open thread – January 30, 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 :)

{ 1,227 comments… read them below }

  1. Stressed out wife*

    My husband is looking to make a necessary exit from his current company. He is currently in grad school for something related, but not his current job (think chocolate teapot maker vs chocolate teapot maker manager). Do you think he should include grad school on his resume?

    I am afraid people will think he is only there for the short term. He likes his current job field, but knows he won’t be able to do it forever (sanity and salary cap wise) and the degree is for use in the longer term and if he got a job he likes wouldn’t mind not using his degree for several years.

    How should he address this?

    1. YourCdnFriend*

      Would he be applying to companies that have positions that fit his skills now and his skills post-graduation? If yes, include it! It would mean the company could nab him now and train him as he becomes ready for career advancement within the company.

      If not, I’d be a bit more careful and take it on a case-by-case basis.

      1. AshleyH*

        I agree – I recently interviewed a candidate for a Chocolate Teapot Sales Person because he had a strong work history selling teapots…and during his interview he revealed he was going to grad school for Chocolate Teapot Manufacturing because he discovered that’s his true passion. Which is great, but not something we do so we removed him from our candidate pool.

        1. Artemesia*

          Graduate school is an announcement that you are moving on or moving in new directions. As a hiring manager I would not want to hire someone who is in transit career wise. Perhaps the grad work is related to the new jobs sought — then that might be a plus e.g. pursuing an MBA a degree in HRD while applying for jobs in which that is a useful credential — but not if the new job looks like a stop gap until he finishes.

        2. Stressed out wife*

          Yes this is my concern. The graduate degree would be in his field but what he boss is doing technically. He knows he can’t be the level he is forever, but he would be find doing it for another 5+ years but that doesn’t mean this wouldn’t be a useful degree for what he is doing now but it might look like it is stop gap while he is finishing it he isn’t seeing it like that.

      2. Stressed out wife*

        Probably because it is a manager of what he currently does. He is doing extremely well in the program which is why it would be nice to include it.

    2. hermit crab*

      Separate from the career trajectory issue, if he’s simultaneously being successful in both his grad program and his current job, that might be something that shows him in a positive light to future employers.

    3. Michele*

      It never occured to me that going to grad school or taking additional classes for something related to your field was a bad thing. Going to school for something unrelated, however, would indicate a desire to jump ship.

    4. Patty*

      A smart manager hires folks who will become qualified to take the manager’s job… so, if it’s a field in which the career path is from worker to boss, then yep..

      Also, one huge bonus concerning grad school is another level of connections, in particular between the company and the university. He has those connections. Plus, if he’s doing extra training on his own, in his field, the company won’t have to pay for that training later… and, depending on the field, your husband might be able to do training a in-house for a new company.

      It’s all about context. Does the job he’s going to grad school for exist at the place he’s applying, then yep.. If not, unless there is another benefit to the company from the grad school experience, then nope..

  2. mina*

    Style and fashion at work – any good ideas, websites about it? I’m trying to upgrade my professional image but not really sure of all the rules.

    1. WorkingMom*

      Corporette dot com is a site entirely geared at corporate fashion. Specifically to attorneys, but address all other kinds of corporate attire. I mention this because a lot of the pieces discussed are pretty pricey, but they do a regular report on sales, highlight when discounts are, and generally provide great guidelines on what is appropriate for all different types of offices – whether you’re traditional corporate or business casual, etc. I used that site a lot to gain ideas and then went shopping for less expensive versions!

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        I second Corporette. Capitol Hill Style is another professional style site that I like. She posts tips on clothing, style, varying price points as well as professional-related articles and posts. I found AAM through her!

        1. Noelle*

          Me too! Not only did Capitol Hill Style lead me to AAM, but I’ve also bought several items she’s suggested. It’s definitely helped me look more professional.

        2. Anonicorn*

          For those who like CapHillStyle, you might also like The Classy Cubicle. Sometimes her outfits can be a little bold, but I appreciate how she balances professional & stylish.

      2. Calla*

        They can be so funny sometimes though. There was a post yesterday pearl-clutching about midi rings in the office being “trashy.” But yeah, I enjoy fashion posts there generally!

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I used to read Corporette, but it ended up just being too conservative for me. I work in the nonprofit sector and even the most casual/funky/etc. stuff that they shared often felt too stuffy for my workplace. :)

        1. Clever Name*

          Yeah me too. I wear jeans to work, so not especially relevant. I also got tired of how every single comment thread would be mostly off-topic and would quickly derail into train wrecks. Alison does an amazing job at keeping comments here civil and on-topic.

          1. Natalie*

            They apparently got tired of it, too – they’ve finally started declaring some posts on-topic comments only.

        2. Allison*

          I do agree they are a little too conservative and pearl-clutchy for people not working in super conservative fields, but they also sometimes have great articles on work-related issues outside of fashion, as well as financial advice.

        3. EE*

          I read Corporette avidly for the months before starting at my first non-secretarial office gig, to work out what to wear and what to buy before I began. Corporette is the reason I’ve always dressed more conservatively than any other woman at my workplaces. I love my suits and my button-down shirts and my cufflinks!

          Unfortunately I now live in Australia, a country where the few places that sell women’s suits sell them with 98% wool 2% spandex. I do not know who buys those abominations. I should move into dresses like the other women here but I don’t want to abandon my ankle boots for 50 million pairs of sandals.

      4. Daydreamer*

        Is there a similar site in Canada? Or does anyone know of any similar sites, blogs, etc. that feature Canadian companies? It’s frustrating to see something you like and not be able to get it north of the border. :)

    2. Wanderer*

      That depend a lot of the field you work on. And the country also. And the specific company.

      And your particular situation can influence that, for example i am the only guy in the office who is not wearing a suit, i negotiated that.

        1. HR Generalist*

          I had never heard of Corporette, Capitol Hill Style or Putting Me Together before.

          I am FREAKING OUT and bookmarked all three because this is the resource I have been looking for for the last two years! Seriously! I had googled things like “how to wear a navy blazer WOMEN” and “is long hair unprofessional” with few good results… this is amazing. I am so excited. Thank you everyone.

        2. CherryScary*

          Oh man, I needed this one. Love a lot of the Corporette stuff, but I’m on a just out of college budget. This is perfect!

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yup. What field are you in? I know in advertising I get away with a lot that would not fly in a less stereotypically creative industry.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            In that case I think you can go more relaxed than a typical “corporate” job, but should keep things fairly conservative in terms of hem height and necklines. I haven’t been to church in years, but I remember the church office workers wearing sweaters or blouses and dress slacks or skirts when I was a teenager.

            1. ACA*

              Agreed. I spent two summers in college working my church’s reception desk, and while there wasn’t a written dress code, shoulders covered/no cleavage were the norm for tops – I think I bought my entire work wardrobe for that job at Ann Taylor. Lower-heeled shoes (if you wear heels) might be better, too, depending on how conservative an office it is.

    3. DC Anon*

      As a female DC-based attorney-person, my go-tos are Corporette and Cap Hill Style. They’re both pretty generally applicable for female professionals- like, they wouldn’t work if you’re male, or work in NYC high fashion, but if you’re looking for general stuff on women’s business and business casual attire covering a pretty wide price range, they’re both great.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think it is so cool that things like this exist. When I had these issues and needs there was nothing for it but to look around and see what other people were doing. This is an amazing resource.

    4. CollegeAdmin*

      I occasionally read Wardrobe Oxygen. She has some great posts/outfits, particularly if you’re curvy. (I’m not, which is why I’m not a regular reader.)

    5. Alicia*

      One of my favourites is Admittedly, it isn’t a work one per se, but she is in Med School and has a dress-code, so she’s pretty well put together without wearing suits :)

      1. Julie*

        I love Franish! I like that she is honest about her budgeting too and she has a similar body type to me so I can get a better feel for if a piece works.

    6. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Not exactly a resource, but I’ve found Pinterest to be super helpful for this! I just pin every professional outfit I like, and then I can see everything together on one board. It really helped me clarify my personal/professional style and figure out what pieces I really needed or didn’t need.

    7. Tiffany Youngblood*

      I spent a lot of time on pinterest searching women’s business wear and business casual…and then I went thrift store shopping for the most part, and splurged a bit on a few things at Dress Barn. My outfit upgrades have been noticed at the office and I seem to be on the right track with all of that.

    8. GOG11*

      One small tip to add (which may be a non-issue depending on the number of pieces you may be able to acquire): There are a lot of “neutrals” out there (navy, brown, black, grey…others?) but they don’t all go together. I used to think I needed to have pieces in various basic colors and then I realized it looks weird to wear navy with black or grey and brown unless you have just the right shades.

    9. Sidra*

      I don’t have any advice other than to avoid Corporette. I find her posts to be out of touch with average white collar workers and commenters to be a catty bunch. She also regularly passively enforces very out-of-date (I’d say sexist) attitudes about work that aren’t a reality for most women outside big law (crap like advising women to dress frumpy because a coworker stares rather than telling coworker to stop staring, which $500 handbag to buy, … It goes ON). Pretty much the opposite of this site!

      1. Windchime*

        That’s kind of how I feel about it, too. Although threads about whether or not a particular water bottle is “professional”, and whether or not a person should use a pad folio (answer: No, because only naive interns do that. Hmmm. Someone forgot to tell that to all the director-level people at my organization).

        They are very pearl-clutchy indeed. And the rules they have are so confusing… a $500+ handbag, but ONLY if it doesn’t have a logo on it.

    10. Turanga Leela*

      I will echo the Corporette recommendation. If you’re interested in learning the unwritten rules of looking professional, this is the place to go—and then you can break as many of those rules as you want once you learn the norms of your office, city, and industry. It’s my go-to blog for questions and ideas about fashion at work and work-related events.

      I read it less often, but I’ve also enjoyed Bridgette Raes: Style Expert. She is a great resource for thinking about how to wear colors and prints, which is priceless for those of us who would otherwise wear black pants and a blazer every day.

    11. Iro*

      I happen to prefer fashion that isn’t traditionally female. I never wear make-up and own very little jewerly. I wanted to look polished at work however, and followed the tips in Men’s magazine to work great for me!

      1. Keep nails trimed and clean, including cuticles and hang nails. No biting!
      2. Wash your face every morning and every night. Moisturize with a facial moisturizer after washing. A brightening moisturizer is best.
      3. If you happen to have short hair like me (I rock the pixie) try using a little palmaedfor texture. It goes a long way.
      4. Keep those shoes shined.

    12. skyline*

      I read or have read Corporette, You Look Fab, and Wardrobe Oxygen. I’ve found all of them useful to varying degrees, but you’ll have to do a lot of filtering/editing based on your particular work context. Especially because style bloggers, not surprisingly, worry about work fashion in a way that’s quite different from how I worry about work fashion. What’s been most helpful to me is learning how to identify and create good fit (protip: tailoring off the rack clothes is totally worth it) and discovering some general techniques for making outfits.

    13. Windchime*

      I like The Vivienne Files. She shows about a zillion ways to put pieces together and it’s very inspirational. Some of the items she shows are very expensive, but you could easily substitute with more affordable options.

    14. Alma*

      Take a look at – they have fully customizeable clothing, work appropriate. They sell by size, but also take one’s measurements and use CAD to make patterns for you. Different collars, lengths, fabrics, etc. Good selection now, and the sales have been at what I consider barbain prices for pieces that will be foundations of one’s wardrobe.

  3. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    For anyone who is following the saga of my extraordinarily bad job: yesterday my awful bos sat us down in a meeting and told us all about he was an awesome salesman, he was the best, and there was no reason we couldn’t be as good as he was and we just didn’t try hard enough or want it hard enough. And he says that the reason we don’t make any money is we don’t “want it” enough. I see. He also started off this meeting by saying “I don’t like to call people out specifically, so if you think I’m talking about you, I’m probably talking about you” and followed it up a few minutes later with “I’m not being specific here about anyone!” He then berated us for not doing enough to “think outside the box” and help other people, and then when we suggested getting some cross-training, he shot that idea down because he wants us to focus on our jobs specifically.

    The crowning moment here was when the Mad Faxer told him that she really needed to be able to access Facebook at work because otherwise her thirteen-year-old niece wouldn’t have any way to contact her. It was….surreal. And now four of the five employees here are job-searching and the Mad Faxer is the fifth. He’s successfully alienated the people who’ve been working with him for four or five years. It’s been a spectacular lesson in how to thoroughly kill morale! He should run seminars on how not to manage a business. Frequently I fantasize about what it would be like if Alison could do a Tabatha’s Takeover on this place after watching it on hidden camera and how spectacular that would be.

    1. Folklorist*

      OMG. I love the idea of Alison doing a Tabatha’s Takeover! Or, like, Kitchen Nightmares–Corporate Nightmares!!! I wonder what her ABC Baking Company would be.

      1. namelesswordlessworldlesswanderer*

        Oh, GOD. Amy. That fruitloop. It might actually be work visiting Scottsdale just to eat at her “Baking Company” and oggle the crazy over a Safeway dessert.

    2. HR Manager*

      Giving ‘feedback’ on unmeasurable, amorphous and intangible things is always so helpful. He can start there, but sure as heck then get more specific about what does someone do to show you s/he “wants it…”. If boss can’t define that, then it’s useless.

      On a side note – I keep reading Max Faxer as Max Factor, and have this image of this person being a fashionista with crazy make up smeared all over her face.

  4. Folklorist*

    I just started a new job two months ago where I write the company’s online newsletter and send it out via Constant Contact. It’s a science education newsletter aimed at grad students learning to teach science. I include a mix of silly articles (“Scientists develop beer pong robots!”) with teaching tips, scholarship information, and important updates in the professional field. This is only the second newsletter I’ve sent out, but I’ve raised the “Open Rate” from 19% (below the industry standard of 22%) to 29.5%, and we’re getting a lot more people sharing our content since I started. I’m pretty proud of that!

    But I was going through the analytics with my boss and discovered that 8 people on our list unsubscribed last month, and 13 did this month. (That’s out of ~2,000 subscribers.) Constant Contact creepily gives us their names and contact information. My boss wants me to reach out to these people and ask them why they unsubscribed and what they want to see more/less of in the future. From my point of view, 1) I think it would be annoying (at best) and creepy (at worst) if a company emailed personally after I unsubscribed from them, and 2) I think that we should engage with the majority of people who are interested in our content to see how we can help them better, rather than the small minority of people who aren’t interested. People—especially grad students!—will unsubscribe for any reason, mostly lack of time and too much stuff to read already. When I unsubscribe, I do it because I don’t want to hear any more from an organization, period. And if they didn’t want to read the newsletter, they’re not likely to want to answer a survey about why they didn’t want to read the newsletter.

    Any thoughts? Does anyone see any merit in doing this? Thanks so much!

    1. YourCdnFriend*

      Don’t contact them! That is creepy and invasive. Maybe you can add a feature where it asks you a question when you unsubscribe about why you don’t want the emails. I’ve seen that before. Sometimes I answer, sometimes I don’t but I’d be more inclined to be honest with a service like yours compared to marketing emails from a company.

    2. Elkay*

      Could you set something that auto-generates when they unsubscribe to ask why they unsubscribed? Less creepy than being called up/emailed and asked.

      1. Sunflower*

        I would go with this. Most of the time I unsubscribe from emails because I don’t read them and no content change could make me read them. Almost always I get a blurb that asks why I’m unsubscribing and that’s that!

      1. Anna*

        The only way an email would not look creepy is if she sent out a BCC email to all the people who unsubscribed all at once and asked them to do something like answer a survey.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          Yes, I think the only non-creepy way to do this is to make it look like a bulk email or automated response, or actually automate it as suggested above by Elkay. I’ve gotten automated “Tell us what we did wrong” type emails before and never thought of them as creepy.

    3. kristinyc*

      Hi, I’ve been an email marketer for 8 years.

      Don’t reach out to your unsubscribes (especially via Constant Contact – that’s a CAN-SPAM violation).
      People unsubscribe for all kinds of reasons – they don’t have time to read emails, they have too many other emails, and in this case – maybe they’ve graduated. Your metrics are going to be better if you have un-engaged subscribers leave rather than stay on the list and drag your open/ctr down.

      Instead, I would maybe do a quarterly survey for your existing subscribers asking them what they like about the newsletter, what they’d like to see, what they don’t like, how they feel about frequency, etc. You can easily build something in Survey Monkey and link to it in your newsletter.

        1. kristinyc*

          It really depends on the list size, email frequency, and a ton of other factors. (After all, a 2% unsubscribe rate on a list of 2000 is REALLY different than a 2% unsubscribe rate on a list of 2 million.) I’ve always tried to keep mine at less than 1%. At retail brands during the holidays, it might creep up to around 1.5% (and this is for the REALLY well-liked brands that don’t send daily emails), but when I worked at a VERY trendy online eyewear company, it was always less than 1%, on a list of over 1 million subscribers.

          1. Folklorist*

            Ooh, good to know. In this case, the highest unsubscribe rate for this month was .65%. It’s good to have a metric!

      1. Folklorist*

        This is awesome, thank you so much! I’m glad to know that it’s an actual violation, rather than a gut instinct to Not Do It. My boss will understand violations! I like the reasoning of not trying to keep people in. We also have a fairly high bounce rate right now, and I think that’s due to people graduating–almost all of them are .edu addresses, and I’m guessing that they just don’t belong to the institution anymore. Should I purge those? Are there good ways to lower bounce rates? I have been doing careful wording in the subject, content, etc., and nothing has been flagged as spam (and CC’s built-in spam-o-meter says I’m in almost no danger of landing in a spam folder), so I don’t think it’s that.

        1. kristinyc*

          Are they hard bounces or soft bounces? I think your hunch about people graduating is correct – a lot of people don’t keep (or at least, don’t check) their college emails after they graduate, and those email hard bounce. Soft bounces also happen when a mailbox is full, and I know my college Outlook inbox was ALWAYS full.

          If someone bounces twice, I would unsubscribe them. Also, around graduation times (May, June, December), maybe you could put a little blurb in the newsletter that says something like, “Graduating? To continue to receive this newsletter, update your contact information here”

          You unsubscribe rates are really, really low, so I don’t think you need to worry about this too much. You do need to work on your bounce rate though. Having too many bounces can hurt your deliverability, so it would be worth it to take a look at them and purge some every 6 months or so. (And in general, if you have subscribers who aren’t opening or clicking at all over an 18 month period, you might want to purge them too. Even if they haven’t unsubscribed, they’re still telling you they’re not interested.)

          1. Folklorist*

            You are great–thank you so much for answering my questions! Final question, and then I won’t bug you anymore: Do you have any good email marketing resources you can point me to? Industry blogs, books, etc?

            1. kristinyc*

              Welll…. yes! I write an email marketing blog (click on my name. Also, I have an email address on there – feel free to contact me with any questions!).

              Here’s what I have for the resources slide for the Intro to Email class I teach:

              CAN-SPAM Guidelines:

              Only Influencers (this is a community full of people like me. They have a free weekly newsletter about email marketing, and there’s a paid membership option that gets you on a listserv for daily email conversations with other members. The site doesn’t look very modern, but there’s a lot of great information on it):

              Litmus (they have tools for testing your email rendering across clients/devices, but they also have a great blog, newsletter, and forums for email nerds) :

              Books: Email Marketing Rules by Chad White, Youtility by Jay Baer, Audience by Jeff Rohrs.

              MediaPost publishes some daily email newsletters about email marketing (meta!) as well, so I’d check those out.

              1. Folklorist*

                Hi Kristennyc,
                I have no idea if you are still reading this, but I just wanted to let you know that as I was trying to click into your link, it came up with Firefox’s “Untrusted Content” page and wouldn’t let me go there! I don’t have my security settings up very high, so I there might be something wrong with your page that you need to check out. I’ll see if I can find a way to contact you outside of this page to let you know!

            2. Baxterous*

              I will second the Litmus blog as a resource, one of the best.
              Does Constant Contact offer the ability to do a survey on your unsub page? That’s the best option IMO. After they click to submit their unsub, the confirmation page includes a survey that asks why they unsubscribed. After running these for years, I found the vast majority of people say that they unsubbed because they get too much email in general, not for any reason related to our specific emails.

              1. Folklorist*

                Thank you both (and everyone else who chimed in)! I poked around Constant Contact and figured out how to do the unsubscribe survey. My only concern is that it will do it for all our emails and not just my newsletter. Not that I think that’s a bad thing; it just means that I’ll have to check with the other people who run newsletters, etc. under the same account.

        2. Kelly L.*

          See, and this is why legal questions are sometimes really useful even when nobody plans to sue! :) Sometimes, it perks bosses’ ears up so they listen and abandon bad ideas.

    4. Lisa*

      Create a survey through Constant Contact and send it to the unsubscribers with those questions. Only send it once though.

    5. Gwen*

      Nooo, I would HATE that. I would be really frustrated if a company emailed me even MORE after I explicitly stated I didn’t want to hear more from them. (I already get signed up for a lot of newsletters without my permission since I correspond with a number of businesses for the course of my work, and a lot of times they just add me to their e-blast)

    6. BRR*

      Don’t contact them. If I unsubscribe it might just be a nuisance but if the company then contacts me it’s like an ex stalking you. If you can, when they unsubscribe can you give them choices as to why they are unsubscribing?

    7. Aunt Vixen*

      If I go to the trouble of unsubscribing and then get e-mail from the folks I unsubscribed from anyway, someone’s getting a nastygram. Just saying.

      1. another IT manager*

        Seconded. I’m okay clicking “unsubscribe” to emails I didn’t sign up for, but if you come back, you’ll go on the shorter shit list.

        1. Folklorist*

          Yeah, this is what I was thinking as well. When he asked me to do that I cringed and thought about how I would be sending something not-so-pleasant to the company if they did that to me!

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        Seriously. I have actually done this on a couple of occasions where multiple attempts to unsubscribe were ignored. So annoying.

    8. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

      Definitely don’t contact them. Constant Contact already asks them for feedback as to why they unsubscribed. If they didn’t fill it out, don’t press them for the information.

    9. Geegee*

      I agree with you. I would find it creepy and annoying if someone reached out to me after I unsubscribed from a newsletter. I would bet that people who unsubscribed have never even read the newsletter and simply got rid of it because it was just another email clogging up their inbox. I think you’re more likely to get a positive response if you reach out to your current subscribers asking what they’d like to see more of, a very simple survey every now and then that takes no more than 30 seconds to a minute to respond. I would not reach out to people who unsubscribed.

      1. anon130*

        Don’t contact them again. If you are in the US and you are sending commercial email you have to adhere to the CAN-SPAM regulations. Once someone opts-out you have 10 business days to stop sending them commercial email messages. You have to honor the opt-out request and stop contacting them.

    10. SanguineAspect*

      Don’t reach out. Let your boss know that doing so is a CAN-SPAM violation. Such violations can result in penalties against your company / ISP, including putting you at a higher risk for blacklisting.

  5. BRR*

    Does anybody else have difficulty working at home? Not the kids are asking for your attention, spouse is distracting you, friends don’t think you have a real job difficulty but just sitting at your desk difficulty. With the snow this past week I did some work from home and I was not nearly as productive as I am in the office. I found it far more difficult to get into productivity mode. I’ve noticed the same thing when I try and write my thesis. I can write more anywhere but at home. I do keep the TV off and don’t try and multitask or anything. Any suggestions?

    1. YourCdnFriend*

      I’m not great with this either and I have no great advice. My solution is to avoid it and when I was in school and didn’t have an office to go to, I went to the library or coffee shop.

    2. WorkingMom*

      Do you get up and get dressed for the day and sit in an office? Everyone is different – some people can sit in their PJ’s on the couch with their laptop all day and be super productive. Other people need the routine of getting up, getting dressed and going to your “office” for the day to work. Also, some people thrive at home and others thrive at work – it may just be your personal preference. Maybe you need to be out of your “home environment” to find your flow? In that case, would going to a local library or some other quite place help?

      In my personal experiences, it depends on the day and what is going on. Some days I can sit in my PJ’s on the couch with the laptop and my dog and power through hours and hours of work. Some days I’m not as focused. I have determined what type of tasks I am good at doing from home, and what I prefer to do in the office. Then I only work from home when I’m doing my “home-friendly” types of tasks. For example our database is slow from home. So if I have a lot of database work to do I stay in the office. Good luck!

      1. Sascha*

        That is how I divide up my tasks so I’m the most productive – I save things for home that require no interruptions and a quiet environment. In my office, I get interrupted a lot by people coming by to ask me questions or get help with something, so I always know my office days are going to be filled with people, so I save shorter, less focus-intense tasks for those days.

    3. hermit crab*

      I have no advice, but I have the same problem. I live very close to my office, so I actually go and sit at my desk at work when I need to buckle down and accomplish non-work tasks.

    4. RandomName*

      When I used to work from home, I’d actually bring my laptop somewhere else to work (the library, my in-law’s house when they weren’t home) because I was able to focus more at a place where I didn’t have other things I wanted to do (like laundry, meal prep, etc.). That always worked well for me, but the company I worked for at the time was paperless. Now that I work for a company with a warehouse of files, I wouldn’t be able to just take my laptop and work anywhere.

    5. Ezri*

      I’m not a person who can easily mingle home-space and work-space. There’s something about being physically somewhere else that gets my mind in gear and minimizes distraction, whether it’s the office or some other public place. In college I had to go to the library or communal rooms to do homework, because I associated stress with my desk even when I was goofing off.

      Would it be possible to set up a space in your house that is ‘work-only’? I get that’s not practical for everyone, but even a separate desk does wonders for me.

    6. Felicia*

      I have the same difficulty. I also have difficulty right now, when I’m the only person in the office. I think it’s because i am motivated to work when i see other people working. If you could go to a library or coffee shop, that helps me personally, just because i see other people who look busy.

    7. Sunflower*

      Usually sitting at a table vs on my couch helps. I don’t find any need to get changed- unless sometimes if I’m wearing full on PJ’s and a baggy tee, I’ll put on yoga pants and a shirt aka something I would wear out in public. I find I work as productive but differently. In the office, I tend to do a little of everything at the same time. At home, I focus on one thing, finish that and then move on to the other. Probably because I don’t get as many calls working at home as I do in the office and I don’t have to change direction as often.

      Sometimes wearing headphones helps as I always feel more focused when I’m wearing them. I also sometimes will, for instance, want a snack. I won’t allow myself to get one until I finish x and y.

      1. BRR*

        I start with working at the table or a desk and not being in my pjs. Maybe i’ll need to switch to a suit and tie at home.

      2. afiendishthingy*

        Yeah! I wear headphones at home to work sometimes too — I have ADHD and it helps me to not get distracted by background noises. I’m more productive in the office than at home, but I do frequently have to put on headphones there to really focus on something because otherwise I feel the need to contribute to all the conversations going on in the cube corral.

    8. fposte*

      Sometimes I bog down at home, yes. I find it really helpful not to get stuck in one physical place; I often move to the floor when I’m looking at printed documents, for instance, and just that rejigging is really helpful. (I actually find that in the office, too–doing something to break the physical staring-at-the-screen deadlock helps to refocus me.)

    9. Artemesia*

      For me the problem was always that it was so easy to get distracted. There is the kitchen full of thing to eat. All the cues in the environment to relax or watch tv or read. The ability to get up and walk around the back yard.

      Some people can’t make the homespace conducive to concentrating on work — I did have a dedicated office and worked out ways of reinforcing myself for putting in the time there and being focused, but it is hard than being at the office.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t have this problem, unless I actually have nothing to do. But if you’re restless and not focused at home, I’d go sit somewhere else. Library, coffee shop if you can work with distractions, etc.

      Or you could set up a workspace in a different area of your home, if you have the room and usually sit in the same place all the time. That could shake up your brain so it gets into work mode. Another thing would be to have music you listen to ONLY when working, so when you put it on, it signals to your brain that it’s time to buckle down.

    11. Tau*

      I’m almost finished with my PhD and am terrible at working at home – I just can’t get into the work mindset and either can’t start at all or get distracted at most half an hour in. This may have been especially bad because basically all of my work required intense concentration with no tasks you could without putting in 100% mental effort, so the instant my focus began to wander I could basically pack everything up and give up then and there.

      The advice I have for you is given in case none of the suggestions people have given you help: accept it. Own it. Work around it.

      I lost a lot of productive time over the years by going “oh, I’ll just do some work at home today” (because never mind the fact that that hadn’t worked the last eight times I tried, there was no logical reason I shouldn’t be able to do work at home!!) and then failing to get anything done. Eventually I finally got it through my head that this wasn’t working, and I’ve been much more productive now that I go “okay, if I want to do work I need to head out, no ifs or buts. If I stay home, I accept that no work will be happening.” Of course, this may work better or less well depending on your options re: working outside your home… I work best in coffee shops by a pretty wide margin and am lucky that I had a generous scholarship because I ended up spending a lot of money on them.

    12. anne bonny*

      Yes! I’ve been doing it for a few years now and have decided I need to get back to an office. It’s hard for me to stay focused, and also hard for me to just stop working. But mainly – as an independent contractor doing mostly admin and marketing – I miss people! I may try a co-working space to see if that helps, but I really miss being part of a team.

    13. HR Manager*

      One of the reasons I do not like working from home. I don’t, unless I have to – like being buried under 2 ft of snow. The more normal of a desk and office like setting you have, the better it is. I don’t have that – I use the kitchen counter because it’s separate from the tv/living room, and my desk upstairs is clogged with my home PC and monitor (plus it’s a mess). One of the problems? The counter is one of my cats’ favorite hang out spaces, so it means constant cat distractions!

      If you have the room, I think having a dedicated quiet office that for the most part only gets used as an office is the best. Make sure you can print, and do as much as you would normally do at the actual office, and you might find it better to focus.

    14. The IT Manager*

      Yes. My biggest problem right now is I am unclear about my next steps. (Today it occurred to me I might be feeling some imposter syndrome.) Being motivated to dig into something that’s overwhelming is a problem whether working in the office or at home, but at home I don’t have the shame of someone spotting I have been on my cell phone/AAM/not actually productive all day. But honestly, I am just more surreptitious about goofing off when in the office and that means I do end up getting more done.

      I don’t have a full proof trick, but here’s my ideas.

      (1) Have an office with a door and a desk not a dining room table. Preferably only use that room for work like stuff just so you don’t have other things in the room that you can work on to distract you
      (2) Do not have a TV in the office.
      (3) Don’t allow yourself to leave the “office” to end up cooking, or cleaning, or any other chore that only looks good when you have something worse to do. If you’re going to get no work done, you’re not going to get anything else accomplished either with the idea being you might as well work.
      (4) Try the Pomodoro method of telling yourself you will work for 20 minutes or whatever and only then will you take a shorter timed break. Set a timer, and make yourself work for at least those 20 minutes.

      And if you find a miracle cure, let us know, because I sure need one.

    15. Dulcinea*

      I also have this problem, and none of the typically recommended solutions have worked for me. I have an entirely separate office at home – a room I never go into except to work (theoretically). It has a desk and all the office supplies a person could want; a nice bright lamp and a comfortable desk chair. I get dressed and get a cup of coffee and sit down at that desk and….Still find it very had to concentrate. I agree with Tan below – at some point you have to acknowledge your weaknesses and work around them.

    16. Anx*

      I do have to wear something comfortable and supportive. Oddly, I think putting a bra really boosts my concentration.

      I also treat myself to turning the heat up. I can’t work when my hands get stiff and my feet are frozen stiff, but now that I can pay the bills more easily it has helped tremendously.

    17. Betty*

      I am self employed and work from home all the time. (I’m a graphic designer.) My desk is in my living room (no room for a devoted office). Sometimes it is too quiet and I can’t focus. My brain needs something else to keep the bits I’m not using busy. For those times, I might:
      — Go work at a coffee shop
      –Put on instrumental music. I like the Spotify Deep Focus channel and SomaFM’s Groove Salad. There is also a site called Focus@Will that has a free trial. (Music with words is too distracting to me.)
      — Put on the tv. It’s behind me, so I can hear it but not see it. I find commercials distracting so I use Netflix and I’m picky about the kind of show that can be on. It needs to be something amusing that I’ve seen a few times. Futurama, Psych, Eureka: that kind of show works for me.

      I find that being organized helps. I put each task that needs to get done in a “to do” calendar in iCal. (I like a calendar on the computer so I can easily move tasks around). As I do each task, I delete it from the calendar. A “to do” list would work too: the point is to not have to think about what to do next.

      Sometimes I am having trouble with a particular project. I’ll work on the easy parts of the project first, even if they seem less important. Often that is enough to get my brain in gear for the more difficult parts.

      And I plan in breaks. Finish this task, then I can go make a cup of tea. Work on this tough one for an hour, then take a walk. Even breaking up projects by doing stuff like laundry helps more than it hurts my productivity: I find I get more done when I force myself to take short breaks periodically.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’m the same way with vocal music when writing. It distracts me too much because I sing along and then I can’t concentrate on what I’m supposed to be saying on the page.

      2. catsAreCool*

        I have found that jazz music usually seems to help me focus, especially jazz without vocals. There’s so much going on in jazz.

    18. INTP*

      I do, I seem to get more distracted working at home. For some reason I feel freer to go off task, look at websites, etc.

      It helps to have a designated workspace that is only for work, put on work clothes, use your work mug, etc. If I’m on the couch in my pjs with a computer in my lap, I tend to feel just as relaxed as when I’m doing that in the evening while NOT working, which isn’t a good thing.

      Another thing I’m going to implement is installing a new browser on my computer (I use firefox so I’ll add chrome) with only my work bookmarks and unlikely-to-distract-me bookmarks like the weather. Just thwarting myself by 2-5 seconds in acting on an impulse (i.e. typing on impulse, and being thwarted by the need to type in my password to get to my account) makes me much less likely to follow through with it. Leechblock is also good, you can block certain websites during certain hours.

      1. JAL*

        I also suggest the Simple Blocker extension for Google Chrome and adding the websites you frequent most often. I didn’t like Leechblock for some reason.

    19. JAL*

      Yes but mostly because it’s too quiet for me. I like a little background noise, so I usually listen to music or an Audible book while I’m working on low volume Helps me concentrate.

    20. afiendishthingy*

      HAHAHA. 9 pm and I just called my workday to a close at home… because I didn’t even turn my computer on the first two days I “worked from home” this week. Going to have to work all weekend to make up for it – and you can bet how optimistic I am about that! I might even go into the office to try to get something done although I get creeped out when I’m the only one there. I can’t get into productivity mode at home very easily either, but having a designated work space and setting a timer for 25-30 minutes at a time helps. Good luck.

    21. Colleen*

      I don’t have suggestions. I will read what people have to say, though, because I have the same issue.

  6. The Other Dawn*

    Now that I’ve settled in a bit at the new job, I’m starting to see how people work. I’m really happy with my team overall. Really, very happy. But one thing I’ve noticed is that the senior person, “Sally”, the one who didn’t want my job and that’s why I was hired, doesn’t really stand out the way the more junior person, “Mary”, does. Sally is pretty quiet in meetings usually unless called upon or asked direct questions. It’s clear she thinks about process improvement and different ways to do things, what needs to get done, etc. and is very knowledgeable, but she’s nowhere near as aggressive about it as Mary is, and doesn’t seem as driven; she’s pretty happy to do what she needs to do and provide guidance when needed. Sally is further along in her career, whereas Mary is early in her career.

    My boss’s feeling is that since Sally is the senior person and makes a great salary for what she does, she’s the one that needs to take on more and earn her salary. And I don’t disagree. What I’m trying to do is to include Sally in some things without Mary so she has more of an opportunity to be involved; Mary tends to take over sometimes because she’s so eager to do and learn. I try to go to Sally first to give her a chance and hear her thoughts.
    I’m not sure if I should really do something. I mean, Mary is just very driven and very passionate about her job, and has made it clear she wants to be in my or my boss’s position someday, which is great; she reminds me of me when I was her age. Sally is more reserved. Maybe it’s just a personality difference, or maybe it just hasn’t been long enough yet; we’re kind of in catch-up mode and have heaps of work to get done right now.

    Any thoughts?

    1. YourCdnFriend*

      It sounds like you have two great women on your team who have very different styles.

      I would reframe it as an opportunity and focus on both their strengths. Help them improve their understanding of each other’s work style so they can work efficiently together.

      I’m more of a Mary but I work hard not to run over the Sally’s in the office because they often bring something that I can’t to the team. Even so, it takes work from both parties to respect each other’s style.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Disclaimer: I’ve never had to have this conversation with somebody else, and it’s one that I suspect doesn’t happen very often — because my guess is that many managers “deal” with the problem of an employee who’s making a high salary for the work she does either by firing the person and hiring someone cheaper, or by not dealing with the problem at all.

      But I think it would be a kindness to Sally to let her know how things stand. Does she have a review coming up, or a midpoint between reviews? If so, I’d approach this as a “let’s talk about your goals and expectations in anticipation of your review” or “we’re at the halfway mark, so I want to check in with you on your goals.” You may find out then that her expectations are out of whack with what you can offer, or you may find out that she’s very self-aware and knows that she can’t advance or even really stay where she is salary-wise if she continues the output she’s at. And you can also let her know that the general expectation of someone who makes $X is to do A, B, and C, so you need her to do more of those things. (Or perhaps it’s only a matter of her being more proactive and vocal about taking on these duties, rather than hanging back and waiting to be assigned them.)

      1. Anna*

        I don’t get what you mean. Where do things stand? Is Sally in danger of being fired? Clearly she’s making the amount she does because someone thought she deserved it so I don’t really get how she can’t be “earning what they pay her”. I think you’ve missed something in the original post or are reading something I missed.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          I got it from the fact that OP’s boss is saying that Sally should be taking on more because she’s senior and is paid more.

          Just because someone thought you deserved to be paid $X once doesn’t mean it’s true forever. If the market changes and there are many people who are willing to do the job for less, then the reality is that some employers deal with that by firing the high-paid employee and hiring one of those people. In that case, Sally may indeed need to do more to be worth what she’s being paid.

          (This happens a lot in my industry because people get promoted very rapidly in order to keep them or attract them to a new agency — and then people with 10 or more years of experience have to justify their higher salaries against a freshly promoted person who is only too happy to take the same job title at a 20% discount to the company.)

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Yeah, Sally is definitely doing a great job and does everything she’s supposed to be doing. I just think she tends to hang back because Mary is such a go-getter. Not because she doesn’t want to do the work, but maybe she’s thinking what Mary is saying, but Mary just beats her to the punch a lot because of how Mary is.

            1. catsAreCool*

              Maybe Mary’s more of an introvert? Introverts aren’t always shy, but some introverts have a harder time speaking up in groups. Maybe Mary could contribute more through e-mail.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Sally simply sounds to me like she’s content to be where she is and do her job very well; she’s not looking to advance or take on anything new. Frankly, I think people like that should be treasured in the workplace. So many workers, young and old, entry-level and established, focus so hard on getting to the next level and proving themselves that the steady, solid workers get overlooked. If Sally is many years into her career and even close to retirement, I don’t see a problem with her getting paid for her brain– she has years of information and experience and has served as a source for less experienced people, and it sounds like she’s a great resource to have on your team.

      Going to Sally first is smart, and I think you should continue to do that, but not because Sally needs a chance– more because she probably has great things to offer when you’re first starting a project. Other than that, though, it doesn’t sound like you really need to do anything unless someone is unhappy.

        1. INTP*

          Yes! I mentioned this below, but when some low-visibility but very important task rolls in, Mary is not going to complete it with the same vigor she displays for new, exciting, high-visibility tasks. Sally is more likely to actually be counted on to work on things that won’t further her own career. An ideal team has both people who are happy to do the repetitive work and people that pursue new ideas and take on new tasks. Staff a team with all Marys and your gruntwork will be neglected, because they’re all gunning for promotions and know that no one is going to get promoted for being good at gruntwork.

      1. JC*

        I also think there is a difference between “not aspiring to be a manager” and “not wanting to take on new things.” I am very much a Sally (do not aspire to management because managing is not the part of my job I like, quiet and thoughtful but not aggressive in meetings, etc), but I do aspire to take on new challenges in different kinds of work, or in improving upon the kinds of things I already do.

        Could the OP perhaps have a conversation with Sally about how she aspires to grow in her position? Her answers might surprise you. Especially since it sounds like you have a different style than Sally; for you, growing likely includes advancing in management, so it might be more difficult to empathize with wanting to grow/take on challenges in different ways.

    4. Yes*

      Sounds like Sally is a classic introvert. Be sure to ask her for input toward the end of the meeting, when she’s had time to absorb what everyone else has had to say. She’s been thinking about things while everyone else has been running their mouths. Her input will be gold

      1. Cat*

        Okay, as an introvert, can we not assume that how outgoing you are necessarily corresponds with how deep a thinker you are? Sometimes I have useful insight; sometimes I don’t. Sometimes my extroverted colleagues, or colleagues that are more introverted than me, do; sometimes they don’t. Your social preferences are not always the determiner.

    5. Michele*

      I am more of a Sally. I am quiet, independent, get a lot done, and cared deeply about but I was uncomfortable speaking up. Don’t mistake quiet for complacency. I found it frustrating that the loudest people got promoted regardless of what they accomplished. I really wish that someone had sat me down and had a conversation about speaking up for myself and asked what I wanted out of my career when I was younger. Do Sally a favor and tell her that you think she has potential, but she has to be her own advocate. I have found that newer employees with my personality time come to me with their frustrations, even if they don’t report to me. Without fail, I tell them that they have to learn to speak up, and that they have to do it repeatedly.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I agree with this and the possibility that Sally is an Introvert, she may not be reserved, just reticent and will warm up to you in time. I also think it would be a good idea to sit her down before her review and ask her what she wants out of her career if it’s not management. She may be thinking things through in meetings, she may be frustrated because Mary beats her to the punch/is seen as the new bright spark and she doesn’t know how to compete with that. If the people you report to have the perception she’s not pulling her weight when compared to firecracker Mary, IMO she should be informed of this before it becomes something that pops up in her review and blindsides her (it may already be something she has noticed or fears). Some people are content to do the 9-5, take their cheque and go home, she may be one of them. If she’s not, then I think based on her previous work she at least deserves to know how others currently see her contributions. It would give her time to assess where she’s at, what she does want to do and which direction within the company she would like to head, along with the research to back it up. Like others have said, she may be perfectly fine remaining in that role and you may be happy to keep the status quo with her, in which case it will also be up to you to figure out how to frame that to your bosses so that they see the value she brings, and not just the dollars they think are slipping away.

    6. Dan*

      “Eager beavers” like Mary become a problem if they’re neglecting their primary work and not accomplishing their “stretch” projects well that they’re aggressively trying to take on. If that’s Mary, that’s a problem. If it’s not, then, I think you have to work with the eager beaver that you have, because they’re out-earning their paycheck. Who wouldn’t want that?

      Your boss’s feelings indicate that Sally could be ripe for the pickings if a RIF was ever in the cards. Sally needs to know that. Plenty of us are happy to be “content”, but “content” generally starts to mean that we’re getting paid more than we’re worth at some point. How do you deliver the message? Another poster’s comments along the lines of “here’s what we expect from someone in your position” is pretty decent wording.

    7. AnonAnalyst*

      I can kind of see myself in Sally here. If she’s like me, I think it’s probably a little bit of both personality and time. In my case, I’m kind of an information-gatherer. I’ll give my perspective or push for something that I think is best, but I generally feel like I need to be pretty certain in my assessment (and that my opinion is really valuable on the topic – there are lots of things where I feel like I could weigh in or suggest an alternative, but I waver on whether it actually matters if people know the information I do or whether advocating for a particular improvement is really the hill I want to die on). Also, I’ve been kind of burned by speaking up in the past, which I’m sure has contributed to my hesitation to be more aggressive with some of this stuff in the workplace.

      You also mentioned that you’re new(er) to the team, so that might be playing in here as well. Once Sally gets to know you and your work style a little better she might be more willing to be more proactive. In my case, I tend to follow a “keep your head down” mentality, especially when I have a new job or manager. If I feel like that person might be open to hearing my ideas, I’m more willing to speak up, but it takes awhile for me to get a sense of how receptive that person might be.

      I think your approach of trying to ask Sally before Mary on some things is good. One thing I’ve sort of struggled with in some workplaces is being drowned out by the Marys in the room. I would also suggest asking her more questions directly in meetings (assuming she seems to be comfortable with that – from your post I got the sense she wasn’t uncomfortable when asked, but just didn’t interject into the conversation without being prompted). You could also meet with her one on one and ask about some of the things she does in her role. I actually think something that frustrates my manager is that I just do my work rather than giving more feedback on some of the things we do or how we do things – I usually have feedback when I’m asked directly, but I typically won’t go voice it proactively unless I feel like it’s something that really needs to be discussed/changed. So, if you really want to start getting more input from her, that might be another way to go about it.

      Eek, sorry for the novel. TL;DR: I think you’re on the right track with giving her more opportunities to speak up without Mary around, and I would try asking her more direct questions about the work she does and some of your processes if you want more insight from her, but also give it more time so she gets to know you better. Good luck!

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I wonder a bit what Mary and Sally’s previous manager was like, too (if this isn’t a new position). Because I think I’m a bit like “Sally,” in some ways. I’ve been in my current position for a number of years, and have no interest in moving into management.

        And like AnonAnalyst, I’ve been burned for speaking up before. I’ve tried volunteering for projects, etc., in the past – and have watched those opportunities go to coworkers who are more like “Mary,” and/or who are the “favorites.” So I’ve stopped volunteering, and mostly stopped offering an opinion unless asked directly. I keep my head down and do my job to the best of my ability, try to help out when asked, and leave it at that. Because I’ve been taught that anything else is not going to work to my benefit.

        If Sally’s experience has been anything like I described, building trust with her is going to be very important, and may not be easy. Because, again, if she is like me, she has heard the “I want to hear what you think, no really I do” before, and experienced the “oh, look, you’re being punished for speaking up, even though we said that wouldn’t happen” backlash.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Her former boss is my current boss and he’s great. Everyone respects him and he’s very fair. He really has a good rapport with everyone. He values everyone’s opinions.

    8. The Other Dawn*

      Wow, these are some really great responses. Thanks!

      I think people are right on when they say it seems to be work style. I’m a bit of mix of both Mary and Sally. I was always very driven and wanted to move up fast, just like Mary. But I’m like Sally in that I’m pretty low key. I need to gather and process information, so I tend to be quieter in meetings also. I can see both sides of it, but I’m finding it difficult to navigate.

      Mary definitely is not neglecting anything at all. I think if she could be a one-woman department, she’d be able to handle it with no problem. She’s really fantastic, but I think Sally gets kind of drowned out by her, because she’s more low key. Everyone is looking at Mary because she’s the one who is more vocal. I think Sally is definitely one that just wants to do her work and contribute in different ways than becoming a manager. I definitely understand that; not everyone wants to be manager.

    9. HR Manager*

      Is the question how to engage Sally more, or is the question whether Sally is really pulling her full weight as a senior? Like the others, I think a Sally is indispensable in certain types of roles. If your team is a constant stepping stone to other areas, appreciating Sally’s willingness and desire to stay in her job a blessing (assuming she does well).

      Now if you wish to engage Sally more, then you can create more opportunities for her. It sounds like she offers her opinion if you ask her. You can do that, both privately and publicly, to elicit her response. It would also show the team that you respect her insight and opinion. But get her thoughts on this as well “Because you’ve been on the team for a long time and are a senior, I respect your opinion and would like to get your perspective on some questions. Do you mind if I call on you in the meetings?” She can confirm her comfort level with that.

      In your development conversations, you can also solicit her thoughts on the position. “Sally, I’m so glad you’ve stayed with the team so long. Are things still going well? How can I help you feel like you are continuing to grow and be challenged in your work?”

      1. Elfie*

        Ok, as a definite Sally here, I’m now really worried that I’m perceived as not being up to scratch just because the Mary on my team is more vocal, driven, energetic than me. Are you all seriously suggesting that just because a Mary exists, then she becomes the basic benchmark of competence? Doesn’t that devalue both Sally’s and Mary’s inputs? Sally because she gets downgraded to incompetent, when in fact she (I!) am extremely competent, just don’t like tooting my own horn (because I cannot get it out of my head no matter how much I try, that the work should just speak for itself). And Mary gets downgraded to merely competent, when in fact she is displaying ‘Exceeds Expectations’, promotion-worthy behaviour?

        If that is the case, then I have got some serious work to do, because I don’t think I could become a Mary – I want to, I really do, but I don’t have it in me to work at that pace. I couldn’t be happy with the standard of work I would produce if forced to work at that pace. I’m not a ‘just good enough’ type of person (I’m not saying Marys are, just that I would have to be to put out work at the pace of a Mary).

    10. Daydreamer*

      Someone else had mentioned the introvert thing in the comments, and I’d like to echo that. I’m a total ISFJ but an extroverted introvert, and it’s not always easy for me to jump into discussions in a meeting. But afterwards I’m able to put thoughts on paper and come to my boss with them either in an email or a one-on-one meeting.

      It’s good that you give Sally the chance to get her thoughts out, and that probably is useful to her. A one-on-one chat after a meeting may also be useful, but you may want to approach Sally about this and ask what would work best for her.

      But being an introvert may not mean Sally isn’t driven. She may just have a different approach to things. :)

    11. INTP*

      Is it possible that company culture just doesn’t recognize Sally’s style of contributing? I was once in a position where, less than 2 months into an entry level job, I was being reprimanded for not “generating ideas” or “taking risks.” I was actually confused because I’d had a couple of ideas implemented – small ones, but what more do you expect 2 months in? I figured out, however, that the CEO’s idea of generating ideas and taking risks was to blurt your ideas out in meetings. I’m an introvert and I come up with my good ideas when I’m mulling things over later, not the second they are brought up for discussion in a meeting. I had to start blurting things out off the top of my head in meetings to stop getting warned for “not generating ideas.” (The CEO was pleased with my performance after I did that. I was complimented for the half-baked ideas I blurted out during meetings for no reason*, though they were never actually implemented, and continued to get no credit for the ideas that actually were.) If your boss is only paying attention to one style of contributing (i.e. who talks the loudest in a meeting) that could be the issue.

      Also, remind her that a complete team needs BOTH Sallys and Marys. Mary might be good at drawing attention to herself, taking charge, and pursuing new responsibilities. However, the flip side is that Mary’s ambition means that she might not be so reliable with tasks that don’t further her own interests. When some burdensome, low-visibility task roles in, you want a Sally to be available to do it properly, because Mary will be too strategic with her time and energy to prioritize something of no particular benefit to her.

      *That paragraph wasn’t meant to imply that ideas blurted out during meetings are always worthless. Some people, especially extroverts, do their best thinking with group energy and collaboration. I don’t, and the ideas I said in meetings were things I had come up with just because I knew I had to say something, and I knew they weren’t viable even before they were rejected. For ME this was pointless, but not for everyone.

    12. Mephyle*

      It isn’t clear whether Sally could be doing more, or whether she simply doesn’t toot her own horn the way Mary does about the things she does take on.
      I have the feeling that it may not be completely clear to you yet, either.
      I’d suggest actively finding out how much Sally is getting done and using that to evaluate whether she should be doing more, or not. It may take a bit of digging, because Sally’s and Mary’s different communication styles are covering up that data. You clearly are aware of this, hence your question, but now maybe the next step is to use that knowledge to work past the obvious impressions and get an accurate measure of how much each person is getting done.

  7. Cee*

    What do people think about the Human Workplace, and their concept of Pain Letters? Good idea, bad idea, or total bullshit?

    1. Paloma Pigeon*

      I think incorporate some of the ‘Pain Letter’ language into a cover letter. It adds to your advocacy of why you want the job and why you would excel at it, but a separate letter entirely? Not really sure.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I could see it working if the writer hit the pain point just right, but if the person writing one mis-guesses the pain point, they’ll sound like a presumptive jerk. They might anyway. I’d be taken aback by such a letter, honestly. And, since our “pain points” for roles on our team change frequently – we expect people to be flexible within the skillset they possess. The person writing that sample sounds a bit too specifically focused, which from my POV is bad even if what we currently needed was exactly what they were offering; if it wasn’t, if they missed the mark, then it’s even worse.

      But I don’t know if my perspective is normal or not. Maybe pain letters would work better in some areas than others. (I’m a software engineer.)

      1. Sunflower*

        Yes all of this. It’s hard enough to hit the nail on the head when you’re working internally on the problem so I feel like 9 times out of 10, you’re going to look like a pompous idiot.

    3. puddin*

      I have sent out a few recently – as well as traditional cover letters. In my opinion, they were very difficult to write and not sound gimmicky. Perhaps that is a signal that the job posting was not in line with my skills/interests. However, I got results from the traditional ones and no calls from the pain letters.

      At this point I am thinking a couple of things about them:
      1. I write better traditional cover letters than pain letters – I should stick with those.
      2. HR/Hiring managers are used to the traditional way, the pain letter may be ‘too weird’ – especially in certain industries, geographies, companies, or even for the specific position open.
      3. Human Workplace has very noble and likable ideas, I just do not see many companies adopting them yet.

      1. Ezri*

        This was my impression. IANA Hiring Manager, but it reads like the kind of spam I get in the mail everyday – even a similar formula: “good for you being an adult with money, but I bet you want to spend more money, we give people money, so get our credit card!”.

        Also, what if this company doesn’t have the ‘pain problem’ you focus on? Or is annoyed at you circumventing the hiring process (since the article insists these things must be mailed to the hiring manager). Seems too gimmicky. I think Paloma Pigeon above has the right idea – these ideas might be good for incorporation into a cover letter to show your thoughtfulness, but the pain letter as a whole seems icky.

      2. Artemesia*

        When I get salesy cover letters like this I automatically assume the person is one of those glossy BSers who will be full of corporate jargon and low on actual substance. Of course one wants to focus on how s/he will contribute to the business, but the possibility of annoying the recipient seems likely with this gimicky approach.

    4. Cat*

      I just googled it. It sounds like what this blog also advises (don’t be too formal and stilted, personalize, say what’s different about you) except using way more words and way less clear language to describe the concept.

    5. BRR*

      The issue with pain letters is you don’t always know what the pain point is from the outside or there might not be a pain point or you may not be applying for a position that is there to solve the pain point. If you’re applying for an entry-level accounting position at Microsoft, you’re not going to be writing about the company’s strategy to gain mobile market share.

      Also I feel like they can easily turn insulting in a way. I see you’re struggling with making your chocolate tea pots. Well how dare you.

      1. Collarbone High*

        I’ve gotten a couple of these, and “insulting” is exactly how I’d describe them. Especially when they used phrases like “turn things around” or “shake up your organization” — implying that our organization was a disaster that needed saving (and that we were too stupid to right the ship ourselves). That sample has the same kind of condescension — “Boy, you must be surprised by that growth! I assume you do no strategic planning, good thing I’m here to save the day!”

        Those letters backfired with me, because in fact the organization was running fine, and what I really needed was someone who could step in and do exactly what Departing Employee had been doing. We were NOT looking for someone whose stated goal was to shake things up.

        1. BRR*

          This does remind me we had a vendor take the pain approach and our director was basically like, no we have our act together.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I just read their sample pain letter and it’s really salesy and doesn’t sound genuine. That closing (“I’d love to learn more about Acme and share a bit of my story with you”) makes me cringe a little. I don’t know if it’s because it’s truly cringe-worthy or if it’s because when I’ve had candidates send letters like that, they’re never strong ones and so now I associate that kind of approach with weaker candidates … but I do not like it.

      1. cuppa*

        I kind of agree, the part that I think really turns me off is the concept that you are making assumptions about what is going on at my company without even being there. And not following application instructions.
        It turns me off.

      2. Dan*

        It’s salesy, certainly makes me cringe.

        When I apply to jobs in my niche, I have my own version of a “pain letter.” But it’s straight forward and not gimmicky. It more or less talks about my experience in the manufacturing plant and warehouse of Chocolate Teapots, Inc., and the logistical problems that I’ve become familiar with. I then went to school to study Subject Y, with the intent of working for a logistics firm building plants and warehouses for any maker of chocolate teapots, and being able to develop solutions to the problems that I identified along the way.

        Basically, I’m just trying to get across the point that I understand their problem space, and have the skills to develop solutions.

      3. Anna*

        The example they gave sounds as if the candidate is resume cold-calling. Like you said, salesy and gimmicky, as if the company doesn’t have an opening but CLEARLY they will what with all this amazing growth happening. And I know a lot about growth, as I’ve stated right here in paragraph two. *eye roll*

      4. fposte*

        “I’d love to learn more about Acme and share a bit of my story with you.”

        Noooo! Even for my grad student jobs that do involve a lot of valuable growth, I don’t want to interview somebody for learning and stories–I want to know if you can do the damn job. Okay, it’s in isolation, but I really can’t get behind a cover letter that suggests a priority of sharing and caring rather than achievement.

        (Is this my TOP/ROP moment? We’re really adorable once you get here, but you get here by showing that you’re devoted to getting stuff done.)

    7. voluptuousfire*

      Like Puddin said, it’s noble and the Liz Ryan stuff probably won’t fly with most HR departments.

      Personally, I have trouble reading her articles. The twee, color pencil drawn graphics irk me and the way they break up the articles make it difficult to read. I usually read halfway through and give up.

      1. esra*

        I have a completely irrational hatred of those graphics. The “I have these friends who totally talk in a way relevant to my article!!” schtick drives me up the wall.

        1. voluptuousfire*

          Sometimes her articles (to me) don’t necessarily make sense. There was one last week about a guy who got a job that he wasn’t qualified for but he apparently used a Pain type approach and told the HM what they wanted to hear. It didn’t make much sense because how could he get in front of an audience if he didn’t at least have the bare minimum?

    8. The Toxic Avenger*

      Sometimes, I see the Liz Ryan articles via LinkedIn. Frankly, I think they are cringe-worthy. Not only does she advise you to circumvent the hiring process (which would be a deal-breaker for me right off the bat), but the pain letters are so…painful. If I got one of these as a hiring manager, I’d feel awkward just reading it.

      So…just in case I’m not clear, my vote is the ole thumbs down.

      1. Allison*

        Unfortnunately, people who preach that rogue, go-getter attitude are the ones who make money. They sell books, they get clients for their consulting and coaching services. They’re load, they draw attention to themselves, and people admire that attitude. They want to be that gutsy. People who advise people to follow the rules often have a harder time being successful.

        1. BRR*

          I think also they give advice that people want to hear. I can listen to the person who tells me diet is great and I exercise enough or I can listen to the person who tells me to cut out the sweets and go to the gym X number of times a week.

        2. The Toxic Avenger*

          Sigh. I hear ya. So much of it is such obvious cheese, though. When I see stuff like that, I recoil and think, “Yuck. Cheese.”

        3. Creag an Tuire*

          That’s because people who follow the rules and succeed are less likely to be in the market for career advice.

          If we use the “job hunting=dating” analogy, most self-appointed ‘career counselors’ (AAM excluded!) are basically pickup artists.

        4. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t know if that’s true. I certainly don’t go rogue in this type of sense, and I’m doing nicely. (If there’s an area I’ve gone rogue in, it’s that throughout my career I was willing to speak up about problems I saw rather than keeping my head down and focusing on my own paper and it usually served me really well — although it’s different from what’s often advised. But that’s different than this kind of rogue.)

          1. Hawthorne*

            It’s not ‘rogue,’ it’s human. We are humans, not robots. Why make your resume and cover letter the same, boring, bull that everyone else uses? We have a right to be who we are. People hire other people, they don’t hire robots. I choose to be me, a person , an individual with thoughts feelings, ideas, and that little spark in all of us that makes us human.

      2. cuppa*

        And this just drives me crazy. People of the world: I cannot hire you if you do not fill out the online application. Not going to happen. I am physically not able to do it. Many people are in my same situation. It does not matter if you stand on your head, bring me your resume on rose-scented paper, or do any other thing to get my attention. You know what I am going to tell you to do? Fill. out. the. online. application.
        Make yourself stand out with your skills. Look like a team player. Show me you can follow instructions so I don’t think I will have to reign you in all the time. Show appropriate interest in my position and my institution. Do not circumvent the hiring process and do not “sell” me. A lot of us really don’t like it.

        1. The Toxic Avenger*

          *Applause.* Seriously, cuppa, this is awesome. If someone circumvented the hiring process to get my attention, you know what my first thought would be?

          “This person is going to be a high-maintenance PITA. Into the round file they go.”

          1. cuppa*

            Thank you! I realize that, to an extent, I’m preaching to the choir here. But the advice is so pervasive, and such a pet peeve that sometimes I just can’t help but get on that soapbox. :)

        2. Hawthorne*

          Your HR practices are from the Stone Age of Taylorism. This is the 21st century! Wake up.

    9. Allison*

      I think it can (possibly, maybe) work at smaller companies, where it’s easy to create a position, talk to people in a couple departments if needed, and hire someone for it. In bigger companies, there tends to be a bureaucratic hiring process where it may still be possible for someone to say “oh wow, I do need this person” and actually convince the finance and HR teams to let them hire someone – of course, that’s assuming the pain letter actually gets to the right person.

  8. the gold digger*

    Remember how I complained about the at-work mostly-women baby shower for the pregnant woman I didn’t even know?

    I was wrong. It was lovely. When I got there, the organizer, whom I had not met, introduced herself and said, “It’s always so nice for all the women here to get together. There are so few of us and we like to meet.” (About 10% of my office is women.)

    The men did not wait until later to show up. They showed up at the beginning and some of them brought food, even though the invitation had asked only the women to bring food. (That part was wrong – everyone should have been asked. But the men ignored it. And the woman’s department did pick up the cost of ordering sandwiches.)

    I got to meet a lot of people outside of my group. The pregnant woman and her husband are far from home and family, so it was for them to feel supported. The food was excellent. I take back my complaint.

    And – I got to work today to find a thank-you note and a bag of cookies on my desk from the mom to be. I was impressed.

    1. Dang*

      How lovely! I’m glad that worked out. My blood was boiling for you when I saw your last post about it. It’s great when something that sounds awful ends up being a good experience.

    2. fposte*

      Oh, that’s great! And I love that you reported back about something that went better than expected–it’s a good reminder of that possibility.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      The men at your workplace are cool, even if the party planner is still stuck 50 years in the past.

    4. INTP*

      You have some great men in your workplace!

      My previous workplace was consistently the opposite with potlucks. Everyone was supposed to bring something, but the single men would bring low-cost, low-effort crap that even they didn’t want to eat like dollar store brand cookies. It’s one thing if someone can’t afford to bring something decent to a potluck, I’ve definitely brought bean/lentil dishes because I was trying to contribute something that didn’t exceed my normal lunch budget, but I saw what these guys spent on lunches out most other days and it wasn’t that they could only budget $1 for lunch. In this case they just clearly knew that the women and the men with stay-at-home-wives would bring in delicious food for them to eat and they only felt it necessary to make a token gesture of contributing. One of them even had the audacity to mock my lentil taco filling that I brought for Cinco De Mayo (because there weren’t going to be any vegetarian taco fillings otherwise).

  9. RandomName*

    I’ve been with my company for a year and 4 months. I recently submitted the first performance review I’ve written for one of my direct reports. After submitting the review to HR and recommending her pay increase, my boss came into my office to tell me that he had forgotten to tell me that in the past, each June the company would give a discretionary bonus to employees, but that this year they were eliminating the bonus, so instead they would be adding the amount the employees’ salaries instead. So in addition to the percentage raise she was getting, she would get another 5 or 10 (he didn’t specify dollars or percent, and I assumed he meant percent at the time) added to her annual salary. I asked who was eligible for the raise and if others in my department would get it, and he said only my direct report could get it because she was the only one who manages others. So as we were talking, in my head I was thinking that I would be eligible for the raise at my next performance review because I manage people.

    About a week later HR came back after providing comments on her review and then said that in addition to her raise she would have another $10,000 added to her salary. I walked by my boss’ office to clarify whether this bonus was related to June of 2014 or June of 2015 but since he had left for lunch, I went to HR. They said it was for June of 2015, so I asked if this was a pay bump I would also be eligible for in October when it would be time for my next performance review. She said because this is the company’s way of phasing out the bonuses, they were only giving the salary bumps to people that had received the bonuses in the past since they were expecting to receive them, and that I could talk with my boss.

    My direct report and I had nearly identical overall performance ratings that put us in the highest raise percentage brackets, and we both manage people, so it seems a little unfair to me that she gets a big salary increase while I don’t. Overall, I’m happy with my compensation (and I should mention that because my direct report has been with the company for 15 years she’s overcompensated for her role, by about $30k-$40k/year after this salary bump), but I guess I feel like it’s a little bit of a slap in the face.

    Should I feel this way? And if so, is this something I should ask my boss about since overall I feel like I’m fairly compensated?

    1. puddin*

      Hmmm, perhaps frame a discussion with your boss about how you go about raising your income now that it appears that the bonus and salary structure is changing. Focus on what performance objectives you need to meet in order to earn a merit increase. I think it would be worth mentioning that when you were hired on you were told you were eligible for a bonus (assuming that is the case) and now that this is no longer an option, what will ‘make up’ for this benefit that is now taken away. You could negotiate salary, PTO, or something else. In my opinion though, you took the job on good faith that the total compensation is $$ and now that this has changed, the company needs to address it with benefits by other means.

      1. Random Name*

        Well, the thing is this was the first I heard about the bonus at all. And now that I know, I feel like I’m being overlooked.

    2. Lala*

      I actually find it odd that they would get rid of the bonus program and add it to the base compensation of the employee. Once you add 5-10% to a salary it is there to stay whereas the company has more discretionary control of a bonus if it has been a bad year.

      In your particular situation, I see that you have only been with your company 1 year and 4 months and your next review is in October. I personally would not bring it up with my boss until that time, especially if you negotiated a fair salary when you started with the company. I would spend the next few months working hard and trying to show how valuable you are to the company. I hope this helps!

      1. RandomName*

        Yes, I found that odd too. The bonus salary bump they gave my direct report was $5k less than the bonus she received last year but as you mentioned now it’s guaranteed rather than discretionary.

  10. ACA*

    So I met this week with my friend/colleague about her soon-to-be-vacant position, and she told me three different times that she thinks I’d be perfect for it. Her coworker, who will probably be part of the interview team (it’s essentially a two-person office, which sounds amazing) might want to meet me off-the-record in advance, and she’s planning to talk me up to the Vice Dean of the program on Monday.

    I submitted my application this morning – it’s hands-down the best cover letter I’ve ever written, which I owe entirely to Alison’s job guide – and my fingers are staying crossed for the foreseeable future. I am so completely nervous and excited right now.

  11. Cass*

    Hi everyone! This is my first time asking a question in the comment section…

    I work for Chocolate Teapots Company and Vanilla Teapots Company, both part time jobs. (I’m aggressively looking for full-time positions at Vanilla, but jobs fitting my qualifications don’t get posted frequently.)

    I work in media production (written, video and audio.) I’m refreshing my resume and wondering how to accurately describe my accomplishments in there. With Chocolate Teapots Company, they have syndication partnerships with larger media outlets for their content. So my work has been featured on several large sites (AOL, MSN, etc.) I don’t see this as much of an accomplishment, since it’s not unusual for them to pull content. So on my resume it says something like “Creating original media content, syndicated to national partners.”

    But for Vanilla Teapots Company, a reporting piece I just did was referenced and linked to in stories by several big sites (CNN, Buzzfeed, etc.) This is highly unusual and as far as I know, never happened to Vanilla Teapots Company. Is there a good way to use this in a resume or cover letter? Or is it even appropriate? Part of me thinks it wasn’t exceptional, just happened to be on the topic of something extremely popular.

    Sorry for the long post…wasn’t sure how to edit for brevity without leaving key details. I’d appreciate any advice Thanks.

    1. YourCdnFriend*

      Definitely highlight this in your cover letter. I don’t know the details but if you deem this to be a big accomplishment for YOU, include it.

    2. fposte*

      I think you’re tending to underappreciate your own achievements a little. Now is not the time for excessive humility! You don’t have to turn into your mom and put your work doodles up on the fridge, but stuff you wrote is being shared nationally. Even if that’s not uncommon in your field, there are plenty of people who don’t achieve that. You are one of the people who does achieve that. So I would name names on the resume in both cases (“national partners including AOL and MSN; also featured on CNN and Buzzfeed”) and, as YourCdnFriend says, mention it in the cover letter. Something about your successes in the position including creating content that drew national attention on sites such as CNN and Buzzfeed, maybe?

      But yeah, blow your own horn. It’s kind of funny that it’s your job to blow your employer’s horn and you’re doing a really good job of that, but you’re reluctant to blow your own. Go blow!

      1. Cass*

        Haha loved your comment. And you do have a point, part of my personality is to downplay mostly because I’m only working part-time jobs. (Even though I really can’t complain, they are in my field and good experience.)

        1. Cass*

          Might as well mention for more context – it was “Serial” scoop. (I was a huge fan of the podcast so I volunteered for the assignment.)

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Do you have access to the number of page views your articles get on those national platforms? That would be a good metric to be able to include & fposte is right – don’t sell yourself short.

      1. Cass*

        Yes, I do actually. Hmmm but I wonder if that gets into “proprietary information”? (One of the media companies is a privately held weather company with big competitors.)

  12. Sunflower*

    The question this week about the coworker not telling the boss an employee was job hunting got me thinking.

    I’m job searching and I work for a small, dysfunctional company where many people are frustrated. I go between 2 departments so I have 2 bosses- both are managers but one is more of a Supervisor who occasionally gives me extra work to do and the other is a Director I make decisions with. There is also a woman, Margot, in my department(with the Supervisor) who isn’t technically my boss but she is much senior to me and we work together at events. She always has glowing things to say about me and is constantly giving me great feedback about how well I’ve been doing. The company president/my bosses have asked her about my work skills and her opinion definitely plays into how the higher-ups view my work.

    Margot and I, however, commiserate together about working here. She doesn’t know I’m job searching but she does know I’m frustrated by a lot of stuff that goes on. In the past, she would tell me how I’m getting a lot of great work experience here and I should embrace that but lately she seems much more frustrated and has told me to get out some point. She even made a comment that come the end of this year, she won’t be here.

    I’m debating asking her to serve as a reference for me in my job search. I know she wouldn’t care I’m looking and would give me a great reference, but my Director and the higher-ups would NOT take it well. Even though people are frustrated here, no one seems to be making moves to leave- Supervisor has been here 9 years and Director 17. We are a pretty open department so I have a feeling she might want to my tell my Supervisor who can be weird about things. I don’t think he would care or say anything but…I don’t know. For some reason, I have a feeling that she is fine confiding my search to but he is not. This is causing some internal struggle as I feel like she might encourage me to tell my Supervisor. I’m nervous about asking because telling someone you’re job searching is not something you can take back after you say it and that person can do what they want with the info.

    Any advice for how to go forward in this? My other references are my boss from OldJob(who loved me) and a client I work with. I could ask my old internship boss but I worked there 4 years ago and would get a much better reference out of Margot.

    1. Cee*

      Are you near the offer stage with any of the jobs you’ve interviewed for? I wouldn’t say don’t ask her at all, but I would say wait until you think you’ll have a reasonable chance of needing your references on hand in the near future (after a second interview or third interview or so).

      1. Sunflower*

        I’m interviewing but no bites as of yet. I’m also signing up with a staffing agency and they want to call all my references. I would definitely not let the staffing agency call my current place of work as god knows if they’ll ever call me with work.

        1. Cee*

          Yeah, for a staffing agency I wouldn’t ping Margot. Only when things look really promising at an actual direct employer.

    2. RandomName*

      Where I work, we only move forward with checking references after we’re ready to make a job offer, and as long as we have solid references from prior employers, we’re okay with extending an offer. I think other employers operate similarly, so while a glowing reference from Margot in addition to good references from your past employer might reinforce the decision they’ve already made to hire you, I don’t think leaving her off your references would keep you from getting a job offer. Most potential employers understand that you don’t want your current employer to know you’re job searching and wouldn’t expect you to provide a reference for them.

    3. puddin*

      Can you ask her as more of a ‘in general’ question. “Hey Margot, if I ever need a reference would be willing…yadda yadda.” No need to tell her you are looking right now. If she agrees the polite thing to do is give her a heads up when you think she may receive a call from a job prospect. She probably will put two and two together, but if she does tell your supervisor, you have a legit ground to stand on. You only asked her if she would at some point and you specifically did not say that you were looking.

    4. Jen*

      If you have the two good references, see if you can get by with that for the staffing agency, and hold off on asking Margot until you have a solid interview/need for a 3rd reference (you may/may not need it – some places I’ve applied to before only ask for 2).

  13. Random Reader*

    Any tips for dealing with seasonal depression working in an office? I leave in the dark and come home in the dark, and it’s really starting to wear on me. Yesterday, I came home from work and just laid on the couch. I don’t have any easy access to sunlight/windows at work.

    1. Cass*

      Is it possible to take a walk at lunch? Depending on your area, it could be a good way to get some fresh air. (Although in the Northeast, it’s been rough outside.)

      1. AshleyH*

        or even just running out to go somewhere for lunch? It’s frigid where I am (on the east coast), but I’ll frequently go out for lunch, even if it’s just to run to the bank or go to the drive through – those 60 seconds of freezing fresh air that I get in my walk from the office to the car really help me out when it’s too cold to spend much time outside.

    2. Cruciatus*

      There are SAD lamps you can buy, many of them portable–you can see them on Amazon (you can expect to pay between $40-150+ depending on which one you get). You could use it either at work or at home. I take vitamin D during the winter. I don’t know if it actually helps, but I figure (hope) it can’t hurt.

      1. Lo*

        I’ve heard good things about Sun lamps, and have considered buying one myself. This is a really really good option for cube living :)

    3. Cass in Canada*

      Can you set up a SAD lamp at your desk? Or use one before you go into the office in the morning? I have one set up on my desk and use it for 20 mins in the morning while I check my email and do admin tasks. What are your vitamin D levels like? It would be worth checking with your doctor to get tested and supplement if you are low. I use 2000 IU a day year round on the recommendation of my PCP, based on where I live (way up north). Walking at lunch is also a great idea.

    4. YourCdnFriend*

      It may be cold, but I find that bundling up (snow pants and all) for a walk or other outdoor activity in the evening (sometimes I wear a headlamp cause I’m super lame) or on the weekend makes a big difference for me.

      But, I’m more negatively impacted by being cooped up inside than the lack of light so this may not be a good solution for you.

    5. Malissa*

      I moved 1400 miles south. But I know that isn’t possible for every one.
      I used to make an effort to get out in the middle of the day to soak up some rays.
      At home turn on the lights, make it bright. Get up and move/dance/clean something to get off your behind.—Easier said then done, I know. I remember those long ass dark days where even moving seemed like too much effort.
      I started taking my vacation in December and heading to sunny places. Just having a random day off so you can sit in the sun makes a huge difference.

    6. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

      I’ve heard great things about sun lamps too. I would also suggest trying out some essential oils. Anything in the citrus family helps improve my mood. Not as a plug, but I use DoTerra oils, and they have a few blends that help with this sort of thing (Balance, Elevation).

    7. Yes*

      I have the Sunbox desk lamp on my desk and use it when I need to. I also have a Verilux HappyLight at home and it is almost as good. The advantage of the desk lamp is that it looks like an ordinary desk lamp. The main problem I have is that I have to stare at the computer all day. I keep something on hand that is paper and pencil, or reading material for when I am taking a break from the computer anyway. If you save up things to read (even printing out e-mails) over the course of the day, you can use the lamp in the morning while catching up.

    8. Sara The Event Planner*

      I feel your pain! Winter can be so awful. I definitely second the SAD lamp suggestions that a few others have had. And lots of Vitamin D! Maybe it’s just a placebo effect, but I feel a noticeable difference in my mood when I’m taking it regularly.

      1. Chinook*

        “And lots of Vitamin D! Maybe it’s just a placebo effect, but I feel a noticeable difference in my mood when I’m taking it regularly.”

        It isn’t just a placebo effect. There was a study done at one of the universities in Ottawa on African immigrants noticed a downturn in their general health as well as their emotions after immigrating to Ottawa. They did bloodwork and noticed that their vitamin d levels dropped the longer they were here. The group itself noticed an improvement when they either a)started large does of vitamin d or b)were taught how to enjoy the winter weather (because someone from sub-saharan Africa doesn’t grow learnign the joy of snowball fights and making snowmen) and encouraged to go outside. (sorry, I can’t remember the source – I heard about it on the Ottawa CBC station)

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Ditto with more Vitamin D. I decided to try it this winter after reading an article about Vitamin D being critical to help fight infection and then doing some more research. I find it’s *really* helped, I feel much better this winter compared to previous ones, there was one year where we went over 30 days with no sun, that was the worst. In the US, you can get up to 10,000 IU liquid caplets. Do some Googling and decide for yourself, IMO it can’t hurt to try.

    9. Adam*

      I live in Seattle and refer to mid-winter months as the “Vampire Season” because of this. Get up and go to work in the dark; come home in the dark. It can be a bit maddening. I actually don’t mind the rain. It’s usually not that bad. The long “nights” though…

      If you get a chance walk outside during your breaks where there is sun. Also get as much as you can on your days off. Aside from that all the usual take care of your health sort of suggestions: eat good and nutritional food, get a decent amount of exercise, find other people to take your mind off things, etc. Good luck!

    10. BadPlanning*

      When I had cave office, I bought an all spectrum light for my plant. I picked it up at Home Depot. I turned it on all day for the plant — but I think it helped me too. Otherwise, I echo others with the sunlight lap and try to get outside for lunch.

    11. A Jane*

      Lunch time walks definitely help — get some fresh air and be outside. If possible, commit to 30 minutes for a lunch walk. Also, on the rare occasions I see sunlight through the window, I take a 15 minute break and go for a walk. It gives a little boost of energy

    12. Artemesia*

      Get a natural light lamp. They aren’t super expensive and they really make a difference for people who are affected by seasonal light changes. Have it on in the evening at home.

    13. Michele*

      It is interesting to hear that so many people have had luck with the lamps. I might have to get one. I definitely struggle with this. It is dark when I get to work in the morning and when I leave in the evening. Most days, I can go for a run during lunch, but winters here are so overcast that I often cannot find the sun in the sky. I have found that lots of exercise and taking vitamin D help. When possible, I arrange a mid-winter trip to someplace sunny, but that doesn’t always work out.

    14. Chinook*

      Have you considered an alarm clock that wakes you up with light (as well as noise)? I got one a few years ago and it definitely helps to atleast fake my body into thinking that there is light in the morning.

      Also, I recommend ensuring you get lots of daylight on the weekends (easier said then done in in some places where the weather is always grey). I find myself finding a sunny, indoor spot and just reading a book helps. Ditto for finding an indoor green spot like a greenhouse or indoor garden (Calgary has the Devonian Garden on the top floor of a downtown mall that is most popular in winter for just this reason).

      Lastly, add me to those who recommend Vitamin D supplements. Your body can’t make this vitamin naturally without regular sunlight and it does affect your mood as well as your health.

      1. NoPantsFridays*

        Yes, +1 to the alarm clock. I actually did this using a white light bulb in an old desk lamp and a $5 plug-in timer off Amazon. It works great. I don’t point the bright light directly at my face though, I just have it up at the ceiling so it’s this diffuse whitish light when I wake up. I have it set to turn on about 10 minutes before my audio alarm on my cell phone, and funnily enough, I wake up from the light alone most days and don’t even need the cell alarm (though I still set it for backup!).

        I also take vitamin D, it helps. Although for me personally the mood issue isn’t a concern, I get really tired and get headaches more often without D supplementation. But my office also has big windows, and I work more like 7 to 4 than 8 or 9 to 5, so I get out during daylight even around the winter solstice. I still get to work in the dark but I get to see the sky gradually bluening and then yellowing/oranging(sp) through the windows which is actually quite nice.

    15. Rex*

      Agree with everything everyone else said. Also, try to get out and do something fun on the weekends! Go for a hike, or just a walk, go to an event, whatever your local community offers. Do it with friends/family whose company you enjoy.

    16. Not a rocket scientist*

      I have the same problem. What I did was after I’d been in my job a while and established myself, I had a frank conversation with my boss about it. In the winter I work from home whenever I need the sunlight (my home office has a lovely south facing window to soak up as much sun as possible in winter vs a cube in the middle of a large cube farm that gets no natural light). I also work a shifted schedule, either coming in way early and then leaving while the sun is still up, or coming in way late, and working until 7 or 7:30 those days. Of course, the nature of my role is such that it doesn’t much matter *which* hours I work, as long as I hit deadlines and have enough overlap with the rest of my team that we can schedule meetings, etc.

  14. Cruciatus*

    While I do try to forget about the jobs I’ve applied to, they are too few and far between (jobs that I want to apply to) where I live, that I do tend to keep tabs. I only found out the job was filled by visiting the company directory. My online application still says “new.” Just send a simple rejection email!

    And my desk has somehow become the dumping ground for candy. Coworker X’s mini Snickers I didn’t mind, but Y brought peppermint candy corn (ick!) that was about to be thrown out by the AA that bought it! WTF? I don’t want nearly thrown out candy on my desk, especially when it’s candy corn! (If it’s there at the end of the day it will be tossed. I don’t know why Y didn’t just keep it for himself and thought a new location would help this candy that was not even his to begin with. People are strange.)

    (It’s possible I may be overly annoyed today while I wait for blood tests results for my losing weight 15-year-old kitty.) Not that kitty —>

    1. Karowen*

      I recently applied to BCBS and was super impressed – they sent me the standard “We’ve received your application email” then one that said they were reviewing it and finally one saying that they weren’t going to interview me. I was sad, and they were all obviously form emails, but it was nice being able to move on.

    2. BuildMeUp*

      It’s tough not to keep thinking about jobs you’ve applied to! Would finding ways to stay busier help? If there are skills that are valued in your field that you don’t have/could be better at, you could make a goal to spend X hours per week practicing. I haven’t tried it yet, but the website Skillfeed, which has video tutorials for a ton of different things – interview skills, web development, Photoshop, Microsoft Office, etc. – has a free 30-day trial period right now. That would give you something to focus on, and something to potentially add to your resume. You could also look into volunteering, if you haven’t already!

      For the candy, is there another common area where you could either suggest people leave the candy (if you’re at your desk when they leave it), or where you could move it yourself? And if anyone asks, say you want it to be where everyone can see it, or make a joke about it being too much temptation to have it right there or something like that.

      I hope your kitty is ok!

  15. Tornader*

    I work at a company that has two distinct sections. Front office which includes the sales people, and the back office which includes Accounting, HR, and IT. The problem is that there is often a disconnect between the two, and they often have difficulty communicating and understanding the challenges that the other side faces. It also doesn’t help that the two are physically separated by being in different buildings.

    I was just curious if anyone had any suggestions on ways to bridge the gap, and reduce some of the adversarial mind-set.

    1. Tornader*

      One of the ideas floating around is having a presentation to the company with a flow chart of processes and all of the issues that can occur if a link is broken or not done correctly. It’s a good idea but I want to keep it engaging and have some impact.

      1. YourCdnFriend*

        Could you break this down into smaller chunks and do a lunch n learn. Leave time for people to socialize before the presentation a bit as well. Everyone loves free lunch and they may learn something despite themselves.

        1. Tornader*

          That’s a very good idea. I know I love a free lunch, especially if I’m forced to be there anyway.

        2. QualityControlFreak*

          This would be ideal. We have people in operations and people in administration. The people responsible for carrying out the core processes of the organization (the operations people) and those responsible for information, record keeping and accounting (the administrators) don’t always appreciate how interdependent their functions are. During annual staff training I asked a room of about 30 folks who their customers were. Even my QA people identified their external customers readily, but were not so quick to recognize their internal customers. The bookkeeper was the one who, when I asked her the same question, looked at her coworkers in turn and said, “You are. And you, and you.” She processes payroll. We are all her customers. She needs information from us (time sheets) to do her job and get us (her customers) the product (payroll accurate/on time). And then we expanded on that and people had time to discuss where their processes overlapped, where the sticking points are, and how we can work better together. And we did have lunch. :)

          My org is willing to put time and money into training. It sounds like Tornader’s is too. Something along these lines might work there are well. I think it was time well spent for us.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Is there a basic contact list that shows everyone’s name, title and contact points?

      Some times just nailing down who does what and how to reach them starts to cut into the chaos and grumbling.

      I take my contact list and write down specific items next to each name. Contact Julia for internet questions, contact Bob for problems with my deposit, etc.

      1. Tornader*

        There is a basic contact list, although now that you mention it it could be fixed up a bit more.

        I think the main problem is that both sides are having trouble understanding everything that goes into the other person’s job. Take payroll for example, the sales people think it’s as easy as receiving the timesheet and processing, but if they fail to get it on time it throws a wrench into the works. And on the other side, payroll doesn’t understand that the sales people are meeting with clients and have other things to take care of and can’t drop everything.

        I guess it comes down to I wish they could walk a mile in each other’s shoes and they might be more sensitive to the other’s needs.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Maybe that is what needs to be said. “Okay, everyone just take one step back!”

          But I will say, the times I have seen this it can be, in part, because management does not understand how people’s responsibilities have doubled or even quadrupled. In other words, the employees are only mirroring what management is doing.
          If you are management- I am not looking at you and saying this. It takes many, many people to create that environment that lacks empathy/consideration. You appear to be the one sane person who realizes that this does not need to be this way.

          Do people have enough time to do the work they need to do?
          Is ridiculing others a habit or a sport of some sort that is clearly unrelated to workload?
          Some people get energy from grousing. Are people interested in a more peaceful workplace?
          Could systems be updated so that some of the issues are lessened? I am looking at your payroll example. You say time sheet- but it is something they can email to pay roll or do they have to hand carry a hard copy? I will be honest, I have no idea how long it takes to prepare my check. I would need someone to tell me, “NSNR, you must submit your hours by 2 pm on Thursday in order to get paid for the week.” [NO, actually, I would go ask and know for the rest of the time I worked at this place.] The old joke, “that looks like a management problem” applies here because the boss of the sales people should tell them what the guidelines/rules are. And the boss of the accounting department should know the time frame needed and relay that to the Sales Boss. As it stands now, it seems like everyone is just making their own rules and ignoring the impact of those who are downstream. That is never a good thing.

          I would start looking at work flows. Figure out if things can be handled in a more streamlined fashion. My husband had to do semi-annual inventories. This took over ten hours, if I helped him. The inventory would have to be on the boss’ desk at 8 AM the next day. He would stay up late completing the inventory and then was out the door at 6:30 AM to meet that 8 AM deadline.
          Tired people do not think. They can’t, they are tired. We had been doing this for years and one day we said “Let’s email the inventory.” OH MY. The boss was wildly impressed, he wondered why no one else thought of it [tired people don’t think] and after that it became SOP.
          Perhaps you can use technology or simple changes to make things easier for people to do.

        2. INTP*

          If there are particular problems, like the salespeople not completing their timesheets on time, could it just be explained why? Like the salespeople’s manager says during the meeting (worded as an impersonal reminder), that it’s very important that they get their timesheet in. It needs to arrive by the deadline because the payroll people must (briefly list all the steps) for each person’s timesheet, while building in some buffer in case something goes wrong, or else (list disastrous consequences). Sometimes people just need things spelled out. Then the payroll manager implements a due time that accommodates the sales people’s needs and explains why to their own staff. “Going forward, time sheets will be due at 6 P.M. on Monday instead of 12 P.M. on Tuesday. The sales people are often in urgent meetings with clients, and cannot get out to handle administrative details. This will allow them some time to complete the time sheet after business hours and gives us some extra buffer time for follow-up. If follow-up is needed, please be patient and respectful of the sales people’s time because they may not be able to leave their meetings.”

          In this case I’d suggest that the managers of the respective departments talk things out and then be responsible for implementing any changes or enforcing any deadlines and rules with their own teams, explaining why in the process. If the managers won’t even cooperate or acknowledge the other departments’ needs and challenges, though, I’m not sure if this could work. Management of each department needs to respect the others before the employees will.

    3. puddin*

      Do you work at Dunder Mifflin? Is the back office referred to as the Annex?

      I’m sorry, I had to kid you on that.

      I had a similar experience. We built a bridge through staff meetings. Sales met with every other dept in an effort to understand how decisions and actions all impact one another. It got everyone to break down silos a bit and we knew that people from the dept better. So instead of saying or thinking “Dammit can’t those accounting people get anything right?” It turned into “Huh, what’s going on here, I should call Sally”. It is more difficult to play the blame game once you know someone personally versus interacting with a faceless department.

    4. Hillary*

      I focused a lot on building relationships, especially with functions that interact occasionally with my department. Breaking down those walls was one of my assigned responsibilities, and translating between the groups sometimes still is.

      Generally speaking, my focus was on getting to know them as people, learning about their jobs, and finding ways to help. For example, I know every shipping manager in the company. Need an introduction? Absolutely, I’m happy to send it.

  16. Mockingjay*

    The company has announced a Team Building Day in two weeks!

    Morale is extremely low; leadership is off site (another state) and has abandoned us to a very difficult contract customer. Local manager has no experience in federal contracting, and so on. At least Corporate finally realized that we are not happy. I have no idea what is planned; HR won’t give details other than some Performance Pyramid sheet sent out.

    When I first heard about Team Day, I did a huge eye roll, sigh, etc. I’m not a fan of being warm and fuzzy at work (not my personality), but company is a big believer in the “culture.” Then I began reading through the AAM archives about team building exercises. Excellent advice and opinions which changed my perspective: mainly that the point of Team Building should be to solve work-related problems, not to share feelings.

    So, my plan is to not to be antagonistic, but offer solutions or redirects. “I don’t think our team has a problem relating to each other; we all get along and are aware of each other’s strengths. But we do lack clarity regarding our roles and the scope of our tasking with the customer. [THIS is our number one issue.] If you can provide specific guidance or a process for situations X and Y, we will know how to respond to our customer and provide the level of service he needs, as well as meeting the company’s goals.”

    I’ve started a list of items I hope to get addressed. I am trying to keep them simple; Corporate may be more inclined to address small steps, rather than a sea change which could be perceived as an attack on the beloved culture (which they’ve never actually defined – it’s nebulous). I will winnow the list to two or three critical needs. I hope this event – whatever it may be – lends itself to presenting them.

    Wish me luck! (I’ll need it, because I really, really dislike Oprah sharing.)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think you are pretty impressive with the handle you have on the situation. Much luck going forward!

  17. EA*

    How do I ask for a temporary reduced work schedule, to have a full or half day off every other week? I currently am able to work from home once or twice per month to have time for scheduled personal appointments, but my stress/anxiety level due to work is still too much. I don’t expect a lot of pushback, but would appreciate any advice on how to word this to my boss. I do feel that I’d be more productive during work days with an extra day every couple of weeks to separate myself from work worries. I handle HR/Accounting duties along with a lot of miscellaneous items.

    1. GOG11*

      I haven’t made this type of request myself and I don’t have any specific wording or tips on that, but I just printed out AAM’s “8 Ways to Persuade Your Boss to Say Yes” article. I think using that as a guide might help. If you search for it with that title it’ll come up.

      Sorry I don’t have anything more specific. Good luck!

      1. EA*

        No ADA/FMLA arrangement for me right now, but I’ll keep it in mind. If my stress doesn’t ease up, that would be a next step.

    2. Rex*

      How much does your boss already know about you dealing with this issues? What kind of relationship do you have?

      1. EA*

        He knows a lot, and is very understanding and flexible as much as possible. I don’t expect a “no” but I need to be able to show that I can still cover my duties in less time. Right now, everything is going nuts at work and I’m the long term employee who knows how to fix stuff.

        1. GOG11*

          When my interim boss stepped into her role, she created a spreadsheet showing who would do what. Names were across the top and categories were across the side and then she (or someone) created bullet-ed lists of duties. Basically, she took the predecessor’s position and broke it down into who would handle what until the position could be reassembled when someone could be hired on a permanent basis. Could you create something like that for who could handle what when you’re out?

          Also, if it works for your situation, could you offer to do it on a trial basis (like a month or two) and then revisiting it later? This might not work if ADA accommodations are the next step, though.

          Lastly, I know you’re attributing this to your anxiety and being overwhelmed, but if your role has been expanded to encompass too much for any one person to do, maybe you could come at it from that angle – though I don’t know that that’s the case here.

          1. GOG11*

            ** to handle urgent/time sensitive items while you’re out (rather than having someone else take on your normal duties when you’re out)

    3. neighborhood friendly QA tech*

      I didn’t get my own job. I’m a bit bummed, but it was an extra chance to get hired on as permanent. Boss is understanding that I feel a bit crappy about it.

  18. Dang*

    Sooo.. thank you/follow up/whatever notes.

    Last week I interviewed with 7 people. Separately. Before I even had the chance to send them the customary follow up/thank you email, I got invited for round 2, which was yesterday. I probably should have send the thank you notes anyway but alas, I did not.

    I met with 5 more people yesterday. One was a repeat from last week, the rest were new.

    Is it too late to send thank yous to the ones I met last week? I feel like it would be weird to just send notes to yesterday’s interviews. What do you all think I should do?

    1. AshleyH*

      send them to everyone. My company frequently does what you experience (did I interview you?!?) — multiple people for round 1 and by the time it’s over, we know if we want to invite back for round two. You can even say something to round 1 person like “I enjoyed learning about your chocolate tempering process, and Gladys was able to expand on it even more during Tuesday’s second round of interviews”.

        1. puddin*

          yes – but individually and with completely different wording for each. I just ran across a ‘distribution list’ thank you email. It came across as very very lazy.

  19. Moonpie*

    I am considering hiring someone to clean my house on a part-time basis. This is a bit different from the kind of hiring I normally do at work. Anyone have suggestions on particularly helpful questions I should ask during an initial screening? Bonus points if you could share average rates in your area since informal inquiries here have returned a pretty wide range. (I’m in the mid-south in a small/medium town, for reference).

    1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

      Hi, my parents have had someone clean their home for as long as I’ve been alive. I think they’ve usually hired via friends’ recommendations. I believe my mom mostly pays something like $30-60/hr, with the expectation that it takes about three hours (sometimes it’s been, $100-$150 to clean the house, however long that takes). Bonus at Xmas (generally the cost of one cleaning session). She has someone come in every other week. We are in a medium-sized midwestern city.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Artemesia*

        I would hire through a friend’s recommendation as well and then be very clear at the first cleaning what you need to have done so you are on the same page. Also establish how you will communicate if you want some particular task done. Some cleaners are fine with a note left — asking them to clean the refrigerator today and to drop doing the floors this day so they have time or whatever — but others are offended to not be told directly.

        It is good if you can be there the first cleaning. (although out of the way) That way you can review the work and adjust.

        We paid $115 for every other week cleaning of a pretty big house and gave a Christmas bonus of one cleaning.

        I don’t think questions are likely to generate the information you most need which is ‘is this an honest and reliable person.’ I don’t like to use ‘services’ because they charge a lot and pay the people who do the cleaning so little. I’d rather that the cleaning person took the whole payment.

    2. Jem*

      If it’s a company and not an individual running their own business, ask how much of the fee goes to the workers. A lot of cleaning companies do not pay their cleaners a living wage. I feel better if the person cleaning my house is getting paid decently to do it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Professionals would handle it better than this. Years ago, my MIL hired me to clean her house. The whole discussion boiled down to “Clean it as you would your own.” Oh boy. I was working a couple jobs, helping my aging father, keeping an eye on my in-laws, how well do you think I cleaned my own house? Yep, I set myself up for failure on this one.

      My MIL expected me to move great big pieces of furniture and vacuum under them. That never occurred to me because I don’t do that at home. Needless to say, I worked once and that was the end of that.

      Make sure you have a clear, specific list of tasks this person will do for you. Nail down the types of tasks you need help with so that you are prepared to compare your list to your candidate’s list. This will help you find a person that matches your setting.

    4. fposte*

      Remember that if your total payment for the year hits the $1800 threshold, you’re technically required to pay taxes for them. Most people don’t, but I think a lot of people aren’t even aware that the IRS has a rule about this.

    5. puddin*

      I would take them through the house and detailing everything you want done in every room in order to obtain an accurate estimate.

      What is your current availability? Are there any days you cannot work?
      How quickly can you respond to a last minute request?
      What happens if you break something of mine?
      Who provides the cleaning products and equipment? Are there specific products/equipment you must or cannot use?
      If you cannot clean on a scheduled day how would you handle that?
      How many people will be in my home?
      Are you licensed, insured, or bonded?
      Will I have the same cleaner(s) each time?
      How do you prefer to gain access to my home?
      What item(s) will you absolutely not clean?
      Provide references? And definitely follow up with them.

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      I think the best way to do this is to ask people for recommendations on Facebook or something. That’s how I found the people who clean our house. It’s a company owned by the wife of a guy at my company.

      When she came by our house to do a walk-through, I just let her kind of talk through what she does. I did ask her what kinds of cleaning stuff she uses, and asked if they supplied it or if we needed to (they do). I had another cleaning lady who asked me to buy the stuff and stock it for her. And I also made sure that they would just clean the granite with soap and water, as we were advised to do by the guy who installed the countertops. And we went through what I wanted to have done — floors, kitchen, countertops, bathrooms, dusting, etc.

      Our house is about 3500 SF, including the basement, which is an apartment where my mother-in-law lives. They come every 2 weeks, and it’s $115. For the first 2 or 3 visits they charged by the hour, because they do a “deep clean” and do a really thorough cleaning of the whole house. Then after that it’s in a “maintenance” mode. And sometimes I will leave clean sheets out and they will make the bed, if I haven’t had a chance to do it over the weekend.

      Also, I always pick up the house before they come — get clothes off the floor, stuff off the counters, toys put away, etc. That way they can do the stuff I’ve hired them to do (that I really hate to do). And, I include them on my holiday goody baking list and leave them some treats and a Christmas card.

      You will love having someone clean your house! It’s an extravagance, but the way I look at it is that I really, really hate cleaning, and I really, really suck at it. I’m fortunate enough to be able to hire someone to do it for me. If my husband or I suddenly found ourselves unemployed, that would be the first thing cut to save money. But for now, we can afford it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is how I feel about having someone mow my yard. I hate it, my equipment sucks, and it takes them fifteen minutes where it usually takes me forty-five minutes to an hour. And they do a much better job than I ever could, plus I can pay them extra to do things like rake up the damn sweetgum balls and trim shrubbery. All of which I hate and aggravates my bad shoulder.

        I’ll save this thread because I’ve been thinking about doing this myself with the house, once I get some of the clutter out of there.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I hate hate hate lawn mowing. My previous apartment, we tenants were responsible for the mowing and I hated it so.much. So when I met with the landlord about my current place, I asked “Who mows the lawn?” and he replied “Me!” and I think I got a huge grin on my face. If I ever own a house, I’m totally paying the hypothetical kid down the street to do it.

      2. fposte*

        As with the lawn mowing, it is the closest I can get to literally purchasing time. It’s brilliant.

    7. LCL*

      If you have dogs, ask them how they feel about working around dogs. Some people are really fearful of dogs, some dogs that are very loving can get very territorial about strangers coming in the house.
      I have never hired someone to clean my house because I have always had big dogs. I wish I could, but it wouldn’t work.

      1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

        Could you put the dogs outside while a cleaning person comes? If it’s only 2-3 hours twice a month, it might not be that big a deal to the dogs (assuming weather is okay, etc). Put them out before work and come home at lunch to let them in?

        Or have a cleaning lady come on weekends, and take the dogs with you on a run/hike?

        (I don’t have dogs, so I really have no idea if this is feasible, I am just spitballing.)

        1. LCL*

          My current dog is used to being an inside dog, so if I started leaving him outside for even that short period of time he would whine and bark and annoy the neighbors. If I lived in the country instead of the city I would have a nice pen fixed up so dog could be outside and I could have service workers in without me being there. The weekends I would run into other schedule issues.

  20. Sunflower*

    Anyone who has worked with a staffing agency, is it normal to sign an agreement that if the company introduces you to a client and they choose to employ you within a year of meeting you, you have to go through the staffing agency? I’m nervous about meeting a client and then later on finding a job at that company all on my own(like via applying online) and having to deal with the staffing agency.

    1. Judy*

      The staffing company we usually work with has a 6 month window, I’m not entirely sure how it works. We have to pay the staffing company a fee if we hire one of the contract engineers within the first 6 months.

    2. Jen*

      When I used to do temp work that was pretty standard with all of them, though usually it was a much shorter time span than a year. You probably won’t see a temp agency not want to do this, so if you want to work with one its just something you’ll have to accept. Companies that work with temp agencies *should* expect this anyways and it shouldn’t be too much a problem if they end up hiring you.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      Generally speaking, only if you sign up with them directly. As in going to their office and signing a document. I don’t really know if this would apply to a recruiter who found you on say LinkedIn and you verbally agree to have them submit you for a role.

    4. HR Manager*

      Yes actually, but that message shouldn’t be reiterated with you but to the client company. So if I’m Teapot Inc, and staffing agency sends me your resume which I turn down, but I hire you 4 months later for another position that you’ve applied for directly, I am obligated to say I hired you and that I owe staffing agency a fee. This is of course a point of negotiation between the client company and the agency as to how long that referral window extends to.

      The agency may tell you about this because they want you to give them a heads up in case the client company isn’t as upfront about this. But this is absolutely between the client company and the staffing agency – not you per se.

  21. Helen*

    This week, I was contacted by two different recruiting agencies (they found my resume online) for the same job. I authorized one to submit me. The thing is, I have 1.5 years experience in a somewhat niche field–but the job posting asks for 5+ years.

    This is my first time being approached by recruiters. Do you think they’re having a hard time finding candidates with more experience, or do they like to cast a wide net?

    (I know that “requirements” are more of a wish list- but there’s a pretty big difference between one and a half and five.)

    1. AndersonDarling*

      This is why I recommend staffing firms job seekers have some experience, but employers want 3 or 5+ years. The recruiter can ask questions and see if you can do the job the company wants instead of assuming the only way you could get the skills is to work for 5 years. The recruiter is vouching for your skills.

    2. Michele*

      Recruiters cast very wide nets. I get contacted by recruiters to apply for positions that have absolutely nothing to do with my skill set. However, depending on how desperate the company is and how strong of a candidate you are, your experience might be enough. No matter what, you will not be the least qualified person applying for the position. Last year, I advertized for a position that required a Ph.D. and 3-5 years of experience. I got resumes from people who hadn’t even graduated college.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      They definitely cast a wide net. A few weeks ago I got an email from a really green recruiter for a Salesforce Developer job. She said I would be a great fit (she did a keyword search and my resume came up because I have Salesforce and Development on my resume). I wrote her back saying I was confused/curious as to how I was contacted, didn’t have the experience she needed,etc. She then read my resume and still wanted to talk to me about my Salesforce Development experience. :shakes head: She still tried to get me to talk to her about what I was looking for and I politely turned down her services.

      If you can, try to work with a recruiter who has been in the business for a few years. I’ve signed up with about a dozen over the past year and half the time I got punted off to plenty of kids straight out of school who are still learning the ropes. Their inexperience showed–one proceeded to drone on and on about what I should wear to an interview (a suit and heels) and I had to point out that yes, I was wearing the very thing. Sweetie, it’s not my first interview rodeo. I know how to dress.

      1. INTP*

        Sometimes recruiters (especially new ones who haven’t proven themselves by bringing in a lot of $$$ yet) are required to be really aggressive – make 100 phone calls a day regardless of how many match the requirements, call people who probably don’t fit to ask them for referrals, use one job as bait to get someone in the pipeline in case a more suitable job opens up (so they can submit quickly), etc. That’s probably what was going on with the new recruiter. It sucks when you know that you’re annoying candidates or wasting their time but are still required to do it.

    4. INTP*

      It really depends on the client. It’s very common for clients to give the recruiting agency a totally unrealistic request (in terms of years of experience, different types of skills and experience, pay rate, and time frame). If it’s tough to find all of the listed requirements, recruiters will often send over different candidates who miss the requirement in different ways to see where the client is willing to budge. (I.E. someone who lacks the years of experience, someone missing 1-2 skills, and someone with all required experience outside the pay range.) Sometimes, though, the job description won’t be that accurate, or it will be a generic one used by the entire company, and the hiring manager will have expressly said “Only 2 years experience in X is required if the candidate has plenty of experience in Y/went to a prestigious school/has some impressive companies on their resume/etc.” So it could be either – casting a wide net, or inaccurate job posting.

  22. AKA Sydney*

    Over the last several months, I have reported cheating co-workers to my boss, and heard assurances that it would be handled. Seeing no improvement, I went over his head to report the issue to his boss. For this reason I have been fired. I’m not sure how to spin this in job interviews when asked why I left my job, and/or what I have learned from it–especially since I’m under a bit of a gag order connected to my severance package. Do you have any suggestions for how to answer this question? Thanks :)

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was in the same boat. I said that there were illegal activities and the company knew and supported the activity and was upset that I reported the issue. “I thought it was my duty to report the activity and I did so according to procedure, but it was not what the company wanted. They chose to let me go.”
      In my case, the HR rep I was speaking to was hesitant, but she said that she asked herself what she would have done if she was in my situation. She would have done the same thing and I got the job. But I don’t know if all HR reps would have reacted the same way.

    2. Katie NYC*

      What kind of cheating? (when I hear cheating, I think of copying someone else’s test responses).

      1. AKA Sydney*

        Manipulating circumstances to avoid the more difficult aspect of our job, manipulating numbers to hide this and/or improve their reports; that sort of thing. We were all supervisory, btw.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          Oh! I thought this was cheating as in relationships. I don’t have any advice to offer, except sympathy.

      1. AKA Sydney*

        I know that’s a possibility, but I’d really like to move forward, and not have to give away any more bits of my soul as a result of that job ;)

      2. fposte*

        No, you probably don’t. Whistleblower protection federally and in most states is about reporting stuff to regulatory authorities, not just internally, and it has to be illegal stuff–it doesn’t cover you just for reporting employees doing bad things.

        1. HR Manager*

          I was just going to say the same – you have that protection only against certain types of reporting. You’re not protected if you saw Maria take 5 reams of computer paper from the supply room to take home for her personal use.

    3. Sunflower*

      I like AndersonDarling’s answer if the case was that you reported the illegal activity. Did you work out any sort of agreement in your severance? What is the company saying is their reasoning for firing you? I’m assuming you won’t be able to use them as a reference?

      1. AKA Sydney*

        The activity was not illegal. Their stated reason was ‘not having a positive, solution-oriented attitude’. Which…not sure how that could have gone down in a positive manner, or how I could have a solution to the unethical behavior of those on the same job level as myself. But it was clear that it was the part where I went over my boss’ head that did it.

        1. cuppa*

          I didn’t realize that fudging numbers to make things work out was a “solution-oriented attitude”. I’ve been doing it wrong all these years, I guess.

          1. puddin*

            It seems in this case “solution-oriented attitude”= delusional failboat.

            I think the essential message was, mind your own beezwax – either we know this is going on and don’t care, or we didn’t know and are too embarrassed by our ignorance to do anything about it.

        2. Rex*

          “We had very different approaches to the work, and in the end, Employer and I agreed that it wasn’t a good culture fit?”

        3. Sunflower*

          I still think AndersonDarling’s answer will work really well- you could even switch illegal with unethical.

      2. AKA Sydney*

        The company doesn’t give references of any kind, the only thing they do is confirm dates of employment. I don’t know if I would call it an ‘agreement’–they gave me a contract that I have to sign if I want the package.

          1. AKA Sydney*

            I spoke to a lawyer friend who gave some advice, and the only thing I may ask to have changed is an added clause specifying that they will not contest unemployment.

            1. Colette*

              Can you also negotiate what they’ll say if asked? They may say they only confirm dates of employment, but there’s a difference between “She was a Teapot Designer from May 2010 to October 2014” and “Let’s see, she started in May 2010 and we fired her in October 2014”.

              1. AKA Sydney*

                It’s an *extremely* large company and when you call you don’t get a human, they use an organization that provides automated responses. So it’s all safe :)

                1. Colette*

                  That’s good. So I guess my question is this: what did you learn from this? In other words, how would you handle it differently if you were in the same situation?

                  I suspect the answer to that question will help you explain why you left.

              2. AKA Sydney*

                I would not really do anything different, unless I could become willing to let unfairness and unethical behavior go unaddressed…I love that company and it saddens me that they allow employees to hurt them, and each other. I do think I need to learn to be less invested in my work, but that is not something I can say in an interview. I don’t know. I will ponder this all :)

                1. Colette*

                  Was there an ethics line you could have called? Many large companies have one.

                  I don’t know the circumstances, but “manipulating the circumstance to avoid the more difficult aspect of the job” sounds like a performance problem, not an ethics problem. (Well, it’s personal ethics, but really it reads to me as “not fair!”, and the work world won’t always be fair.)

                  As far as manipulating numbers, it depends whether they were highlighting accurate numbers that made them look good while not mentioning numbers that made them look bad, or whether they were faking the numbers. Again, it might be performance/bad management rather than ethics. (That one also depends on what the numbers were being used for.)

                  I mean, maybe people were creating fake financial records, which is a big deal, or maybe they were doing something much more minor.

                  If the answer is “it wasn’t fair that I had to do X while they didn’t”, that’s probably something you’ll run into again. So you should think about whether you really would handle it the same way again.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      I don’t have any advice on what to say in a job interview, so I’m interested in the suggestions here too.

      But this is one of the reasons why it is so important for managers to communicate with their people after someone reports a problem with a co-worker. If the problem is affecting your work, the problem doesn’t go away, and your manager doesn’t tell you anything, how do you know that anything is being done? And why wouldn’t you go up a level is nothing is being done?

    5. INTP*

      What does everyone think about invoking the gag order?

      For example, “I’ve agreed to a gag order about the circumstances of my dismissal in order to receive my severance.”

      Would that be a red flag because the OP is refusing to answer, or a good way to indicate that the company has something to hide so it clearly wasn’t a straightforward, fair firing?

  23. Calla*

    I posted about upcoming layoffs last week. It ended up being about 25% of our employees, including some of the other admins. They assure us this was enough and they have been conservative in forecasts, but the one financial benefit is still frozen. (It’s profit-sharing, which duh we don’t get if they’re not making a profit; but I took a pay cut to come here, and that was presented as part of my salary package to make up for it, plus assurances of frequent raises, which of course are also not happening.) Because of the admins being cut, I’m now being asked to cover the front desk a few times a week, which was definitely NOT originally part of my job. So… that’s an update if it changes anyone’s advice!

    I have been looking a little, casually, but I am just soooo tired of job searching. I just don’t know if I have it in me, but I don’t want to stay here either.

    1. Kitchenalia*

      Do we work for the same organisation?!? I have so many matches: 25% being laid off, admins too, unexpected front desk coverage. Snap!

        1. Kitchenalia*

          Sorry Calla! I didn’t mean to mislead you. I’m on the other side of the world in Australia however our situations sound very similar.

          1. Calla*

            I figured as much :) It’s not exactly an uncommon situation, though I hope no one else here just went through it too!

    2. esra*

      They assure us this was enough.

      Do not believe this. My team heard this after a first round of layoffs, and then got caught in a second round three months later.

      Job searching is a downer, but it sounds like you should keep at it!

  24. Malissa*

    Has anybody ever traded off more salary for a better quality of life? Would you take a 20% pay cut if it meant you had more time to pursue outside intersts and even possibly build your own small side business?

    1. RandomName*

      I’ve never made that trade, but I would in a heartbeat if the opportunity ever came along. Unfortunately, my field is known for long hours in most roles.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I did. I am full-time at 35 hours a week with a short commute, my work is engaging and challenging with low stress, and my schedule is flexible. On the side, I had a small consulting business for about 5 years until I had children. My pay isn’t where it could be if I had continued in a more competitive environment but I am really happy.

    3. Noelle*

      I haven’t, but I would consider it. I accepted my current position for slightly more money, but my quality of life has plummeted. I’m working much longer hours, constantly checking emails, and busy all the time. In the end, the extra money wasn’t worth making this move. Plus with the extra hours I’m actually making less per hour.

      1. GOG11*

        I gave up a part time position I really enjoyed (and that was more prestigious) to be able to move into a full time position with benefits. I have learned a lot in my new role and my quality of life did improve, but I do miss that position + the ability to do other things on the side. The long hours and unpredictable schedule, however, I do not miss (though I love structure and predictability more than the average person).

    4. LillianMcGee*

      Sort of? I choose to work in non-profit for far less than a similarly positioned person would make at a for-profit firm. I stay because of the mission and the culture, which is laid back yet energetic and motivated. MOST of the staff conforms to this attitude as well, which is another reason it’s easy to stay. I don’t feel like I have more time to pursue other interests as the office is still 9-5, but my 1 hr commute each way is likely the culprit.

    5. Cee*

      I would but only if I had assurances that it’s not a bait and switch tactic, where when they get you where they want you they pile on the work so that it’s impossible to do your allotted tasks in your (theoretically) shorter work week, or they tell you after a few months “No, you can’t work from home after all, we’ve decided we need you in the office five days a week for ‘face time’.”

    6. Camellia*

      We took a 75% pay cut when I decided I wanted to stay home after our daughter was born. We had not planned for this in any way; but when I returned to work after six weeks of maternity leave I knew in my heart that we had to do this.

      We actually sold our large house and bought a much smaller/less expensive one (this was 30 years ago when the housing market supported that option), downsized to one vehicle, etc. Our plan was to do this for four years (until kindergarten). It was a stretch but we were very committed to it. Relatives and friends helped out with donated children’s clothing and stuff like that.

      It was totally worth and no regrets. I say go for whatever is right for you and make it worth the sacrifice!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I totally agree. Which ever path you chose, OP, run it to the max. Get the most out of your chosen path.

        This idea of using my choices to their fullest potential has actually helped me decide which path to take. I would picture Path A and what I would have to do to get the max benefit. Then do the same with Path B. Usually there is one path that stands above the other path.

    7. Kate*

      I haven’t but I’m trying to! I commute very far, and though jobs near where I live pay less, I think the extra time in my day and peace of mind will be worth the lower pay. Money isn’t everything.

    8. Steven M*

      I literally just did this – as in accepted the offer yesterday. ~15% pay cut for shorter commute (about 45 min less each way… more when traffic is bad) and what appears to be a much better work environment (my current one isn’t objectively ‘bad’, just not right for me; new one is run by my favorite past boss of all time).

    9. WolfmansBrother*

      I took just over a 10% paycut to have better hours, more flexible hours, and more long term stability. I am just now working my way back up to the pay I had before (It has taken about 5 years), and I don’t regret making the move at all.

    10. Zillah*

      It would depend on the specifics for me. Provided I’d be able to reasonably support myself even after the pay cut, though, I’d definitely consider it, and if I’d get more time off + some telecommuting, I’d probably do it.

    11. limenotapple*

      My husband is looking at taking a pay cut to work for a company that really seems to cater to its technical people. He has my blessing. We are already living as if he had the pay cut. I found out that a lot of the things that we cut out, I don’t miss at all. I would much rather have a happier spouse with more free time. Also, in time he will get raises, promotions, bonuses, etc. so it won’t always be this salary.

    12. Nerdling*

      In a way. I had been working in DC and had the opportunity to transfer out to a smaller office. It meant a cost-of-living adjustment drop in pay that was pretty significant (5-10%), but it was worth every penny in terms of quality of life. We were able to buy a house, have a baby, and relax a lot more than we could living outside the capital.

    13. Artemesia*

      I made that trade once when my youngest child was still quite young. If you do it be sure other people know about it. I had a boss make a snide remark about ‘I guess you were Christmas shopping when I tried to get ahold of you yesterday’ — I said ‘Are you aware that I am now part time and took a 25% paycut to do that?’ He was not — he assumed I was just a slacker. He knew I had dropped a major project but somehow that didn’t translate into she has cut back her time.

      There is also pressure to work a lot more than you are paid for. It is tricky when you are a professional because people working full time often don’t work 40 hours a week but much more — so when you negotiate say two thirds time — you are actually dropping back more than that if you mean X hours by that.

      If you have the self discipline to stick to your hours AND are super productive in those hours and make sure everyone is aware of your status then give it a shot.

    14. Sunflower*

      I would consider it – take a look at your current salary. Would you still be able to adequately support yourself on that? What kind of cuts would you have to make to live a life on the new salary? Can you live without those things? Do you have a desire to start your own small side business? I would also make sure you are getting what you’re promised. If more time to pursue outside interests=unlimited vacation time, we all know that doesn’t always happen.

    15. Persephone Mulberry*

      If I could finagle my budget so that I could be sure of living on the reduced salary without giving up too many creature comforts, absolutely yes.

    16. Chinook*

      I did. I had two job offers a couple of years ago. One was for my current (9-5) job. The other was for similair work but a 10/4 schedule that meant living 10 days in a work camp up north and 4 days off down south. I would have made a killing on overtime with the latter (think twice what I would normally make) but it would have meant no social life or regular non-work commitments. I had to think long and hard as it would have set me up to pay off my condo after a couple of years but I realized it just wasn’t worth the social isolation.

    17. Anon for This*

      I’m currently considering a job that will be a 38% salary cut, which seems crazy. But I think I’m going to do it – I’ve been unhappy and stressed out and this new role would dial that back.

    18. Elizabeth West*

      No, but I would if I could still live so I could concentrate on writing. The only way that would happen is if someone else were paying the majority of the bills.

    19. Malissa*

      Assume you could live comfortably with the pay cut. The only real difference would be taking 5 years longer to pay off all debt. Which could be mitigated by the side business.
      The work would shift from unclear and constantly changing directions to clear cut goals and processes, but may end up more routine and possibly more boring.

    20. HR Manager*

      I have but not as steep as a 20% cut. I’ve taken a 10% cut and am so glad I did. More reasonable hours, not always feeling like my hole of to-do’s is deeper every day, more flexibility about work from home, more relaxed culture overall. It’s awesome. I shaved 20% of my hours down. It’s nice to be in a field where they pay high, but dang they work you down with it. I woke up dog tired every single day (including weekends) for the 2 years there.

    21. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think about this all the time. When you work for yourself and take on clients, there’s no definite ceiling to how much work you can take on, if you’re willing to work all the time. For a while, I was taking on tons of work, even though it had me working most evenings and much of the weekends — because I didn’t feel like I should be turning down money … especially since as a freelancer, it’s always in the back of my head that I could lose clients at any time, and by overloading myself, I’d have a buffer in case that happened. So basically, I was working constantly. It finally occurred to me that there’s a certain income level where it’s okay to say “I’ll stop here.”

      So last year I got rid of a few clients and got stricter about taking new stuff on, and now most of the time I have my evenings and weekends back. I still have a worry in the back of my head about whether I’ll regret that if I lose a big client at some point and don’t have something immediately lined up to replace them, but I’m much, much less stressed now.

      Anyway, I think my answer to this question is: It depends on income. If you have a lot of breathing room financially, I think it can be a great trade-off.

    22. Beebs*

      Very early in my career (second full time job) I got two offers at almost the same time, and it left me to have this debate. They were similar roles, but Job1 was based on grant funding and Job2 was industry based. The industry job was almost exactly double the salary and had potential for bonus. After a very stressful few days and many phone calls to any mentor I could ask for help, I decided to take the lower paying position because of many quality of life factors. Job1 was a very short walk from my home and a 35 hour work week, Job2 was about a 45 min commute on transit (in good traffic) and they did say that some weeks the hours would be longer just based on meeting deadlines and that there would be some stress in this position. As tempting as the salary was, Job1 offered me enough money that I could live decently. At the end of the day I said to myself, what good is a lot of money if I will be too tired/stressed/busy to use it.

      I realized how much I value quality of life and I now make many decisions with that in mind.

    23. Clever Name*

      Does taking a 50% pay cut to work 20 hours a week count? I could make twice as much as I do now if I went full time, but I value the time I have to pick up my son from school, take him to swim team, etc. plus, being hourly means not working over 40 hours except in exceptional circumstances.

  25. Hlyssande*

    This is work-related… as in I might be opening myself up for sewing commission work and I’m trying to wrap my brain around the logistics involved.

    A friend just asked me to design and sew/assemble a pinup style version of a video game character so she can do a photoshoot for the game developer (she’s done pinup modeling before and also, AWESOME). I’m nervous as I’ve never done commissions before and I never really considered it, but it could also be a good opportunity for me to spread some wings/credibility in the local costuming community (and some cash on the side would never go amiss).

    Does anyone know where I can find some sort of contract templates for this sort of thing? I know better than to even try it without some sort of agreement in place.

    1. kristinyc*

      This is great! I love sewing and making costumes. I minored in costume design in college, and I’m taking sewing classes at Mood in NYC now.

      I think you could at least outline exactly what she expects you to deliver, and timelines. And maybe list out requirements for fittings and things like that?

      1. Hlyssande*

        Oooh, jealous of your MOOD classes, I’d love to do that!

        Honestly, I’m a total amateur but I think I’ve got a good base and I can keep my head when something goes wrong (ask my friend who actually does some commissions and bribes me with food to help keep her level in crunch time).

        So far it’s just in the idea stage and I haven’t actually agreed to do it yet. I told her I’d do some research and try to come up with a few doodles and get back to her after the weekend. Nervous and excited!

    2. Anie*

      Sorry, don’t know of any contract templates. Something you should for sure consider including in the contract though is how many fittings you’re willing to do. Some people can drag that out loooong past when it should end.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Oh, great idea! I know sometimes an extra fitting is needed, but having that in the agreement sounds like a really good idea, as do delivery dates.

    3. Nanc*

      If there is a Small Business Development Center near you they often have these sorts of forms/examples.

      1. Hlyssande*

        I hadn’t thought about that and will definitely look into it! I’m sure there’s something of the sort in the Twin Cities MN area.

    4. Noel*

      Whoa, yikes. As someone who has spent the last eleven years working as a seamstress, and who sews costumes for herself on the side…be very, very careful about how many hours you plan to put into this project. Unless you are an extremely fast sewer and are extremely good about figuring out how to design things, extremely quickly, you will spend far more hours than you think on this. Think very carefully about how you personally work, and how long it tends to take you to do things from scratch. Make sure you don’t lowball yourself. Your time and expertise are valuable, quite possibly more valuable than your friend is willing to pay for. Try not to lock yourself into working for pennies per hour. Most people have absolutely no clue how much time it takes to design AND sew a project, and just how long it can take just to figure out how you’re going to do it. All of that time should be paid for. Cheap clothes made overseas have distorted everyone’s idea of how much sewing should cost, but you deserve to be paid fairly for what you do.

  26. Bad Recruiter*

    So I am currently in the interview process for what sounds like a great job that I am excited about. I applied to a posting on the web and a recruiter contacted me. At first everything was going great but as the process has continued I’ve realized that I really don’t like the recruiter. I’m not sure how much it matters as she’s not with the company but it still sits with me wrong. Some examples
    – she called my current employer looking for me because she wanted a response to an email, a response I’d sent 3 hrs before;
    – the job as she described it to me was very different from the one that the hiring manager described during my phone interview which is fine because I like the actual job even better than the original but it did mean I was focusing my answers incorrectly in the phone interview with the hiring manager
    – she wasn’t aware that the manager of the position, with whom she says she’s been close friends for 10 years, turned in her notice of retirement a month ago and they’re looking to fill that position as well.

    Long story short, is there anything I should/could do or should I just let the process play out?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      She’s missed out on some key things that are supposed to be part of her job, and you have a very good reason to think she’s stretching (if not breaking) the truth routinely. However, if this recruiter has been hired by the company, all you can do is try to let them know without making a big deal out of it. I’d probably say something like “Oh, that’s great! [Recruiter] told me that the position consisted of X, Y, and Z, but I would actually love to do P, D, and Q!”

      Then, after you’re hired or rejected you could let the hiring manager know the full story. But you don’t want to get into that drama now if it could affect your chances of getting the job.

    2. John*

      Are you good at direct conversations? Because the way I would play it is with a phone call to the recruiter who, you need to keep in mind, is in the midst of trying to close a sale. I would tell her that I’m really interested in working with her on this exciting job opportunity but you think you need to agree on some ground rules governing your interaction. Then tell her that you can’t have her calling your employer and will she agree not to do that again. Be strong and clear about that. And when she inevitably tries to justify her interaction, just shut her down by firmly repeating the request.

      In her line of work, she surely understands that she cannot call a job seeker’s employer.

      The other issues I wouldn’t address since they don’t sound like repeatable mistakes. Unless you don’t get this job and decide to work with her again, which you’d be well advised to rethink. The only way I’d bring those issues up would be if, as the interview process continues, she is again in the position of supplying critical info. In that case, I would challenge her if there is any way to double check her information, as the original job description she was given was off base (see what I did hear? I’m making it sound as those she was a victim, too).

    3. Sunflower*

      Regardless of what you do, be clear to the recruiter that she can not contact you at your place of employment.

      I would really focus more on the experience with the hiring manager and not the recruiter. They are just paid to sell you the position. The hiring manager is there to assess your fit. I would be more focused on the hiring manager is about to retire and you don’t really have a clue who your new manager will be. Talk to the current hiring manager about what you can expect.

    4. Bad Recruiter*

      Thanks for the recommendations. I did have a direct conversation with her about not calling me at my current place of work. While talking with the hiring manager I tried to cover by saying something along the lines of: “Recruiter emphasized the importance of x for the role but it sounds like you’re looking more for b skills.” and then gave examples of how I’d handled similar things in the past. Hopefully that will get me through to the next round!

    5. INTP*

      Sounds like a crappy and possibly unethical recruiter. Calling a candidate’s employer is a huge no-no! However, if you’d be employed directly with the hiring company, I’d just let the process play out. You won’t be working with the recruiter and the recruiter isn’t even with the company’s HR, so it’s not indicative of their practices.

  27. Holly*

    Anyone else encountering a case of “HR is overstepping all kinds of personal boundaries” at their work? I ask because, in my 2.5 years here, our HR director has: a) told me that barely touching the edge of my skirt as a nervous tick was “not going to do me any favors in my career”, b) come over to tell me that I “need to pick a better way to sit” as I face toward my computer in a cubicle facing a wall, c) should better watch what I eat for my health and d) need to “never, ever wear [my sneakers] to work again” [which I get, but it was a Friday, business casual, and a handful of people here were in flip flops!].

    If it was JUST HR it would be easily dismissed, but I’m in a culture where I’m regularly called a moron by the head management, so I’m just feeling demoralized all around.

    1. KarenT*

      Wow! I would not deal with that well, either. D is reasonable, but the rest are definitely obnoxious comments at minimum. Any chance you can start looking for a new job?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Actually, I always wear sneakers when we have business casual days, and I consider them more professional than flip flops.

        But Holly, would it work to just say “OK, thanks, you make a good point.” and then ignore them for stuff like A and C? Ffor work issues, you may have to do what they say…until you can find a better job with a sane employer!

        1. Holly*

          Yeah, I usually have no idea what to say except “thank you” because I’m usually taken by surprise whenever something like the above is said.

        2. KarenT*

          Oh I totally agree sneakers are more professional with flip flops, and am actually currently wearing them right now. What I meant by the comment not being as bad was that it’s not unreasonable for HR to ban sneakers in an office, nor does it seem as personal as the other comments.

        3. INTP*

          This might be regional, but being from the West Coast I see flip flops as slightly more professional (unless it’s converse in a muted color). If it’s rubber flip flops, they’re almost equal, with flip flops barely edging out. If it’s “nice” flip flops, like they are dressy flat sandals that happen to have a thing between your toes, they’re certainly more professional.

          I think I have that impression because flip flops can go with dresses and skirts, whereas a running shoe or tennis shoe looks out of place with anything more formal than yoga pants, and a “nice” sneaker like a sleek Puma can’t go more formal than jeans and a t-shirt. When I got stuck in supportive athletic shoes following an ankle injury I couldn’t find anything to wear to work because everything looked dorky and ridiculous with the shoes. However, this could be another case of something work-related being completely different outside California.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Forgot to say, KarenT, I love your avatar! We have a cat at home that looks almost exactly like that, and we always call her a princess because she’s kind of spoiled!

        1. KarenT*

          Thanks :)
          I downloaded a sticker app on my iPhone. I have a picture of my other cat wearing a baseball hat.

      3. Holly*

        I’m starting the first steps of a search – revised my resume, have a meeting with a recruiter, etc. It’s taking some time because this place is so mentally draining!

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yay! Just remember, you COULD try to quit and job-search full time, but for now let this job pay the rent while you look for something not run by malicious jerks.

    2. Cee*

      Oh these people sound terrible. I would get out if it’s possible. That behavior from them is just totally unacceptable.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, these are nitpickers from Planet Weird. You will never satisfy them. I hope you are not trying too hard.

        On the good news side of things, if this is the only stuff they can come up with, then you are probably a good worker and a sane employer would be very happy to have you.

        1. Holly*

          I used to try very hard, but as HR themselves has told us(!!), people work harder when they know they’re being taken care of. So now a lot of my excess drive/passion is waning. And thank you :) that comment makes me feel better about finding something else.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I guess they have a very different definition of what being “taken care of” means, vs what most of us would think of.

            My boss express her caring when she says things like “Go home before the snow gets bad.” Or “Go take care of your sick dog.” She also expresses caring when she explains something to me for the tenth time and never rolls her eyes. Or when she expresses concern that I had to crawl under her desk to fix her computer problem (not a big deal to me).

            Yes, overall employee do tend to work harder when the boss cares about them. But each employee values different things. There is no one size fits all answer.

    3. Noelle*

      I had an HR person who just hated me and was on the warpath. One time she saw me leaving work, after work hours, in sneakers I’d changed into for my commute, and she tried to get me fired over it. I stayed calm and fought back, and eventually she lost interest and moved on to someone else. And, what’s the deal with management calling you a moron??? That sounds terrible.

      1. Holly*

        Yikes! That sounds horrible! And yeah, it’s pretty standard to be accused of not knowing what we’re doing, being overpaid (ha!), that a kindergartner can do our jobs, etc. It’s a bit demoralizing and it took a long time for me to stop internalizing it.

    4. fposte*

      It sounds like a generally horrible place, but I’m curious–was this all the same HR person, or were they, especially the first two, which are *really* weird, from different people in HR? Do they call you into meetings for this stuff or is it a random comment?

      1. Holly*

        Same person. The skirt comment was when I was already in their office to talk about something else, the sitting comment was while she was walking around the cubes, health comment was while I was already in her office talking about something else, and the shoes comment was a summoned-to-the-office meeting.

        1. fposte*

          That makes me feel slightly better–it’s a wingnut, not a wingnut protocol. I’d let her stuff go as much as possible; for the weird and invasive stuff, treat her like any random person saying stuff, including, if you wish, backing her off on food commentary. For the actual HR stuff like sneakers, just roll with it. “Okay, sorry, now I know, thanks.”

    5. No to Stella and Dot*

      This sounds like an office I once worked in. I was wearing heels one day, and one of the heels broke, so I changed into dressy flip flops. The office manager saw me walking to the restroom and asked why I was wearing them. I explained what happened and Office Manager explained that the VP “doesn’t believe that women should wear open toe-shoes…ever.” I ended up wearing sneakers for the rest of the day (with a sheath dress).

      I’ve always felt sorry for the VP’s wife. :/

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I got told off for wearing jeans one day in toxic former job, even after I explained that I’d spilled my yoghurt on my black dress pants at lunch, so I’d changed into the clean (and nice!) jeans that I’d brought with me (I was going to a concert after work). They made me change back into the stained dress pants, because apparently that’s better than clean jeans…

        (I wasn’t client-facing and other departments were allowed to wear jeans, but our head of department had A Thing about it).

      2. INTP*

        My old boss was the opposite, she wanted everyone to wear heels but would tolerate flip flops. Sneakers, however, were expressly forbidden on casual Friday. Even something sleek like black converse or pumas would get you whisked into the conference room for a talking-to. (This was southern California, though, so it wasn’t weird to see sneakers as less professional than flip-flops. It’s just weird to forbid either one there.)

    6. INTP*

      What did she even mean by “a better way to sit?” I’m curious as to whether she is fixated on your ergonomics or your image (like she thought your posture was unladylike or unprofessional). I’m not sure why it even matters to me – it’s equally annoying and inappropriate either way – I’m just curious for some reason.

      The frustrating thing is that this woman probably thinks she’s doing you a favor by giving you all of this “advice” and is really proud of herself/frustrated with you for not appreciating her help. Hah!

      1. Holly*

        Yeah, the unladylike intent, I believe. And I know for sure she feels that way – she stated that she was doing me a favor when she made the skirt comment some time back.

  28. mschanlan*

    I just started a great temp position. I’m about a month in and decided I want to apply to business school for fall 2016 entry. I’ve been told that if I kick a** in this job, the company will try and keep me, or they will work hard to help me find another great job. Should I tell my boss (who I really like and respect) that I am planning on applying to b-school?

    1. Cee*

      It’s a bit soon, in my opinion. Anything could happen over the next eight months. Maybe wait until you’re two or three months out, and/or when you’ve been accepted to a specific program.

    2. Michele*

      I agree with Cee. It is too early to say anything. Try to get a feel for things, then IF the temp position becomes permanent, you can say something. Depending on the company, they might even pay for your business school classes.

    3. Sunflower*

      Way too early. Plus Fall 2016 is over 1.5 years away and there is no telling what is going to happen by that point. Just keep working on doing a good job and kicking a** so you get hired!

    4. HR Manager*

      Is your intention for B-school definite, meaning even if you landed in the most fabulous job ever, you would still leave for B-school? If so, then it might be wise to do so if only to keep your bridges at said great company. If it’s up in the air, then I would keep quiet for now.

    5. INTP*

      Right now, it’s too soon to say something in any case. If you plan to leave the company for school, I wouldn’t say anything until you’re accepted and know that you’re going to go. If your reason for disclosing is that you plan to keep your job and want to see if your boss can advise you, write a recommendation, get your classes partially paid for, etc, I’d still wait until you’ve been hired on permanently and make sure they know you plan to keep your job through it.

  29. Ann Furthermore*

    Excel question!

    Any ideas why an Excel file would suddenly grow to be about 7MB? I was working with a file and adding tabs to it, and got up to about 75. Not many formulas, but lots of formatting and the first tab had links to the others to make them easier to get to. Everything was fine until suddenly it was taking *forever* to save. That’s when I found it had become absolutely huge.

    I was copying the formatting from one worksheet to another by just highlighting the entire sheet (clicking in the top left corner) and copying/pasting to the next tab, instead of just copying/pasting the cells with data or formatting. Could that have done it? I’ve always done copying and pasting that way and never had any problems, but I usually don’t have files with more than about 10 or 15 tabs. I’m pretty good with Excel, but not super good.

    Also, is there any easy way to figure how big each page/tab in a spreadsheet is?

      1. puddin*

        ^This. Try to right click on the tab and copy instead of copy and paste.

        If you type Control-End at the same time, the cursor will move the last cell with data in the worksheet. If this cell is on row 50000 of a 10 line sheet, then you have a lot of extra cells that were pasted and these take up data space.

        The formatting can also take up a huge chunk of space, especially conditional formatting.

    1. MJ*

      I have run into this issue too, and my best guess is that because I sometimes paste whole worksheets (selecting by putting cursor in the corner above “1” and left of “A”) and then doing copy-paste into a new worksheet), I somehow have formatted to the far reaches of the spreadsheet such that Excel is now addressing every single cell.

      I have been fairly successful fixing this by highlighting just the data in the worksheet and copying it into a new tab, then deleting the original tab.

      In general, I have found the newest version of Excel a bit buggy. This issue has come up a number of times, and I also run into problems opening existing files, where I now have to open Excel first and then locate the file to open it within Excel. Nuisance.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I did the same thing while copying and pasting, and that was my only guess as to how the file grew to be so large. I did the Ctrl+End trick to see if there was a random cell out there with data, but didn’t find any.

        Good old Excel. LOL.

    2. Ordinary Supervisor*

      Agree with the extra blank columns. You can go to each tab and press keys and it will take you to the last column/row on the tab. This way you can find out which tab(s) are the culprits.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I tried that, and didn’t run across any tabs with data where I wasn’t expecting it to be. I removed all the links, because someone told me that does eat up alot of memory, but that only reduced the file size by about 0.5 MB. So then I was stumped.

    3. NoPantsFridays*

      Hm, while I don’t know what’s on each of your tabs, 7MB sounds very normal to me for 75 tabs (really, seventy-five tabs? And I thought my 10-15 tab files were big!).

      I routinely have files 5MB+ with just a few tabs that have 50,000 rows and columns out to like BX (so 60+ columns). I actually just checked one and it’s 7.5MB for one main tab (50,000 rows, 60 columns) and a second tab with about 1000 rows.

      Also, to avoid copying/pasting the entire sheet, I don’t usually click in the corner of the spreadsheet. From cell A1, I do Ctrl+Shift+Right arrow+Down arrow to select all the used cells/data without selecting the millions of blank cells around them.

      And yes, large spreadsheets do take forever to save. Honestly, some days I think my job consists mostly of waiting for Access queries to run, and Excel files to calculate and save! (This doesn’t sound like the issue but if you’re having problems with the Excel spreadsheet(s) formulas constantly calculating, you can set calculations to manual — but I think that’s a different problem.)

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        None of the tabs are more than 100 rows. It’s a file of ERP test scripts for users to run. 75 tabs is super huge for me – I’m usually in the 10-15 tab range (if that) for the stuff that I do. But this is for a very complex application that has a ton of functions, plus a ton of custom programs developed for the users. So there are a lot of scripts to run.

        I like your trick for copying and pasting — I’ll try that. Thanks!

  30. Pizza Lover*

    It’s Friday! Okay, so I’ve been job hunting and I’d like to have a manager at a place that I interned at a couple of years ago be one of my references; we had a great relationship and she advised that I can always use her. However, last I checked, this person was no longer in the workforce due to personal health issues. Do employers scoff at this? Can they even tell? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    1. Michele*

      I have never looked up a reference on say, LinkedIn, to make sure that they are still employed. However, I do always ask what their relationship to candidate is (using someone’s frat brother is never a good idea) and how long ago they worked together. Just make sure you have more recent references.

      1. Pizza Lover*

        Thank you for your comment! I do have more recent references as well, but being that I did some good work there (instituted some new things even though I was an intern) and she was my direct manager, I did not want to rule her out just because she was no longer working.

    2. fposte*

      I wouldn’t care what a reference was doing now (unless they were, like, doing a stretch in the federal pen). I’m not asking about their current work, I’m asking about when you worked with them.

  31. kristinyc*

    Update on my non-profit interviews (recap: I wore a dress – not a suit- to the interview, and I was just about to give salary requirements).

    So, I sent the salary requirements on Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon, they finally posted the job (even though I’ve already been through 2 rounds of interviews). I was told that they “legally” have to post the job for 2 weeks. Is that an equal opportunity thing since it’s a nonprofit? I’ve never heard of it. Anyway, the hiring manager asked me to apply formally on Thursday morning. I did, and was immediately contacted for a phone interview with HR for next week.

    I guess this means they were okay with my salary requirements. It’s just been a really weird process.

    1. GOG11*

      I’m not sure about what all this means regarding your salary requirements, but some employers do have a process/policy about external postings and they follow that regardless of what else is going on. It may be just be a policy thing.

      1. kristinyc*

        That’s what I thought. They seem to think a lot of things are “illegal,” but it’s kind of working in my favor (they think they’re not legally allowed to ask about my salary at my previous job, which is particularly good for me right now). I don’t think this should be a red flag, but it is a bit odd. The org is very old, and VERY well known.

        1. BRR*

          Sometimes it works in your favor. I wish it would be illegal to ask about salaries at previous jobs.

      2. manomanon*

        Is it possibly because they receive federal funding? I interviewed with a nonprofit in DC several million times during my last job search and one of the strings attached to their federal grants was that had to list a job publicly no matter what. I don’t know if that was because of the type of grant or which Department it was from. While that may not have been entirely accurate it is what HR told their staff about hiring processes.

      3. Observer*

        Well, if they have government contracts, there could be some contractual / regulatory stuff that they need to adhere to.

    2. Lizzy May*

      The only thing I can think of is if the position is grant funded or something are there are grant rules about hiring that they have to follow. Some people use the word “legally” in a very loose sense.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Yep. We have government funding that requires that mind be posted in certain ways and for certain periods of time. I think some people use “legal” to mean the government says they have to do it. You can also run into this if you are hiring people on visas.

    3. Sunflower*

      I’ve had a couple people tell me that it’s illegal to not post the job. Obviously that isn’t true so I’m thinking it’s a pretty popular policy among companies and it doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with you.

  32. Anonercopter*

    Various posts have talked about gauging your workplace culture by following the lead of others.

    What do you do if you don’t have others to follow the lead of in an informal way? Say, you’re the only person in your office who does what you do – is it awkward to call another office and say “hey, so and so requested that I do this…is that something we do?”

    Another option is asking the boss, but I worry that saying “the other teapot designers elsewhere don’t do (or, sometimes, aren’t supposed to handle) [small but disruptive task], but I’ve been asked to do it. Should I do it?” seems petty and nit picky.

    Final option, that I can see, is just sucking it up and doing whatever random stuff others ask of me, since there’s no one else to shift it to (other than back to them)…but I’m finding that doing this and that and twelve other little random things takes up quite a bit of time over time.

    1. Kate the Grate*

      Are you new? Sometimes it just takes time to figure this stuff out and to build your own individual role in the organization. If people are coming to you with easy tasks that you think they should do themselves, think about writing up some tips or guidance documents to make sure they are empowered to do the tasks.

      1. Anonercopter*

        I’ve been in this role about a year and a half. I’ve gotten permission to take some tasks off my plate, but in reality, they never really stuck. And then I got a new boss, so I felt like I’d have to start all over on something that should have been taken care of when I was new.

        An example of the types of interruptions I’m talking about – I sit near the front of the building. So and so knows he has someone coming in at 9 am, but so and so doesn’t come out to get the people until I go tell him his appointment is here. Old Boss said “don’t do that, it’s not your job and a waste of time” but so and so doesn’t realize or know this.

        I’m thinking I need to talk to so and so.

    2. Judy*

      It’s never inappropriate to ask your boss to prioritize requests from others. As an engineer at a senior level, in this organization, people randomly just pull you in to things. My manager expects an email saying “Wakeen asked me to review his handle strength report, I’ll be spending at least 2 hours tomorrow doing that.” My manager wants to be informed when other managers are “resource creating” by shifting work at his team.

  33. simsom*

    I need some advice. I think my newish coworker is unhappy in his position, and I can’t decide whether to say something to his boss.

    He transfered into the department in November specifically to work on a task for which the workload had increased enormously. I had previously been helping out so I basically trained him. The task is very high pressure and the analysis for it requires one’s full attention – but it is also pretty repetitive and tedious. The consequences if you make a mistake are very serious.

    He’s now confided in me that it’s not what he expected and that he’s not happy. I think the manager might have misrepresented the work a bit. The transfer didn’t come with a raise yet he’s putting in more hours than in his previous job, and he enjoys it less.

    I’m sympathetic to this but I’m also selfish. Training a new person would fall to me and take up time I can’t spare. Also, we get along well, I want him to stay!

    Would it be ill-advised to hint to his manager that he might appreciate being assigned some more varied work? Or should I stay out of it?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      That’s a little dicey.

      Why not suggest to him that he talk to his boss along the lines you say here? If you see opportunities that are accessible to him, point those opportunities out. Such as, “you know we need a, b and c done here, I bet you would be good at it. Why not ask the boss if you can do some of that to be able two switch off from Intense Task that you do?”.

    2. Sunflower*

      I would encourage him to talk to his boss. He might be nervous about how to talk to the boss so I would give him advice based on what he’s said the issues are.

    3. fposte*

      I’m with NSNR–encourage him to take action for himself rather than stepping in on his behalf. I think because you trained him you’re feeling a level of responsibility that doesn’t match the situation; that’s pretty common, but his success or failure is his job now, not yours.

  34. WednesdaysMisfit*

    I had a bizarre interviewing experience earlier this week that I just have to share.

    I was interviewing for a full-time communication position. One if the interviewers asked me several times if I had children. It was not asked in a “getting to know you” type of way – he wanted to know if I had any outside interests that would prevent me from working late nights.

    For several reasons, I decided to remove myself from consideration. I sent individual notes to each of the interviewers, thanking them for their time. The interviewer who asked about kids wrote back that he was “very disappointed in me” and how I could have done so many great things for their company and basically how I was blowing a golden opportunity. It was very rude.

    If they treat someone like this in the interview process, can you imagine what they would be like to work with?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*


      Think you were right to listen to your gut on this one – who knows what it would have been like to work with this douche.

    2. cuppa*

      Yeah. That response would have sealed the deal for me and given me the comfort that I made the right decision by withdrawing.

    3. puddin*

      Such a shame that you cannot write back and outline the reasons (all valid from what you have said) for your moving on. I mean you certainly can…but those darn bridges have to stay intact.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Oh yeah, you definitely don’t want to work for this guy. Daaaaaayyyum.

      I got the kid question too once, and the marriage question, in the same interview! I was puzzled until the interviewer explained that the job was six days a week (and it only paid minimum wage). No thanks.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        It’s a shame you couldn’t send him a copy of the laws around the hiring process with a sticky note on the page(s) about not being able to ask about such things and the relevant text highlighted. What a maroon — you definitely dodged a bullet.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Technically, I don’t think it’s illegal to ASK; but it is illegal to base your hiring decision on those things. However, anyone with any brains wouldn’t ask because obviously there is no other reason to.

  35. Waffles at JJ's*

    Hi peeps. So I’ve been job hunting for a little over a year now, and despite many many interviews (including second and third round), nothing solid has materialized. I have an advanced honors degree and a little experience under my belt, so I honestly didn’t think it would take this long to find something. I have days where I’m motivated and optimistic, and days where I’m really discouraged, but lately there have been a lot more of the latter. (Y’know, the “What’s the point of even trying? Might as well stay in my PJ’s all day and overdose on ice cream” days.)

    So I don’t really have a question, I really just wanted to see if anyone else here is in this boat… Or has recently climbed out of the boat and is willing to share their tips for staying motivated.

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      It’s really, really difficult. I’ve been searching for about a year now and because I live in a semi rural area, good opportunities are few and far between. I’m lucky in that I have a (ridiculous) job, but it’s depressing. I came across my folder of applied jobs and had to close it quick before I counted all the applications I never heard back from and the interviews I went on where I never heard back. I’m still irritated about the last one–I took a day off unpaid (because if I don’t work I don’t get paid) for an interview where they promised me up and down they’d contact me either way, and nothing–no response to my message, either!

      It’s very frustrating but you’re not at all alone.

      1. Waffles at JJ's*

        “they promised me up and down they’d contact me either way, and nothing–no response to my message, either!”

        Oh god, this is just the worst part of it all. You spend ages crafting your cover letter, you spend hours preparing for the first interview and then the second, you have at least one person enthusiastically tell you you’ll “absolutely” hear back one way or the other, and then … crickets.

        It’s one of the few situations where you actually find yourself thinking “What, not even a form email rejection…?”

    2. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

      Job hunting really does take a long time, especially in some areas and some fields. It took me upward of 7 months. I thought it would only take me about 2. You are not alone. Eventually everything will align.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      After getting my masters and leaving my old job for a move, it took me almost/over a year to get something– you’re not alone!

      To keep sending out applications, I would have a list of openings that I would update every day, and I would sort them by how much I really wanted the job instead of how old the opening was. That was, the top 3 were always ones I really wanted to get done. If my list ran out of ‘fun’ openings, I would take it as a sign that I needed to take a break for a day or two until more really good options were up again. Good luck!

    4. brightstar*

      I was a job seeker from mid-2010 until 2014, when I finally got a position in my field. I made do being unemployed or underemployed and what kept me motivated was that there was literally no other choice.

      Looking for employment is soul sucking and hard and it sucks. I did it for almost four years. I would never hear anything, I had a job offer rescinded, there was a lot of coming in 2nd or 3rd place for positions. But you just keep on keeping on. I focused my unhappiness into that job search and doing what I could to follow Alison’s advice of forgetting about it after sending the application out.

    5. Sunflower*

      You are in the same boat as a lot of other people(me being one!) It seems like everyone has different experience with job hunting. Some people secure a job right away and others it drags on forever. I’ve had a job since college and there hasn’t been a moment where I haven’t been job searching. I’m really waiting for that day that I don’t have to worry about if I’m spending enough time job hunting. My mom keeps telling me to stay positive and’s important but you don’t have to stay positive all day, everyday. I think the best thing you can do is wake up and do something that motivates you. For me, exercise is how I get started. If I wake up and work out, the rest of the day I feel pretty good about myself.

      Are you working at all? If not, would you be open to part-time or underemployment? Having somewhere to go and something to do can make you feel better and it’s likely you’ll find other people in the same boat to commiserate with. Also, if your main focus is on applying online, maybe decide to devote more time to networking events? Or attempt to set up meetings with contacts?

      1. Waffles at JJ's*

        I hear you about exercise, the days when I run, I feel a lot more productive than days when I don’t (even if I spend the same amount of time job-hunting).

        I’ve tried not to stay idle over the past year. Aside from job-hunting, I have a remote part-time job as a researcher, and I’m tutoring university students in my field (partly to bring in some extra cash, partly to help fill my time and cover the gap on my CV). And I volunteer twice a week. But keeping busy doesn’t always lift that sense of despair that comes with Not Having A Real Job, if that makes sense.

        I haven’t actually attended any networking events because I’ve yet to come across any for my field in my area, but it might be time to start actively looking for ones I can attend. I’ve met with a few contacts (and one of those meetings resulted in a job lead that went as far as a 2nd round interview, so that was something) but I don’t actually have too many professional contacts.

        I know I just have to hang in there and keep trying, but it’s comforting to read about others’ experiences and know I’m not alone. :)

    6. voluptuousfire*

      Yep. Been out of work since the beginning of April and it’s frustrating. I’ve only made it to the second round of interviews for about 4 of the roles I applied for. Yesterday was pretty bad because I was rejected from one of the second round of interview jobs plus two random job rejections got me down.

      It is soul sucking. I just haven’t found the job that clicked yet and it’s highly frustrating.

    7. BRR*

      My husband is in the same situation as you. He’s been job hunting for a year and a half with two phone interviews for part-time work and that’s it. It’s hard because you want to give up but you have to work even harder to succeed than you have been.

      PS, great name

      1. Waffles at JJ's*

        Haha, thanks – Parks & Rec always helps lighten my despondent days, so I figure it’d be a good source of inspiration for my AAM name.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      It took a year to get this job, with a company I’d already interviewed for and didn’t get that one–and I got the offer a week before my unemployment ran out on the very last tier. Whew!

      I know it sucks, but keep trying. I really thought I’d have to chuck it and move in with my mum (arggh) but then this opening popped up out of nowhere. Thanks to AAM, I nailed both interviews and knew what to do when I got a temp offer before this one (stalled and then emailed my boss, who expedited the offer). And today is my two-year anniversary here. :)

      1. Waffles at JJ's*

        Congrats on your two-year anniversary! Your story gives me hope. :) I actually DID have to move back in with my folks, which hasn’t done much for my pride, but I’m lucky they were so willing to take me back in when I boomerang’d (that’s a word now, right? If not it should be!)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Well I had to move in with my dad years before this, when I moved back from California, but that was okay because he was trucking at the time and was gone most of the month. His house is very casual and all I had to do was keep it clean and call anyone if something broke. At my mum’s house, I would have had no privacy because not only does she go to bed really really early, she works from home. Though thinking about it now, I would have gotten out of this town if I had done that, but I might not have found a job like this one.

          Yes, boomeranged is a great word for it!

    9. Jennifer*

      I’ve found about 3 jobs per year in my field that I am not automatically ruled out of applying for. I’ve gotten 1 interview a year for the last 2 years (both in January). So yeah, with you there. There just aren’t a lot of options out there any more.

    10. Christian Troy*

      I’ve been job hunting for almost a year now and I’m actually in the final round of an interview that seems very very promising (I’d prefer not to get into specifics but I’d be surprised if I didn’t get an offer and I’m not one to make statements like that).

      I think what you’re experiencing is actually really normal. You have good days and you have bad days. There were days where I felt like I could take on the world and there were days where I was just driving around and crying because I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. It was so hard to muster up the “best foot forward’ for job interviews since people opted for other candidates 40+ times previously.

      Also, I’d encourage you to take breaks from job searching. It seems counter intuitive but there were some days where I couldn’t muster the energy so I just took a break.

      It’s really really hard.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        The really silly thing is that it can be that you really are doing something wrong or it’s just you’re not finding that particular sweet spot with the interviewer. It’s such a crapshoot.

  36. Elkay*

    Survivor guilt: I left my team two weeks before layoffs were announced, I know I wouldn’t have survived this round of layoffs. I feel really crappy that I’m enjoying my new role and they’re all going through this. We’ve had five or six rounds of layoffs since I started but they announced a whole office closure two weeks before I moved on so I figured our site was safe.

    1. fposte*

      It’s understandable, I think, just like the regret of leaving us. But hey’ll find places too, and it wouldn’t help them any if you’d gotten laid off alongside them.

  37. anna*

    my coworker got a promotion that was kept very much under wraps and frankly i am sort of angry about it. i have a year of experience on her and she is frankly does not possess that great of a work ethic. we do not have the same manager, so how is the best way to bring my feelings up to my own manager?

    1. KarenT*

      You really can’t bring your feelings about your co-worker to your manager. It will just make you look bitter or jaded that you didn’t get the promotion. It would, however, be good to go to your manager and ask for feedback on why you weren’t selected and what you can improve on to be a stronger candidate next time.

    2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      I would not frame it as having anything to do with your coworker. Advocate for yourself, tell your manager that you’d like to move up and make your case… but talk about how awesome YOU are and what YOU’ve done to deserve this!

    3. Clever Name*

      This is really tough. Was it a promotion that you also applied to? Maybe have a talk with your manager about your goals for career advancement. Keep in mind that there may be other factors that were accounted for in deciding who got the promotion and try not to take it personally. I totally understand that these situations can feel like a referendum on your worth as a person, but they’re not. Hang in there.

  38. Kate the Grate*

    I feel as though I am sabotaging myself at work and vastly underperforming with no obvious consequences, but I am worried it will catch up with me. I’m also just not happy at work. My boss does not provide a lot of oversight. Because no one is specifically holding me accountable for my projects, I wind up completely slacking off, browsing the internet, and doing sub-par work. I would much prefer that my boss give me concrete tasks with deadlines, follow up with me, and provide feedback. However, I am worried that if I ask him to do these things, it will appear that I am backsliding in my career and my ability to self-manage.

    I need advice. Should I ask my boss to provide more direction, tasks, and oversight? Or should I just figure out a way to be more motivated? I am SO much happier when I am accountable to higher-ups and working towards urgent deadlines than when I am just accountable to myself.

    1. LMW*

      I’m rapidly approaching this point myself and could really use advice too. I’m not this type of employee — I’ve never been a slacker, but I’m completely unmotivated because it feels like nothing I do will make a difference. Even when I create my own goals, I don’t get any feedback until after projects are done, when I can’t do anything to change the outcome. It’s making me very depressed. How do you get motivation back when it’s this far gone?

    2. Noelle*

      I had a job like that, and it definitely took its toll. I basically became a sloth at work and in my personal life. I ended up getting out of it by getting a new job, but if that’s not an option, maybe you can try setting deadlines for yourself? I sometimes do that now, so even if there’s not a real deadline I am motivating myself. It also helped me to set some goals in my personal life (going to the gym more, taking classes, etc.). Once I started being more ambitious outside of work, it transferred over to my job too.

      1. De Minimis*

        I have a similar situation at my job [no local accountability for stuff unless things just plain aren’t getting done, lack of direction/knowledge from immediate supervisors.] In my case, the only people that really understand what I do are the people at the regional headquarters, so I try to work more with them in mind.
        Other than that, my goal is more to just be ultra-responsive when people need things from me.

        I agree with the advice about deadlines. I try to have a certain number of goals for each day. It helps that I have a routine number of tasks each month with certain deadlines.

    3. JMW*

      You want your boss to take responsibility for your lack of work ethic? Doesn’t she have enough work of her own to do? If you need more feedback (as LMW does), you should ask for it at the point you need it. Otherwise, I think you need to take responsibility for your own motivation.

      I would suggest writing a weekly summary of what you got accomplished to email to your boss. This sets a personal bar for you, keeps her in the loop, and gives her an easy format for providing feedback (she can just hit reply if she has comments for you). If you want to make sure you get a reply, end your email with a question: “I finished X and Y this week, but am not sure how to proceed with prioritizing tasks for Z. What is your preference?” or “I finished X, which took about 20 hours. Is this what you expected?”

      In addition to motivating yourself, it might also alert your boss to your skills and accomplishments so that she sends more challenging work your way.

      1. De Minimis*

        It may be a case where the boss can’t provide direction on the projects other than to require that they be done.

        The problem may be just the structure and overall culture of the workplace. And some bosses are good at overall administration/management, but can’t provide specific guidance or feedback.

    4. wonkette*

      You sound just like me. I started a new job 4 months ago from a job that was thrilling for me- good manager, tight deadlines, quick feedback, a collaborative environment. For financial reasons, I changed jobs and now I work at a place with low morale, barely there management, no urgency on projects, etc. I love what I do for a living but the office environment is acting like an energy vampire. It’ll be awesome to have some advice on this!

    5. fposte*

      I’m with JMW–this is asking your boss to substitute for internal discipline. (I’ve lately developed a whole theory about wanting to use the manager as superego.) While some of what you’re wanting isn’t unreasonable, you’re at a workplace that clearly expects their employees to provide their own structure, and they’re not likely to take well to your asking for it to come externally.

      You can find a job where there’s a ton of structure, of course, but I think it’d be helpful for you to find a way to create structure yourself. What are your day, week, month, and year goals and targets for this position? What’s success at the end of the day? Do you report it to your manager? What would you like to improve in? What would you like to learn more about?

      Write this all up. Make checklists. Make deadlines and pre-deadlines and draft deadlines. Write what would be excelling, what would be satisfactory, and what would be falling short. When you complete it, self-assess and write why the result was the way it was and what might allow you to improve if improvement is needed. A big part of my job is completely self-structured and I’m feedbackless unless I score something big; like you, I really need structure, and it’s been a learning curve for me to create the kind of thing I’m talking about. I could not get through a week without having my lists of what I’m working toward and what I’m completing.

    6. Sunflower*

      Think about why you are unhappy. And then ask if it’s something you can change. If it’s something you can change within the workplace, talk to your boss. If it’s not, then you need to be looking for a new job.

    7. JMegan*

      Oh my gosh, I’ve been there. I could have written this letter word for word. Including JMW’s response below – there’s no lecture like a self-lecture, I find!

      Ultimately, the only thing that helped me was finding a new job. It’s *really* hard to job search when your motivation is low, of course, but anything you can do in that direction will be helpful.

      If that’s not an option, or if you need something while you’re looking, I found good advice here: (See? You really aren’t the only one!)

      There’s a book referenced in that thread called “Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement” by Kenneth Christian, which I found to be moderately helpful. And also, definitely see your doctor, just in case there’s a medical cause behind it all.

      Good luck. I know how yucky this situation feels, but I also know there is a way out of it!

    8. HR Manager*

      You’ve outlined two issues here – lack of oversight (or hands-on management) and also lack of accountability. You can ask your manager for more guidance. You cannot ask your manager to make you accountable – that is all on you. You either feel responsible for your work or you don’t.

      If you truly find that direction is unclear or more guidance is needed, bring it up with your manager before project deadlines slip and fall to the wayside. Your manager may or may not be able to give you the guidance needed to be successful, but you are responsible for communicating the need to your manager.

      You may need to ask yourself why you don’t feel accountable for the work. You admit to slacking off, which is some self-awareness or insight, but ask yourself — why do I not care about the deadline? Is this something that could be improved with different assignments, a different management style, or a different job? I’m not sure this can be fixed by an outsider, and it’s not fair to ask a manager to fix it for you.

    9. Kate the Grate*

      Thank you all for this useful feedback. It’s good to know that I’m not alone. I really appreciated the link to this previous post, which completely resonates with me: (Thanks, JMegan)

      I completely recognize that this is largely a self-discipline problem. I am not blaming anyone but myself for my underachievement of late. However, there has to be a reason that motivation is so hard to come by in the modern working climate. The ultimate solution may be to switch jobs and do something that riles me up a bit more, but I also want to prove to myself that I can be productive and disciplined in my current role. Some days, it’s easier, and I can get things accomplished. Other days, my entire field of work just feels so pointless.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I get a little leery about labeling things as a self-discipline problem.

        Usually problems like this happen for more than one reason. If you were truly a lazy person you would have noticed that a while ago. So there is probably more than one thing going on. That is good, in a way, because it means that you can tweak some of the stuff and gain ground.

        A while ago, I had a job that required me to work independently. There were days when none of my cohorts showed up for work. It dawned on me that I was lonely! Introverted me wanted company! Another issue that became apparent is that my boss was difficult to get a hold of. This exasperated the loneliness issue! I hope you are laughing here because this is very funny for an introverted person like me. I reflected back on other jobs when I was younger and it fell together for me. I like to work independently but I do not like to work in isolation. I like my boss to give me range but I also need to hear my boss’ voice every so often. And although I do not need much praise, once in a while I do need the boss to toss a compliment or at least express satisfaction over some random thing.

        It took me all these years to figure this out. Motivation/self-discipline comes with being a setting that is good fit for YOU.

        What to do right now? One thing that has helped me is to pretend I am updating my resume. This means I want to add new accomplishments to my list. What can I do today that would go toward a good accomplishment that I can add to my resume? Work on that activity and tell yourself you are building a different tomorrow for you.

      2. afiendishthingy*

        I really struggle with this too, and while I understand where the people who say “Your boss isn’t responsible for your lack of self-discipline” is coming from, I think it also comes down to different people thriving in different kinds of workplaces with different kinds of bosses. I don’t think it makes those of us who have trouble being productive without deadlines bad workers, necessarily – we just need to work in an environment where there ARE deadlines and accountability.

        Your post also makes me wonder if your job is just generally unfulfilling for you. So your boss isn’t making you accountable. How about your coworkers? Are you motivated to come through for them, if you’re working in a team? Do you care about your work, or your clients if that’s applicable? Were you ever passionate about it? What’s changed? And if you just generally don’t like your job, is there anything you do like about it, and could you try to shift to that direction? Good luck!

    10. Dr. Doll*

      While I agree with JMW’s assessment that a lot of motivation has to be intrinsic, I think maybe his or her take is a little harsh (you want to hold the boss responsible for your lack of work ethic, ouch — I don’t think that’s what the OP is saying at all).

      When it seems like no one gives a “rat’s ass” for a looooong time about what you do, that pretty much kills the internal motivation for even the best of us. One of the best people at my institution has recently been going around looking terrible, and it’s because her boss does not care at all what the department does.

      I do like the strategy of checklists, emails, etc., that’s very practical. But don’t take the problem ALL on yourself…except to solve it.

  39. Trixie*

    Speaking for the long-term unemployed (3 years), it’s been a good week. I applied for an entry level admin position and after a “extremely impressive phone interview conversation,” I was asked to apply for a more challenging position that had just posted. And “a better match to my skill set.” Of course no promises on either job, but it was promising on both fronts.
    Also, I applied for a FT position in my field at the organization where I’m a new PT group fitness instructor, and a have phone interview later today. It didn’t hurt that i was an internal candidate, plus a staff member or two who can provide a good, informal reference.
    Yes, it’s been a good week which keeps me motivated while I continue applying for other jobs.

    1. Helen*

      Good luck! I’ve been job hunting forever. Last year, I got interviews (or phone interviews) for about… 2% of jobs I applied to. Now I get contacted about a little less than half of the jobs I apply to. It’s definitely getting better.

  40. Katie NYC*

    I’ve been trying to move from my city government job to the private sector for a few months. I had a few promising interviews, but nothing panned out, and I ended up taking a job in another department in my agency. The job I took is a slight improvement over my last job, but not ideal, mainly a place to learn a few more skills while I restart my job search. Then 3 days after I accepted the internal job, I got an email from one of the companies I interviewed with and loved. They’re still looking to fill a position, and were hoping that I was still interested. So this Monday, I’m moving to my new desk at my current agency, and going in for a final interview at the company I loved. If the company makes me an offer, I’ll probably accept. And I’ll have tell my new manager that I’m leaving less than a month after accepting the job. I’m excited that I’ll be able to make the career move from public sector to private sector that I’ve been working on. But I’m dreading telling people. It’s not cool to quit a job that early….

    Any advice on how best to handle this?

    1. Kate the Grate*

      Yikes. Well, I’d say it’s way better to leave immediately than to leave 3-6 months in. At least you won’t have wasted too much of their time on training.

      1. Katie NYC*

        Yeah, I’m hoping I’ll be able to give notice a few weeks into the new job. The new team is absolutely lovely, but if I get the job I think I will, I’ll be finally able to make the transition I’ve been working on for a long time.

    2. De Minimis*

      I’ve found it’s not as big of an issue in government jobs as it is elsewhere, or at least that’s the case with the federal workplaces I’ve been in. With government jobs you have a lot of people who apply for several jobs at once and they may take one while waiting to hear about another.

      1. Katie NYC*

        I had’t though of that. Thank you. In my case, the process for the government internal move went roughly from August to January. It was so slow that I actually conducted an entire job search while waiting on word about the internal move.

        Anyway, it’s nice to hear you don’t think what I’m planning to do makes me the worst human being ever. I’m excited that this opportunity resurfaced again, but I just feel pre-guilty about potentially quitting a few weeks into a new job.

  41. Dupped Again!*

    How to avoid being duped during the hiring process?

    I have run into this problem enough that I must be doing something wrong. I’ll interview for Role A, ask in depth questions (what’s the day in the life of Role A? What will be the major challenges in this role? What does a typical month, quarter, year look like? Etc).
    Then I get hired and I’m not in role A at all. It turns out that Role A is the hiring manager’s hopes/dreams/goals for what the current role will eventually evolve into. My interest and skillsets lie in Role A, but right now I’m stuck learning how to survive in Role B as well as being tasked with finding a way to evolve the role into what the manager wants it to be.
    A concrete example, in the role I was currently hired into, I was told there were only a few monthly reports needed, but that most of the work was on an as needed and research basis. This really appealed to me, as I love doing research and I tend to get bored easily when I have to complete the same reports month after month. Well I get into the role, and it turns out that “a few” monthly reports is 50. 50! And most of these reports are ones my boss doesn’t feel we should be doing, and he is hoping I will be able to “ease” the people receiving these reports off of them. Well that’s not where my skillset lies; I’m a programmer/mathematician not a politician.
    Has anyone else had this problem? How can you root out when a manager is talking about their ideal vision for the future of this role as opposed to today’s reality of this role? And for the managers out there, have you done this? Are many of these new hires successful in transforming the role, or do they get frustrated/irritated and quit?
    I will say that my experience with this is that there is a lot of entrenched opposition to the transition from higher ups, and that having an outsider with the “future roles” ideal skills hasn’t help to transform it. Usually I try for a year or two to make changes, but get frustrated with the lack of change into the role I applied for and then move on.

    1. Iro*

      Ohmygosh! This!!!

      This happens to me fairly frequently too. The role sounds amazing during interviews, but when I arrive it turns out what they are describing is the role as they hope it will become in the upcoming months/years and they expect me to be the one to get it there.

      I’m new, I have no idea how to change the culture of senior leaders. You manage/own this role, you settle down what it should be and then hire me into it!

    2. Lisa*

      I left a job like this after 6 months. You expect to be doing X, Y, and Z not fighting for 2+ years to before you get to do that. Leave, leave now and be honest why.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      I have to laugh because I know they refer to job descriptions and requirements as such as wish lists, but this brings a whole new meaning to the term! :D

    4. HR Manager*

      You can never truly weed out people who intend to lie to you, unless you have excellent radar for such things. Sometimes there might be changes that were outside of the manager’s control, so it may not be that they intended to mislead in the interview process.

      A few things that may be helpful to ask:
      – Tell me what the first 3 months of someone in this job may look like
      – If I were successful in the first year of this job, tell me what I would have accomplished? or “How would you measure my success in this job in year 1?” and “And long those lines, what might be critical successes for year 2 and beyond?” (note that no one may really give you that far of a roadmap in advance)
      – Tell me about why some of the projects you described aren’t being implemented now (this is assuming they’re describing all sorts of exciting projects and improvements).
      – What do you consider to be my biggest obstacle for accomplishing X?
      – If someone’s been in this job before, ask them what the typical progression in responsibilities has been for those in this job?

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Those are all great questions, but as you said, you can’t really weed out people who are intentionally misleading.

  42. Ask a Manager* Post author

    So, in response to popular demand, I’ve had a design created for a logo for our fictitious Chocolate Teapots company. (You can see it here.) The next step is to pick a source for print-on-demand shirts and mugs. I’d love to hear from anyone with experience with sites like Cafe Press (I have AAM merchandise there currently, but their pricing feels too high to me), Red Bubble, SpreadShirt, or other similar sites. I feel like I’m picking one at random and am interesting if anyone can push me in the right direction (or tell me what wrong direction to avoid).

    1. Cee*

      The design is very cute! My one request is that instead of doing “standard” size 11oz coffee mugs (which always seem too small to me), that you go with larger 15oz coffee mugs, if it’s not too pricey/unworkable.

    2. CollegeAdmin*

      Love the logo! I’ve used Zazzle a couple times with success, but I’ve only done batch orders (e.g., 20 keychains for a class of students), not the kind of online store you’re looking at.

    3. cuppa*

      I’ve run a CafePress store and people were happy with their items, but they can be pricey and I didn’t get nearly as many orders as I had anticipated. We ultimately decided to discontinue the store. However, I will say that I felt that the mugs and t-shirts, although slightly overpriced, were still fairly reasonable (especially because there are a number of options in these areas at different price points) as compared to some of the more specialty items, which I felt were much more overpriced.
      The nice thing about CafePress is that, within reason, you determine the price by setting your profit level over the base price. So, for instance, CafePress will price a mug at $6.99, and then you set your profit level ($1.00 per mug makes the sale price $7.99, $2.00 per much makes the sale price $8.99, etc.)

    4. Claire (Scotland)*

      I like RedBubble. I buy from them quite often, and the items are good quality and are delivered promptly. It doesn’t seem too expensive to me.

      I’ve bought from Cafe Press and Zazzle in the past, but found them to be disappointing quality. And more expensive than I found reasonable.

    5. Betty*

      I have a very small CafePress store. If you are trying to make some $ on CafePress, keep in mind that shoppers can buy through your store (where you set the markup) or through the Marketplace, where CafePress sets the price and the seller gets 10%. IME, the Marketplace prices are lower than the lowest price I can set for my store (even with no markup at all).

      I just had a tote bag sell: If it had sold through my store, the markup I set would have earned me $3, but it sold through the Marketplace and I only earned 46 cents. Ok, that’s 46 cents more than I would have had, but it still seems like a ridiculously small amount!

      Anyway, I’m interested to find out about the other options. One of the other print on-demand sources might be better.

    6. AnotherFed*

      Cafe Press is a little high on some items, but pretty reasonable on others. I think they let you select the base shirts, at least from a few options. Personally, I’m much more willing to pay more for 1 high quality item that I’m confident will last, not fade or shrink or unravel the first time it goes through the wash, than for a couple of cheap things that have to become yard work shirts because I can’t wear them for anything nicer.

      I would also like to request a travel coffee mug option! Open top mugs aren’t a great idea for someone as klutzy as me.

  43. rp*

    Any advice on what I should say to follow up after a job interview when you didn’t send a thankyou? (Yes, I should have)

    My contact email with the company has been through their hiring manager, so I’d send it through her, not the people I interviewed with. I’m just stuck on what to say.

    1. fposte*

      Why can’t this just be the followup if you didn’t send one yet? Can you find the emails of the people who interviewed you and include them?

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Depending on what industry you’re in, you may not need a thank-you note. The follow-up (depending on what you say) can be a kind of thank-you, coupled with a genuine inquiry/follow-up.

  44. KarenT*

    I’ve decided I want to be one of those people who work out on their lunch breaks. Any tips for getting in and out of the gym quickly? My gym has 45 minute classes, so with the 10 minute drive there, changing, class, shower, and 10 minute drive back I figure I’ll be gone 1 1/2 hours if I’m lucky. And I’ll still have to eat…

    1. Trixie*

      If you’re crunched for time, I would look up tabata workouts on Pinterest which could involved some double-duty moves like jump squats or lunge/shoulder press, with a minute of cardio breaks between. If pressed for time, you may want to save the longer group classes for evenings or weekends.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Be a guy? Sorry, I don’t want to be a negative about it, but I have found this impossible without a very extended lunch. The “be a guy” thing just means that men seem to have it easier. They often have short hair that requires little time to dry and style and they wear no make up, both of which depending on complexity really add to a woman’s abulations. So reduce thaose as much as possible.

      If you can avoid getting over heated and sweating a lot (weights instead of cardio) you may not need to wash your hair and you avoid the problem of still being too hot and sweaty even after the shower to apply makeup. (That is a problem my friends and I had in summer. We couldn’t cool down fast enough.)

      If you can leave much of your soap and stuff in the locker room do it, but most likely you can’t so figure out something that’s fast and can be left in your trunk after your work out.

      1. KarenT*

        No, I’m thinking the same as you. I don’t really get how it’s possible, but I’d like it to be. Even if I find time to shower, considering the classes hold 40 people and my gym has 3 women’s showers.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      Could you just lift on lunch gym days and save the cardio days for when you have more time to shower? Eat at your desk before / after your break. Forgo fancy hair and make up and just throw your wet hair in a bun (if you go the full cardio route)?

      1. KarenT*

        I think I’ll have to. I’d rather do the cardio but it sounds like too much of a disruption in my work day.

    4. Colette*

      I do 45 minute classes that are at my workplace (a different building, but not far) and it takes me a full hour and 15 minutes (although I’m often there a little early). Don’t underestimate how long it will take you to get to/from your car on either end. (Maybe you’ve already accounted for that, but I know I often think “oh, it’s a 10 minute drive” without remembering it takes me at least 5 minutes to get to my car.)

      Other than that, minimize your routine as much as possible. I do a quick shower but don’t wash my hair or do makeup afterwards. And, if possible, pack a lunch you can just eat when you get back to your desk – if you have to pick up lunch somewhere, it will take more time.

    5. puddin*

      I recommend yoga during lunch. Get some high quality ‘can’t tell they are yoga pants’ yoga pants. The sweating (for me) is minimal, so I do a baby wipe wash down afterwards and I change my shirt. It works well for me. Good luck with your workouts!

    6. Anon333*

      Is it possible to do a workout closer to the end of the day instead, when your coworkers might be OK with your workout clothes? For instance, take a short lunch and a class at 4:30, and come back to work for an hour right afterward?

  45. Beyonce Pad Thai*

    I had my evaluation on Wednesday and it was very positive! I am so happy. It is such a good feeling working with people who appreciate what you do and support you.

  46. DrPepper Addict*

    QUESTION for you guys: I took a job in sales after graduation to get my foot in the door with a company, who turned out to be unwilling to promote anyone and preferred to hire from the outside. I left this job for another sales job etc. etc. So I have been in sales almost 8 years now and I am very introverted and the only professional experience I have is in sales, and I hate sales. I’m a Myers-Briggs INFP and on the jobs listed that INFP’s hate, #1 is sales and conducting business over the phone.

    I have a young child and a wife who stays at home, so it just wouldn’t work to go back to school because I would also have to work full time. Do you have ANY ideas on how to get out of sales when it’s the only thing I’m “qualified” to do?

    1. thebeesknees*

      Hi DrPepper Addict,

      Sales can be tough. Through your 8 years in sales, was there anything thing you liked, or any skills that you were particularly successful at? There are certain skills that I’m sure you have that are relevant to other types of jobs i.e. client relations, project management, customer service, research, learning about and becoming knowledgeable about new products, just to name a few off the top off my head. Be creative with your job search, searching for jobs that are looking for the skills that you have.

      1. DrPepper Addict*

        Thanks thebeesknees. I am very creative and love the marketing aspect of things, especially if it involves little to no interaction with customers. I’ve applied for several marketing positions and am either beaten out by someone else with more marketing experience, or in a few cases I’ve gotten to a marketing interview and they tell me “We actually have a sales job open we think would be a better fit for you, so we’re going to interview you for that job instead.”

        Thanks for the advice. I will definitely put it to use.

        1. HR Manager*

          A marketer who is looking to avoid customers probably won’t fly unless you do something so niche like database marketing or marketing analytics. Most marketing jobs do involve some client interaction, and of course knowing your customer is key, and the best way to do that is to talk to the customer.

          You should take the skills you’ve gained working in sales and see if you can leverage that into other roles. What did you enjoy — presentations? Working with sales/CRM systems? Pouring over details of sales contracts? Explaining a product or training a client on how to use it? Sales folks are expected to know the product well and can often be a way into non-sales jobs within the same company. Do you like the sales people? Were you successful? How about looking into sales training? Taking that experience and applying it in a new way will be easier than just looking to scrap that 8 yrs worth of experience and starting from scratch.

    2. LillianMcGee*

      I hate hearing about how people feel trapped in a particular job/career because it’s all they have experience in. It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to cost you a lot of time, effort, and emotional strength but if you hate what you’re doing, you gotta do something else!

      1. DrPepper Addict*

        Yeah, I’m willing to do anything, but the money on something entry level or admin related might not be enough to support a family. The money in a lot of cases is prohibitive.

    3. Katie NYC*

      I feel your pain, sales sounds tough (I’m also and introvert). But you’ve been doing it for 8 years – you must have a strong skill set in sales.

    4. puddin*

      Have you looked into purchasing? Your negotiating skills would transfer well. And while there is some interaction with the vendors, but as the customer you dictate the method and frequency of that (to some extent). You might have to take a more jr position to start, but they pay may be better overall. IN addition, there are usually more career development opportunities. Sales leads to more sales as you are finding out. Purchasing opens up the whole supply chain. In many cases you would be working with marketing as well (developing strategies for the items you are buying), so you would get more exposure to that side of the business. We just had a purchaser move over to marketing at my company. If this is a direction you are interested in, you might want to consider re-writing yourself or hiring a resume writer to help you re-word your resume, emphasizing the skill set that would transfer over.

      1. DrPepper Addict*

        That’s interesting. Hadn’t thought about purchasing. I’ll definitely look into that. Thank you.

    5. Ordinary Supervisor*

      With 8 years experience could you start looking for a management role in sales where you’d be focused more on leading a team vs. doing actual sales?

      I’m not in sales so not sure if that’s how management roles work in the sales arena but that could potentially lead to a leadership role outside of sales.

  47. Carrie in Scotland*

    I have now been in my current job since June and I went from a very dysfunctional org to an academic one and I just feel like I used to be a superstar but now I am not.

    Recent instances include: taking a student to entirely the wrong building and not re-sizing the print area in an excel document for a meeting.

    Has anyone had this/felt like this? (It is perhaps down to other factors such as well)

    1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      These are such small things I wouldn’t worry about it at all! Maybe you just need a day off to relax and ‘reset’ a bit so you find your focus again.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      It took me about a year in my current job before I actually felt like I knew what I was doing :/

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I do have a 3 day weekend in a fortnight and then at the end of Feb, a 2 day working week.

        Thanks…like I said, it might be down to other factors as well that’s making me feel like this.

    3. GOG11*

      I hate driving on campuses because everything is so poorly labeled and difficult to find. I work in academia as well and I could see myself doing this.

      I’ve been in my role for about a year and a half and at this organization for about a year longer than that. There are so many little details, policies, procedures, etc. to remember and it can be tough. I’ve started documenting processes that I know will come up again so I can remember “oh, yeah, that form has odd margins so I need to adjust for that.” Maybe that could help too? In academia, things tend to be spaced out just far enough apart that you can’t quite remember how you did it the last time.

    4. Jennifer*

      Yup. I’ve never felt so bad about myself in a job as I do my particular one. I think I ruined my reputation, honestly.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I have to agree with the others that these are not huge things, sure you hoped not to do that stuff, but really it’s not that bad.

      I say give it a year. You are half way to the 12 month mark- keep going. In June compare how you feel currently with how you have been feeling at your worst.

      The job I have now, the running joke is at the six month mark two things happen. One day you say to yourself, “Wait! I am actually GETTING this!” A few days later you crash to a new low and realize, “I will never, ever understand this job!” And very slowly I realized, no one else “gets it” either and some how this is all okay.

      We get used to whatever environment we are in. Give yourself a chance to get used to it. It sounds like there is nothing major wrong here and you basically like the job. Just keep going.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        I’m always cheered to read other people’s accounts of this and know I’m not alone. I’m about to hit the 6 month mark at my current job, which is my first since finishing my masters and a professional certification. I did related work full-time for 5 years before starting this job, but it was a) at a paraprofessional level with much less responsibility and b) in a very different setting, for the most part. Not So New Reader’s comments are right on – I am finally starting to feel like I am STARTING to know how to do my job, except when I am sure I’ll never get used to it. I ran an intake meeting for a new client last week, the third one I’ve done, and left thinking “Well, I still didn’t really know what I was doing, but I think I faked it pretty well.”

        Anyway, think how boring it is to have a job you can master in a few weeks – I had a couple of those in my early 20s and they were really lame and repetitive. It most definitely sucks to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, but I think everyone does something.

  48. yuku*

    Just venting: There’s a secretary at my firm who has the worst attitude. She’s not my responsibility or anything, but I work with the attorney she supports and she also sits outside my office, where her loud and penetrating complaints (which are frequent and long lasting) get piped into my office if I don’t shut the door (which I don’t like to do since we have an open office culture). NONE of the other secretaries gripe like this woman does, and while she may have valid complaints about HR, or the weather, or anything, she has to vocalize it to the whole darn office and it drives me nuts. I know I can’t do anything so I’m just venting, that and I feel a little guilty how much I wish she’d leave, but that’s extremely unlikely since she’s already been here ages. She was also the one who would deliberately mispronounce my korean name because it was amusing to her and only stopped after an attorney told her off (I had just been hired and was reluctant to push back).

    1. Ellie the EA*

      Would there be any viable reason you could ask to move to a different office – closer to your team, etc.? Unless, of course you’d still hear her no matter where you sit.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Blargh, she sounds like a beast. Can you move? I’d be so tempted to ask her to keep it down (politely, though I would feel like telling her to can it before I shoved an office chair up her nose).

    3. fposte*

      She might already be under some scrutiny–I’m really glad the lawyer told her to dial the funny-name stuff back, because that is obnoxious, and I suspect it also put her on the radar if she wasn’t there already.

  49. Tiffany Youngblood*

    What do y’all think about having a testimonial from LinkedIn listed on a resume? I’ve seen some examples and read some articles on it and I don’t hate it. I’m just wondering what hiring managers think of it? Is it one of the bad pieces of advice floating around the internet? I’ve done so a couple times when I had a testimonial I could use that spoke to something to do with the job I was applying for. For example, I applied for a Manager of Volunteers job, and added a testimonial at the top of my resume from a current supervisor for a project I work as volunteer coordinator for (as an intern).

    1. Trixie*

      Not a fan of LI referrals in general but it takes up valuable space on your resume. They’re completely subjective, and don’t really illustrate what you did to serve said testimonial. Think more about highlighting your accomplishments, and what you did that somebody else wouldn’t have done nearly as well.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’ve seen Alison talk about them before and she doesn’t think they are worth the paper they’re written on.

      The main reason they aren’t very good is people will be less candid when they know the person they are talking about can see what has been written

      I’m sure if you do a search for Linkin on here you’ll find Alison’s thoughts.

    3. Kara Ayako*

      I’m personally not a fan. As a hiring manager, I would check LinkedIn anyway, and I’d rather see on your resume what YOU think are your big accomplishments.

    4. brightstar*

      My thoughts:

      Anyone could leave a LinkedIn testimonial.
      Why is this person willing to do that but not serve as a reference?

    5. Sunflower*

      I don’t think they’re worth the space on your resume. Your resume shows that you could be a fit for the job. Everything else kind of affirms that. Having someone say ‘she’s great to work with’ isn’t going to get you an interview for a job that your resume alone isn’t going to get you.

    6. HR Manager*

      I think LinkedIn recommendations can be helpful on LI, but only LI. Different medium, different world. Leave it off a resume.

  50. De Minimis*

    My wife had her phone interview yesterday for a senior position at her previous employer. She thought it went well, but knows it could go either way. We are trying to figure out what to do about my job, our house, etc., if she does get the job and what timeline would work. They told her it would at least be two weeks before she can expect to hear anything.

    I’m anxious about leaving my job, moving, looking for work again [was long term unemployed before this position] and just want to get it resolved to where I have a better idea what lies ahead. Also just don’t know how to handle giving notice at work. They will not be prepared for it at all and I’m wondering if there’s any way to deal with it without burning some kind of bridge. The bad part is, this is the only position I’ve had where I’ve really gotten good work experience, so it could cause me trouble later on if we part on bad terms. The only good part is that it’s likely I could give a pretty extended notice period, but the way my employer does things [it’s a federal job] I don’t think they can really do an effective transition. There is no one else here who performs my job function….

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Well they’ll have to get it together and do it, won’t they?

      I’d do what I could to ease the transition as much as possible, if she gets the job (fingers crossed). It’s really not your problem because it’s on them to be prepared if you were to be hit by a bus, etc. But extended notice if possible, being available for questions afterward for a specified time, etc. might help.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’ve thought about maybe documenting how to do my regular tasks, which is actually something I began doing when I was investigating a transfer opportunity back in the summer, so I may get back to putting that together.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Good idea. Someone who had a job prior to me did this for her successor, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciated it. I’ve adopted this habit and do procedurals for everything now. It actually helps me to write them when I’m learning–it reinforces what I’m being taught.

  51. Shell*

    Okay, repost of my conference question. (My apologies to Alison again!)

    For those of you who attend conferences related to your field of work: do you get paid for the hours of attendance? Say it’s a conference relevant to your work/can improve the knowledge of your field/whatever. I know often employers will pay for your ticket/lodging/flight (and some people even negotiate this when they come into a new job and expect to be going to a conference they’re interested in), but for the hours attending the conference, would that be on your time or company time? Is there laws to this effect?

    I’m not talking about a trade show or something where you’d actively be representing your company (pulling new clients or whatever); in that case I think it’s obvious that you should be paid. But I’m thinking more like a learning opportunity where they discuss new teapot technology or whatever.

    Inquiring minds want to know!

    1. Judy*

      When I’ve attended conferences, I’ve been paid for the time, in the sense that I didn’t have to take vacation days. I’ve always been exempt when I’ve gone, but my employers have always considered them as professional development. I’ve certainly not been paid overtime, or comp time for conferences, just like any other business travel.

      I will say that for the annual conferences related to my field, at my last company they set up a schedule, where you might get to go every 4 years or so, they only take 4 or 6 people, and we have 20+ people in my role at my former employer.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I would expect to be paid for the conference time as long as the company paid to send me there. In fact I would find it odder for the company to pay travel and hotel and not pay those hours as work time.

      I could see employee being told that work won’t pay for a conference, employee deciding to pay their own way, and then neogiating not having to take leave/time-off for those days. It’s because the company expects and budgets to pay your salary every day so it is an expected expense versus conference and travel which are not necessarily expected and budgetted for.

      I do think like a salaried person though.

    3. Cheddar*

      I was paid. I am non-exempt and my union contract specifies that travel and time in attendance must be paid. I didn’t count any optional/fun events towards the time.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      I have always been paid (although it’s been years since a company was willing to invest any money in me like that). I’ve been paid whether it was a conference, trade show where I worked, or training I was getting. In addition, the travel time was something that they allowed me comp, so if I had to travel on my own time, I could take off early from work. So essentially, travel time was also paid.

    5. Shell*

      I’m really surprised by the replies! I’d always assumed conferences were treated like professional development courses; so, the organization will reimburse you for tuition (or pay it outright at time of registration), but if you’re taking an evening class on Teapot Tempering it doesn’t count as being on the clock (otherwise there’d be a lot of overtime for non-exempt people). Of course the time spent on it doesn’t get taken out of your PTO pool, but I’d never expected to get paid for it.

      Is the difference due to in the evening class example, you’re still putting in your regular hours, whereas a conference will probably be during your regular hours and thus your hours are short if you don’t get paid?

      1. The IT Manager*

        I don’t know why, but I see the evening class (even with tuition assitance) and the conference as very different in how you should be re-imbursed for your time.

        Perhaps because the evening class has greater concrete benefits to you – diploma, certificate – which you take with you and conferences do not. They benefit you, but saying “I attended the World Teapot Conference last year” isn’t going to be the equivalent of saying “I’ve gotten a certificate in Teapot Tempering” when job hunting.

        I think the conference is like the training class the company sends you to during the day. Additionally for your analogy “tuition assitance” to be does not necessarily convey full payment for the class and may or may not be related to your duties. In a number of cases tuition assistance is a perk, like for the military where members can get a degree in anything no matter what their current job is.

    6. Lia*

      We get paid in that it does not count as vacation days. BUT — two of the major conferences in our field start on weekends and have one day of sessions on a federal holiday. We do not get comp time for those, which is really, really annoying (we are all exempt). So, last year, I left on a Saturday for a conference (after working M-F) at 5 a.m., attended sessions that day, Sunday, and Monday (which was a holiday), left for home Tuesday afternoon when the conference ended, and came back to work Wed a.m. to work Wed-Friday.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, that’s how it is for us.

        But Shell, I think that some answers may be from exempt employees and some from non-exempt, so that may confuse things further.

    7. JC*

      Yes. Well, kind of. I attend conferences and don’t take leave for them during work hours (and have all expenses paid by my employer). But I am exempt and we don’t get comp time/overtime for travel, so if the conference spans a weekend and/or I have to travel in the evening, I do not get paid extra.

      I am a researcher and going to conferences is part of my job. I make presentations of my organization’s work at some conferences. When I’m just attending, I am there to represent my organization and learn about new research that I can bring back to my organization to inform our research programs.

    8. hermit crab*

      Where I work (an environment where billable hours are important), the firm will often give half the time (billed to our professional development account) and expect that you either take vacation for the other half or work during the off-times/otherwise make up the other half with billable work. That seems fair to me. If it’s a topic that is important to a particular client, you can sometimes get direction to go to the conference and provide notes or whatever, and there’s your billable work.

    9. skyline*

      At my org, it depends on whether the conference was optional or required, and also whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt. But it’s pretty much paid. If a non-exempt employee went to an optional multi-day conference, they’d definitely be paid for travel time/days, but wouldn’t be paid for more than 8 hours in the day. (No counting happy hour as work time!) As an exempt employee, I’m paid and don’t need to use leave, and also can take a travel day before the conference begins and after the conference ends. It means I don’t have to rush straight from the airport to the conference center (or the reverse), and it balances the fact that most conferences in my industry are over weekends. I don’t get additional comp time or leave days for conferences over the weekend. But my leave is so generous (and I have so much banked) that this does not bother me.

  52. Purple Scissors*

    Has anybody ever been able to get out of a residency requirement at their jobs? My friend works for the county forest preserves (in an absolutely non-emergency position) and he’s required to live in the county. Unfortunately, the county is not a nice place to live (rural, disconnected, no nightlife or culture of any kind, etc) and it’s really making him depressed. Any thoughts on how to negotiate an exception to this rule? In the past it’s been iron-clad with no exceptions (the board wants to keep tax dollars in county, they don’t even make a pretense of it being related to the work they do). Right now he’s trying to find other jobs that would let him live wherever he wants, but that hasn’t been super successful.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t see a likelihood of an exception, unfortunately. I doubt he’s got anything to negotiate with–if he’s valuable enough to have leverage, he’s high-up enough for the exception to be prominent, which is just what they don’t want.

      That’s also a pretty common rule for municipal/county (maybe even state, who knows) work; it’s not universal, but they’re not out of step with this requirement.

      1. Purple Scissors*

        Yeah, it’s not uncommon around here and the best way around it is probably to just get another job. Though he’s hoping that their new executive director might be willing to be a bit more lenient, but that’s really a long shot. Is there a good way to take advantage of this shift to see if this might be a potential change?

    2. Anx*

      I am hoping to hear examples of ways around this.

      My state was only hiring for a certain positions in one end of the state, over 30 minutes away. I eventually moved out of state because I could not find openings in the areas I lived. I would have moved, but not until I had a job.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Residency requirements by me are really strict. Sorry, that is Debbie Downer news. Can you find an area on the edge of this county near a larger city in a neighboring county? I am very close to two other counties here. One of the other counties has Fairly Well Known Town with plenty to do. Best case scenario, I could live twenty minutes away from Fairly Well Known and still be in my county.

  53. Sara The Event Planner*

    I’m in a situation right now where there is just TOO MUCH teamwork! Our new department head is huge on pushing teamwork and collaboration, to the point where it’s actually slowing down progress. People are running every tiny decision by other people, just so they can say that it was a team effort. The amount of cooks in the kitchen is ridiculous. And honestly, my coworkers and I are starting to feel slightly insulted, and like there’s not a ton of faith in our individual abilities. I’m all for teamwork, but I also think we should let people do what they’re good at. Has anyone been in a similar situation, and is there any way to bring it up to our boss? How would a conversation like that go?

    1. HR Manager*

      Do you have real results to show your boss that decisions or projects are being slowed down due to too many people’s opinions? I think that will be the best antidote for your problem. If that’s not the case, than confirm that a group consensus is needed on those occasions.

      I have had conversations with my manager that made it clear that I will gather and weigh the collective feedback and input of the “stakeholders” – but the decision itself is mine or limited to the few key decision makers. Usually this is not a problem; most of my managers know that you can’t have too many exec chefs in the kitchen.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      How groups make decisions is a huge topic.

      Can you ask your group if they are willing to assign certain decisions to certain people? Then
      agree that is the best person to decide and the group will go with the decision that person feels is best?

      Does your department head sit in on these collaborative discussions? If no, he probably should. Maybe you could tell him that the group is rather rudderless and needs some steering/guidance from him.

    3. LoFlo*

      Yes I have been in this situation and it is ridiculous. It was really hard to manage when you had three different levels of workers, and management did understand that the data entry people should not be worrying about the analyst work. I also had to read other peoples’ emails just in case there was a question. Literally, 100 emails a day, and then I would get quizzed on if I read the one about x or y.

      The point I make about team work, isn’t is doesn’t mean we all have to be involved in the same work, we just need to do our own work well so everybody can do their work well.

  54. Noelle*

    I am in drastic need of advice/encouragement/motivation. My job has been killing me this month. 60+ hour work weeks, tons of new projects, constant “crises” (more because our office is geared towards *ignore it now, panic later* and unfortunately I’ve come to be known as the person who can handle it when other people drop the ball), etc. I feel like I’m constantly overwhelmed without ever getting a chance to recharge. I am trying to say no to more projects but often that’s just not an option. I’ve been looking for new jobs because the situation here is not going to change, but it’s hard to motivate myself to do that either. Do you guys have any advice on keeping from feeling overwhelmed, and recharging when it seems like work has taken over your life?

    1. The IT Manager*

      I don’t get called in on nights and weekends and don’t have work email on my mobile so when I am away, I am away. In times like you describe, I try to get away on a short vacation – maybe just the weekend, maybe take a Friday and make it a three day weekend to a nearby vacation spot. Even though I am not working on weekends at home, I have my chores and other things that might make it not relaxing so getting away helps. I’ve even occassional done something as simple as made firm plans to see a movie in a theater (which I rarely do) because it seems more like a treat than watching a movie on my TV.

      I would not plan to do things on the week nights because then I just want to get home and fall into bed. I would make an extra effort to try to get to bed early if possible.

      1. Noelle*

        Thanks, I will try that! I definitely have been trying to do too much on weekends and after work when I probably should just head home and not think about work. I actually did turn off the blackberry tonight and it’s already helping – although I’m sure I will get a lecture for not being responsive when I’m back in the office on Monday!

      1. Noelle*

        Unfortunately my boss is one of the big contributors to this problem. He assigns me stuff constantly and if I tell him I don’t have time for a new assignment he starts attacking me about, “how long could it really take?” “We all have to stay late once in a while” (even though I am now routinely staying 1-2 hours late every day and working through lunch), “it’s just one tiny assignment,” etc.

  55. Cara*

    Today is the day I’ve decided to tell my boss that I’m pregnant. I’m so nervous! She’s been talking a lot lately about how glad she is that I’m doing well in this role, because it means that she will finally be able to go on a vacation and trust that things will be covered while she’s gone. That’s great to hear, but I’m worried that this is going to be a huge disappointment to her. Especially since I’m mid-second trimester – I only have a few months before I’ll have to take time off. I wish I’d told her earlier, but I felt uncomfortable doing so since my pregnancy has been so high risk (although things have settled down somewhat) and I didn’t want to have to involve her in my health drama. Eek!

    Anyone wanna give me a script for telling her, “by the way, I’m pregnant not just fat, but I promise I’m not going to quit to be a stay at home mom, and I’m not planning on taking a year of leave or anything crazy”?

    1. LillianMcGee*

      I say just tell her the date you expect to give birth/start leave and how long you expect to be out and leave the ball in her court.

    2. ACA*

      “I’m thrilled that you have such faith in me, but I wanted to let you know that you may want to ask Leticia to cover while you’re gone instead – I’m expecting and due in [month]. Right now I plan to be back to work in [later month], but it won’t be possible for me to cover during your vacation this time around.”

      (And congratulations!)

    3. Lizzy May*

      Congratulations! I agree that you should be matter of fact about when you’re due and how long you anticipate being off. Because you’re past the first trimester when people normally announce, if your comfortable you can mention that you held off announcing because of health concerns. A reasonable boss will totally understand and be excited for you.

    4. Selkie*

      Slightly off topic, but it does make me sad that a year’s mat leave is considered ‘crazy’.

      And congratulations!

  56. Shell*

    Second post just to toot my own horn a little. I’m exhausted.

    Handed in my three-weeks notice for my current job; last day is this coming Wednesday. In that time I’ve written them an 85 page custom manual for one of our software (it has its own, but mine addresses certain functions that aren’t spelled out in the original manual for whatever reason, plus ours is customized to my company). Granted, about half of it is screenshots (highlighted as appropriate), but…still. Yay me! This is on top of the things I usually do.

    Gonna write up a task-list/daily duties/monthly duties for my replacement (who hasn’t been hired yet) too, so hopefully it’ll be an easy adjustment despite not having in-person training. My desk is cleared out, my emails (mostly) archived, and I’ll leave my job in good conscience.

    I’ll really miss this place! Boss #3 left for a trip yesterday so he won’t see me on my last day, but he hugged me goodbye.

  57. Leaving for another job*

    How do you organize non-work sponsored farewell after-work drinks? I know its not professional to send an email to the entire office stating “by the way, drinks after work! bye felicia!” or something to that effect. Word of mouth? Skyping people throughout the day (seems a little bit “exclusive” or clique-y to me)? Just casually mentioning it when someone comes to say goodbye to me?

    1. MaryMary*

      Oh, I’ve scheduled happy hours on people’s outlook calendars! Depending on curcumstances, sometimes I’ve scheduled my own (“I’ve loved working with you all, please join me to The Bar for a farewell happy hour”) or sometimes my manager or a close coworker has organized it for me. I also usually add “please forward to anyone I may have missed” so if anyone was accidentally excluded, they don’t feel like it was deliberate.

    2. Leaving for another job*

      I am sure my job would not appreciate me sending a company-wide email about non-work sponsored social drinks as they are very unhappy I’m leaving and have been a bit salty all along the way :) Right now I’m thinking word of mouth and mentioning to anyone who might ask.

    3. Gwen*

      A mass-email wouldn’t be out of the ordinary in my office; otherwise, people will often email a few coworkers they’re closest to what the plan is and tell them to feel free to invite whoever, so it kind of organically spreads to the people who would be interested.

    4. hermit crab*

      We totally email-blast the entire office — plus the other office in our metro area, just in case! But for whatever reason, it always comes from the person’s manager or close coworker and not the actual person who’s leaving.

    5. Collarbone High*

      Now I really want someone in my office to leave so I can send a mass email with the subject line “Bye Felicia”

  58. LillianMcGee*

    So there’s this lawyer I work with who I’m constantly defending to other people, even though I don’t condone his behavior either! He’s just unpleasant! Which I know, I know, goes with being a lawyer, but this is legal aid. He’s supposed to be a hippie lawyer, but instead he’s firmly in the Ron Swanson archetype…

    We paralegals just get so riled up when he sends an email, SUBJECT LINE ONLY “Please do X.” We really plummet into Rage Canyon when we’ve made a boo-boo and he points it out to us in another subject-line-only email with no request on how he’d like us to handle it or improve or anything. Is it so much to ask that he take the time to actually type in the body of the email, and say something like… “Hey guys, can you please do X at some point today? Also, I noticed that Y wasn’t put in properly and I really need that to be done correctly. Thanks.”

    He’s mean to our boss too, who is a terrible supervisor (who knows it) so we all just kind of let this curt, uncommunicative meathead do as he pleases. I mean, I stand up to him when he’s unjustly attacking my staff. But our boss won’t quash the poor behavior. I wonder if there’s anything else I can do.

    1. Anie*

      The examples you give aren’t exactly matching the behavior you’re describing, to me anyway. I don’t really see subject line emails as “mean” or “attacking.” My boss sends things like that to be all the time. It means she’s busy, the issue is minor, and she’s confident in my abilities.

      Is this man hurtful and condescending in person?

      1. LillianMcGee*

        You’re right, I didn’t exactly support my claim there, did I?

        He is not a bully, he’s just stern, curt, obstinate, humorless (most of the time), and utterly unhelpful and unappreciative. His most recent shenanigan was going out of his way to use an old form that we had asked him to stop using a week ago. He resists change like a cat over a bathtub.

        Maybe we’re too sensitive because the rest of our staff is pretty hippie-dippie. But him notwithstanding, that is the culture we want!

        1. Anie*

          Even the little things can become huge obstacles if there’s a lot of them. And something you’d normally dismiss or forgive in someone you like can be horrible coming from someone you dislike.

          It’s awful to be stuck working with that kind of person. A few years ago, I worked with a woman like that. She was lazy and full of herself, but she’s been there forever so managment always kinda shrugged when I brought up examples of her appalling behavior. Once, she screamed at me (literally) in front of customers because she thought I’d messed something up (I hadn’t). I learned that some people can’t be reasoned with. So I ignored her or spoke with her the minimum amount required. I figured she’s either die or retire. And eventually she did retire! Took 5 years though….

          Good luck. It doesn’t help much, but just remember that you’re clearly the better person, in many ways.

        2. Jennifer*

          There is one guy at my work who just brings out the rage in me when he e-mails like that. In person he’s perfectly fine, I don’t know why his abruptness in e-mail is such a turnoff.

          However, I doubt telling him to use more words and soften the blow is going to happen for you. He does not sound receptive to such correction. Even if you phrase it as “Please don’t say it like that.”

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      If it makes you feel better, this is how my dad thinks email works. I’ll often get an email titled “Saw this movie today and thought of you” or “Are you not sick yet” or “I bought a funny T-shirt at the thrift store”

      Some people just don’t use email bodies….

        1. fposte*

          This takes me back–my mother told me that back in the day when long distance was hugely expensive, she’d dial a friend person-to-person (when you only got charged if the actual person you wanted answered, and the operator would tell them who was calling) and give her caller name as a code: “It’s Mrs. Baltimore September Tripp.” The callee would then deny being there and there’d be no charge for the call.

          I doubt she did it more than a time or two–it sounds like a bit of a PITA, and she wasn’t a big rule-flouter. But I was amused to see that the approach has been renewed in email.

          1. Big Tom*

            Some phone company or another had a great commercial along those lines years ago. It was about collect calling when you’d have to say your first and last name so the recording could tell whoever you were calling and they’d have the option of accepting the call (and charges). They showed a guy calling his parents from the hospital saying his name was “Bob WeHadABabyIt’sABoy,” so the parents could reject the call.

    3. Sadsack*

      For the record, not all lawyers are unpleasant as work colleagues or as human beings in general.

  59. Ali*

    So as of typing this, I haven’t heard anything from the nonprofit I interviewed with. I also didn’t have a ton of motivation to job search this week—not because I was waiting on them, but because I didn’t see much that appealed to me and I admit I’m not sure what my next step will be.

    Things at Current Job still suck. I went on their careers page the other day and saw my job posted! I don’t know of anyone else on our team who’s resigning, so I’m a bit worried they’re stringing me along and will fire me as soon as they replace me. My boss who used to be nice to me has turned very snide and rude. He told me yesterday that it wasn’t an option to have my old role back because I make too many mistakes…even though I excelled in my old job because there wasn’t as much to remember in terms of protocol other procedures. He made me call him on the phone so he could tell me that. I wish he had just e-mailed me. (I work remotely.) My more formal action plan, which was due to me this week, still isn’t done.

    I’m worried about my next step because so many jobs want someone who is detail oriented, and I am definitely not good at catching every little thing. I’m working my way through What Color is Your Parachute right now hoping to find some answers, and until then, I just keep being strung along at work. It’s awful going in every day not knowing when the axe will fall.

    1. Sail On, Sailor*

      I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with this. Hang in there! And keep up the search. There’s a job out there that you’ll do well in.

  60. Daenerys Targaryen*

    I posted last month about waiting on the results of a background check, and got great advice from everyone here (be patient! mentally move on!).

    Happy news all around — the background check came back with no issues, and I ended up accepting a great offer. I start my new position in a little over a week!

    Thank you so much to everyone who responded to me on that open thread — this is such a great resource and community!

  61. Katie the Fed*

    I’m moving toward putting an employee on a PIP. It’s one of those situations where the person is clearly trying, but just really not getting it.

    It’ll be a few more months – I need to do a written warning first.

    It’s hard too to define very clear goals for a PIP or warning when a lot of our type of work is to do iniative projects, work independently, etc. Someone at this level should not be needing this much guidance on everything.

    1. Purple Scissors*

      I feel your pain. PIPs are really challenging when what they’re failing at isn’t necessarily quantifiable — which seems to correlate with higher-level folks. I have someone I feel needs to have that kind of wake-up call, but I know HR won’t accept instructions of “take more initiative” or “have a better attitude” as actionable steps. For somebody who’s had their job for 20 years, this kind of stuff shouldn’t need to be said.

      1. De Minimis*

        Is it that one internal transfer person?

        Maybe it could be something where the employee had to initiate or lead a certain number of projects, or maybe head up a workgroup of some kind?

        1. Katie the Fed*

          oh I like that.

          I’m hoping he turns things around before we get to that point. If I don’t see noticeable improvement in a month, it’s going to get a lot uglier. :(

      2. Katie the Fed*

        “For somebody who’s had their job for 20 years, this kind of stuff shouldn’t need to be said.”

        YES. That. You should just be better at your job!

    2. Margali*

      “It’s one of those situations where the person is clearly trying, but just really not getting it.”

      Oh, those are hard. My husband had to deal with one of those in his former position. In this case the employee wasn’t bad enough to fire, but wasn’t good enough to promote.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        What REALLY pisses me off are all the managers before me who let this stuff slide. He should have never been in this position in the first place.

        1. brightstar*

          From your response I take it that this is the internal transfer that was “gifted” to you?

    3. cuppa*

      I swear Alison had an article about this recently. About talking about performance issues that are hard to quantify?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! You guys who enjoy my stuff here should also subscribe to The Management Center’s newsletter, which generally has more stuff that I write (like this piece above).

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            yes! yes you should! There was a great resource last week on finding the right words to addres for slippery performance issues.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Katie, I came to post about a similar situation!

      One of my employees isn’t great about taking initiative or working independently, especially when compared to the rest of the team. At first I really tried to accommodate by offering additional instruction and coaching. How do you retrain someone in these areas in a short amount of time? At this point, I’m worrying that it’s just a bad fit. It would all be so much easier if the employee had a “I don’t give a shit” attitude. It’s harder when they’re trying but not making progress.

    5. HR Manager*

      Same boat here. A sincere employee but head in the clouds (or sometimes lives on a different planet). Not a lot of business sense, common sense, and big picture. I predicted to the old manager and my manager that this move would be a bust, and lo and behold – a few months in and the new manager wants to fire the employee. We’ll do PIP, but the person is not succeeding at almost any part of the job, and it’s a big uphill climb. If the person responded to the manager’s feedback, it could’ve been salvaged but the person doesn’t even know how to do that. Since I can’t gloat to the old manager who has since left – I’ll do that here – I told you so!!

    6. AnotherFed*

      I’m way late to the party, but can totally commiserate. It’s hard when they are sort of trying, and it totally sucks as a fed to try to compile evidence to fire someone for things that boil down to lack of initiative and inability to figure out what they should be doing without micromanagement.

      Is this person able to do the really basic job duties? If someone did the more strategic aspects, could he execute the day to day tasks? If he can’t even do those when they’re spelled out for him, it might be easier to write things up that way. Of course, this could backfire if he really can do the basics and is just too lazy to do so regularly.

      Alternatively, is it that he’s not doing well at project management-type things – not planning and budgeting well, not handling potential issues before they become problems, being unclear about scope and which work he does and doesn’t do (or should and shouldn’t do), not clearly communicating problems and decisions to stakeholders, etc.? That’s harder, but you can still fall back on PM metrics for these. For example, if he isn’t handling potential problems before they become issues, then he needs to develop a risk management process and document risks, decisions on what to mitigate and what to accept, and resolution. If he’s not planning out and scope projects, make him develop a project plan (or portfolio plan or strategic plan if it’s not 1 project but many related ones) that shows how he’s going to get from here to wherever the organization expects to go/be. It’s painful to deal with all that paper sometimes, but if he does it badly, then there’s plenty of examples then.

  62. Anon just in case anyone knows me*

    I had a phone interview for an internal position this week, and I don’t feel that I did the best that I could. I was in the middle of a crazy day, and I really wasn’t expecting one of the first questions they asked me, and it just really threw me off of my game. I don’t feel that I did poorly, but there was one question that they asked that I would definitely have changed my answer if I could. Since this was an internal interview, I know that they know me and my work and my abilities, so it’s not as if I came off the street and did this. Should I follow up on the internal interview or let it go? There is still hopefully potential if I get a face-to-face to redeem myself. I’m just trying to decide if I’m being appropriately proactive or too overzealous.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Yes, I would definitely send a follow up email, same as I would for an external position. Maybe a tad less formal (depending on your work culture). It’s a perfect opportunity to revise or clarify an answer that you feel like you fumbled.

  63. Not a Mean Girl*

    Just wondering how people deal with cliques at the workplace? It’s a real girls’ club where I work. I’m a young woman, but I don’t fit into the established clique. Think Mean Girls at the office. And it can get pretty frustrating when it feels like merit and recognition is based on who you suck up to.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Ugh. That is tough.

      The only thing that I have ever come up with it to treat everyone in the same even-handed, fair manner. This means working yourself into a position where you can go up to anyone and have a conversation. In doing this, you rise above the clique. The drawbacks include that it takes a while to do this and it takes nerves of steel to remain committed to this method. And even on good days it will not feel like you are winning.

      But think about it this way- they get their so called power from each other. If you have a working relationship with everyone around you- your power comes from a broader group of people.

    2. Anie*

      Man, I’ve never worked in any other kind of atmosphere, at this point.

      Ass-kissing sucks, but I’ve gotten pretty good at faking it. And honestly, in one case, I faked it for enough years that we actually came to like each other marginally.

  64. CollegeAdmin*

    In a follow up to the post earlier this week about the best time of day to fire someone:

    What do you think is the best time of day to resign?

    1. LillianMcGee*

      And leave immediately, or give notice? If one of my staff were to leave immediately, I’d prefer a Friday so I could take the weekend to process and then start fresh Monday with distributing the weekly tasks.

      1. De Minimis*

        Good question, want to hear more opinions!

        And yes, what about giving notice? I’m inclined to do it in the morning, whatever day of the week it would be.

      2. CollegeAdmin*

        Oh, giving notice! I’m in the running for an internal position. I would actually ask the departments to work out my transition date, but I’d need to tell my current supervisors first.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I don’t think it matters! I think I would do it as soon as I had made and received a firm commitment from the new job, and agreed on a start date. I suppose if it were late on a Friday I might wait until Monday, but other than that I don’t think it matters.

        2. LillianMcGee*

          With notice, I agree it doesn’t particularly matter. I suppose if you put a gun to my head, I’d say I’d prefer my staff person to ask me to take a walk, or go get coffee outside the office, buy me a nice $12 latte and tell me there :) j/k of course.

    2. MaryMary*

      First thing in the morning, as soon as you’ve made your final decision. I feel like it would be awkward to tell your boss at the end of the day, especially if you’d had conversations about projects or scheduling earlier and you never mentioned that you’d be leaving. And from a manager’s perspective, there are a lot of moving parts they need to start working on (notifying their manager, updating HR systems, transitioning work…). The sooner they can start on that stuff, the better.

      At OldJob it was kind of a joke, kind of not a joke that asking your manager to talk first thing is the morning was not a good sign. When I quit, I went to talk to my manager before I’d even logged in, and he said “you’re quitting, aren’t you?”

      1. The IT Manager*

        I agree, and you hit the nail on the head about why. Once you know you’re leaving, you don’t want to be insincere when discussing upcoming tasks and meetings with your boss and co-workers.

  65. Anon for this*

    Does anyone have any advice on how to maintain focus and productivity at work when you’re going through a really tough patch in your personal life? I’ve been battling with some depression/anxiety, and I’ve also been paranoid and insecure about my relationship with my partner. It’s definitely creeping into my work, which I obviously don’t want, but I’m not sure how to control it, either.

    1. Haleyca*

      This is definitely a very personal thing, but I struggle a lot with anxiety and one thing that I deal with is feeling a loss of control. So it can help me to look at work as something I can control – checking off a bunch of my to do list or completing a task gives me a feeling that it isn’t all getting away from me.

      Also, sometimes I think you need to realize and accept when you aren’t getting things done because you can’t take your mind off what is bothering you. When I feel overwhelemed like that I usually leave the room and go somewhere private (a car if you drive, the restroom, even a secluded stairwell) and let myself think about it or let myself be emotional for a minute. And then I can come back to what I’m doing with a clearer head and it feels like a fresh start.
      I’m sorry for what you’re going through! I understand how difficult it can be to try and compartmentalize. I hope things get better soon!

    2. CrazyCatLady*

      It’s really hard not to let it affect your work! I can’t recommend therapy enough. It really helps if you’re open to it and will give you the tools to cope with your circumstances better.

    3. Anon Too*

      I actually just went through this, although in my case my anxiety was centered around my work. To be honest, I didn’t handle it well – I let it build up, ignored the signs that it was getting out of control, and eventually kind of broke down.

      But here’s what I did when that happened: After talking it through with my husband, we decided that my health and happiness was more important than my income. That didn’t mean that I was going to leave my job, but that I was going to risk talking honestly with my boss about what was going on, ask for her forbearance while I took some steps to improve things (seeing a doctor, trying out medications that had weird side effects). In my case, it could not have gone better – my boss was generous and understanding, and took the lead on rebalancing my responsibilities so I could do what I needed to do. In part because the response was so great, and in part because getting it out in the open relieved a lot of my anxiety, that conversation turned out to be hugely helpful.

      I will say that my story doesn’t have a happy ending. My work did take a nosedive while this was happening – before I “came clean” to my boss – and it looks like I am going to lose my job. But I’m still really glad I opened up to my boss; it relieved some of my immediate anxiety (which was resulting in me not eating or sleeping, having panic attacks when I opened my email, etc.) and also helped me frame what I was doing for myself.

      Good luck!

    4. sev*

      I’m sorry you’re feeling bad right now, that sounds really tough. I’ve lived with depression and anxiety all my life and it can make work really difficult. I have a few go-to mind tricks that I use when it flares up:

      (1) Imagining the depression as a difficult person who I can’t get away from: someone loud and demanding and fussy who will just come back if I try to throw them out. But if I sit down with them and offer them tea and hear what they have to say and validate their feelings, they calm down and leave on their own.

      (2) Treating work as a refuge where I can stay busy with other things. If Depression is being an a-hole and telling me rude things all day, I mentally say, “I understand you’re upset, but we’ll talk later,” and ignore the thought for now. (But please be mindful of the fine line between that and using work as a way to run away from yourself.)

      (3) I’m lucky to no longer be in a place where happiness is a job requirement, so I remind myself that it’s OK to be more subdued than usual. Flawlessly hiding your feels is not necessary; refraining from situationally-inappropriate behaviors (weeping openly, being rude, neglecting obligations, etc.) and getting stuff done is enough.

      Your mileage will certainly vary, but I hope that helps you come up with some ways to cope.

      1. Daydreamer*

        Sev, thank you for this. I’m also struggling with depression and anxiety, and this is what my counsellor has been telling me to do — it’s all about mindfulness and not fighting or trying to change, or increasing the struggle with depression or anxiety.

        Re point #2: What do you do if the depression is telling you things about your work and what you’re doing or not doing?

        1. sev*

          I’m in a line of work where failure is a given and success is just another word for failing better, so I keep a stockpile of counterpoints at the ready. (If you lived in a neighborhood that lost power every time the wind blew too hard, you’d keep a box of candles nearby, right?) I write down things I’ve pulled out of the toilet when they went sideways, new things I’ve learned, subtle signs of improvement, that kind of stuff.

          Then when I start to feel like a big ol’ fraud, the internal conversation can go more like, “Here is a list of mistakes and you should be fired!” (“What? I just did [all the things]!”) “But [insults]!” (“Now you’re just being offensive. We’re done here. Come back when you’re ready to give constructive criticism.”)

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Our home lives do spill over into our work lives. And it feels unstoppable.

      I hope you are soon able to make some of the decisions you need to make. Even minor changes can bring some measure of relief, so you do not have change the world in order to get that relief. Usually, there are safe little steps you can make. Please be on the look out for those safe little steps.

  66. Sheena*

    So my stepdad works for the city government of my not terribly prosperous city, as an engineer for a department that has nothing to do with transportation. A few months ago, before the start of winter, they re-designated a bunch of employees as essential (I think that’s the term?) meaning that they would be required to come in the event of a snowstorm (which happen occasionally but not often in our area). Why? So that they could help clear snow. Unlike me, my parents live outside the city, what could easily be an hour or more away in bad weather. In addition my stepdad is an older gentleman with zero snowplowing experience, se he started to pretty much freak out about this. Anyway, there was a storm, for which another department got called in, and one woman got totally stuck and had to call for help, so he came this close to quitting. Luckily he thought it through and turned in a letter saying he would resign unless they gave him an exemption, which they did. As far as I know the policy is still in place for everyone else. Anyway, this is one of the craziest things I’ve heard that didn’t come from this site, so I thought I’d share.

    1. Sadsack*

      Your saying that the city has a bunch of people with zero experience clearing snow responsible for clearing snow? That’s crazy! Are the employees getting paid extra for coming in, or at least getting their regular day’s pay when otherwise they would not have been paid? If the company is paying for them to do it, why don’t they just hire an actual snow removal business to do it? It seems outrageous to me to have office workers, who have no experience driving snow plows, zooming around the city streets.

    2. AVP*

      just…wow. If your city has a unionized DPW I would send an anonymous tip…that might get that cleared up quickly.

      1. De Minimis*

        I just don’t see why they wouldn’t just have the people who normally do road work clearing the roads. It’s obviously some place that has winter weather, so what did they do up to this point?

        1. AVP*

          My initial thought was that the city was trying to get around normal maintenance fees by trying to get their desk employees to do the work instead…I hope I’m wrong.

  67. Super Anon*

    It looks like I’m going to lose my job, and while I’m financially secure it’s the first time I’ve really failed at something and it sucks. A lot.

    About a year ago my organization restructured and my position was eliminated. They were committed to keeping me on and I met with a bunch of teams before choosing a new role. I decided to take a role that was temporary, because I was excited about working on that particular team and the manager anticipated that a permanent role would open up in a few months. It didn’t, but they kept finding me good, interesting temporary projects (~3 months at a time). I got generally good, but usefully constructive feedback on my work, although it never felt like manager and I clicked into a great working relationship (even though she is a really good manager – we just never found a way to work well together).

    The last project I took on… I just didn’t do a good job. I’ve thought a lot about what went wrong. There are lots of variables, some of which were under my control and some of which weren’t… but push comes to shove, I did a B- job for a manager with A+ expectations, and I knew that wasn’t going to fly. We talked earlier this week, and she said she has concerns about my ability to keep up with the pace and work style of the team, so we should consider moving me out in the next few months.

    It’s a best-case scenario of losing one’s job. My boss is kind, respectful, generous. She’s going to give me time – and she’s open to another conversation about whether there’s a permanent role that could be a good fit. But that’s silly; I’ve known that I didn’t do a good job and I know that she isn’t thrilled with me, and I don’t want to be somewhere that I’m not doing my best work (and where my boss doesn’t think highly of me).

    Yuck. I feel like I suck so much. I’m a person who frankly has succeeded at stuff like this – work, school, etc. It feels pretty terrible to get feedback that I’m not good enough for this team.

    1. JMW*

      This is life giving you an opportunity to grow. Transitions feel suck-y, but they are necessary in life to get you onto the next part of your journey. Sometimes when we are slow to do what is needed for our own growth, the universe assists with firings or health issues or breakups. Might be time to figure out what you really want to do. Best wishes!

    2. Colette*

      That’s really hard feedback to hear, but life will go on and you’ll find somewhere where you can do a great job.

      You’ve thought about what went wrong – what would you do differently if you were doing it again? What parts of it just were not your thing? (You don’t need to tell us here, of course, but it’s useful to think that through for yourself.)

    3. cuppa*

      I realize that this is not the easiest thing to do, and if I were in this situation ( and I have been) I would feel the exact same way you were thinking. But from reading your post, I genuinely did not get the feeling that you suck, and that you failed, but instead it stood out to me that this project was a wrong fit, and your manager is a wrong fit, and that caused a disconnect. Please do not beat yourself up too badly about this. Learn from it, and find a better fit. It will get better. Good luck.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      *hug* I know it sucks when you are used to doing well and all of a sudden you don’t. But I wouldn’t think of it as “I’m not good enough for this team.” I’d think of it more like, “This team/project wasn’t right for me and it didn’t work out the way I hoped it would.” If all the factors weren’t under your control, you can’t say it was totally your failure. I’m guessing you’ll get a decent reference–clearly they valued you enough to try like hell to keep you on as long as they could.

      If they do come up with a permanent role for you, don’t let this experience color your consideration of it. Another team/role might be a much better deal for you. If it’s not, you can pass on it for that reason. It’s not all or nothing–it shouldn’t be “I’m not perfect at everything, so I shouldn’t do anything here.” This was a glitch, nothing more.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Your second to the last paragraph – I am not clear on what is going on here.
      Can you get a job doing something else in your company? But you would still be working for her?

      Are you sure you are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater here???

      I am concerned that you are so in shock by this that you are not hearing what is actually being said.

      I understand you do not like working for someone that does not like your work. I can relate. But if you were doing different work that might change that whole picture. It sounds like your boss wants to salvage the situation, that means you have done a whole bunch of things right. Yep, we can do a bunch of things right and still come up short- that is possible.

      In all honesty, I think you are beating yourself up something awful.
      Your boss has invited you in for another conversation. Tell the foolish “you suck” tape inside your head to shut up so that you can hear what your boss is actually saying to you. Don’t be come so in overwhelmed by this one situation that you do not realize that someone might be trying to help you.
      Accept the help, if this is the case. Because some day it will be your turn to help someone in a situation just like yours. (This is how these stories go.) And you will need to learn here so that you will know exactly what to do when you see it again. hmmm. I am almost wondering if your boss had a similar experience and she is trying to tell you.

  68. not telling this time*

    I work at a smallish bank and have applied for a job at what we call Megabank. I applied on MLK day and was called in 48 hours later for an interview. I asked the interviewer how long should a answer take and was told 2 weeks. During this time a similar job posting has come up at same Megabank, should I apply for it or just wait till I hear on the posting I interviewed. The two weeks runs out Thursday. I am leaning towards waiting….

    1. Kara Ayako*

      I’d wait. If you apply for a different job there, it’ll seem like you don’t really want the job you’re currently in the process of interviewing for. Or it’ll seem like you forgot you were already in the middle of the process.

      I would be REALLY weirded out if I had interviewed a candidate and that candidate went and applied for another role before I provided a response.

      1. fposte*

        Really? It’s pretty common, in my experience; I wouldn’t think twice about it. We’re not only looking at one candidate–why should they only get to look at one job?

        It doesn’t look good if they apply to everything indiscriminately, but if they’re both valid fits for their experience, I wouldn’t consider it a drawback. People know there’s no sure thing; I don’t think they should have to miss a chance when there’s no commitment on either side.

          1. fposte*

            Anything short of an accepted offer is “you should still be looking” territory to me. I mean, you’re always waiting to hear “yes” or “no,” and there’s always a higher chance of “no.” I wouldn’t consider it fair to an applicant to insist they commit to us until we’ve committed to them.

            1. Kara Ayako*

              But it’s at the same company. I think she should CERTAINLY feel free to go out and apply for jobs at other companies, but this job could even be with the same hiring manager or same recruiter. That’s what seems strange to me.

              1. fposte*

                To me it doesn’t matter. Without a done deal, an employee or applicant is always entitled to keep her options open. I’ve been on hiring committees with internal applicants applying for other jobs like this, and we haven’t thought twice about it.

      2. Greggles*

        I work for a Megabank that loves horses, in a Midwest area that it has a hug presence. I would say apply to as many positions as you see fit. Just because a job has many postings doesn’t mean it’s the same or even in the same division.

  69. justine*


    I have an update in my EEO process. (I’ve found no websites that let people know what really goes on in the federal process so I’m sharing here in case it could help someone.)

    After almost 3 months (which should not be the norm, info on how to contact your EEO officer should be posted at your worksite) I finally had my pre-complaint interview with my EEO officer.

    It wasn’t that eventful, just told her what has happened. She did give her opinions on some of my issues, most of which I disagreed with based on what my lawyer told me and what I’ve learned doing my own research.

    Again, thank you all who have given me the courage to speak up.
    I don’t know why some people treat people badly but they do – and it really is because of them, not you.

    My new rule going forward in life is going to be if I wouldn’t be in a group with these people in a zombie apocalypse then I’m not going to work with them. (I can’t wait for the new season of “The Walking Dead” to start! I would have blown up Terminus, too.)

  70. Elizabeth*

    (Not including my email address, so my Gravatar doesn’t show up….)

    I recently started supervising a group of people who had previously been my colleagues, as a part of getting a new boss.

    It hasn’t been an easy transition for any of us. There have been several times I’ve felt that they don’t get that when they go climbing the chain about me and my boss that it really affects how I see them and how people above us see me.

    I spent some time last week talking to our HR director about everything, including admitting that I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing. She gave me some pointers, including working through how to deal with a scheduling issue that has been a burr under the saddle for a small group for a couple years. It turns out that the old boss who set up the current schedule didn’t take into account the policies for leave & scheduling.

    I talked with my boss first thing Monday to get his agreement to lay out to the affected people how things were going to change. He told me I had his complete support, especially since it would bring us into closer alignment with the organization’s policies on scheduling of part-time employees.

    I talked with my husband at lunch to nail down how I wanted to present it to the person most affected, that it isn’t a penalty but that I have to be able to provide coverage for our department and that his schedule has been a barrier to that.

    So, Monday afternoon, I did it. I talked with the affected employee first and he agreed to my changes (no squatting on all Fridays off; to be assured of a specific day off, he has to take PTO just like the rest of us). Then, I went to the two people who will be the beneficiaries of this and laid out my expectations for them (a week’s notice of planned days off if at all possible; get me what they know now for days they want to take off so that we can get them scheduled). One of them started to bring up a possible issue, and I told her that that was my problem to deal with, not hers, and to let me address it if it does come up.

    Slowly, I’m getting the hang of this. Set clear expectations. Communicate those expectations. Define the consequences if the expectations aren’t met.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Sounds to me like you are doing really well. Especially dealing with that squatter- stuff like that is a big deal to his peers.

  71. Anita Sistence*

    I applied for an internal position at a department that’s very connected to my current one and my current manager is aware that I’ve applied and interviewed. I should hear back next week but wanted to see if anyone had any tips about how to handle staying in my office if I don’t get an offer or have to turn it down for one reason or another. I’m not actively looking for positions but am interested in working for this other department so if another job were to open I would apply again (although it could be a few years since it’s a small dept). I want my manager to know I’m committed to doing a good job and growing in my department even though we both know it’s not the best fit for my skills and interests. Also, there was talk of a performance evaluation and promotion that’s been put on hold since mentioning my application and I’m concerned my openness has taken that off the table indefinitely if I do end up staying. Has anyone encountered this type of situation? Did it turn out well? For context our department is small- just my manager, myself and one part time employee so a promotion would be an expansion of duties and not replacing someone else.

    1. cuppa*

      I’ve done this, and I think the best way to do it is to keep your job application separate from your current job as much as possible. Meaning, do your work, be professional, and “mentally move on” from the position while you are working at work. You want to be the same person you were before you applied for the job.

    2. fposte*

      I first wanted to applaud your very clever username.

      I don’t think this is a big problem unless your workplace is icky in a way I think you’d have mentioned. You’re a capable employee interested in growth–that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. I would be ready to initiate the discussion about your promotion in place if the move doesn’t happen–I think it’s a related conversation, not a contradictory conversation. “As you know, the move to lids isn’t going to happen. I’m okay with that, because I like what I do here, and I like our team a lot. As you know, though, I’m interested in growing how I can; could we revisit the topic of performance evaluation and promotion?”

  72. quietone*

    IT Project Manager vs Project Manager – big difference?

    The company I work for is looking for an IT project manager, I have a good friend who is a project manager (for a physical product development team). My boss wants the specific IT experience – but I’m wondering, how different are the roles really? Isn’t it all about keeping vendors and internal folks to timelines and budgets? Is it just being able to tell if the IT specific excuses are ?

    Obvs I’m not in project management – would love to hear from people who know!

    1. Nyla237*

      Depending on the project, you may really need your PM to have technical knowledge in order to understand what’s going on with different aspects of the project or tasks such as what items the budget is purchasing, how software might be licensed and what the organization will need, and what vendors are actually doing for you. Sometimes there is a Project Manager at the top level and an IT Project Manager under them if the project has a technical component that IT has to fulfill, but the rest of the project is more about the org as a whole.

    2. MaryMary*

      In my experience an IT project manager needs to have IT experience. In terms of planning, setting timelines, workflow, contingency planning, communication, IT knowledge is really invaluable. I think there’s even an argument for experience with certain types of software or certain products. IT is so intracate that you need to at least be familiar at a high level to manage the project effectively.

    3. HR Manager*

      Can be quite different. I shared many times how Project Manager is one of the most over-used titles that means absolutely different things in different industries. IT project managers often require IT project management experience, which means knowing some of the technical challenges as well. A physical product development manager may need to know something about the regulatory issues or manufacturing issues affecting the product. We hire PMs that have to know about software life cycle (and is different from IT project managers).

      While they all involve communication, keeping folks on tasks and on budget — the subtleties of managing the team to get there are different depending on the type of project.

  73. Performance Review Stress*

    Hello Everyone..
    Last year in October end/ November beginning, my manager told me that I am not performing well and I will get a bad review during the performance review this year unless I show significant improvement. It came as a shock to me because all through the year he had praised me for my work. I had put in too many hours and I had made a big impact on the project. The customer with whom we were working with changes their mind after I completed my work and asked for something else which I completed too. So my manager decided that he will not give me any credit for the work that customer didn’t want even though he was the one who assigned the work for me. So he would compare my six months work with one full year work done by other team members. I defended myself and argued that he should give me complete credit for the work that I have done because I am not responsible if customer changed his mind after I completed the work. I also reminded that he made me work on the project and I can turn around and say he should be getting a bad review for inefficient use of a resource (which he did by making me work on something customer didn’t end up using). I sent him my self-assessment. He also consulted HR and HR said he cannot discount my work that way he wanted to. He was also shocked that I had done much more work than he thought I did. He apologized and asked me not to leave the team. His manager offered me that I can move to a different team under his management if I couldn’t trust my manager any more. However I left that department exactly two weeks from the date he said I would be the candidate for firing during performance review and took another job in the same company.

    Now the review time is coming and I am stressed out. He will do the review for me as I spent almost full year under him. I am worried that he may give me a bad review. My husband’s contract job ended abruptly with a week’s notice due to restructuring in his client company. That is adding to my stress. I convince myself not to worry about it but some days I cannot help but feel terribly scared :-( .

    1. Kara Ayako*

      “I also reminded that he made me work on the project and I can turn around and say he should be getting a bad review for inefficient use of a resource (which he did by making me work on something customer didn’t end up using)”

      Is this something you actually said to your boss?

        1. BRR*

          Did you give him an F because he’s not doing a good job or because he was being an ass to you? And he was certainly being an ass to you. But talking back to him like that isn’t going to help the situation and he didn’t waste your time, the customer did.

          I’m also confused, if you’re in a new department why are you scared of him firing you?

          1. Performance Review Stress*

            I would have given him a C if he was fair to me. So I felt that he was a mediocre manager at best.

            Exactly, it is the customer who changed his mind. I too agree that he didn’t waste my time and customer did and hence he shouldn’t be punished. But it applies to me too. I should not be punished with a bad performance review if the customer changed his mind. I had done my job with all dedication. It is a different thing if they let me go as part of head count reduction. But saying that you didn’t do enough when I did everything he asked for was something I didn’t agree with.

            Even though I moved teams, as it was towards the end of last year, he will do my review. If he gives me a bad rating, I am afraid I will be put on a PIP (though now I think about it, I cannot see a way they can put me on a PIP in a totally different organization) and a ripe candidate for firing. Moreover I am afraid that my new manager will look at me negatively if he gives me a bad performance review and I don’t know how much I should work to change her perception it if at all I can.

      1. catsAreCool*

        “I can turn around and say he should be getting a bad review for inefficient use of a resource (which he did by making me work on something customer didn’t end up using)”

        There’s got to be a better way to put this. How about “I worked very hard on what you told me to do. I don’t understand how this could be my fault. What should I have done differently?”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      You stood up for yourself effectively when the whole story unfolded. If you old boss gives you a bad eval, those same talking points will work again.
      Unless he is really dense I don’t think he is going to grind on this any more because he knows your rebuttal to it.

      Yeah, he could blindside you with something and that might be more concerning to you. But look at it this way, he already hit you with his best shot. Any thing else he has to say will probably be easily refutable. Be sharp, on your toes, I think you will handle it.
      I usually eat chicken or salmon for dinner the night before a meeting like this- it really helps me to feel more like I would like to feel- sure of my facts, confident in my work and so on.

    1. MaryMary*

      YES! I was just looking at a document based on a template I had created, and somone un-did the automatic table of contents function at the beginning, and inserted a table with manual page numbers. Benefit of the doubt, maybe they didn’t kow how to use the automatic function, but ASKING would be so much easier than making it manual.

    2. Nanc*

      Double GRRRRR to multiple people creating a document and each using their own version of auto numbering/lettering/bulleting! Follow the effin’ style guide–the one online, with the templates for each type of document with that stuff pre-formatted! It won’t get approval until it’s in that format and yes, I will bounce it back to your group leader to fix that before I edit and you will not meet your deadline!

    3. Ama*

      I’ve been at my current job for not quite two years, and my predecessors (as well as the manager that hired me, who has since left) were not particularly adept at the more advanced formatting options of Office, PLUS around 80% of our documents have just been continually revised from the original document for almost a decade so there’s all kinds of weird legacy formatting from Office 98 or whatever. I’m slowly working my way through cleaning them up but it’s slow going — we have a massive policy document that took almost 3 hours of fussing to get the auto-numbering and table of contents to work properly.

      I also just got off a call with an external colleague who was convinced I hadn’t sent her an word document since what I sent included my org’s logo in the header. Since she’s supposed to be redlining it I’m already curious as to whether I’m going to get back proposed changes all manually switched to a bright red font color or something.

    4. fposte*

      Can I add a plea for some useful filenames and version control? It’s not helpful to get 26 different documents called “Report.”

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Ugh, I ran a meeting with multiple presenters this week and asked them to send me their presentations at least 2 hours before the meeting started. About 2 minutes before the absolute last time I could leave to go to the building where the meeting was, I received 6 separate emails with PowerPoint files attached, none of which had the presenter’s name or presentation title in the file name. So we wasted the first few minutes of the meeting while I tried to figure out which “presentation6.ppt” or “[project]Jan2015.ppt” file belonged to which presenter.

        1. LisaS*

          My students tend to do this if I let them email work – I get 20 files named “homework” at least 6 of which will be in random Mac formats I can’t open. (I’m not sure this is better or worse than, responding to an email in which I asked for the worked to be re-saved and sent as a docx or pdf, I got just that: an assignment called “homeworkdocxorpdf.odt”

          Sigh. This is why your professor doesn’t take emailed work, kids…

  74. De Minimis*

    I got my evaluation for the year [for whatever reason, we do evaluations by calendar year even though everything else is done according to fiscal year.] Got Exceeds Expectations, which I was really glad about.

  75. LMW*

    So, I wrote a couple months ago about being caught completely off guard by a bad performance review (and then the following week my boss screamed at me and hit the table). That was October. I was told at the time that I wasn’t being put on a PIP, but then they decided to do one for everyone who got my score and make it retroactive. So I got my PIP about a week before the time frame was up. My boss is constantly saying I’m doing great and he’s my biggest cheerleader, but, frankly, I now think he’s an incredibly insincere person.
    I have a few issues with the PIP. For one, the items are really generic and hard to measure success (expand network within company) and for another, they were all things that I presented as challenges when my role switched 6 months before evaluation time. I was actively working on the solutions that are making my PIP “successful” before my evaluation period (for example, I met with a ton of people in other divisions before I got my new boss, but they weren’t ready to move forward on projects with me, so I had to wait. My new boss and I met with them again before my performance evaluation and they were ready to move forward, so there was more progress). I have a real problem with the three things listed, because I feel they could say I haven’t been doing them at any point (even if I have) because they are so subjective (I might meet with 5 new people in a month but they want me to meet with 10 new people month – but they won’t tell me or give me feedback on the goals I set myself). I’ve said that I need to know what success looks like to them, but they tell me I need to define that for myself — I did that before but we were apparently on different pages.
    I have a final meeting with HR and my boss to sign off on the PIP completion. Is it worth it to point out the logical flaws with this whole process? Does this even seem like a salvageable situation? In our previous meeting, I tried pointing out that I raised these as issues and received no help. There response was that I should have asked for help. (i.e. “I pointed out that these areas where going to be challenges in creating a new program, asked for help several times and never received answers, and so our progress was slow as I struggled through on my own.” “You should have asked for help.”).
    I’m looking for a new role, but can’t figure out how to keep going in the meantime.

    1. fposte*

      “Is it worth it to point out the logical flaws with this whole process?” No. It’s really not. “You’re telling me I’m underperforming wrong” does not make them want to hang on to you more.

      I don’t know if you can come out on top here, because you’ve already done things I’d suggest–setting your own goals and identifying your progress on them, for instance. You might be dealing with a bad fit situation that really isn’t quantifiable, but they’re trying to treat it as if it were. One possible approach you may not have tried yet is to ask if there’s somebody whose performance you should model yourself on; if they don’t know in numbers what they want, maybe they’d be okay with telling you to be more like Lucinda. I would also continue to identify and assess your own goals, not as much for them as for you, to confirm that you’re performing as you’d planned and are achieving what you’re trying to regardless of the feedback you’re getting. That’s not a miracle cure for a tough situation, but it can help with morale.

      And really dive into that job search. A lot of times employers are pretty happy to negotiate notice duration and departure plans with employees on a PIP, so keep that in mind when you find something.

      Good luck; I’m sorry that things are sticky there.

      1. LMW*

        Thanks. I think the big problem is that I’m the only person in this sort of role in the company — there are a few people who are in service provider-type roles that serve different functions, but no one in a manager role and no one in my function at any level. So it’s hard to find someone to model myself after -I’m trying to create an entirely different type of interdepartmental interaction from the ground up with no guidance or assistance in a really political/territorial environment. I think the real issue is that they reorged in such a way that my job doesn’t really fit the structure, but they haven’t worked with me to come up with a role that does fit the new structure — they expect me to keep doing the same role in a different world. I think I’m getting mostly worked up over it because they are telling me it’s about performance, but it’s a matter of the role not being a fit for the company anymore, not me underperforming (and I really resent the implication). I’d be happy to take the role in a different direction, and I’ve suggested a few things to my boss, but he changes direction like a leaf on the breeze, so nothing has caught.

        1. fposte*

          Your assessment sounds really plausible to me. You’re just in a situation where knowing the problem isn’t enough to fix the problem, I’m afraid. You could, in a calm moment, try discussing the broader role change issue to your boss, but it doesn’t sound like that would get you much more than you’ve already gotten. I’m sorry; that’s got to be incredibly frustrating.

          1. LMW*

            Thank you. It’s good to get a rational perspective on this, because you are right — it is a frustrating situation and there isn’t an easy way to fix the problem. I kind of need the outside reinforcement because even though I *know* it’s a bad idea to say they handled the PIP wrong, that frustrated part of me wants to point out how poorly they are handling their end of this. But you’re totally right — doesn’t make them want to keep me and I’d really rather hang onto this job until I find something else.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I could be reading this wrong but here is what I got:

      You are told you are doing a great job and then you are put on a PIP.
      They had you do your own goals for yourself and then won’t provide feedback.
      You ask them what success looks like and you are told to define it for yourself.
      You ask for help, they don’t answer and then, later say you should have asked for help? wtf

      How does anything get done in this place? Is anyone there sane?

      These people have no idea what they want and they are waiting for you to figure it out so they can you how much you failed.

      If this sounds right, then you know there is only one answer here. There is no logical answer to insanity. Try meeting them on their own level, using whatever they consider as logic. I have given people answers that would never fly anywhere else, but because I was dealing with this type of person I used those answers. Maybe that will buy you some time. I am trying to think of an example, but some situations were so off the wall that I cannot even remember the details of how I responded. It was all too weird.

    3. annnonnn for this*

      If I don’tn understand what is wanted, especially if it is vague, I do my best impression of being sweet and wanting to do it, but needing more information.

      As much as possible, don’t push back too hard on what they say. You might instead say something like “I did ask for help. Should I have asked different people? Is there a good general rule for when I should go to management?”

  76. LadyLep*

    Just a quick vent – I’m an admin, and you would think, as an admin, that I would know where my supervisor was most of the time. An hour ago, I realized our suite of 5 people (each individual offices) was awfully quiet. Everyone had gone to a meeting and no one let me know! I only had an inkling where they were since I had overheard my supervisor talking to the receptionist about reserving a conference room. I don’t mind not being a part of the meeting, obviously, but it would be nice to know what’s going on in case someone is looking for one of them. I would have felt mighty stupid if I couldn’t answer that question. This isn’t the first time this has happened. I think I’m going to have to speak up about it. Ugh,

    1. justine*

      If this is the only time it’s happened and there isn’t any animosity between you and the other workers I’m sure you can handle it well and everyone will probably get a chuckle out of it.

      If things aren’t going well, I totally feel for you. Things aren’t going well at my job and yesterday I showed up for work and it was closed. Turns out they all were at a Super Bowl party and getting paid to be there and didn’t tell me. They are assholes.

      1. Elizabeth*

        A Superbowl party two days before the game? Are you in Arizona and it’s a pregame/general festivities type of deal, or just a “we want an excuse to party?”

        1. justine*

          We’re no where near Arizona. (I don’t follow football so I don’t even know what the signifigance of Arizonia is – what is it?)

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      That sucks! I definitely had to outright tell my manager to share her Outlook calendar with me because otherwise I’d never know where she was. Hopefully you get work something out.

    3. Kara Ayako*

      If possible, I would see if you can get access to your supervisor’s calendar. That way, you’ll always know where he or she is and can help to better answer questions or direct requests. This will also let you set up meetings on behalf of your supervisor.

      1. Nyla237*

        Well offices were closed on New Years and the day after and exempt staff had to use PTO for that. If you didn’t have PTO in your bank, it automatically rolled over to unpaid time. Two of my coworkers were paid 32 hours for that week instead of 40.

        1. Ineloquent*

          If they’re exempt, they need to be paid for the whole week. It’s not optional. They can require you to use PTO first, but they can’t desginate some of that week as unpaid time if you worked at all.

        2. fposte*

          From what I can see, that’s dicey. “The employer may require the exempt employee to use accrued vacation time or PTO time to cover the closure. However, if the exempt employee does not have sufficient accrued time to cover the holiday closure, the employer is required to ensure the exempt employee experiences no interruption in salary.” (Not from the DOL but a private site, paycor; it seems to agree with other findings but no place else was saying it so clearly.) Now if they shut down the whole week, they don’t have to pay their employees; it’s the partial-week thing that gets them into trouble and risks making the employee into a non-exempt employee.

          What they wish to do about this is another question. I’d start, if I chose to go somewhere, by politely raising the issue with HR, noting that docking exempt employees a day seems to risk making them non-exempt and thus required to be paid overtime. With most hospital positions, you really don’t want to be on the hook for OT.

  77. Usually Not Anon*

    I was recently informed that some of my benefits are going to be decreased (in two stages over the next two years). I was also informed that to compensate for this my salary will increase (at least this year, not sure about in the future). Will this have an impact on my ability to negotiate a raise in 6 months at my annual review? My salary will increase next month, but in total my compensation is the same. Any tips?

    Also, my organization is extremely small and doesn’t have written policies for anything. I am wondering about my vacation days. Vacation days, sick days, and personal days are all combined – I choose how to use them. My offer letter states that we follow the federal holiday schedule, but there have been a few holidays that I have worked and a few weeekend events that I have worked as well. Each time it has been mentioned that I could take another day off to compensate (I’m salaried and exempt) but there isn’t really anything official on this. My bosses tend to work remotely if traveling and don’t take many days off (and have more vacation days than I do). I’m trying to plan some upcoming travel, but want to be sure that I still have some days in case I need to use them for sick days or personal days. Is there a way to ask about if the holidays I’ve worked count toward vacation (without seeming like I don’t want to be here) or should I just trust the random comments about how it all works?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      When we do this we’re supposed to take the comp time soon…preferably within the same pay period. It’s not supposed to be a way to increase your vacation bank, it’s supposed to just allow you the flexibility to get something done when it only is assigned late on Friday and it’s really urgent. Plus, especially since it’s informal, you don’t want the boss to suddenly ask how you got these comp days, and not remember the extra time you worked. Even if that doesn’t happen, it would probably be more convenient for your boss if you took them sooner and more spread out than all at once. And since it’s an informal arrangement, if it becomes inconvenient they may tell you that you can’t get comp time any longer. So definitely triple-check that it’s OK to save those comp days for a specific goal — if that big vacation is already approved, it shouldn’t matter too much.

      And it shouldn’t be difficult to say that you deserve an “additional” raise, since the previous increase was merely shifting compensation from benefits to salary, the idea being to keep it revenue neutral.

  78. Cheddar*

    Any advice about communicating that I’m not feeling qualified for new tasks assigned to me? I work in an academic Chocolate Teapot Research center, mostly doing Teapot R&D, Teapot Testing Ethics, and Focus Group Teapot testing.
    Recently I’ve been asked to jump into both Teapot Marketing (no marketing experience at all) and Chocolate Coffee Pot Research (a field I have no experience in and is only tangentially related to our teapot work). The marketing stuff won’t be too bad, I think, but jumping into to the middle of many-year-long Coffee Pot R&D is going to be tough. I’ve been asked to read all the past Coffee Pot projects and attend their ongoing meetings/seminars and then summarize the important bits. But, with no background, I’m completely lost as to what the important bits might be. I tried to ask for clarification but got a rather vague “whatever you find that looks like it might be useful for Teapot R&D”

    1. Sascha*

      Have you talked with your supervisor(s) about the overall goal they hope to achieve with this plan? Why do they want you to see if Coffee Pots would be useful for Teapots? It sounds to me like the bigger picture of why you’re doing this is missing, and maybe if you get a better idea of what that picture is, it will help you feel more confident about doing that work.

      1. Cheddar*

        My main supervisor is responsible for anything Coffee Pot related at my workplace (I have a separate supervisor for all my Tea Pot work) and he has basically fallen completely behind with creating a summary of how the Coffee Pot work might relate to any of our other research endeavors (Tea Pot, Tea Cups, etc) and doesn’t have time to do it. This was supposed to be on-going task but now we’re over a year into Coffee Pot R&D and nothing is done. From my understanding, we need to know how they could relate for grant purposes. So it was delegated to me but I, with no background at all, am feeling completely lost, trying to read through a years worth of meeting summaries and watching old webinars.

  79. Not So NewReader*

    Shredders. We need one at work, desperately. We burned out the old one and we have easily over 50 feet of files to shred.
    Oh, and we do not have a lot of money to spend on a good shredder. I am estimating that our upper limit is going to be around $500. We will probably have to buy it from Staples (long story).

    I am looking for advice. If you have a brand/model that you swear by I would love to hear about it, as this is a major headache for us.
    If you have tips for making shredders last, please chime in. For example: Do you use those sheets- I guess they are oil sheets or something? Do you think that using a bag in the base kills the shredder faster somehow?
    You may have guessed by this, I do not have much luck with shredders. Your inputs will be very valuable to me.

    1. Cruciatus*

      I realize this might not be helpful if the limit is $500, but twice a year a local shredding company picks up our boxes for shredding. I have no idea what it might cost. I looked it up online and of course there are no prices, though it does say they don’t charge church organizations and there are AAA and other discounts available. If you had a TON to shred, it could be worth it to be rid of it in one fell swoop while you look for another shredder for future shredding?

      1. Manders*

        Yep, I’ve had great experiences with a shredding company. I’m not the one who handles billing in my office, so I couldn’t tell you for sure how much they charge, but they seem reasonably priced given the volume of records we’re going through. I would especially recommend going through a company if the files you’re shredding have sensitive information–they usually have some way of destroying sensitive documents so they can’t be reconstructed at all.

    2. MT*

      an accidental dumpster fire works nicely. call a proffessional service once a year to come out and shred, prob cost you $150 each trip if they aren’t super far from your location.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Good thing there is no dumpster because I could make that work for me!! haha.

          Okay, am looking at shredding companies. That might be the route to go with the heavy lifting end of this clean up we are doing. Thank you, both, for suggesting that, I never would have thought of it.

          We will still need a shredder for the day-to-day stuff that comes up so I am still interested in hearing shredder experiences. (This is what my life has come to….)

          1. Malissa*

            I just got a dumpster from the shredding company that will live in my office. $39 every time I fill it up. So much better than boxing and shredding. I can even lock it!

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I think we have to witness the shredding. If the company brings a dumpster, to they take it back to their biz to shred it?

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I don’t have a brand recommendation, but I do use the oil regularly and it seems to help keep the thing running. (I have a personal one from Target at home and I’ve really put it through its paces getting rid of a lot of old papers.) Depending on the manufacture, you probably don’t need the special sheets–you can just use the oil itself and squirt a stripe of it across one of the pages you’re shredding and run it forward and backward. Do this regularly as recommended. And empty the waste container frequently.

            1. Windchime*

              I had no idea that I was supposed to be oiling my shredder. I don’t have a huge stack of shredding, but I would like to find a personal shredder that would shred an envelope with a bunch of papers (like a credit card application) and shred it without me having to open the stupid thing and unfold the papers first. Grrrr.

  80. Team Divided*

    So, we have a small team spread across multiple sites. Some sites are old and experienced and others are brand new. For awhile it seemed smooth sailing but in the past few days we’ve realized there is a deep, ugly divide. We cannot get these people to come together on anything amicably. It is very much an us vs. them mentality and it is driving me insane.
    Everyone is a great person on the individual level but the group bickering and complaints over petty, little things (without the willingness to talk to the person irritating them) is getting on my Last. Nerve.

    Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Do you use video conferencing? The reason we have epic flame wars on the Internet is because it’s anonymous, and even when it isn’t, it’s easier to “yell” at someone or call them names when they’re just an arrangement of electrons. Putting a name to a face, hearing someone’s tone, and getting and giving reactions and nonverbal cues in real time is a big help with all of this.

      Webcams can be had for around $30 or so, if they’re not already using a laptop with a webcam maybe the team leader/supervisor (can’t tell if that’s you) should spring for them for everyone and have one video meeting every month or so. That way people can feel more heard than if they fire off an email, in which their sarcastic tone isn’t all that evident, and then they don’t get a response and take it personally when it’s really that the recipient was just swamped.

    2. Michele*

      This is the time for a leader to be a leader. Whoever is in charge (you? your boss?) needs to take control of the situation and help things move along. It is important to be able to tell someone to let a petty, or sometimes no-so-petty, complaint go for the sake of getting their own jobs done. It is like in a face-to-face meeting when two people bicker. The meeting leader has to step up and say, “enough” and bring the meeting back in line.

      1. cuppa*

        Yes. And communicating those expectations is really important. Obviously, if there are circumstances that the manager can assist with (better communicating, clarifying roles and duties, etc.), those should be resolved. Otherwise, they need to learn to work together and the manager here should be laying that out.

  81. BrownEyedGirl*

    I need a new job. I’ve been an ‘intern’ for the past three years and am doing the same work as others in my department for half the pay. Additionally, my workplace conditions have been going downhill for the past few months. It leaves me physically exhausted and sick at the end of the day. Unfortunately, I’m now super well trained in an extremely specialized field–with no similar jobs in my state.
    Any advice on starting over completely?

    1. Michele*

      You might try looking outside of your field, but still within your skill set. Are you good at organizing, giving presentations, reviewing reports? Maybe think of a job in terms of skills, not specialty.

  82. JMegan*

    I have been at Awesome New job for three months now. Since I started, I have requested time off for: a kid with pink eye, a kid with mono, a root canal, and today – jury duty. My manager doesn’t seem to be at all bothered by this, and of course these are all legitimate and unplanned events. But even so, I feel like I’m asking for more time off than I’m actually working – all while I’m barely in the door and am still working on making my first impressions. At some point, I’d like to actually be in the office doing my job for a decent period of time!

    1. Anie*

      That’s my nightmare. I know some managers are super cool about it, but honestly, I’d be giving someone side-eye.

      1. JMegan*

        That’s absolutely my fear. At some point, isn’t she going to wonder what kind of drama queen she invited into the office, and wouldn’t this position be better filled by someone who is actually going to BE here once in a while?

        Now, it should be noted that
        a) I had my performance evaluation yesterday, and she specifically said she had no concerns.
        b) She has also, by her own initiative, put in a request for me to get a VPN token so I can work at home. And asked me to cross-train for the supervisor role in the other half of our department.

        So all signs point to her genuinely not being bothered. Maybe it’s just a version of impostor syndrome on my part. That, combined with the fact that I myself don’t like unplanned events, and I’m the one feeling that things are a bit out of control in that area. There’s really nothing I can do except to get more comfortable with uncertainty – but at the same time I wish all these things had come up after I had been here for a year, and had had some time to establish my reputation.

  83. TK*

    I have a weird sort of ethical issue I’m looking for opinions about. Basically, I got a cash “tip” from a colleague for helping him with a project– doing work that is part of my regular job, and which provided benefit to my department as well as him– and this makes me sort of uncomfortable.

    Some context: I’m a professional staff member at a university, and this colleague was a faculty member, who works in an office that collaborates closely with mine. He’s semi-retired and has been with the university nearly 50 years; I’m in my late 20’s and have been here 4 months (and am also male, if it matters). My interactions with him have always been cordial and professional, and he’s a widely respected campus figure. I’ve been helping him with a project on and off since October, because it required doing some work that requires special expertise that is a regular part of what our department does. The product produced from this work is something that can be used by my department and is very helpful to have, so we got lots of benefit out of the project too. Because his office collaborates closely with my department, requests for help from them are always a priority for us.

    His deadline for the project was the end of this week. We were finishing up some details related to it the other day, and making small talk while in front of the computer waiting for some files to load. He said how thankful he was for all my help and how much time I’ve devoted to this. (Which isn’t even all that true– I’ve spent 10-15 hours total on it over the course of 3 1/2 months!) Then he said something like, “I’ll buy you dinner to thank you for this.” I thought it was a joke at first, or that he meant he’d pay for my meal if we ever ate lunch together (which could happen). But then he got out his wallet and put $30 cash on the desk in front of me. I repeatedly told him, “You don’t have to do this,” but he wouldn’t hear it.

    I have the money locked in my desk drawer, and I feel guilty spending it. Like I said, the work I was doing was a normal part of my job; in fact, helping him is a normal part of my job! It’s not something I’m going out of my way to do at all. Plus, the work I was doing accomplishes goals of my department as well. I would never even consider giving a cash gift directly to a colleague at any level. If I don’t spend the money, I’ll give it to some university-related charity, or just donate it back to my own department. Thoughts, folks?

    1. De Minimis*

      Is there a policy about that sort of thing? I know for us we have all sorts of rules about gifts, though they usually come into play more when it involves employee/manager relationships.

      1. TK*

        Our institution’s not very good at employee policies (there’s a link to a “staff handbook” on our intranet that’s broken, and I can’t find one anywhere else from searching the website), so if there’s is a policy, I doubt that a) anyone know about it or b) it’s actually being enforced.

        1. De Minimis*

          I probably wouldn’t worry about it then, though I understand why you feel weird about accepting it. Generally if the policy is really strict about things like that it wouldn’t be hard to find out about it.

          If it makes you feel less weird, I would go ahead and donate it to wherever you thought most appropriate, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with accepting it.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Although cash is a little crass, it’s not that unusual to give a small gift to support staff for just doing their jobs if it helps you out a lot and you think they did a great job. A gift card to a restaurant or even a $30 gift Visa card would have been a little less unseemly, but I’d much rather be kind and awkward than stoic and proper. :)

      I’d say take it in the spirit in which it was meant.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yeah, that’s what I think too. I’ve bought coffee for colleagues and wouldn’t hesitate to give someone a little extra something special for going above and beyond, so the giving of something doesn’t strike me as strange even though cash is a little weird. I’d go with it. If you feel strange, you can buy him a few coffees over the course of the next couple of months.

        1. TK*

          Yeah, this was what really struck me; a gift card or something wouldn’t have seemed nearly as weird, or even actually paying for a meal at a restaurant. Just getting cash feels really weird.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      It’s $30 it’s nothing more than a nice gusture for a job well done I don’t see anything inappropriate about you keeping it. Maybe you could get some cookies or something similar for your department if you’re not comfortable keeping it.

  84. Tris Prior*

    At my job I have 6 totally unrelated duties. I spend fairly equal time on most of them, though one is seasonal and I’m not doing it at all right now. My company’s having money issues so I figure I’m going to need to start job hunting soon and redo my resume. I know to emphasize the skills and accomplishments that relate to each job, but I’m uncertain about what to do about my job title, which references only one of the duties (one I’d rather not do in the future given the choice; I don’t intend to apply for jobs involving this.). I just asked for and got a title change, too so I hesitate to ask again so soon. It references the role that sounds most impressive and implies the most responsibility.

    I mean, it’d be weird to list my title as Teapot Marketing Manager on my resume and then list all my teapot engineering skills under that header because I’m applying for an engineering job, right? (note: not my actual duties, haha.)

    Suggestions? I suppose I could address it in my cover letter: “Although my title is Teapot Marketing Manager I actually spend most of my time on Teapot Engineering where I accomplished XYZ.” That seems weird too, though. Argh.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I’ve had this issue with every job I’ve had, because I’ve always worked for small companies where responsibilities are so varied. I think it’s usually explained fairly well through my cover letter and my accomplishments. Titles are so weird and different from company to company anyway.

  85. PK*

    3 months ago I got a new job. I negotiated for the top of my desired salary range and I was successful. I asked for details about benefits and insurance pricing before countering their original offer. The HR rep mentioned nothing about having tiers of health insurance premiums based on salary (and in my somewhat young career, I’d never heard this was even a thing that existed, despite all the negotiating advice I’d read beforehand!) Turns out, the top of my desired salary range was EXACTLY the cut off point for the next tier of health insurance pricing. However, the paperwork I got once hired was very misleading. For an example, let’s say my salary is 50k, the paperwork then lists this for health insurance cost: 0-50K premium = $50. 50K-80K= $100. So mathematically speaking, I assumed I was in the lowest bracket. Turns out I’m in the second bracket actually, which mathematically is not correct to have the same number in two places.

    So my question is, how can I best bring this up to the HR rep to have something done about this? I feel that I was mislead and their paperwork is objectively incorrect. Should I ask if I can be charged the lower bracket? Or can they retroactively reduce my salary by $1, and even if they could, SHOULD I do this. It will save me hundreds of dollars a year, but is that a bad precedent or hurt future earnings?

    Whatever the answer is, how should I ask so that I remain objective and reasonable and not like I’m just upset or didn’t do my homework correctly?

    I should add that I’m a woman, if that adds any nuance to your advice (as much as I wish I didn’t have to add that!)

    1. Meg Murry*

      On one hand, it makes sense to ask if they will reduce your pay by $1 to put you in the lower band. However, if the bands are static and you get a raise next year, you would probably be back in the same higher band, yes? Unless they change it all again next year (which could very well happen – I worked somewhere that insurance changed dramatically every year, it was a PITA)
      This situation sucks, and yes, it would save you hundreds of dollars a year – but at the same time, in the example that you gave, it would save you $600 a year, which sounds like a lot until you do the math and realize that it’s 1% of a $50,000 salary. Are you willing to try to re-negotiate again for 1%?

      That said, once you get the job, I think its worth pointing out that they should rewrite the paperwork as <50,000, 50,000 – 99,999, 100,000-xx etc to be more clear.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      You know, this kind of thing would bother me as much as it does you, because I think that the general reason for having policies and guidelines is so that things are more predictable and less ambiguous. So I sympathize, but that said, I think it sounds petty to ask to have your salary lowered so you’re under the cap. As Meg Murry said, you’d have to pay the higher rate at some point, presumably next year, and if you do this you may be seen as ungrateful for getting the top of the salary range. But I would second pointing out the ambiguous cutoff point.

      Oh, and our company does this (but they’re more clear about the cutoff points). It’s seen as a way to make health insurance more affordable for lower-paid staff, not as a punishment for those who earn more. I’m in the top tier, and I’m glad we help out those who are making less.

    3. BRR*

      I’m going to start with that sucks. But I feel like you should have asked if you were not clear about their policy. I wouldn’t ask to reduce your salary by $1. I would try to tackle it as the benefits brochure is very unclear about pricing.

    4. HR Manager*

      My last company did this, and I appreciated this. We had a lots of hourly workers who didn’t make as much, and a lot of very highly paid professionals. I liked that the company made it cheaper for the lower paid workers to buy insurance.

      You can absolutely ask the HR rep to clarify that the 50k appears in both ranges and to clarify which bucket you are in, and you can add that based on the paperwork, you thought you were in the lower cost tier. Whether the HR person would be willing to do this is a toss-up. However – would I be willing to reduce someone’s salary by a nominal $1 or $10 to qualify for the lower tier? No way. Sorry, this is a subsidy for those who need it — someone is always going to have to be at that cut-off point and it’s a bad precedent to set. Assuming the cost isn’t so egregious that it’s a burden for those in your salary bracket, then thems the breaks.

    5. Elsajeni*

      I don’t think you’re likely to convince them that you should be charged as the lower bracket, but you might point out to them that the paperwork is unclear and suggest that they change it. I wouldn’t describe it as misleading, though. After all, no, it’s not mathematically (or logically) correct to have 50k listed in both brackets… but it wasn’t any more mathematically correct for you to assume that it must go in the lower one.

      1. PK*

        To clarify, I meant it was misleading that when I gave them my salary range, and I asked about insurance premium costs, the HR rep did not mention there were tiers of premium pricing. She knew the number I was negotiating for would put me in the next tier.

  86. CrazyCatLady*

    If I received a 10% raise and new job responsibilities (mostly unrelated to my existing responsibilities), should I ask for a title change? If so, how would I go about doing that?

    1. Sascha*

      I would, especially if there are other employees with the same title as you who are not doing the same things. Does your workplace have an HR and post job titles? I’d start with some research to determine what title makes sense with your new responsibilities, and then present the case to your boss about why a new title makes sense.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        No, it’s a really small company so we don’t have HR and each person who has a given title is the only person with that title (for the most part). But I know I’m doing much more than past people with this title.

          1. CrazyCatLady*

            I don’t even know – I’ll have to think about that! Do you think it’s worth bringing up now, or should I wait until I’ve been performing the new duties for a while? The only reason I’d want a different title is really for future job searching (which I don’t anticipate doing anytime soon).

            1. fposte*

              I’d bring it up now, because now is when the change is happening. You can always leave open the possibility for revisiting it later. “I’m really excited about the new opportunities we’ve talked about; in thinking about it, it seems more like an Expert Spout Manipulator position rather than a Dregs Cleaner. Would the business be open to making that the official title?”

    2. Felicia*

      I’m in a similar situation except my 10% raise and totally new unrelated responsibilities (which I actually like better!) was 3 months ago. And my boss said not now to the title change. However, I think just asking, and doing it now is fine. I just wanted a title that accurately described what I did. Like I was hired as Chocolate Teapot Coordinator, and now I only work with Vanilla Coffeepots, which is not the same thing.

  87. Elle*

    I went through a layoff a few months ago and am still not “over” it. I’ve been consulting since the layoff and have had a couple job offers since, but I am still not ready to jump on the next ship. I feel like I gave my last job my everything and feel jaded at even the thought of starting at a new company where I know I’ll jump right back in.

    Has anyone gone through this before? I’m assuming its just working through this phase, but how do I get myself back to a spot were I’m ready for the next job?

    1. Helen*

      I feel your pain. I wasn’t laid off from my last job (I resigned). But the job was SO awful that I’m terrified of being stuck in another awful job again. So even though I very much want a job, whenever I interview, part of me hopes I don’t get it, because I’m so afraid. It sucks.

  88. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    I just read an article in the Harvard Business Review that really, really resonated with me:

    Basically, the article suggests that when a boss thinks highly of an employee, that employee will thrive (they will excel and be more deeply engaged in their work). I’m not sure I’d draw the same conclusions they do from the data they present in the article, but the idea rings really true for me. I actually had a little mini-revelation about myself along these lines earlier this week: While some folks may be motivated for working hard to achieve a goal that’s just out of reach (“stretch goals,” BHAGs, etc.), I’m more motivated by achieving a goal and then going above and beyond it.

    What do others think?

    1. Jillociraptor*

      That has been true in my experience–on both counts. Have you ever taken the Strengths Finder assessment? One of my themes is Maximizer, which is pretty much exactly what you articulated in your second point: primarily motivated by excellence, much more interested in taking something from good to great than fixing something that’s broken (that’s Restorative, I think!), more focused on building on strengths than fixing weaknesses.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, that sounds really interesting–I wonder if I can find a way to take that inexpensively. I’ll noodle around my school and see whether there are any coattails I could ride.

        1. Jillociraptor*

          You get a code for the assessment with the StrengthsFinder book, which is ~$15 on Amazon right now. Definitely not free, but not awfully expensive!

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Oh, interesting! I’ve taken the Strengthsfinder, and Maximizer wasn’t one of my top 5. (It was intellection, individualization, relator, empathy, and connectedness).

        But I actually think I articulated myself poorly there, because I don’t mean the idea of taking something from good to great. What I realized about myself was that I get demotivated by struggling to achieve really tough goals, and do better when I feel like I’m excelling. If I set a goal at 90% and don’t quite reach it, my performance suffers. If I set a goal at 80% and meet it, I end up achieving more than I would have with the higher goal.

    2. annnonnn for this*

      “I’m more motivated by achieving a goal and then going above and beyond it.” I agree.

  89. On-call IT Person*

    I have a question for anyone who works in IT and is on-call. I work in higher education as a front-end system admin, and I have a chance at a job with another university where I would be a remote admin for the same system. The VP is wanting someone who is basically on-call – responsive during after hours like nights and weekends. He’s not so sure about hiring a remote person because of this, however the system I’d be supporting will be hosted out of state, so all of that work would be done remotely anyway.

    Typical salary for this position is 50-65k for someone with a few years of experience. I have nearly 8, so I’d expect to receive closer to 65k, but I’d be willing to go lower because I’d be working remotely. However, if the VP truly wants someone on-call, I’d want to be compensated for that.

    So how do you judge how much compensation for being on-call? What factors go into naming a salary or asking for other compensation for an on-call job? Since this is higher education, the pay is almost always lower than corporate, however higher ed does tend to provide other benefits like flex scheduling and more vacation time in lieu of this. Any advice is very much appreciated!

    1. MT*

      I would find out what the volume of past problems looked like. Or what expectation is driving the need for the on call person. If it is 2 hours of work a week or 50 hours, they should have some business case drawn up for the need for this position.

      1. Sascha*

        Thanks! This is actually a newly created position in a new department, so they probably don’t have an idea of the volume, but I think this may be related to the VP’s experience at my university – he was the VP of my current department and then him and one of our directors left for this new university. I have a feeling his worries about unresponsiveness are because of my manager and our IT department in general.

  90. LEL*

    Anyone aware of professional networking organizations for women in government? I’m staff in a state government agency. I’ve been able to find organizations aimed at elected officials and women in business, but nothing for the government staffer. Ideas?

    1. Jen*
      There is a local chapter where I’m at that has meetings and workshops periodically, may be worth checking if there is one in your area. I believe it encompasses women at both federal and state levels.

  91. Persephone Mulberry*

    I had my annual review two and a half weeks ago, and my manager told me that my raise (and also a significant chunk of back pay, due to my review being overdue) would be reflected on “the next” paycheck – since that was payday week, I assumed this week’s paycheck would reflect the raise and back pay. Just got my check – nope – same rate, no back pay.

    Should I talk to my manager or the payroll manager about this? The payroll manager is easier to get ahold of, but I’m not sure if there’s etiquette around talking to my manager first?

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Definitely bring it up to your manager ASAP. If she doesn’t pick up the phone and call the payroll manager right then, I’d follow up with both of them payroll manager on Monday.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Talk to your manager. It will probably be on your next check, since most places the payroll is usually a week or 2 in arrears.

  92. AnonyMay*

    I’m a member of my office Employee Satisfaction committee and next week we have to report the feedback we’ve received so far to the manager. Most of it is negative and about her. At the same time, I feel it’s accurate and if my coworkers took the time to provide anonymous feedback it needs to be heard.

    That being said, my manager has a history of taking feedback personally and getting quite upset. Any tips for making this meeting go smoothly?

    1. LillianMcGee*

      I hope she’s not a “shoot the messenger” type… Um, but if I were presented with a stack of criticisms, I’d want a chance to look at them first alone, so I don’t have to react in front of other people…
      So if I were YOU, I’d reach out to her before the meeting and say, “As you know, the feedback I’m about to present to you was submitted anonymously, which we decided to do so the staff would feel free to be fully truthful. Some of the feedback we received is critical of you in particular. If I were in your position, I would like to take some time to review them on my own so I could have some time to process the criticism. Would you like to do that, or should we proceed as planned?”

      1. Sadsack*

        I agree with this. She will feel attacked, whether or not it is warranted, if you spring it on her. Giving her time to process the criticism on her own may help her be more reasonable in your discussion. Good luck with this!

    2. HR Manager*

      Ugh, people who don’t know how to deal with feedback should not solicit it. Was the purpose of the exercise to get feedback on her, or did it just come up because she happens to be a big target from the employees’ perspective?

      If it was not about her – I would summarize the other feedback and leave the feedback about her out. And find a way to add either share this feedback about her with her in a way that won’t provoke a reaction (long shot) or possibly even go to her manager and ask for his advice on how to handle this. If the gripes are legitimate and serious, I would opt for the manager option. If the gripes are somewhat minor and in your opinion not insurmountable mistakes, then take them to her. Couch it as I got a lot of feedback about managers and their styles. Knowing that this may be difficult to process, do you want to hear this? I would anonymize this where possible.