behind the scenes: ask me anything

Some readers have asked for a post on the behind-the-scenes working of Ask a Manager. For the majority of you for whom this will be boring, skip this post! But for those of you who like the insider-y details about how the site works, here’s your post … ask away and I’ll answer in the comments.

Update: I’m answering questions in order. I’m going to try to answer everything!

{ 840 comments… read them below }

  1. Soharaz*

    How much time do you spend running AAM? Do you set aside time daily to work on it or do you have a different schedule? How do you prioritise it with your other responsibilities (writing and others)?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I now treat it like part of my job (which at this point it is). I write all the week’s posts that aren’t short-answer posts on Mondays, and then just have to do one short-answer post a day for the rest of the week. The short-answer ones are pretty quick, so that’s not too time-consuming. This is actually a new-ish schedule and it’s made it all feel much more manageable; the week is basically taken care of by Monday night, for the most part.

      The other time consuming things are:
      * reading and answering mail (maybe half an hour a day?)
      * dealing with tech stuff (usually doesn’t take much time but lately with the ad issues has been taking a lot of time — and you never know what might pop up — I spent two hours on Saturday morning when I was supposed to be on vacation dealing with what was probably a malicious bot attack that took the site down for a while).
      * reading and responding to comments (I’ve given up on being able to read all the comments on the site; I used to be religious about doing it but it’s become unrealistic as the comments have grown so much — but I still try to at least skim, especially so that I can spot it if there’s a problem)

      Leaving aside time spent on tech stuff and comments, it’s probably about 10 hours a week? Maybe I’m under-estimating, but I think that’s about right. It’s hard to say for sure because it’s both work and totally fun hobby, so I’m never sure how to assess the time I’m spending on it.

      1. Mimmy*

        Ahh I do vaguely remember seeing the site down for “repairs” not too long ago…the possible bot attack explains it!

          1. Josh S*

            I was going to ask the same thing–not in terms of moderating comments/posts that get caught by the language/link filter, but in terms of making sure that people aren’t piling on or otherwise going against the generally awesome tenor among commenters you have cultivated here.

            The only reason that culture formed was because you were constantly nipping it in the bud when bad stuff happened in teh comments. If you can’t do that now because of time (understandable), perhaps there’s a couple other people you trust who would volunteer to help you out in that regard? (ie, “Moderate the forum” = moderators)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Oh, I see. I think I’m still able to do that when it needs to be done, but if that ever stopped being the case, I suppose it would be something to consider. It would be tough though; I tend to have “it’s my baby and no one else can take care of it like I can” syndrome with the site.

              1. Zahra*

                You could always integrate a “flag” button so we could report messages. You’d have to decide whether you’d get too many false positives, though.

                1. Persephone Mulberry*

                  Just make sure it’s far far away from the Reply button! Corporette has “Reply” and “Report” right next to each other – with the number of comments they get, it’s probably a full-time job just monitoring the false alarms.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m pretty sure that I inadvertently printed a fake letter once. I’m hesitant to say which one because I don’t want to offend the letter-writer if it’s real, but it set off my alarm bells at the time and then letter I’ve seen versions of it appearing elsewhere. I have a feeling it was … some sort of weird fetish on the part of the letter-writer.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I’m pretty sure there are some people out there doing things like this. As a separate example, there’s a letter I’ve seen a few places, purportedly by a guy about how he just found out his fiancee’s sexual history and is appalled by it. But I’ve seen the same letter more than once, almost verbatim, and I think it’s a fantasy of some kind.

        1. KerryOwl*

          I don’t think that a letter being sent to more than one advice columnist means it’s a fake (though there might be other reasons to believe so in your particular example). I believe it’s reasonable to think that a person might have an issue, draft a letter, and then send it to a few different advice columnists. There’s no guarantee that any of them will even answer, and if they do, that they answer in a reasonable amount of time. A person with an issue might be desperate for an answer!

          1. AmyNYC*

            A good friend runs a niche blog and recently started taking reader questions, she prepared an answer to one only to find the same question answered on another blog a day before her response went live. She still published, since the advice was different, but was a little ticked off and included a note about it.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That happened to me and Evil HR Lady once or twice. It annoyed me, but I know I can’t really justify that, especially since people aren’t guaranteed an answer when they write in.

              1. Melissa*

                Yeah, but I think I would at least wait a reasonable amount of time to see if one blog answered it before sending it somewhere else.

        2. Natalie*

          It’s definitely a thing. When I answered a crisis line, we were warned about a few people that are apparently infamous in crisis line circles across the country. As in, they call help lines all over with the same story and have a particular thing they are trying to get the helpline person to say. It’s very weird.

      2. LBK*

        You must know this is going to pique everyone’s curiosity…I have a guess which letter this was but only because of the totally weird comments that followed (that were in that vein).

      3. some1*

        Yes, I suppose it has probably happened, I guess lots of advice columnists have received them.

        For this blog, there have definitely been a couple I wondered about, but if it’s a workplace situation at least it’s good for the sake of discussion.

      4. Jessica*

        Did I read a letter about someone having a coworker urinating at their desk, or something along those lines, on this site? I used to think that one was fake…until I read about an IT worker being fired for urinating on attractive coworkers’ chairs. Apparently stuff like that does happen. Fun times!

          1. Jessica*

            Thanks! I remembered it being much more scandalous… when in actuality it sounds like a health issue.

            1. Natalie*

              I think there might have been an update a couple of years later. IIRC the HR department involved was just the pits.

              There was also hoarder office guy, which I recall being very dramatic too.

        1. Hlyssande*

          I used to think that one was fake…until I read about an IT worker being fired for urinating on attractive coworkers’ chairs.

          What? Seriously? Link? That’s just…wow.

        2. Oryx*

          Oh yeah, we had a coworker do that to some degree. It was a physical issue and she was well aware of it but didn’t do anything to try and fix it. They used to mark chairs after she’d sat in it.

          1. Jessica*

            Yeah, after rereading, it seemed more benign than I originally remembered, like it was an uncontrollable health issue, not an aggressive, dominant behavior. But the IT worker I mentioned above… that was disgusting.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, and also, when I still had a regular full-time job, I used to always to always be braced for fake mail from people I worked with, as a joke, but it never happened. I mean, if you worked with someone writing a workplace advice column, wouldn’t you be awfully tempted to send in a slew of letters about weird things happening on your office? (I would totally do that.) But strangely, no one ever did.

      1. Laufey*

        I totally would have done that. And then I would have tried to get multiple coworkers in on it, and write letters from opposite sides of the scenario.

      2. LBK*

        I think my impulse would be to write a letter about how I had a coworker who was writing a workplace advice blog and how I thought that was weird.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Looking at the URL, that blog post title ranks right up there with “Eats shoots and leaves” for demonstrating the importance of punctuation! XD

        2. KJR*

          His comment reminds me of a book by Paul Rosa called Idiot Letters, who would write letters in to companies complaining about really weird stuff, or asking even weirder questions…and he would always ask for a t-shirt at the end of the letter. I loved that book!

      3. Melissa*

        I wouldn’t have thought to do it on my own, although the way you suggested it does sound hilarious.

  2. Armchair Analyst*

    What resources do you use for the “Is it legal?” questions? Does it matter what US state the poster is from, or if they’re a member of a union, and how do you find out those details if people don’t supply them?

    Are you a member of SHRI?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Much of it I just know from doing this work for a while, having consulted employment attorneys in the past in professional roles, etc., but if I have any doubt, I look it up. Also, it’s really easy to look up employment laws if you know what terms to Google. Easier than people realize, I think. And over time, you get a good sense of whether something might be impacted by state law or not.

      I assume people aren’t in unions unless they specifically mention it, just as I assume they’re in the U.S. unless they say they’re not — because both those things could radically change the answer, and it’s just not practical to address those possibilities every time.

      I’ve never been an HR person so I’m not a member of SHRM. (I’m not sure what SHRI is.) Nor am I even really a fan of HR or much interested in traditional HR. I know people label workplace stuff as “HR” a lot, but I think of it much more as management than HR.

      1. Joey*

        I hate to say it and I know you’ll probably deny it, but I’m sure you know that what you’re doing is essentially an HR role.

        1. JB*

          It depends on what your definition is of HR, and clearly you and Alison have different definitions.

          I personally tend to think of HR not as management but as the people who are responsible for posting ads, scheduling interviews and background checks, making sure the W2s are taken care of, sending in government reports, handling payroll, that sort of thing, and not as managers. No place I’ve worked has had HR people acting as managers.

        2. LBK*

          I’m not sure I understand how? Can you elaborate? Maybe we have very different understandings of what HR does.

      2. Rachel*

        I’m an HR professional who has been following your blog for a couple of years now. Most of your advice does have HR implications but I love that it’s coming from your role as a Manager.

  3. Helka*

    How does your workflow tend to go? Do you start composing the answer to a question pretty much when you first look at it, or do you sort “answer on the site,” “answer privately,” and “don’t answer” (or other categories?) and then let them sit a bit before you start writing? Do you tend to do sprints where you compose several days’ worth of content in a relatively short span and then focus on other things, or is your writing per day about proportional to what’s posted per day?

    1. The IT Manager*

      What’s your process for letters you answer on the site? Do you draft answer, let it sit, edit a few days later, and then post? Do you answer and post with little break between them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I rarely let it sit. I write an answer, load it into WordPress, and it’s done. You may have noticed I don’t always even proofread…

        The one exception to that is that I have an ongoing draft email message where I have tons of short-answer answers. I paste all the short-answer questions in there, and then whenever I feel like it, I go into that message and answer some. Then when I need a short-answer post, I can just pull five from that.

        1. The IT Manager*

          You may have noticed I don’t always even proofread…

          I wasn’t going to say that, but I was thinking it. It’s much less typos than the much rarer instances where I think you misinterpret the questions or miss a key fact, but you acknowledge your mistakes when commentors point them out, and sometimes even update your answer.

          1. A Non*

            Just wanted to say I’m totally not bothered by this. AAM posts at a terrific rate, I’d be surprised if there weren’t occasional misreads. And they’re always handled with grace and tact.

            1. Kai*

              Agreed, and I’m not bothered by typos, either. It surprises me that people so often point them out, unless it’s a case where a typo completely changes the meaning of a sentence.

              1. Squirrel!*

                Yeah, the whole pointing out Alison’s typos thing annoys me (unless, like you said, it clarifies something important). I think a lot of people on the Internet love pointing out when someone is wrong, and they may love the e-validation they get when Alison’s responds to them (oh joy of joys) and thanks them for pointing it out.

                1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                  Alison does like us to point out her typos, though (or at least, she doesn’t mind). I know I’d rather have someone notice a mistake so I can fix it than let something stand that makes me look like an idiot.

              2. Melissa*

                I think that she specifically asked people to point them out at one time, or at least she said that she appreciates it when people do. I usually don’t because 1) minor typos don’t really change the meaning of the question and 2) by the time I get to the post the rare major one is usually already pointed out.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It totally varies. Sometimes I get a question and I’m inspired to answer it immediately — I try to go with that impulse and just write it on the spot when that happens. (I then load it into WordPress and set it for some future publication date; it’s not generally published immediately just because I wrote the answer immediately, since usually I already have that week’s posts already set up — although sometimes I’ll bump something else for it if I’m excited enough about publishing it immediately.)

      More often though, I just read through the mail and mark things using Gmail’s label — I’ll use a “short answer” label for questions that I think I’ll use in a short-answer post, and I’ll star other stuff I want to answer. Some questions I’ll send a quick private answer to if I know I’m unlikely to use it in a post but could still answer it quickly, other stuff I’ll leave sitting un-labeled in my in-box to come back and consider again later, and some stuff I’ll delete immediately if I know I’m not going to use it. (I used to feel horribly guilty about that, but there’s no way I can answer everything I receive, and it’s way better for my inbox to be honest with myself about that.)

      More coming in response to your other questions in a sec…

      1. Natalie*

        Do you ever revise your initial decision to put something in a short answer post? I’ve noticed a few of them have definitely ended up with answers that were full-post length, but I can definitely see that might be more noticeable from the outside.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, definitely. I’m trying to be better about spotting those ahead of time and making them their own post. But sometimes a short answer post feels like it needs some spice to it and then in it goes…

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I definitely do sprints. Like I said above, I try to do all the posts for the week on Mondays except for short answers. But sometimes during the week something else inspires me and I write additional ones (which then saves me work the following Monday).

      1. 42*

        How do you prioritize letters that seem time-sensitive? There are times when I see questions that are sort of “this happened this week” and require an answer relatively soon–you appear to reply to them quickly.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t always manage to; sometimes there’s just not a way to be able to do it time-wise. Sometimes those questions were indeed fitted in quickly. Other times, they weren’t but I published it later anyway because I thought the answer would still be useful to others. Or I sent them a private answer quickly, but didn’t publish it on the site until later.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’ll also add: I think you guys are picturing this as much more service-oriented than it really is! I’ll often make decisions based on “I need a letter for tomorrow and I’m exhausted so let me find an easy one” or even “I need a letter for this slot and here’s one that inspires me even if it’s not the most urgent/important one.” It’s far more based around me than I think y’all realize!

            I don’t think I could do this and stay fulfilled/motivated/sane if it were all based on a strict hierarchy of need.

            1. queen bee*

              So you don’t actually see this as an advice blog, but as a management blog that uses the letters as a stimulus?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I see it as a workplace advice blog.

                But any good advice column picks letters based on what makes sense for the column and the columnist. I don’t think many are a “get your letter answered in the order received or in order of urgency” service.

  4. regina phalange*

    How do you decide whether or not to answer a question on the site? Are there times you either answer privately or not at all?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I consider:
      – do I find this interesting?
      – do I have a decent answer to this?
      – have I overdone this topic recently? (Sometimes I get interesting letters that normally I’d want to publish, but I know we’ve done a ton on that topic lately so I don’t. Letters about creepy coworkers fall in this category — I get a ton of them, but I want to keep things varied.)

      1. Well*

        This is kind of interesting. You don’t really get a sense of how ‘common’ some of these requests are – besides the creepy co-workers are there other issues that people frequently write in about?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, and yes, there are times when I answer privately (usually when I’m not going to publish it but the answer is quick, like one or two sentences) and lots of times when I don’t answer at all, simply due to the volume of questions. (But everyone who writes in gets an auto response explaining that that’s a possibility and why.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For a while, I was really sick of all the “how do I follow up on my application” letters, but then I added a note about those to the “ask me a question” page and they’ve gone down considerably.

      I suppose at times I get tired of the “please predict the future and tell me if these signs mean that I’m going to be offered this job” questions, but I also totally understand why people ask those.

      1. Natalie*

        Have you considered putting a short FAQ list on the Ask A Question page? IIRC you have a couple of posts that cover most (US) legal issues, and you probably have one post that covers the folly of trying to read the tea leaves in a form email about someone’s job interview.

          1. Natalie*

            You might be able to crowd source part of it – post the 3-5 questions you feel like you’ve answered dozens of times, and we can suggest what we think the best post on that topic is from your archives.

      2. afiendishthingy*

        Haha I think I first found this site by googling something similar to that second question; the wait between “Once these background checks clear we will talk about an offer” and the actual offer for my current job lasted approximately 7 years by my count. I can’t actually remember if I emailed you or just obsessively read your previous posts on that.

  5. fposte*

    What questions surprise you most, and what group responses do?

    Have you ever met a question-submitter (to your knowledge)?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Good question. I’m not sure if I get terribly surprised anymore! I mean, the individual details can always be astonishing (the mayan shaman boss, the curse-casting coworker, etc.) but the overall premise that there’s crazy stuff happening in workplaces no longer surprises me. (I bet it doesn’t surprise any of you anymore either!) Sometimes I guess I’m surprised by a person’s take on a situation.

      I’ve never met a question-submitter socially (that I know of), but I’ve had weird things like new colleagues turn out to be readers of the site … or recently a good friend of mine was talking to two of his friends from college and they were talking about AAM (not knowing that he knew me). That was cool.

      1. Ethyl*

        I always find it interesting and wonderful when I recognize commenters at other websites I frequent. What other advice sites (or just blogs) do you enjoy?

          1. Wren*

            Mine too!

            Did you ever read the workplace advice columnist that had (still have? not sure…) at the WP, the one where CH helped with a contest to select the columnist?

            I didn’t follow it since the couple of times I checked it out, it seemed very office/corporate job oriented, and thus not relevent to me. I suppose more questions here are from people who work in corporate/office culture than not, but I still find the content interesting.

  6. AndersonDarling*

    You have been running AAM for a few years. Have the questions changed over the years? Can you see a shift in workplace issues based on the problems people are having?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I find it interesting to go back and look at the questions from 2007 and the early part of 2008 — the beginning of the blog, where I printed literally every question I received, because there were so few of them. In a lot of cases, they feel different to me than the questions I receive (or at least print) today. I think I get way more weird/scandalous stories today than at the beginning. At the beginning, the questions were all very utilitarian.

      1. 42*

        Do you ever look back at an answer from several years ago, and think that you’d answer it differently today?

        *This is not to imply that your original “2008” answer was erroneous per se…but rather that time and experience gained would lead you to have a different response, if you were to get that letter today, in 2015.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, and I hear way more about introvert/extrovert issues than I used to. Some of that is due to it getting more attention in the world in general, but some is probably due to my establishing myself as a welcome haven for introverts :)

      1. BeenThere*

        As an INTJ and a frequent hunter for sites like this on this internet I thank you for making this a welcoming place :)

  7. DrPepper Addict*

    I’ve always wondered how much you have to do with the design of your blog. Do you write html code, design logos and such?

    I’ve wanted to start my own blog but have no interest in doing any of that. I just want to write, so I was curious how much of the sites design you actually do yourself.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Very little! I know basic HTML and use it for the very basics, but I have a wonderful tech person (Laura Moore from who does all the heavy lifting.

      WordPress makes things pretty easy for the average blog, but a while back, the basic set-up started to strain under the weight of the traffic and commenting that we get here, so Laura has done lots of customization to keep things working well. (Some of which you can see, like the expandable/collapsible comment feature, and others that’s invisible but keeps the site from collapsing under the weight of itself.)

      For design stuff like logos and book covers, I’ve used designers from Etsy! Surprisingly affordable.

      1. Marmoset*

        I hadn’t thought of looking on Etsy for logos until you mentioned this! I am right in the middle of looking for a logo for my small business and was totally stuck until now. Jackpot! :D :D

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Weirdly, not that often. And it’s not because I’m some workplace genius — I think it’s more because I’m willing to publish answers that own up to it and say “I’m not sure about this, but you could consider X or Y, but I’m still worried about Z.” Which I actually think people appreciate, because it helps them sort out their thinking, even if it doesn’t have The Answer.

      1. Nashira*

        By the way… It’s honestly a relief to know that even experienced people, with your level of interpersonal and workplace savvy, don’t always have perfect answers. I appreciate it when you print those reservations about Z! It helps me have a more realistic view of how my own savvinesses rate, rather than the skewed one my social anxiety presents as reality.

      2. TheAssistant*

        FWIW, you once answered a question of mine with “I have no idea!” and gave me your thought process as to why you didn’t know, and it was the single most helpful “I have no idea!” I’ve ever received.

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Do you accept guest submissions? I’ve been meaning to write one on what appeared to be a shoe in internal candidate for a government job but an external candidate threw a wrench in the mix. All good things of course.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not generally. The few times I’ve done it have been when I wanted a very specific question answered and didn’t have the expertise to do it myself (like Katie the Fed’s post on the government shutdown or the recent one on doing well in rigidly structured government interviews). Generally I shy away from them largely because (a) I have no shortage of content on my own — in fact, I have more than I can handle!

    2. Melissa*

      I would be interested in hearing about that, if you decided to write it in as a letter. Although I’m in a different field, my field also buzzes a lot about the Dreaded Internal Candidate – namely, people getting discouraged because they find out that there is an internal candidate and then internal candidates sometimes complaining that they aren’t considered as seriously as the shiny new unknown external candidates.

  9. Texas HR pro*

    I really appreciate the fact that you provide updates on some items so that the readers can find out how one situation ended or resolved itself. How often do you get a letter where you are truly worried for the writer, or that affects you more personally than you expected?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s happened a few times. We actually had someone on the AAM LinkedIn group a while back who was posting about being suicidal, and that was obviously very concerning and upsetting.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I think about her all the time. I don’t remember exactly how that all happened, but I was pretty deeply involved with it – she was emailing me, I spent a bunch of time on the phone with a crisis hotline, I tracked down some former coworkers of hers to ask them to check on her, etc. I hope she is ok!

  10. LBK*

    Hopefully this isn’t too personal, but how profitable is AAM for you? I know you do a lot of consulting work and that this isn’t really your main job – do you do that to keep AAM up and running, or could you survive off the money from this site and just do the consulting because you can/want to?

    On that subject, what do you think qualifies someone to start doing management consulting? I think I’d like to do that some day, is it just having experience being manager? I think you’ve said before that you kind of felt like a fraud when you started writing this blog, so I’m curious at what point you decided you were knowledgeable enough about how to manage that you could make a living off of helping others do it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      AAM is more and more profitable every year. As traffic goes up, ad revenue goes up (same for book sales). It’s reaching the point where it could be a full-time salary on its own, which is crazy and incredibly gratifying.

      It’s occurred to me to ask myself if there’s a point where I’d be willing to walk away from other work and just do AAM. However, I really like money, and I can’t see giving the other money up. So that probably won’t happen. Plus, I think there’s benefit to me being grounded in the real, actual work world and not just sit on my blogging high horse and act like I know what I’m talking about if I haven’t done real work in years.

      Management consulting: It depends on the specific kind of consulting, but in general, yeah, I think you want to have significant experience doing the work before it makes sense to advise other people on how to do the work. Of course, lots of consultants would disagree with me…

      1. hayling*

        Congrats on your success! I do agree that it’s good for you to stay in the “real world” as it not only gives you credibility but keeps you in touch with current workplaces.

      2. kozinskey*

        I just want to say that I’m really happy that AAM is so successful. I think the advice on this website (both from Alison and from the commenters) is incredibly valuable and it’s nice to know that it’s turned out to be profitable for Alison too.

  11. Buggy Crispino*

    You write very insightful columns; here and on other sites. They can be chock full of amazing and useful subjects. Yet they are sometimes so precise and correct that nothing else can be said. We just take the info, digest it, and move on gratefully.

    Do you ever feel like we’re a total bunch of morons when those posts get 8 or 10 replies, while a post on some insane WTF situation gets 1000? Are you ever disappointed by that?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I never feel like you’re a bunch of morons :) The opposite; I feel like I’ve found my people. It’s incredibly gratifying to write stuff and put it out into the world and get a warm response to it. I’m not kidding when I say that it blows my mind every day that I get to do this and people like it.

      I totally get why some of those posts only get a few replies. Some of them just aren’t that interesting to discuss. They might be useful (hopefully/maybe) but not everything is fascinating.

  12. CarolineK*

    Do you also have work outside of Ask A Manager? Part-time? Full-time? If so, what?

    If you work for an organization. have you ever wanted to hire someone who impressed you with her/his letter or comment?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh yes. I do management consulting. I’ve tried to make it part-time because I really like having lots of free time, but it keeps not working out that way. I’ve gotten really good about turning down work unless I really want to do it, but my schedule still keeps expanding in a way that I’m not thrilled about. (A good problem to have, I realize. But still a problem nonetheless.)

      I once hired an AAM reader (who wrote an awesome cover letter, by the way). She turned out to be as great of a hire as I’d thought (better, even).

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        When my employer’s CPA wants to cut back on his schedule, he raises his rates. He says the right amount of clients usually drop off. Perhaps you could consider this strategy. :D

  13. The IT Manager*

    How good are you at predicting which letters will get the most comments? Do you take that in to consideration when you group your short answers? Because sometimes I read your post and I immediately speculate that all the comments are going to be directed to one letter and all others will get little attention in comments. And then I feel bad for the other LW’s in that post.

    1. Elkay*

      I try to add a comment for the non-popular LWs if I see that happening. I had a short answer posted and it only got one comment which made me feel kind of crummy (especially as it was a creepy co-worker situation and I didn’t know if I’d done the right thing/over-reacted).

      1. JB*

        You know, sometimes I’ve seen some posts here that for some reason didn’t generate many comments even though I thought they would. I think sometimes there’s just a weird combination of circumstances that result in that.

        When I graduated from college, nobody clapped when my name was called (I didn’t notice because I was too busy worrying that I’d screw up the diploma hand-off/handshake combo). I had friends in school and my family was there, but to an outsider it might have seemed like nobody liked me. But what happened was that the announcer called my name while the family of the guy in front of me was cheering, so nobody, including my extended family in the audience, heard my name. I think some posts on websites are like that–it’s not the post itself, it’s something else that you won’t be able to know about.

        But I know what you mean about feeling crummy. It’s not personal, but on the internet, where you don’t know people and don’t see their reactions, it’s hard not to take things like that as a personal rejection, even though it’s not. The rational part of you knows better, but there’s some part of you that feels insecure.

        1. Natalie*

          Oh, definitely. I can think of a few posts that were exactly like your commencement situation – something totally bonkers had been posted earlier that day, and everyone was hanging out in that comment section discussing how bonkers it was.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I totally get that. I’ve noticed there are some commenters on open threads who seem to make a point of responding to people who aren’t getting responded to otherwise, and I really appreciate that.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I try to have one or two really interesting letters per short-answer post, because otherwise we could have five questions that are all “how do I follow up/format this bit of my resume/address a cover letter” (which are useful but I don’t think people would love a whole post of them). Sometimes I get the mix wrong though!

  14. Alicia*

    Do you make much money off AAM directly? I know you have the occasional sponsered post (and ads), but does it more so serve as a portfolio platform for your other gigs elsewhere? (Also, I’m not asking for numbers – more interested in percentages)

  15. Dani*

    When do you change your little icon to warm weather clothing? I have five bucks on it. Sorry if a stupid question….

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sometimes! He’s way more diplomatic than me. He worries I’m taking things too far. He was very concerned about me being snarky in this week’s post about the cover letter theft. I tend to ignore his concerns about such things.

          1. Jessa*

            Not only tweeted, mentioned on Consumerist. I mean they have to know they’ve been caught at it. It’s all over the web now.

      1. LBK*

        That’s hilarious. Do you find yourself ever applying your management/workplace tactics to your personal life? I find myself applying the principles about clear communication and expectations sometimes when it wouldn’t be my natural impulse for a personal relationship – I think about what I would do or say if something like that happened at work, and it helps bring clarity to my thoughts.

        1. Another Job Seeker*

          I do this – in both my work and professional life. The wording AAM has given me helps me to stand up for myself without coming across as rude or whiny. I greatly appreciate it. Thanks AAM!

        2. Nashira*

          The same communication skills I use at work, I use at home… just with more humor. I learned most of them for at home, actually, so I would stop repeating my mom’s emotionally abusive patterns. The work payoff has been a side benefit!

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          All the time. I think there’s tons of cross over.

          I think people should use The Management Center’s red button test in relationships. Here’s the part on it from the book I did with them:

          “Time and time again, we see managers who know deep down that they should replace an employee but want to avoid the discomfort of addressing it head-on.

          Here’s a revealing test. Pretend that you have a red button which, if pushed, would lead to your staff member being replaced instantaneously. Would you push it?

          Another way to look at it: close your eyes and pretend the staff member walked into your office and told you she was leaving to take another job. (Now open your eyes so you can continue reading!) How did you feel? If your major feeling was relief rather than panic, then deep down you know that you would be better off letting the person go – now you need to develop a plan to make it happen.”

        4. Melissa*

          Oh yeah. Even though I have never written in a question (came close a couple times) I feel like I have applied SO many principles that I learned in this blog – both from Alison and from the commenters – in my professional life.

  16. I can't believe Mad Men is over soon*

    Have you ever gotten a letter you felt you couldn’t answer? If yes, what was it about?
    Has a letter about a particularly awful workplace ever brought tears to your eyes?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Okay, thought about this some more. The times I can remember getting choked up are actually in response to certain thank-you letters — when people have written to me about the impact the site had on them (helping them leave a bad job, get into a really good situation, or whatever). I’m totally moved by that.

  17. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    Do you ever get amused or frustrated when you see other non-work advice columnists answering questions in a way you feel is doing the LW a disservice? Or ever want to re-answer questions yourself?

    And do you consider yourself an advice columnist or a work blogger–and how many questions do you get that you feel are the fault of the writers themselves?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. Yes.

      I won’t even read the Washington Post work advice column because I find it so awful and infuriating.

      Good question on advice columnist vs. work blogger. I tend to think of myself as a workplace advice columnist.

      Questions that are the fault of the letter-writers themselves: Be more specific! How are you defining that?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah! I kind of like those letters, because it feels like an opportunity to say, “hey, here’s a totally different way of looking at this that sounds like it will be news to you but might really help this situation.” In some ways, they’re really interesting because of that dynamic.

          But yeah, for sure. I think it’s probably true for everyone that there are situations where we’ve contributed to whatever problem we’re facing but don’t quite see that. Certainly not always, but a lot.

          1. Mephyle*

            Carolyn Hax is particularly good at that. You mentioned above what a role model she is to you (one way of interpreting “religious leader”)– have you been following her example consciously in this type of query in particular?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Not consciously, but I’ve read her for years — since her very first column — and feel like she’s formed a good chunk of my mind as an adult, so it certainly could be playing a role!

      1. Barbara in Swampeast*

        I had forgotten all about the Washington Post work advice column. I remember the competition they held for it and wasn’t that impressed with any of the competitors.

      2. Sarah*

        I would love a feature where you answered work questions sent into other columnists and corrected their misadvice. But maybe that violates some kind of advice columnist, they did ask me, they asked _____ code.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I write that column in my mind sometimes. I think it probably does violate some code of ethics somewhere.

          Early on, I did take on Brazen Careerist directly a few times.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Ha! You’re the one who got me to stop reading Brazen Careerist. Although by the end, I was reading it more for whatever insight it provided on autism, as it was the first if heard from anyone claiming to have been diagnosed with it, and I was interested.

  18. Simplytea*

    What are your thoughts on future job trends, or where the American job market is going? Do you think we’ll see an evening out, or higher emphasis on degrees?

    Would love your thoughts, and, as always, thank you!!!!

  19. ActionableResearcher*

    Have you ever considered (or do you currently) doing any sort of on-site management consulting for private companies? I know my workplace employs several of these type of folks a year and often their advice and programs aren’t helpful and no one ends up following through on their suggestions. It would be fantastic to have Alsion as a (temporary) in-house resource to help things shape up. Would you ever consider that sort of thing?

    1. The Other Katie*

      Expanding on that, how much time do you spend traveling for your consulting jobs? Are they all over the U.S. or just in your area?

        1. HSP INFP*

          That sounds amazing! I am curious how consulting works from one’s couch. What does your workflow look like and how do you gauge success with your clients? Do you ever visit the sites of companies you are consulting for? It’s all so abstract in my brain! Thank you for doing this AMA – I find it fascinating. :)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Lots of writing, phone calls, email. I do have to show up in person on occasion, but it’s not a lot. But I specifically screen for work where that’s going to be the case.

  20. Rebecca Too*

    Are there any types of questions or questions about particular topics that you wish you got more often?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I always love truly outrageous questions (the crazed hugger, the curse-caster, the person moonlighting as a prostitute in the work bathroom, etc.). Bring those on!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, and I wouldn’t mind more “how do I manage this situation well as the boss?” questions. I get fewer questions from managers, and I’d like more of them.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        And we’d like evidence that more managers are reading the site! The more good managers that are out there, the better it is for the workers.

        1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

          I do! I actually tell people that this site is where my “magic” comes from. I would have failed miserably in my management role had it not been for this site. Thankfully, I’ve been reading it for years, so when a mgmt opportunity came up a year ago, I felt totally prepared!

      2. Jen RO*

        The “problem”, if you can call it that, is that after reading the site for a few years I already know the correct answers, so I don’t need to email anymore!

      3. AdAgencyChick*

        I did, but we hashed it out over email!

        Now I’m not managing anybody (and I miss it terribly), or I promise I’d send one in :)

      4. LBK*

        That’s something I always find interesting – I feel like we rarely get questions from anyone higher than a second-level manager unless it’s a very small business that doesn’t have that many layers. I wonder if C-levels at larger companies just assume they have all the answers by that point?

      5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I wish there were questions from managers also. I think you see more in the open threads.

        I had one published once! :) It was the one about what potential employees wanted to see on the careers section of websites to make an employer most attractive. The responses was very helpful, although implementation has been slow.

        The dialogue from all levels of experience and so many industries (more than just teapots!) is so helpful.

      6. Jessilein*

        I’m a manager and I love this blog! I’ve wanted to ask questions, but it was actually someone in my office who turned me on to it, and I’d be afraid they’d read my question and recognize the situation/people/office, which could be awkward.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Personally, I feel safer discussing things buried in open thread vs questions that will be published front page. In the year and a half I’ve been reading AAM, there are plenty of letters I could have written for advice about. If ONE person recognized the details though, I’d have a lot more problems on my hand.

          I have a couple doozies saved up for when we’re well clear of the original situation with no potential blowback on moi.

      7. Lady Sybil*

        I’m a manager and a faithful reader. Love this blog and the commentators are pretty awesome too. I feel like I’m part of something that’s pretty special. I’m not adverse to making tough decisions and I can navigate awkward conversations with confidence due in part to reading this blog.

      8. OfficePrincess*

        I’ve only been managing for a little over a year and sometimes I wish I could write in for the situations that crop up, but they often have to be dealt with within a day or two. Instead, I go with the general background I have from reading daily and check in with either my boss or my counterpart in another facility for advice if I’m stuck. I definitely will look at some of the overall themes that keep popping up in my office to see if I can form a question out of them though!

      9. Tax Nerd*

        I’m a manager, and I’ve been a reader for a couple years now. This blog definitely helped me when I was a newer manager, and I’ve referred my fellow managers here. (We get some training in soft skills, but there’s always a lot to learn.)

        Alison’s advice in general has definitely helped me, and she’s answered some of my questions in the comments, which was great. I get great upward feedback from my direct reports, and a lot of the tools in my toolbox were learned here, rather than being innate. I’ve hesitated to refer my direct reports here, though, in case one of us were to write in and the other to recognize themselves.

      10. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ha, since posting this I’ve received a bunch of questions from managers. (Thank you!) It made me remember that one reason I end up posting fewer managers’ questions is that so often the answer is “you need to fire that person and here’s how to do it” — and since I try to balance things out so I’m not posting the same answer all the time, I often end up just answering those privately or not using them :(

      11. Joe*

        I’m a manager, and I’ve had a few situations where I’ve thought about writing in, but I often feel squeamish about it. The situations that come up are ones where I feel like I would be violating confidentiality by discussing it, even though I know things here are totally anonymous. I think that’s on me, though, and I should try to get over it, because I think I’ve had situations where an outside perspective would have been very helpful.

      1. HSP INFP*

        I think A Jane is specifically referring to answering the questions on this AMA – because there are already so many comments!

        1. A Jane*

          Yes that’s what I meant. I wondered how long you’d spend answering the questions on this post and at what point you’d decide there were too many to answer. And did you realise that you’d opened the floodgates so much by posting this topic? :)

  21. Simplytea*

    Ooh, also, how do you take critical comments regarding your blog? Negative and positive criticism?

    I LOVE your advice, but know that some may not be as partial to it. It’s a different (better) style of management some people can’t relate to or agree with.

    And, what is your BIGGEST piece of advice for those new to the workforce? (This question isn’t as related, so feel free to ignore for time constraint purposes)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I really like it when people disagree, if they explain why and it’s a well-reasoned argument.

      Sometimes I find it frustrating if I think they’re missing a key point, but in general I’m cool with it.

      1. Camster*

        That’s why this site is one of my favorites and a “must read” for me daily! Not only is the information great, but I love all the different view points and discussion!

  22. Future Analyst*

    I know you’ve revisited some of your earliest responses to things, and usually agree more-or-less with what you said initially, and just expand on your initial response. Do you ever re-read any of your responses from the past and think, “I was really wrong on this” or “What was I thinking with this response?”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author


      Early on, I used to say it was fine to follow up on an application once, as long as it was in an email and not a phone call, but now I discourage people from even doing that because it just so rarely results in anything (and instead just keeps people anxious and fretting over that job rather than moving on mentally like they should).

      Also, I recently came across this, which I now totally disagree with:

      1. FD*

        That’s really interesting! Would you ever considering posting a follow up to that, on why you disagree with your old advice and what’s caused your opinions to evolve?

      2. Rebecca Too*

        Not sure if we are allowed follow up questions, especially when it wasn’t even our question, but can I ask what led you to changing your mind. Is it just that now there are so many good candidates looking for work that employers won’t have to hire someone outside their industry, as there will be candidates who have the same experience in the industry who are just as good, or have you changed your thoughts on how long it can take someone to get up to speed on a specific issue or industry?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I have more of an appreciation now for times when industry experience really does matter. I cringe at the headline of that post most of all; it’s so dogmatic and it’s just not correct.

          To be clear, there are LOTS of times when that post is correct (minus the headline) … but I think it lacked subtlety and consideration of the smaller number of times when it really does matter.

      3. Steve G*

        Why do you disagree w/ the “industry knowledge one?” I just looked at it, and 80% agree with it, the big buts being upper mgt (they should have experience in similar industry) and sales (can’t sell something you don’t understand).

        As an Analyst, I feel confident to walk into any business and do the #s as long as I get a basis understanding of what the company does, I don’t think I need years of experience working in the same industry……

      4. Kay*

        I’ve referenced that post so many times! What changed about needing industry knowledge and if it’s too much to explain here, could you do a follow up post about it?

      5. Dan*

        I’m curious too, because that post was just really general, so I’m surprised that there’s enough to take a hard line disagreement with.

        But… in my field, “industry knowledge” is certainly a plus. Granted, it alone will not (and cannot) get you a job, but if you meet the basic education/skill requirements that industry knowledge is going to separate you from the pack. Is lack of that knowledge a show stopper? If we don’t get applicants with that knowledge and we *need* the position filled, then we do it. But if we can hold out, then we do.

        My industry knowledge came from years in the field, and that’s not just something I can summarize in a week long crash course and expect it to stick.

  23. Katie the Fed*

    A lot of smart, assertive women on the interwebs find themselves the subject of misogynistic attacks. Has that ever happened to you?

    Also, have you had to block anyone from posting or emailing you?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I was just talking to someone about this. I keep waiting for that kind of thing, but it almost never happens. I’ve had a few trolls on Twitter but they were easily blocked.

      The most disturbing thing that’s happened is that a stalker situation from a long time ago temporarily reared its head again when he found the site and started emailing me very unpleasant things.

      1. knitchic79*

        Oh ick. I had a regular who got a little too attached and for a brief moment it looked like it might get scary, thankfully everything worked out. Glad you’re ok and it didn’t get more serious.

  24. De Minimis*

    Do you think there is an underlying issue or group of issues that is at the root of many workplace problems?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, absolutely.

      * People who take power dynamics too far, on both sides of the equation — managers who act like total tyrannical assholes because they feel like they can, and employees who think they’re supposed to be so deferential that they end up coming across really oddly and making bad decisions (both for themselves and for their workplaces)

      * Lack of desire/instinct/willingness to just discuss things candidly

      I could actually write a whole list here, but I’ll stop at these two for now.

  25. Elkay*

    Do/did any of your co-workers read your blog? As a sideline, do you ever wish you wrote this blog anonymously?

      1. Joey*

        It absolutely was. It was just AAM. If I remember correctly she revealed when she started writing for us news

    1. RandomName*

      Adding on to this, does your husband read your blog? If so, are some of the articles topics of discussion for you two?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Coworkers did/do read it, although I don’t know how often.

      I was anonymous at the start, but then added my name to it about a year in (when I started writing for U.S. News and couldn’t be anonymous over there).

      My husband reads it occasionally, but definitely not daily. I will admit to being mildly offended by that. I think it’s fascinating and should be read daily!

      1. Joey*

        Is that because he doesn’t frequently agree with you or that it’s just not particularly interesting to him?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think it’s just not that interesting to him. He works in a family business and a lot of this stuff just doesn’t come up for him.

          I just ran that answer by him and he said, “We have our own subset of issues.”

          1. Beancounter in Texas*

            YES. Nepotism is a whole other beast and I’ve been on both sides – the employer’s daughter and the family’s employee.

          2. Wren*

            is it his family? or is he a non-family employee at a family business? I’m in the latter category, and yes!!! it is crazy here. One day the other shoe is going to drop and I’ll probably quit in flames.

  26. Anonicorn*

    Do you ever worry about running out of content? I know it’s largely reliant on reader submissions, but eventually you’d have to end up repeating yourself so frequently that you’d probably get sick of it. (That said, I don’t know of any other sites like this.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I used to worry about that, for sure, but I’m now convinced that there is no shortage of weirdness and confusion in the world and it will supply endless interesting letters.

      In the beginning, though, I figured I had six months worth of things to say and then would stop. It’s now nearly eight years later, so…

  27. Dasha*

    Do you ever worry about some letter writers? I know that might sound silly but I know some people have had some pretty weird situations.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh yes, absolutely. Some of the ones that you’d expect, but some are ones you wouldn’t anticipate. For instance, I was oddly worried about this person and felt totally relieved when she updated in the comments:

      Also, sometimes I’ll send people my response before it’s actually published, because I want them to swing into action immediately and not delay.

  28. AHP*

    I hate being that person, but I have to say this is one of my favorite blogs. I recommend it to almost everyone I know that’s looking for a job (which is a lot being a recent grad).

    I’m thinking about starting a blog myself, but closer to a lifestyle blog than management. What recommendations do you have for someone looking to get started?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thank you — I really appreciate hearing that.

      This sounds incredibly trite, but honestly, just focus on putting out really good content. That’s why people will read.

      Okay, that’s totally useless (but I swear it’s the most important thing). Tell me more specifically what might be helpful and I’ll see if I’ve got something better.

      1. AHP*

        I’m thinking something focused on the transition between college life and “adulthood” because it’s still fresh in my head. The content would be somewhat based on my own experiences (moving to a totally new city with not many friends or a job, leasing an apartment for the first time, etc) and a lot of “things you never thought about until it happened.” I know I want to generate a decent amount of content prior to launching the blog so the second post is a day or two after the first (rather than a few weeks later). My thought is that it’s would serve as a side project for myself to work on my own writing skills, but also something that people are actually interested in reading.

        1. misspiggy*

          Sounds great, but you may want to check out Adulting to avoid duplication (just in case you’re not familiar with it)

          1. AHP*

            I’ve looked at it actually, but not had time to go as in depth as I would like. I’ve got a list of blogs that cover similar topics so I can try to create unique content rather than replicate what’s already been discussed (which may be shooting myself in the foot, but I’m hoping I can put a new twist on things). There’s a also similar book to the one KWB put out by a YouTuber (Grace’s Guide – I got it as a Christmas gift and it + AAM is what inspired me to consider blogging).

            1. Natalie*

              I think your particular voice and style matters more than whether or not the topics are being covered. If you think about it, there are 90 gajillion blogs (I did a survey) on literally every topic in the known universe. Let yourself be liberated by the knowledge that it’s not possible for you to pick a completely unique topic. What you can do is say something about it in an entertaining and engaging way.

              1. Wo Fat*

                Thanks for your post.
                I believe there are 90 gajillion blogs and I wondered if you knew of a good way to search them. Google? Blogspot? Can you recommend a good way to find the right kind of blog you are looking for or at least get in the ball park? And where’s a good rating site for blogs? I thought I saw one for AAM once but I didn’t bookmark it.

        2. Confuzzled*

          I’d totally love to read that! As a recent grad I feel like I’ve been going through things that I know others have, but I still felt like I was going it alone. If you get things off the ground I’d love to see what you come up with :)

        3. Malissa*

          Call it “How to be an adult.” Seriously, I have so many realtives in that stage of life that I would love to refer them to a blog that says, “Yes you really should keep good tires on your car and no you can’t expect other people to pay for them.”

          1. AHP*

            Mine was closer to “yes, you should replace your tire when it has an irreparable hole in it. No, this doesn’t mean you need to replace all 4 at the same time when you can’t afford it.”

            1. kozinskey*

              I’d totally read a “How to be an adult” blog. Especially if it featured content like “What in God’s name is an HSA and do I need to start one if my employer offers it?” …because I still don’t know the answer to that question. Or whether it’s still OK for a newly married couple to decorate the house with framed movie posters because we don’t know anything about home decor. Ugh, there are so many questions about how to properly adult that I don’t have the answers to. Please start this blog and link us to it!

              1. Kay*

                Hey Kozinskey!

                I know this was meant as fodder for AHP’s future blog , but I couldn’t resist!

                An HSA is a health savings account, but Google can tell you that, so that’s not really helpful. Think of it as being similar to an IRA—it’s an opportunity to make your money work harder for you by avoiding, reducing or delaying taxes on what you put in the account.

                Like all employee benefits, it’s something your employer offers with the primary goal of making them more attractive to current and future employees. Don’t feel too pressured to take advantage of every benefit on the table—what’s right for someone else might not be right for you and it’s worth doing your research (or hiring someone!) to find the right mix. Before you make a decision either way, consider your financial situation and possibly your health history. Maybe an HSA would pay off in the long run for you!

                As for decorating, your home should be a reflection of you and what you love. If that’s movie posters, great! They might read a bit younger than other décor options, but if you and your spouse are young at heart or really love film, than they’re not saying anything about you your friends and family don’t already know.

                Hope that helps!

                1. Ruthan*

                  If you want to make your movie posters look more like Grownup Decor, put them in nice and/or matching frames. (Matching each other, that is.)

              2. Cordelia Naismith*

                I love my HSA card! I use it all the time for stuff my insurance doesn’t cover, like my chiropractor and buying contact lenses.

                The way the one I have works is I decide how much money I want to contribute to the HSA each month. (For the sake of easy math, let’s say $50.) That money gets taken out of my paycheck pre-tax. My employer then matches that amount. So every month, $100 gets deposited in my HSA account, $50 from me and $50 from my employer. I can use it on anything health care related, from chiropractor appointments to buying band-aids at the drugstore.

                It’s a great deal, and I use mine all the time. I don’t know if HSA cards function the same everywhere or not, though.

          2. Collarbone High*

            Tomato Nation’s “25 and Over” post is a good place to start for that. I reread it every so often, and I’ve referred a few people there in a “what a great post” way in hopes they’d take the advice to heart.

            1. AHP*

              You got it! I’ve got a timeline started, so hopefully it’ll be up and running in the next few weeks!

              1. Beancounter in Texas*

                I’d read it too & I’m in my late 30’s. There were certainly lessons I learned the hard way starting out on my own.

                1. ArtsNerd*

                  It hasn’t been that long since I constantly pestered my older friends and family with questions about how things operate in the world. By which I mean… a few hours? (Only half-joking.)

            2. AHP*

              I’ve purchased the domain! (I didn’t want to use the term “adult” to get confused with content that’s rated “adult” and was taken/also happens to be the name of a book). I’ve got some research to do on how to make the back end work since I thought I launched the site last night, but definitely didn’t. I appreciate everyone’s input and support – thank you! If anyone has recommendations for content they would want to see, let me know – the email I set up for it is

        4. Melissa*

          God, I would totally read that. I feel like I’m (maybe? hopefully?) coming out of the other end of that stage of my life but it would be fun to read it for reflective purposes. There were so many things I didn’t know how to do, and feelings I didn’t know how to deal with, when I was making the transition from college to adult life.

    2. hayling*

      Oh man I can’t count the number of times I’ve recommended AAM. Also every time someone has a work/job-searching question on Ask Metafilter I refer them here!

      My coworker and I also bonded over our love of AAM!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Little delights me more than knowing that there are people out there who talk to each other about AAM. Seriously. I want to overhear all the conversations.

        1. DJ Max Power*

          I discussed a couple of your short-answer questions during a talk break on my show last week! This week I actually was thinking about talking about Carolyn Hax’s advice, because I also think she’s pretty awesome. :)

        2. AdminAnon*

          My co-worker and I discovered that we both read AAM religiously when you posted one of my questions a couple years ago. She recognized the situation and now we regularly discuss recent posts during lunch.

        3. Cristina in England*

          One friend and I talk about AAM all the time. I am constantly referring to the site when she complains about work issues.

        4. KT*

          There is a tiny group of relatively new, young managers (of which I am one) at my organization who devotedly read and regularly discuss your blog. You’ve been a major part of our professional development and success! We love it, not only because of your great advice, but because it’s so wonderfully accessible (to people who aren’t into reading management books every night). So, be delighted! We are always discussing your blog and how it relates to what we do! If you ever do a Canadian road trip, you would be more than welcome to overhear all our conversations in this area! (please do that, actually!)

          I’m also going to keep in mind your comment that you like the “how should I handle this as a manager?” questions because I have loads of potential questions in that category…

        5. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

          I love sending the outrageous ones around the office. When I have quiet time I use the Surprise Me! button to entertain myself with a bunch of old AAM posts, and so I’ll stumble across the seriously WTF ones (like the manager who wanted to approve underwear purchases… I sent that to my manager and asked if she wanted to start a new initiative).

        6. Mike C.*

          Yeah, I throw your website to coworkers all the time when they start aiming for managerial positions. Mostly so I don’t end up with a bad manager in the future.

        7. Felicia*

          My coworker and i were discussing the post about the Shaman, and about the person putting curses on their coworkers, because we had a member call asking about unicorn healing, and another one call email “newfangled witchcraft” in the same day. We always talk about the crazy ones while we’re at work in an “at least it’s not that crazy here” kind of way.

          I was actually shown this blog by a friend originally and she and I still talk about posts occasionally , especially since we’re both new to our careers and both find it helps us navigate things.

            1. Felicia*

              I work at a massage therapy association, mostly doing marketing. But the research based, medical stuff, not what I call the crazy “woo” stuff. But about a third of the people who call are into the woo stuff. Apparently unicorn healing is a big thing out of the UK that’s popular with Reiki people. Alien implant removal is also a thing with Reiki people , though I think fringe even for them , which is another thing I learn at work. It was hard not to laugh. You can see how unicorn healing lead to talk of curses in the workplace. I googled unicorn healing that day and had a lot of fun reading all about it.

              1. Melissa*

                Mmm, I like massage therapy but I find it kind of difficult sometimes to find a good place that does just the research-based therapy stuff without the crazy woo stuff.

                And now I have to Google unicorn healing.

        8. LBK*

          One thing I find extremely interesting is how many people whose opinions I otherwise trust end up being AAM readers. I’ve found 5 or 6 among my friend group since I started reading.

        9. chrl268*

          I am currently in the late stages of a maths degree (in Australia) and I constantly refer to aam – to the annoyance of my co-students. We did a group project last year where I was the project manager, I enjoyed the vague management role. I have had friends from my degree ask for help re applying for jobs and sending emails to hiring people because I have absorbed your question style. I want to pass your site along to my manager at my casual job, because we have a horrible recent hire who should be replaced, but my manager is a little delicate.

        10. Zillah*

          My parents have taken to asking me, “What does Ask a Manager say?” whenever I talk about my job search or when they talk about moving and starting new careers (which they’re planning to do in the near future), because I talk about this site a lot. I also steer my job-searching friends here.

          I am slightly ashamed, though, to admit that when I was graduating from library science school, I’d hear classmates talking about their job searches, and I purposely would not mention Ask a Manager to most of them, because they were competing with me for the same jobs and I didn’t want to help them get a job at my expense. (I did feel guilty, though.)

        11. Bend & Snap*

          My sister and I had no idea the other one reads/comments. We’ve actually conversed on AAM without realizing who the other one was! It came out when I referred her here during her job hunt and she knew all about it.

            1. regina phalange*

              I have also told my sister about this blog. I don’t know if she comments but I DO know we have both written and had our questions answered and I tell all my friends about the blog too. Especially the stubborn ones who refuse to believe there is any way they can improve their resume/cover letter or that there is no possible solution to deal with difficult coworkers. People who refuse to ask for help in situations like this infuriate me, so if they won’t listen to me, maybe they will listen to AAM, who is way smarter :)

        12. blueiphone*

          I’ve told so many friends and coworkers about Ask a Manager and even sent your e-book to one or two as a gift (legit gift, I have the paypal receipt. This ain’t Limewire for books over here).
          My coworkers are probably sick of me sending around AAM links during a group chat after the company has done something particularly…not wise. Oh, a specific example is when people are fired from my job (or leave of their own accord) and nothing is said about it at all. One day they’re in the office, the next– poof! Like they never existed. It’s so weird. My coworkers and I have talked before about how it makes us paranoid that we could be fired without warning even though our manager is good about providing feedback and maintaining communication. So the last time the company “disappeared” a person, I looked for AAM posts about why that’s a bad idea and sent them around to my team, going, “see, it’s normal that we think this behavior is strange! Be less strange, company!”

      2. Ashley*

        I work in HR and frequently refer people (employees who need guidance on communicating with their managers, in particular) to AAM. We had an associate in one of our stores (I work at the HQ of a retailer) cursing coworkers recently and I was so excited to be able to refer the HR manager here!

      3. Oh anon*

        I have a younger (20 something) sibling and I have recommended AAM to sibling and all of their recent grad friends to help them when job searching. I always get a thank you from them, because the advice from this blog always helps them.

  29. The Other Dawn*

    Have you ever had a letter writer come back and tell you that the advice was terrible, what were you thinking, etc.? And I always wonder about the ones where you call them out on their bad behavior. Do they ever get pissed and write back?

          1. Dawn*

            Ohhhhh my gosh I don’t know how I have not seen that before now… Wow. Just… wow. I would say this was the kickoff of WTF Wednesday except this was posted on a Thursday.

            I am DYING to know who the OP in that post really is… I wonder what became of him/her?!?!

          2. Anonsie*

            Oh wow, I remember this post but never read the comments after the letter writer showed up.

            How disappointed I am to have missed that one live.

          3. Ruth (UK)*

            Wow, I actually read this when it was first published but had NO IDEA that it had escalated so much in the comment section. I’ve been reading this blog for a little over 2 years, but only started looking at the comment section in the last few months (I used to only scroll down the main page).

            Honestly, I just read the whole thing. I think I’m a little dizzy now.

    1. Natalie*

      I remember one person who’s letter showed they had a really out of whack idea of how qualified they were, and they waded into the comments and argued with EVERYONE until they were blocked, I think.

        1. De Minimis*

          Anytime people start mentioning some of the wilder comment threads I always head straight for the search box!

          1. fposte*

            I always imagine Alison seeing the sudden flurry of hits on older posts, or even seeing some of the weird searches I’ve done to try to find some old post I only half-remember.

              1. Natalie*

                The random comments from much later are always interesting. Someone popped up at the end of that “I threatened my husband’s coworker” post to claim that every single commenter who thought the OP was out of line must be a Cheating Cheater trying to justify their terrible behavior. It was… concerning.

                1. fposte*

                  Yes! I think there’s a correlation between the lateness of the comment and the depth of emotion felt. Some of them seem unfortunately to be in pretty deep distress, and I’ve seen Alison answer some really late posts by people who should report harassment, etc.

                2. LBK*

                  I think it’s because people find those posts by Googling certain subjects and just reading/commenting on every relevant article they can find. I agree though that the comments left much later are always the most intense/craziest.

      1. Laufey*

        Oh, I don’t remember that one. Do you know which one that was or remember some key words/phrases that would help me find it in the archive?

        1. De Minimis*

          The glassdoor one can be found if you search on “expose this terrible interviewer.”

          I need to find the other one mentioned, I don’t remember it.

      2. LPBB*

        I keep hoping that person was able to calm down, look past the dogpilish comments, and take the good constructive comments to heart. I kind of doubt that happened though :(

        1. Ann*

          Yes, I actually felt really bad for that person. It seemed like there was maybe some other stuff going with him (although that’s just a hunch on my part), and the way he kept getting angrier and angrier the farther down he read in the comments was just hard to read. I truly hope that things worked out for him.

          1. De Minimis*

            I think it was just not being able to cool down and moving on past a bad interview.

            And it’s really easy to get into that Internet spiral where you’re expecting some kind of sympathy or comfort and get upset when you get something else instead.

        2. Jessica*

          As a newer reader, I just read that posting for the first time (Glassdoor Interview Guy or Girl). I was expecting to take some gleeful joy in it, but that was…painful. And sad. And it felt like I was witnessing, almost two years after the original post, the downward spiral of someone, which is never enjoyable. I kept wishing they would take the advice and take a step back instead of feverishly writing posts well into the night. I don’t feel like it was the fault of the commenters, but man, that was really rough to see the person engage over and over again and never change their tune.

      1. AdminAnon*

        Could they somehow be incorporated as part of the Sunday non-work open threads? Maybe even under a “read more” link? That’s the only way I can think of to incorporate them into this site. Apollo’s suggestion is also a good one, though it might end up being more work for you in the long run.

    1. NoPantsFridays*

      Where is the dating advice comment I’ve seen commenters refer to a few times? I’m interested in Alison’s advice on the subject but I seem to have missed the comment!

  30. Apollo Warbucks*

    I wondered about the posts you are reusing over at inc, what reason do they have for paying for something that is already freely available on-line?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That stuff is old and buried in my archives, and the thinking is that it’s going to be brought to a whole new audience over there who would otherwise never see it. (Plus, many readers here who don’t dig through the early years of posts.)

      1. Dan*

        Huh. I’ve been reading your column since 2008, I think. Can’t say I remember all of the old posts though. Can you believe there was a time when you could go a week without posting?

  31. FD*

    My manager now requires us to believe we’re Mayan shaman, curse other companies, wear purple shirts, and drink at Christmas parties. Is this legal?

    No but seriously.

    How do you handle taxes? I’ve heard self-employment taxes are a major pain; do you do them yourself, or do you hire it out?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I do it myself using It’s actually pretty straightforward; you just answer the questions their software asks and it calculates everything. There’s a lot of it to input, but it’s not terribly hard, just time-consuming.

      1. FD*

        Interesting, thank you! I’ve heard such horror stories from a couple of friends, it’s deterred me from ever trying even a small side business.

          1. FD*

            Eugh, yes. While it’s understandable that there are so many steps involved in having employees, it still is such a complicated landmine.

            This was just from sole proprietors, no employees, but it’s possible they didn’t have the right resources, or didn’t know what materials they needed to keep.

          2. Lipton Tea For Me*

            If you stay as a sole proprietor, all you ever have to really worry about is making the estimated tax payments every quarter. As long as that is done, your taxes are pretty much the same as doing a 1040. In my opinion, the key to self employment is to either take classes at the Small Business Admin office or to make sure first that you understand everything you are required to do as a small business owner per the IRS. Much of what gets people in trouble with the IRS is not knowing what they are required to do to have said business. You are both correct in that having employees opens up a whole new batch of rules and responsibilities.

    2. Clever Name*

      Just so you know, having an accountant do your taxes is life-changing. Seriously. I used to use turbo tax, and it definitely wasn’t hard, but it did take time. And I found it stressful, for some reason. My accountant does send me a questionnaire that I fill out, but for some reason I find it way less stressful and easier to pick up and put down and pick up later. If it’s not something that causes you stress, keep on keepin’ on, but if it does, getting someone else to do them is ridiculously worth it.

  32. Mimmy*

    One other question:

    Your advice about job search, managing, career advice, etc., are all so sensible; yet, it seems like such strategies are still not used on a widespread basis. One contributing factor you’ve suggested is outdated advice by career centers, both in universities and in county employment services (unemployment, one stop centers). Do you see that trend going away anytime soon? It’s a huge reason why I stopped going to these places.

      1. SanguineAspect*

        As a management consultant, have you considered offering your services or running workshops for university career centers, to help bring them into reality when it comes to giving college students advice?

          1. SanguineAspect*

            Hm… there’s an “American College Counselling Association,” which focuses on mental health of students, but covers counceling within a college setting. I wonder if they’d be interested in running a webinar or workshop at their annual conference? Even if it’s not directly related to mental health (as in psychology), career counseling is important and I bet a lot of mental health professionals working at universities deal with career / transitioning from college to career questions and issues.


            1. Schuyler*

              There’s actually an organization called the National Association of Colleges & Employers that would be more along those lines.

              I’m currently in a master’s of higher education program, and the there is a career development and counseling course that’s available to us. I haven’t taken it yet, but I plan to. This course is taught by a professor who is one of the top of his field, so it may be a better class than most. The problem is, though, that the closest we take to a management course is a required class on leadership… not really anything to help students learn about how to navigate the workplace, what hiring managers are looking for, etc. And a lot of people who are hired to work in those offices aren’t people with HR backgrounds, but people with higher ed or other backgrounds who, though they may be smart, don’t really have the training for the function they are charged with.

  33. CrazyCatLady*

    Your answers about handling even minor conflict are always very direct and straightforward without being aggressive at all. Were you always like that yourself, even early in your career or have you ever over-reacted or reacted in a way you later regretted? (Not so much about this site itself…)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In my early 20s, I participated in some really obnoxiously-handled dissent at work. We were right but we so mishandled it.

      And I’ve definitely reacted in other ways that I regret. It’s a lot easier to get this stuff right when you’re advising others than when you’re doing it yourself. I could write a book on all my mistakes.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        I wish you would! I would love to hear about some of them. It would help give the rest of us mere mortals some perspective ;) … and some hope that we can achieve your level of grace and ability to diffuse stressful and challenging situations.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Oooh yeah, or even just a blog posting of things you have done wrong and why and what would be a better way to handle it.

  34. Ann*

    Where do you do most of your writing for AAM? The professional writers I know all have a different set-up, ranging from “on the couch in PJs” to a home office to actual office space that they rent.

    (If this question is too personal, feel free to skip it!)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      On the couch, generally in loungewear. At some point we’re going to move into a bigger place and at that point I think I want to have an actual office so that I’m not in the middle of the living room … but even then I don’t want/need a desk. Maybe a chaise lounge.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I love that idea. My husband works out of our house, and has a big glass L-shaped desk that is only used for piling crap on. This takes up the whole office and leaves little room for my desk. Maybe what he really needs is just a chaise lounge and tote to throw his papers in. . .

      2. Windchime*

        I have an awesome leather one that I bought from Macy’s. It’s in my bedroom, but sometimes I work from there on my work at home day.

  35. Jessica*

    Is this blog plus all the columns on Inc, US News, Intuit, your job? I know that doesn’t sound right, but sometimes I read things that make it sound like you are still interviewing people as part of job responsibilities, when I thought you weren’t doing that anymore.

    1. Jessica*

      Looks like you may have already answered it above… didn’t know you do management consulting, but now that clarifies some of the statements you had made. And did I read that you only check email 30 minutes a day???

      But in regard to AAM, how do you protect your content? Have you had to be heavy-handed, or is a warning usually enough?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, management consulting.

        Checking email 30 minutes a day is about AAM email! Not my regular email. I’m in my regular email from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep. I love email.

        Protecting content: I periodically go through my content and google random phrases, find it has been reprinted without permission across the internet (sometimes with my name attached and other times presented as someone else’s own writing), and then spend a few hours sending out copyright violation notices and DMCA takedown notices. Most people comply, some do not (that’s when a DMCA takedown notice goes to their web host).

        Yesterday I discovered that an Australian website has been systematically ripping off letters here and using them in their own advice column. For over a year.

        1. Jessica*

          Awesome, thanks for the answers!

          The copyright thing is really interesting to me, because I, like another person above, want to do a lifestyle blog for fun. I was really surprised that the way you find out is by Googling your own content or being given the heads up. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that sounds like there is potential for a lot of your work to be used without you knowing since you are the one doing all the policing of it and to constantly do it would be a huge amount of time. Seems like what you do is the best solution to catch a fair amount of theft.

          Thanks again for doing this post!

            1. Beancounter in Texas*

              On one hand, that can be quite flattering, but I know it’s probably more infuriating.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I am not at all flattered, since I think most of the people who do it are idiots. But also because it’s not flattering to have someone steal something that’s yours and not theirs. (I know you know this, but I can’t help myself from saying it anyway.)

                1. Beancounter in Texas*

                  Oh, I see your point. I was thinking along the lines of “imitation” – not flat out plagiarism.

        2. KerryOwl*

          Yesterday I discovered that an Australian website has been systematically ripping off letters here and using them in their own advice column. For over a year.


          1. Jessica*

            Pretty sure we need to do a “Dumbledore’s Army” sort of thing here and take it on ourselves to do some of the policing every once in a while! Alison’s Army, unite!

        3. Jessa*

          For a year? OMG. I just do not get why people do that. I can understand marginally someone cribbing a letter to use in a job search cause they’re desperate and you’re awesome, but professionals? That resume company? Another advice column? That’s just so outrageous.

  36. Adam*

    Do you discuss your blog much in your off-time with friends and family? What kind of reactions do you get when people find out you make part of your living doing this work?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        My nieces are dying to answer more letters. I just need to find the right ones for them; it takes the right letter for that to work well.

        Last time I visited them, my oldest niece spent about an hour reading through my AAM mail. She’s really interested in what people write in about.

        1. Joey*

          When I had a discussion about what I do my little one asked me why adults need to be told to be nice to each other? I still havent figured out the answer to that.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Theories: They were not taught as kids and did not see it as young adults.
            OTH, everyone has slightly different ideas about what “nice” looks like.

            Lastly, what might be a big no-no in one situation, is perfectly fine in another situation. For example: A boss ordering people around daily is not going to play out well. But a boss ordering people to a certain door to escape a burning building is totally acceptable.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Me too! Have they only commented that one time? I wonder if one or both of them will inherit the blogging bug?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have one friend who likes discussing it and finds it interesting, which I love. Everyone else sort of dabbles in it at most (both reading and discussing it) … which I kind of find inexplicable because, come on, this is so interesting.

      People are definitely interested when I mention it though — especially strangers. People always have work stories that they want to share. Strangers actually seem more interested in it than my family (oldest niece excepted), which mildly irks me. My family needs to get on the ball here.

      1. Adam*

        If I had a job that was as interesting as this I’d want to talk about it all the time. As it stands, no one knows exactly what I do for a living. lol.

  37. IrishGirl*

    How do you feel the balance falls between people presuming non-existent rights or discrimination issues and people not being aware of existing rights or issues?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, interesting. I think people more often assume non-existent rights than are unaware of existing ones (possibly because there are so many more possibilities in the first category than in the second).

    1. Jen RO*

      Very good question! I actually noticed another Romanian reader commenting on the Facebook AAM page today and I realized there are *tons* of people who read but never comment on the site (or don’t disclose their nationality).

      1. Cheesecake*

        I was in Ro last week for a business trip! Anyway, i think the reason us Europeans more read than write is a) english, it requires a bit of a higher and more sophisticated level to chat about work-repated stuff and i find myself sometimes wondering if i said complete nonsence b) some questions are very much about american work culture and i sometimes throw a comment out there “we have 25 days off and you can’t take 2!!!”. But thats not relevant or helpful. So i try not to do it, but i love to chat.

      2. The RO-Cat*

        “In other news” I think I wrote the address of AAM’s site more than 100 times in different training sessions, so I guess there are many who just lurk, but are keenly reading (I do that myself, usually).

        1. Jen RO*

          Haha, that actually never occurred to me. I keep it secret because I think any of the people I know would identify me in a sec.

  38. IBX*

    Hi Alison! I have a blog of my own, but keep it very impersonal. I would like to start posting vacation pictures and random thoughts, but feel uneasy because I’ve had a stalker in the past and now keep my online presence to a minimum. Did/do you have any qualms about blogging? Has blogging affected you negatively in real life?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I mentioned above that I had a long-ago stalker briefly come back on the scene after he found my blog, so it’s a very real concern. But that’s one small negative in a sea of overwhelmingly positive stuff. I don’t know enough about your past stalker situation to give really specific advice, but in general I’d say that you should live your life and pursue things that make you happy, and to hell with letting that person interfere.

    2. Natalie*

      This is sort of off-topic, but if you’ve never read The Gift of Fear you might want to pick it up. It has exceptionally good advice for handling stalking.

      (Personally I’d skip the domestic violence section as I don’t agree with his take. But the rest of the book is gold)

    3. Zillah*

      I have this concern, too. For awhile it was even stopping me from joining LinkedIn, but I’ve tried to push that fear away because I really don’t want to shoot myself in the foot in terms of job-searching. :/

  39. Ali*

    I have another question! As a writer myself, I’m curious how you keep certain topics fresh when it seems like you’ve covered them over and over (e.g. writing a great cover letter and resume, questions about bad managers, etc.) I know sometimes I would go to do a topic and I want to be original, not just repeat what everyone else is saying. Especially since you’ve been running the site for such a long time. Is it based on trends in the job market/employment world, or something else?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I … just kind of write what’s in my head. I don’t really do anything in particular to keep it fresh, other than making sure that I’m not covering the same topics over and over in a short period of time. (And I bet there ARE some topics that people get tired of seeing from me.)

      My litmus test has always been exclusively “is this interesting to me? Would I enjoy reading this?” That’s served me really well, and I suspect that writers who try to tie it into anything else end up getting steered wrong.

  40. Christy*

    Have you considered requiring commenters to register? What do you think about not requiring email addresses or registration? For the record, I think it works well now; I’m just curious.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There was one dark week last year where I briefly thought about it. But I think it’s overkill — my orientation is toward keeping things as informal as possible. I think people appreciate that there aren’t hoops to jump through in order to comment. It lowers the barrier to entry into the conversation.

      1. Carly*

        Absolutely true – I am grateful that I don’t have to log in and that I’m allowed to be anon! Otherwise I wouldn’t comment!

        1. bkanon*

          *nod* I generally refuse to comment on sites that require an email or registration (and don’t get me started on sites that require a Facebook account to comment. Don’t have one, don’t want one, won’t use that site). I really appreciate AAM allowing me to participate with nothing more than a chosen name.

          1. Jessa*

            I do have FB, but I will not cross connect things to it. I do not like FB’s privacy policies on a lot of things, and I just don’t trust them to treat the other places I go properly. If I have to use FB to log in, I just won’t post at a site. Same with Google. I just do not like co-mingling my accounts.

            1. Melissa*

              Yeah, I hate cross-connecting. It gives Facebook outsize power and a lot of sites allow FB to post any of your activity on your FB feed.

            2. Zillah*

              Ditto. I also hate having my full name attributed to things I comment about online – it’s not such a problem here, but there are some real sickos around, and I feel better if they can’t easily bother me.

        2. ella*

          Sorry to be replying late, but I’m also grateful to not have to log in or create an account to comment. I’m also grateful that linking with my facebook or email accounts isn’t even an option, because it scares me how much facebook and google can track my activities (I know the answer is to post less, but don’t seem to be able to manage that). This is one of maybe 3 blogs I regularly comment on and that’s exactly why.

      2. Lipton Tea For Me*

        I for one, am glad you didn’t require that we register as I work for the federal government and many times need to be “anonymous” to make comments. We have all heard of the social media causing issues at work and I don’t wish to be a notch on that belt.

      3. coloured in pastures of chance dancing leaves cast spells of challenge*

        (Ironic though it may be for me to ask this) Have you ever considered allowing commentators to optionally register, and allow them to provide some kind of profile?

        I realize that people can fib about their qualifications, but still – I often wish I knew something more about where someone was coming from when they make a comment. I don’t think anyone here is intentionally wanting to do harm. But there is a difference between, say, someone attempting to be helpful by offering up a suggestion they read somewhere, and someone offering up a suggestion based on their real-life experience.

        (Actually, I’m considering finding somewhere that will let me put up a free web page, posting a short bio there, and including it in the “Website (Optional)” field).

      4. Wren*

        I don’t mind supplying an email address, but I hate registering. Even with saving the passwords, it’s cumbersome.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am surprised by how well it works and find it remarkable that it’s some of the best comments on the web. Not what I would have expected because of ease of access.

  41. Looby*

    With a lot of readers from outside the USA, have you ever thought about getting guest bloggers/HR professionals from different countries answering the non-USA based questions?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not really. The core of the site is about stuff that isn’t specific to different countries’ laws; to me, at least, the core of the site is about being happy in your work life.

    2. Mephyle*

      What about a one-time post like “Only in America” highlighting a few key issues that are different in USA from everywhere else or nearly everywhere else?

      1. Globetrotter*

        I think this would be a great idea! Or maybe Allison can recommend a non American centric blog

      2. Zahra*

        Oh, and we could have an “Only in Academia” edition and so on and so forth! Well, as long as Alison wants to do some special posts like that.

  42. Joey*

    What are your long term aspirations? Just keep doing more consulting and growing the website or would you eventually like to do something else?

    Do you think blogging or the website has a shelf life? And if so, what’s your back up plan?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t know! These are questions that have really been on my mind lately. I don’t know what the shelf life of the site is — I wish I knew, because I could make plans around that. (If anyone has a theory on this, please tell me.)

      I’m really happy with what I’m doing now. I’d be happy if it continued forever pretty much as it is right now. My questions are kind of around the pieces of that that might be out of my control.

      1. ali*

        so if you had a boss, how would you answer the question about what your long-term career goals are?

        (I find this impossible to answer when I’m really content with my job as it currently is.)

      2. LMW*

        You seem to have already passed the shelf life for most blogs and you’re still going strong with a great community.
        I’ve been really thinking about this a lot as I’ve watched some of my other favorite blogs die over the past few years and there are usually signs – either your audience just won’t be that into you or you just won’t be that it into blogging anymore. For the former, I think you can see it when you start getting huge turnover in the comments (like suddenly it’s filled with people making political comments or who can’t capitalize anything instead of the crazy-smart community you have now), and for the latter, when you suddenly realize that you are doing things differently than you normally would because you need to “feed the beast” of the blog — you are running letters you never would have considered in the past or slog through when you don’t enjoy it.
        This blog doesn’t seem to be near either of these issues now and they tend to take a long time to develop.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think it will run until the “magic” or “awe” is gone. So this might be a while. ;)

          I see the need for two plans: What would you do, if next week you found the blog was over/done? Conversely, what would you do if you found you were still writing here after twenty years?

          Reality might be somewhere in the middle but you can extract from both plans to get your next gig. My suspicion is that your next gig will be an outgrowth of what you have here, if you do move on.

        2. asteramella*

          Yes. Before I read AAM, I read another advice blog. I had to quit reading it because the blog’s writer started running lots of letters she obviously didn’t enjoy as much, and she started qualifying her answers a lot in an apparent bid to keep her readership from disagreeing with her as often. It was sad and made the blog really boring.

        3. Ruthan*

          Considering the tenure of some print advice columns, it seems like there’s no real reason for an advice blog to have a shelf life other than “so long as the net (enjoyment + compensation) is positive”.

      3. College Career Counselor*

        Speaking engagements! (this might also be a way to break in with college career services offices)

  43. AnotherAlison*

    Apologies if already asked. . .
    What was your timeline for transitioning from an employee to blogger/columnist consultant? Did you have a plan, or was it an organic process?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I had NO plan. I started the site in May 2007 on a total whim — like literally, the idea of a moment that was a website by that evening. I thought I’d do it for a few months for fun and that would be it. I didn’t think anyone would write in with questions. I doubted anyone would find the site or read it. My boyfriend at the time thought I was ridiculous for starting it.

      I quit my job and began working for myself as a consultant in May 2010, three years later. The blog played a key role in allowing me to do that — it had already gotten me freelance writing clients, given me the chance to co-author a book, and sent potential clients my way. I doubt I’d have had the confidence to just quit a job with no other real job lined up if it weren’t for the blog. (And really, I don’t think you can plan for that kind of thing. I would have felt ridiculously unrealistic and full of hubris if I’d planned for that from the beginning.)

      But no plan for any of that.

      1. Evan Þ*

        Do you know how traffic got to your blog originally? And how long did it take before you got significantly popular? I’ve been thinking about starting my own blog (dealing mostly with philosophical and historical meanderings), and one of the thoughts holding me back is that I don’t think anyone will find it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Here’s what I did, and I don’t know if it would still work today (this was in 2007):
          – I commented on other people’s blogs with stuff that was hopefully reasonably thoughtful and might make them want to check out my own blog (linked from my name, like it can be here if you choose it)
          – I participated in some blog carnivals — like the “carnival of HR” where a bunch of bloggers wrote on one theme and then they were all compiled in one big list

          And I think that was it! Also, the more content you have, the more likely it will show up in search results for relevant terms. Right now, if you google almost any work question, AAM comes up in the first page or two of search results. But I’m not sure how long that took to happen.

          On traffic growth, there’s actually a chart here that illustrates it pretty well:

  44. Dasha*

    Ohh hope I don’t get in trouble for asking two questions but I also wanted to know if there are any modern etiquette books that you recommend?

  45. Christy*

    When do you sleep? That’s a real question–you often post at midnight and you work in the Eastern time zone. I thought for a long time you were West Coast.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I set posts up to auto-publish on their own (generally at midnight, 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. EST on weekdays) so posting time is no indicator of my sleeping schedule … That said, I’m usually awake at all those times. I’m a huge night owl. I would love it if I were reliably asleep by 2 a.m. every night, but often it’s later.

      1. Christy*

        Thank you for clarifying the posting times–somehow I still hadn’t figured them out! And I know they auto-publish, but you’re so often commenting that I just had to wonder. Thanks for responding to me twice!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ever, in the history of the site?

      Most viewed:

      Most commented:
      Followed by a bunch of open threads, followed by:

      If you only want to look at ones what weren’t “ask the readers” or open threads, then it’s this:

  46. Not Katie the Fed*

    You’ve written several times about legislation, or talks of legislation, to regulate aspects of jobs that you don’t think should be dealt with legally, but through other means. And you have a lot of “no, that’s shitty, but not illegal” posts. Where do you think the line is on that? What kinds of workplace issues should be handled with regulation/legislation, and what kinds of issues are better dealt with in other ways?

    (Hope that made sense!)

  47. Sunflower*

    How do you feel when you get letters coming from people seeming very entitled? Do you feel yourself biting your tongue a lot or is it easy to understand where they’re coming from? Sometimes when I see letters you just know are going to get the ole pile-on I find myself wondering how you keep it so cool and calm in your response.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t always feel cool and calm! I definitely have letters where my initial reaction is, “What?! How can you think this is okay (or whatever)?” But they’re writing in because they genuinely want advice about something that’s posing difficulty in their life, and I try to remember that. And really, if someone IS really entitled in their outlook, what a great opportunity to explain to them why there might be a way to look at it that will get them better long-term results.

  48. Celeste*

    If you could influence school curriculums, what would your advice be to help us turn out kids who will do well in the workplace?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Teach students to write shorter. Giving them assignments where they have to produce at least X pages on something teaches the opposite of what they’ll need in the workplace. We should be teaching people to writer shorter, not longer. (I understand that teachers do that to ensure that kids are reasonably thorough, but there must be other ways to do that.)

      Teach kids about money. Labor law. The history of the labor movement. Power dynamics. Let them talk one on one with real actual grown-ups who go to work every day outside a school and who aren’t their parents. I’ll stop there!

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Mark Twain — ‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.’

      2. Sabrina*

        I 100% agree with this. I went back to school as an adult and argued with a professor about paper length. I said why would I spend two pages saying something I can say in a small paragraph? I believe I won, but I doubt that they changed the assignment going forward.

      3. Muriel Heslop*

        When I taught middle school English I used to write the word CONCISE in giant letters on the first day of school and tell my students I hoped they would know the meaning of this word and be able to exexcute it by the end of the year. The pushback came from the parents who were convinced ten-dollar vocabulary words equaled better writing. It’s easy to teach kids to write better rather than longer, but it flies in the face of people’s ideas about “good” writing. It also requires ruthless editing, which can be painful for everyone. I let my students chop up my work for practice.

        1. Beancounter in Texas*

          Do you think our values on concise writing correlate with modern short messaging systems?

          I was neutral in learning to spell and write correctly as a child, but now with social media and email, I’m grateful my parents held me to high standards.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think it pre-dates that. I think it’s that with writing in the work world, people are busy and they want to hear the upshot, not a bunch of flowery prose before you get there!

        2. coloured in pastures of chance dancing leaves cast spells of challenge*

          Just curious: where do you stand on H. L. Mencken?

      4. Merry and Bright*

        Yes! But I would also say give proper career and job search advice. When I look back to all the bad advice I followed… But now there is AAM.

      5. Dan*

        My MS was from the business school. The mantra there was “say what you need to say, no more, no less.” One of my term papers was 6 pages. (In all fairness, I have an analytic degree, so a good chunk of effort was in doing the work itself.)

        Professors who want thoroughness need to manage expectations as to what that actually entails, not tell you it has to be X number of pages and have you guess at what content they actually want.

        1. OfficePrincess*

          One of my favorite professors (my major was in the social sciences) was working on his own dissertation on top of chairing the program and teaching a full slate of classes. He would frequently assign a paper and tell us he didn’t care how much we wrote but he was only reading the first two pages. He had worked in the field for decades and wanted us to be able to function in that environment.

      6. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I’m one of the few English majors I know who never really learned how to BS. My papers and even my thesis were always juuuust above the minimum required page count. I distinctly remember one of my first classes in grad school (a critical theory prerequisite I hadn’t done as an undergrad, so had to complete my first semester of grad school instead) where we had to write in-class essays for the midterm and final. The teacher gave us a list of questions to prepare, at the test he gave us three options, and we had to write on two of them. I wrote a three-paragraph, one-page single-spaced essay for one of the questions.

        The teacher read it out loud to the class when he handed back the midterms, praising it as a masterpiece of clear and concise writing. I got 100% on a midterm in a class most people agreed was one of the hardest in the department.

        Now that I’m in the working world, I’ve gotten much more praise for being concise than I ever would for BSing.

        1. BeenThere*

          I’m an different major, Engineering, and was always shocked that even final year engineers could not be concise. All you need to do is state the bold face facts without pulling your thesaurus out.

          It was always one of my strengths. I would ruthlessly edit group assignments when it was my turn and when I would submit my part the team members responsible for collation and executive summary would always comment how happy they were that I could give them all the facts in under the word limit. For us it was always you must be under the word limit so anyone padding there work was really wasting the collators time. There’s nothing worse than search for shorter way to say something at 2am.

      7. blackcat*

        GAH the way writing is taught! I tutor on the side, and this kid and I had to twist his words in knots to fit the required “THESIS FORMAT” given by his teacher. He has made great progress, and he had an excellent, sophisticated point. The clearest way to express his idea was in two sentences. He had done a good job of this before meeting with me. Then he showed me the “your thesis must” handout. It had to do 3 things and be one sentence. He had no idea how to make it do that and be grammatically correct. While the result did end up as one sentence, it was longer and less clear than his original two sentence version. I promised him that no one will make him write that way after high school.

      8. Melissa*

        This is one of the things I’ve been thinking about re: teaching college students. There are a few professors who are starting to give students a mix of lengths in assignments (and different types of assignments) and I’m leaning towards that trend, too – of saving the full-length research papers for 300-level and up classes and relying on shorter assignments that are more preparation for real-world type writing for the more general interest 100- and 200-level classes.

  49. Journalist Wife*

    I actually just want to know what Allison’s favorite blogs to read are. Because I so often run out of stuff to read here, and think, “I wish there were more sites like hers out there in the blogosphere.” About management, or office cultures, or funny coworkers, or advice, etc. — other than that Tumblr account written by the mean office mate we learned of recently from a LW…) I’d love to know what AAM’s bookmarked blogs are!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Do you read all the comments? Have you read all the archived posts and their comments? I’d have a hard time running out of things to read, and like Alison, have to skip some of the comments because I can’t keep up. :(

      1. Journalist Wife*

        I do, and I use the “Surprise Me!” thing quite a bit, though I think I’ve exhausted it by now because I read this blog so frequently. But I just wonder what inspires HER, if that makes sense?

      1. Journalist Wife*

        You know I’ll be checking those both out immediately! Thank you for sharing your favorites!

      2. YandO*

        As a regular commenter on Hax board and a new one to AAM, my worlds just collided in the most fabulous way:)

      3. LBK*

        Do you read Captain Awkward? That’s the only other blog I read regularly and with such gusto because it almost feels like the relationship version of your blog, in that the advice strikes me as very pragmatic and realistic about doing what’s best for you, not doing what might be considered “right” in the cosmic sense.

          1. TL -*

            I sadly think her blog has started the downward spiral of “going to end soon” that was mentioned upthread. It seems to be taking a lot out of her the past year or so. :(

            1. Zillah*

              This is my impression, too. It’s also seemed to me that the comments have been getting more out of hand recently (which might contribute to how much it takes out of her!) – I used to comment occasionally, but I’ve all but stopped because they’ve gotten very militant and uncomfortable, IMO. It’s really too bad.

      4. Jen S. 2.0*

        I do not remember how I found my way here, but I don’t think it was through Tomato Nation, which I’ve been reading for **well** over 10 years. But now that I know you’re part of the Nation, it makes lots of sense that I like this blog, too.

        1. Lore*

          I might have found my way here via Tomato Nation, actually. Which I also love–I actually went to one of the book club events a few years back and was the only one to show up!

  50. Pontoon Pirate*

    When regular commenters drop off suddenly, do you have a mechanism for following up with them? Some from longer ago, like Wilton Businessman and some more recent, like Jamie, have me wondering if you get used to seeing certain folks.

      1. Pontoon Pirate*

        Really! I almost never comment, but I’ve come to rely on some commenters always being here. I love watching conversations play out.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually had a dream about Jamie recently. I loved reading her comments. I know people sometimes just move on from past interests and that’s totally okay, but I still wish she’d come back, even if just to say she’s done with all of us!

      But to answer your question, no, no mechanism. Jamie and I had actually traded emails a few times, so I did email her to see if she was alright, but haven’t heard back and don’t want to bug her.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I still think about Jamie, too. She suggested the “Mallory” part of my username (from Family Ties, the old eighties sitcom), and I appended the “Janis Ian” part when another Mallory started commenting. I still think of Jamie when I see new HK stuff, like the new plastic cups they have at Wal Mart now.

      1. SanguineAspect*

        I’ve been wondering about her as well! I’ve used different names over time on here, but I’ve been a reader since 2008. Jaime’s been a mainstay of the commenting ecosystem for so long–I miss her .02 and constantly changing Hello Kitty avatars.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, but I’ve definitely noticed when other regular commenters disappear for a while. Just this week, I had a moment of “Oh shit, did we lose Wakeens Teapots Ltd.?” But then she came back and I was relieved.

      Joey disappeared once for a while, and I was sure he had just gotten disgusted with the lot of us.

      1. HSP INFP*

        Aw the humanity of this post just made me super gushy inside. I love that you had a dream about a commenter. Did you know what they look like and they appeared that way, or did you brain just make something up? I wonder about and rely on regular commenters too sometimes – as I am a daily reader and a rare commenter myself.

      2. kristinyc*

        This is fascinating to me (that you notice when regular commenters fall off for a while – there are SO MANY regular commenters!). I’ve been reading AAM since 2008, and I know I definitely go through phases where I’m more or less likely to comment. But I always read, every day.

      3. Joey*

        there’ve been a few stretches where I’ve become bored with the questions and took a break not knowing if Id come back. And when I mean bored I mean stuff where the answer is either “no it’s not illegal, you just have a terrible boss” or “talk to the person you’re having issues with to work them out.”

      4. Mimmy*

        Could it be they just change their screen name and don’t realize they’re the same person? (I’m speaking in general, not about anyone specific).

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I noticed she disappeared, too. I don’t read the open threads much, so I always wonder if a MIA regular posted a good-bye and I just missed it.

      2. fposte*

        My impression was she was starting to feel she was spending a little too much time here; she may have found that she had to go cold turkey, at least for a while, rather than cut back. Hopefully she’ll be able to find a happy medium and return.

        1. LBK*

          That would be understandable. I’ve had to cut myself off of sites that I felt were consuming my life. Just wish she would have at least posted a quick farewell – but hopefully she’ll be back at some point either way.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          My sister did the same thing about her online life. She was a super-popular regular commenter on a couple of different sites (met her current long-time boyfriend and the couple who are now her landlords through one of them), and she abandoned her online life cold turkey after months of complaints from her boyfriend and her son.

        3. A Cita*

          I get that. I made a point to not read much internet stuff like comment sections because I realized they sunk a lot of time and mental space. I now only read comments when I want further perspective on a question/answer. I also mostly skim for commenters known for short but insightful answers, with a couple exceptions.

    3. Collarbone High*

      I’ve been wondering about Jamie too, and thought maybe I just missed some announcement by her. I miss her too, and hope she comes back.

  51. NYCRedhead*

    I think regular readers can predct when comments will be harsh. (“My husband let his ex-girlfriend in the Super Bowl pool” comes to mind.) Do you give letter writers a heads-up about this? I saw you stepped in and trying to discourage the piling-on.

  52. Another Job Seeker*

    Technical question here – please feel free to ignore it if it’s not what you had in mind. I need to learn to use web services to obtain content from other sources. Does your site use web services? I was thinking that the ads might be from a web service because I see some of these ads on other sites I frequent – and they are related to the types of searches I do. If you use web services, which ones? I’d like to learn more about them. Thank you.

      1. Another Job Seeker*

        Here’s an example. I come to the site and see an ad for Btywrks. I do some reading and refresh my browser to see the new comments. When I refresh the Btywrks ad is gone and has been replaced by a Zulilly ad. I assume that you and your team are not creating the ad and the graphics that go along with it, but you have configured the site to access them from another web server. The content from other sources I’m asking about is the ads. Thanks!

  53. Kay*

    Gah this is exciting. This is my favorite blog.
    Have you ever revisted and changed your mind about a question after reading the comments?

    What has been your favorite change to the site recently? (open threads, splitting the open threads, layout changes)?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s exciting for me too — I cleared most of my day for it but didn’t know if people would be interested! It’s cool that they are.

      Changes: I LOVE the expandable/collapsible comments. Love them. Whoever suggested them is a genius.

      I definitely have changed my mind about a couple of letters after reading people’s thoughts in the comments. I’m trying to remember which ones. Does anyone recall?

      1. Natalie*

        Hey, that was my suggestion! I feel so special!

        (possibly also suggested by others. Sorry for stealing your thunder)

      2. TL -*

        I remember one time when you told someone to think about just spending the $300 or $400 that was being asked of them…for something?

        And a whole bunch of commenters very quickly pointed out that that’s a large sum of money for a lot of people and you changed your answer to reflect that possibility.

        (I remember this because I am one of those people for whom that’s a large sum of money and I remember my eyes bugging out a little when I read that.)

      3. Zillah*

        I don’t remember whether you changed your mind about this, but I remember that most of us disagreed with you about the OP who had a coworker fish notes she’d written with another coworker during a meeting out of the trash.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Didn’t change my mind on that one! And actually, if I’m remembering correctly, there was an interesting split on that one, with most managers coming down where I did, and most non-managers disagreeing.

  54. Sarah*

    Does the urgency of a situation affect how quickly you post an answer? I’m thinking of situations where a LW needs to make a decision quickly or probably should do damage control ASAP. Or do you post even when it may be too late to help the LW for the benefit of other people who might be in that situation?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It varies. If it’s really urgent, I might just send them a short private answer. Or write out a longer answer for the site and send it them early (before it publishes here). If it’s a question I want to publish though, sometimes I’ll figure I don’t have time to respond in the timeframe that will help them but it’s still worth publishing because it’ll be useful to someone else, hopefully.

  55. junipergreen*

    Thinking about the future of AAM, what would you like to see? Would you like to grow AMA in some way we haven’t seen yet? For example, I’ve been reading for years and while I comment infrequently, I’ve loved how you’ve grown and supported the AAM community on various social platforms.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I mentioned recently that my secret dream is to someday have an AAM radio show, where I take live questions. It will probably never happen, but that’s my long-term dream for the site. I would love that.

      Other than that … I kind of love the way things are right now. What do y’all want to see?

        1. Liz in a Library*

          So…AAM mentioned a radio show above. I’d just like to throw out there that as a daily reader (and I’m guessing many of us would feel this way), an AAM podcast where people could call in with questions would make my entire year. :D I realize that’s a lot of work though.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Seriously, if someone has expertise in this and wants to make it happen, I’m in.

            I know that’s probably not a very tempting offer (these things take time and money), but I’m throwing it out to the universe.

            1. Liz in a Library*

              One thing I’ve noticed is that the commentariat here has a lot of hidden talents. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a podcasting genius hidden here somewhere. :)

          2. Jennifer*

            Well, it might work better if AAM scheduled an appointment time and had people call in. I suspect this is what the Dear Sugar advice columnists are doing.

          1. Pickles*

            Pretty sure I’m in the minority here, but I wouldn’t listen to a podcast, so I’d hope it wouldn’t be an overwhelming switch away from the blog. I always have good intentions and have found some fascinating podcast options, but I never do. No speakers at work (technology is essentially banned in my building for security reasons) and I’m much more visually oriented, so unless I’m taking notes lecture-or-meeting style, I tend to start multitasking and stop paying attention. Just wanted to offer an alternative point of view – not meaning to kill the enthusiasm.

            1. A Cita*

              Not alone. Also visually oriented. Plus, podcasts take too much time to listen to as the information is relayed in real time (vs. skimming/speed reading). I don’t tend to have that kind of down time and I can’t truly listen while doing something else.

        2. SanguineAspect*

          I’ll second the podcasting suggestion! You could start taking letters and talking, and then move on to taking calls. I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to the Savage Lovecast. But his format was an advice column for a LONG time before extending into podcasting (he does both). People leave voicemails, he picks the ones he wants to answer, plays the question, then answers. And if he wants more info, he calls them to do a Q&A.

          I’m willing to bet if you wanted to undertake this, there are readers who could help you get started. :)

        1. WAMU listener*

          WAMU is “focusing on its core services” at the moment–they just got rid of The Animal House, for instance. So, sadly, probably not.

      1. JR*

        Instead of a radio show, a podcast! You can set up a Google Voice account to have people leave voicemails, and you can play them and answer them. Might not be that hard to put together! Just make sure you have good recording equipment.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m going to tell this to my friend who’s convinced that a long-running feud I had with my high school principal would also make a good This American Life episode.

          1. lonepear*

            Well, now I want to hear about the feud you had with your principal! Maybe another thing to recount when you run out of dating advice columns. :-)

      2. shirley*

        What about a podcast ala Dan Savage? He has his weekly podcast and column as well. People could call in and leave you messages and a callback number if they wanted.

        I would subscribe for sure! I spend my entire commute listening to podcasts, and I’m sure there are lots of would-be readers who can’t read and drive at the same time who would enjoy an audio version of AAM.

      3. Dawn*

        OMG are you kidding?!?! That’d be the best thing to listen to while commuting in traffic here in DC. THE. BEST.

          1. Natalie*

            I think that would be awesome, because then the podcast would actually be adding something one can’t get from the blog. As much as I love Dan Savage, I kind of find his podcast boring except when he calls the person back and talks to them on-podcast. Then it’s really interesting because you get the back-and-forth.

  56. ism*

    Have you had any scary stalking behavior as a result of your growing internet presence? I assume you use your real name and it’s not a pseudonym. I’ve been hesitant to do that because of the growing trend of cyberstalking and IRL stalking as a result of having the same identity both on-and-off-line. (It’s the reason I’m stricter with my social media than a lot of millennials are. I grew up when the anonymity of the internet was its best and most appealing feature, and that has changed in the last decade or so.)

      1. Jessica*

        What??? Someone posted her personal information? That is too creepy for words.

        A few years ago, I went through the very time-consuming task of getting all my information removed from those public records sites. Boy, do they make you jump through hoops, but if you take care of the larger ones (White Pages, Spokeo, Intelius, and the like) the trickle-down effect is pretty apparent. Totally worth it in my mind, because there was one person (well, a few, if you added their equally crazy relatives) that I didn’t want to be able to get in touch with me. I check about once a year just to make sure my personal information is NOT available!

          1. Jessica*

            Yes, all the info is public via government sites but you would be surprised how much info you need to even search the right county, which is why these aggregation sites were a problem for me. These public record aggregation sites make it way easier to find you and I was happy that I had control over that information. Removing your profiles makes it more difficult to find any searchable info. For instance, in my county, you can’t search property records by name. You can only search addresses or lots, and then you’d have to find a specific property to see who owned it. So it was another way of protecting myself, where they couldn’t take something on White Pages and look it up on the county website to confirm I still lived there. Really, we’re veering into TL;DR overkill territory here and most people hopefully don’t need to worry about creeps, but at the time, I really needed to be careful about a certain person finding my address. Glad that’s over. The story about the creeper above that posted Alison’s public information made me sick. Glad she’s not dealing with it anymore either!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, see above! But that was a stalker from before the site, just reappearing because of the site.

      I think maybe workplace stuff just doesn’t attract the kind of vitroil and bad behavior that people get if they’re writing on some other topics. Maybe? I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself by saying that.

      1. ism*

        That still answers my question though; thanks. I certainly included scenarios like what happened to you as a result of being way more Googleable than before the blogging.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I read KrebsOnSecurity (a computer security blog) and he writes about subjects that can get you some unpleasant attention from some pretty scary people. But I doubt that this site needs to worry about the underworld of the internet. Plus, trolls are discouraged here, so they shouldn’t have an opportunity to develop an unhealthy fascination with anyone here.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              This post about being sent counterfeit money (krebsonsecurity dot com/2014/09/fun-with-funny-money/) has links near the top on posts about being swatted (SWAT team sent to your house), getting illegal drugs sent to his house, and more. In the cases where illegal stuff was sent, the cops were also called — they’re trying to get him arrested. Or potentially worse.

  57. Not So NewReader*

    Sometimes you don’t answer the question yourself, you toss it out for comment. How do you decide whether to answer or just put it out there for comment?

    When you do this, I find it interesting. You trust us to come up with something. Do you see patterns in the type of problems we are good at? Or it is more of “this will make an interesting discussion”?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s a mix: partly I think it’s a topic where a wide range of people will have interesting thoughts, sometimes it’s because I think there’s no one right answer and a broad discussion of it will be interesting, and sometimes it’s just because I’m busy and need a post that I don’t have to write!

  58. AnotherAnon*

    Given that you run AAM in addition to consulting work, writing columns for various other sources (I especially appreciated today’s Quickbase blog post about crisis management), and do your work from home, what ways have you found to stay focused and organized and manage all your tasks? Do you use GTD or a similar method?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      My husband would tell you that I go into a fugue-like state where I block out everything around me and just work furiously. I think that’s basically right. I have two super-powers: speed and the ability to focus so intensely that it’s probably pathological in some way. Those two things help a lot when juggling lots of stuff.

      In 2013, I had a long period where I felt pretty overwhelmed. I realized later that it was after I’d gotten engaged and my husband had moved in. I was used to working in the evenings and suddenly it was less appealing to do that. As a result, my workload felt like it had doubled (in reality, my work time had been halved). Eventually I realized I needed to put better systems in place (and also get rid of some clients, because it wasn’t sustainable to do all that work long-term). That helped. Also, I’ve gotten better about blocking off specific time for specific stuff and ignoring everything else during those periods.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        None of that is very GTD-ish. Although I AM a huge fan of “if it will only take two minutes, do it now and get it off your to-do list.”

        Oh, and lists. I love lists.

        1. Samantha*

          How do you keep track of your lists and to-dos? Any favorite apps or do you go old-school with a pencil an paper? Tell us your organization secrets!

  59. Will*

    Hi Alison,

    I am curious how often gender/age/nationality questions pop into your mind when you’re reading and/or answering your letters and whether or not it ever affects your answer. I find myself sometimes jumping to conclusions about the writer’s gender (or the problem person’s gender) and find it unsettling that I have to admit to myself that my advice to them may change depending on such facts. Another example – I am an Asian male and have given advice to other Asian males about the workplace specially tailored to our general culture and habits. Ideally it shouldn’t matter, but do you “picture” the letter writer when considering your response and how do you deal with our inherent biases and stereotypes when reading about a problem?


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s such a good question. I am sure that I picture letter-writers in my head in ways that may or may not be accurate and that may affect the answer (subtly or otherwise), and that is a bad thing. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about unconscious bias and how it creeps into absolutely everything, and this is a good reminder to pay particular attention to it when answering letters.

      Anyway, yeah, I agree that it’s totally unsettling to think about how those things might change the answer to questions. Absolutely.

      1. Andrea*

        I was just thinking about how you were anonymous at first. I started reading this site—and I wish I could remember how I found it!—back when you were still anonymous. And that was when reading through all of the archives took a couple of hours at most, so waaaaay back when. When you shared your name, readers were surprised that you were a woman and not a man.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I fell into it, but I fell into it because I wanted to see things run well and was highly impatient when that wasn’t the case. The appeal to me was the opportunity to make things run as they should (or more accurately, how I thought they should).

      Managing is a real pain in the ass though. I wouldn’t mind never managing again, as much as I enjoy thinking about it and discussing it and doing it.

      1. cuppa*

        I’m really glad that you said that, because I feel the same way, and I’ve had a week that’s really highlighted the pain in the ass parts. :)

  60. ism*

    Since I asked a similar question to other commenters, forget that one. I have a new question.

    Do you have favorite commenters? Since it’s impossible to read and reply to all comments every post, you skim. Are there certain commenters you make a point to always read? Not asking you to name them, of course.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You definitely get to know regular commenters, and I think it’s really cool how much you can learn about how a particular person thinks by reading their comments over time. I basically love all regular commenters, because I’m so glad they keep coming back and being part of this.

      That sounds like a dodge, but it wasn’t intended to be.

      1. Anonsie*

        Confession: Ever since I started using a consistent name I have become concerned that whenever I comment some people recognize me and think “oh great, this idiot again.”

          1. AdminAnon*

            Ditto. I try not to comment very often for that exact reason. I always read (or at least skim) the comments on every post, though. For what it’s worth, Sabrina, I always enjoy your comments!

          1. Anonsie*

            I do often see your comments and think “Yeah! Exactly!”

            So if I’m an idiot, we’re in it together.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I assume people are thinking, “This person could not come up with a more creative name???” whenever I comment, but this was the one that stuck for me. I’m not much of a nick-namer IRL, either.

          1. Natalie*

            I kind of regret just using my regular first name instead of something more creative, because occasionally other Natalies will stop by and comment with the same name. I obviously don’t own this name but I’ve been commenting here for a long time and it’s always jolting to see someone else use it (like, did I post that comment in my sleep?)

            I guess this is what Gravatar is for.

            1. cuppa*

              There’s someone that pops in from time to time that uses my first name. I know people who read the site, and I always wonder if they think that I’m that person, or if they have me figured out for who I really am. :)

          2. Steve G*

            I need a more creative one, once I noticed another “steve G” commenting. I was busy that week so really didn’t read this site much/comment that week, just hope he wasn’t curmudgeony!

          3. Soupspoon McGee*

            I finally changed my name to something random after another commenter with the same first name also popped up. Also, I occasionally toss out crazy stories from my former workplace and would prefer to stay anonymous and under the radar.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I honestly think the only time people here think “oh great, this idiot again” (which made me laugh out loud when I read it, by the way) is when someone is regularly a jerk. I think in general one thing people like about the comment section here is that if they disagree with someone, they get the opportunity to explain why. So even if they think your comment is off-base, they’ll probably appreciate the opportunity to engage with you about it. Because that makes the whole thing interesting and not an echo chamber. And maybe they change your mind, or you change theirs, or no one changes anyone’s mind but people come away with a better understanding of why other people think something different. (That last part has been really useful to me, personally.)

          But I’ve certainly never thought “oh great, this idiot again” about you!

          1. Gene*

            I’m sure there are people here who favor a softer style who think that about me and my style.

            And a piece of advice to those who like my style, never look at your chatty spouse and say, “If you have a point, could you please get to it?”, no matter how bad your day has been.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I have some favorite commenters. You have to post often enough that I start to pick you out and learn more about you over time. I try to figure out and pretend I know some of you, even though I’ve never met you. But I think I have too many favorites to name.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I have a lot of favorites, too, and some of my favorites are ones whose comments I didn’t see eye to eye with at first. I feel like this blog gives me insight into what other people are thinking and has made me re- evaluate my snap judgements of people who think about it differently than I do.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Oh yeah. It’s really good learning how other people think, expanding my mind and becoming more understanding.

    3. Joe*

      I wish I had time to be a regular commenter! I honestly don’t know how some people do it. I love the site, and the comments often have such fascinating conversations, but I can’t keep up with it. I’m usually at least a week behind (as evidenced by this post, for example), and by then, the conversations have died down and moved on to more recent posts. And even when I’m up to date, I can’t imagine having time to be part of the back-and-forth conversations that happen. *sigh*

  61. Carly*

    How on earth do avoid trolls? Are you deleting tons of troll-y or spam-y comments constantly? What is your advice for cultivating such a respectful, loyal, awesome set of commenters?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I HAVE NO IDEA! This is one of the (several) great mysteries of the site to me. Where are all the trolls? I don’t know! I mean, I do put effort into cultivating certain norms here, but that doesn’t seem to stop trolls on the Internet in general. It’s really baffling to me. I do have a zillion IP addresses permanently set to go through moderation, but most of those people don’t try to come back anyway after their original trolling. (I also have a handful of people set to moderation just because they have a history of being kind of rude to others, but those are different from trolls.)

      There are definitely spammers, but my spam filter catches 99% of them. Actually, lately it’s been more like 100%. (Thank you, Laura Moore of

      1. FD*

        I feel like part of it is that you moderate the comments when needed, including when they aren’t necessarily inappropriate, but are ‘dogpiling’ the OP.

        I think another part of it is that this site seeded with people who were interested in developing their professional lives and tried to respond with calm, well thought-out comments. From lurking for quite a while, it seems to me like this started fairly early on, after you started publishing regularly but before the site started getting quite as big as it has. Between that and your moderation, I think it creates and maintains a culture where newcomers see that most people are trying to be polite and rational, and they want to fit in.

        I know when I do comment, I try to add something, because there’s a culture of great comments, and when I comment on regular posts, I want to bring something to the discussion.

    2. Another Job Seeker*

      I really appreciate that trolling and negativity on this blog and that AAM addresses it when it occurs. I think that her example leads others to do so, also. It probably discourages some trolls that come across the blog from making comments. Others may make comments, not receive the reaction they are seeking, and leave.

    3. Beancounter in Texas*

      I think it’s because Alison keeps the discussion rational. The few times I’ve seen emotions flare, they’re usually politely put in place. It’s okay to be upset, but don’t flame anyone.

      1. Natalie*

        My observation across a few blogs is that trolls can read the room fairly well. Best guess – if people are having a lot of conversations and seem to know each other (IRL or not), rather than posting stand alone comments and not engaging with each other, and the blog owner is active (even a little bit) in the comments, that room reads as “probably won’t pick up my trolling and engage” so they move on.

        It also probably helps that work advice isn’t a generally controversial topic, so very few people get here by googling George Bush is a Lizard Person. The few times I’ve seen what I would describe as actual trolls have been conversations where I could guess that certain keywords led them here. (And now I’ve done it and brought the wrath of the Lizard People people. Sorry guys.)

    4. Clever Name*

      My take is that the commenters here will generally say something when a person makes a comment that may or may not be the beginning of a troll. An out of line comment that gets 3 or 4 “hey that’s not cool” comments in a calm manner shuts that kind of thing down pretty quick.

      I think trolling is like bullying. If the adults in the room (or playground) don’t tolerate certain behavior, it stops happening.

  62. Sally*

    So I know there are a ton of librarians on here and a smaller sub-set of museum people (including me!), why do you think those professions gravitated towards your site? I know, that bad management is pretty widespread at a lot of big and small US museums, but I hope that’s not the only reason!

    1. Queue*

      I have often wondered this, too! I’m a librarian in a public library, and I started reading AAM when I was job hunting right out of library school – and it made a HUGE difference in my approach. I like hearing about a variety of workplaces, from government to family-owned small businesses to large nonprofits – and how many of the issues plague us all. I also recommend it to job-hunting patrons (of which there are many), and to colleagues looking for advice!

      1. Liz in a Library*

        I’ve noticed this too! I wonder if it’s something to do with the fact that most librarians I know (and I suspect museum folk are similar) consume a ton of media, and try to learn a little about everything. I’ve also noticed a lot of the librarians here are public and academic, and we tend to work with populations that need a lot of career advice.

        1. spocklady*

          It definitely could be this! I recommend AAM to students/patrons all the time.

          I also think some of it has to do with:
          * We’re looking for job advice that doesn’t feel super salesy, as I think (maybe?) lots of folks who are interested in working at a library/museum maybe aren’t as into sales-like professions?
          * Sometimes (libraries, can’t speak to museums) are weird backwaters of awful management practices and we’re looking for help.

    2. Anonsie*

      I have noticed an awfully high number of museum people around for such a small industry. I would guess that has a lot to do with it, though, one of the things that scared me off museums is how very small the community is and how crucial your interpersonal relationships with every other person you meet in the industry can be. Maybe the secondary effect of having a small network and experience with a small number of different workplaces compounds that a little as well.

      1. cuppa*

        I’m another scared-off museum professional. That, and I didn’t want my job search to spread nationwide. I still fantasize about working in a museum, though.

    3. LPBB*

      I wonder if it has to do with how tight the job market is in both fields? I started reading this blog when I started job hunting after library school; I had drifted away for a little while, but since I’m getting ready to relaunch my search for that elusive permanent job, I’ve become a regular reader again.

      1. cuppa*

        I am so grateful for this place because I became a library manager and most of my training was about library life rather than workplace management. I had been a manager in my previous life but never a department head who was truly in charge. I’m still growing :) but a lot of my skills are owed to this blog and the commenters. You guys must be doing something right — I get a lot of calls now from other people asking me how to handle things.

      2. KT*

        I actually have an answer to this, or a theory, that I’ve shared before. Librarians are, in reality, library administrators/managers. The problem is, the grad school programs (MLIS, MLS, MIST, whatever your school calls Library School) don’t really instruct in this area much beyond typically one mandatory management course (which, in my program, wasn’t terribly helpful anyways, largely because the people teaching it have never done it). After a year or two (or not) of “regular” library work, you move into management with not much beyond common sense and your experience on the other side as training. I was referred to your site by a fellow library manager who stumbled across it looking for some professional development in the area of management and now we all read it. I think lots of library managers are looking for support. We know about libraries, but not necessarily about managing. You provide some support in this area, plus some serious entertainment. I’ve been reading for years now! I’ve only posted a couple of times, but I’ve been absorbing info, skills, and support from the entire community (many of whom are fellow librarians!) for a long time!

        1. Kacie*

          What KT said! If you have your MLS, you often end up as a manager with limited training and support. It’s just great to come here and read all the stories and know that things can always be crazier than it is at your own place of work. Even better when you get your own coworkers to submit a question and it gets answered. :)

          1. Reburkle*

            +1 to this! As KT said, librarians are moved quickly into management roles, to the point that I find it a bit frustrating that there are rarely roles between regular/entry library work stuff and management. And while I think most managers (in all fields) generally don’t have management training, librarians are so accustomed to researching different subject areas for day-to-day work, it makes sense that we’d research this too!

      3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        My guess would be that it’s really hard to find librarian jobs these days, so people came looking for job-searching advice and then stuck around.

        (I wanted to get my MLS, but realized that I’d just be adding another degree that would make it harder to find a job rather than easier, so I had to let my dream of being a children’s librarian go. Sigh.)

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I was going to get a MLS, but had to get an undergraduate degree. I found Comp Sci and never looked back. I’m glad too, after reading posts from all of you who made it. It sounds pretty rough out there.

      4. Aisling*

        I’m here because a coworker recommended your blog. She was a new manager, researched management blogs, and stumbled on yours. She’s gotten quite a few of us reading you!

      5. moosic*

        After getting my MLS I was looking for job search advice and cover letter tips, and have been a regular reader ever since although I’ve only commented once. I think I originally came her through (I Need A Library The career resource center at my school was small and not helpful, and no class in high school, college, or grad school ever went over how to properly prepare a cover letter. And yeah, the management course in library school was vague/covered more theory than practical application. I think Liz in a Library is right, librarians like to learn a little about everything. Librarians also tend to collect information and potential resources like squirrels, and AAM tends to have sound advice about many different facets of work life. That “something for everyone” aspect makes it a good resource. I work in a public library, but am still looking for my first full time job, and like the advice and discussions about how to comport myself and deal with conflict at work.

      6. Oh anon*

        I’m a “wannabe” museum person…degree, no experience. I’m thankful you all are here, it gives me hope… Those jobs DO exist!

      7. Zillah*

        I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, a huge part of why I found this site in the first place is that the field is really competitive, and I wanted to make sure that I was doing everything I could to get a job. It’s worked so far, and I love the community, so I’ve stuck around!

      8. Lauren*

        I’ve attributed it to the tight job market, the ability to read blogs on the job (I am writing this from the reference desk – not so easy in a field like nursing!) and the fact that jobs in these fields are so often temporary contracts that hardly allow you to get used to one kind of bad management before you have to adjust to another. (Said as someone’s who’s thrilled that their contract is being extended from two to five months. Sigh.)

      9. ModernHypatia*

        Came for the job searching advice, and stayed for the common sense. I also think a lot of librarians are just fascinated by process, and how we can make it work better, and this blog is full of that.

        (And yes, on the wanting ways to do more management better: even in the positions that aren’t management per se there’s often a fair bit of volunteer coordination or working with people in other parts of an institution or community.)

    4. Liza*

      I had no idea there were so many librarians here! I’m in IT, but I heard about AAM from a friend who is a librarian.

  63. Queue*

    I’d love to see a book from you about leadership. I know you co-authored a book about nonprofit management, which sounds great, but you have such great advice about being a decent, civil, and pleasant coworker, how to effectively generate change, how to see the bigger picture — even for the non-managers among us!

    1. Queue*

      So I guess I should frame this as a question: any chance we’ll see more books from you in the future?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I have one in my head on workplace etiquette but I don’t know if I’ll ever do it. I’m not sure there’s real money to be made from it, and I’m quite lazy.

  64. Anonsie*

    Since the whole Millennial archetype came into the mainstream in the last couple of years, have you recognized an uptick in people bringing people’s generations or (young) age into their questions or do you feel like it’s about the same as you got when people were still mad about Gen X?

  65. Swarley*

    I’m not sure of the possible ethical or confidentiality concerns surrounding this but, do you ever run into situations while you’re doing consulting work that would make for great posts here on AAM? If so, do you try to incorporate these things into a post, or as part of your response to a letter writer?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Definitely. I basically accept that they’re off-limits, except on very deep background (like informing my thinking about something, but without writing about the actual situation).

      Okay, I’m taking a break but will be back to answer more in a little while!

  66. Ellen*

    You sometimes mention that particular industries, or aspects of them, differ from broader norms: academia and government come to mind. Are there any others? Is law one of them (a message that I’ve gotten from career services)?

    1. The Office Admin*

      Because California is a nice, reasonable state.
      Seriously though, as a former resident of California, I had no idea the labor laws were so unique, until I moved to Kansas and was like, “You people live in the dark ages and don’t even know it

      1. chewbecca*

        As a native and current Kansan, some of us do realize it, but we’re outnumbered. There are days I feel like banging my head against the nearest wall.

    2. Natalie*

      There is probably more than one reason, but a big factor is that California has the most easily amended state constitution in the US.* It’s crazy easy to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot and if it gets a simple majority it passes. Bam, you just amendment the state constitution! As a result, a lot of laws that might normally be a “state statute” in other states are constitutional amendment in CA.

      *Fun fact, their constitution is one of the longest collections of laws in the world.

      1. CAA*

        While it’s true that you only need a bit more than half-a-million signatures to get an amendment on the ballot here, we don’t actually do that for labor laws — at least I don’t think I’ve ever voted on one. Most of the labor code is created and modified through the standard legislative process.

    3. Beancounter in Texas*

      My joke response would be because it’s the land of fruits, nuts and flakes, but honestly, the state’s political arena is more progressive than many states. California pretty much adopted some of the European Union’s laws on recyclable packaging and didn’t even try to hide it. They pretty much pointed to the EU text, said this is what we’re adopting as law, and we’re duplicating it here for fun.

    4. blackcat*

      For the same reason why so many substances are “Known to the state of California” to cause cancer. There are quite a few California laws/regulations that are WAY left of center for the US. Growing up there, I was aware that, at least for some product regulations, the hope is that if companies have to adopt safer practices for California, it’s easier to do it for the entire country since California is such a huge market (see: cancer labels).

      Many more laws go through the population, too, because it’s so easy to get stuff on the ballot. The first time I voted, I got an absentee ballot specifically so I could take my time. It was 8 newspaper pages long. I sat down and research each item, then marking it off. It took me 8 hours. Only 18 year old, excited to vote, me would spend 8 hours voting. By the second time around, I just didn’t vote on anything I didn’t already have an informed opinion on. I think a lot of people do this, so you actually need fewer votes than you’d think to pass the laws.

      (On the flip side, for a while I was in the camp of wanting CA to hold a constitutional convention and rewrite its constitution. The state may have reasonable laws, but the constitution is so long and unwieldily, I think it makes it harder to get stuff done.)

    5. MR*

      Because ~15 percent of the population of the country lives in California. If California makes a law, any company wants to comply with what California requires, because they don’t want to comply with California and ‘everyone else.’ It’s too expensive to do so…

  67. Lemon*

    Thanks so much for doing this! Super interesting. I was wondering if you find your work setup to be missing out on social interaction at all (and if so, whether that bothers you)? The idea of working from home generally sounds appealing to me, except for that aspect.

    (By the way, I’ve been a regular reader since 2009, and have gotten so much help from your blog! But I almost never comment, sadly.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, the opposite actually — the longer I work from home, the more put upon I feel when I actually have to go somewhere. But I’m hugely into spending time alone, so this is perfect for me. I’m probably not normal in that regard.

      1. HSP INFP*

        ha I can definitely relate. I am in an open workspace and would love some alone time. We may not be normal, but you at least make me feel not alone in that!

  68. Jessica*

    This is my second question, so please feel free to skip if this is an “Everybody gets one” situation, but how did you start doing your columns? Did they reach out to you or did you approach them? Did you blog get you those opportunities?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      U.S. News reached out to me after I’d been doing this site for about a year. And then the others happened the same way. I’ve never actually marketed myself to anyone as a freelancer, which is fortunate because I suck at doing that and would just not do it, and then would have no work. So yes, the blog has been crucial in getting me that other work.

  69. Lunar*

    What would your advice be for people who don’t feel like they have found what they want to do? It seems like you really love what you do (and enjoyed your job before striking out on your own). What do you suggest for people who want to find something that they are passionate about that makes them excited to go to work?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have a much longer answer to this, but the short version is that I think most people don’t love their work, and that’s okay. People who love their work are few and far between, and when they do, it’s usually at least in part the function of privilege and luck. If your measure of a successful work life is “do I love what I do?” then I think most people are likely to feel like they’re failing. I’d say the measure should be “can I be reasonably happy doing this work, and does it allow me room in my life for other things that make me really happy?”

      More here:

    2. FD*

      I’m also going to put in a plug for the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Its primary thesis is that most people who do love their job stumbled into it, and got to a great job by building their skills over time, and becoming valuable enough to get more opportunities.

      I find it particularly comforting, because he points out that a lot of successful people started on their road nearly by happenstance (Steve Jobs, for example, talks about passion, but he made his first computer because he was looking for quick cash!) but got to a position they love because they built their abilities over time, even if it was in work they didn’t love.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Great, great book (the idea of “career capital” was my big takeaway). Sometimes I wish I owned it in hard copy so I could bop people over the head with it when they start moaning about not “following their passion.”

        1. FD*

          I know, that idea literally changed my life. It also helps take away the stigma of “OH MY GOD AM I A LESSER PERSON BECAUSE I DON’T LOVE MY JOB ALL THE TIME,” which at that time, was a really important mental shift.

    3. Ruthan*

      After about five aborted career paths, I settled on a line of work that pays well, is likely to supply me with fun coworkers, and consists largely of the kind of aggravation that I enjoy overcoming, rather than the kind that makes me despair for humanity. And even THAT involved a fair amount of luck and privilege.

  70. Naomi*

    How much do you rewrite letters for clarity/anonymity/etc. when they come in? Do your letter writers on average have better writing skills than the rest of the internet? If you do rewrite things, do you ever change the details to make the situation more broadly applicable than the original letter’s scenario was about? Thanks for doing this!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I clean up the writing but I try to be restrained in that regard; I basically just fix grammar, punctuation, and sometimes clarity. But I never change details — the most I might do is leave something out if it seems like a not-very-relevant tangent on an already long letter.

      Actually, sometimes letter-writers ask me to change details so it won’t be identifiable, but ask them to do that themselves, both because I don’t have time and because I don’t know what changes they would consider sufficient.

  71. buddleia*

    You always have such great advice and insight into people’s problems and questions. How did you gain all the knowledge that goes into your advice?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That is far too generous! Making lots of mistakes and then over-thinking them for years afterwards helps. Throw in being highly opinionated, and there’s the secret formula :)

  72. l*

    How do you think you can attract more managers to the site? I started reading it for that reason, but over time it’s pretty overwhelmingly for job seekers and workplace norms, not about actual management. I would think if more managers visit then you’ll get more questions.

    1. Sally*

      I agree — as a manager, I find those questions a lot more useful. At the same time, I never write in questions and change my username pretty frequently because I tell all my staff to read this site (and the comments) and I worry they’ll recognize me and stories about them/their co-workers!

      1. Tax Nerd*

        I find the questions very useful, too! However, I will change my user name in certain situations, especially if I’m writing about an issue with a direct report, just in case they every read a comment that happens to be about them.

  73. JessA*

    Totally dorky question ahead….
    I’m sure you must get a ton of email. How do you organize and manage it all? I’m totally open to any suggestions, anecdotes or whatever you may have. Thanks!

      1. JessA*

        Awesome! Thanks for pointing that out. (I should have read through all the comments before I commented.)

  74. Sarah*

    If a reader recognized you in public would you want to be approached or not (assuming the reader had relatively good judgment of appropriate timing)? What about in an interview – would it affect your opinion of them if they recognized you/referred to the site?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ooooh, it would depend on what I was doing. Am I in sweats and with dirty hair? Give me a wide berth! If I look reasonably put together … well, really though, when is that going to happen?

      Candidates in interviews do sometimes mention the site. (Someone yesterday used the magic question and then confessed that she got it from here.) It doesn’t affect anyone’s interview outcome, of course, but it’s certainly nice — I guess it’s sort of like if they said, “Hey, I read your journal article on __ and really liked it.”

  75. einahpets*

    Does your blog / comments here influence your day job? More specifically, has there ever been a case that something discussed here changed how you do your consulting going forward?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! I feel like it’s given me a much better understanding of candidates’ complaints about the hiring process, and I’m probably much more sensitive to long delays, lack of communication, coy salary games, etc. as a result.

      And more broadly too. I know I’ve said to clients before, “you know, people really hate X” and been able to explain why.

      1. hayling*

        “I know I’ve said to clients before, “you know, people really hate X” and been able to explain why.”

        THIS. Very valuable.

  76. JC*

    Do you have any insight into the age ranges of your readers and how that might have changed over time? While I’m sure you have many mid- and later-career readers and commenters, sometimes I am struck with how young/early career groups of commenters seem. One random example of this is that I often see comments on relevant posts about single/non-parent people in the workplace feeling forced to take on burdens that married people/parents are not, which seems like a demographic that younger commenters would be more likely to fall into. I wonder if one reason why your website has kept up over the years is because you always have an influx of people who are new to their careers and hearing this all for the first time, mixed in with old timers.

    1. Margali*

      >I wonder if one reason why your website has kept up over the years is because you always have an influx of people who are new to their careers and hearing this all for the first time, mixed in with old timers.

      I think that is a good insight!

    2. SanguineAspect*

      Oooh! I think that would be another field I’d like included in the hypothetical survey I mentioned below. Current age of the reader, age when they started reading, etc.

    3. nona*

      I’m curious about this, too. AAM skews older than most websites I use *and* seems to have more diverse readers.

      I’m in my 20s and I recommend this site to friends and recent graduates. Maybe some younger readers are sharing it with each other, too.

    4. chewbecca*

      The ages of commenters always interests me. There are some regulars here who I was sure were much older than they were based on where they were in their career and the content of their comments.

      I can’t remember who it was, but I remember being really surprised when I found out one of the people I looked up to on here was the same age as me.

      1. Steve G*

        I thought the exact opposite, I pictured many of the commenters as 25yo-29yo young ladies, so when topics came up about generation differences, etc., and some commenters casually mentioned that they were 50+, I was surprised…..

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Here’s what Google Analytics says about the age breakdown (not sure how accurate this is):

      18-24: 27.5%
      25-34: 33.5%
      35-44: 15.5%
      45-54: 12.5%
      55-64: 5.5%
      65+: 5.5%

      I’m surprised the 35-44 bracket is so low. I think we have a lot of commenters 35 and up. (These numbers are for total readership, though, not commenters. Commenters are only a small portion of total readership.) I also think these numbers are suspect. How does Google really know?

      And gender:
      46% female
      54% male

      1. Sherm*

        I’m surprised that male readership slightly surpasses female readership. It seemed to me (just as a casual observation, not a big deal) that the commenters skew heavily female.

        1. Anonsie*

          We talked about this a few weeks ago when I supposed the same thing, no one seemed to have a great explanation for why the reader to commenter gender ratios were different. Someone did wonder if maybe Google’s ways for calculating gender is off for people who, perhaps, spend a lot of time online looking at business-related stuff.

          1. Ellen*

            I’ve recently read some research reporting that people perceive groups as gender balanced when the split is actually 30/70 female/male (I think those percentages are correct; if not, they should be close) and that by the time women actually comprise 50% of a group, people perceive it to be majority female. So, perhaps just a perception issue.

            Sorry to not provide a cite; my phone doesn’t really lend itself to outside research.

            1. Steve G*

              My female coworker at past job (which was almost all men) said she read that if men look at a picture that is 17%+ women, they think “more than 1/2 are women.” We used to joke when we went to a meeting and there was 1+ woman besides her about how things were changing and it was now a 50% woman-run company…..

            2. TL -*

              I think there are a couple of really prominent female commenters (fposte, Katie the Fed, and Jamie) that always pop to my mind when I think of the readers/commenters. But if I actually pay attention when I’m reading the comments, it doesn’t seem female-heavy.

            3. Anonsie*

              I’ve heard this as well. In the previous post I’m referencing though, I was talking about the big regulars as opposed to all comments total– people you recognize that are here all the time. Those absolutely skew female, I think, unless a lot of the guys are hiding their gender really well I guess.

      2. NutellaNutterson*

        I agree, that’s pretty shaky:

        “Where the data comes from
        Demographics and Interests data comes from the third-party DoubleClick cookie (for web traffic) and from anonymous identifiers for mobile apps (i.e., Advertising ID for Android and IDFA for iOS). Neither analytics.js nor ga.js collects Demographics and Interests data.”

        I imagine there are a lot of us on the edge of the 35-44 bracket that are somehow skewing younger. (Yay?)

        1. JC*

          Judging from the number of age and gender-appropriate ads I get around the internet as an early 30s woman, I wouldn’t be surprised if google does a pretty good job with estimating demographics. I would appreciate fewer ads for freezing my eggs, though.

        2. kristinyc*

          There’s a way to look in your google account and see what age it thinks you are. It thought I was 10 years older than I am because of the sites I read.

          1. Liza*

            Yeah, a couple of years ago Google thought I was a 41-year-old man (I’m female and in my mid-thirties). I’d been reading a lot of gaming blogs around that time, and I suspect that’s what skewed their algorithm’s perception of my gender.

  77. SanguineAspect*

    Because the readership here has been so consistent and engaged for so long, would you ever consider performing a poll about your readers? Something along the lines of:

    + How long have you been reading the site?
    + How often do you check the site for new content?
    + Do you leave comments?
    + If you leave comments, how often do you do so?
    + How many usernames have you used over the course of time?

    I’m sort of intensely curious. I know I’m a long-time reader with an infrequent commenting streak and several usernames over time. Based on some comments above stating the same thing, I’m now SO curious about how common that is for the community.

  78. ZSD*

    For the letters you do answer, what’s the usual lag time between when they come in and when they show up on the site?
    To put it another way, how long should be wait before sending in a question before we can be confident that it’s not in the to-be-answered queue, and thus it’s fair game to ask it on the open thread?
    (I feel like you might have addressed this in the past, and I apologize for the duplicate question.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It totally varies. Sometimes I’ll post it within a few days, sometimes it’s weeks, and sometimes it’s even months. So there’s no way to really be confident it is or isn’t getting answered, unfortunately, but you’re always totally welcome to email and ask if it’s fair game for the open thread!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can opt out of categories, but they’re really broad. For example, I wanted to opt out of resume/cover letter service ads, but there’s no way to do that without opting out of all business-related ads.

  79. Caroline K*

    For the paper planner junkies out there… can you tell us about your planner? Do you use a paper planner, your phone, an app? You seem to be super organized, a good time manager, and have worked out a new marriage and a busy work life. So tell us all about the planner you use!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I use iCal and Mail to stay organized. I have an ongoing to-do list on an electronic sticky (totally dangerous, because Apple doesn’t save them if you accidentally close one, but I also back up constantly). I have no other system. I have no planner! It’s shameful but it works.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I’ve never been able to use a planner. Even in junior high, when we were issued ones by the school and literally required to use them, I could not.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Me, either. They seem too restrictive and don’t work intuitively with the way I think. For a long time, I used an ongoing list in a notebook, and that worked great. Now I use Trello, and it mainly works; I sometimes find that I haven’t faithfully recorded everything there, so my list doesn’t always accurately reflect my priorities.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I think the problem is that I go back to using the notebook when things come in on the fly (in person or on the phone) and I haven’t incorporated a reliable means of dealing with that.

  80. Natalie*

    Related to the reader poll, have you ever dug into the search terms that bring people here? Are there any that are particularly hilarious or off the wall, or any where you really wish the person wrote in?

    (Inspired by the monthly CA post where she answers questions that come from the search terms)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I glance at them occasionally but there are SO MANY. It’s overwhelming. I just looked and in the last month, there were 65,751 search terms. So I’ve pretty much stopped even trying to look through them, other than occasionally looking at the very top ones.

  81. Come On Eileen*

    I haven’t seen a sponsored post for Sheba in a while! Did your relationship with them end, do your cats not dig their food, or something else? I actually started feeding my cats Sheba last summer — to replace their dry food — and they’ve been hooked ever since.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not a ban exactly, but I asked one regular commenter to stop participating in gender discussions (and then set him to moderation to enforce that). It was a situation where he was extremely vocal on the issue and every time it came up, it was drawing a disproportionate amount of commenter energy and causing the same points to be rehashed over and over each time. I felt like it was hurting the site and decided to prioritize the overall site over one person’s interest in being heard on the topic.

        1. Natalie*

          IIRC that commenter also came back and has been perfectly lovely on that topic since then. So it seems like it helped.

          1. CA Admin*

            Did he? I haven’t seen that handle since the moderation went into effect, but if he’s posting under a different name, I wouldn’t have noticed. I’m pretty bad at picking out others’ “voices” so to speak.

              1. Natalie*

                I feel like I should add, since this would totally creep me out if it was about me – the only reason I’m fairly sure the person returned is that I recognized the writing style and some personal details that had stuck in my mind for some reason. I understand why this person (probably) changed their handle and obviously Alison has no problem with it.

                1. LBK*

                  Yeah, there’s someone I noticed writes similarly and has similar opinions to the person in question. I’ve wondered if it’s him under a new name or just coincidence, but either way the comments are a bit more measured and don’t get as much response now, so I’m glad to have him and his opinions back if it is actually him. I always welcome the people who help make this less of an echo chamber, as nice as it is to have your view constantly reinforced.

                2. A Cita*

                  Yes. Agree with Natalie and LBK. I think changing the handle also helped to curb the immediate reactions on seeing that handle. If he is who I think he is, he has been measured since, and like LBK, I appreciate a diversity of view points.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Working at home allows you to have a constant stream of food throughout the day if you want it, which is very bad, as it turns out.

      Currently I’m in a phase of eating those microwave pretzels. Delicious!

      I’m a big tea drinker, both hot and iced.

      1. Jessa*

        Those pretzels are dangerous. They’re soooo good. We found that we could get the same brand the theatres use at Sam’s Club in big boxes (we have a large freezer) they are seriously addicting.

  82. J in NY*

    I read your site twice daily on my smartphone (Android) during my commute to and from work. Too many times, it has been that when i would click on a particular post in order to read through the comments, and it would cause my web browser to crash. Any idea why or how to fix it?

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      This sounds like the problem a number of us were having last…spring, summer? The popular solution was to download Firefox or Chrome and use that for reading the site rather than the built-in device browser. I dont know why it makes a difference, but I have never had a crashing issue with Firefox and I still get crashes if I forget and use the default.

    2. Oh anon*

      I use my android phone to read AAM. I’m using CM Browser and usually don’t have issues unless the comments go over 1000…then scrolling just lags a bit.

  83. Tara*

    Oh it’s late so I understand if you’re done for the day! But reading through this has been fascinating. My question: how thoroughly do you read the open thread posts? I find them so interesting but I’m in a later time zone and there’s often already 800+ comments by the time I get online. Is there anything you’d prefer commentors didn’t discuss on the open threads?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not done! Still going.

      I used to read everything in the open thread (although often on the weekend rather on Friday), but in recent months, I’ve had to give that up. I do still skim them though, and I try to read a good portion of them, simply because I find them interesting.

      I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t want people to talk about on the open thread as long as it’s work-related. On the weekend non-work one, I think people should stay away from politics, which they generally do.

  84. Puffle*

    Another person commenting from a different time zone, I also understand if that’s it and you’re done for the day!

    I saw upthread that you said you find it frustrating when letter writers aren’t specific enough about the situation. Is there anything else that letter writers do that irritates you, or just makes it much harder for you to answer their question?

    Btw, your blog is fantastic! I’ve been following it religiously since I first stumbled across it as a student back in 2011, and it is so helpful :) I’m not a regular commenter, but I read AAM every day and I’m always recommending it to people!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thank you so much!

      I get a lot of two-line letters that are wildly vague, like “how can I make my manager trust me more? I’m frustrated.” Those I generally just delete, so I guess they don’t really frustrate me, but they do puzzle me.

      I’m occasionally a little frustrated when a letter-writer leaves really significant new info in the comments that would have seriously changed my answer if they’d included it up-front … but I also know that it can be hard to judge what will be relevant about your own situation.

  85. TCO*

    If you’re done answering questions I totally understand! But I’ve long been curious about how you track “troublesome” commenters and/or put them into moderation. I’ve seen you call commenters out for using multiple usernames in one thread (to agree with themselves), for instance. Does your system allow you to see the IP address of the user or something like that?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Please, I’ll never be done. I love this. I love the site passionately, and here are a bunch of people who want to talk to me about it. I’m in heaven.

      The back-end of the site records the IP address of every comment. If I’m ever curious, I can search by IP address and see all the comments that came from it. I’m rarely inclined to do this, but when I have an active suspicion this is happening, I’ve on occasion checked. (Conclusion: My radar for this is good. I’ve always been right about it, I think.)

      WordPress also allows you to tell it to send all comments from a particular IP address (or containing a particular user name, or whatever) through moderation. You can also ban IP addresses entirely, but I usually just resort to sending them through moderation. I feel like that reinforces good behavior; rather than “go away and never come back,” it’s more “when you say something polite, I will allow your comment to go through.”

      1. coloured in pastures of chance dancing leaves cast spells of challenge*

        Are you also easily able to see (and restrict) the web browser / OS characteristics when someone posts?

          1. A Cita*

            You should be able to see this, though. Not restrict it, but see it.

            I know I’ve posted with different user names when I didn’t want to give away too much detail about myself, but I’ve always been aware that any site can track that.

            Basically, if you’re running stats software on your site, you can track a lot of things including IP address, ISP, device, OS, region/location, how they got to the site, where they went on the site, how long on the site, where they left the site (if through a link), etc.

              1. A Cita*

                There is a way to do it, but I don’t remember (it’s been a while as I’ve deleted all my blogs). It may be impractical anyway, given the number of hits you get (and not sure why you would want to, say, view a sorting by IPS or device or track based on device, etc). But if you had a particular IP address in mind, you should be able to look it up in your stats and see all the values related to that IP address.

  86. BRR*

    Thank you for doing this! It’s been so interesting to read.

    With all of this interest that stayed pretty much on the topic of the operation of your blog, how do you handle your popularity? You also have always come off as incredibly modest but there are so many of us who are die hard followers. Has any of it gone to your head? Do you feel comfortable knowing how many people enjoy reading your thoughts?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have conflicting answers. On one hand, I’m totally humbled by it and I have many, many moments of “how on earth did this come about?” and I’m always incredibly grateful for the success of the site and the many good things that’s brought into my life. And because of my particular brand of neurosis, I always kind of feel like that it could come crashing down and I could be left with nothing! (Do other people have this fear when things are going well?)

      On the other hand, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t go to my head in some way. I certainly feel pretty damn good about it :)

      1. BRR*

        I think a lot of people have the neurosis. In addition to bringing you so many good things I want to point out how it’s brought so many others good things as well.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thank you for asking! It actually still hurts sometimes, and apparently I will never be able to mountain climb or play football. But it’s basically back to normal, after what seemed like an endless recovery period. Do not ever get a lisfranc fracture.

  87. Oh anon*

    I just wanted to say thank you, Allison, for taking the time to answer everyone’s questions. It was very interesting to read!

  88. PX*


    Long time reader, rare commenter. I was interested in your answer on how you got into managing:

    I fell into it, but I fell into it because I wanted to see things run well and was highly impatient when that wasn’t the case. The appeal to me was the opportunity to make things run as they should (or more accurately, how I thought they should).

    I’m fairly new to the workplace (2 years) but I already have a lot of the same sentiments (probably because after reading your blog for so long, bad management is very obvious to spot). Do you think its ever too early to go into management? And what is it about actual management you didn’t/don’t like?

    1. PX*

      Oh, follow up questions – what was your career trajectory like? And if you had to come up with a plan to ease someone into a management position – what would it look like (aka, what are the skills you want to see someone have/build before you think they are prime manager material)?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Me: I’ve been in nonprofits my whole career. Started as a coordinator of volunteers (kind of a glorified receptionist, really) at a nonprofit, then moved to a staff writer role at a different organization, did a mix of staff writer and campaign coordinator for a while, then parlayed that into a leap to a communications director job somewhere else (that’s the “I doubled my salary in one move” post that’s elsewhere on the site). Then a membership director for a while, which turned into a chief of staff role, running the day to day operations of the whole organization, which I did for five years before leaving to do consulting, which is what I’m doing now.

      Is it ever too early to go into management? Retail/food service management, no, probably not. Management in an office, I think yeah, there’s a time when it’s too early. You want to have some professional seasoning and have dealt with enough complicated challenges that you’ll know how to handle stuff that comes up (both work stuff and people stuff) and be enough on top of your game that you’ll be able to earn the respect of the people you manage, who may be older and more experienced than you. With managing, you’re also usually going to be learning how to do it on the job, so you’d ideally already have some work experience under your belt to cushion you while that happens.

      If I’m trying to prepare someone for managing, I’d have them start on a smaller scale: managing interns, leading projects, etc. (And those are things that you can volunteer for, and many employers will be grateful that someone is actually excited to do them.) Skills I’d want to see: a drive to get things done, problem-solving, the ability to be straightforward about problems without being abrasive, some degree of interpersonal skills, and good judgment!

  89. Ms Enthusiasm*

    Sorry if this has already been asked but I thought of this question yesterday but didn’t have a chance to post until now. You consider yourself to be a management consultant – that means you’re self employed / own your own business, right? As a management consultant what services do you provide? Do you have a website for that business? Are you comfortable providing the link so we can see it?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, I’m self-employed, with clients. I coach managers on how to get better results from their teams, basically. I also do a lot of writing. For my largest client, I do a combination of things — I write a bunch of management stuff for them, I run their “management hotline” (where managers can call and get advice on immediate challenges they’re dealing with, which I find to be the greatest thing ever), I do some hiring work, and now I manage a staff person for them too.

      Management consultant actually isn’t an ideal term for it; it’s what I called myself when I first struck out on my own because it basically captured what I was doing at the start, but now it’s grown into a broader jumble of stuff. Plus there’s a bunch of freelance writing too (much of which you see linked to from AAM), so I really don’t know what to call it anymore.

      There’s no website for it — I don’t really do any marketing (thank god).

  90. FJ*

    Been reading for a year or two… had one short-answer… haven’t commented before… really enjoyed this thread
    Might be too late for questions… but, have you ever had a letter-writer get identified by their coworkers or other people involved in the story?

    I also now have a management question I’m going to submit!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’ve pointed someone to this site, and recognized when the person posted on the open thread. It could certainly be more awkward when it wasn’t deliberate!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Three times.

      Once, if I’m remembering correctly, the OP told the coworker about it, and then the coworker emailed to say, “this person is off their rocker and here’s the real story about what’s going on.”

      1. Wren*

        ooh! Those sound like a juicy comment threads! Can you recall a few details so I can try searching for them?

  91. Swarley*

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my (and all of these questions!) question, it’s made for a fascinating read. I’m wondering if you ever think about offering a resume reviewing service again? I regret not taking advantage of the last one, but it’s something I’d definitely want to sign up for.

      1. A Cita*

        Oh. Plans for doing it again after that? Like summer? Is this something regular we can expect (whatever regular means–1x a year, 2x a year, 1x one year and 3x the next–basically it isn’t going to go away forever anytime soon)?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Good question. I’m not sure. I’m tempted to say I’ll do it at least once a year (last year I intended to do it twice but ended up only doing it once), but I also don’t to promise that because it’s time-consuming!

          1. A Cita*

            Ah good to know. Hm. I may have to get my butt in gear to do it in March. Not ready for it now (and I custom my resumes to the job as I have a weirdly wide range of experience), but maybe getting some general feedback would be good, even this early. Hmmm…..

      2. Liza*

        Thank you again for doing it two years ago! Your timing was perfect for me, as I was unemployed at the time, and your feedback helped a lot. (And now I have a beautiful resume I haven’t pulled out in a while except to update it, because I’ve been happily employed since then.)

  92. anon_user*

    I hope it’s not too late.
    I’m curious – what do you think are the best and worst depictions of managers in fiction?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Maybe it’s because it’s late, but I’m having trouble thinking of ANY managers in literature. I keep just thinking of the worst employee ever — Bartleby the Scrivener, Melville’s horrible clerk who answers any work requests with, “I would prefer not to.”

    2. Ruthan*

      I probably wouldn’t have even thought about it but for AAM having attuned me to such things, and they’re not exactly classic fiction, but Fated Blades novels 1 and 2 have a terrible manager and a great manager, in that order.

  93. AnotherFed*

    I know this is really late, but hope you’re still checking!

    What got you into writing in the first place? Was the management consulting primarily about writing first and things like coaching and training second, or did you start out more like a traditional consultant?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve always written, really. I started publishing stuff when I was in high school and then just kind of kept going with it. For a while I wrote professionally as the sole focus of my job (as a staff writer), but I did freelance pieces before and after too, whenever the urge struck. Actually, an early precursor to Ask a Manager was the article I link to here:

      Here are a few others I published in the Washington Post before that and have put up here previously:

      From age 20:

      From age 23:

      I’ve always had a weird urge to write about whatever’s going on in my life at the time. Hence the dating/bar etiquette blog from my 20s that I mentioned here last week, hence this one, and hence probably the one about being old that I’ll write when I’m old (which will probably be soon).

      1. AnotherFed*

        Thanks! It’s really interesting to see how your writing style has evolved over time. The article about your first time living on your own is hilarious – I’m young enough to remember those days vividly (though they were insulated by having an engineering job and the corresponding starting salary) but old enough to be watching with amusement as younger family members start to fledge.

  94. Just curious*

    if LaTeX is supported?

    $latex i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}\left|\Psi(t)\right>=H\left|\Psi(t)\right>$

  95. Realistic*

    Thank you for the time it took you to do this, Alison. I don’t comment often, but I stop here almost every day. You have taught me a lot about being direct without being aggressive, and on wording things which sometimes need VIP handling. I appreciate your generosity with us. Oh, and you may like to order one of these shirts some day. I hope to get mine in the next week!

  96. Lila*

    I started reading this blog last March when I went for a big internal promotion at work which I got and kept, I think, due largely to the advice I’ve read here since this is my first “real” job out of college. So thank you! My question for AAM is, how do you make sure to enjoy it while you “have it good” at work or with your blog instead of just worrying that eventually good people will leave or it will end?

  97. Qwerty*

    I know this is really late, but I remembered that you used to have (or maybe still do) a service where people could send anonymous emails to hiring managers who didn’t respond after an interview. What happened to this? And did you ever get any interesting responses from hiring managers?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! I loved it. I stopped doing it though because it stopped working and I lacked the technical know-how to fix it.

      I did get a few responses from employers who received the note — one defensive, but a couple apologizing and saying they did mean to get back to people.

  98. Ž*

    Really late but I wanted to know how many kitties you have? I have 3 and they take up my entire bed and sometimes in the middle of the night they try to nudge me to get me out of the way of my pillow so they can steal it from me. (but it’s okay because i love them)

      1. Ž*


        It’s a small bed but i’m only one person. Cats are liquid, though. They expand to fill any space available

  99. VipOne*

    Have been driving traffic by pop-under on one of my sites from a newcomer network some days are better than the others. Anyone has any idea on how to improve the conversions?
    For those who are not here yet, pop-under opens your pages on somebody else ‘s site.

  100. Cat steals keyboard*

    Apologies if this has been done but I would love it if you did a survey to find out about AAM readers. It would be so cool to see a breakdown by age, country, industry etc!

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