs, resulting in my position being eliminated! So be careful about what tasks you give up, or be prepared to discuss with your manager early on how your position may be impacted in the long run.

          1. GOG11*

            I don’t think this will be an issue as I’ll only need an hour or two to learn the program (at least to learn to do this specific thing) and a few hours once the clock starts ticking on the project, so I think this is short term enough that it won’t cause major shifts/lasting change (yes it’s crunch time enough for me that I really do need those few hours of sustained focus when the time comes).

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      I’m the same as ‘heyNonnyNonny’.

      I’ve had super urgent, huge pieces of work before that has superseded other things I was working on. I think the key is to be transparent – let the people know that you have this other piece of work and that after you’ve finished it/it calms down a bit you will come back to their work.
      Don’t ignore it and think that nobody will notice their projects haven’t been completed…

    4. Kelly L.*

      I would recommend going to your main boss and telling her that you’re doing WeirdProject and need to carve out some time to just do that. You may be able to work with her to designate some blocks of time that are for just that. IME, it will help if there’s also a different location you can retreat to when doing WeirdProject, so that you’re visibly “gone,” kind of like how if you leave for lunch, nobody bothers you during lunch, but if you stay, people try to give you work while you’re chewing. :D In similar situations in my own work, people have generally reacted pretty decently to my not being able to get to OtherStuff as quickly as usual, if the main boss had my back. (So if you, say, blocked out 11-12 every day to work on the software, and hid out in an empty office, and came back and did admin work at 12, most of it would wait just fine till then if well-communicated.)

      1. GOG11*

        This is a fantastic plan, but unfortunately the software is on my computer only and that computer is at my desk in the lobby of my building. I completely get what you’re saying. I wish I had a way to say “You can see me, but I’m not here.”

        1. Nerdling*

          Can you pop a sign up on your desk/put up an away message on instant messenger/let the phone go to voicemail or have it sent to someone else during that time once you’ve talked to your boss? That’s definitely an unfortunate physical setup!

          1. GOG11*

            I think I’ll still have to answer the phone, but I think the other stuff would address it effectively. I’m working on an email to my manager now….between interruptions :P

            I hadn’t thought of the IM thing!

    5. GOG11*

      Thank you, HeyNonnyNonny, AVP, and Carrie in Scotland!

      The project came directly from my boss’s boss, so I’m not sure direct manager/supervisor even knows I’m doing it…so I think I’ll start there (this is normal here…I have a supervisor that handles personnel stuff – vacation requests, for example – and everything else just comes from everyone without any single person coordinating or managing). Supervisor supervises remotely, so it’s hard for this person to know how things play out day to day or what I’ve got on my plate at any given time and, even so, things don’t flow through her (though, in theory, they’re supposed to go through her).

      TL; DR – The gatekeeper concept would work fabulously, but it doesn’t apply here. However, getting permission/backing to schedule something in and stick to it is what’s needed here, I think.

    6. HR Manager*

      Yes, absolutely but it should be positioned as you don’t have time now, but have time later, and the assigner can determine if that time frame works for them. As an admin, you need to prioritize your work just as much as anyone else, and if you truly have a more pressing priority, then it’s ok to ask to defer the new assignment.

      1. GOG11*

        Thank you! I’ll include the time details in my request so they’re not staring at some vaguely-defined wall of unavailability.

        The rest of the time, I go with the flow and just wait for quiet moments to present themselves and then take advantage of them, but with such a short window I really need to be intentional about carving out that time myself.

      2. GOG11*

        I just realized you meant in the moment. I wouldn’t have thought to frame it that way/include when I can work on it. Thank you :)

  22. Bio-Pharma*

    Alison, I noticed that many questions are asked that aren’t answered. Obviously some could just be sheer volume, but it could also be redundancy or whatever other criteria you use. Have you ever thought of (or heard of) something like a service that would enable someone to ask you questions that you would definitely answer? I believe that even though answers can be looked up on your search engine (or the entire internet), I think people would pay to have an expert address their specific question (even if that expert was copy/pasting from a previously-answered question). I’m not a business person by any means, but I just wanted to get your thoughts on it. I was brainstorming something like 1. pay you $x per question, 2. pay you $x/min and you would be honest with how long it took you, 3. pay $x/month or year for a certain amount of access (maybe that’s general coaching). Anyway, I know you’re super busy and I don’t mean would YOU be interested, but more about a general business plan, like if you hired staff or something. Do business-minded people have thoughts on this? Thanks!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Someone I know who’s great at marketing suggested this to me a while back, and it’s an interesting thought! If it was per question, I feel like I probably couldn’t charge enough to make it worth my while financially. Per month or per year is an interesting twist that I hadn’t thought about. My hesitation on that is around whether it changes the character of the site somehow — I mean, presumably readers wouldn’t see any difference since it’s just something that would be going on behind the scenes, but I think one thing people probably like about the site is that I’m not selling you a bunch of stuff. (Not that this would qualify as “a bunch of stuff” either though.) I’m interested to hear other people’s reactions to that!

      1. GOG11*

        I’ve asked two questions, if I recall correctly, and for the one that wasn’t answered behind the scenes, I just planned to ask it in the open thread since the readers are so wonderful and helpful.

        I have wondered about paid resume reviews, though. I am trying to redo mine and I’m having a really hard time using only achievements/outcomes (rather than job duties). I’m super frugal and tend to be a DIY sort of person, but that’s something I’d definitely pay for.

        1. Fawn*

          I second this for resume reviews. Alison, if you’re ever prepared to offer reviews again, I would absolutely pay.

      2. Scott*

        Maybe it could be a package deal. For $XX per year, you get a resume review, a review of X numbers of cover letters and X questions answered. Of course, it depends on your time, too.

      3. Bio-Pharma*

        Hmmm… I see how that could change the non-promoting vibe of the site. It kind of reminds me of going to karaoke, and you could sing next if you tipped well. Never liked that feeling… I wonder if you could say “I try to answer as many questions as I can, but if it’s urgent, you can go to my _business_ website. Also, you can ask your questions in the weekly open forum”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, I think it would have to be maybe a whole separate thing. (And to be clear, I’m just idly speculating here because Bio-Pharma asked about it, not making actual plans. No actual plans for this.)

          1. Bio-Pharma*

            I’m totally speculating too! It just came to me and I wanted to share. Nobody has mentioned anything like it, so it must not exist already… I was actually hoping a business-minded person would explain the economics of it, that it wouldn’t work because x, y, and z. Just curious.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              There are actually a few services where you can basically “dial an expert” on all kinds of topics, and the experts get paid by the minute for the call (I think). Those services also often are set up so that a particular expert can have a “call me!” feature on their site, which goes through that service so they get paid.

              It’s not my bag (phones! non-exorbitant pay rates!), but I thought it could be interesting to you!

              1. Bio-Pharma*

                But it wouldn’t be *YOU* (who I trust)!!! It’s like finding a new therapist… You never know if it’s going to be a good fit until you pay for a few sessions first. :P

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ooooh, that’s so interesting! Their points about (a) the prices they’d want to charge to make it worth their while would be way more than anyone would pay and (b) that putting on a good show is more important to them than getting a fee for a particular question totally resonate with me.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I feel like when AAM answers questions for free, it’s of value to both parties. She gets material and ideas for her website (which she could also incorporate into future books or columns or other things), they get an answer. It seems like a win/win to me.

      If it were a pay service, I think she loses some of that editorial freedom them. Can she still reprint a question if someone paid her for an answer?

      It’s an interesting idea though.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        If the paying people worked with Alison off-line, not here, maybe that would make a difference?

        The one thing I see here is this starts to go into private coaching such as for job hunting or starting in a new job. It might appeal to some people who are going into a field they have never done before so they would subscribe for 6 months or a 12 month’s worth of advice to make sure they have help getting launched.

        Draw backs: Alison may not like the one-on-ones. Or this may not be a money maker. Or people may prefer the free version online with the comments that follow.

        Alison, do you get many people who want to talk to you in email only and do not want their question published? OR Do you get people whose situations really should not be publicly discussed but you are willing to help them anyway?

        1. Katie the Fed*

          This is true. And some people have very specific questions that only apply to them. It does sound more like job coaching or mentoring. I could definitely see a market for it!

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I do sometimes hear from people who don’t want their questions published; in most of those cases, that usually means I’m not able to answer them (because of limited time, not resentment at their request).

          I’m not really interested in doing private coaching, but if someone wanted to pay me an exorbitantly high fee to ensure that they got answers to all of their questions during a month or a year, I’d do that (privately or otherwise). Like a “jump to the head of the line” fee. But “exorbitantly high” is probably the key part there :)

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I have a lovely, but very bossypants kind of friend who used to say she wanted to set up a life coaching service called “I Know What’s Best for You.” She’d be very good at it :)

        3. Bio-Pharma*

          My “business idea” wasn’t about coaching, but more for someone who wasn’t necessarily job-hunting. If I had a question of “My boss just said this outrageous thing. What should I do?” Well Alison may not have time to answer it, or chooses not to for whatever reason. What if I could pay a fee to get her answer? (public or private, doesn’t matter)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Thanks for raising this, by the way! I like the idea of other people figuring out how to monetize AAM so that I don’t have to! (Seriously. I suck at that.)

      2. Bio-Pharma*

        “Can she still reprint a question if someone paid her for an answer?” Yes. As I mentioned in the original post, I would feel great that she read my personal question, and had an answer for my specific situation (even if most of it was copy/paste).

  23. Katie the Fed*

    Ugh I need to vent.

    I got a new person last year via internal transfer. I didn’t approve it – it’s a long story but basically someone up high placed him on my team. I’m trying and he’s trying but to be completely honest – it’s not working out at all. He knows it, I know it, and we both know he needs to look elsewhere because he’s not going to get a good performance review at all. (I want to avoid going down the rabbit hole of government personnel practices – just please know I’m doing everything I can. The guy is genuinely trying but there’s an aptitude issue there that all the effort in the world just isn’t going to overcome).

    SO the other day he was reaching out to another internal organization and inquiring about a job, and CCed me. He attached his resume, which had the most overinflated, ridiculous, flat-out-lying-in-parts description for his current job. I told him that he needed to fix it because I couldn’t in good conscience agree with that description if anyone called me to check on it. He was shocked – SHOCKED – that I thought it was inappropriate for him to list the job description/expectations instead of what he’s actually done.

    He strongly believed he was being honest in listing what the job entailed. Um, buddy – yes that IS what we expect from you, but you’re not DOING any of those things. That’s why you’re looking for another job, remember?

    Sigh. I could just go along with him and tell anyone who calls “yeah, he’s a total rockstar, snap him up!” but I can’t do that ethically. I’m pretty sure that’s how we ended up with him.


    1. Rin*


      That’s literally all I can muster out of the trillions of words in my brain; I’m at a loss. How old/experienced is this person?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        He’s middle aged. I will say his resume looks pretty amazing from other jobs (which contradicts what anyone who has worked with him has to say). So I imagine it’s pretty inflated throughout.

        I used to think he was just inept, but now I’m starting to think it’s more intentional. You can’t POSSIBLY think a resume is to list a job description instead of your actual role.

        1. Jubilance*

          Sadly I think most people think they should put the job description on their resume, not what they’ve actually accomplished. I don’t think I knew that part until I went to resume writing class at my first employer. Somehow it’s not getting taught, and I’m sure if he’s middle aged he was probably never taught how to write a resume at all. Are there resume writing resources/classes you can refer him to get his resume together?

        2. MaryMary*

          Intentional, or delusional? Does he know he’s a low performer, or does he think he’s at least average (or maybe even great)?

          1. Katie the Fed*

            This is a very good question! He seems to believe that he’s a good performer, despite our near-weekly conversations that he’s not. So… yeah. There’s that.

            My gin consumption has risen considerably of late.

        3. anon for this*

          I used to have a co-worker who sort of reminds me of this. He was good at talking and making it sound like he knew things, but he didn’t. He would advise customers to do things that were not good ideas. I remember once answering the same question for him 3 times in 2 days!

    2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      And yet, I have a feeling that if he WAS a total rockstar and went above and beyond his actual job description, he wouldn’t leave THAT off his resume.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        True, but that’s so far outside the realm of likelihood I don’t think we’ll ever find out :)

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Well, bravo to you for not gilding the turd and trying to pass it off to someone else as a gold nugget.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Oh, I have a pretty good idea…when I was supervising people I had someone who apparently was a great liaison and received raves from their supervisor, but when I tried to train them to do the data entry that we stated up front was clearly required for the position this person literally could not point and click. We all get company-issued computers, so I don’t know how they were even using company email….if they even were.

          And that is a big part of why I moved to a more technical role with no supervisory duties.

    4. esra*

      That is definitely a fundamental misunderstanding about what a resume is supposed to be. I mean, it’s not selling the job

    5. E.R*

      I’m having a somewhat similiar dilemma where a former subordinate, who was ultimately let go for performance as well as attitude, is inflating his accomplishments (they are quantitative and he is easily inflating what he did by 3x) on his resume and Linkedin. When colleagues at other companies ask me about it (he is looking for a job), I look a bit confused and say “His accomplishment for the year was x” and leave it at that. I’d love to tell him to change his resume and Linkedin but he no longer works for me so I’m pretty sure its not worth the effort.
      In your case, Katie the Fed, I’d hold your own on this and know you are doing the right thing. He may as well learn this now.

    6. HR Manager*

      All you can do is hope his interviewers read through places like this, recognize the job hopping, and become suspicious enough to dig deeper and learn that he’s full of horse crap.

    7. AnotherFed*

      Time for the PIP and negative pay adjustment. I know, easier said than done, but blatant lying is one of the things I can’t stand, especially if it’s position of public trust/security clearance.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Neither of those are options here, unfortunately, because it’s not a performance issue. It’s a conduct issue but it’s only something that I happened to see, not something he actually did to me, if that makes sense. But I did tell him pretty clearly that he’s lost my trust. I have enough other issues to work with him on though :)

  24. Sunflower*

    How do you guys determine what your biggest strength is? There’s a ton of advice on how to answer what your biggest weakness is but I’m not sure how to determine what I’m most good at. I feel like I’m good at a lot of parts of my job but it’s hard to pick out what the one thing is that I really excel at. How do I chose and what kind of reasoning do you back it up with(in an interview setting)

    1. TNTT*

      Are there certain projects that, when you are assigned them, you do a mental fist pump? “YES! I love these projects, let’s go!”

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Is there anyone you work with who you know and trust? I find other people often are better judges of my strengths and weaknesses than I am :) My own assessments get clouded with wishful thinking.

    3. GOG11*

      At some point, from somewhere, someone (here? I think it was Alison?), said something to the effect of:

      “Look at what you can’t NOT do. What is it in your job that you can’t help doing?”

      For me, it’s taking process manuals, instructions/direction sheets (that are ONE PARAGRAPH ALL CAPS), etc., and redoing them with the reader and the reader’s goals in mind. When I find something intended to be helpful that is convoluted, I can’t help but revamp it because it drives me nuts.

      Is there something like that that you find yourself doing? If so, is that thing something you excel at, as well?

      Though maybe that’s how you find what you’re most passionate about…but sometimes those things overlap.

      1. Shell*

        I think this is the key. It might not be what gets you excited or mentally fistpump, but you do it because it’s needed (bonus points: anticipate a need TPTB didn’t know existed) and you do a good job at it.

        For my job I set up a template database for form letters that cut down my writing time for routine letters by about 70% or thereabouts. It can’t be used for every situation, but for the ones it can be used it’s been a huge time saver. I definitely didn’t fistpump when I was sorting through the myriad of merge fields for the templates, but man, was the end product ever useful.

        I also started writing some procedure manuals last year–not that anyone else would read them (the duties listed were principally mine), but more to record to myself what’s the correct way of entering the teapot specs or edit the POs for the teapot spout orders since we had a steep learning curve for some software. I’m quite sure no one but me knew that they existed. Now that I’m leaving, those formed the basis of the procedure manual I’m writing for my replacement (though they will be expanded upon) and if they don’t hire my replacement quickly enough, those procedures will be hugely useful to my coworkers filling in while they find a replacement.

        I didn’t exactly jump out of my chair with excitement at any of these things; in fact, I said “aaaaaaaaargh” to myself more than a few times. But excitement and strength doesn’t necessarily have to go together.

    4. Snafu Warrior*

      I would first try to think about things that I do well consistently, because then you know that you can do it again and again correctly and confidently, which is a big plus. Then I’d try to think about how my personality complements the things that I do well. Frex, I always hit deadlines because I’m crazy neurotic about deadlines, but that’s not something I’d call a strength; however, I’m always teaching people little bits about what I do everyday because I like gushing about what I’m interested in, and I think that enthusiasm and ability to teach are definitely strengths. And then, since I’m assuming we’re talking about interview fodder here, I’d think about whether each of the things that I’m consistently good at and are complementary to the better aspects of my personality are things that I want to be doing more of every day in a professional setting, if they’ll help me on a course that will give me more transferable skills, etc… I’d find whatever strength does all that, and then talk it up like crazy.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Instead of looking for your “biggest” strength, why not look at your collection of strengths?

      Think about times when people compliment you.
      Think about times when people ask you for help. (That can be a compliment, btw.)
      How about times where you think to yourself “ah, I really nailed this one, I got it!”

      Don’t limit yourself to just looking at your strengths at work. Use a broader view, this will help you to make sure you covered everything you want to say. So think about school, volunteer work, household projects, etc.

      I found a cable for the cruise control on my car. The mechanic did not have time to research and find the company. I took the numbers home and googled. By piecing odd bits of info together, I located a small company in TX. I called the company and they said “yes! We made that cable!” wow. I am not a technical person (definitely know nothing about cars!) but sometimes I can connect things together in odd ways and pull a rabbit out of hat. This example makes me think of all the times I have done this in various work situations. Things that we do as a matter of course are the things that are easiest to overlook. Not everyone does these things.

      1. 22dncr*

        NSNR – this is me!!! I say I’m a Facilitator as I can facilitate anything. I know so many odd scraps of info, hear things that sit in the back of my head and then I can pull it all together to come up with the real story or what’s really needed. It can get freaky sometimes. Like when my Mom was working for Burger King Corp (pre-google) and she’d come home and tell me things. Then I heard some things and read some things and was able to come up with the story that they were being bought out. She told her boss (who she’d worked for before and was friends with) and he was “How does she know that!” It was supposed to be a secret – I even guessed the right buyout company!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am laughing. When I was in school we had to do a paper on McDonalds. What should McDonald’s do to turn the company around. I said, “Salads.” And I elaborated that they needed to get away from the mystery food and start serving real food.

          I got a like a C or a C minus on that paper. And the prof went on to tell me what a ridiculous idea that was.

          And here we are a decade or so later and what is happening? But the answer fell together for me, watching the news articles on seemingly unrelated health topics, environmental topics and so on- I crafted my answer based on what people are going to be looking for in the future. The dots connected in my mind.

          I actually liked that prof, in spite of this.

    6. AnotherHRPro*

      Think back to what your managers have said about you over the years. Anything common? Put yourself in your manager’s shoes. What do you think they would say? I find that my managers over the years have described me fairly consistently. Our managers see us from a different lens than we see ourselves.

    7. HR Manager*

      I thankfully have had good managers and peers offer me valuable feedback. Often complimenting me on things that I may not have thought of as ‘strengths’ (like my stone-cold bitch face that makes me good at handling the most terrible drama-ridden terminations).

      As others have mentioned, you’ve probably found yourself gravitating towards different problems and projects over the years, and have had success in those things – that is a good sign of a sweet spot. Do you also have people who tend to come to you with certain types of problems or seek you out in certain scenarios because they think you’re the go-to person in those situations?

      I know many don’t like the concept of personal brands, but if you had one, that would be your strength as well. It could be awesome service orientation, to technical guru, to ultimate problem solver.

  25. Felicia*

    Today at work we got an unsolicited resume that had glitter on it. Glitter. And the person claimed to have 15 years experience (in something we’re not currently hiring for). They also misspelled the name of the city where one of their previous positions were located, had an empty bullet-point, called themselves a wizard at something, and was totally off about what our company does e.g. she said she was excited for the opportunity to be a part of a company that advocates for chocolate teapots, when in fact we advocate for strawberry microwaves, and have nothing to do with chocolate teapots. I guess she wanted to be memorable with the glitter and she was. Just in a bad way.

    Anyone have any stories of receiving equally horrible resumes?

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      That is amazing.

      Not a resume, but last week I saw a job ad that asked “This is not an adult business but the position will require lots of SEX APPEAL!” which hey, you don’t see every day. It was an administrative assistant job.

      1. Felicia*

        I have to approve the postings on our job board as part of my job and there a lot like that. Or a lot that say “women only” and they are shocked when i let them know that’s illegal.

          1. Felicia*


            The jobs are never actually posted because I have to approve them first , but they try, and they don’t believe me when I tell them it’s illegal.

            It is jobs for registered massage therapists…you can actually find a lot of “women only” job postings for massage therapists on places like indeed.

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              If I saw that ad, I’d assume rightly or wrongly that it was for a… “massage therapist”.

              1. Felicia*

                Generally they’re adds from totally legitimate health clinics, often run by doctors, physiotherapists or chiropractors, and actually for Registered Massage Therapists, who are regulated health professionals in Ontario, and are governed in the same structure that things like doctors and dentists are covered, require 2-3 year diplomas and have to know things like anatomy and physiology. Which I think makes it worse, because they are legit jobs that say “women only” because the physio or whatever doesn’t realize that’s illegal

              2. Felicia*

                There are some that are for a “massage therapist” and we say, thats extra illegal, we don’t do that, regulated health profession…

        1. Nerdling*

          If it were for an admin assistant to John Hamm’s pants, I would apply. Just sayin’.

          But seriously, so much WTF.

    2. LuLu*

      I once got a resume in picture format — as in, the person drew a chocolate teapot and labelled the base with their education, the spout as their willingness to give to others, the handle as their previous experience, etc. It was clearly done in MS Paint.

      1. Future Analyst*

        Not gonna lie, I would love getting a resume like this. I think it would work for a position in which creativity is a necessity– marketing, or even teaching. (I’m picturing a schoolhouse for a teacher, with education as the foundation, speciality qualifications as the door, and exceptional projects or accomplishments as the roof.)

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      I like glitter! That would make my day….but not on a resume. Oh dear.

      I once got a CV handed to me with lots of typo’s – and the person handing it to me wasn’t the person on the CV. They had their date of birth on it (a no-no here) and the person was more of a parent age.

    4. Perpetua*

      Not a resume, but as a part of a portfolio, there was an explicit illustration of men sodomizing a pig.

    5. Gene*

      As in, “glitter glued to the resume preschool-style” or “glitter that came off her from her evening job” or “glitter sprinkled into the envelope”?

      1. Felicia*

        Glittler glued to the resume preschool-style. I think it was glitter glue actually….just around her name/contact and as a kind of border.

        1. HR Manager*

          ????? Tell her that she has to apply online and she’s somehow got to include the glitter on the online application.

          1. Felicia*

            If we had a position available, she would have to apply online …we actually will have a position available as of next month, but in a totally different field than she appears to be in, and i’m kind of hoping she also applies for that with more glitter.

            What I found even sadder – she apparently works for the Government of Canada.

    6. GOG11*

      It’s like those glitter packages you can send to your “enemies.”

      “You may not hire me, but you will remember me when you find glitter in your hair in three weeks! Muahahahaha!”

      Unless it was just sparkly paper. Then that doesn’t apply, of course.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Have you seen the video where the dad wouldn’t stop opening his daughter’s mail, so she mailed herself a glitter bomb? It’s amazing. Just a small poster tube with a spring loaded pile of glitter ready to explode in his face!

        I don’t know if it was staged, but it’s definitely hilarious.

        1. GOG11*

          I haven’t seen that, but it sounds hilarious. There’s something hilarious about the juxtaposition of bright shiny stuff – so innocuous – and the nefarious plans you can hatch with it.

          One time I put glitter in my holiday cards…and then forgot and reopened one because I couldn’t remember if I’d signed it… *face palm*

    7. AndersonDarling*

      I saw a resume with the Objective: To spread the mission of my [insert religion] faith.
      The job didn’t have anything to do with any religion. I couldn’t help but imagine an admin “spreading the good news” while giving a presentation on teapots.

    8. Seal*

      Several come to mind. The first was from a young woman applying for a part-time position in the library I was working for at the time. She had an objective statement in which she misspelled the name of our library, and she misspelled the name of the community college she had attended before transferring to our institution. Her in-person interview was embarrassingly bad, too. The sad thing was that this woman was planning to be a teacher.

      One recent graduate applying for a position in my department sent a in resume that featured the copyrighted school logo as a watermark that took up the entire page. In school colors, of course. Along those same lines, I once got a hand-made thank you note from a different candidate that also included the copyrighted school logo. First guy didn’t get an interview, second one didn’t get the job.

      Another applicant for a different position sent in a resume that had her clearly Photoshopped picture in the upper left hand corner, with multiple script fonts throughout.

      At this point, I think a glittery resume would make my day.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      We got one at Exjob once that was several solid pages of text–rambling, disconnected, and just plain weird. The guy had printed his driver’s license at the top. I’m still shaking my head at that one, and if someone had told me about it, I might not have believed them. It went straight into the No file.

    10. Amber Rose*


      On one cover letter, he talked about driving here to our province on his motorcycle with his girlfriend to escape his previous location.

      Another had at least 20 other companies CC’d on his email.

      Tons, absolutely tons, of resumes and cover letters talked about their experiences speaking with people about chocolate teapots when the job was more like working in vanilla frying pan factories. They clearly saw the job title but failed to read the description.

    11. Xarcady*

      A two-page resume, back before two-page resumes were a thing, typed, single-space. The applicant was in her 20s.

      Each line was a separate job that the applicant had had. In the past two years. Just pause a moment to work out how many jobs that was.

      She’d listed every one or two week temp assignment, every job she’d held for a month before deciding she was bored–everything was listed with a few words of description.

      My boss made me interview her. (Why, I do not know. We were desperate for help, but not that desperate.) Uncombed, messy hair; a wrinkled, faded black cotton knit skirt; a wrinkled, bleach-spotted brown t-shirt that kept slipping to expose her greyed bra strap, bright pink flip-flops.

      She claimed that she just hadn’t found the right job yet, one that wouldn’t bore her with details. Um, we’re a publishing firm, you’ve applied for a proofreader’s job. Details are the job.

    12. Burlington*

      Not exactly horrible, but I got a cover letter recently that was written like a freestyle rap/slam poem.

      It was actually pretty good! And I did tell him that… in his rejection (he wasn’t remotely qualified for any of our open positions).

    13. Not So NewReader*

      “I sorry we only accept applications with blue glitter. Please try to keep yourself up to date on current glitter trends and apply at a later date.”

    14. INTP*

      Once I came across a resume posted on Monster with a cover letter telling the guy’s entire life story (no particular emphasis on the professional aspects). This life story included the phrase “Then I spent a few years killing people in ‘Nam…” (As a military person, not as a serial killer. But still, while I’m all for being open about the horrors of war in journalism and literature, I think you need to practice some tact in your cover letter and not mention killing people.)

    15. Katie the Fed*

      I can only think of two really good ones:

      – One with a QR code. Maybe if we were in tech that would be cool, but otherwise, no.

      – One with big, stylized block quotes describing the applicant from people who worked with him. So like, a giant blue quote dropped in the middle of the page that says “Katie the Fed is one of the finest human beings this side of the Mississippi! – Katie’s boss from 2006.”

      So weird.

      Can I tell you my husband and I bond over ridiculous resumes. When one of us is hiring we get all giddy and call each other with little gems from them. Intern season is the BEST!

    16. Collarbone High*

      At Old Job, we requested writing samples with resumes. One woman who was applying for an internal communications job took photos of stories she’d written on her company intranet — not screenshots, photos, with a digital camera. Clearly visible were tabs for her timekeeping software, several job sites, and her Gmail, which had 2,799 unread emails.

      Another person sent Yelp reviews as writing samples, for a job that required 10 years of experience at a major newspaper or magazine.

  26. TotesMaGoats*

    I’ve had the BEST week. I’ve hosted a internship event with a major component of DHS that brought in close to 200 resumes. These were PAID, part-time internships. They haven’t done that in 10 years. Plus, my institution was the ONLY one in the country that they named as an academic partner. Because of me and the relationship I built. People waited in line for 2+hours to talk with the recruiters. It wasn’t just a drop off, they got federal resume advice and a mini-interview. And my new VP got to see it all and hear my partners say wonderful things about me.

    Then this morning we got them to commit to a date for a 2nd Annual mega job fair. Almost 300 people came last time. I just worked up an awesome event plan (before my boss could ask) and it’s awesome. Can you tell I’m still running on a high from yesterday?

    AND…an attendee gave me a contact with the national park service to do the same sort of thing with them. Boom. Drop the mic and walk away.

    1. C Average*

      This sounds amazing. Well done! Ride that high all weekend. It sounds like you’ve more than earned it.

  27. AVP*

    Hey, can we talk about University of the People here? I have a vague interest in switching into a job in an industry that they have a program for. I know it’s not likely that I would do an associate’s with them and get a job in that field, but does it make sense as a cheap exploratory program to see if I even like the area of study? I was thinking about taking a community college class in my city but the schedules for those don’t work with my current work schedule, and they’re still pretty pricey.

    1. fposte*

      Somebody in another thread had had experience with them and raved about them–maybe she’ll chime in.

      I think that because of their current lack of track record they’d be best fitted for an exploratory program; if you consider going farther to get a degree that would need to be considered by employers in your field, I’d do some research with people hiring there to see how they’d take a degree from there.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        There was another school mentioned in that same thread that seemed to be similar, Governor’s something, and several people raved about it and there were less questions. I’d check it out too.

        1. AVP*

          Oh, thanks! I’ll check this one out as well.

          I know that I definitely would not get a full degree from one of these programs and hope it got me a job, just that I want to see if this is something I really want to get into before committing to an in-person program.

  28. Lisbonslady*

    This may be an Alison question… hmm… but I’ll try here.

    My husband does HVAC work in NJ. Many times he is scheduled to be on call and there are no calls so he is not paid anything by the company. He has to be dressed in his uniform and ready to go, they actually have a time to respond guarantee and given the service area is large it can be a stretch to get there on time.

    Most other companies have some compensation for the the on call time. So I’m wondering if this is legal (assume it is) and how can he bring this up, if anyone has any thoughts around that? This company offers bonuses connected to other performance items, which other firms do not, so I think their view is ‘you already get more here than you would anywhere else’ but this is becoming a real issue as things slow down between seasons. They actually also charge my husband and everyone for uniform cleaning, whether they use the service or not… again with the whole ‘but look at the bonuses you make here’ mentality. They don’t provide GPS but expect the techs to have one and don’t provide tools but you can purchase them from the company at a discount. Again not the norms but until recently I think he felt it evened out in the end… not so much lately…

    Not sure what to suggest he do…

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      From what I found on LexisNexis and other sites, if he can watch TV or surf while at home it’s legal not to pay him, but if I were him I’d be applying for jobs at other HVAC companies that do pay for on-call time, especially considering all the other nickel-and-diming they’re doing. I think they’re blowing smoke about all these other “bonuses” that make up for these other problems.

      1. Lisbonslady*

        Thanks for the feedback, that’s the sense he’s getting now as well, on the nickel and diming… when he first took the job we were skeptical about this bonus structure but it was much better than where he was prior so he was happy. But things keep changing. For example, if a meeting is scheduled on his day off it’s now mandatory for everyone to come in. So he has to get up (everyone does) to be there for a 7 am meeting on his day off, only gets paid for the hour there and not the travel time (over 2 hours) and they do this regardless of days off or shift (meaning if someone is working the 4 pm – midnight shift they still need to be there for the meeting).

        Today was bonus day and they made a huge mistake on his check (this is the second time, last time it took a month to correct) and so it’s the last straw for him. I’ll give him the number.

    2. Natalie*

      Typically the question with on-call time is whether you are “waiting to be engaged” or “engaged to wait”. That is, if you are on the employer’s property, not free to leave, etc, than you are being “engaged to wait” and have to be paid. If you are free to be wherever you want and do what you want (within limits; drinking is usually not allowed) you’re “waiting to be engaged” and don’t have to be paid.

      I’m in the Midwest so perhaps it’s a regional difference, but generally on-call shifts aren’t paid. It’s typically considered part of the job, provided the amount of time on-call isn’t excessive. (Obviously one starts getting paid the minute one takes a call and starts working, and this is usually OT.) I’m curious what compensation is being offered in your area.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It seems to be epidemic in the repair industry. Business machine repair people work under similar nonsense.
      I tried to figure out why. There nearest I can tell is that some people not only are adverse to being chained to a desk, they also do not want to be chained to an office building.

      Well Known Business Machine Company had lawsuits regarding this kind of stuff. It was EPIC. And the courts were not that sympathetic nor that understanding. Lots of people got hurt on that one. When the dust settled it seemed to go back to business as usual. I don’t want to say too much here.

      Your husband can try another company, but I would not be surprised if he found similar shenanigans there, too. A friend of mine got a HVAC job at a hospital and that seems to be going okay for him. Conversely, if your husband is working for a national company he may try working for a more local independent firm. But smaller places have their own set of drawbacks.

  29. epi*

    Hi everyone! Question for the group: After having two seizures in the past two years, I was diagnosed with epilepsy and am now on anti-seizure meds. I’m not able to drive for three months (I live in a state that requires doctors to report seizures to the DMV), and will be re-evaluated by my neurologist after being seizure-free for those three months to get my license back.

    It’s likely that I’ll get my license back, as my epilepsy is well controlled on the meds, but who knows. There’s no certainty with this condition. I’m also a pretty inexperienced driver and pretty nervous about getting behind the wheel knowing a seizure could recur at any time if the meds stop working. I realize that having a car/being able to drive when needed (a rental, coworker’s car, etc.) is generally accepted as the norm in my field (nonprofit professional), especially as I have many meetings with stakeholders. I live in an area with fairly good public transit, but it doesn’t go everywhere.

    I thankfully have a job that doesn’t require driving (I can usually carpool with colleagues for car travel) and can walk to work (!), but I’m thinking about future career options. I’d like to plan how to bring up the epilepsy/driving issue with potential new employers, given that there’s a small chance I won’t get my license back/will not feel comfortable driving/may have more seizures that require me to give up driving for a period of time. I’d like to be transparent without jeopardizing my options. What do other folks recommend?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I think whenever you’re talking potential accommodations, you should wait until you have an offer. Once you do, I think it’s totally fine to say “I’m dealing with a medical issue that means I can’t drive for at least 3 months, possibly longer. I don’t anticipate it to affect my work and I will be able to get to and from work reliably, but I want to make sure this won’t be an issue.”

      I can’t imagine it would be an issue for anyone, and if it is then you can formally request reasonable accommodation under the ADA. But I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.

      Good luck with it. I know those anti-seizure medications can be really exhausting – my dad was on one for several years and it just drained him.

      1. epi*

        Thanks Katie for the advice and support! This is so refreshingly simple. I really must have been overthinking it, as I do!

        So far, the seizure med I’m on isn’t causing exhaustion, but I’m at a really low dose, and I know they can be rough for many.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      So, when I started college in 2000 my mom had her first seizure. Thankfully, I was attending college where she worked, so I drove while her license was “on hold”. It took two years before she was allowed to drive again. The were multiple medication adjustments that meant she would have a seizure and the timeline reset. We were so lucky to be able to ride together. Her employer was incredibly supportive not just because she is well loved there but because that’s what they do.

      However, if you are planning to take a new job, it wouldn’t disclose this until well after hiring. If you are truly managing your epilepsy and haven’t had a seizure in a while then it’s just a quick convo with your manager. A heads up. But I wouldn’t mention it at all until much later.

      1. epi*

        Thanks for sharing this. So glad to hear you were able to support your mom during that rough time – and that her employer was so supportive and awesome to boot! I can only imagine how difficult it was to keep adjusting the meds and playing that waiting game.

        I actually had my first seizure at work, and my boss came with me in the ambulance to the hospital. It’s so key to have a supportive employer.

        I appreciate both your and Katie’s perspectives on when to disclose to the employer. I’ll definitely think about this – after the offer, or during the first few days. I’ll discuss with my neuro, but it sounds like if it’s been over a year without any seizures, it might be ok to wait. I do have a tendency to want to over-disclose…

        1. Melly*

          I think you should be really intentional in your interviews about work-related driving requirements. Lots of jobs won’t require you to be out and about in the field, and if that’s the case, the employer doesn’t even need to know as long as you can get to and from work.

          My husband has epilepsy and has no license restrictions (he has in the past, before we met), and he keeps his diagnosis personal. He did ask to change his hours to a later start (his seizures are triggered by sleep deprivation and later was just better), which was approved, no medical info needed.

      2. I have epilepsy*

        I’m a little late responding, but I wanted to chime in because I have epilepsy and have spent my entire career in nonprofit. I can drive right now, but there are times where I couldn’t (in my state, it’s 6 months seizure-free).

        What has worked for me is to not mention it in the interview. If I could drive at the time, there really is no reason for anyone to know. If you feel more comfortable telling someone, wait until you are hired and mention it to your supervisor or HR. In my case, I don’t want anyone to know during the hiring process because discrimination is very real. But once I’m hired, I don’t care one way or the other if people know.

        At times when I couldn’t drive, I still didn’t mention it at the interview. Driving might have been something that would make my job (I’m a fundraiser) easier, but it was never an essential function of my job. So I waited until after I was hired, then in orientation ask what the procedure is to request reasonable accommodations.

        Unless you are applying for a job as driver, this should not be an issue. Even if you are working as a major gift officer or something similar where you have to attend outside meetings. Driving is not an essential function of the job. Making presentations and meeting people was an essential function of the job. I make the distinction because I worked at a nonprofit where we had a blind person as a major gift officer. She traveled all day to different offices. For the most part, she used cabs to get to the meetings. (my city has terrible public transportation) Only occasionally would she ask someone in the office to give her a ride because the cab never showed or whatever. BTW, asking for a driver to get you to meetings is a very reasonable accommodations. That is no different than asking for a sign language interpreter or other type of service. It is the company’s responsibility to provide that (at their expense) if you ask for it.

        You need to familiarize yourself with ADA and the laws related to accommodations. It is very likely that your employer (or potential employer) will not have a good grasp of them.

        Best of luck to you.

    3. Sofie*

      I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis, I know that can be tough. You’re not alone – I never got my drivers license because of a medical condition that also causes seizures. I’m a non-profit professional as well, and so far it’s never been an issue for me. I think Katie the Fed left some good advice. Best of luck to you!

      1. Mimmy*

        Just out of curiosity – What types of nonprofit professional jobs do non-drivers have? I can’t drive, but for me, it’s due to a vision impairment. I imagine it runs the gamut, but so many jobs require that you travel off-site for meetings, conferences, research data collection, etc. Argh.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For what it’s worth, I’ve always worked in nonprofits and very, very few jobs around me required driving. There might have been some driving occasionally for the sorts of things you mention, but it wasn’t an essential, core piece of the role — which means that under the ADA, an organization would normally be required to find a way to accommodate someone who didn’t drive for medical reasons (by sending you in a cab or some other means of transportation).

          1. Mimmy*

            Thank you for your perspective Alison – I guess I’m looking in the wrong places. I’ll start a new topic so I don’t derail epi’s thread :)

            1. epi*

              Really helpful perspective, Alison. Sounds like it really depends on the nonprofit, and that driving is not super necessary.

              Mimmy, I work in fundraising and communications, so generally the driving would be to donor meetings/events where public transit isn’t available. Like I said above, I’m an inexperienced driver, and have always carpooled with coworkers when a car’s been necessary in the past. So it hasn’t actually been an issue yet :) But our executive director often drives to events and meetings where transit isn’t efficient (like, 2 hrs on transit vs. 40 min driving). I can imagine that if/by the time I’m at that level, I’ll hopefully have the seizures under control!

        2. Felicia*

          I work in a non-profit and no one is required to drive. In fact, I have never encountered a non profit that requires you to drive. There is the occasional conference, but twice a year we either take cabs, a plane or a train, depending on where. Or the boss rents a car and drives us all (it’s an org of 4 ppl)

          1. Al Lo*

            I work at a non-profit arts organization that does a lot of community performances, so both my assistant and I are frequently away from the office for performances, scouting locations, meeting with clients who are booking us, etc. When it comes to show days, we often have equipment that we need to transport (our equipment manager takes the sound great, but there are usually peripheral pieces of equipment and materials that ends up in my car). Having a car is definitely a requirement for both her and my jobs.

          2. Judy*

            I can think of several off the top of my head, locally that have positions that driving would be required.

            Girl Scout Council – the member development people are all over the place running training for leaders and events for girls. Habitat – the worksite and office are in different places, and every build I’ve been on, I’ve seen most of the paid employees over the course of the day, stopping by to see “what’s going on”. Our local nature center – the education employees have those turtles and raptors all over the city doing programs and they manage not only the nature center, but two other interpretive nature sites locally, but there are only offices in the main one.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, I think it’s not “you’d never need to drive working for a nonprofit,” but rather “there are loads of jobs at nonprofits that don’t require driving — the majority, in fact — so don’t steer yourself away from nonprofit work just because you don’t drive.”

              1. QualityControlFreak*

                Exactly. The nonprofit I work for has a fleet of company vehicles and all staff need to be on the approved drivers list provided they are licensed and insurable. But while driving is absolutely a requirement for some positions (we do workforce training and a lot of it is mobile), most of our administrative and support personnel are based out of local offices/facilities. The only driving I have been required to do is my daily commute.

        3. Lia*

          The only people I knew in the non-profit I worked for who absolutely had to drive were gift officers and senior leadership (alas, we lost a VP candidate once when he removed himself from consideration after finding out we would not provide a car and driver as “(he) was accustomed to that at Big Name University”, his prior employer — NOT TRUE, because I had a friend who worked there who told me even the president of that university drove himself everywhere. Not joking). These positions needed to be able to drive to travel to meet donors.

          Some of our lower-level staff had very occasional driving, like to drop off mailings, pick up packages, etc, but there was almost always someone else who could do it if they hadn’t been able to.

          1. epi*

            That makes a lot of sense, Lia. Lol at that story!

            I’m actually a development director right now, and would consider similar jobs in the near future, but the donor meeting piece (plus, needing to transport equipment/materials for events/site visits) is what gives me pause. It’s hasn’t been a huge deal in my current org as we are connected pretty well by public transit to most donors (or I’d be going with a colleague who’s driving anyway), but definitely something to think about for the future…

        4. Sofie*

          I work at a nonprofit in DC, so I at least have access to public transportation (without it, I’d be a bit stuck). To answer your question about type of job, I do economic research.

      2. epi*

        Thank you, Sofie! So glad to hear the license thing hasn’t been an issue for you. What a relief to know there’s opportunities available for everyone. It can be so isolating to feel like you lack this “life skill” that most everyone else has! Hope all is well with you.

    4. GOG11*

      I don’t have a recommendation, but I wanted to wish you luck with finding a treatment that works well for you. Hopefully all goes smoothly and you’re able to get back to driving soon.

      1. epi*

        Thank you! I’m very thankful that the low-dose med I’m on appears to be working with no side effects :)

    5. Mimmy*

      I agree with the others – wait until you get a job offer, at the earliest. Although if it’s a job that is strictly in-house, I would wait–you could remain well-controlled for a long period. Even though it’s technically discrimination under the ADA, many employers still have reservations about hiring people with any medical condition or disability, even if the condition is not apparent. So mentioning something that may not impact your job for a long time could bring about unnecessary concerns. Just my two cents :) (I’m a bit of an ADA-nerd)

    6. HR Manager*

      Just ask – will driving be required for this job? For personal reasons, I will not be able to do so, and I just want to make sure we’re matching each other’s requirements. Don’t mention it’s due to epilepsy. It’s none of their business why and most smart recruiters will know not to ask.

        1. HR Manager*

          Either way. Sometimes, it’s better to vet that earlier and not invest too much time in a job that you wouldn’t be able to take.

    7. Anonathon*

      I’ve also only worked at nonprofits and a car has never been a requirement. At my current organization, we have multiple sites around the city, so there is a fair amount of driving — but it’s divvied up among the folks who have cars, we do carpools, etc. In my case, my spouse and I also share a car — so while I do have one, it’s often not with me. It’s never been problematic though.

      Good thoughts to you!

    8. INTP*

      Even if you aren’t cleared to drive, if you are applying for positions that don’t mention driving in the job description, they don’t ask you about driving, and you can find transportation there reliably without a car, I don’t think that you need to mention anything at all. There are tons of people who can’t drive for work travel because they don’t own cars and they don’t usually disclose this in interviews unless asked. It’s none of their business as long as you can get to work on time for the foreseeable future.

      If you are cleared to drive and your seizures are well-controlled, I consider that being able to drive “for the foreseeable future.” It would be ideal if you could only consider jobs that you could take transportation or carpool too, but if that’s not an option in your city, I still don’t think it’s something you need to bring up. So many of us have medical time bombs that might or might not go off – it’s no one’s business until they do, imo.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t know why I did not think of this earlier. NPO jobs around here will state that a DL is needed in their ads. And you will see that certain job titles mean driving around is part of the job.
      But, yeah, there are plenty of jobs that do not involve driving or involve so little driving you will just car pool.

  30. Court B*

    This is absolutely awful of me to feel this way but finally the office bully isn’t being tolerated anymore. She has bullied our clients!!! This was tolerated by an old manager who has since been demoted. She’s bullied staff to the point they’ve left for other jobs, staff and clients had complained about her yet the behavior continued. She has refused to complete tasks that are part of her duties.

    Now 2 other managers that are in charge are enforcing rules and ensuring tasks are getting completed. Jane has been avoiding scanning and filing documents for over 3 months and this morning 1 of the managers told her she has to scan them and she will check her progress by afternoon. Jane became angry and threated to quit and said “I’ll walk out and won’t be back” and our manager said “If you do that I ask that you turn in your building key before you leave if you aren’t coming back”.

    This has been several years that her behavior was tolerated and this morning something was finally done about it. Hey if she doesn’t want her job then there’s plenty of others that would happily take the job and perform the duties.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      I don’t think it’s awful of you to feel that way AT ALL! I hope the managers follow through with checking her work and managing her out if she doesn’t do what’s needed.

    2. GOG11*

      I don’t think you should feel awful, either. The change in management is improving the culture/environment and that is both good and the way an office should run.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I love these two managers. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” Yep. That is how to answer that one.

    4. Observer*

      I’m surprised the old manager wasn’t fired. As bad as it is let an employee get away with bullying and not doing parts of their assigned tasks, allowing someone to bully paying clients is another level of crazy. It’s one of the few things that pretty much anyone understands will drive customers away.

      The manager sounds like a pretty good person to have on your side.

      1. Court B*

        It was almost like she had something incriminating on her him. He would not discipline or replace her.

    5. justine*

      I’m so happy for you!
      Bullies are terrible, but managers who allow it are the worst!
      I wish work was a democracy where we could impeach horrible managers.

  31. AnonyMs.*

    I’ve run into a co-worker issue and could use some advice. I started a new job two months ago and I love it. I’m in a very small branch office, just me and 3 other people. The other person with my title who works in the office, “Minnie”, is a nice enough person but kind of clueless about some things. She’s been there a little over six months. In terms of title, we are peers, but we come in with vastly different levels of experience and are expected to lead projects that are quite different in nature. I’m not a huge fan of hers; she gives off this vibe that she’s “too cool for school”, she doesn’t seem to grasp certain nuances (on a very basic level, she had to be asked to wash her own dishes and she doesn’t silence her phone, which results in way too much whistling when she gets a text), she throws these mini-tantrums when she gets frustrated (this job has a very steep learning curve that she’s found steeper than many, and while the tantrums aren’t directed at me, I find them pretty jarring– we have an open-plan office). None of these things are serious, and I’m not quite at bitch-eating-crackers level, but I need advice on how to keep myself from getting there.

    I was recently assigned a very big project that is very important to our business. I am insanely busy, Minnie’s plate is empty at the moment. With that in mind, the manager on my project suggested I ask her to do some work for me. I emailed Minnie and asked her to do this task, and in my email I spelled out what I wanted. Keeping in mind that we’re peers, I tried to balance being direct with my request and being respectful of her time. She wrote back two hours later and had simply provided me with links to get the information myself– the workplace equivalent of Let Me Google That For You. I should note that she spent a good portion of our weekly team meeting talking about how she thinks we need to be more collaborative and tap into others for insights, advice, etc, so Minnie’s email was particularly annoying. I was set to do it myself, but I realized that was ridiculous and I don’t really have the time.

    Here’s where I ultimately need advice: during a daily check-in with the project manager, we called Minnie in, and the PM “gave Minnie clarification” on what we wanted (note: the PM did not know about my initial email and Minnie’s response). The PM also handed the conversation to me, so I basically repeated my request on the phone with the PM on the line. And you know what? Minnie went and did it. She did it well, too. I’m just puzzled as to why she didn’t do it in the first place, and my thought is that it’s because we’re peers and therefore she doesn’t have to do anything for me. Maybe that’s defensive, I don’t know. But this is going to come up again, especially on this project, and I have to keep myself from getting frustrated. Any tips?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I think I would be clear when you ask her to do stuff for you that the guidance is coming from the PM, because she’s obviously not going to accept tasks from you. To some extent that’s normal – if a colleague delegated work to me I’d wonder what was going on to. So you need to make it clear you have the authority to ask her to do those things. I wouldnt’ assume the worst of her intentions – she might have thought you were trying to pawn your work off on her.

    2. LAI*

      Did she know that the PM had suggested that you ask her to help before the initial email? If not, I could easily see why she might think you were just trying to dump some of your work off on her, and was reluctant to invest a lot of time into something that she thought was your job. I’d be annoyed if a colleague asked me to do something that I knew had been assigned to them, without any other context or explanation. Once she realized that the directions were coming from the PM, then she did the job well, right? In the future, I’d just start off any requests with a quick “PM asked me to see if you could help out with X…”

    3. Jubilance*

      Did you clarify in your first email that the PM (or manager) wanted you to ask Minnie for assistance? I’ve had peers make requests of me and unless I know that they are being directed to do so, I’d be miffed that they are trying to assign me work. Perhaps next time you can make sure it’s clear that someone with authority is directing this so she doesn’t think you think she’s your subordinate.

    4. Judy*

      When I’m asking someone to do something that my manager asked me to assign, I usually write:

      Minnie, Jane requested that you handle a few items for project ABC.
      * Research THIS.
      * Blah Blah Blah

      I usually CC: the person’s manager and the person who requested I hand the task over, so it’s clear I’m not just trying to get someone to do something without any authority at all.

      For example, once my project manager gave me explicit instructions on what he wanted me to do, with explicit “do not do THIS”. My internal customer came to me and said my project manager really wanted me to do THIS. I called my manager, and was again told “do not do THIS”. In the end I needed to get my manager and customer on the phone together so it was very clear whether I should do THIS or not. The internal customer was trying to change my department’s strategy by pushing on the individual contributors to do what she wanted.

      Things like this happen all the time, so it needs to be made clear that you have the authority to ask her to do something for this project.

    5. Yet Another Allison*

      Copy the PM on any emails to Minnie asking for her to do something. Then add a note in the email like “PM, I’m copying you FYSA.” In other words, you are just including the PM on the emails so the PM can manage his/her people by knowing their workload.

    6. AnonyMs.*

      Thanks, everyone! Since everyone is saying similar stuff, this is good to keep in mind. I just looked over my initial email to her. I kept the language pretty casual, but I definitely said, “WE need your help! WE were hoping you could…” etc. If someone sent me that email, in our business context, I would figure it was coming from all players in the project, and in this case, that’s the PM and the CEO. This is not to defend myself at all; on the contrary, I have to keep that in mind for the future. I just kind of hate it, especially in light of her whole speech about collaboration during our team meeting. For what it’s worth (not too much, I know!), I had to ask another peer in another location to take on a much heavier part of this project (again at the PM’s suggestion– we agreed on which person we would ask), and she responded with, “Sure, what are the details, do you have any background materials for me?” So while I’m confident my request was in line with company culture, I probably have to tread differently with Minnie.

      Oh, and I just found time to look through what she did. It wasn’t great– parts of it were spot-on, but other parts were tone-deaf. She flat-out ignored some of our basic instructions (from me and the PM). She kept coming up to me the other day and checking in, telling me she knew there was more she info she could find, asking what I thought. So I wrote back with some notes and guidance and heavy doses of appreciation and I really, really hope this all works out.

      Minnie just replied to an email from another one of our peers with another LMGTFY type of answer… so I’m starting to think this is a combination of just-how-she-is and how I need to handle these things in the future.

      1. Yet Another Allison*

        Yeah, imo that use of “we” isn’t clear enough. I’m not suggesting being rude, but the amount of effort that you are putting in to these emails to sound appreciative should be the amount of effort that you are putting in to being clear about exactly what needs to get done. (Yes, I’m a task-oriented person!) My humble suggestion is to think of clarity as a form of kindness and respect.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        I’ll agree with the chorus that in the future you should make it more explicit that the PM wanted you to ask for her help, but I totally get where you’re coming from with your original approach. If I got that request at work, unless I were absolutely swamped and there was no way I would be able to get to that in a timely fashion, I would just take care of it. I’ve also been known to make similar requests, which work fine in my current workplace but may not be direct enough in other environments.

        One additional thought I had (again, coming from the place of at times not being direct enough with requests): is it possible that she thought by providing you links to the info she was helping (kind of in a “oh, she doesn’t know how to do this, I’ll give her a heads up and then she’ll know in the future” way)? I’m guessing not based on your follow-up that she also did this to another coworker today, but if you look over your message again and see that maybe it could be misconstrued, you also might get better results from making it clearer that you need her to actually *do* said task. Good luck!

      3. Haven't you people ever of closing the goddamn door?*

        Based on what you wrote, I feel like you should perhaps get ready to deal with the concept that Minnie is just not capable of performing her job.

        One other thing sticks out to me: it seems like you are giving her direction largely via email? Just me, but if I have to hand work off to someone – especially a peer – it’s important to talk to them about it, via a face-to-face meeting, if possible. Plus it is important to lay out exactly what you are expecting them to produce.

        But having said all of that, my gut feeling is that she has competency issues. Fasten your seatbelt.

    7. Observer*

      Well, in these kinds of cases, it sounds like your best bet is going to be to tell her up front that your manager is the one who is making this request. So, you email her saying “Manager asked that I get your assistance on this piece of the project. What we need is x, y and z.” cc the manager if you need to.

  32. constipated accountant*

    An accounting job posting I’m thinking of applying to says that a sense of human is mandatory. Would it be too much to include an accounting poop-related joke in my cover letter?

    Did you hear about the constipated accountant? He couldn’t budget.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        To expand on this – humor is really subjective, and all humors aren’t the same. My team is hilarious, but we have a definite brand of humor. We had a new guy show up once who tried to join in the fun but his jokes were all…weird. Like the kind that made people really uncomfortable. I had to talk to him about appropriateness in the office and he was all “I’m just being funny!” and I had to explain where the line was.

        1. Jen RO*

          Haha, so you really did have something like my guy in the question way down below… my department definitely appreciates humor (even dirty), but thie new guy is just… not getting the flow right.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Oddly it’s a different person! The one I referenced below is actually really hilarious – he just doesn’t know when to turn it off “and when to not hit send.” I’ve had to have the “Before you hit ‘send’ on an email, I want you to ask yourself ‘how would this sound in a deposition?'” talk with him.

            The one with the off humor is actually the guy from above who inflated his resume. He’s just super odd in many ways. He tries really hard to be funny but it just comes across mean or weird or too political and confuses us all.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I have occasionally tried adding humor to cover letters when companies say it’s what they’re looking for.

      YMMV, but it’s never worked, not once.

    2. Carrie in Scotland*

      Luckily I am now alone in my office – this is too funny!

      But NO. Don’t do it. Step away from the impulse.

    3. Sunflower*

      1. no. I would just try to be personable and show that you aren’t a robot or a rock. That’s probably closer to what they’re looking for

      2. I didn’t realize that sense of human was a typo and I sat here for a minute thinking ‘the heck is a sense of human?’

      1. De Minimis*

        #1 is absolutely right. Just show that you can communicate like a normal person and you’ll stand out.

      2. A Jane*

        Ohh, it’s a typo! I thought the job description was looking for a non-robotic personality. I automatically assumed it was a job posting for a start up or something.

    4. HR Manager*

      I like that they need a sense of humor, but poop jokes do not belong on a cover letter/application. Save the personal, laid back style for the in-person interview. No poop jokes unless the interviewer explicitly asks for one.

  33. Rat Racer*

    Hi – earlier this week (yesterday, I think) Alison posted a letter from an employee who was on a PIP and felt they were being set up for failure because they were over-taxed and trying to do the job of more than one person.

    This got me thinking because I am preparing to ask my boss for an additional FTE on my team because I am stretched so thin right now. I am thinking about pulling together a grid showing everything I am currently responsible for, what my one direct report is responsible for, and the current projects that are technically on my plate but that I don’t have the bandwidth to pay attention to. This grid would include another column of “future state”, describing how much more we could cover if we had an additional FTE. We could take on more projects, we wouldn’t be down to the wire on every. single. deadline., we could build in more QA, provide better supervision over our marketing and communications department, etc.

    Yesterday’s post got me worried that this could get my boss thinking that someone else could manage this workload with the resources currently allotted. Is that a viable risk to be worried about? For context, I did lose an FTE from my team last year – he moved to a new team and I did not replace him (hiring freeze, now thawed). And meanwhile, my role and responsibilities have grown exponentially as the year progressed and I was tapped to support for more projects oversight throughout the division.

    I’m reaching out to the community to see if anyone else has valuable “lessons learned” to share about asking one’s boss for another FTE. What are the risks? When is the right time to do it? Is this something I should prepare my boss for in advance and then set up a meeting to discuss, or can I bring it up in a 1:1?

    1. LCL*

      The right time to do it is to start as soon as you lose the position, and keep at it. Have a meeting to lay out your evidence, and talk to your boss about this every time you meet.

    2. Sofie*

      I’ve done this successfully before, and am in the process of doing it again. What’s worked best for me is to draft a proposal that outlines what our organizational unmet needs are, how they arose (e.g. increased funding for X and Y), how they affect our organizational goals, and some potential types of roles that could meet the unmet needs we have. Then, I mention to my boss that I have a proposal for organizational growth, and could we talk about it later this week? I send her a copy ahead of time so she knows what we’ll be discussing, and we review the options I’ve proposed to see what the best fit is.

      I don’t know if you’re well-positioned to do this, but then I also offer to take on the responsibility of completing all of the ridiculous paperwork that our bureaucratic university requires for new hires, draft position descriptions, advertise the position, review all the applicants, and do initial interviews. It makes it that much easier for my boss to say “yes” if she doesn’t have to do the tough stuff.

      1. Rat Racer*

        The responsibility for the administrative pieces of the hiring process goes without saying – although we’re a fortune 100 so we have recruiters and a robust HR department that will do some of the heavy lifting. My boss, who is a very senior VP, will probably not read my proposal in advance of the meeting, but I think that’s OK. She’ll at least have a head’s up that it’s coming.

    3. BRR*

      Are you getting less done since losing the FTE? If yes you could say we tried to maintain everything as we did without Jane but we need another FTE. If no you could say that you were fine since Jane transferred we were fine but with adding A, B, and C we need another FTE.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Slightly different angle here. Is there a way you can talk about your productivity levels when you had two people vs what you are doing now? “When Bob was here we did 100 accounts per week. We lost Bob and eventually changed things in our system so we can handle 85 accounts per week. But now it’s a year later and we really need to be able to handle 150 accounts per week. For this we need a New Bob.”

      I think your situation is different from the OP this week. No one is saying you are not doing enough work or doing it incorrectly. (That’s important.) Your group was supposed to be three people, this is proof of what the company thought of your work load. Annnd you can probably pull some stats together to back up what you are saying.

      Please do not worry about being accused of slacking, instead focus on presenting your talking points very well. Your talking points are all in place, they just need to be presented in crystal clear manner, so that it is incredibly obvious “oh, yeah, OP is right here.”

    5. AnotherFed*

      I would definitely not write out a massive proposal. I think you column idea is clear and to the point, and if you are already at the point where projects aren’t getting the attention they need, writing a significant proposal document could easily come across as tone deaf.

      Assuming your manager knows the quality of work you personally do and understands the work fairly well, I doubt you will find yourself in trouble, especially if you work with your boss to make sure that he agrees with how you have prioritized work and is aware of what simply can’t be done. If you wait to have that conversation until key deadlines are missed, then it’s likely to be a problem.

  34. Scott*

    Does Allison’s advice about not having a job until you have a written offer apply to internal jobs, too? I just gave my notice to start a contracting job in March because the place I work now promised me a promotion two years ago for excelling in a project and it never happened. My boss asked me to take this weekend to reconsider and said he was moving forward with the paperwork for the promotion, but that it might be another 3-6 months.

    If the promotion was real, I would stay, but after two years how do I know if 3-6 more months means anything at all and the contracting job is interesting, pays more than I make now (though not as much as I’d make if the promotion came through), and is something here and now with a firm commitment.

    I have to let both sides know 100% for sure on Monday.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I would say a firm commitment trumps a maybe any day.

      To talk about moving forward with paperwork after 2 years and adding another half year to the wait feels like a ploy to avoid having to hire/train your replacement. You’re worth better treatment than that.

    2. Sadsack*

      I would not buy into the promotion. You’ll withdraw your acceptance to the new job and then suddenly the promotion will also be withdrawn or kicked back by HR for some reason. Your sounds like a case where, if your manager really valued you, he would have given you the promotion when you deserved it, not jsut because you are now one foot out the door.

      1. Ama*

        Yup, seconding this. If it was that big a priority they keep you, they would have already put the promotion through (and I don’t really buy that they couldn’t rush through a promotion right now if they *really* wanted to). I fell for this a bunch of times early in my career, and I’m only just now starting to catch up on the advancement I missed out on while I was believing empty promises.

      2. Sadsack*

        P.S. This comes from my experience of having been told by my manager he and our VP thought that I deserved a promotion and so one was in the works…a year later it finally materialized. The VP ended up pushing it off, not submitting it to HR for processing until a year later for reasons never explained to me. I suspect it was budget related, but I’ll never know. When I asked for status, my manager had no information.

    3. Graciosa*

      The fundamental question is whether or not you reasonably believe him about the promotion – do you? It doesn’t sound like it. However, you haven’t provided much context beyond the time line. How long ago was the project completed (if the promise was made two years ago about a 22 month project you just finished, that’s a bit different from expecting to be promoted two years ago)? Did you remind your boss at that time of the promotion or stay silent? Does your boss have a history of going to bat for his people successfully, or either failing or not bothering to try? Do you see other people getting promotions on much shorter time lines than the 3-6 months your boss mentioned?

      The sense I get from your post is that you’re a bit disillusioned with your current job and/or boss and ready for a change, but are wondering if you’re not giving your current employer enough of a chance. If you’re generally disillusioned and ready to move on, I would go while you have the opportunity. Very belated raises don’t change the overall work environment.

      Of course, I may be reading too much into this, so more information would definitely help.

    4. BRR*

      1) It doesn’t sound like the promotion is coming. If your boss handed you the offer today it would be a different situation.

      2) I think her don’t take a counter offer advice applies here as well.

    5. Amtelope*

      A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush, especially when the contracting job is both interesting and better-paying than what you’ve got now. I wouldn’t trade a solid offer for “maybe we’ll promote you.”

      1. Scott*

        Thanks all. The project was completed two years ago. This place has a history of promising things and then not coming through. It’s too bad, because my co-workers are great but I’m looking at people who’ve been here for 10, 15, 20 years in the same job (on paper, definitely not the same job in reality). Time to try something new anyway :)

  35. Cath in Canada*

    What are your “small pleasures” at work?

    I have a thing for writing in non-standard ink colours, especially green and purple for note-taking and orange for marking up hard copies of documents I’m editing/proofing. Not for official documents – just for my own use. Well, until a couple of weeks ago anyway, when the finance coordinator I work closely with spotted my new pack of pens, and squealed with excitement – turns out she shares my enjoyment of such things! So now we both use a rainbow of colours on the post-its we add to official documents we’re handing off to each other, or on the monthly account reconciliation checklists that we share (and which no-one else sees). We even colour-code – green ink for signatures and notes on the bullfrog genome project, brown ink for the spruce tree genome project, pink and purple inks for cell biology-based projects.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      There is nobody here to tell me otherwise – I can often leave a bit early (15-10 mins) as there is little/nobody here.

    2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      Mine are

      1) when people bring me chocolate

      2) when my coworkers ooh and aah over me being ‘good’ at Excel (“you can find duplicates just by clicking a button??” – my coworker, going through a 6000 record file) or knowing how to insert a hyperlink

      I’m like yes, yes, praise me for being such a genius. More chocolate please.

        1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

          Her case was a list of clients which had been compiled from several different lists. We wanted to send all of them a letter, but didn’t want to run the risk of some getting multiple letters.

          In that case, you can simply select the column of data you want to check for duplicates (ex. client number or client name), and click “Conditional formatting” -> “Highlight cells rules” -> “Duplicate values”. Every value that appears in your list more than once will be highlighted in red.

          1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

            (and if you sort the names/numbers column, the duplicates will appear beneath their originals, so you can easily compare and verify if they’re real duplicates which you then delete)

            1. Elsajeni*

              Beyonce Pad Thai, I bet you already know this, but for others: OR, if you already know that any duplicates you find will be real, deleteable duplicates — I’ve used this for a similar mailing-list project, for example, where I knew that, even if someone showed up twice, the mailing address would be the same on both records so it didn’t matter which one I deleted — you can have Excel delete them for you! Click the “Data” menu tab -> “Remove Duplicates,” tell it which column or columns to check for duplicates, hit “OK” and enjoy the time you have saved.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I love learning new tricks and shortcuts in Excel! We had a three hour course on Excel last week and it was glorious.

        So I guess I can add “getting to do cool stuff in Excel” to my own list too :)

    3. Amber Rose*

      I like folding. We print out these enormous plans for government submissions that have to be folded down from table size to letter size in a very specific way. I am the queen at this. Mine always turn out perfect.

      Also I’m the office SPIN expert. The Spatial Information Network is a government site that I spend all my time on and I know more about it than anyone. Being an expert is fun.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          I used to fold blueprints (manufacturing). They were folded exactly like road maps. Some of the layouts were 6 feet long, and I was always extremely pleased when mine came out to the proper measurements.

          When I became a secretary, I had to fold letters and stuff envelopes for the Marketing Dept. I was really good at that, too. (Basically, anything that requires the skills I learned in kindergarten makes me happy.)

    4. fposte*

      Good pens. Not like Mike C’s fancy expensive pens, but just really nice flowing Bics or Papermates that just glide along the paper.

      Crossing things off the list, of course. (Discovering how to do that in Word was wonderful.)

      1. Kelly L.*

        Me too! My favorites are Sarasa. I like the “standard” colors as well as the darker end of the other colors; they have a nice maroon, a nice forest green, etc.

        1. CA Admin*

          I love those pens. I was on the debate team in high school and I fell in love with those pens and colored card stock for taking notes.

          1. salad fingers*

            Fellow former highschool debater who retained a love of colored pens from her days of flowing. Do you also amaze co-workers with constant subconscious pen flipping?

      2. EG*

        Pentel RSVP are my latest collection. I get small joys out of writing notes to myself in purple or green, while keeping the standard blue/black pens for official documents.

        1. blue_eyes*

          I love Pentel RSVP pens. I use black for everything, my rainbow set for fun, and bright blue for grading.

      3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I like good pens too, but my definition is opposite yours. I like pens with just the littlest bit of friction– smooth-gliding pens tend to make my handwriting sloppy. My favorite pen of all time is a Pilot G2 07 in black. Nice dark ink, just the right thickness, and just a hint of friction. Perfect.

      4. Shell*

        I love my fountain pen with extra-fine nib. Super fine line that neatens up my handwriting with just enough tooth/feedback.

        Fountain pens are more of a pain to maintain, though.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I have a disposable fountain pen at work that is a bit too grabby, so I don’t use it much. The refillable fountain pen I have at home, though, gets a lot of use. But pens walk away from my desk often enough that I stick with my Pilot G2 07 blacks at work. :)

        2. Cath in Canada*

          I use a fountain pen at home. Nothing fancy, just a basic Parker pen that takes ink cartridges. It’s way too much hassle for work though. Our director has a Mont Blanc that is a thing of beauty. I want to ask to try it but I’m too scared of breaking it!

        3. Mike C.*

          What do you use on a regular basis? I have a TWSBI 540, Vac 700 and AL 580 in my pouch right now, but I rotate pens when they get empty.

          My wife bought me the most gorgeous Sheaffer Imperial (IV) Touchdown in black. I’ve never had an antique pen before!

    5. Katie the Fed*

      I put a lot of effort into my lunches. I usually deliberating make enough dinner for leftovers for lunches, and I’ll throw in something delicious like pomegranate seeds, and some good healthy snacks. It brings me great pleasure. I’ve also started going on a short afternoon walk outside – studies say it helps you be more alert and I like the exercise :D

      1. De Minimis*

        I love my walks! I try to go any time the weather is halfway decent—generally I can manage even if it’s a little chilly so long as I have a decent coat and the wind isn’t blowing too hard.

    6. Kelly White*

      I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, and found out my Office Manager is as well- so I use my Dalek and Tardis Post-it notes on things I pass on to her.

    7. Sabrina*

      The pancakes in the cafeteria. They have them every other Friday for breakfast. But I WFH most days and rarely have to go in on Fridays, so I haven’t been able to enjoy them in a long time. Though I’ve seriously considered driving over and just running in for some pancakes to go.

    8. Sadsack*

      I love to use a scented hand lotion a couple of times a day, for some reason that lifts my mood! Right now, the scent I love is Bath and Body Works Wild Madagascar Vanilla. I find it is a pick-me-up; I don’t know why, I just love the smell of it. I go through a ton of hand cream during the day, especially in winter, thanks to the yucky commercial soap we have at work. I only use the smelly lotion once or twice a day, or else I would reek of perfume.

    9. Natalie*

      A fridge stocked with multiple flavors of sparkling water. I will seriously drink 3 cans a day on a bad day. I just love the bubbles.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      When it’s time for a cup of tea. That first sip–ahhh.

      Anytime it’s a food day.

      Getting a freshly hatched report or module to edit. I clap on my headphones, select some music, and off I go. I get great pleasure out of cleaning up a draft and making it pretty. :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          True, very true. I deeply apologize!

          Especially my Fortnum and Mason Classic Earl Grey (which I do NOT bring to work and guard jealously). I spilled some of it when I was cleaning the kitchen this past weekend and actually cried.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Sigh. My label maker. The boss picked out this label maker for our work. I did not think twice about it- then it arrived. It was love at first sight. When I use this thing it feels like “play”. It’s delightful to use. Sooo, I organize some stuff, put a big effort into making a logical system and my reward is to go play with the label maker to label all this stuff.

      My boss gets a charge out of the label maker, also. We were both amused to find out the other liked it so much.

      I want to buy one for home, but the tape is so expensive.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        The awesome student volunteers I recruited for the conference I helped organise last year were SO excited by the label maker we gave them, to make name badges for unregistered attendees. They’d never seen one before, apparently. It was super cute!

      1. Sadsack*

        Wow, that sounds fun. I cannot use anything other than blue or black, blue being my preference. Other colors hurt to look at!

        1. Sadsack*

          Ha, I do this, too. However, if you’d ask me later in the day what color socks I have on, I would not be able to tell you without looking.

    12. MissLibby*

      I just found out recently that one of our admin assistants loves fun colored and shaped paper clips and binder clips. When something is routed to her with a cute clip she replaces it with a plain one and keeps the fun one before sending it on. I don’t know why, but it just makes me happy that fun clips make her happy.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I do the same thing. And if I find out my coworkers like them, I make a point of sending some their way on anything I give them. :)

    13. AnotherHRPro*

      I just got new assorted colored paperclips. Large and small. I like to use certain colors for certain projects or people. There is something a little rebellious about giving the CEO a report with a pink paperclip on it. :)

    14. HR Manager*

      Wow, I’m lucky that I have a lot of small pleasures in the office:
      1) Real espresso machine with a milk steamer/frother (and free milk)
      2) Nice tea bags that actually produce good tea – none of the Lipton crap (and the Bigelow marginally better crap)
      3) Swedish fish in the reception candy dish!
      4) Mechanical pencils in our supply closet
      5) Fresh yellow highlighters (purple, green and blue do NOT highlight, people – they color).

      1. Ellie A.*

        Good tea, yes! I like loose-leaf teas at home, but they’re too messy to deal with at work. What brands of tea bags do you like?

        1. HR Manager*

          I do only loose leaf at home too, but in my office they have a brand called “Two Leaves” and they offer Assam, Tamayokucha (green tea), a Peppermint and a Masala Chai. They are all really good teas – comes in the fancier cloth/mesh bags. We have occasional off-sites at nearby hotels, and they offer the Mighty Leaf tea bags, which I’ve really like. I steal a couple of these each time I’m there so I can use them in the office.

            1. HR Manager*

              I do too, which is why I swipe from the nice hotels. :p My company pays for it, so it’s not really as bad as that sounds.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I found Twinings available at Walmart. I do like those, and they had both the English Breakfast and the Earl Grey (though not in the humongous box like my auntie bought for me in England).

    15. Anonicorn*

      I ordered organizers, pens, and sticky notes from and love that my desk is now both organized and adorable. Having specific trays and bins to put my notebook, to-do-list, and stray papers in is just…ahhhh! The desk zen is strong.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Those are great! I fear I may spend much money at that site, if I don’t have a weak moment and finally enter the “Room In Order” organisation products shop dangerously situated two blocks from work and spend all my money there instead.

        1. Anonicorn*

          I managed to score a more than adequate number of products for <$100 somehow. The double stacking trays are probably the most expensive item, at least for desktop organization. The most agonizing thing is picking out which colors you want. Coral? Mint? Navy? All of them? Yes!

    16. Ezri*

      I keep a notebook and adopted the baffling (to my coworkers) habit of rotating to a different color of pen each day. It makes my notes look like a rainbow, and I enjoy that.

    17. cuppa*

      I have a collection of fun sticky notes, and sometimes choosing which one to write on absolutely makes my day.
      Also, I keep amusing pictures and stories from the newspaper and put them on my wall to give me a smile when I need it.

    18. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I really love shortcuts. Not the kind that cut corners and cause bridges or buildings to collapse, more like keyboard shortcuts. Anything that I can do more efficiently and get the same result. Keyboard shortcuts, macros, even spending an hour writing a script for something that would otherwise take me literally one minute once a day….in three months, I’d have saved more time than I spent writing the script, plus sometimes my shortcuts benefit lots of my coworkers, so I am often boosting productivity for everyone!! :D

      1. Beezus*

        Yes! I discovered this week that ctrl+page up/page down can flip through sheets in an Excel workbook. It was a life-altering discovery!

        My coworker and I are working on this massive spreadsheet that uses formulas to recommend actions on customer orders that I used to have to work out in my head. I have been squealing over new developments for the last two weeks.

    19. In fact she's tilting pretty sharply bitchward*

      My workstation has a kind of mad scientist thing going on: three notebook computers mounted on two swing-arms, glowing USB cables, an ever-changing variety of keyboards, controllers, synthesizers, cameras, iPads, and a really nice amp and speakers, all mounted on a custom framework I built. I use a couch instead of a chair. It’s extremely comfortable, and really really pretty in the dark.

  36. Gabriel*

    Hey guys! I would like to seek your input about my job-hunting.

    I’ve joined my current company and three months has since passed. However, due to the differences in work culture, I found it difficult for me to fit into the company culture. In addition, my manager has been behaving like a micromanager, trying to dictate what I should be doing. To be honest, I have been very miserable and I’ve lost the passion in my work altogether.

    I am toying with the idea of resigning from my current job, and I am now in the midst of looking out for better opportunities.

    I am wondering, if prospective employers decided to ask me about my intent to leave my current company during interview, how should I best explain about it without sounding like I am badmouthing the company and my manager?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Anonathon*

      If possible, I would wait to resign until after you have a new job lined up. As to how to explain it, I think you could focus on your own needs/wants rather than the company’s issues. Maybe say that you realized fairly quickly that this was not the right fit, the job turned out to be all about X when you really prefer to do Y, and you are anxious to get back to working in an environment that focuses on Z.

      1. Ellie A.*

        Yeah, agreed. “It’s not a good fit” covers a multiple of sins and doesn’t come across as badmouthing.

    2. HR Manager*

      Be honest but vague — after three months working, I realized the culture is not the right fit for me. Be prepared that they may ask you to be specific with examples of what doesn’t work for you.

  37. Beyonce Pad Thai*

    Can an office chair give you back problems even if it’s a decently fancy ergonomic chair? I’m 26, my back probably shouldn’t be cracking and popping all over the place. Just wondering if it’s worth trying to get it replaced by something else to see if that helps.

    1. Amber Rose*

      It can if you’re not sitting properly. You want your thighs parallel to the ceiling and your knees at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor and your back straight while you work.

      Your chair is only the first part. I have a nice chair but my desk is so low I’m all hunched up.

      1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

        I didn’t even think about the desk!! It might be too low? I’m taller than pretty much everyone I work with.

        1. Amber Rose*

          Try sitting with your back straight and resting your hands on the desk like you’re writing a memo or typing an email. Where are your knees? If they’re up high that may be your problem, and it could be worth looking into measures to raise the height.

          Some people also swear by standing desks if replacing it is an option. Though I find my feet get sore.

        2. Colette*

          If you work for a larger company, they probably can arrange for someone to come in and do an assessment. But yes, your desk is probably too low.

        3. Sadsack*

          Also consider if your chair has arm rests. Arm rests are bad – arms should be relaxed at your sides while typing. Your keyboard should be directly in front of you, like your dinner plate, and at a height where your wrists and/or forearms are not bent upwards to reach the keyboard. Monitor should be within arms’ reach with the top of it at or below eye level. I was shocked by the improvement in my back/shoulders/neck and wrists when I made adjustments to these things.

          1. The IT Manager*

            Yes. Typing on a laptop on a desk is bad because if the key board is at the right height the monitor is not and vice versa.

        4. Brett*

          Even the ergonomic chairs are only for certain heights. I am _shorter_ than everyone I work with and cannot handle ergonomic chairs at all. Nearly all of them don’t go down far enough for me, leaving my feet dangling in the air and resulting in numb toes by the end of the day (not to mention the seats are too long for me to actually slide back far enough to use the seat back).
          I’m not sure if being too tall for an ergonomic chair is as much of a problem as being too short, but I would not be at all surprised if it was.

          1. Vancouver Reader*

            Do you share a desk with someone? I love having a footrest but if I’m at a desk where there isn’t one, I try and find something, even a paper box that I can rest my feet on.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Yes. But then again, just about everything gives me back problems. Definitely ask to try out something else!

      Also, I read your question in Mindy Kaling’s voice and it was fabulous.

    3. Cruciatus*

      Oh, it’s possible. I think it’s the sitting that’s the problem. I had some luck with a chiropractor. I don’t pop and crack much anymore. I have to go every so often for a tune up, but it’s been worth it for me–might help you out.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’m all freaked out by the latest report that sitting can shorten your life span and that you can’t make up for it by exercising at other times of the day. So now I’m trying to get up at least once an hour, if even for a couple of minutes.

    4. Emme*

      Could you switch it out with a chair from an empty desk or a conference room chair for a day or two, just to try it out?

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I just got a firm talking to by my chiro because I always sit on the edge of the seat. I never sit back with my back up against the back of the chair.
      He said I had the damage in my back that edge-sitters get.
      Who’d thunk.

      But it makes sense. I am always hurrying to get to the next thing, next thing and I never think about my sitting position in relationship to my work.

      The other thing to consider is that your monitor should be at eye level- straight across from your eyes.
      Edge sitting is lower back/upper legs, monitor is upper back/neck into skull area.

      1. AnotherFed*

        Yoga balls are great at making you pay attention to your posture, but lots of workplaces near me have been banning them due to safety reasons. Apparently too many people are hurting themselves falling off their yoga balls at work. :(

    6. fposte*

      In addition to the tips people have mentioned, I’ll note that you should get up from the chair at regular intervals. There is no chair so brilliant that it can guarantee you no back problems if you sit in it for hours at at time.

      (I’ll do a bit of a plug for Mindful Mynah, which I’ve just installed on my computer–it can give you an alert at whatever interval you ask, and it has some nice sounds to choose from. So when the birdie tweets I get up and get water, or file stuff on my desk, or whatever.)

    7. HR Manager*

      Oh geez, yes. I’m short, so chair no matter how ergonomic do not fit me, even with a foot stool. I think I’m going to suck it up and get a stand-up desk station, which is all the rage in the office.
      There was even a CNN article recently about how sitting kills you.

  38. Amber Rose*

    Guys, I’m gonna explode.

    I spent hours reading through the AAM archives. I revamped EVERYTHING. I had an interview on Tuesday that went hell yeah amazing and late last night they emailed me saying they wanna give me an offer and can I show up this afternoon to discuss terms.

    Yes I can. :D

    So. Question. How do you value yourself in terms of wage? I feel I am overpaid at my current job, for which I am grateful because we have no benefits and I am a sickly sort. That said, I have a mortgage and don’t want to take a huge pay cut if I can avoid it. The new job would also be in an industry I know next to nothing about so there’s going to be at least a bit of a learning curve. Is it weird to start low and negotiate a raise schedule based on performance?

    1. J.B.*


      Don’t start low. Don’t think of yourself as overpaid now if you don’t have benefits. See what benefits they have, and if it would reasonably be worth 10-20 % less than you’re making now. Have that as your floor, then probably negotiate a little bit up just for the sake of it if they offer you more than that.

      1. Amber Rose*

        My concern is they will offer quite a bit less. I don’t want to undervalue myself, but this process has been weird since he just happened to have someone quit the day I met him and it just happened to come up in conversation and so there’s no job posting or wage range for me to work with.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Figure out what the norm is for your area.

      No, do not start low. Make a statement that has a range. Only use a range that you feel is reasonable.

      We just had a post from someone who did not get the future raise in writing. The raise never materialized. CYA.

  39. Cruciatus*

    So an administrative position for the state and in my city opened up recently. I’m currently an admin at a small school. I didn’t really want to stay an admin, but I’m not getting hired for other things and I’m wondering about going for the state position–If I got it I’d at least be “in the system” as they say. Has anyone been a state admin? The pay is better, but actually not great. But, better benefits… And first you have to pass the test. I’m sure I can, and I understand what the categories are looking for (except the effective expression), but what sorts of questions might they ask to judge your:

    Judgment and Problem Solving
    Effective Expression (What?)
    Arithmetical Reasoning (Basic numbers, right? Not Calculus 404?)
    Correspondence Reports (Do they want you to type sample emails/letters?)

    1. Sadsack*

      I just googled effective expression and found lots of sites. It has to do with the way you express yourself, communicating to others. At first, I had in my head that it was facial expressions, which didn’t make any sense to me!

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      I’m an admin for a division of my state. The pay isn’t fantastic (although I’m one of the higher-paying support staff in my department because of how autonomous I have to be), but the benefits are (my awesome insurance costs me $50/month as a single person, they’ve been putting 10% of my income into a 401k that will be vested to me come August, vacation and sick leave are generous). Merit pay increases went out the window with the recession– all raises are across the board and dependent on the state legislature. I’ve gotten a 1% increase each year so far (I’ve been here 3 years), which equals about $.16/hour. Ooh. On the other hand, I get Columbus and Veterans Day off, so there’s that.

      Judgment and Problem Solving, they might ask about a difficult customer service situation, what you’d do if asked to do something you haven’t done before, things like that. They probably want to see that you can act independently.

      Effective Expression is going to be communication skills– answering the phones, emails. Just be clear and concise in all your communication with them, from your resume and cover letter to your interview.

      Arithmetical Reasoning is probably basic numbers. I’d guess they’d want to know if you can look at an Excel spreadsheet that isn’t calculating correctly and be able to a) notice that it isn’t calculating correctly and b) know how to fix it. Data is EXTREMELY important for my division, and people have been fired for not noticing that the data was off (because it meant a several-million-dollar error). Even though I’m an English major, I know my numbers enough to be able to look at a spreadsheet or table and say “hmm, something’s not quite right here.”

      Correspondence Reports, yes, they might have you do sample letters/emails. Or they might just ask about your experience in preparing correspondence and/or tracking correspondence. Some positions require you to keep an email/phone log, for example.

      Good luck! I’ve enjoyed working for the state, and wouldn’t mind staying if I can move into a higher-paying position.

  40. Dolly*

    I can’t even begin to explain how gratifying it is to be appreciated in the workplace. Just did a regularly sched review and I was really worried because a few things didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I got a lot of really great, positive feedback as well as some feedback on how I can make changes and prevent the negatives from cropping up again. I felt supported, heard, appreciated and rewarded for my work.

    I haven’t had this in a workplace before. It is truly amazing and makes me want to keep coming here every day.


    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Hurrah for understanding (and sane) workplaces! I am now in one as well and I think it myself “wow, so this is what it’s supposed to be like.

    2. Shell*

      Yeah, at my last performance review I asked my bosses for things to improve upon and they couldn’t think of anything. I laughed and pressed again because there must be something, I didn’t hang the moon or anything.

      When pressed, boss was like “okay, I suppose there were those times where some of your correspondence had some pronoun/antecedent mismatches (I was working off some templates that I’ve since updated) BUT I haven’t seen that in ages and I’m totally just nitpicking here because you’re putting me on the spot and I can’t think of anything :P”

      Another boss (jokingly, obviously this didn’t make it into the records) said that my aptitude at grabbing Timbits (mini doughnuts) for the office is great.

      It’s awesome being appreciated!

    3. the gold digger*

      YES! I was working in DysfunctionLand before (aka SergioLandia) and after five months in my new job, where it is acceptable to disagree with the VP and perfectly OK to say, “Let’s get started! We are way behind on the agenda!” and where my boss actually says nice things to me, I am still a little suspicious that it is all a trick, but I am starting to exhale. It is so nice. In SergioLandia, I had started to think that suddenly, after years of working for bosses who liked me and who are still friends, I had become a Very Bad Employee. But maybe it wasn’t me – maybe it was Sergio.

  41. Buttons!*

    I work for a nonprofit and we’re getting a new CEO/President in a couple weeks! (Last time this happened was in the late 80s, I believe …) I’m a director-level, so I’ll be briefing her on Day 1 and of course working with her a lot moving forward. I’m wondering, to what extent can/should one be candid with a new boss, especially when it comes to deep-seated organizational issues? I obviously don’t want to have a vent session on the first day, but I also want to make clear that I see the problems and would like to work together to solve them (if that makes sense).

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Don’t start by listing off all the issues in your org – begin with more positive/neutral territory. Then bring up the issues you see in an objective, factual way. “Like any organization, we’re facing challenges, both internal and external. For example, our biggest donor is very particular and asks us for major favors on short notice [instead of “a high maintenance pain in the ass”]. Some of our high-level staff are also working through different work preferences and communications styles, so it can be tough to come together on a unified plan to achieve our mission. The workload is also really high, and we could really stand to look at where it might make sense to pull back on that, or bring in more resources to alleviate it, so we don’t burn out our staff.”

      I’m the kind of person who if I have a good rapport with someone, will just say: “Every organization is dysfunctional in their own special way.” If they don’t snort with recognition, it’s a sign that I should either pull back and be ultra-diplomatic, or a giant red flag that they don’t have nonprofit experience!

      Otherwise, I’ll continue with something like this: “And here’s where ours is: [xyz expectations] but [reasons those expectations are totally divorced from reality.] I recommend [coping strategies]” Spoken in a calm, factual way.

  42. esra*

    You guys.

    Our office has a piano. One of the guys brought his kid to work today.

    The kid plays piano, poorly.

    It is not even noon yet.

    1. soitgoes*

      Say you have to make a phone call to get him to stop. Spend the rest of the day “on hold” with the phone up to your ear.

      1. Iro*

        Yeah … I’ve found that this statment kind of annoys adults who have radios on quitely and the like, but that it’s simply a recipie for “family hater!” if you say anything about kids visiting the office.

        1. BRR*

          Maybe just come out of left field. “I have perfect pitch and it’s torture to hear anything out of tune.” “If Johnny can’t play Bach without emphasizing where the main theme resurfaces in the fugue he needs to stop”

      1. HR Manager*

        Or drums. Remember that episode of the Brady Bunch with Bobby Brady trying to learn the drums?

    2. Lady Bug*

      In my last office, the owner’s teenage granddaughter would play Justin Bieber tunes, sing along, and even played along to the music on some ipad app one day. I really wanted to buy headphones for her. She would also watch Netflix on the computer with no headphones. I’d take bad piano any day!

  43. De Minimis*

    My wife has a phone interview next week….it was supposed to be this week but one of the interviewers was sick.

    This weekend I need to apply for a higher-grade job that just popped up nearby. There are also finally some fed jobs that came up close to the place where we would be moving if that’s what we end up doing, but generally my odds are usually not good for regular federal jobs.

    If I had my druthers, I’d just get the higher grade job nearby and we’d just commit to remain in the area a few more years, and hopefully I could move to a even better grade job later on. Not sure if any of it will work out though. We’ve been married over a decade and we’ve always had the “trailing spouse” problem—we’ve never worked it out to where both of us could have decent jobs at the same time.

    Oh, and in other news, I saw two white tail deer just now when I was out walking during my break. That was pretty cool.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Deer! How fun.
      I’ve gotten excited over seeing squirrels and pretty birds before on my lunch break. Brightens up even the worst day at work :)

      1. De Minimis*

        We used to have a flock of wild turkeys who would hang out in the area, but haven’t seen them in a while….

        Though apparently the correct term for a group of turkeys is a “rafter.”

        1. Carrie in Scotland*

          I’ve always liked “a murder” of crows and “an aura” of polar bears. I think I saw that there’s a book about these out.

          *comes back 5 minutes later*

          will post the link in the next reply down.

  44. RJW*

    I feel like my current supervisor is trying to get me to quit. She treats me much differently than everyone else, blames me for most things, doesn’t respond to me, gave everyone a raise but me…pretty much all the signs she hates me. I am applying for other jobs and trying to put up with as much as I can. I tried to find out what I have done wrong and could improve and work on for the future-but I never can get a time to meet or any other response. I work in the HR department so this may be a question I should know the answer to but who, if anyone, could I try and talk to about this? I feel like going to the CEO or president is too much and could make things much worse. Do I just suck it up, keep quiet, and continue the job search hoping something comes along quickly?

    1. 22dncr*

      So sorry you’re going through this – been there many times myself. To the point I thought it was me. Once even had a boss toss my desk outside; that was special. The only thing I can recommend is to start looking for another job. There just is no winning when they decide to be irrational and hate you for nothing.

        1. 22dncr*

          Yep and she’d been there for 25 – 30 years and had never done that before. The guys I worked with were flabbergasted by it (it was a car Dealership and I really worked in the Parts Dept but because I was a “woman” I had to report to the “woman” boss). My bff was her special pet so I was kinda excided thinking FINALLY I’m going to get the real reason people (mostly women, I have to say) do this to me and all she would tell her was she hated me! No reason was ever given even after I left.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Your only problem was that job.
            She had much bigger problems. I cannot imagine where I would have to be in my head to think that it was okay to throw someone’s desk outside.

    2. Saleslady*

      I had a boss who hated me. I wish I could give you better advice on how to fix it, and I’m afraid I don’t know all the details, but my quality of life improved dramatically when I found the way to get out of there. Going over her head probably will not do anything but cause strain in the relationship further. You could try talking to her directly but in my case that made everything even worse.

    3. BRR*

      For now suck it up and search.

      If you have any really close people in the department you could always try asking them.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      She’s your supervisor. Is there someone over her that is still in your department or is the CEO the next on the chain?

      1. RJW*

        No one above her, she’s the director of the department. She’s been here about a year and a half. I’m the only remaining person in the department that had been hired by the previous director. That’s why I think I am being pushed out.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Ahhh. Okay that makes sense– I mean it offers an explanation.
          Yeah, keep your head down, hunt as much as you can and keep a positive thought at all times.
          She’s decided to clean house and she probably is not going to change her mind. The CEO sees what she is doing and he is okay with it. I think your gut is correct on this one.

    5. CheeryO*

      Ugh, I’m sorry you’re going through that. My supervisor at my last job hated me for no discernible reason (threw me under the bus on a big project, ignored virtually all of my attempts at communication, left for a 10 day vacation without telling me that she was going to be gone…) I left with a giant smile on my face as soon as a good opportunity came up somewhere else.

      I would search hard and suck it up, unless you are sure that going above her will have the desired effect. Personally, it would have been suicide for me to go above my old supervisor, but that’s because the culture there was super old-school and change-averse.

  45. ACA*

    I have some exciting news! Yesterday a colleague of mine called me to let me know she was recruited back by her old job (sad for me, but great for her). “So would that have anything to do with the job posting for ___ I saw last week…?” I asked her. She said yes, asked me if I was interested (YES), and said she’d highly recommend me for it – and has already talked me up to her boss, who thinks I should definitely apply. She and I are meeting next week so I can find out more about the position before I apply, and once I do, she’s going to give my name to HR to make sure they pull the application.

    Even if nothing ends up coming of it, it’s a huge confidence booster to know that there’s someone out there who has that kind of faith in my abilities.

  46. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I have a follow-up question for hildi from yesterday’s interview with her, which I told her I’d post here for her to respond to: Hildi, as a task-oriented person myself, can you explain more about what it’s like on the relationship-oriented side of things? When you’re dealing with a task-oriented person (and let’s say you’re someone who isn’t as well-versed in the differences as you actually are), how are you experiencing that interaction? And what are some quick things that task-oriented people can do that won’t take a ton of time but which will pay off in their relationships with relationship-oriented people?

    1. hildi*

      Those are some fantastic questions – I’d love to know how a task-oriented person experiences someone like me (on second thought, no. I already know that I can be flighty, unfocused, and slightly annoying.). But honestly, recently I got dinged pretty hard one time in a behavioral style class from a task person for being too defensive when we talked about these differences. I try so, so hard to remain neutral when discussing in class but this group was really blatant in their stereotypes about each other and I let control of the class get away from me. It sucked. So I want to make it very clear that this is from my perspective ONLY and there is a whole litany of things that a relationship person needs to improve on.

      So much of how I’m experiencing an interaction with someone depends a lot on how much I already know about them. During my freshmen year of college I was elected to a state leadership position in an organization that serves high school students. We were a team of six and worked very closely with each other the entire year. One of the guys I initially hated. Well, hate is too strong, but I really, really didn’t like being around him. I thought he was arrogant and blunt and demanding. I didn’t feel like he listened to people at all. A big part of our job was to travel as a pair with my teammates to different high schools and do leadership workshops. I’m sure I was paired up with him several times and I think it was on those trips that I was able to see through the extreme task side of him to what I consider the personable side of him. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I’m sure he cracked some jokes; he probably listened to me, and he most likely shared a little bit more about himself (likes, dislikes, family, etc.). I felt more comfortable with him at that point because I knew our interactions were based on more than just getting the job done. We had genuine rapport and he was an interesting people. Fast forward 15 years and we are still in touch – he actually works for an agency in my organization and lives just down the street from me! So when I have to visit with him about something, I understand that he just gets to the point and doesn’t engage in a tremendous amount of chit chat. Likewise, I think he understands that I will try to chit chat with him and I will be more relaxed and casual and meander until we need to get to the point. We both have adjusted. But for someone I don’t know as well, all this stuff below is probably how I’m experiencing them.

      Some thoughts that run through my head when I’m working with someone whom I think is more task-focused than I:
      “Relax! Everything doesn’t have to be so serious.”
      “Do they like me?”
      “Geez, that was blunt. They could have said that in a nicer way.”
      “OMG, seriously chill out. This is not a big deal.”
      “RRRAEEERRWW” – {that’s supposed to be the bitchy cat sound with the claws out. No clue how to spell that}

      Here’s what will throw me off in a conversation with a task-focused person (and obviously these are all my perceptions – this is by no means absolute and I am not the spokesman for all relationship oriented people. I hope others (such as the task people don’t skewer me for these).

      — If the person shows no facial expression. When I can’t read someone’s expression I am very, very affected by that. I think mostly because it makes me doubt myself since I’m not getting the non-verbal feedback I crave. I start to feel like they are annoyed by me, think I’m stupid, etc. Then I start to lose confidence and act like an idiot, which only reinforces that impression to the person.
      • Be aware of how often you do or don’t smile. One time I had a new senior leader in my organization who was as task-focused as I am people-focused. She was quite naturally on a mission anytime she came into the office to speak to my supervisor, but she gave the impression of being angry, uninterested in “the little people” and very unapproachable. If she smiled a genuine smile when she came into the office and said hello while she was walking past, our impression her and her approachability level would have increased substantially.
      • When you are listening to others, nod your head slightly when you agree or when you are hearing something you like. This gives people that respond well to non-verbal feedback the confidence that what they are saying or proposing is striking a positive chord with you.

      — If the person blatantly disregards or doesn’t consider others’ input. Relationship people value very much the opportunity for everyone to contribute and be heard. Some of us will offer it up unsolicited, but many others of us will wait to be asked (I understand there are times when a decision needs to be made and no one gets to have input. But I’m not talking about those times – I’m talking about letting the naturally talkative people dominate the conversation at the expense of those that aren’t naturally as direct in participating).
      • Be sure to go around the table, the group and ask everyone specifically if they have any thoughts to contribute. Solicit others’ opinions – this shows that you are open-minded to different viewpoints and are genuinely interested in hearing from the other players.
      • If you hear something you disagree with or don’t like and respond with a quick dismissal of the idea – your relationship people are going to shut down and withdraw from the conversation and maybe from future interactions entirely. You’ll retain their input and enthusiasm for a project/task if you disagree with the idea while using cooperative language, a neutral tone of voice, and an invitation to help you understand their perspective.

      1. fposte*

        hildi, I’d say I can “speak” some relationship-oriented, but I’m absolutely task-oriented as my native language. My inner monologue amusingly corresponds to yours. “Does this mean we’re going to struggle to get this thing done?” “Does this mean I’m going to have to be the deadline administrator or even the bad guy here?” “Do I need to think about what point I redirect to the agenda/goal?” “Am I going to have to stay here later because of this approach?” I would say probably we have in common the conviction that we are doing things properly and the other person should really get on board :-).

        This doesn’t happen with people I know (unless they’re flakes, not just relationship-oriented); it’s mostly a response to people who are still unknowns and I’m trying to figure out what’s going to happen with the meshing of the styles. It’s been particularly interesting to watch this play out in committees; there’s a lot of ROPs in my field, and therefore most TOPs who’ve been around for a while are accustomed to that–but they’re also accustomed to having to bring the structure.

        1. hildi*

          It is interesting the inner monologue you have, but only focused on the job rather than self. I honestly would like to hear from TOPs how the experience ROPs and what we can do better.

          The hardest part of it all is actually changing our behavior once we become aware of it. I tend to live in the world of theory and idea rather than action, so I haven’t really gotten to that part yet. :0

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Is the secret that TOPs are focusing on the task and have nothing in particular to advise ROPs because it’s not part of the task????

          2. AnotherFed*

            As a major TOP here, I admit I have sort of a mental script/checklist for talking to ROPs – say hello, ask how they are, show interest in topic important to them, then get down to work. It helps me to think of this as sort of a pre-task setup step (which is not meant to be insulting, just how I frame it to help myself remember). I’m sure the people who know me well know that it’s not native behavior and realize it’s sort of a script, but recognize I’m doing it to try to meet them halfway. But when I get stressed or overwhelmed, I forget the script and move into very task-focused behavior, sometimes very bluntly, and then genuinely don’t understand why people are hurt or upset until much later when I’ve gotten through the task.

            Stress is going to happen sometimes, so the biggest, most helpful thing an ROP type can do is try to A) gently but not too subtly help us remember to get input from anyone we may accidentally steam roller and B) bring up feelings- related discussions after giving everyone some time to cool off. This will help tremendously by letting me finish something and giving me some time to remember that other people process differently and that even if it is baffling to me, it’s important to you and therefore worth trying to get right.

            1. hildi*

              Thanks AnotherFed – it’s helpful to hear your perspective! I really like the point about addressing the feelings AFTER people have cooled off. I think many of us ROPs want to tackle that as it happens and inadvertently make it worse. We push too much on the feelings, obviously :)

          3. Eva*

            As a task-oriented person who has become more relationship-oriented in the past decade, I actually began typing up a comment yesterday, but then gave it up because I didn’t have time to add the niceties I wanted to add, haha. So if you’ll forgive me for making this brief, the two things I wish all relationship-oriented people would do are:

            (1) Take my words at face value. Even though I’m task-oriented, I’m usually happy to go out of my way for others. If I offer to do something for you or to let you have your way in a matter, it’s not because I secretly want you to demur and offer to do things my way instead, nor does my offer come with strings attached in that I expect you to feel obligated to me in the future. I’m offering because I truly am happy to do it for you or because I truly am indifferent. You can take me up on it without spending five minutes gauging how I *really* feel.

            This is rarely a problem for me anymore with “normal” relationship-oriented people, because I’ve learned to smile and make eye contact and small talk (as you so constructively suggest, hildi! Great advice!) so my “outer niceness” matches my “inner niceness”, but there are a few people who I think need to work on accepting goodwill at face value. (The same people who can’t accept a compliment!)

            (2) Own your own wants. This is the corollary to the point above. If I ask you what you want, it’s so we can figure out a solution that takes your preference into account just like any other variable (including my preference). Please just tell me what you want instead of pretending to be indifferent when you’re really not and expecting me to guess and champion your preference for you (which I’m not very good at), or spending half an hour trying to figure out how acceptable I would consider your preference to be before tentatively putting it on the table. I’m happy to accommodate you as much as possible, but if you’re not straightforward with me about how I can best do that, you’re dependent on my low natural empathy to serve your needs, which is really not a reliable method! :)

            1. hildi*

              Eva, thanks so much for this! Very, very helpful! (and very nice, to boot!!) :) I’m going to save this to read several times to let it sink in.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          My inner monologue is the same as fposte’s, although probably also a little harsher because mine also includes things like:
          – When are we going to get to the point?
          – I had thought this could be a three-minute phone call.

          But like her, I don’t really have that once I know the person, if they’re proven to be able to deliver what I need. The problem is when their effectiveness is still unproven and all I’m seeing of them so far is a bunch of talking that isn’t addressing the task stuff that I need from the interaction. (Although I’ve gotten a lot better about trusting that we’re going to get there, and understanding that it can be to my benefit too to just let it play out at their pace — because I might actually get better results from them if I do that. It’s been hugely true with real estate and repair people in my life lately.)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I can see chatty real estate people, but chatty repair people? Usually they are tracked on calls per day, so I kind of see them as being focused on the task regardless of their own personal approach to people. They have to get this call done and get to the next call.

          2. hildi*

            “Although I’ve gotten a lot better about trusting that we’re going to get there, and understanding that it can be to my benefit too to just let it play out at their pace — because I might actually get better results from them if I do that”

            This is really wise, I think. Because I’m one of those whose thoughts meander and go at my own pace because I’m processing as I’m talking. I can’t do that in my head first and then talk. But there is that fine balance of yakking without action and yakking in order to take action.

        3. INTP*

          My thoughts are a lot like this. When I’m in a group, my concerns are 1) that my grade, manager feedback, results, etc be as good as possible and 2) that we get these good results as quickly as possible so I can go back to stuff I’d rather do. So if someone’s desire to chat, or reluctance to make a decision until unanimity is reached, or whatever interferes with that, I get annoyed.

          If it gets really, really bad, depending on context I start thinking things like below. Some of this is really harsh so I’d like to disclaim that I know this and I don’t hate relationship-oriented people or anything! I just get easily annoyed when interpersonal stuff gets in the way of results or efficiency. I’m an INTP after all and my inner dialogue is not usually warm and fuzzy.
          “Does this person not want to go home?”
          “Is this person using this project to meet their emotional needs for connection with complete disregard for the fact that the rest of us might want to finish and leave?”
          “Does this person hate their spouse and children and that’s why they’re trying to make this crap take so much time? Don’t they ever want to go home? Or at least care that the rest of us do?”
          “I am going to be so pissed if my grade is affected by Jane’s reluctance to fix Sally’s work because she’s afraid to hurt Sally’s feelings. Aren’t we all in school to further our careers, not to make random classmates like us?”
          “Well, I guess I’m going to have to be the bad guy. But what if Jane and Sally can outvote me and insist on turning in Sally’s shoddy work and my grade is affected?”
          “Ugghhh how do I rephrase this comment in a way that will get my meaning across without distracting the sensitive people with its bluntness?”
          “Next time I am going to insist that we all do our work separately and email because these people do nothing but discuss every tiny detail into the ground when they’re working together.”
          “How long do I have to let everyone discuss this topic in pointless circles before making an executive decision so that I look like a decisive leader instead of a bossy person?”
          “I know Jane and Feenix know that Sally’s suggestions will get points knocked off of our grade. How can they be so cavalier about this? Aren’t they seriously more concerned about Sally getting butthurt than their own futures?”

          It’s really nice to have someone around who is a strong relationship-builder but with some leadership instinct rather than a people-pleaser, conflict-avoidant tendency. I’ve found that I can give that person my negative feedback and they’ll relay it to the group in a way that doesn’t make anyone defensive or hurt any feelings. They can also delegate work in a way that makes things go efficiently (versus the conflict-avoidant relationship people wanting to discuss until a consensus becomes apparent instead of anyone telling anyone what to do) but doesn’t come across as bossy (like when a task-oriented person like myself delegates work before bonding with everyone).

          At one workplace, I took a test for conflict approach style and I was the ONLY one with a task orientation. The others were person-oriented or conflict-avoidant. I didn’t last very long there :)

      2. Baxterous*

        I think of what you call “task” people as “results” people — we aren’t so much focused on the specific task, we are focusing on the outcome/end result and making sure that when X is complete, it’s done correctly. if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well, that’s our motto! :) But aside from my calling it something different in my head, it’s a very similar idea.

        When I read the list:
        “Relax! Everything doesn’t have to be so serious.”
        “Do they like me?”
        “Geez, that was blunt. They could have said that in a nicer way.”
        “OMG, seriously chill out. This is not a big deal.”
        “RRRAEEERRWW” – {that’s supposed to be the bitchy cat sound with the claws out. No clue how to spell that}

        Here’s what my results-focused mind thinks:
        “Relax! Everything doesn’t have to be so serious.”
        – Relax! Why are you worried about me? you can be how you want to be, I can be how I want to be – it’s all good, people are different.

        “Do they like me?”
        – How does whether I like you impact our roles and responsibilities on this project? As long as you do what you need to do, when you need to do it, we’re good.

        “Geez, that was blunt. They could have said that in a nicer way.”
        – My response to people who use “non-blunt” communication: “OMG he’s been talking for 10 minutes and it was a YES or NO question…and I still don’t know if his answer is YES or NO.”

        “OMG, seriously chill out. This is not a big deal.”
        – OMG stop telling me how to think. I’ll decide what’s important to me, you decide what’s important to you…I’m not interested in changing you but you seem awfully interested in changing me.

        “RRRAEEERRWW” – {that’s supposed to be the bitchy cat sound with the claws out. No clue how to spell that}
        – :)

        1. hildi*

          Thanks, Baxterous!! Your list makes me wince in recognition (particularly the talking for 10 min on a yes or no question. Oops). :)

          I’d even go a step further in your first paragraph and break people into subgroups: Results and Process people. There are some that are motivated by Results and getting things done (I suspect this is you?). Then there are those people that are really motivated by the Process and ensuring the process is adhered to, regardless of the outcome/results. I would put my husband here. He gets really pissed when people mess with the established process. He can be ok if some work doesn’t lead to results/action in a timely manner, but he’s really affected by people not following the process. It’s not exact, obviously, and a person can really value both of these aspects. But I do like your distinction of Results (vs Task) because Results do really, really matter to people.

      3. Student*

        Hi Hildi,

        As a task-person, I know we can sometimes be very serious. I think a lot of us are open to people taking it less seriously than we do, and hopefully won’t look down on you for having a less-serious attitude. But we act serious because we genuinely consider it to be serious. For us, taking something seriously is our way of showing that we care.

        Some of us are also not “nice” when we could’ve been because we genuinely believe that being too nice undermines the underlying negative message we’re delivering. That is something I think we need to be cautious about and concerned with how the other person responds, since it can backfire on more people-centered workers who focus on the “mean” delivery instead of on the underlying negative message.

        1. hildi*

          Student – thanks for this! I have never considered either of those points before (naturally!), but they are excellent. Particularly this:
          “For us, taking something seriously is our way of showing that we care. ”

          That really helps me a TON personally. Thank you so much.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Do you mind if I take a stab at this too (I know you’re asking Hildi but I’m a relationship-oriented person in a world of task-oriented types).? And as I confirmed yesterday Hildi and I are both NFPs – I think we’re often the outliers in organizations :)

      I think what super task-oriented people sometimes don’t understand is that having good relationships makes the tasks easier to accomplish. It doesn’t have to be an either/or – we can all get what we want by paying attention to how we interact with people.

      As a rare relationship-oriented type in a task-oriented organization, I value harmony and try to find win/win situations for everyone. But not everyone gets that – I work with lots of people who see things as a zero sum game – if they’re right then someone else must be wrong, etc. And it’s really hard sometimes to convince them that the moral victory isn’t always worth the cost to the organizational relationship. I often feel like a cleanup crew – I’m the one who comes in and tries to rebuild relationships that other people obliterate, and try to find workable solutions.

      One of the hardest managerial challenges I had was with a direct report who has some of the worst people skills of anyone I ever worked with. I consulted several books to help me leran how to deal with her, and one of the insights I gained is the most important thing to her is getting things done, and she often views other people as an impediment. She’s incredibly bright and hardworking, and she just wants to get things done and she wants other people to stay out the way. Well, the effect of that is that she leaves a virtual trail of destruction everywhere – nobody wants to work with her. So I had to coach her constantly to moderate her tone, include others, etc. It was exhausting because it never came naturally to her. Eventually I just moved her to a position where she didn’t have to interface with other people and could be a task master. She was great at it.

      So I guess I wish that task-oriented types understood the value others have in helping them accomplish their tasks. Your job will be a lot easier if you have a network of people who like and trust you and will help you out in a crisis.

      1. hildi*

        OMG, that was so much easier to read than how I try to say it. Thanks, Katie, this is spot-on for how I feel!!!

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I’ve been so flattered by this I didn’t even know how to respond. Thanks Hildi – that’s a great compliment. I loved your Q&A yesterday!

          1. hildi*

            waaaaaaa??? For serious? Thank you. Ditto. NFP GROUP HUG!!!!

            (actually, my husband was totally making fun of me last week when the Q&A came out. He was prancing around the kitchen saying in a falsetto voice, “‘I love you, hildi!!’ ‘No, I love you fposte!!’ What a sloppy lovefest this is for you.”

            It cracked me up. He wasn’t mean spirited about it, but he just didn’t get they hype. lol. :)

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I think sometimes I see an interconnectedness that others fail to see. It’s like my mind sees the blueprint of the plumbing system or such when other people just see the walls around them.

        Weirdly, I consider myself task oriented, but I’m relating in this conversation to hildi and Katie the Fed. I think I’d say I facilitate tasks through people. I’m good at that, always have been. I know all the players, their strengths, their knowledge bases, who can work well with whom, and I spend a great deal of my time just linking people up — inside my division, my company, my industry.

        But, it’s to get tasks done/serve the end goal. And I’m really busy so I don’t spend a lot of time talking to people about how their son’s soccer game went. Maybe I’m a hybrid?

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          Yes. Human resources are still resources, and vital to completing the tasks at hand. You keep the server room cool so your IT resources function properly. You maintain facilities and equipment. To get anything done, you have to ensure that all the required resources are in place and functioning properly.

          With people, that gets messy (to us TO types), but that doesn’t make it any less necessary. I’ve found it most effective when coordinating the efforts of staff to try to communicate with individuals in their preferred style. I’ve had to work at this! But for me the bottom line is about getting the job done, and this is the most efficient way to make that happen.

          1. hildi*

            That’s such a great way of thinking about it, QCF! Yes, I’m totally going to keep that in mind as a way to help explain the difference in approach.

            And thanks to everyone for commenting – your perspectives have really, really helped me understand the other side of thinking about it. Truly, it has enhanced my thoughts on this topic. Thanks again.

    3. ActionableResearcher*

      Alison, those are great questions. As a fellow task-oriented person I’ve been taught and found the following are quick and helpful which pay off when working with relationship-oriented people.
      -Be sure to say greet ROPs, a simple hello or good morning goes a long way.
      -Address the “why” and the “who” of the situation first, if making a request (why we are doing this project, who are they going to work with etc.) before getting to the how and the when questions.
      -ROPs are very responsive to appreciation and recognition, be sure to tell your ROPs how much you appreciate them personally and publicly and they’ll go above and beyond for you
      -If you’re finding yourself in a situation where things aren’t going well with an ROP, take the time to be agreeable (find some common denominator in the issue you can both agree on to re-establish the relationship)

        1. hildi*

          ….not that you’d necessarily care about working with me, but I mean that this is definitely speaking a ROPs love language. :) Or appreciation-language. (ang. Went too touchy feely there).

  47. a large chicken*

    What are everyone’s thoughts on IM etiquette at work? I work for a big company, but I am currently the only remote worker on my team. People tend to be very formal on IM, preceeding with a greeting, some small talk and then their reason for contacting. I personally am much less formal and have to constantly remind myself of the environment. However it drives me bonkers to have in addition to a greeting, go through this long pretense of “how are you?” before I ask them a question like “coffee?”, or “has the 2 pm meeting been cancelled?” The second part of my question is slightly related: as a remote worker I’m expected to answer every im quickly. Otherwise it is assumed that I am off not working and non accessible. These interuptions where people feel they have to ask how my weekend was, or how is the family are driving me INSANE. Just my rant of the day.

    1. LizNYC*

      That’s just bizarre. Your coworkers don’t know how to use IM. At my job, we use both email and IM copiously. IM is for quick stuff, like “did you get the file” or “I need this one number really quick.” Email is for longer messages and ones that have actual information that needs to be saved. But yeah, we don’t usually do intros on email (we’re a small company) and conversations just drop off.

      Maybe it’s because you’re a remote worker that people feel a disconnect because you’re not just a few feet away to follow up/make small talk? Or has IM always been this way?

      1. HR Manager*

        Yes, I do that on IM or even the phone sometimes. *lots of pleasantries that irk me* Hi Susie Q, what can I help you with today?

    2. businesslady*

      it may be one of those things that feels like a major norm, but most people wouldn’t notice or care if you weren’t responding in kind. you could type up a little blurb like “one of my new year’s resolutions is to use my time more effectively, so I’m trying this thing where I cut right to the chase in my IM communications–please don’t take it personally!” then you could paste that in each time you IM a new person, then see how they react–if people seem put out, you might just have to deal with a certain amount of unnecessary preambles, but it’s likely that your colleagues will be relieved to forego the “so, how’s it going” pleasantries.

    3. Amber Rose*

      That would drive me nuts! If I have any sort of casual thing to day, I usually tack it on the end of a work question. Can you try that approach?

      “Hi Jane,

      I hope your weekend was fun and you’re doing well. Can you tell me if the meeting is still on for 3 this afternoon? “

    4. Jubilance*

      My own personal preference is to say hello when I’m IMing someone and it’s our first time speaking that day. Just like I’d say “Hello Jane, how are you?” if I went over to their desk or called them on the phone. I HATE when people just IM me a question with no salutation first. I don’t need small talk, it can just be in the message – “Good morning Jubilance, just wanted to check on the status of the chocolate teapot manual, can you provide an update?”.

      1. Sadsack*

        Yeah, I’d just write, “Hi, Jubilance,” then wait for you to respond, which typically is just “Hi.” Then I’d go right to my reason for writing.

        1. Sadsack*

          The reason I wait until I get a response is in case the person is in a meeting/sharing their screen and didn’t set their IM up for no disturbances. It gives them a chance to let me know if now is a good time before I go into my message. I would never think to ask how was your weekend/how are you kids in an IM. That’s just weird and unnecessary.

          1. cuppa*

            Yes. As “Are You Being Served?” as it sounds, I usually write, “hi. are you free?” just in case there is an issue. I work with a lot of people who are in open plans, so it doesn’t hurt to ask first.

          2. Hlyssande*

            That gives me a little bit of perspective, because the ‘Hi Hlyssande,’ thing (with the comma even) generally drives me absolutely nuts…though our IM service does show whether or not we’re in a meeting based on our calendars.

            I usually get the ‘Hi, Hlyssande,’ and then what feels like a few minutes of typing before there’s a ‘How are you?’ and eventually they get around to the questions. It might be more frustrating to me because it’s always a few certain people who do it and they try to get things done via IM when our server deletes the records after two days rather than via email where we can actually record what went on.

    5. Sabrina*

      If they start out with something like “Hello” I’d respond with “Hi, what can I do for you?” Or if they start with “Hi, how was your weekend?” respond with “It was good, what do you need?”

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      This is funny in context with the post right before yours about task and relationship people. I wonder if that is part of what is going on.

    7. EA*

      I think it’s a question of knowing your audience … I tend to be more at the “get right to the point” end of the spectrum, but I know some folks are more conversational, and I try to respect that.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      Most people are usually more formal with email than IM. That’s kind of strange. IM is like chatting–it’s quick and immediate, real-time communication.

      I’d just answer like, “I’m doing well! What’s up?” when they ask stuff. And when you have to ask, “Hey, how are you? I need to ask you about the teapot spouts before we turn in the report.”

    9. MaryMary*

      This drives me crazy too. When I worked with an offshore team in India, culturally they felt it was very rude to begin a conversation without at least a greeting and preferably some small talk. For me, working with an inexperienced offshore team meant that I’d return from a meeting and have seven IMs that all said “Hi Mary…” instead of “I have a question about project X” or “can you have Wakeen give me a call” or “the conference call number has changed.” I managed to convince some of the people I worked with regularly to be more direct, but then I’d get another batch of new hires and have to wade through 5 minutes of preliminaries for a 1 minute question.

    10. the gold digger*

      I think this ties in very closely to what Hildi and KatieTheFed are discussing above.

      I work with almost all engineers, so we all get straight to the point. It is heaven.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Ha, I don’t know – I use IM pretty directly. “Hey – did you get that thing?”

        There’s a time and a place to hug it out :) but we’re also generally pretty busy.