open thread – February 20, 2015

It’s the Friday open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

{ 1,442 comments… read them below }

  1. C Average*

    I work in an industry that’s very keen on having a passion for one’s work. I know it’s a much-mocked cliche, but I’ll bet well over 75% of our job listings have “passion” or “passionate” in them.

    In the past, I’ve absolutely been passionate about my job, showing up early and staying late and doing lots of extra stuff out of pure personal interest. There have been times I would’ve kept showing up even if they’d stopped paying me! But I’m just not in that place anymore. I show up and do my work because they pay me, but my passion for my job falls somewhere between my passion for cleaning the shower and my passion for purchasing eggs and milk.

    Is this just the natural trajectory of a career? Do you think not having a passion for one’s work is necessarily a bad sign, or is it just sort of most people’s reality?

    1. Anie*

      That’s a natural ebb and flow of life, I think. I’ve had that roller coaster within the same job before., from up to down to up. It’s just life, a period of time to work through. Changing jobs may help, but sticking it out may too.

    2. CrazyCatLady*

      I think not having a passion for your work is most people’s reality. In an ideal world, it would be great if everyone could be passionate about the work they do but I think the fact is, most people are passionate about earning a liveable income and benefits.

      1. AmyNYC*

        To quote Mad Men, “Not every little girl gets to do what they want; the world can’t support that many ballerinas.” Sad, but true.
        I’m struggling with this right now, and I’m using the not passionate/dull work to focus on passions outside of work.

        1. C Average*

          I always joke about cross-stitching things like this on pillows, but for real, I want to commit this quote to posterity somehow, because it is perfect.

    3. GOG11*

      If you’ve been at your job a long time, I can see how things could become stale. One of the best parts of my job is learning new tasks and without the challenge of tackling something new, the actual work is pretty boring.

      Maybe you’ve fallen into a rut because your work isn’t challenging or engaging you the way it used to. Do you think taking on a new project or learning a new skill would help?

      1. C Average*

        Yeah, definitely. I really enjoy learning new stuff. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but in the past I’ve tended to be in roles that involved a lot of small projects that took a week or less. I really liked the constant turnover of knowledge and information. I’m now typically involved in long-term projects that I’m excited about initially but am heartily sick of by the time they limp to a finish. I’m not sure I’m cut out for long-life-cycle projects. That’s an interesting thing to think about. Maybe I need to look for a way to keep things fresh even as I’m slogging through these elephant-pregnancy-length projects.

        1. GOG11*

          I went on a trip to NYC when I was in high school for Drama Club. As part of the trip, we had the opportunity to interview a couple of actors who worked on Broadway. One student asked about boredom and one of the actors said that they give the shows a theme – pirates, cowboys, etc. – and act out the show using that theme (in ways that are too subtle for the audience to notice). It became a way to keep them engaged and it almost seemed like a way to bond because it was a big, collaborative inside joke.

          You don’t want to create more work for yourself, but could you challenge yourself to find shortcuts, a better way of doing X, or things like that? Do the same thing, but with little twists that keep you on your toes?

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Mmmm, that might be it.

          I am crazy passionate about what I do and have been forever BUT, I do lots and lots of different things and I don’t do well when something oddball comes up and I have to stick to a long life cycle project for even a week.

          I really liked the constant turnover of knowledge and information.

          Describes me.

          It’s worth looking at if you can get that back, I think.

        3. AnotherAlison*

          I completely identify with this. I spent my first 8 years on projects that lasted around a year or longer and was so burned out that I did a bunch of internal transfers within a couple years. Then I spent 6 years doing a job that was the same (but slightly different) thing every month. Now I have projects that last a few months at most. Much, much better.

      1. SJP*

        I’m really lucky, the company i work for are very hot on people having good work/life balance and if people are spotted staying later than their leave time managers will pop over and enquire why youre staying late and encourage you to leave it unless absolutely necessary.
        I usually finish at 5.30pm but had to stay til 6.20pm yesterday cause I forgot my laptop and had to return home to get it..
        My ‘functional’ (unofficial) boss popped over and enquired why I was staying this late and I explained I was making up the time but they want people to generally leave when you’re supposed to.

        It’s really refreshing for managers to be making sure you’re going home to rest and have a life and hot on making sure people aren’t so swamped that they have to stay late..

        1. Beancounter in Texas*

          My workplace has an 8 to 5 policy too, in that it becomes a ghost town by 5:00:02PM. On the same token though, if you’re not in the office by 8am (well, before the boss), the boss will notice and call you on the carpet if he thinks it is a problem.

        2. The IT Manager*

          cause I forgot my laptop and had to return home to get it..

          I worry about this. Not stress level worries, but just “better make sure I pack up the laptop at night and put it by the door” thoughts.

      2. C Average*

        There isn’t any particular pressure to stay late in my office, particularly for my team. There’s a tacit understanding that myself and one other team member are on call pretty much whenever, and because I always arrive early and am always at least semi-available on weekends and after hours, no one minds that I’m usually gone not just AT five, but BY five.

        I think I’m more concerned that I no longer have any interest in being there in excess of what’s expected. It used to be that the day often flew by and I didn’t even notice that it was well past five; now I often wonder if the clock is actually working because it moves so slowly!

        1. intjCoping*

          Sometimes that feeling means I need a vacation or that I have stress in other parts of my life. Could that be true for you?

    4. De Minimis*

      I think it’s just how it is after a while, the novelty wears off. And I think a lot of people never feel a lot of passion for their work, it’s just something you do to pay the bills.

      I don’t feel passionate about my job, but I do feel a certain amount of satisfaction about getting things done.

    5. Rex*

      I think that is a natural progression, both as you get older and have more obligations, and as you get more experience and learn the difference between working hard and doing good work. I would keep a sharp eye on how these organizations treat work life balance, some get it and some don’t.

    6. hildi*

      I am dealing with this, too!! I used to be on fire for training employees and now. Bleh. I just want to sit at my desk and coast. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have been in this position for 8 years. I do have flexibility on the topics I teach and that’s nice. But somehow that’s not enough right. There has been a change in leadership at the top and I really, really hate this person’s style and the effect this person has had on everyone under her (which rolls down to us low on the totem pole). Personally I’m stressed just having two small children and my life feels completely out of control there. I have wondered if my discontent at work is really discontent with the demands of my home life, but no mother in today’s society should honestly admit that. All I know is I’m a bit of a mess right now and it’s not like me to have no direction. I feel unmoored – that’s exactly the word that’s been bouncing around my head right now.

      Anyway, sorry didn’t mean to therapize on your post here. I just wanted to say that I’m with you and I’m hoping it’s just one of life’s ups and downs. The struggle for me is in what Anie said above: Maybe changing jobs will help and maybe it won’t. I have a basically good job and I don’t want to gamble on something that may not work! UGH.

      1. PX*

        Just going to pick up on your comment about mothers in today’s society not admitting they are discontent with their home life/kids – that is exactly one of the problems with society today, and I think if you need to admit that you’re not happy at home, you should be able to! The prevailing notion that everybody else is perfectly happy/satisfied with their life is incredibly destructive I think – the world would be a much better place if more people were open about their struggles.

        So in that vein, I would say find someone to talk to (husband/good friend/therapist) and maybe that might help in figuring out what the root cause of your discontent really is.

        1. cuppa*

          “The prevailing notion that everybody else is perfectly happy/satisfied with their life is incredibly destructive I think – the world would be a much better place if more people were open about their struggles. ”
          I think you hit the nail on the head. A fair amount of road rage, people yelling at store clerks, and other expressions of rage and anger in society today is largely a manifestation of misplaced and supressed frustration.

          1. Ama*

            That and also that it’s a some kind of weird absolute situation where to be “happy” you can’t acknowledge any kind of flaws or thing you wish would be better, or if you’re “miserable” you can’t have anything you like about a situation.

            I love my job, pretty much for the first time in my adult life, but I wouldn’t say I’m “passionate” about it. I still prefer not being at work to being at work and there’s still days where it’s hard to get motivated. I just feel like that a smaller percentage of the time.

            1. SevenSixOne*

              Often, when you do admit that you’re unhappy or struggling with any aspect of your life, many people will just scoff about how you have so many good things in your life so what exactly are you complaining about because they’d just LOVE to have YOUR problems because THEIR problems are JUST SO MUCH WORSE LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT.

              It sucks.

              1. C Average*

                Yeah, I get this, too. I just tell ’em, “yeah, I know these are first-world problems, but since that’s where I actually live, these are the kinds of problems I’m trying to solve.”

                We can all play the somebody’s-got-it-worse-off-than-me game. By that standard, only the saddest and most downtrodden person on earth has any business complaining and looking for ways to improve areas of unhappiness. Which seems . . . not realistic.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                The scoffers are the ones that can NOT help us. They are too busy scoffing to be of any real assistance.

        2. Heather*

          +1 million.

          So many of my friends who have kids have told me that they were surprised by how much harder parenting is than they thought it would be. I think that’s because it’s such a taboo to admit that it’s not all hugs and cute photos.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            The closest I hear a lot of people come to it is, “Yeah, it’s a lot of work.” You’re right; it’s very much a taboo to complain about it. You’re supposed to be over the moon even on days when you’d like to ACTUALLY go over the moon and not come back! It’s especially hard when you’re working full time. But we’re so focused on being positive that sometimes you have no outlet when things aren’t going so well.

            What bugs me most is when they act like I think it’s all hugs and roses when I say I want a family. I’ve been the de facto stepmom to a child from age three to seven. I’ve cleaned up bed puke and yes, I’m not ignorant; I know it’s not perfect.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              ” You’re supposed to be over the moon even on days when you’d like to ACTUALLY go over the moon and not come back!

              OMG, that reminds me of when my first child was a baby, and I hadn’t learned that I could control the amount of nursing to some extent, so I just felt like a milk machine. So I was sitting in an upstairs bedroom, nursing and looking out the window. I saw my car parked in the driveway below, and I had a momentary thought of, “There’s my car — I could jump out the window right now and get in it and drive away.” No thought of going down the stairs and out the front door. Nope — at that point, my immediate thought was to go straight out the window (the shortest distance between two points, you know).

              1. Revanche*

                Hi new milk machine here! :)
                This is one of those things I keep hearing from moms, new or not, that they didn’t know this about milk production and how to manage it. And I experience that fun phenomenon of depression during my milking because of the dopamine drop and boy howdy…..

            2. Heather*

              What bugs me most is when they act like I think it’s all hugs and roses when I say I want a family.

              It’s a lose-lose… I say I don’t want kids because I know how hard it is & I don’t want to make those sacrifices, and they tell me “Oh, but it’s diferent when they’re yours!” FFS.

              1. Revanche*

                Well yes, it’s different when they’re your own. YOU’RE STUCK WITH THEM, when they’re your own. This is why I loved babysitting, I could go home to peace and quiet after. I say this while I lovingly shade my infant captor sitting in the car seat glaring at me when sun gets in hir eyes. Yes darling, I live to serve.

                Seriously love them as much as you might, that doesn’t change the fact you’re at their beck and call until they can survive without you!

          2. Vanelope Von Schweetz*

            Yes, this + 1 billion! Society has the perception that women still should be mothers and ENJOY every single minute. And if you don’t, oh dear, you’re terrible. If you want to work, you’re a bad mom, if you want to stay home, you’re a bad woman. And if you complain about either choice, oh the world will fall apart! Sometimes people just want an ear, and we, as people, don’t want the person with their opinion to fix it!

            Sorry, I got up on my little soapbox there. It’s something I am actually struggling with right now as I want to go back to work (it’s been 4 years and I am so ready) after being a SAHM and I am getting tons of flack for it. Everyone makes decisions that work best for their families. We, as people, as parents, need to stop minimizing our feelings and discounting them because others don’t want to hear them. Parenthood, in any shape or form, is hard! I would honestly say SAHM parenting is harder than my actual job was. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when I actually get to go back to work and juggle the two.

        3. hildi*

          Through my wellness plan through my employer we get to have a few free counseling sessions a year with a local therapist. I have seriously considered doing that.

          I also agree about how our society reinforces that. I LOVE Pinterest, but I blame Pinterest, too. Lucky for me, I’ve never been the type of person that tries to be perfect. Good lord, I celebrate my messiness and post if on FB for others to enjoy! haha. Truly, on the day to day stuff I don’t have a problem showing up with my kids’ hair uncombed, me smeared in toothpaste and us out of breath. That’s who we are. But surprisingly, when it gets down to those really hard moments when you’re like EFF THIS. I haven’t had a full-night’s sleep in 5 years. I’m tired of having to think for everyone in my house and be at the demands on a toddler terrorist….those are the hard things to admit you hate (oddly. I’m weird. And tired. This might be causing most of this. Thanks for your comments, PX :) )

          1. PX*

            Your welcome!

            (And again, things in your post which jump out at me – ‘thinking for everyone in the house’? Unless you’re a single parent, there should be someone else who can do the thinking, and someone else who can ensure you get a fully nights sleep…so my last comment would be to think about how household tasks are distributed [see statistics about how women are still expected to do more around the house/with kids even when they have full time jobs while men get to do….not much] and perhaps see about getting a fairer balance in who does the thinking! And actually, even if you are a single parent, taking time off to decompress and work on yourself is never a bad thing if you can!)

          2. Vanelope Von Schweetz*

            Toddlers are LITERALLY the worst kind of terrorists. For real.

            And if you get free counselling, take it. Think of it as a mini-vacation, 1 hour per week for a few weeks. I did it and it has made a huge difference in my mental stability.

      2. JB*

        I don’t have any advice or words of wisdom, but I wanted to send words of encouragement your way. If you could find a way to make your home life less stressful and more contented, then you could see whether that has an effect on your work life, but obviously if that were easy you’d have done it already. And the only thing I can tell you to cheer you up is something you already know–that in a few years your kids will be older, so that part will be less stressful? So hey, in a few years, maybe everything will be better! :/

        Yeah, I got nothing, but I hope you can get through this.

        1. hildi*

          Thank you, JB. :) Knowing that others feel exactly the same way or have been in that spot before helps tremendously. I do know that when my girls are older, the things I hate about right now will get better. I just have a few more years until the little one is doing what the older one is able to do and that will make the things that are personally hard for me to deal with, better.

          I used to exercise regularly and haven’t for years. I know that’s contributing to a huge part of it. I used to scoff at women’s magazines when they talked about forcing yourself to carve out time for yourself. I so arrogantly (this was before kids, obviously) used to think how much of a cop-out that was to take care of yourself. Um, no. It’s real. From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep I’m taking care of someone else. But this isn’t new to humankind. Thanks for your kind words though :)

      3. Future Analyst*

        I think it’s completely understandable to be put off from doing your job how you would have otherwise b/c leadership has changed– regardless of your position, leadership can really make or break your experience, and I think we’ve all been in situations in which we love what we do until something (or someone) changes the “feel.”

        Additionally, don’t discount the major energy suck that comes along with being a parent. I have a 16 month old and am pregnant with no. 2, and some days I just don’t have the energy to care about things I used to think are really important. This is both normal, and will pass, I promise! Pick one thing to address, and work on that. Don’t try to address discontent at home AND discontent at work at the same time. Address individual situations, and pay close attention to what makes a difference. It could very well be that you love hanging out with your kids, but hate the laundry that they bring about (or the extra cleaning/grocery shopping, etc.) ID anything that someone else might be able to take on, and delegate, delegate, delegate.

        OR, if you want to start at work, tell yourself that you want to roll out a great new training for ____ by x date. Sometimes, having no set deadlines is the biggest source of our malaise at work, since there’s no urgency to accomplishing something new.

        Sorry for the novel! TL;DR: this is all normal, focus on changing concrete, small things.

        1. hildi*

          Thanks!! You’re SO RIGHT about the “feel” of the workplace changing. I guess we enjoyed a lot of the same until this new person came along and I have to say I hate it.

          And yes- kids = time suck. The lovable, little zombie makers they are. Mine are 5 and 20 mos. And I LOVE your reminder to just focus on one area at a time (either work or home). I heard one time in a class that if your home life is crazy, you need your work life to be stable. And vice versa. If both of them are crazy, then you are in trouble. So I guess my work life is pretty stable, which is probably all part of the larger plan for me to just get through these challenging little kid years. Work sort of is my haven during the day. Unless I’m teaching a class I really don’t have to talk to anyone :)

      4. cuppa*

        You have expressed a lit of things I’m currently feeling right now, hildi. It’s a tough place to be but I wanted you to know that you’re not the only one.

        I think it’s normal to get unjazzed about your work. Sometimes the novelty wears off, sometimes personal circumstances get in the way. For me, it’s that a lot of my current job is wearing me down, and I tend to get mired in it and then can’t feel the passion that I used to. However, I have found that if I can take a step back from that part of my position, and work for a while on an exciting project, or attend a conference or seminar, those passionate feelings come back. So, for me right now, I would say that I have a passion for my industry but not necessarily passion for my current position.

        1. hildi*

          “So, for me right now, I would say that I have a passion for my industry but not necessarily passion for my current position”

          THIS. So true. I have thought about job searching and when I think about what I want to do, I still want to teach adults in some capacity (which some days I don’t even know why. Adults can be terribly unforgiving. But still, somehow that’s what I feel called to do). You’re right – this particular position isn’t really doing it for me anymore, but I still do have passion for teaching others. Thanks for that perspective :)

      5. ThursdaysGeek*

        I’ve seen as obligations have increased outside of work, especially when they end up interfering with getting adequate sleep, that work suffers. I know that I need 8.5+ hours of sleep, but often that just doesn’t happen. That is a slow wearing that dulls everything for me, but it’s so slow that it’s often not recognized as the problem.

        1. hildi*

          Yes!! Before kids I was an absolute expert sleeper. Brushing my teeth often, drinking tons of water, and getting loads of sleep were my healthy claims to fame (watching what I eat = not a strength). So it has been really hard for me to adjust to having my sleep interrupted often throughout the night. And you’re right, it’s been such a gradual progression that I didn’t even realize how foggy thinking I am, how often I type the wrong thing or say the wrong thing. It’s spooky. I am holding out for my little one to turn 3 because that’s when her sister started reliably sleeping through the night. I can white knuckle it for another year. And then if not, we’re going nuclear option because momma needs to sleep again.

      6. C Average*

        Thank you for therapizing on my post! You’re always such an upbeat and positive person that in a way it’s consoling to know that you, too, experience these moments of less-than-optimal enthusiasm toward your job.

        I do think home life is a huge part of it for me, too, and for a lot of people in general. And maybe by “people,” I do mean parents or parental figures. I’ve found that beyond the specific responsibilities of kid-raising (which can be intense), there’s the less easy to define challenge of being at the mercy of other people’s moods and emotions at every waking moment, and having to calibrate yourself to their needs. At work you have to be “on” from a professional perspective, always taking colleagues’ feelings and preferences into account and tempering your personality to fit into that group dynamic. And then at home you have to do the same thing for your family. It can be a bit emotionally exhausting.

        I love my family, but I recall with fondness the days when I could give 100% for 12 hours at work, come home, and know that I didn’t have to give anyone else anything else for the rest of the day.

        1. hildi*

          C Average – you and I could be good friends. Your comments about having to be at the whims others’ emotions – YES. OMG, YES. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re right – that’s SO tiring. I’ve often found for myself if I can articulate the problem then I have a better time dealing with it. It’s when I can’t analyze what’s going on and why it’s happening that I have trouble coping. Your thoughts on this have helped me name a big part of the stress, so thank you :)

      7. Nerd Girl*

        I’m responding to this post and the one you wrote below.

        Why can’t we mothers honestly admit that we might not be happy with things going on at home? It makes me sad that we feel like we can’t be honest about the thing that is keeping us from being content right now. I say that we spurn the Judgy McJudgerstons and start saying the thing that people don’t like hearing: sometimes having kids kind of sucks. My apartment never stays clean. It’s harder to save money. Something is always sticky. I miss having a purse that didn’t have at least three toys in it at any given time. Nobody ever seems to listen to me, but I’m the one who actually knows what’s going on. Spontaneity is a thing of the past. I’d love to stay late at work but I need to pick up the kids from the sitter. I feel guilty about everything.
        Of course, saying this doesn’t mean I’d change a second of the past 10 years. It’s just sometimes I’d like to not have to pretend that I’m happy with motherhood all the time. If I can complain about my day at work and what a crap boss I have or wonder what a new job would be like – I should be able to do the same with that other huge part of my life.
        Additionally…Pinterest is evil. It incites serious anxiety in me. I never before felt truly unsatisfied with my decorating, cooking, crafting, clothing, etc. All that changed when a friend turned me on to Pinterest. Not only does it steal my time but I come away feeling like I’m some kind of slacker as a mom, woman, and human being in general. It causes a noticeable shift in my personality. Suddenly I’m not satisfied with anything around me: my living room is not pretty enough, my clothes are hideous, I need to work out more, I need to be more creative, I can’t believe my office isn’t organized with a color coded, cross referenced system from the container store. The list is endless. Do yourself a favor and ditch Pinterest. :)

        1. Revanche*

          I am right there with you on hating the societal demand that mothers pretend there is no higher calling than having kids and every day is rainbows and kittens. It doesn’t negate the experience or the meaning of what you do, it’s just reality that it’s hard work and there are good and bad days just like in anything else.

        2. C Average*

          This makes me so, so glad I don’t “get” Pinterest and have never really bothered to try.

          I spent this past weekend with a dear old friend I’ve known since fourth grade. We used to play at one another’s houses often as kids.

          My mother, who freelanced from home, kept a beautiful house, served healthy meals, and pretty much ran the household like a boss–I’m seriously in awe when I look back.

          My friend’s mom, by contrast, ran their household by the seat of her pants, and I always LOVED going there. We could set up a project on the kitchen table and have it ongoing for a week, and she didn’t care; they’d eat dinner on the couch for a few days. We could move all the furniture to the side so we could breakdance on the hardwoods, and she thought it was great and often joined us. Sometimes dinner was a polyglot assortment of leftovers eaten on the back patio well after dark, and she’d leave the dishes until the next day–something my mom NEVER would have done.

          I think of her often and remind myself that the common denominator between those houses was that people had fun and were well-loved. It helps on the days when, realistically, the counter isn’t going to get de-cluttered.

      8. Not So NewReader*

        I listen to music most of the time in the car, so I only get bits of songs. Maybe someone will know what I am saying here. There is a song “No one told me it was this hard.” The singer is talking about work/family/home stuff.

        I heard that line and said Amen. I call it the hamster wheel. Go to work, go home, go to work, go home. It almost gets robotic. But you can’t get off the hamster wheel. Or so it seems. It seems like an endurance contest- mentally/physically/financially/emotionally- on all levels.

        The only thing I know to do is change one thing that you are doing. Make it easier, get rid of it, mix it up, whatever applies to Thing. This got me to thinking about how things around me change often, it’s not a change I created and these changes usually cause ME extra work. But how passive have I been? I can’t tell you, because I don’t know for sure. Let’s assume that means I was pretty passive at that point.

        I decided to simplify as much as possible. And that worked into a life-long commitment because there are always more ways a person can simplify things. I did start feeling better.

        And the other thing that came out is I must invest in me. Don’t allow yourself to be drained and drained and drained. Call a time out and do something to put stuff back into you. It doesn’t matter what “it” is. It’s critical to do it, though. Maybe the best you can do is set aside a time out once a month for 2 hours. Get there, do that. Do something to build yourself up.
        Looking back on it, I realize that I might be stronger than I thought. I would go for years without investing anything in me but putting everything into other people.

        That is when I learned something that blew me away. It’s unethical not to put something into yourself. Why. Because you should not allow yourself to be come so broken down that others have to take care of you. Yes, there are a lot of folks that have problems that could not be prevented. But self-neglect CAN be prevented. And this does not necessarily mean go to the doctor, eat right, and all that stuff. People can do all that and still be pretty neglectful. Us humans have many, many ways of neglecting ourselves. Human beings need a sense of belonging in reciprocal relationships (not one-way relationships); an outlet to create something and human beings need to feel that they are making a contribution. These three areas are good baseline check points to see how things are going in your life.

        I have had many relationships with people, but some how it felt like some of them needed me way more than I needed them. I have created some things and didn’t get much satisfaction from what I made. And I have worked like a dog and felt I never made a contribution. Take a hard look at what you are doing and how you really feel about it.

        In a harsh twist, I think that every decade or so our answer to these needs change. What met my needs in my 30s would never work now. My needs shifted. It took me a while to realize that is okay. We are supposed to shift. It’s okay.

        1. C Average*

          This friend speaks my mind.

          But I have to go a step further here: don’t let your self-care consist of mindless dissociation. I realized a few months back that I’d reached a state of personal and professional burnout that left me just wanting to mindlessly experience and consume in my off-hours. I walked to and from work listening to podcasts. I listened to audiobooks while cleaning the house. I turned on dumb TV when I was doing busywork. I took long showers and drank too much wine and got my nails done. I read books that didn’t challenge me. I didn’t want to think or feel. It was the emotional equivalent of the BRAT diet.

          Lately I’ve been making an effort to engage more, to go places I want to see and spend time with people whose company I enjoy and read books that make me think and learn to do things that sound interesting to me. It requires more get-up-and-go, but it’s a hell of a lot more rewarding than what was passing for self-care in my world.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            This is where I am right now. My work was stressful, so I gave myself a break at home by coasting and mindlessly experiencing/consuming (same as you, right down to the “too much wine” part). It felt good to catch the break, but now I feel stressed at work, but empty and adrift at home. Some of the things I put on hiatus at home were habits that seemed like too much work at the time, but would have formed a net of comfort and self-care for me if I’d kept up at them. Now it seems like I haven’t done them in so long, it is like having to start a brand-new habit, and I stumble from comparing my current weakness with my former successes.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            More Amens. It is scary to me but all the little choices we make along the way add up, with consequences we never dreamed of.

            I don’t know how many people I have seen that spend all Sunday morning reading the paper. Is it coincidence that these people get so up-in-arms about current issues? Is it a coincidence that they are very nervous about their current setting or their future? Why do they see a plot behind everything that happens? (Yes, I know, not all people and not all the time. Typically, these things are much more subtle than the examples here. People get nervous about their jobs or their homes when there really is no need to be nervous- it’s more of a subtle erosion.)

            Ugh. It’s a learn as we go thing. We do something for a while and then realize, “hey this is not working out so well.” I try not to think about how much time I have wasted in the past. I try to focus on making today better. Some days are easier than others.

    7. The Other Dawn*

      I struggle with this now. I love the company I work for and I enjoy my job. What I don’t enjoy is having to get out of bed in the morning at a certain time, get ready for work, drive there, and be there. I thought that getting this new job and loving my company would make that go away, but it didn’t. Then I started to think that maybe I picked the wrong job again (!!). I’ve come to the realization that I just hate having to be somewhere at a certain time for a defined period of time. But the reality of my work is that I have to be here during certain hours, no matter what company I work for, and that’s the way it is. The only way to escape that is to change careers, which I’m not really interested in doing.

      1. Heather*

        When I feel like this, I try to remind myself that there’s literally no job that doesn’t require you to be working sometimes when it’s the last thing you want to be doing. Even movie stars have to get up at the butt crack of dawn and stand around for hours.

        It doesn’t always improve my mood, but at least it makes me feel grateful that I don’t have to get up at the butt crack of dawn ;)

      2. brightstar*

        I love my job but often feel this way. But being unemployed a few years ago showed me that, if you’re always home, you can’t really enjoy being home. So I try to think about that when I’m tired of waking up at 5:30 a.m. to get to work on time. I get to enjoy my time at home more.

    8. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I think of it like I am passionate about some parts of my work…but my job– especially all the parts about a long commute, annoying coworkers, and office politics? Well, it’s hard to keep passion up for all the everyday parts of a job.

      1. Ali*

        This is how I am too. I’m in a field so many people want to work in, and I admit I got caught up in the glamorous aspects of the business. It’s harder than it looks on paper to make a career of what I do, even though I was once fine with some of the less “cool” aspects of my job because I once enjoyed it. Unfortunately, with the work I do, you’re either 100% in or you’re not. It requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice and it’s hard to find an in between. I’m now miserable and trying to get out, and I ended up in therapy to boot from the burnout and depression partly caused by my job! Not saying my experience will be everybody’s because some people who do my work truly can’t see themselves doing anything else or think it’s low stress. But once I decided I didn’t want to be in anymore, I really meant it. However, my job search isn’t going overly great (had a mix of interviews and phone screens, but have yet to get an offer) so I’m mostly just trying to cope.

    9. Florida*

      It is absolutely most people’s reality. Everyone at your office is motivated to show up everyday because of the paycheck. Sure, there might be other factors as well, but if passion were their primary driver, the company wouldn’t have to pay those people.

      I work in the nonprofit world and everyone says you have to be passionate about the mission. In reality, the bookkeeper at a foster care agency could absolutely hate children and still excel at their job. The bookkeeper needs to be excited numbers, not foster care. I’ve even raised a lot of money for organizations that I am really quite ho-hum about. My passion is about seeing other people use their money to achieve their personal missions. I don’t care if their mission is animals or homeless or education or whatever. So, I don’t need to be passionate about the organization. I need to be passionate about donors achieving their goals.

      By the way, even if you work for a religious organization or a nonprofit organization, there is nothing wrong with going to work because you want paycheck. People in certain industries will proudly profess that they want to be rich, but people in nonprofit and religious organizations (I don’t know if this is you) sometimes tend to feel shameful if they go to work to get money. This is crazy talk.

      If you are as passionate about your job as you are about buying milk that makes you pretty normal. Yes, there are people who jump out of bed every morning excited to go to work. There are also people who would rather each vomit than go to work everyday. The vast majority of the world falls in the middle. Work is a means to a paycheck. Sometimes it’s enjoyable , but other times, it sucks.

      Also, I’ve found that the times when I’ve felt that I would work for free, it’s not because of the product the company is selling. It’s because I feel camaraderie with my co-workers. It’s because I feel challenged in my job. It’s because of good management, not because of the mission of the organization.

      1. Revanche*

        So true. While a certain percentage of people should probably have passion for the goal of the non profit, I always felt like a bit of a fraud because I cared more about getting the job done than being passionate about it. And I’m much more effective that way since my job isn’t advocacy.

        The mission may be meaningful but it’s no replacement for good management, a healthy work environment, and making a fair wage.

    10. soitgoes*

      I think it’s natural to go through phases of feeling that work is just another part of you routine. And while I too roll my eyes at the “passion” stuff, I think you need to be mindful of something that WOULD make you a little more excited. A new project? A new product line? A new client? Not something that negates the daily grind, but something that adds new interest.

    11. Malissa*

      I miss having a passion for work actually. I would love to have that excitement back. But yeah, there have been times I have been less passionate and that’s okay. Like some one else said, ebb and flow of life.

    12. Kyrielle*

      I think honestly, it comes and goes with the rest of your life. It has to. Though I wouldn’t advertise it when they expect passion.

      I’ve gone through phases of being utterly passionate about what I do and phases where it was more ‘meh, but I will do what I should because they are paying me’ and rare phases where it was ‘oh no do I have to do this?’ – the last largely because of people rather than actions.

      Generally I would look around for other things I would want to do more. Had I found them, I’d have moved on. Since I didn’t, I stuck around – and in time it cycled back around.

      If you hate it, look for things to move on to. If you’re okay with it but just not desperately in love, keep an eye out for things so excellent you want to move on, but don’t jump for less than an excellent match. Otherwise, this is just life, I think.

    13. matcha123*

      I don’t think “passion” is necessary. Personally, I find it a bit off-putting when I see it in a job listing.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        Me too… especially since I’ve seen first hand that “passionate” is often code for “will work such long hours that having any kind of personal life is impossible”.

        1. Tris Prior*

          +1. In my experience “passionate” is also code for “well, since you really like what you’re doing and believe in it, it’s OK for us to pay you next to nothing.”

    14. Jennifer*

      It’s called burnout. I am definitely sick of my industry these days and no longer think our product is a good and wonderful thing to churn out into the world. But I can’t get any other jobs, so I have to suck it up.

      I think not having a passion for work is most people’s reality though. Most of us can’t get paid for what we wish we could be doing all day anyway.

        1. Perpetua*

          As someone whose company employs game testers, I can tell you that even that loses its charm when it’s a job, when you have to keep playing even when you’re not in the mood for it, when you have to play the games you might not choose for yourself, when you have to do the same thing over and over and over again, etc. :)

          In other words, a job like many others. :)

          1. Kyrielle*

            lol!! That makes sense, though. I’ve played some games, that the thought of continuing to play them, hunt for bugs, and thoughtfully evaluate fit *for the intended audience* (which I’m not) is kind of…ugh. So I can totally see how it would be a job and not a joy.

    15. Sunflower*

      I like to think that being passionate means you’re passionate about excelling in that line of work. Like a lot of people say, the novelty kind of wears off. I work in event planning and at first I was so excited. Yay so fun! But now, it’s just like ‘yup i have to do that today’. If I had a different job or position where I was learning new stuff, maybe I’d be more excited?

      I think it’s a reality for most people. And I think as long as you keep challenging yourself and excelling, you can live a very happy, fulfilled work life in most industries.

    16. A Reader becoming QAT Contractor*

      Without going too far into the details, I used to be very passionate about my job in IT. I wanted to make every single thing I worked on the best I could because I knew other people would be using the product I was working on. At first it was all great and I made siginificant finds that improved the product for the end user.

      Fast forward 8 years, I’m still working in the same industry, same company, same job (more or less) and my passion has diminished. I pretty much just go to work every day, do what I need to do and move on. I do still get some of my passion back with each new client I work for, but it all ends up being the same dysfunctional issues at each one and none of them want to listen to my expertise.

      At the beginning of a new client, I have higher hopes, but after about 3-4 months (typically we have 6 month contracts) I feel the passion is lost. When talking about what I do and my thoughts on different processes, my passion is still as firey as ever, it’s just the implementation of it in a medium to large team where it starts to pitter out. Of course I do still love what I do, it just get’s repetative sometimes and I am able to remind myself that it’s only temporary and that maybe the next client will be better.

      On the notes that others have mentioned, passions change throughout a person’s life. Perhaps you were an avid reader for many years then you decided to take up painting. I know these are hobbies typically, but the same can be said for work too. What you used to enjoy doing may have changed and perhaps a career change is in order (if it’s feesable and actually something that makes sense).

      As for a job posting looking for “passionate people”, isn’t EVERY job looking for that? Calling it out just begs the applicant to put it on their resume. What they should really be doing is asking questions during interviews that would uncover that passion, the drive for better things, the desire to keep learning and doing.

    17. Anon Accountant*

      It sounds like it’s just natural and happens. Not necessarily a bad sign but just something that happens.

    18. August*

      I was very passionate too when I stated my career. I used to treat the company I work for as my own company. I used to get stressed, work weekends, nights if something is getting delayed as if I will experience a personal loss if I don’t get it done. Even now I am passionate, but definitely not as before. I have realized that the company I work for is just that, the company I work for and not a company that I own.

      The change happened when I went through an episode when my manager called and informed that he will be firing me for poor performance without any warning,without any proof and for reasons not in my hands. However, I defended myself and proved him wrong. But I know this incident has changed my perspective on work. I came to the realization that I am pretty disposable. I enjoy doing work, but I am not killing myself any more at my job

      1. NJ Anon*

        I am in the same boat. Switched companies (same basic job) and thought that would help. It hasn’t. I just don’t want to do what I do anymore. Forget passion, I can barely get motivated to go in to work and I’ve only been here a couple/three months.

      2. Mantra*

        I can relate to this – my passion in my last job led to it feeling personal. I shed tears over that job (sometimes at work, i’m ashamed to say). I don’t feel anywhere near as passionate in my new job, but little setbacks and disappointments roll off my back. Does make it a little harder to feel motivated though, all that passion brought a lot of energy with it.

      3. A Reader becoming QAT Contractor*

        I’m not sure I agree 100% with your idea of passion. Stressing out over work, doing weekends/nights just to stay on track (at least in my field) doesn’t really say passion to me. Responsibility and/or dedication sure. But I think passion is more about loving what you do and wanting to be the best you can be at it. This could result in weekend/night work that’s nonbillable to improve skills or knowledge though.

        That’s just my take on passion. Your take could be just as valid, but I thought I’d put this in here.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          An obsolete definition of passion is “suffering”. (Merriam Webster online dictionary)

          This makes sense to me. If your emotions can run very high that means the potential for emotions to run very low is available. If a person can be head over heels in love with their job it could happen that the person might also fall into resentment/hatred of that same job.

        2. August*

          I don’t think working weekends/nights just to stay on track is passion either. If any one is doing that, then they are at the wrong job. But that desire to do better, to accomplish more and beating the deadlines brings some amount of stress and the need to work nights and weekend. However, one jackass manager can screw you big time when you have done everything right. Oh..I didn’t believe that a manager can harm me so much without any fault of mine until I personally experienced it.

          I am happy my perspective has changed. Though I enjoy what I do and generally work a bit more than my colleagues (due to my inability to unplug from work easily), I have put certain boundaries around it like no working on the weekends, no meetings or working before 7:00AM and between 6:00PM to 9:00 PM, and no serious work at night . So I just answer emails, read some work related stuff or just one meeting with cross site team. I used to work from 5:00AM to 8:00AM to get some time overlap with our cross site team so that I can communicate with them real time and complete the tasks faster. Then I used to work from 9:00AM to 5:30 or 6:00PM. Now, I care more for my spouse and parents now than work. I spend time on my hobbies and social life and striving for some balance.

    19. Sherm*

      I’m not worried that you would no longer work for free, but to me it’s a bit concerning that your passion is about at the cleaning the shower level. Did anything happen at work? Were you passed up for a promotion or raise? Did your boss throw you under the bus? Did your company do something that made you realize that it is not an Eternal Force For Good?

      I think it’s easy for people to discount their feelings, to say something like “Well, I wasn’t entitled to that promotion, and they were really nice when they told me no.” But in my opinion there is no such thing as an invalid feeling.

      Or maybe you just need a good long vacation. Remember when you were a kid and summer vacation was awesome at first? But then by August you were bored and actually missing school? Perhaps a 2 week (or more!) vacation is what you need to feel recharged.

    20. Nerdling*

      You know, I’m very passionate about the overall mission of our organization. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when what I’m immediately passionate about is getting more sleep or paying my mortgage or whatever because the realities of work have gotten me down. That’s a completely normal thing.

    21. Treena Kravm*

      Well I think there’s a difference between a passion for a field/subject/etc. and a passion for work. Passion for work does follow that trajectory, but hopefully, a passion for your field will boost your energy etc. I think some people need to feel connected to their jobs in a passion-like way long-term, and changing jobs within a field (even staying in the same company) is a common way to re-energize yourself.

    22. Artemesia*

      Hey the same is true in marriage and I say that after 40 years and counting of a very happy marriage. But feeling the drag is a sign you should take seriously. If you don’t enjoy work you have enjoyed for years, it is time to figure out what you can do to change up the job. I was lucky in that I had a job where I could literally reinvent myself every few years and do new things; if your job doesn’t lend itself to that, think about how you could pursue a new project, a new client, cross train, get certified to do another task your business needs, get involved in some charitable outreach your business does so you have a change of scenery — something to shake things up a bit. Works the same in marriage — when things are in a dip, it is the sign to figure out how to change the routine. If your job no longer engages you, figure out how to change the routine.

  2. CrazyCatLady*

    Whenever I write my cover letter and even resume, I feel like it makes me seem so much more impressive than I actually am. Does anyone else have these feelings? Is it just another manifestation of imposter syndrome? Plus, I feel like I’m kind of socially awkward so if it gets to the point of interviewing, I feel like I present myself in a way that’s LESS impressive than I actually am.

    1. GOG11*

      I could have written this. I find it helpful to think about whether or not I’d hire myself. I sometimes worry that my self-assessment is way off base, but, if the position I have in mind is a good fit (not something way out of touch with my skills and experience), my answer is usually yes. It’s kind of like treat others how you want to be treated, but in hiring and you make yourself the other.

    2. I hate interrogations... I mean interviews*

      I think you’re suffering from the imposter syndrome, like many of us. If you’re being truthful in your resume and cover letter, then there’s no reason for you to feel like you’re not impressive. You shouldn’t feel odd about presenting the truth.

      The socially awkward thing is an entirely different situation. I think most people feel awkward, or weird, or scared, or stupid, or… or …or… in an interview. As someone who’s been on both side of the table, I think that interviews are hard and still feel like I’ve not mastered it even though I’ve done hundreds over the years.
      I interned for the city police department, and you know what they call taped interrogations? Interview…
      Don’t present yourself less impressive, just tell facts and events: I’ve done x, y, z and here are some results. Be clear, concise, and factual and it’ll help you feel less stressed. If they’re impressed, they’re impressed. If not, that’s their problem :p.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        I just have a really hard time articulating my accomplishments aloud. I end up blushing or stumbling over my words. I’m able to put it in writing, but ugh. Talking about it to someone who is evaluating me is just hard for me.

        1. CheeryO*

          I have a hard time talking about myself in general, and interviews are extra hard. It’s almost impossible for me to say something positive about myself without qualifying/reducing it in the next breath. What has helped me in the past was to write my accomplishments down on paper and then imagine them belonging to one of my super-confident peers. I’d really try to visualize her sitting down in my interview and speaking confidently about my projects. Actually channeling that energy in an interview is trickier, but it got easier as I got more and more practice.

          1. Trixie*

            Adding to CheeerrO’s practice of writing it down, this is where lots of interview practice really hits home. The more we practice actually answering the questions out loud, the more confident we’ll feel and sound. having a friend stage practice interviews, rotating questions, is a good opportunity to get some feedback as well as look at answers that need to be more succinct. (That last point really hits home for me because I can go when the point has been made.) So practice, practice, practice out loud with someone else.

    3. Nashira*

      To me, that really sounds like imposter syndrome, maybe disguised with a new hat so you don’t always recognize it.

    4. Jennifer*

      Hah, oh yeah, it’s totally bullshitting. Though sometimes I will start thinking that I’m hot shit reading it. Too bad nobody else agrees!

    5. JMegan*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily impostor syndrome. Chances are, it’s more a function of seeing it through fresh eyes. All the day-to-day stuff you do tends to get lost in the day-to-day, you know what I mean? So you forget, because you’re so immersed in it all the time, and because it’s mixed in with things like changing the toner in the printer, fighting traffic, and making sure your kids brush their teeth at night.

      Then you narrow your focus so you’re only looking at your career, and then narrow it even further to the highlights of your career, and you have a whole new perspective. So it’s not that you’re seeming more impressive than you actually are, it’s just that you’re only looking at the parts that actually are impressive. In which case, it’s totally okay to say “Hey, maybe I *am* that great at my job!”

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        Hm, that’s an interesting perspective. Thanks for pointing that out. If I’m only REALLY impressive 25% of the time but only presenting that 25%, it does make it seem skewed (to me). But of course it wouldn’t make sense to just talk about the times I’ve done my job well, I suppose.

    6. Dawn*

      Hoo boy I am with you on this one! So much of what I did at my last job seemed like just routine, run of the mill type stuff but in actuality was really in-depth and impressive on a professional level. I think that for most people it’s impossible to self-evaluate the true impact of their skillset and contributions to a company, because for you it was just what you did that day.

      For example, one of the big projects I tackled at my last job was evaluating outside contractors who were going to come in and build an integration between our Teapot Software product and a big Teapot Vendor Software product. I did everything from evaluating our needs for Teapot Vendor Software integration, looking at which Teapot Vendor Softwares to integrate with first, evaluating any and all contractors who could help with the integration, contacting the contractors that seemed a good fit, whittling down the ones I contacted into ones that I felt we could work with, then coordinating 2 hour engineering calls with four of the major Teapot Vendor Software integration contractors (following up with all parties involved, documenting next steps, documenting the calls for anyone who wasn’t there), AND THEN coordinating and leading four on-site all day meetings with the Teapot Vendor Software contractors (following up with all parties again, getting a formal written offer and statement of work from each vendor, and writing up the minutes of the meeting to send to the execs who were going to decide which contractor to go with)- all of this ultimately culminating with the company agreeing to go with one of the contracting firms that we met with.

      When I write it all out, it looks impressive! But truth be told I had never tackled a project of that size, scope, importance, or magnitude before and when I think about it all I can remember is how terrified I was of screwing up or saying something stupid on the phone or missing some critical detail or looking like a total noob idiot in front of these consultants from Big Important Well Known Consulting Firm. So no, I don’t think of it like a Big Important Project That I Did, I think of it as “DAMN I’m glad I got through that one without screwing up!”

    7. C Average*

      Think of writing a resume and cover letter like having professional pictures taken.

      You’re probably wearing nicer clothes than usual, and maybe more makeup. The photographer is going to put you in an attractive setting under the best light. When you see the results, you might think, “Wow, that doesn’t look like me!”

      But it IS you, obviously.

      There’s nothing fraudulent about cleaning up nice in print.

    8. Beancounter in Texas*

      Me too! I don’t think you’re manifesting the impostor syndrome, but maybe you don’t feel good about tooting your own horn. So long you don’t inflate your ego out of proportion, it’s not a bad thing! One of my problems with tooting my own horn is that I set the bar high for myself, so even though I may be kicking butt and taking names on the job, in my mind, I see the gap between how I think I should perform and my actual performance.

      A trick for interviews: think of it as a conversation. Would you find it awkward to talk about the job with a friend? Or with a friend of a friend? I totally missed the innuendo that a first meeting with a recruiter was an interview (DOH!) and showed up in my regular Friday attire of jeans, tennis shoes and a polo shirt. Then I ordered a pastry and coffee and ate while we chatted!! I just thought we were meeting to chat about things casually and because I was relaxed, I nailed it! Now I try to recreate that mental relaxation about interviews by phrasing it “conversation” in my head, without the casual dress and food.

  3. Anie*

    Ugh, that one co-worker of mine…. This is just a rant. No point in trying to change his behavior anymore, I think.

    We’ve always had “things.” A few weeks ago he started calling me a b****. Like, openly. In front of co-workers.

    This week he’s begun threatening to hit me. As in shaking a fist in my face and saying he’ll punch me. Of course, he does so “jokingly.” Sometimes. I’ve brought these things up to others and to him to show how inappropriate and mean these things are and he always insists that no one ever hears all the awful things I say to him. Of course, I shut that down with “Like what?” Obviously he has no examples, because I don’t talk that way with co-workers.

    Now he’s begun throwing things like paperclips at me when he walks by. Even when I confront him, he denies doing it. I’ve watched him do it and immediately called him out on doing it, and he just plays innocent. I’ll admit, I finally started throwing them back out of frustration. Good god, not only am I at his level, I’m also acting like a child.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      You say you’ve brought these things up to others, but have you brought them up to management? Because if you’ve tried talking to him unsuccessfully, I think it’s time to get management involved. It’s not appropriate to call you a b**** at work or throw things at you or threaten to hit you, joking or not.

      1. Anie*

        My boss knows. Doesn’t seem to bother her. He’s pretty high up, so I’d have to say something to the COO if I wanted it to stop.

        And I feel like that would have a huge impact on our small office. As awful as he is, I’m not sure the down-pouring of drama would be worth it.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I would go to the boss again and be really clear – you want this behavior to stop. He’s creating a hostile work environment for you and using derogatory terms for women. Not ok.

        2. CrazyCatLady*

          As crappy as it is, sometimes you have to directly tell your bosses that something specifically bothers you before they’ll do anything about it. It’s not a good trait, as a manager, but I’ve definitely seen it in small companies especially. Have you directly spoken with her about it or does she just know from hearing things here and there?

          1. Anie*

            He’s done this stuff while she’s standing there. But I’ve never sat down one-on-one with her to ask her to take steps. I honestly thought if she sees it happen and I tell him immediately that his behavior is not okay…shouldn’t she know?

            1. brightstar*

              Wait, he calls you offensive, sexist names and throws thing at you in front of your manager and she doesn’t do anything?

              1. Seal*

                Time to take this to your manager’s manager. If your own manager has seen this behavior and refused to step in, she’s part of the problem.

                Also, as others have said, make sure you start documenting every incident so they know this is a pattern.

            2. Gladys*

              Create a Word document, and note every interaction you’ve had where he called you a name or threatened you or hit you – make sure you note the date and time (if possible). It may not be a good idea to share this document with your manager, but writing it will give you the evidence you need to say exactly what “Katie the Fed” recommends. I’d also check your HR policies and also any laws in your state against workplace harrassment, so that if your boss does not take you seriously as you speak to her, you casually say “I notice this goes against our policy on “XYZ” “

                1. Dynamic Beige*

                  Or, if your workplace allows you to have access to Gmail, get/use a Gmail account. You can compose an e-mail and just keep it in your drafts, update and save it for each event. Not on your computer, no one will be able to find it.

                  I do this when I have an idea or want to leave myself a note. I have one e-mail in my Drafts box that I just open, type what I want to remember for later, close and close the browser window.

            3. JustanObserver*

              Just because she’s seen it doesn’t mean she’d automatically say something. Co-workers have all different types of boundaries and comfort levels with one another, so she probably wouldn’t want to run the risk of stepping in when it’s unwanted.

              1. Laurel Gray*

                While this is true, there should never be a comfortable boundary in a professional workplace where coworkers can openly refer to one another as the b-word in front of other colleagues or management.

                1. catsAreCool*

                  “there should never be a comfortable boundary in a professional workplace where coworkers can openly refer to one another as the b-word in front of other colleagues or management.” This!

              2. Clever Name*

                This is a good point. I have a coworker who calls me “smelly” and I call him “ho” (not when we have visitors, of course), so we definitely have a bit of a different dynamic going on– I’m sure it looks awful, but we do it because it makes us laugh.

                Anyhow, I think you need to sit your boss down and say you would like the behavior to stop and you’ve talked to the guy and he doesn’t stop, and you’d like your boss’ help. Then if she blows you off, talk to upper management with the ammunition of trying to deal with it yourself, going to your boss, and oh by the way you have this document of each time he’s been inappropriate.

            4. Sunflower*

              I would sit down with her. Your boss may not think it bothers you. I’m not meaning for this to come off as your boss is a jerk(because she doesn’t seem like one) but a lot of times people are busy and aren’t going to start a fire for no reason. There are some people, believe it or not, who would think this stuff is funny or would enjoy bantering back(which might be coworkers intention). Your boss may be thinking ‘well if this is a big deal, she’ll talk to me’.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          It’s absolutely worth it. This is getting worse, not better, so what you’re doing is ineffective. You are being physically threatened now. It’s way past time to escalate to management.

          Stop throwing paperclips back and start documenting, if you haven’t already. If he starts up with you, walk away. If he lays a finger on you, immediately go to your boss and tell him/her. This is not okay and talking to him won’t fix it. I agree with Seal below–if your lame-ass boss won’t do anything, go over her head.

        4. Observer*

          Are you kidding me?! YOU are worried about “creating drama” when someone else is acting this way?

          NO. Just, NO.

          Please go to the COO immediately Calling you names is wildly inappropriate, and things should have been stopped cold at that point. But threats and threatening gestures (even “joking” ones), and THROWING THINGS (even small things) at you are just over the top crazy. The fact that your boss knows and isn’t bothered is almost as bad.

          Email your boss ONCE and bcc a personal, non-work accessible email account. Remind her that you’ve already spoken to her about the issue, and it’s getting worse, not better. Be specific. Ask her what she plans to do about this? If she responds to you in email, forward the response to your personal account. If she responds verbally, recap what she tells you in an email, bcc’ed the same way. And if she doesn’t answer you within 2 days, send one follow up stating that you understand that she is not going to do anything about it. Keep bcc’ing yourself.

          Then kick it up the chain. Speak to your COO. Do not worry for even ONE SECOND about the “drama”. You are NOT creating any drama – your co-worker is.

          Make sure to document everything in email bcc’ed to yourself. This cannot go on indefinitely, and when things get to an impossible point, your employer will try to (at best) wash its hands of this, or ty to make it your fault – including trying to keep you from collecting unemployment (or worker’s comp if you wind up injured.) You are absolutely going to need to be able to document what was going on.

        5. BuildMeUp*

          I’m so sorry this is happening to you!

          In regards to “drama,” a good way to try and reframe it to yourself is that, if there is drama, it is being caused by the situation, and the situation is being caused by your co-worker. If he was acting like a rational, adult human being, there would be no drama. If you need to tell the COO to get him to stop, it’s because *he’s* enough of an immature jerkwad to continue this behavior, even when you’ve called him on it. He is bringing the drama on himself. This situation exists because of him, not you.

    2. fposte*

      I’m with CCL–this is something to take to management. Calling you a bitch and threatening to punch you aren’t funny once you’ve made it clear that you don’t consider them humorous.

      But don’t throw stuff back.

    3. Risa*

      Stop responding in kind. Keep your moral high ground – it will be really important as you get this dealt with that he really has nothing to hold over you.

      Make a note to yourself when these things occur – including who was present to witness it. And take this to your manager – have you taken this to your manager yet? You should not have to deal with this on your own – his behavior is completely inappropriate. Do you both have the same manager – or does he report to someone else?

    4. OhNo*

      Wow. Would your manager (or his) do anything about this if you brought it up to them? I know it seems like it’s in jest, but I suspect if you went to someone and said “Coworker has been calling me a b**** and threatening to hit me”, that should be taken really seriously.

      Seriously, though, holy crap. That behavior is so far out of line it’s ridiculous.

    5. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      What? That is SO outrageously inappropriate. Have you brought it up with your manager? Please do so and don’t downplay it when you do!! No “I know he’s joking, but…” – nope, this is so far beyond. A coworker is calling you a bitch, threatening to punch you, and throwing things at you then lying about it.

      1. Regina Phalange*

        Anastasia, I love your name! But to address Anie – do you have HR or anything? This is so beyond inappropriate, I don’t even know where to start. Especially that he is saying that in front of your manager and she isn’t handling it. That is a hostile work environment and grounds for a lawsuit if they don’t take it seriously. Granted, I’m not a lawyer, but if I were in your position and I’d taken repeated steps to try to stop this behavior and no one did anything, I would certainly talk to a lawyer.

        And for what it’s worth, I dealt with a very hostile coworker at my last job. He didn’t call me names in front of others or threaten to hit me, but the way he treated me in general made me not want to come to work every day. And my manager also didn’t care. When I lost that job, it was the best thing that EVER happened to me. Not sure if looking for a new job is feasible for you or not, but regardless, I wish you the best and hope this gets resolved.

          1. Anon for this one*

            Don’t think about what his position is and don’t assume nothing will be done about it. I was in a similar situation earlier this year with a boss who was acting this way and he was extremely high up- like one of the top three. He had been doing this to people for years. I finally couldn’t take any more and complained, positive that I would end up being the one who was fired. I turned in all of my documentation (and I documented everything, not just stuff he did to me personally and not just the illegal stuff- EVERYTHING that showed he was a bully and showed what his character was made of. If they want to help you, give them the ammunition). They investigated and interviewed other people and at least one person must have confirmed what I said because he is gone. The bottom line is, either you work for a place that tolerates this stuff or you don’t. You won’t find out until you do something about it.

    6. Katie the Fed*

      Take this to management. I’d shut that down in a hot second.

      Also, as much as managers want people to take care of things themselves, this is the kind of thing we need to know about. Sometimes we know more about the history of someone’s behavior and issues and they’re one strike away from getting canned. So we need to know these things.

    7. NacSacJack*

      Deck him for calling you a nasty name. Slap him across the face. If mgmt doesnt mind you getting called it, they also wont mind the face slap. Alternatively, taunt him, tell him you dare him to hit you. Then let him hit you. Then sue the bejeezus out of him.

    8. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Threats and unwanted contact? That’s assault and battery in just about every jursidiction! You could probably get a temporary restraining order, but I’ll bet if you mention unwanted physical contact (thrown objects count), fearing for your safety, and that you’re considering a restraining order, your management will suddenly start taking this much more seriously. Maybe ask them if there’s anything more they can do before you start taking legal action, that should set a fire under them!

    9. TeapotCounsel*

      In a past life I was a plaintiff’s employment lawyer.
      Step one: Go to current boss and say, “co-worker’s behavior is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for someone to call me a ‘bitch’ and threaten me with violence. Will you put a stop to it, and if not, do you mind if I go to senior management or the EEOC?”
      Surely that will make it stop.
      But if it doesn’t then:
      Step Two: Go to senior management and say the same thing.
      If Step Two doesn’t work, file a complaint at the EEOC.
      You’re facing a hostile work environment based on gender (as shown by the ‘bitch’ comment). Successful claims require a showing that you take some measures to try to stop/report prior to filing.
      And, truth be told, you don’t want to file except as a last resort.

      1. Anie*

        Thank you for your input! You’ve got a very interesting background. It would take a lot for me to get to the EEOC step. My last boss used to throw things and call me the C*** word. Heck, he also once told me to kill myself. This was a week after my mother attempted to do so. I’d only told him I had a personal family issue–it was a co-worker I’d confided in who reveled to him the details of my days off.

        I think, at this point, anything to a lesser degree looks better.

        1. AnonAcademic*

          “anything to a lesser degree looks better”

          I’m very sorry that you have had such bad experiences that you feel this way. But the way you’re being treated is unconscionable. Would you ever want someone else in your job to be treated this way? How about an employee fresh out of college and new to the workplace? Just because you can grin and bear it doesn’t mean you should have to.

          1. Anie*

            Those are really good things to think about. Honestly, I always try to be very friendly and complimentary at work, from “thanks for getting me that thing so quickly” to “what a gorgeous new dress!”

            I don’t know why I keep ending up with co-workers who seem to hate me on such a high level.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I had a similar problem. Someone pointed out to me that I let too much go by me unchecked. Before this guy got to where he is now, he sent out little tests to see if he could get away with it. Something happened that told him green light – GO.

              It’s too late for this guy, but going forward if you see an undesirable behavior toward you three times, you must say something. Even if you just say “stop it”.
              For this guy, follow this advice here. And be sure to document what is going on. Keep the documentation at home or at least a second copy of it.
              Please know that his behavior is totally unacceptable. (I’m not using the language I really want to use. I think Elizabeth West, here, will send a virtual kick in the back of the pants to him though.She’s good at this.) You will also need to have a candid conversation with your boss. Because for whatever reason she is not understanding the extent of the problem.

        2. ali*

          That is horrible. What an awful person your last boss was.

          However, as you seem to have realized, that doesn’t make the current situation okay. It may be better than the past for you, but it absolutely is not okay behavior from this person.

        3. Heather*

          Holy shit.

          Since you didn’t want advice, I’ll just say: you deserve much, much better than either that boss or your current coworker. Their behavior isn’t even in the same galaxy as what’s considered acceptable behavior at work (or anywhere!)

        4. Laurel Gray*

          “it would take a lot for me to get to the EEOC step”

          Is it possible that these workplace a**holes get the sense of your grin and bear it attitude about their abuse toward you and why they haven’t stopped? I know the word “snitch” has come up quite a bit lately in regards to the office place and I really hope you aren’t allowing this foolishness to go on for the sake of not making waves. The EEOC exists for a reason. Good luck Anie!

        5. Observer*

          Well, at the rate things are going, you are going to wind up with just as bad or worse.

          Besides all the work advice, I would seriously suggest you get into therapy. NO ONE should ever see this kind of treatment as even somewhat acceptable – not to themselves, and not to others. You can’t help it that your employer employes total jerks. But you CAN help your own attitude, and you CAN start taking steps to change your situation.

          That includes therapy, I would think, and looking SERIOUSLY for a new job.

        6. Zillah*

          For me, what’s often helpful is thinking about what I would do if it was a loved one rather than myself being treated in a certain way. It clears waters that sometimes my own poor self esteem likes to muddy.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        TeapotCounsel, thanks for weighing in. I know you said that you were an employment, not criminal, lawyer, but what’s your take on this being assault and battery, what with the history of physical threats and the throwing objects? Any reason you didn’t mention going to the police as a step? I thought a police complaint might help with Step one or Step two, but I’d really like your thoughts on that.

        1. TeapotCounsel*

          Hi, Cosmic.
          I agree with you that there are, technically, crimes being committed.
          My concern about a police complaint is that in the early stages it wouldn’t help and would likely hurt.
          If Anie files a police report prior to trying to resolve the problem with management, it will make management angry and feel blindsided. Further, the police aren’t really going to do anything except write a report (which has no value in any legal proceeding, because only convictions do) and tell Anie that she can file for a civil restraining order. My sense of the matter is that filing a police report would REALLY escalate the ill-feelings involved without getting an appropriate resolution. Also, rightly or wrongly, calling the police at this point would make Anie look like she’s overreacting.
          In my opinion, calling the police is a Step Three and beyond option.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Great to know, thanks TeapotCounsel! I know it’s usually better to start small and escalate, but something about bullying and assault in particular make me want to jump straight to Step 3 (or even NacSacJack’s unproductive advice)! It’s very helpful to know that it could be unproductive to let my indignation get the best of me like that.

            1. TeapotCounsel*

              We have arrived at the same conclusion. I have learned, the very hard way and over several decades, that when I react in anger/indignation, bad things are usually the result.

      3. Beancounter in Texas*

        When I worked at a Fortune 500 company, a cranky guy got into a heated fight with a coworker, pulled his fist back and threatened to punch him. A third coworker had the sense to call security and the cranky guy was terminated immediately (two witnesses I guess were enough to bypass a thorough investigation). No physical contact was made. He was escorted by HR and security to collect his personal items from his desk and then to the parking garage. Anie, you don’t have to tolerate his behavior. Either go to the EEOC or get yourself an attorney. Good luck.

    10. LizNYC*

      Step 1) Go back to your boss and say it is unacceptable for you to be treated this way and even though you’ve asked him to stop numerous times, he persists.
      Step 2) If your manager refuses, hedges, or doesn’t do anything immediate (like that day or the next), then talk to the COO. Schedule a meeting. Relate what you’ve said to your manager–the fact that you’ve asked him repeatedly to stop and how it has escalated. You need this to stop immediately.

    11. Mr. Wilson's buddy*

      Blood … pressure … rising … erk! Before … I die … has anyone ever … told … you … that you look like … Julianna Margulies? [Dies.]

      Seriously, though: I just read twice through what you wrote and – you’ll probably think I’m insane, but – in an odd way – is it possible that he’s trying to flirt with you?

      The first time I read your comment, his behavior sounded unbearably harsh and aggressive. The second time … I dunno, his behavior reminded me of an 8yo boy on the playground, trying (and failing) to get a girl to like him.

      I’m most certainly not trying to make excuses for the guy. It’s just something I noticed.

      1. Observer*

        It seems to me that if this is his version of “flirting” it’s probably time to look into an order of protection. Think about it – if he really thinks that ratcheting up the intimidation factor is going to “get” the girl, I’d hate to think of where he would draw the limit, if anywhere.

    12. beckythetechie*

      I agree that it’s time to escalate. While I’m not blaming you for *any* of this, I would suggest you take a minute to think about how you’ve “asked” him to stop. Selfish idiots don’t take someone saying “C’mon, stop it!” while they’re walking away with the same weight as standing up, squaring off, making direct eye contact and being blunt: “I’ve asked you stop, now I’m telling you. Leave. Me. Alone. I’ll be taking it up with (Insert Manager’s Manager’s Name) the next time you (threaten to hit me, throw things, call me a derogatory name).” And it’s clear that you’re dealing with a selfish idiot in this “HR” guy.

      If his response to a very clear, firm “stop” is “Don’t be such a cry baby!” off to the big boss you go, because what happens if Imogen the summer intern comes to him in a few months and says “Ferdinand put his hand on my rear end.”? “Oh don’t be such a cry baby,” leaves the company open to a HUGE legal issue.

      The above is how I make it clear in a social or public setting that I don’t appreciate someone’s “joking” and expect it to stop immediately. It is not “causing drama” or “rude” to escalate things that protect ourselves. In my case, if I’m startled in the wrong way, I swing, which is not a situation anyone wants. That fist in the face thing might make me throw a punch/elbow first and think later. (I’m fairly jumpy and have been hit way too much in the past.)

    13. Aussiegirl*

      In my country it’s called bullying & harassment. You would lose your job for being a bully. This jerk is a rude numnut. Best ignored and as suggested, document everything and be prepared to make a formal complaint. You need to see the bigger picture and honestly, my opinion, you need to respect yourself more – seems you are letting too many people walk all over you. Time to find a new job…good luck.

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m currently struggling with a reference issue. I work in government, and I had a not so great boss who has a terrible memory.

    If you worked with her, she didn’t care for you. She’d misremember things, which meant you were taking blame for someone else’s mistakes. Don’t try to argue with her. There’s no point.

    When you gave your two weeks, she was your biggest fan. She’d shower you with praise and credit you with things done 20 years before you started working there. It was so weird to watch because you can’t spend years openly trashing someone then turn on a dime.

    I got out and am better. Unfortunately she is a big enough bureaucrat that even if I avoid putting her name down on my work history, there’s a good chance someone knows I worked for her as if the case in yesterday’s interview.

    She’s supposedly doesn’t give bad references, but I don’t trust her. Never did anyway. Her memory sucks when it comes to her staff and who did what.

    Any thoughts on how I can avoid referencing her at all? I don’t want her fingerprints anywhere near my job applications.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I have been. The problem is the applications want supervisors, not coworkers. Add that factor into my boss’ name and job title. That’s what happened in yesterday’s interview. At least her name is getting me interviews!

        1. cuppa*

          I may be off here, but if they know who this lady is, perhaps they know how she is with her staff and will realize that she has trouble getting along with people and has a bad memory?

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          Is she the only person who ever supervised you at that job? Usually employment apps have room for only one supervisor’s name, so if there was someone else I’d list the someone else.

          1. Anna*

            This. When I was job searching while employed, I didn’t want my manger to know what I was doing, but my lead knew and she was fine with acting as a reference.

        3. Marcy*

          I’m in government, too, and supervisors aren’t allowed to give references where I am (even though many do anyway). I use that as an excuse to write “Human Resources” in the blank for supervisor and I provide the phone number for the person there who is the one who confirms employment. Even if the person calling asks HR for the supervisor’s name and contact information, the HR person will inform them that the supervisor can’t talk to them. I have never had a problem doing that.
          I also found on interviews that even when they know who my supervisor was, they also knew her reputation and would immediately say something like “Oh, you work for her. No wonder you are looking for a new job”.

    1. Rayner*

      Maybe try reading some of AAM’s stuff on awkward references – where she walks you through how to tell employers that despite your good work and reputation, your boss will bad mouth regardless of the work you did.

      And maybe offer up other references as well from other colleagues, people who oversaw your work etc.

    2. Sunflower*

      Can you reach out to her? Let her know you’re job searching and ask if it would be okay for someone to contact her? I think I’ve read that AAM recommends mentioning some stuff you did while you worked for her.

    3. Anonymous for this*

      I have no idea if this will resonate with you, but I’ll throw it out just in case it does.

      I’m pursuing internal opportunities at my current company, and it’s customary to loop in one’s manager in these situations. (Ours is a culture where people change positions pretty frequently, it’s not frowned upon, and managers very rarely obstruct or interfere with efforts to find a new role. We’re lucky that way.) My manager can be somewhat erratic, and we’ve never meshed all that well, and we’ve tended to operate in separate silos. While I don’t think she’d deliberately give me a poor reference, I can totally envision her saying things she thought were helpful or accurate that actually weren’t, and I have worried a lot about prospective hiring managers talking to her.

      I confided my worries in a colleague from another department who knows my manager, and he laughed and said that everyone who knows her at all knows how volatile and unfiltered she is, and would take anything she says with a grain of salt.

      Is it at all possible that your manager’s reputation similarly precedes her?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, this is my thought, too. I have gotten a job offer or two because if I could work for Sue, then I could probably work for them and be just marvelous.

    4. Beancounter in Texas*

      Could you get a reference letter from her instead? Then if it’s not that good, resort to AAM’s suggestions on awkward references, but if it’s good, then you’ve got something.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I tried right before I left. She said she didn’t want to write a generic recommendation letter, and that she doesn’t do it for anyone.

        If it were anyone else, I wouldn’t blink, but her saying that? I think something stinks.

  5. No-Luck Dragon*

    Little vent about job searching advice: Does anyone else get incredibly frustrated when you ask for tips on how people got to positions you see yourself in one day and all they say is that it was luck?

    I can’t tell you how many times people just say ‘Oh I got lucky, right time and right place sort of thing’. That is not useful to me! I can’t improve upon my luck like I can with an actual skill-set or work experience. Yet sometimes it is all people seem to say. I once went to an event my college hosted with a panel of young editors and published authors, who were there to talk about how they got their jobs and encourage us English Majors in the audience. They went down the line and all four of them attributed it to luck in some sense.

    I understand that luck, being in the right place at the right time, having the right connections, that kind of stuff can indeed heavily impact your career path but please think of a piece of advice that I can actually use and put into action. Unless I start carrying around rabbit feet and four-leaf clovers, I can’t increase my luck!

    Thank goodness for AAM and its useful advice! :D

    1. Ali*

      Yes! I worked with someone who got a cool job. Not necessarily saying I wanted to work at his new company or that I wanted his job. But when I asked how he got it, he said it was part networking and part because he lucked out. The same thing happened when I asked a coworker how he got his new position. He said he was lucky and it was really right place, right time. I’m happy for them, but it does nothing for me!

    2. OhNo*

      Try changing your question. Instead of saying, “how did you get here?” ask about skills that are really useful to them in their job, the most impressive experience they’ve ever seen on a resume (if they are involved in hiring), best advice that they would give to anyone looking to enter the field, etc.

      I suspect that this is partially a modesty thing. We’re kind of trained that getting good things isn’t because of who we are and our skills, it’s always just good luck. Which is silly! But that means that asking that question isn’t going to be as useful to you as other approaches might be.

    3. fposte*

      Yeah, I get that’s frustrating. On the other hand, it’s often true, and it’s not like people can come up with a formula in a situation where a formula isn’t what got them there. I have a job that either nobody else in the country has or about 3 other people in the country have depending on how you count it; that’s not stuff you can plan for in a career trajectory. So I think the problem really isn’t with what people are saying but the fact that so often it’s true.

      One possibility is to change your approach by adding a followup there: “How did you prepare yourself so you could take advantage of that luck?” Because luck is often crucial, but not everybody benefits from it, and that might get you more actionable information.

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

        Agreed, my career has been part working my ass off and being amazing and part complete dumb luck. The working my ass part comes from being the kind of person people WANT to work with and the kind of person who has a good reputation. The luck part is absolutely being in the right place at the right time when it came to moving up the ladder. Example, I DIDN’T get a job in April 2012, but did get one in July 2012. The job I took in Jan 2014 would have been less an option had I gotten the first job and not the second…. like that right there is just luck my friend.

      2. JB*

        I totally agree. As OriginalEmma pointed out, it’s really preparedness plus opportunity. You need to be qualified for the job you want,to be putting yourself out there so that you have a large network of people who either will maybe one day have job opportunities or know of them, to be able to sell yourself in a way that makes people want to give you a shot, and you need to learn to recognize opportunities when you see them. Those last two parts are the ones that are hard for me. I have a coworker with very similar skills and qualifications to me, but if we both lost our jobs today, I’d probably be out of work for some time, but he’d probably have another job by the end of next week. He’s good at selling himself in a way that doesn’t sound like a pitch, and he’s really good at recognizing opportunities.

      3. Anna*

        I disagree that it’s true. People give a lot of credit to luck where none is due. The whole “discovered working at a make-up counter and became a world-famous actress” thing is a myth. One of the responses was networking. Probably that had a lot more to do with it than luck. The only thing that makes sense to me is that what they’re attributing to luck is something they don’t actually recognize like taking advantage of an opportunity when they heard about it, or realizing it would be a good idea to attend a function and then actually attending. Malcolm Gladwell talks about how the luck myth is exactly that in one of his books. Bill Gates even says luck is mostly made up.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, that’s where the followup question matters, but it absolutely does involve luck, and it’s perfectly reasonable to point that out. I am either the only person with my job in the country or one of four or so people with it. If you ask me how to get a job like mine the only strategy I can offer you is a bloody coup. There’s no way to get this without a massive amount of luck. I can tell you how to position yourself, how to do things that are similar, etc., but I can’t tell you how to get this job.

          I agree that “luck” can mean a variety of things–I’m not using it to mean being beloved by the Fates or anything–but it boils down to “things out of your control.” And there’s a lot of that in careers generally. It’s still advisable to prepare the hell out of your application and interview, because you want the part you can control to be as competitive as possible, but the difference between the finalist who is hired and the finalist who isn’t is, essentially, luck–that’s why second-choice candidates tend to work out just fine as well.

      4. College Career Counselor*

        I’m a big fan of John Krumboltz’s “Planned Happenstance” theory of career exploration/development (tagline: “Luck is No Accident”). Paraphrasing significantly, you have to clarify your interests, be curious, remain open to possibilities (pivot from “I can’t because” to “How can I?”) and say “yes” to opportunities that come your way (project at work, random/chance encounters, etc.). Through these actions and attitudes, you may find that you create your own luck.

        TL; DR: I think that fposte is spot-on with asking a contact how did s/he prepare to take advantage.

      5. Anonsie*

        Yeah, and I find nothing more frustrating than when someone lucked into a job and then tries to make out like it was something they did and gives some misleading advice.

        Example: When I was an intern, a former intern came by and our boss decided to have us all meet her and give us the opportunity to hear from her experience moving from the internship to a job in the same field. I’d never met her before and I asked a few questions and just got, for lack of a better word, weird answers that got strangely hostile. It ended when I asked about finding listings and she snapped that I was short-sighted and not going to find work with my attitude. After she left one of the other interns who knew her leaned over and told me she had actually got her job through a friend who already worked there and probably got defensive because she didn’t want to admit that.

    4. E.R*

      I hear you. I think, looking back on a career, its just that they see that moment where sweat and fate combined to finally get to the place they were always hoping for but never fully sure they would reach. It sure feels like luck. Maybe a good follow up question would be something like “what really prepared you to take advantage of that luck?”. Because a lucky break won’t do much for you if you dont have the skills to take advantage of it. Yay English majors! And good luck to you ;)

    5. Gwen*

      I think you can definitely put yourself in the right positions to be “lucky,” though. The right connections matter? Then really focus on making new connections. Do good work, develop diverse skills because it sure will be “lucky” when one of your connections just happens to need someone who can do XYZ, and you’re pretty much there with a bow on your head!

    6. OriginalEmma*

      Isn’t luck just preparedness meets opportunity? I “got lucky” with my current job….but what’s behind the scenes in repeatedly applying and being rejected for similar roles, improving my resumes and cover letters, building my professional and people-skills, and generally just moving along.

      I used to just say “Luck” or “They just liked me, I guess,” as an intellectually lazy way to answer the question. But if you’re seriously asking, you should challenge people on that intellectually lazy answer with more specific questions.

      Oh, I remember reading about writers and their success. It stated point-blank that you needed wealth, to start and for many of us, that’s just as unattainable as luck! From Salon, the article is called “The real secret to making it as a writer: Be fabulously wealthy before you even start.”

      1. Meg Murry*

        I was coming to give the same “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” quote – I first heard it in Randy Pausch’s book “The Last Lecture” but I’m pretty sure its an old/famous quote.

        All you can do is keep preparing yourself as best you can, and putting yourself in places where you might have an opportunity.

        As a for instance, I am starting a job next week where someone I worked with on a random project 7-8 years ago found my two year old resume on Monster and called me up for an interview. I’d never even known his company (or one like it) existed , and I wasn’t actively looking for a new job, but its the kind of position that seems tailor made for me, my experiences and my career/life goals. So for anyone that says “networking” – yes, definitely, but understand that some networking doesn’t pay off for 5-10 years or more.

    7. soitgoes*

      There’s an aspect of privilege to it, definitely. You have to be in a position to be able to take a risk with a start-up that might not be around next year.

    8. matcha123*

      I wouldn’t feel annoyed over it because in the end, it is luck. They were in the right place at the right time and had the right person who was open to hearing what they said. I would rather hear someone tell me honestly that it was luck than listen to them give me bad advice.
      This is especially true of people who aren’t particularly more skilled than you are. And, with my current job, it definitely was luck that got me here.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yeah, all of my jobs have essentially been “right place, right time” luck. You can’t prepare for luck, it just happens or not.

    9. Katie*

      It reminds me of married people who like to tell single people, “You’ll meet someone when you’re least expecting it. That’s how I met my soul mate!”

      Great. That helps me meet people. How about setting me up with one of your friends, or some friendly advice on what I could be doing differently socially?

      The rabbit’s foot & four-leaf clover thing, totally.

      1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

        I hate the “you’ll find it when you least expect it” line from marrieds, especially because most of them are straight-up lying. Unless you signed up for an all-ladies boat cruise and you happened to meet and fall in love with the only male staff member on the 2500 person ship or something, you most certainly did NOT meet your husband when you “least expected” it.

        FWIW, I met my husband on an online dating site, and I’d highly recommend online dating. Safest way I’ve encountered to widen the pool of potential dates while simultaneously screening out potential weirdos with as little personal risk and drama as possible.

        1. Katie*

          Thanks, PurpleMonkeyDishwasher. I had my first foray into online dating for a 6-month period last year. It went ok, but I wanted a break and didn’t want to pay for another block, but now I’m thinking of giving it another go.

          I like the cruise illustration! Hahaha

          1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

            Don’t be afraid of the free online dating sites! I met my H on OkCupid, another friend met her long-term girlfriend on OkCupid as well, and my 50-something mom is currently having an absurd amount of success on PlentyofFish. There’s certainly more weirdos to sift through, but there are also a lot of good people there.

        2. Nerd Girl*

          I have to disagree. I think that “you’ll find it when you least expect it” line to be especially honest when it comes to relationships. My best friend met the man she was to marry when he started dating me. Another friend met her husband while on a family vacation with her parents. I met the man I married because I forgot to close my AOL chat options when I turned on my computer. (yes…this was that long ago!). None of us were looking for it and certainly none of it was expected. Frankly I think that advice is given when the person receiving the advice is reeking of desperation. I have one friend who hears it a lot but she’s also the same woman who tosses her desperation onto the dinner table with phrases like “I’m thinking of going to church so I can use some of those Christian dating sites” or “It’s really not that bad if he’s into swinging, is it? I mean, as long as *I* don’t have to join I guess I could be okay with it.”

          1. Windchime*

            The only people who ever say, “You’ll meet someone when you stop trying/least expect it” are people who are happily paired up.

            “Not looking” doesn’t work for anything else. It doesn’t work as a job-hunting strategy; can you imagine telling someone to just stop looking and quit being desperate and a job will come along? Or house hunting. Just stop looking! Stop expecting it, and a perfect house-for-sale will drop into your lap! But somehow this advise is smugly handed out by married/attached people to us single people; after all, the reason we are all single is because we are giving off waves of desperation.

            1. Zillah*

              I think that this is a tough one because there’s some truth to both sides of it. Sometimes, I think you really do find fulfillment in your life when you aren’t looking for it – a hobby, friendships, romance, living arrangements, etc. I’ve experienced that for sure – I met my partner when I was in a really bad place emotionally and actively did not want the stress of a relationship to make it worse. However, there’s an element of luck in that, and you’re right that people can often veer into diminishing everyone who is actively looking, when there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Oh, God, I HATE when people say that. It’s such bullshit.

        With my job, I lucked out in that I found the exact right job at the exact right time (a week before my unemployment’s final tier ran out). But I made some of that luck by doing the following:

        –I checked back on their employment page even after interviewing for another position that I did not get. That’s when I saw the listing. If I’d just gone schlumping off in defeat, I wouldn’t have seen it.
        –I worked really super hard on the test materials and scored an interview.
        –I read AAM incessantly and thanks to all the advice here, I was extra prepared to ace both interviews.

        As far as the dating thing, I’m thinking it probably WILL have to be luck, because I’ve tried everything else. :P

    10. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I hear you, but I also think that if they’re willing, you can probe into that “luck”. Most of the time, “luck” in finding a job has to do with timing and circumstance, but it’s not impossible for you to do the same. I often tell people I got my current job because I “stumbled” on a LinkedIn posting, which I did, but that stumbling took time and required creative search terms. I did get lucky in that a job in my field happened to exist in my current city (that was pretty unusual), but I had to pursue that “luck” myself. I happened to vaguely know the CEO of this company, but more importantly, I had colleagues who definitely knew him and would vouch for me, which they did– not luck but the hard-earned establishment of a good reputation. It wasn’t lucky that I got my first interview– I was the one who sent in my resume and I had skills they needed/wanted. I don’t attribute that to luck, but to being a good candidate for this particular company. I also had to shine in my interviews, which I did thanks to research and Alison. So while there was an element of stars aligning, there was also required action on my part.

      1. soitgoes*

        I agree. I suppose I would attribute my current job to luck – I’d just been laid off from my last job when this listing went up. It was a new, understaffed company that hired me for one role and then expanded my responsibilities when I showed them that I possessed other skills. But even so, I might have left that old job for this one if I hadn’t gotten laid off. I was already checking Craigslist daily, and this job was too good to pass up (great location, an industry that I enjoy independently of working within it, much better pay, consistent hours).

        And yep, as far as the relationship luck goes….is it luck if you deliberate go to places where guys hang out (or women, if that’s what you’re into) and then talk to the ones that you like? Why call it LUCK just because, after all of your savvy decision-making, you happened to end up in the same room as someone else who was also making those choices? I guess it’s not so magical when you say, “I never stopped looking, but I tried to act chill about it.”

    11. RandomName*

      I think it’s a combination of luck and hard work. I currently make a lot more money and hold a higher position than the coworkers I started out with who were all at my same level (and some that were a level ahead of me). It was luck that when I interviewed with who is now my current boss, that it turned out he knew very well a former boss of mine that I worked with for 6 years a few years prior. It was hard work that resulted in my former boss giving my now current boss a glowing reference that I attribute to my getting the job over candidates that were much more experienced than I was.

    12. AnonAcademic*

      You can position yourself to be prepared for luck, though :). For example, I got lucky in that I started my job search a few months earlier than normal to test the waters. A job got posted at the top university in my field. They were posting 1-2 months ahead of the normal schedule. They were looking for someone with my exact, not super common skill set. I applied, interviewed, and got offered the position. It was only the third posting I applied to. I got lucky but I was also prepared with a solid cover letter, had already asked people to act as references, etc.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I think that’s it–you have to be prepared. If the luck comes your way and you aren’t ready for it, it might go swooshing by before you know what happened. So that resume should be in shape, you should gear yourself toward the job hunt, etc. like you did. When it comes to job searching, I don’t think you can ever start too early.

        Before I got laid off, I knew I wanted to leave Exjob, so I updated my resume and reopened my account with the state job center. When the layoff came, I had some of my ducks in a row at least.

    13. Dan*

      But it *is* luck, like others have said. If you’ve got your eyes set on Company X, Company X has to have Job Y available that matches your skills at a time you’re looking. Then, you have to stand out from the crowd and somehow make it to and through an interview.

      My current job (which I love) called me out of the blue when I was laid off, for a position that wasn’t even posted publicly. That’s luck. Oh yeah… I had applied here twice already, never even got an interview.

      You can graduate in the middle of a recession and get screwed. *That* is luck. An undergraduate degree is four years long. God only knows how hot your field is going to be, and how the economy as a whole is doing four years from now.

      Gas prices had been high for quite some time, and all of those petroleum engineering grads were looking at some hot job. Oil prices cratered in a matter of a couple of months, and those grads just got screwed.

      1. Glorified Plumber*

        Reddit had a thread of a directory at asking petroleum engineers about their plans.

        Hiring down 32% nationally in ONE MONTH.

        A lot of folks dropping the “I’m going to grad school” line, which… I really think is a mistake. If this is a repeat of 1981-83, a lot of them will wish they had studied mechanical or chemical engineering.

      2. Anna*

        So you’re saying they just divined your name out of the ether and called you? That they wouldn’t have called you if you hadn’t just been laid off?

        1. fposte*

          Probably not (at least on the first–headhunters call employed people all the time), but do you think he had a secret method that jobseekers have never heard of to make sure it happened? If I told people that my secret tip was to be good and enthusiastic at my entry level jobs, do you think they’d feel more informed?

          Sure, sometimes people get successful because they found X skill to be extremely in demand (though by the time they’re successful enough to be talking to hopefuls, probably that news has gotten out and X isn’t such a door-opener any more). But mostly it’s doing the stuff job hunters already know about; we may have been able, through diligence or natural whatever, to do those things slightly better than others, but it’s doing the basic work and application stuff well and getting lucky that gets you jobs.

          It’s like all those posts that want to know the secret behind what this hiring manager’s email means. The secret is there is no secret.

        2. Dan*

          No, HR person at Old Job used to work at New Job and still knows people there. My resume was passed around without my knowledge.

          I looked at new jobs postings and saw nothing I was qualified for.

          I call that phone call luck.

    14. insert pun here*

      I couldn’t tell from your comment if you were actually interested in an editing or writing career, but: if so, here are some things you can do:
      1.) if you’re still in school, work or volunteer on a student publication — editing, layout, copywriting, whatever.
      2.) internships are key. Many of these will be unpaid, I am sad to say.
      3.) work experience — anything relating to books or publishing looks good on your resume. Work in a bookstore, even if it’s a short stint.
      4.) if you want to go into book publishing, you should be applying for every single entry level position, not just the (relatively more prestigious) editorial positions. Every. Single. One. (this is where luck comes in. This is a numbers game, pure and simple, and you have to play to win.)
      5.) you can also get good experience working as an assistant or a slushpile reader at a literary agency.
      6.) read everything you can get your hands on, as well as the trade publications and major book review venues (PW, Bookforum, LARB, NYRB, NYTBR, bookslut, etc) — this will give you a working vocabulary for the industry.
      7.) if you want to be a writer, you should have a backup plan, because (a) it can take a long time to see the money you earn from writing and (b) for most writers, it’s not going to be a huge amount of money. It’s ok if your backup plan is “boring 9-5 office job that allows me to write in the early mornings before work.”
      8.) if you can swing it financially, consider a publishing certificate (Columbia, NYU, Emerson, etc) — these are great opportunities to network.
      9.) read everything, all the time.

      1. Olive Hornby*

        +10000, especially w/r/t working in a bookstore, which is incredible experience, and reading everything. You would not believe the number of people I’ve interviewed for entry-level publishing positions who don’t seem to know about any books that were published within the last two years. I’d add that when you do read these books and find some that you love, try to find out who edited them, and try to get an informational interview with that person. Sincere flattery goes a very long way in the industry.

        I disagree a bit, though, with #4 — yes, definitely look into different departments (marketing, publicity, sub rights), but still be selective about houses. You will be much more successful working on books that you legitimately enjoy. If you love literary fiction and never read romance novels, a good interviewer will be able to tell, and if you get the romance novel job anyway, you will be miserable.

        Also, in writing/editing, “luck” is often shorthand for “privilege,” i.e. the privilege to spend three months working an unpaid internship in Manhattan, or to pay for the Columbia Publishing Course, or to know the right people in the industry, since many jobs are filled by personal referral.

        1. insert pun here*

          I’m going to disagree, slightly, with your disagreement: obviously, if you have real ethical objections to a certain kind of book (like if you are very religious, erotica publishing may not be for you; vegans may not want to work on certain kinds of cookbooks; people with strong political sentiments may not work for politically-oriented houses), there are houses you should say no to. But I think it’s good to see how different segments of the industry work — there is plenty of time to specialize later in your career. I’d never advise someone to work on something that they loathe, but something they are lukewarm or just uninformed about? Sure.

          In addition to the luck of knowing the right people, I would also add “marrying rich.” That’s a shockingly common one — very bright people working for not great wages because they’re married to someone in law/medicine/finance or who is independently wealthy.

      2. Carin Siegfried*

        I too am in book publishing and I have talked to loads of students and alumni at my college about the career path. I’m sorry, I do hate to give a personal pitch, but I wrote a book on the subject, The Insider’s Guide to a Career in Book Publishing, that I hope is helpful.

        I would also mildly disagree with #4 as it can be hard to transfer departments sometimes so, for example, if you end up in Sales but you’re dying to be an editor, that’s a (not impossible but) difficult switch to make. That said, I think way too many young adults want to be editors without considering (or even knowing about) all the other interesting jobs in the business, all of which pay better and have more openings with fewer applicants than Editorial.

        Working in a bookstore is amazing experience, although it’s not always valued as highly in publishing as it should be.

        If you’re applying for jobs in publishing but you want to be a writer, DO NOT mention that. People who work in publishing want to hire people who really want to work in publishing, not people who are trying to back-door their way into another job altogether. It’s not an advantage.

        #9 so so much! Read RECENT books. Not classics. Books published within the last 5 years, and don’t only read one single genre that you like, but branch out and try new things.

    15. C Average*

      I am a guilty party in this regard! When you got into a role in a way that’s nearly impossible to reverse-engineer and imitate (as I did), it feels really disingenuous to attribute your success to anything other than luck.

      I got my job because I had a particular combination of skills and interests that could have only been acquired through serendipity, and because I leveraged a connection that could likewise only been acquired through serendipity. No reputable career counselor would have ever said, “Take up distance running, do some freelance tech writing, and then cold email the acquaintance of a former sorority sister and tell him you’d love to work for his company. They’ll happen to have an entry-level position open that requires a writing skill set and an affinity for distance running, and he’ll happen to know the hiring manager. Oh, and before all this happens, you’ll unsuccessfully apply for about a million positions at the same company without even getting an interview.”

      If I were to try to distill my lucky break into actionable advice, I guess it would look like this:

      –Don’t be afraid to highlight your extracurricular interests on your resume and in your career search in general (even though lots of career advice cautions you specifically not to do this)
      –If you want to work somewhere, never ever ever give up, even when common sense and most decent career advice would suggest that you do exactly that
      –Go ahead and leverage even the weakest ties in your network–hey, the worst they can do is say no

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, look at this. This is exactly what to do. Ask people their stories. People love to tell stories and it’s fun to listen.
        Then break it down. What happened?
        Here C Average, left no stone unturned. She talked to her connections even if they were third cousins twice removed.
        She did not take her life activities for granted, she looked for NEW ways to connect OLD familiar dots.
        I think the key here is she says she applied a million times to this company before she finally got an interview. She stuck with it, no matter how crappy she felt from all those rejections.

        It’s a lot of work but if you can make an inventory of things you have done and make an inventory of people you know- you will have a written reference right at your fingertips. My suggestion is to build these inventories as you go along- don’t just sit and make lists. Keep the lists handy and as something occurs to you write it down. Even if you do this 10% of the time, your mind will start thinking along these lines more and more. It will be easier to connect old dots in new ways. Here the goal is not to complete the list- the goal is to limber up your mind to think in new patterns that you can use to your advantage.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          “Ask people their stories. People love to tell stories and it’s fun to listen.
          Then break it down. What happened?”

          Yes,exactly. Things like graduating into a good economy or being the grandson of the CEO of YourDreamCompany, that’s luck (and privilege). Or running into someone you haven’t seen in years at the gas station and they happen to be hiring for YourDreamJob. Having skills and experience? Not luck. Privilege played a role in me getting to where I am now, as my upper middle-class parents were able to lend and flat-out give me a fair amount of money to supplement my $20k salary at full-time paraprofessional jobs while I went to grad school at night and online. They also helped pay for private undergrad, including the semester abroad in Latin America where I became fluent in Spanish, and after college they helped me when my savings ran out during the year I spent sometimes-working-sometimes-bumming-around(and also brushing up on Spanish) in other Latin American countries. Thanks Mom & Dad, I am VERY lucky.

          However! I also worked my ass off to learn to speak Spanish without feeling like a fool and in my grad school course and at the low-paying paraprofessional jobs (which were invaluable experience for my current job) and studying for months for my professional certification exam, and those were the things that DIRECTLY helped me to get my current flexible-schedule, challenging, interesting position with supportive bosses, good coworkers, and a paycheck that’s not huge but more than meets my needs. Not luck. So I would ask what positions they held before the current one and what skills have been most useful in their career.

          And I just realized that I started with NotSoNewReader’s quote about people loving to tell their stories and then I accidentally wrote my autobiography. NotSoNewReader speaks the truth.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            And I liked reading it. ;) I love how you broke it down.

            We all have assets, even when we don’t want to believe that. And just because an asset is not obvious does not mean it doesn’t exist. Figure out your assets and leverage your assets.

            My cousin went to an interview. He did procurement. The boss interviewed and in the course of the interview it came out that the boss needed xyz material. This was a difficult material to find and he had been searching for awhile. My cousin asked to use his phone (before cell phones), he called Bob. “Bob, I have a man here looking for xyz material. Can you help?” Bob said yes to my cousin and the boss told my cousin he got the job.

            The back story on this was my cousin had sent out hundreds of applications with no results. My cousin had reached new levels of despair. In the midst of all this blackness in his head, my cousin manage to connect old dots, leverage his relationship with Bob to make a good deal for Bob and New Boss and in turn get himself a job.

            When we break stuff down it is much easier to see how we can impact our own good fortune.

      2. C Average*

        Very slightly off-topic: One of the career sites I like posted a link to a really great piece this weekend that kind of nicely distills some of the stuff I was doing when I landed the job in question. Although I’m introverted by nature, I was really, really putting myself out there in ways that weren’t my norm.

        Maybe some of this will help others.

    16. literateliz*

      A few thoughts on this as it relates to publishing specifically…

      1. Not sure what the gender breakdown of this panel you mention was, but supposedly a lot of women have a tendency to attribute their success to luck (as a way of being self-effacing and not taking credit for it), while men attribute their success to hard work. The publishing world skews heavily female, especially in editorial, so this was my first thought.

      2. Reading between the lines, these people actually are telling you something very useful: that you cannot depend on an entry-level editorial job opening up when you are ready for it, so you need to be ready to hustle.

      I worked my ASS off to get my current (entry-level editorial) job. I did two unpaid internships while working a retail job. I volunteered to copyedit at a magazine for free. I went to every damn networking event I could find and read everything. I also had the incredible good luck to have the perfect position for me open up at one of the best publishing companies in San Francisco, right when I was finishing up my internships. I’ve been here for over two years now and have kept my eye on job boards, and in that time I’ve seen maybe three other editorial assistant positions open up in the area, and a small handful of other related jobs like copyeditor or “assistant to the publisher.” A few more in book marketing/publicity. It might be different in New York, but I understand it’s still very competitive. I love to talk to people who are interested in my field and I give them all the useful advice I can (insert pun here has some great advice above), but I would also feel like I was lying if I gave the impression that as long as you do exactly what I did, you’ll end up with an editorial job. I would have been fine either way, but with slightly different timing or choices, I could have ended up proofreading financial press releases, or doing publicity at a much smaller publisher, or pitching advertising to bloggers at a marketing startup (ugh). I try not to attribute everything to “luck” now that I’m aware of the gender divide and what I’m implying about myself when I say that, but since new grads often come in with unrealistic ideas about the industry, I also try to make it very clear that you can’t depend on things working out the way you want them to.

    17. Sunflower*

      Maybe try asking simply ‘How did you get here’. that can open them up to talking about their career path, risks they took, projects they took on. Honestly though, depending on industry and who you’re talking to, the person who had your job 10 years ago was probably in a very different spot than you were when you got it.

      Have you tried reaching out to people who are only a couple rungs above you as opposed to in the holy grail position? I’ve found that to be much easier and they are able to give you more direct answers you’re looking for.

      In one way, I got my job because of luck. I was working here part-time and a full-time job that was more in line with what I wanted to do happened to open up.
      To get the part-time job though I
      1. Put together a thoughtful resume
      2. Rehearsed talking points before my interview
      3. Took a chance on a part-time job in hopes something would come from it

      Also ask:
      ‘What chances did you take that paid off’, ‘What would you say to someone who is trying to break into the industry’, ‘What other paths have you seen similar people take to get here’

    18. August*

      I think the people whom you contacted have given you the honest answer. For many people, career is not something they have absolute control over. Being at the right place, at the right time is what makes the difference in many people’s career.
      That said, you can try to reach your dream job or build your dream career. You identify the gaps between your current position and the position that you want to go to. Work to fill those gaps. Be ready to take pay cuts or volunteer for projects if necessary to gain experience to reach the position and build your resume. When the right opportunity arises, give your best shot.

    19. W*

      I’m an English Major working for a legal publisher now. I’m a recent grad and it’s my first real job. I got the job by applying to an online ad, no fancy networking or anything, so there’s hope. I don’t live in a city where publishing is a big industry like New York or Toronto either.

      I’m a Publications Assistant and most of what I do is just word processing. In fact, the job title used to be Word Processor. My job does not require a degree, and it’s open for anyone with just a high school diploma. If they hadn’t changed the title to something with Publishing/Publications in it, I doubt people would apply to be a word processor. My work is really unimpressive work, but once you’re in the door, you’re in the publishing environment and there will be new opportunities and room for growth. In a few years, I can move onto coordinating publishing production and so on. So don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that may seem beneath you. I know other English Majors who are keen on working in Editorial (which seems more “professional” or “esteemed”) or want to work for trade publishers (which pay the worst), but they’re still unemployed.

      1. W*

        Just wanted to add that the publishing industry isn’t just trade publishing. I didn’t just look for publishing jobs in traditional publishing companies. There are publishing departments in different fields, and STM (scientific, technical, medical) or educational/academic publishers tend to be more financially stable as they’ll always have a target audience and can generate revenue. Even if you’re interested in working for trade or journalism, starting off at STM or an academic publisher may be better because they’re stable enough to provide training and can support your professional growth. I definitely find that’s the case with my company.

    20. Pony tailed wonder*

      I heard the actor Karl Urban speak at one of those Comic Con things and someone asked him about how he felt about being an overnight success. He said that he wasn’t an overnight success and people could look at his resume and see that. He said that the harder he works, the ‘luckier’ he gets. He said that he is always trying to improve his acting skills and that he will never rest on his supposed laurels. He said that you should always keep learning about your job. He said he even still takes classes. I thought it was great career advice in general, not just for actors.

      1. katamia*

        Been a fan of Karl Urban since the 90s (overnight success? hah!), so I love seeing him mentioned here, and I love his answer. It’s a great attitude.

    21. Kathryn*

      Both my husband and I are in our current jobs because we went to a party where a friend of a friend got drunk and had a bitch fest about work problems it turned out we could solve. Seperate parties. Mine involved going into an entirely new career field – they needed my skills but were looking in the wrong places to hire so weren’t finding any good candidates. My previous field has TONS of people with this skill set, and I’m not the most advanced practitioner, but I was (am) good enough to get things going.

      I learned a lot about my new field and pivoted that into a high visibility role doing really facinating, amazing work, and I can hold my own with people at the top of my field. Its awesome.

      And I can’t say that I got here by anything other than luck, being willing to apply my skills in new ways, and learning everything I could. I know its frusterating, but much of this has been outside of my control, I’m no more deserving of it than a bunch of other hardworking, smart people. (eh… I tend to have reasonably decent social skills, which gives me a bit of an edge in this field… a lot of my counterparts believe getting someone to help you do work is a magic power.) Demaning a formula that gives you total control and a list of things you can improve is awfully close to the Fundemental Attribution Error in action. Most people don’t deserve what they have, life isn’t fair like that.

  6. Rant about Exit Interview*

    You know what’s annoying, is when your boss knows there were personal relationship issues and really wants to know what he did or what went wrong (in a sincere tone)… and you hesitantly describe some things (even specific examples), and all you get are defensive comments (in a calm tone). So….. then what was the point of asking me???

    1. fposte*

      Because she wanted to be the kind of person who asks that question even though it turned out she wasn’t the kind of person who could accept the answer.

    2. AwesomeCreativePM*

      I agree, it’s annoying. Common sense is that you are leaving because there is an issue with the company.

      I had an exit interview after giving notice and I made sure that the exit interview would be about me. Once you start being negative, it becomes about them and you are leaving because you want to. Besides it helps leaving on a positive note even if the place sucked! You never know when you’ll cross paths again.

    3. TNTT*

      I once was asked to be a witness to an exit interview (good start, right?) where exactly this happened. The boss asked for genuine feedback, the intern (!) gave it, and the boss actually yelled at her about how she doesn’t understand the industry and he does things the way he does because has so much experience. She cried, he yelled, it was horrible.

      1. Seattle Writer Girl*

        Oh, this happened to me after being specifically told “we’re all friends here” and directly asked by my boss to “speak freely.” Got reamed out over the phone by a higher up telling me I needed to “check my assumptions” without actually explaining what about my assumptions was incorrect.

      1. Golden Yeti*

        “I value your opinions…assuming they are the same as mine.”

        Totally have a boss like this. :)

    4. Clever Name*

      This is why I didn’t even fill out my name or put “no comment” on my last exit interview form. My boss was a terrible boss (not to mention a terrible person who lied and blamed others for stuff he did), and he was the number 1 reason why I left.

  7. PX*

    All – advice on using a work contact to follow up on a job application?

    I’m currently working at company A, where I have very occasionally had to work with a rep from company B – but most of our conversation has been general chit chat at the coffee machine. I just applied for a job at company B (large multinational who use online application/Taleo, so no real information about a specific contact or hiring manager) – and I’m wondering if its appropriate to ask them to follow up/check on the application process/put in a good word for me to a hiring manager?

    The rep works in a different location (country) from the job I applied for – but I’m guessing they could find out internally if they really wanted to.

    So is this appropriate? If so, whats a good script given the caveats mentioned above?

    1. RandomName*

      I’d let the person know you applied and ask if they know the hiring manager next time you’re chit chatting.

    2. Dan*

      I work for Big Company, and if somebody were to say “I applied, can you help?” The answer’s no. Here, our external job ads suck ass, and I wouldn’t even know which recruiter or hiring manager to talk to.

      Now, we have a better internal referral system (same jobs, just more detailed information.) If I referred you, I know exactly what jobs I put you in for, who the recruiter is, and who the hiring manager is.

      At my company, you really, really want to use an internal referral if you can find one.

    3. Sunflower*

      You could casually mentioned you applied for a job but don’t expect anything. I asked my friend a bit about the hiring practices at her company (she does fundraising for a large hospital) and she basically said ‘I have no idea how any of that works. You just apply and someone contacts you. I wouldn’t even know who to talk to’

      On another note, my sister works at a big public accounting firm and things are much different there- however, they are very big on referrals so that could be why the hiring is a much more open process there.

    4. HP fan*

      Like Dan, I work for a big company with a sucky external job site, but a good internal one. The external one doesn’t show hiring manager names. But if I have an acquaintence who applied, I would be happy to look at the internal requisition and give you the hiring manager name so a follow up email can be sent. I probably won’t know the person, so I can’t be a reference, but I wouldn’t mind at all passing on the email address so you can at least follow up.

      If I was talking with you and you said, “I applied for a job and wanted to follow up with the manager, but the external site doesn’t show, would you look it up?” I would have no problem getting the req number from you and saying, “Looks like that’s I don’t know him, so using my name won’t help, but hopefully you can send over a great cover letter! Good luck!”

  8. Gwen*

    What does a CEO actually do? I know that “shaping culture” and “guiding the company’s vision” are their goals but like…what do they do on a day to day basis? I just know a laundry list of things our CEO doesn’t do, and I’m curious!

    1. MJH*

      Not a CEO, but from what I have seen: they have meetings. They talk to their reports. They schmooze. They think about big picture stuff and try to find the right people to help make it happen. They network in the community a lot. They answer questions from their reports about how to handle X and Y situations. They communicate with the press. They communicate with the Board of Directors or whomever. They read a lot of emails.

    2. De Minimis*

      I work in government so it may differ somewhat from the private sector, but basically our CEO is responsible for our facility’s relationships with outside parties…governing boards, outside stakeholders, and relationships with our regional and national headquarters.

    3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Hahaha….I wonder myself what I actually do all day sometimes. Overall, I solve all kids of problems, big and small, short-term and long-term. That takes a lot of different forms – from communicating with stakeholders, to handling HR issues (20 employees, I’m also HR), to making long-term plans, to being the sounding board for problems, to holding/sharing institutional memory, to solving money problems, to getting the board to do what they need to be doing.

    4. Dawn*

      At my last company, the CEO was the figurehead of the company and the COO was the guy who went in and got the day to day stuff done. So the CEO would come up with ideas of where he’d like the company to go, what new technologies we should implement, that kinda thing. He would also go and talk to industry leaders/ heads of state/ influential business people about them adopting and using our products. He was the “prestige” guy- basically if we wanted to schmooze a large company he’d be the one to go in and schmooze and get them to agree to working with us.

      The COO would be the one to handle the day to day of running the company- where money is spent, what the theme was for our next conference, just the nitty gritty stuff of running a business. He was where the buck stopped, basically. He’d been with the company since the beginning and had pretty much worked any and all jobs within the company and so he was really well qualified to make decisions impacting the company and those jobs.

      1. De Minimis*

        We have a similar setup, we have an administrator that handles the day to day operational stuff. The CEO is more about the big picture, but also is the one that is held responsible for major issues, if goals aren’t being met, and so on.

    5. Clever Name*

      The president and owner of our company really has very little to do with the day-to-day running of the company, but she is an incredibly busy person. Yes, she indeed shapes the culture, and she is leading us in a new direction in terms of how our organization is managed (we’re a small company and we’ve tripled in size the 3 years I’ve been here). She is an officer at the national level for a trade group for our company, she is on a major state regulatory board (appointed by the governor), she attends conferences where she represents our company and the trade group, she is developing new business in a new office in another state. A lot of what she does is indeed sit in meetings, but they aren’t BS meetings necessarily. She also occasionally acts as an expert witness, and she still does review some of our technical reports. So does she do “actual work”, but a lot of what she does probably doesn’t look like work to an outsider.

  9. hildi*

    Workplace Coach/Life Coach

    Does anyone have experience with this? Either the recipient of the services or you are one or you know someone that is one? Are these people/credentials taken seriously in the business world?

    I’m getting itchy in my current job to do something else (I’m an employee professional development trainer). One aspect of my current job that I’m getting kind of weary of is presenting training to different people all the time. Not one class is ever the same because of the mix of people, the class dynamics are different each time, and that’s not fun for me anymore. I have a desire to really dig in with a group, get to know their training needs, get to know their development needs and work with a group in-depth. I am considering training manager positions in private organizations. But I also like doing my own thing and wondered if workplace coaching is a legitimate path to follow. Just curious if anyone has any ideas about that – thanks very much!

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      It depends so, so much on the person. I don’t think that people can become effective coaches by taking a class – the good ones, IMO, are already effective mentors and consultants. Some of them are basically pretending to be therapists. I’ve gotten better support and advice from natural mentors than I ever have from a paid coach.

      1. hildi*

        That’s good to know! I would agree that a natural mentor is absolutely priceless and how lucky a person is to find one.

        And pretending to be therapists – lol. I can see how some people would be attracted to coaching as a substitute for being someone’s shrink. That’s a danger to look out for.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          I’d also say that the better ones seems to have a niche where they are really knowledgeable, so they aren’t just providing generic listening/reframing. For example, if you’re coaching nonprofit executives, you should have a good bit of nonprofit experience so you know where people are coming from. The ones that aren’t so good seem to be really broad – and that starts to feel like they’re just looking for any way to get paid. I worked briefly with one who wanted to work with nonprofit executives, and felt like because she had no nonprofit experience, that she could provide a broader perspective – but really, she just didn’t get it, and a lot of time was spent with me telling her that she was way off base. So, I wonder if there’s a way for you to focus on coaching people who are in your field – trainers, HR people, etc.

    2. fposte*

      I think you would be absolutely awesome at this! I would go to you.

      It seems to be a really vague and open field, and I suspect it might have some strong regional tendencies–people who are doing regular corporate gigs in New York and DC (I met several at a conference once) are different from the person I know here who quit a small-town admin job and hung out her shingle. I don’t know if there are credentials that are really respected, but I’m betting there are plenty that aren’t, since there seem to be certificate mills in the area.

      Can you dig to see if there’s somebody whose trajectory or career you’d like to emulate, or nearly emulate? (Is there an AAM for coaching?) That could give you some indications.

      1. hildi*

        Thanks! Actually, now that you mention it, there is someone that comes to mind that I would reach out to. She’s not anyone I’ve worked with personally, but my coworker knows her through some other training stuff and I’d feel comfortable asking about the coaching aspect of what she does. Thanks for the idea,fposte!

    3. HR Pro*

      I had an executive coach for over a year (I think that was a little longer than an average coaching engagement, FYI). It was really great and I’d definitely recommend it. I think the chemistry between you and your coach is very important, so if there isn’t good chemistry, then it wouldn’t work at all.

      There were helpful, concrete things I learned that I still use today.

      I’m also in HR and I’ve noticed a significant increase in the acceptance of coaching as a profession in the last few years. My current employer pays for (certain select) people to get coaching for 3 months. I’ve met several other HR people who have transitioned from HR to coaching. There also seems to be crossover between coaches and trainers – several trainers I know are also coaches. I’d say go for it!

      1. hildi*

        That’s encouraging to know some trainers/HR folks you know have transitioned into coaching! Also good to hear that there’s growing acceptance for it as a legitimate profession. Thanks so much for your input, HR Pro!

    4. HP fan*

      My company (financial) has started posting jobs for Retail Performance Coaches. They seem to work with a specific line of business and stick with that departner to learn/train the frontline workers on changes. I’m not one myself, but it seems to be growing in my industry.

  10. Quitting*

    I am about to leave my first job. I plan to give two weeks’ notice as soon as I have another job lined up. This seems like a silly question, but how do you do it? Just tell your manager?

    1. Bio-Pharma*

      Yup, just tell your manager! Take a deep breath and have a few phrases prepared ahead of time. “a great opportunity came up…” etc

        1. Bio-Pharma*

          One good way to end the (awkward) conversation is to ask things like “Would you like me to write a formal letter to HR?” or “Would you like to tell the rest of the team, or would you like me to?”

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I would write the letter anyway, unless you REALLY trust your boss. Tell them first, then you can give them the letter at the end of the conversation. You don’t want the boss to forget, or worse yet, “forget”, that you gave your notice or when, or what the terms were. (“You said you’d stay 6 months! And give birth to your replacement first! And turn us into a Fortune 100 company before you left!”)

            1. LBK*

              I think that would only be necessary in maybe 5% of companies…most bosses aren’t nuts like that. I know you’re exaggerating but I’d think someone would truly have to be a whackadoo to forget than an employee quit.

              1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                I think (I hope!) that my employees trust me to be honest and fair with them, but I hope they don’t trust me to remember lots of details – I’ve got way to much going to for details to stick in my mind. I always appreciate an in-person conversation followed up by a quick letter or e-mail with their dates/plans. That was, there’s no room for anybody to misunderstand.

                Also, I’ve had a few people over the years quit (supposedly for another job) and then file unemployment. It makes my life much easier when all I have to do to contest their claim is to send in a copy of their resignation letter. So if I don’t get something in writing, I’ll usually ask. Don’t agonize over the letter, though.

              2. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Well, like I (kind of) said in another comment today: it’s usually fine not taking extra precautions…until it isn’t.

                I’m just saying, if the OP here has any reason to be concerned or if they’ve seen any shenanigans from their boss or the company, I suggest it’s worth a couple of minutes effort being overly cautious in order to avoid the risk that they’ll be writing in next Wednesday with their epic tale of woe.

            2. Quitting*

              I do really trust my boss. She’s fantastic, but there are problems in my workplace that are completely out of her control.

          2. Katie*

            At my last resignation I came with a short letter to hand him at the end of my verbal resignation, as a sign of goodwill. In California, it’s a lot easier to collect unemployment than in than in other states. Giving him my notice in writing was a sign that “I like you guys, I won’t do anything sleazy like trying to collect unemployment after voluntarily resigning, and here’s your backup.”

        2. LBK*

          I think people like to write a letter just to make sure the details of the remaining time are in writing, but it doesn’t have to be formal. Typically there are other things to work out with the transition anyway, so once those are hashed out it’s fine to just jot down an email with all of those details including your last day and have that serve as your paper trail. I had one that just naturally generated during the course of figuring out who would take on what responsibilities with my manager, so there wasn’t a need to write a separate letter or anything.

        3. Samantha*

          Every place I have worked requires a letter for your file. I have always just handed this over after my face-to-face conversation with my manager.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Yes. Preferably in person in private: “I just wanted to let you know, I’ve taken a new job. XX will be my last day”

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Wait until you have a written offer from the other job, then either ask your manager for a meeting or go into his/her office. You say, “I’ve accepted an offer from New Job– my last day here will be on X [two weeks from today].” There’s some other stuff you can say, like you’ve enjoyed your time at your current job (if that’s true) and ask if there’s anything you can do to make the transition easier, but really, that’s about it.

      I have also followed up with an email so there’s a “paper trail”, and some bosses ask for a letter of resignation. But a conversation should do it. Good luck!

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Yeah, I had prepared a paper that said pretty much that. I gave verbal notice and then handed over the paper so that it could be on file.

      2. BRR*

        Written offer with a starting date and you’ve accepted it. We’ve had to amend that rule a couple of times :)

      3. Sunflower*

        Yes to all of this. Seems like some companies will make you write a letter but that seems like more of a formality for HR.

        Your boss will probably be happy and might ask some questions about what you’re doing and where you’re going. But AvonLady Barksdale pretty much covered it!

      4. Quitting*

        Thank you for bringing that up. I’ll wait until I’ve accepted an offer and gotten everything really lined up.

    4. BRR*

      If it were me I would write out a couple of sentence just to practice what I am going to say. Don’t actually read off of the paper but it’s nice to rehearse ahead of time instead of thinking of it on the spot.

    5. Swedish Tekanna*

      In the UK they often ask for confirmation in writing, even if you have told your manager/HR or whoever. Sometimes it is in the contract but they also like it as it tidies things up legally and it is harder for an employee to then claim the role was terminated or s/he was coerced into resigning. But an employer will always tell you anyway if they want a letter or an email so I shouldn’t worry too much.

      Nothing is a silly question when you haven’t done it before. Good luck!

    6. Chloe Silverado*

      Just don’t do what I did. I walked into my manager’s office, took a deep breath…and burst into tears.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Aw man! I can see myself doing the same thing. I’ve burst into tears waaaaaaay too many times. :)

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I give my resignations in writing because it’s too easy to have misunderstandings over the date of the last day. It’s also an opportunity for me to thank the boss for the opportunities she gave me while working there. This works into three or four sentences. I don’t put a lot into it.

      While it may not be mandatory, I think it helps to “make it real” the boss can be less apt to try to sweep it under the rug or hem and haw about it.

  11. LouG*

    Bereavement leave policies: my employer gives bereavement leave for immediate family members, which does not include grandparents. Is this a common policy? It seems especially cruel to me right now.

    1. Anie*

      Doesn’t it? That’s unfortunate. But that’s just for paid days off. You should still be able to take time, just paid by your personal time. Right?

      And condolences.

    2. SLG*

      I think this varies pretty widely by company. My company offers something like 3 days for the death of a parent or child, and 1 day for any other family member or family member of your spouse. My spouse’s company offers bereavement time only for immediate family members. Which meant that when we traveled for my his aunt’s funeral, I used bereavement time but he had to take a vacation day. It was weird (although we were grateful we could go at all).

      1. Anie*

        Can you imagine your child dying and only taking three days off? I don’t even have children, but I can’t imagine any of my co-workers coming in for a solid month.

        1. fposte*

          Unfortunately, I think that’s about what organizations can offer, rather than what people need. I think most places that have bereavement time do also offer personal/vacation days, so there are those possibilities; of course, for a lot of places you don’t have any of those options, even in the face of tragedy.

        2. Nerd Girl*

          Every time I’ve ever reviewed the bereavement policy for the company I worked for I’ve thought this exact thing.

        3. Treena Kravm*

          Yeesh. I probably would have to take a leave of absence if my husband died, which I wouldn’t expect my employer to bankroll, but very weird that child/spouse is on the same level as parent. Is it wrong to think of them as deaths that are not supposed to happen vs. supposed to happen? Of course you’re devastated that your parent died, but it is an inevitable event, whereas most people expect to not outlive a child.

    3. fposte*

      Ours includes grandparents but draws the line for aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I think it’s pretty common to have a line drawn, and that unfortunately means some people are going to have beloved relatives that fall on the outside of it. I’m sorry that’s happening to you, and I join with Anie in hoping you can take personal days.

        1. cuppa*

          Mine is the similar, but we don’t get three days for a grandparent of a spouse — just your own grandparents.

    4. Krom*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.
      My office does not have an official bereavement leave policy but when my grandfather died (who I was close with) I talked with my manager and they were very helpful on an individual level. Perhaps if you spoke with someone they would be able to accommodate you without making a blanket change (blanket policies always have to have an arbitrary cut off, which hurts some individuals).

      1. the gold digger*

        I worked in a nightmare position in corporate finance years ago. In at 7 a.m., out at 9 p.m, counseled once for leaving work at 6 p.m. (Not for missing a deadline, not for work quality – for walking out at 6 p.m., which was the end of the official work day.)

        When my dad was dying, I was gone for two weeks. I told them not to pay me – I had just started the job three months prior. They just shrugged and said, Nah, too much trouble to deal with payroll. Don’t worry about it.

    5. LBK*

      I believe most I’ve heard about do include grandparents, but bereavement policies do tend to be depressingly restrictive – I’ve never heard of one that covered anyone outside of your family, for example. So I guess the answer to your question is that while this one sounds a little more strict than usual, it’s not totally ridiculous compared to how they usually are.

      1. NoPantsFridays*

        Yeah – I’d be far more devastated if a close friend died than if a distant relative died. Everyone’s life is different, but they have to draw the line somewhere. I’ve even heard of some that exclude stepfamily, so stepsibs or stepparents. I don’t remember what ours says exactly, but I know it’s in the employee handbook I got, and I think it includes grandparents. It’s also interesting when they have guidelines on which conflicts of interests need to be declared that don’t include close relationships one might have with stepfamily, or siblings’ children, or parents’ siblings, etc.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This. My immediate family is gone and I don’t like the idea that a company defines who your family is for you.

          At this stage of the game, my family is whomever I am have build close bonds with.

          It rankles me because I was never one to use up bereavement time anyway. If I am asking for time it’s because it’s a big deal. In my 35 plus years working that I have taken bereavement leave twice. It used to be that you could ask for time to go to a funeral and people trusted that you were using good judgement in making that request.

          I hope this changes because our (society’s) definition of family changed quite a while ago.

    6. JC*

      I’m sorry for your loss. I’m not sure what is standard, but when I worked for the federal government they had a very specific set of relatives whose deaths you could use sick leave for. It did include grandparents, although it did not include your spouse’s grandparents, so when my grandfather died I could take sick leave but my federal employee husband had to take vacation leave. My current non-profit employer has catch-all “emergency leave” and does not prescribe bereavement of whose deaths it could be used for.

    7. Elkay*

      I’ve never seen grandparents included in bereavement leave. However, some employers are more flexible than others if you ask.

    8. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I checked, ours just say “immediate family member or loved one”. But some companies offer better benefits than others.

      I’m sorry for your loss.

    9. CheeryO*

      When one of my grandfathers died, I was in a job that didn’t include grandparents in their definition of “immediate family.” I don’t know if it’s common or not, but I remember feeling really bad that I had to take an unpaid day off for his funeral. I feel for you, and I hope you can work something out with your employer.

    10. bad at online naming*

      My company does , but draws the line elsewhere – however, it also has a “talk to your manager” clause if you could use more time than what is automatically granted. I can’t really see many managers here saying no to a politely worded request about extending the policy.

      My condolences.

    11. Rita*

      I’m very sorry for your loss.

      Ours is three days for immediate family, defined as: spouse, parents, stepparents, siblings, stepsiblings, children, stepchildren, grandparents, grandchildren, father-in-law, or mother-in-law. One day for aunts, uncles, cousins, and other in-laws, and case by case for close non-family members. Though with this company, I bet they would be accommodating to extend that in certain situations.

      I feel like bereavement is impossible to pin down to a policy. My old job gave me an entire week off when my cousin died suddenly in a pretty tragic circumstance. I ended up going in for a few hours that week (mostly to escape my family) and it helped that it was over the summer and slow. But when my aunt died of cancer a few years later, I didn’t take any time off (she lived 1,000 miles away and I had pretty much no relationship with her). I think a good employer would be flexible and accommodating.

    12. H*

      It seems to vary between policies. I of course was working at a place that did not include grandparents this past summer when both my grandparents died, and couldn’t afford to take the unpaid time off I would have needed to to really sort myself out. My dad, however, got five days and they were just (I mean, not “just”) his in-laws.

      Sincerest condolences for your loss, and I hope even without an inclusive bereavement policy you’re able to take the time you need.

    13. Hlyssande*

      Mine gives 3 days for immediate family (parents, siblings) and one day for non-immediate family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins). It’s never enough.

      Since I live far away from my family, I’m banking vacation time against when my grandmother passes away. She’s 103 and still in fairly good health (and living in her own house!!1), but I know there’s not much longer there.

      I’m sorry for your loss.

    14. primary buffer panel*

      I think my company has an official policy somewhere, but I’ve never heard it quoted. When my in-laws died, they just told me to take whatever time I needed to deal with it. Same when my mom and later my dad passed.

      Frankly, the people who were a huge pain in the ass over this kind of thing was my kids’ high school. My daughter was put on probation from the National Honor Society because I pulled her out of school for a few days to attend her grandfather’s funeral. Yer gorram right I complained – it made no difference.

    15. catsAreCool*

      When my grandma passed away, my company let me have some time off to fly up there and attend the service. I had the impression that this was standard.

    16. Apollo Warbucks*

      I dony know how common it is but My last firm didn’t include grand parents in bereavement leave, and I had such a row with HR and the department head when someone I supervised had ran out I’d PTO and they wanted to dock his pay for a the day off he wanted for his grand mothers funeral.

    17. mdv*

      I work for a department at a state university, and whether or not to allow use of bereavement for not direct family members is at the discretion of the supervisor/director. I was able to combine 6 days of bereavement with vacation time to spend 17 days in Germany when my grandmother passed away there. (I live in the US.)

  12. Katie the Fed*

    OH GOOD!

    I have a question that’s really vexing me.

    OK – I’m a manager. I have an employee who is having issues who I’m working with to improve performance and behavior – I don’t want to get into the whole history of that again.

    Anyway, new issue with this person – apparently when I have meetings to discuss concerns I have, he goes and tells the team “the boss is on my case again” or “the boss is pissed at me” or things along those lines. So the team, who I have been VERY careful not to let see me taking disciplinary action, is all aware of it. Now, they usually tell me at some point (not like a tattle-y way, but a brief mention some weeks later), because they’re generally really frustrated with him too, and they tell him things like “sounds like Katie is doing her job.”

    So – my question – do I bring this up with him or just let the team keep policing it. I think he’ll stop soon since he’s not getting much of a reception for this – they don’t have the same problems with me so I don’t think they’re going to entertain much of these complaints. Plus, it might be good for them to know I AM taking action against a poor performer.

    On the other hand, it speaks to a general lack of professionalism and discretion.

    So do I tell him to knock it off, or leave it alone? I’m leaning toward leaving it alone.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d leave it alone* and assume he’s making himself look bad to the rest of your team, but I’d also take it as further confirmation that he’s unprofessional and has bad judgment and that you need to replace him.

      * But if you ever did want to address it and make him uncomfortable about what he’s saying, you could make the point to him by saying, totally genuinely, “I’m surprised that you feel our conversations are signs that I’m ‘pissed off’ at you or ‘on your case.’ I’m hoping that by working together we can get you to a place where you’re successful in this role. Is there a reason you’re taking this differently?”

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Thanks – that’s a good point, and that’s sometime I’ve been wanting to talk to him about – he over personalizes feedback. I try to make it clear it’s about his work, not him, but he seems to think I’m really out to get him. Unfortunately, I really am on his case about a lot of legitimate issues (I try to focus on the big stuff) so it probably feels that way.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, but there’s “on someone’s case” because you need to be (the situation here) and “on someone’s case” because you’re just hassling them for no known reason. I’m sure he’s talking about it like the latter (because people don’t go around saying “man, I am really screwing up, and Katie has to watch me like a hawk as a result”), which is why it’s annoying.

        2. NacSacJack*

          It is personal…to him. Men have a tendency to validate themselves by their jobs. This is why a lot of make retirees die or start to suffer ailments shortly after retirement. Taking away a man’s job is very debilitating because until recently, there was this perception that the man is the breadwinner and provider of the house. Keep making it clear to him that it is not personal, its business. Repeat it many times.

          1. afiendishthingy*

            I’m a thin-skinned woman and I constantly have to remind myself that professional feedback from my supervisors, not mention occasional screaming diatribes from clients who are mostly angry about things that have nothing to do with me, are not personal attacks. (It’s harder with those shouty clients, since they are actually yelling at me, but they don’t actually know what I’m like outside of my brief interactions with them, and I know for a fact I’m delightful. So I vent and debrief with my supervisors or coworkers, determine if the rude person had valid complaints about my work so I can address them, and try not to lose sleep over it.) But even though I know I SHOULDN’T take it personally, it’s hard to turn off the voice in my brain saying “I SCREWED UP EVERYTHING SO I’M OBVIOUSLY A TOTAL LOSER.” Men definitely aren’t the only ones who feel at least partially personally defined by their professional competence.

            Feeling annoyed or ashamed or depressed when your boss gives you critical feedback is not ideal, but you can have those feelings and still take the feedback to heart and correct the performance issues. Katie’s employee seems to be acting like a teenager, unable to connect the dots between his own behavior and the resulting disciplinary action. “I stole $50 from my mom’s purse and got a homeless guy to buy us Boone’s Farm and cigarettes and she like went CRAZY because she had to pay the electric bill or some s*%#, I don’t know I wasn’t really listening, and she took away my car and grounded me for a month. GOD I don’t what her problem is, she just hates me and wants my life to suck. I think she’s a sociopath.”

    2. TeapotCounsel*

      My $0.02:
      Leave it alone. Sounds like the team is doing some of the correcting for you, which is a typical (and good) team dynamic.
      >Plus, it might be good for them to know I AM taking action against a poor performer.
      Yes, this. And what better way to have that communicated than by the poor performer himself.

      1. cuppa*

        I agree. This actually worked out well in my favor one time with a staff person who was really having issues and it was affecting the team. He would say things to his co-workers about getting in trouble or whatnot, but since I wasn’t discussing it with the rest of the team, and there wasn’t marked improvement, it was really the only way they were knowing that I was addressing it.

        I tend to find that in these situations, you can’t really control what they are going to say to their coworkers, and since it doesn’t particularly look bad to the rest of the staff, I would leave it alone. If he was outright lying (“Katie the Fed threatened me!”) or making you look bad in some other way, I would be more inclined to address it, because to me that seems way more like an additional performance issue.

    3. LBK*

      I think what this really comes down to is how much negativity armor your other employees have. It’s possible to not engage in someone’s whining while still being infected by its presence. I used to sit next to two people who would spend all day complaining to each other – never with me involved – and it made me miserable.

      If your team seems otherwise positive and happy and is fine with just deflecting the conversation and moving on, I don’t think you need to do anything. If they seem tired of having to listen to him whether it’s a conversation or just a diatribe, I think including “having a positive attitude” and “only addressing issues with me with me” as points in his improvement plan is worthwhile and valid.

    4. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      I would leave it alone, but man, this would really tank my motivation to keep working with him towards improving.

    5. snarkalupagus*

      I’d lean toward leaving it alone. Your team knows he’s a poor performer, and I agree with your feeling that it’s probably good for them to know that you’re doing something about it. They don’t need to know details, just that there’s something happening. That they tell him that you’re doing your job is actually a pretty big vote of confidence in you.

      If he’s a poor performer even in light of the work you’re doing with him, that’s what speaks to a general lack of professionalism. Bellyaching about it as you being on his case speaks to a lack of self-awareness, self-discipline, and personal accountability–three important components of professionalism.

      Sounds like your team knows that he’s blaming you for his own shortcomings, and I’d wager that they’re pleased to hear that you’re doing something about it. I’d leave it be.

    6. Golden Yeti*

      If he’s already being sensitive about it, my impression would be leave it alone for now, but if it keeps on, mention that other people are coming to you about it because they’re getting annoyed.

      At the same time, he may need a reminder that there is a huge difference between feedback designed to improve performance and an actually pissed off boss.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        “there is a huge difference between feedback designed to improve performance and an actually pissed off boss.”

        True – although this particular person sometimes pushes my buttons to the point that I have to say “let’s revisit this Monday after you’ve had some time to think about it” because I’m worried I’ll lose my cool. GAHH.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          Ok, so sometimes you are actually pissed off, being a human and all. But you’re professional enough to wait until the steam stops pouring out of your ears before bringing him in a for a calm, discreet conversation. And you ARE giving feedback designed to improve performance – or get enough documentation to get rid of him, but I’m sure you’d be thrilled with improved performance! It’s not like you’re writing him up because he has an obnoxious laugh and you really resent what he said about Ringo being an untalented hack riding the other Beatles’ coattails.

          Good luck!

    7. BRR*

      I have really enjoyed following this ongoing story.

      I would also leave it alone. Since he doesn’t seem to get it bring it up probably won’t fix the situation.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I would enjoy it if it were someone else’s story :)

        I had nightmares about doing his performance appraisal the other day. Like, actually nightmares.

        I think a lot of the problem is that our leadershp thinks people are interchangeable – he was always going to be a bad fit here so he shouldn’t have been placed on the team. So in some ways he was set up for failure, and it’s not entirely his fault. People aren’t widgets – what works in one environment might not work in another.

        So in addition to taking all the necessary steps, I’m trying to get leadership to be more careful in how they realign people.

        1. BRR*

          A) you’re being an awesome manager, I wanted to remind you of that

          B) I forget, are you able to move forward with disciplinary actions with him?

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Thank you :)

            I am, but I’m laying the groundwork at the moment by setting Very Clear goals and timelines and things. Most of my people don’t need a lot of specific instruction but I’m making sure I’m covering all possible arguments by making everything Extremely Clear. Sigh.

        2. BRR*

          Also I second people are not interchangeable. That’s why people job hunt for fit and skills and stuff. Like job hunting 101.

    8. LCL*

      I would be a little sneaky with this one. I would tell him
      “some of the team has told me that they know I have been talking to you. I want to reassure you that all of our conversations about this have been and will be kept strictly confidential by me.”
      This reminds him that these issues should be kept confidential, without you having to tell him to stop talking about it.

    9. Dan*

      We have this weird obsession with “privacy” in this country. Sure, it’s pretty damned rude to be broadcasting somebody else’s business all over the office, but it’s not illegal. So when you’ve got a problem employee making inaccurate statements, frankly, a reasonable thing to do is correct the record. (Put it this way… he’s sort of waiving any sort of right to privacy by trash talking you.) The one thing I hate the most in the office is when management lets rumors fly and does nothing to correct them. If I know you and think you’re reasonable, and somebody starts talking about you in ways that aren’t consistent with what I know of you, I actually really want to know if I see you through rose colored glasses or if the other person is right and I should change my perception.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is a really good point, but it’s probably unnecessary in this case. The team knows the guy is a poor performer and it seems they’ve figured out that Katie is dealing with it, so it’s not like they’re suddenly going to start believing him when he says she is hassling him.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          In fairness, I AM giving him a hard time. It’s just that it’s related to work and he deserves it.

    10. Lizzy May*

      I agree to leave it alone. He’s doing himself no favours by bringing it up and as long as you don’t see it effecting his work or the office morale it’s more trouble than it’s worth. I tend to think it’s silly to try to police what your employees talk about unless they’re lying or talking about something that has to be confidential. It tends to stir up resentment even if it’s about something a smart employee would never talk about.

    11. Ann Furthermore*

      I’d leave it alone too, but he sounds like the type of person who may have a tendency to twist things around to suit his own agenda, or try to garner sympathy for himself. So just by reading this, I wouldn’t be surprised if later he’s suddenly upset about everyone knowing about what’s going on, and then being mad at you for airing his dirty laundry (even though you haven’t).

      So just be aware of that, and if he tries to go there, shut it down by reminding him that it was his choice to share the details of your meetings with the rest of the team, not yours.

    12. Observer*

      Unless I’m mixing this up with a different case, what he is doing is actually a good thing, although incredibly stupid and unprofessional on his part. By talking like this, he is underscoring the fact that he has workplace issues. And, he’s letting people know something that you really do want them to know – ie that you are working seriously with him on the issues that they are seeing – without the need for you to act in an unprofessional.

      If he says anything to you about this, you could point out that you have been trying to be discreet to protect his privacy (and dignity.)

    13. Crush! Kill! Destroy!*

      Yeesh, how long have you been dealing with this guy?

      I don’t mean to be callous, and I’m sure you’ve got good reasons, but – it sure seems like this guy is drawing it out.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Actually, no – I’ll say more. This is NOT an easy thing. I could do the easy thing and shlep the problem off on another unsuspecting organization (which is essentially how we ended up with him), or I can do the right thing and follow the arduous bureaucratic process to either improve his performance or pursue discplinary action. I gave him a few months upon arrival to adjust to a new assignment because it was very different, and I gave him training – that’s fair and right. Once it was clear that wasn’t going to be enough, then I had to start a process. But I’m trying to do this right so I can appreciate that from the outside it looks like I’m just letting things fester, I’m not. I’m not going into a ton of detail because I’m not comfortable doing that, so I should probably just stop posting about it altogether.

          1. Crush! Kill! Destroy!*

            +10,000 Respect.

            (for the record, I didn’t mean to imply that you were doing it ‘wrong’. It’s more like: you’ve got a lot more tenacity than I do!)

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Thanks. I think it hit a nerve because I am just. so. frustrated. And stressed and tired but this situation is like a nonstop pebble in my shoe.

          2. J.B.*

            As a government employee I want to sincerely thank you for following the process and neither ignoring nor railroading. Either stinks for other employees.

          3. Anon Accountant*

            The government red tape of documenting performance issues and eventual dismissal if needed. Sometimes these organizations really tie management’s hands.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      I have seen bosses lay it on the line: “There will be no repeating this discussion outside of this office. Period.”

      OR: “If you discuss this outside of this meeting here, then x or y will happen next.”
      Where x or y is something about insubordination, or trying to rope others into something that is not their concern and hijacking the work process itself.

      The other technique I have seen used is “Several people have complained to me that you are complaining about our meetings during the work day.” Point blank let him know that what he says is repeated to you.

      Maybe consider it from the angle of “do I have the energy to pursue this problem on top of all the other problems?”

      OTOH, it might be helpful in building your case because you can show that you have put your best foot forward in counseling him and his response is to bad mouth you and your discussions together to the entire group. This clearly shows that he has no intention of following through with what you have told him to work on. And it is a talking point when you want to say the situation is not fixable.

    15. catsAreCool*

      I think leaving it alone sounds good. His co-workers are probably pleased to know that he’s being dealt with.

    16. Creag an Tuire*

      Y’know, it’s probably wishful thinking that -anything- will get through this guy’s skull, but you’d think that after his attempts to commiserate with his peers were met with either stony silence or outright support for the boss, he’d start to realize the problem was him?

  13. HigherEd Admin*

    I posted last week about a bad phone interviewer and a strange follow-up assignment. I had my HR phone screen yesterday and I really wish the HR conversation had happened first. I found out we were very far apart in terms of salary expectations (and that Glassdoor was right about this company paying lower than market value), and we essentially parted ways. I wish I knew this before I spent nearly an entire day completing the follow-up assignments!

    1. Sunflower*

      Feel the same way! I just had a phone interview and while it wasn’t a huge time suck, we butted heads a bit at the end of the interview over salary. Wish we would have addressed it sooner!

  14. Golden Yeti*

    It’s been a week, guys.

    Just this week, we lost 30% of our office staff. I’m struggling with jealousy of those who can have great opportunities come out of the blue just when they need it, or who can afford to just quit miserable jobs without financial concern (or a backup plan).

    Last week, one of the managers dared to correct one of “the untouchable ones,” even though this person was definitely out of line. This manager did it in the most diplomatic way possible and didn’t even direct the correction to this person specifically. Of course, the correct-ee got majorly offended and has been freezing this manager out as much as possible all week.

    Yesterday, one of the bosses was getting onto me for letting the manager of a department (who has a budget) know that there were outstanding balances in her department. This manager was concerned and brought it up to said boss the day before, who basically tried to divert the conversation. This boss emailed me a correction the next day, saying these matters should be brought to the financial boss and not the department head. (I had been bringing it up to the financial boss, but that boss has been out and these vendors were getting desperate.) In the correction, the boss went on to say basically that these things should be kept secret even from department managers and should be addressed by the bosses only. He then referenced the other situation with the correction, saying with “personal matters” feelings can get hurt, and you don’t want hurt feelings to accumulate in an office.

    Basically, the impression I got was that this boss wants any issues–even if they’re legitimate–to be ignored or swept under the rug. Even though they say they want positive changes to happen here, if suggested changes get uncomfortable (or hit too close to home), they wimp out.

    I just don’t want to deal with this anymore. I cannot even describe how much I don’t want to be at work today, and how much I want out of this job.

    1. Ali*

      I’m with you. One of my work friends got a promotion this week, which comes with a pay bump and better experience for him. And I know my response should be “Oh Friend congratulations you deserve this!” but I don’t really want to talk to him right now because I’m envious that he got the pay bump he kept telling me he needed, whereas I’m on the outs with my team and company. It’s so difficult.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Oh God. Not another one of those bosses that does not want anyone having hurt feelings. Unless of course, it’s you, then that is okay.
      ugh,ugh, ugh.

  15. Sharon*

    I have a mini-vent I want to talk about and see how other people handle this.

    I seem to be rather a process person. I don’t demand absolute conformity to the process because bringing things to a crawl purely for beaurocratic reasons is stupid and inefficient. I also tend to be a rule-bender rather than a rule-book-thumper. But I do prefer when things are efficient. The older I get the less tolerance I seem to have for things like the following:

    Company has a process in place. It’s documented and there is some effort to conform to it. I am generally second in the order of workflow with some overlap with the first and third actions/teams. Flexibility is good, we need to be able to sometimes smush two actions into one in order to deliver product faster. My issue is with one person, a manager of the team ahead of me in the workflow. She ends up doing tasks (or having her reports do tasks) that I should do, but as part of her initial action. Let me explain better. In our workflow, her team takes care of strategy, meaning advance planning of projects and feasibility studies. My part of the workflow is tactical; requirements gathering and getting customer buy-in for our implementation dates. Lots of times this strategy manager has her team do the customer buy-in and some of the requirements gathering at the same time as working on the feasibility study. I feel like I can’t jump ahead and do my tasks before she can because I don’t even know if we’ll do the project since the feasibility study isn’t done.

    This week she jumped ahead even further by declaring the end of this week to be the end of requirements gathering period for a fast-turnaround project before I’ve even done the requirements because I’m waiting for output from her team that won’t be done for another week or two. Everybody seems okay with this, that we’ll officially pass the “stage gate” even though the work’s not done for it, no big deal. But then you have to wonder why we even have the stage gates or the process!

    It also bothers me that there seems little solution to this. Upper management assumes rightly that we’re all professionals who will play nice and get the work done. I’m on board with that. Except for the people like this manager who subtly DON’T play nice. She’s asserting her preferences for how things are done, and the other managers (especially mine) go along with it because they’re professionals who play nice. This management approach tends to allow the strong personalities to dictate policy and I don’t think that’s quite what they want.

    When I bring up the issue professionally, people like my manager agree that it’s not ideal but don’t really do anything. If I make a stink then I’m the unprofessional person. I guess my solution is to just not care about the process, right?

    I run into this at every company I work for!

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Ooooh, I hate stuff like this. Circumventing these processes is like skimping on building codes. Sometimes you can get away with it, and you might save a little money. But other times you’ll be caught and you’ll have to retrofit it, which is a lot more work than just doing it right to begin with, or it could mean a complete teardown of everything because you can’t retrofit some omissions.

      As you can probably tell, I agree with you, but sometimes you have to say “OK, but if we skip these steps, we risk having to start this project all over again if the requirements change.” It might help if you have an example of when this happened, or could give a well-thought-out, thoroughly researched theoretical example.

      But sometimes they have to learn by making expensive, preventable mistakes first.

    2. Dawn*

      Honestly it sounds like you have more of a Waterfall approach to Project Management and this other manager has more of an Agile approach. You like things to progress from A to B to C in such a way that A is fully complete before B is started, and B is fully complete before C is started. However this other manager (barring any ill-intent on her part, which is impossible for me to know from your letter) is just wanting to get to C as fast as possible, so if she feels like A and B can be done concurrently and C can be truncated as a result of that, she’ll do things that way.

      Honestly I would think this could be worked out by sitting down with this manager and talking about how your team and her team can work concurrently towards the same things while honoring both the written processes and your individual project management styles.

      1. fposte*

        This is really interesting to me–I’m somebody who can get stuck on the process, and as with so many things I don’t always realize that the other person isn’t just doing process wrong but is doing it differently. Thanks for the insight.

      2. Sharon*

        Except it’s not MY process. It’s one that the department came up with and documented and seem to comply with. I’m actually rather new here and trying to figure out how things work while making the fewest mistakes, so her shortcuts – along with stepping on my toes by doing my work before I can get to it – is making it hard for me to know the right things to do at the right times.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think that really changes the value of Dawn’s suggestion, though–it’s not like you can wave a wand and make her not be that way, so why not meet and figure out a way to mesh the different approaches?

          I get the frustration that somebody’s not doing what they should be–I’d be frustrated too–but the goal isn’t really to correct her but to move forward, right?

        2. Meg Murry*

          Was your role un-filled for a while so she got used to doing B since there wasn’t a person there to do it?
          I think this is a good chance to play the “I’m new” card – as in, “I’m new here, but I thought I was supposed to do B after you do A, but you already did B on project XYZ. Is there a reason you did B instead of waiting for me?”
          Or substitute [Jane} did A instead of [you] if you take this to your boss. That way, its not tattling, its you trying to understand your job better. Its possible the documentation is out of date, regularly ignored, or doesn’t include the “except in case L, M, N, P” exceptions.

          1. Sharon*

            There was a reorg before I came on board, and she used to be a manager on the tactical side. So that’s why she keeps doing tactical work. The whole strategy thing is new and I don’t think she’s really fully embraced that.

            I don’t think there is a solution. My manager and the manager I had when I was first hired have both commented privately that she oversteps her bounds a lot. If THEY can’t/won’t do anything about it, it’s not my place to try to fix it. I mostly wanted to vent. :-) It’s sort of like I should be happy if she does my work, it’s less for me to do, right? But somehow it bugs me.

            1. The difficult art of mud-breathing*

              I sympathize, this sounds very close to her trying to make your job obsolete.

              Are there any negative business consequences to her not following the mandated process? I obviously don’t know all of the details, but I’d assume the process is in place for a reason? If she’s breaking the process and stomping all over something important – that’s bad. If she’s breaking the process but everything’s okay – I hate to say this, but maybe the process needs to be re-evaluated?

              If that’s the case – maybe this is an opportunity for you to sound the call for change? I know this is all hand-wavy and stuff. But if it does happen that the process is re-defined, wouldn’t you want to be in on it?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Have you asked your boss what to do when she takes your work and leaves you with nothing? There is no point to having you work there if there is nothing to do.

      Thought #2: Should the sequence of steps in the process be changed? Is information from step 2 necessary to complete step 1? Sometimes this happens where process order needs to be tweaked because of subtle changes that have worked into the system over time. When was the process order set? how long has it been since anyone has reviewed the process order?

      Thought #3. Maybe the two of you could just trade jobs? If she likes your work so much she could do that, and you could do hers?

  16. kristinyc*

    I have great news – I got the nonprofit job I’ve been talking about (and interviewing for…) for months! I’ll start at the end of March. I got the salary I wanted, and I’m really excited about it!! Now’s the fun part – I have to buy pretty much an entirely new work wardrobe! I haven’t had a dress code at work in about 5 years, and before then, I wore really ugly stodgy suits (that don’t fit anymore). I’ve been browsing Corporette and trying to figure out how to dress stylishly (I am in NYC after all) and professionally.

    1. Moonpie*

      Congratulations!! I found the Vivienne Files thanks to a previous open post blog list, and I really love her posts on how to start from scratch building a classic, enduring wardrobe with fashionable accents. Link in the next comment. Happy Shopping!

        1. Kyrielle*

          Thank you! I hadn’t seen this link before, and I’m looking at my wardrobe lately and frowning a bit, so…handy timing!

    2. I am now a llama*

      Yay!! Congratulations! I love Ann Taylor for professional clothing and they have good sales sometimes.

    3. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

      I’ll be honest, I find the more recent Corporette picks mostly meh. Try the Classy Cubicle for more fashion-forward looks.

      Also, I find in general it’s a lot easier to keep my base clothes very simple/classic (pencil skirts, sheath dresses, wool trousers, blazers) and then add style through up-to-date accessories, like a great bag, on-trend jewelry and/or scarves, and great shoes.

      1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

        Oh! Also! Since you’re in NYC – look for consignment and thrift shops. They’ll often have great clothes for a lot less than retail. I’ve gotten many a dress or blazer from my local thrift store, and at one point I had a deal with one of the consignment shops where she actually called me when a particular woman dropped off pants because we were the exact same (short) height and I was basically the only person who bought this woman’s hemmed pants.

        1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

          Edit: I don’t mean to suggest NYC alone has good consignment and thrift shops, I realize I worded that weirdly. I just meant NYC has a really extensive list of options, that’s all. :-)

          1. kristinyc*

            Thanks! Just added Classy Cubicle to my feedly. (Looks like the name changed – it’s now called “Memorandum.”

            I’ll check out consignment shops – great idea!

    4. Dawn*

      B) NY and CO is incredible for stuff like this. You might want to branch out after a while, when you figure out your personal corporate style, but NY&Co is freakin’ amazing for going in and buying four pants, three blazers, two button ups, two blouses, two dresses, shoes, belts, and jewelry that are all interchangeable, stylish, and affordable. And then when you have more of an idea of how you want to dress professionally you can start hitting up Banana Republic or Nordstrom or Bloomingdale’s for the higher end, super fashionable, crazy stylish stuff.

    5. Sparrow*

      Congrats! You may also find the blog Cap Hill Style helpful. I also follow Outfit Posts. It may be more on the casual end, but there are some posts with suits, etc.

      1. TNTT*

        For NFP, I think you’ll find Cap Hill Style much more helpful than Corporette, which has gotten weird/terrible.

    6. Sunflower*

      Yayy!!! May I suggest The Limited- they have a new collection based on Scandal and their stuff usually goes on at least 40% off sale. Same with Loft.

      1. kristinyc*

        I COMPLETELY forgot about the Limited!!! I used to shop there all the time, but they don’t have a store in NYC, so I haven’t been there in a while. They have some cute stuff online! :)

    7. Sparrow*

      Also wanted to mention You Look Fab. I haven’t been on in a while, but I remember the forums being very helpful.

    8. Otter box*

      Yay! Congratulations! I actually just did the exact same thing – I started my new non-profit job on Wednesday, and I spent the past two weekends hitting up sales at NY and Company, H&M, Banana Republic, Macy’s, and I think a couple others I’m forgetting. SO MUCH FUN! I’ve never had the means or a reason to so thoroughly re-vamp my wardrobe and it rocks! I still have some more things I want to get, so I might try the outlet mall here sometime soon too. I’ve also been reading the Capitol Hill Style blog, which has given me some good ideas.

      I wish you luck in your new job and I hope you have a great time shopping!

    9. afiendishthingy*

      That’s so exciting!! I had a low-paying job at a school where I couldn’t wear any jewelry a kid could yank on and choke me or rip an earlobe off, and my clothes had to be suitable for a full range of motion and for getting dirty, but professional enough that I wouldn’t get mistaken for a middle school student (I was 29 but petite). When I got a decent paying job in a mostly business casual office I was thrilled to get a new wardrobe, although mine was more along the lines of dress pants, shoes that were not sneakers, and cute little dressy tops from JCPenney. Things you have to iron or dry clean only things intimidate me. (Unlike you I am not in a stylish city.) (I’ve also been wearing this ridiculous knit hat lately that has those long braided cords coming down from the ear flaps, if I’m describing it well, and it is not professional in the slightest but dammit it keeps my ears warm.) Congratulations on the job and happy shopping – get some nicely fitted basics and you’ll be sharp :)

  17. LBK*

    Help! My friend/coworker needs some wording advice on a situation with our manager. This stuff is usually my forte but I’m stuck on this one.

    Here’s the deal: my coworker is part of a 5-person team with 2 senior reps and 3 non-senior. He’s a non-senior who has been here about as long as the 2 seniors. He’s frequently tasked with all sorts of additional responsibilities – testing new system updates, redesigning procedures, serving as a representative for the team in meetings or when there’s a visitor, having new employees shadow him, etc. 99.9% of the time, anything additional falls to him instead of the actual seniors. He was even brought in on a meeting yesterday with just the manager, the two seniors and himself – so clearly he’s being treated as a respected, important member of the team, but he doesn’t get the pay grade or the title to go with it.

    He’s asked about it before and has been given somewhat vague answers as to how and when he can become a senior. At this point he wants to make a firm declaration that either our manager needs to promote him, or he needs to give these responsibilities to the seniors because they’re being completely underutilized while getting paid more (some tasks have even been taken off the seniors and given to him!). Any suggestions on how to go about this conversation without making it sound like an ultimatum?

    1. fposte*

      I think he may need to pick one. It’s tough to simultaneously say “I love the new responsibilities and would like to see my growth reflected” and “Stop giving me this work.”

      I would opt for the first, because it sounds like that’s what he really wants, and the second is likely to both fail and hurt him. I also think he needs to start looking at external possibilities, since it’s quite possible his workplace isn’t interested in changing this. Since this has been in discussion for a while, I’d push harder to say “I know we’ve talked about the future on this, but I’d like to get more specific on the timeline. I’m doing senior-level workload without senior-level title or compensation. I’d like to ask for a promotion to Whatever It Should Be and a salary bump of x% by my mid-year review–how do we make this happen, and who else should we loop in?”

      1. LBK*

        That was my first instinct – to treat this the same way he should if there weren’t any other seniors and base it solely around the work he does and his desire to be adequately compensated for it. I suspect he’ll have to end up going with the external option, honestly. I can tell our manager is nervous about a “too many chiefs, not enough Indians” situation if over half the team are senior reps.

        It also doesn’t help that the criteria for becoming a senior is extremely vague. It had traditionally been given to someone who had been in the position for at least a year and proven to be a peer leader among the team, but then he hired someone directly into a senior position and she has turned out to only be an adequate employee – no signs of leadership and nothing particularly great about the work she does.

        At any rate, thanks for the insight, as always!

        1. LBK*

          (Also just to clarify my relationship to the work here since it probably sounds weird – we work on two separate teams under the same manager, and I used to be one of the seniors on his team before I moved to this one so I know the ins and outs of the work and positions.)

        2. The difficult art of mud-breathing*

          I know you don’t mean anything bad by it – I grew up using the expression myself – but I recently discovered that it’s not good to use the phrase “too many chiefs, not enough Indians” if your group has large numbers of programming resources in Asia.

          1. ella*

            I don’t think it’s particularly flattering to Native Americans either. Maybe go with the more innocuous “too many cooks in the kitchen” and leave the cultural references out altogether.

    2. OhNo*

      It’s going to be hard NOT to make it sounds like an ultimatum when it is, in fact, an ultimatum. Your coworker needs to tone it down and accept that there may be other things that the seniors are doing instead of these tasks, and that this is clearly the way the boss wants things to be arranged.

      That said, if the coworker was willing to compromise and listen, it would definitely be a good conversation to have with their boss. Talk about why certain tasks are getting assigned to them, and if it’s possible to distribute them more evenly, and what to do when they get overwhelmed by tasks that the seniors could help with but aren’t for whatever reason. They can express concerns about their personal workload, but no one else’s workload should be included in the conversation, because it’s not relevant.

      Also, if possible, they should separate out the issue of becoming a senior from this conversation. Otherwise it runs the risk of coming off as a whiny, “but I don’t wanna do X, I wanna be a senior!” kind of complaint instead.

      1. LBK*

        Part of the problem with this approach is that the workload isn’t unmanageable. That’s probably part of why he always gets selected – regardless of the amount of work, he always finds a fast and efficient way to get it all done in the span of 40 hours per week. The only source of frustration with being assigned all the additional work is the misallocation to a junior rep when the seniors are available (and they are – everyone’s workload is extremely visible due to the system we use, there’s no question that they have availability to handle additional tasks).

        1. OhNo*

          Then perhaps it would be worth discussing the nature of the tasks, rather than the number of them. Like… they’re happy to help out, but they feel uncomfortable with managing senior-level tasks as a junior-level employee. Then propose some kind of solution that the management might agree to (since it sounds like they are dragging their feet on the title bump).

          I’m not sure what the solution would be offhand (small raise? opportunities for more/different training related to these tasks? more chance to collaborate on some important/interesting project?), since that will probably depend a lot on what your office does, exactly.

    3. Dwight K Schrute*

      I am in a similar situation. I have 4 “senior” coworkers and I’m the only junior. The difference in titles is purely driven by authority to make decisions. Once I realized I make the same decisions and do the same amount of work (and then some), I made a list for my manager to note all the similarities. I used that list to suggest a title change and promotion. At the time, the suggestion was well received, but no changes could be made until everyone’s annual reviews. When I found out about the extended time period for a change to occur, I (politely) said I was open to taking on various tasks, but that they needed to be limited to fit within my current junior authority until the promotion was made. My manager honestly didn’t realize I had taken on so much extra work and was not upset by the various conversations. Also, this lead to discussions about the efficiency and processes of the department as a whole and what changes needed to be made.

      My story will have a happy ending soon, but I was prepared to look elsewhere if my request wasn’t met. I’d advise the same for your coworker. If the roles can’t be changed or there’s no firm timeline in place for a change, they need to start looking.

  18. Which would you rather see?*

    I am looking to move on from my current position but have only been there for about 1.5 years.

    I originally took the position, which was a step-back from previous positions, because I had some health issues that I needed to deal with and additional stress was verboten. I am happy to say that the health issues have been resolved and I’m looking to get back into my previous career path.

    During the time I’ve worked for current company they were taken over by a large international holding company which includes their biggest competitor.

    So my question is, if you were hiring, which reason for the short tenure would you rather see in a cover letter – looking to move on because of now-resolved health issues or because of the uncertainty that a purchase raises for existing staff?

    1. fposte*

      My gut reaction is that I don’t want to see your reasons for leaving in a cover letter, period. That’s an interview question to me. I’ll be interested to hear what other people think.

      1. OhNo*

        I agree. I’d prefer to see information about why you’re excited for this job in your cover letter, not information about why you’re excited to leave your last one.

        1. Jennifer*

          Nthing don’t mention it in cover letter–just point out the great opportunities you see in the job listing.

          As for the interview…I think you’re never supposed to mention health issues unless you absolutely have to.

      2. Which would you rather see?*

        But don’t I need to address 2 things – 1) going backward in positions; and 2) wanting to leave a place so quickly? Both of those seem like red flags to me.

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            Agreed. Also, a year and a half is really not *that* short of a window, and it may be obvious from your resume that your current position is a step backward, which may make “and I’m looking to get into a role more in line with my previous career track” kind of a given. If you are asked, in an interview, why you took the step-backwards role, then you can explain you needed a job that would allow you to deal with a now happily resolved health issue.

        1. Dawn*

          Honestly I think it’s all about how you present yourself. To you, you know that it was going backwards on a career path, but the hiring manager is only going to know that if you tell them. Present the awesome things you did at every job on your resume in such a way that it plays up your strengths independent of your job titles.

          Also it kind of sounds like you’re ashamed of the position you’re in currently, when there’s no need to be! It’s what you needed when you needed it, and now you’re ready to move on. If your work history is otherwise stellar, I really don’t think that anyone’s going to bat an eye at you looking after 8 months- sometimes positions don’t work out, or aren’t a good fit, or whatever, and people need to leave.

          People pick up on your energy when you talk about things. So if you talk about your current position as a “crappy step backwards” and are really apologetic about looking after only 8 months, then they’re going to pick up on that and it’s going to reflect badly on you as a candidate. However, if you are really positive about what you liked about your current position and the accomplishments that you had, and if you keep your tone positive about jobs you are applying to and act enthusiastic, I seriously doubt anyone’s going to bat an eye about the timeline. And if they do (during an interview, probably), just say you are ready for more responsibility and commitment to a job after taking your current job due to health reasons or whatever.

    2. RandomName*

      I understand why you feel like you need to put this information in a cover letter. At the last company I worked for, after having worked there only 8 months, I received notice that they were restructuring and I would have to leave my job 6 months later when the transition period was over. I felt like I needed to address that somewhere in either my resume or cover letter because I had only been at the position prior to that for 1 year and I didn’t want to look like a job hopper. I ended up putting an asterisk on my resume next to the dates for that position with a small note right below it saying, “Position being relocated due to restructuring.” I think some people would not find that to be appropriate and think I should have waited for an interview to address why I was seeking other employment, but I was worried I wouldn’t even get to the interview stage to explain why I was looking to leave after only 8 months. I don’t think it hurt me because I was called back for interviews with most of the companies I applied to (I used tailored resumes and cover letters for each position like this site suggests). But who knows, maybe I still would have gotten the interviews anyway. It’s tough to say.

  19. TotesMaGoats*

    This is a straight up brag about my sister. She is a hematology/oncology pediatric nurse. Finished her MS last summer and wants to move onto being a nurse educator. With help from me on her resume and cover letter, because she hadn’t had to do one in 10 years, and some interview quizzing and fashion help. She didn’t just nail the first interview but got a call back the same day for a second interview. And the salary bump is almost $25k more than she makes now! Way to go little sis.

    But really the thanks goes to AAM and the community here for giving me such valuable information to share with her to help prepare.

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      Hooray! That’s great that you were able to help her out, and great news for her–and well deserved, because pediatric oncology nurses are angels walking the earth in human form. <3

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Yes, she is absolutely an angel and she loves her kids so much. I know she’ll miss being on the floor but she wants to move into being a clinical nurse educator.

  20. Anon for this*

    A job has been posted that I think is both a great opportunity for me AND maybe I shouldn’t even bother to apply because I want to avoid burning bridges with this employer.

    Reasons to stay away: it’s a senior title, definitely a stretch for me but exactly the direction I want to stretch in, and it’s also in the location I want to live so I could likely stay a long time. My current employers use a not-so-great title for my line of work which will make me sound more junior than I am, making it even less plausible, even though I believe I can make a case for meeting their requirements (while understanding that others could make better case or have a longer history of meeting the requirements). It’s a major employer in my desired location and I don’t want to look desperate by applying for something that seems unrealistic. It was posted a week ago and not advertised in any of the usual places, which to me suggests “internal candidate in mind.”

    Worst of all, I have a prior bad experience with this employer including people certain to be involved in this hire. I applied there 2.5 years ago, did a phone interview and never heard back. A couple weeks later, I was offered my current job in my less desirable location. There was no HR contact ever involved, so I emailed the main interviewer, thinking that having another offer with a deadline was a reasonable reason to check in. I didn’t hear back for several days. Not knowing about this blog at that time, and in a panic about the deadline, I placed a phone call to one of the other interviewers, who didn’t know anything. I accepted *that* as a “no,” took my current job, and never heard back from them–a year later they hired someone with very different qualifications, so I think they had no idea what they wanted. I thought they were being rude and I’m pretty sure they thought I was crazy because a contact there later said “the follow-up call at XYZ is not necessary” (in what I perceived as a snarky tone at the time although I think it was kindly meant and she was probably struggling to warn me gracefully).

    So I’m afraid that applying for a job there will just make them think “oh, it’s crazy old Anon again, she’ll apply for anything.” *Obviously* if I did apply, I’d put in my application and never ever call or email them again no matter how much they blew me off, but should I not even *try* if it doesn’t seem like a perfect and obvious match? Of course, being so afraid of irritating them that I never apply for anything also gets me nowhere.

    1. fposte*

      I think you’re overthinking the hell out of this.

      I don’t think you’re going to hurt yourself by applying, and I don’t think the signs guarantee an internal candidate. I don’t think two contacts, with time in between, when there was silence after an interview has pegged you as a major crazy in the company; I think it’s likelier they don’t actually remember you.

      And even if everything you suspect is true, I don’t see it as hurting any future endeavors to apply. You don’t get “liking you better now” credits from a company for skipping application opportunities, so waiting this round out wouldn’t get you anything.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Plus, worst case is you apply and they don’t respond. Then, in a couple of years when you might apply for something else, your last interaction with them was totally professional.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Yep. IF your history with them marks you as weird or crazy to them and they remember you (which IMO shouldn’t be the case based on what you’ve said here), then they’ll reject your application. If that doesn’t happen, but they don’t think you meet the requirements, then they’ll reject your application.

        What have you lost in that case? The time spent applying – so what?

        For the scenario where they phone screen and/or interview you, I’d be prepared with a response if these issues come up. I wouldn’t tackle the “weird” earlier application at all unless they bring it up; I would, in your shoes, sell my relevant skills, of course.

        But you’ve very little to lose and potentially a good job to gain, it sounds like.

      3. Anon for this*

        Thank you! And yes, you’re right… I could tell I was overthinking it, but then I couldn’t tell whether it was in the direction of “sheesh, what do you have to lose” or “why would you apply somewhere that doesn’t like you?”

        The responses saying they might not even remember are especially helpful because, as you can tell, I was mortified by the whole thing.

        I’m still concerned that I am, or will come off as, too inexperienced for the position, but that’s garden-variety imposter syndrome talking, I think. Plus I sometimes hear about someone getting a real solid promotion and think “Yeah! Go {person}!” and eventually that could be me, right? I’ll work on an application and if I can put something together that doesn’t feel like a house of cards, I’ll send it in.

        Really appreciate it!

    2. I am now a llama*

      I think you should apply! It sounds like it’s been over a year and at this point, they may not even remember (or be there anymore). One email and one phone call follow up when you have a pending job offer doesn’t seem very “wow, she is NUTS” to me.

      Good luck!!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Worst case scenario- if they tell you that you are nuts for applying, you will not die from that.

        However, if you do not apply you will wonder what would have happened for a very long time.

  21. MostCommonLastName*

    I’m nearing the end of my six month contract and already have one interview booked two weeks from now. My issue is how to speak about one of my projects in the upcoming interview and any future ones. I was involved in the planning and execution of a one day festival that was outdoors. In February. It ended up being the coldest day of the year at -40C and unsurprisingly, we ended up having to cancel. I’d still like to talk about the work I did with the festival, I worked for the last five months on it, but I’m not sure how/if I should since I can’t speak about attendance since it was nonexistent. I think most interviewers would understand that you can’t control the weather, but I worry about what they’ll think when I say I had to cancel everything. Any advice would be great!

    1. Apple22over7*

      Definitely speak of your experience in arranging the festival, and explain that unfortuantely it had to be cancelled because of extreme weather. I would then speak to what you did to limit the impact of the cancellation – did you negotiate (partial) refunds for equipment/services you’d paid for? Did you communicate with ticketholders/exhibitors about the cancellation and resolve any problems there may have been from them? I’m sure you would have some work to do and whilst attendance numbers can’t be counted, you certainly can explain what you did to limit the impact and make it as successful a cancellation as possible.

    2. puddin*

      Sometimes we learn the most when plans go awry. Talk about how you handled the decision to cancel…how it was communicated, did you re-schedule or what alternate plans did you consider before you cancelled? How did you contact the suppliers/vendors/partners, did this cost money to cancel, if so how will you re-coop?

  22. Apple22over7*

    How much should I trust recruiter’s judgement? I’m working with a recruiter to find a new job at the moment, and she’s sending me details of jobs which look really cool on paper, but going through the essential skills & requirements I have maybe 70% of the required skills. These are also jobs with salaries of 20% or more than I’m currently earning.

    On the one hand I think it’s great that someone thinks I’d be good for these roles, but another part of me is worried that the recruiter is putting me forward for jobs which are too much of a leap for my actual skills. I have got an interview through her next week so maybe she’s not aiming too high for me.. but in my own independent job hunt, I’m looking at applying for jobs which are at a lower level than the ones I’m being put forward for with the recruiter. Should I trust that the recruiter knows what she’s doing, and maybe even start looking at the slightly higher level roles in my own searches?

    (Also, mini-rant – why can’t companies specify what Excel skills they want rather than just listing “advanced” or “intermediate”? I applied for one job which needed advanced excel skills, and when I got to an interview I was told the job involved nothing moer than creating basic graphs. Another job asked for intermediate skills, but the job required extensive use of pivot tables and indepth knowledge of VBA macros. Grr. Make up your minds!!)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Well, I suppose you could just ask her. Sometimes companies will put all the skills they can think of and if their best candidates have at least most of them, they come out ahead. There isn’t anyone who will rock at every single thing. She may think you have an excellent shot at these, especially if she’s worked with these companies before.

      But I’d want to talk to her about her reasons for that, before making up my mind one way or the other.

    2. Sunflower*

      Hmm I would trust her as long as you’ve conveyed the right information to her. 70% of the required skills is still a good match-up. Maybe something you did in the past is especially desirable so it’s giving you a leg up.

      I would open yourself up to independently looking at job’s more on the recruiters level. 70% isn’t a huge reach and no one would think you’re out of line for applying.

      On your rant about excel skills, I’m not sure what industry you’re in but I’d say it depends on the position and most of it is based on who made the job description. Excel is not used widely in our office and I think most people would think that graphs are advanced. We have forms we create in Excel that require really basic math skills like adding up columns. When I first went in to update them, I noticed none of them had formulas or functions. Someone had manually added up numbers!! So yeah for some people, advanced excel skills are basic functions

    3. voluptuousfire*

      (Also, mini-rant – why can’t companies specify what Excel skills they want rather than just listing “advanced” or “intermediate”? I applied for one job which needed advanced excel skills, and when I got to an interview I was told the job involved nothing moer than creating basic graphs. Another job asked for intermediate skills, but the job required extensive use of pivot tables and indepth knowledge of VBA macros. Grr. Make up your minds!!)

      I’ve ranted about this quite a bit myself. Once I applied for a job that required “working knowledge of Excel.” Great! Turns out it meant extensive knowledge of pivot tables and how to clean data and such. That’s a difference of opinion the size of the Grand Canyon. Needless to say I’ve seen this job posted for months and it never seems to have been filled.

      I also see a lot of ads that ask for candidates to be “proficient” in a software. Again, totally subjective. When they’re not specific enough about experience with a software, it really does waste both their and the candidate’s time, especially if it’s a large part of the role. Never did get that sort of thing.

      The other week, I saw a job ad that explained what they required in experience for MS Office. I saved it, because it was so brilliant:

      Strong Microsoft Office Suite skills – example
      Word – inserting headers / footers, page breaks, page numbers and tables and/or adjusting table columns
      Excel – using SUM function, setting borders, setting column width, inserting charts, using text wrap, sorting, setting headers and footers and/or print scaling
      PowerPoint – applying a theme, formatting character spacing, inserting a picture, changing slide layout and theme colors, adding transitions, customizing slide numbers, changing chart style and/or formatting font

      I wasn’t qualified for the role but wanted to write the company a thank you note for being so diligent with their job descriptions.

    4. Sherm*

      As Elizabeth West said, sometimes employers list a million things that they would like, but they won’t think that an applicant who can’t meet every qualification is unsuitable for the job. I’ve certainly run into bad recruiters, butthey suggested positions in which I wasn’t 20% qualified. 70% sounds reasonable to me, as long as something in the other 30% isn’t a Big Deal (like “must have a medical degree and a lengthy publication record”). The fact that you got an interview is a good sign. But even if you have the world’s best recruiter, continue searching for jobs independently, too.

    5. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Also, mini-rant – why can’t companies specify what Excel skills they want rather than just listing “advanced” or “intermediate”?

      Ha — you have just reminded me of the job ad I saw recently which said “We require highly advanced Excel skills, including pivot tables and VLOOKUP”. Sigh. Apparently I could have been listing ‘highly advanced Excel skills’ on my resume all this time :P

  23. Shell*

    Earlier this week, my new boss asked me to see if I can find some documents that my predecessor might’ve worked on. I searched the computer and didn’t find anything, so I started going through the piles of paper on my desk that I inherited from my predecessor. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did find my predecessor’s employment contract and his performance review. Why he left that lying around on top of the desk is beyond me.

    Since that is not something I should be privy too, I walked the documents over to my boss and told her that this shouldn’t be on my desk. And I know I did the right thing in doing that.

    …but damn, I am really, really curious as to what my predecessor’s salary was.

    My mom pointed out that I could’ve read the documents and then returned them, which I said the point was that this is not information I should be privy to. Mom’s rather disheartening reply was that my boss probably assumed I read them before I returned them, adding that if she was in my boss’s place, that’s exactly what she would assume.

    Damned if I do and damned if I don’t! Mom’s reply is making me wish I did read it in the first place xP (Though…no. I just think of Alison’s disapproving face and I’m glad I didn’t read it. But I am so, so curious…)

    I know in the end, it’s more useful to look at market rates and figure out if I’m in line with that for my given experience/job/duties. But if I knew the previous person’s pay…well, if it was higher, than I have an idea of what to aim for/maybe get an idea of how much I can get in terms of raise/etc. Knowledge is power, right? :P (And if it was lower, then I can be happy for a bit.)

      1. CollegeAdmin*

        Me too. Actually, confession: My manager saved her paystub in our shared folder and I totally looked at it. I then moved it and her other personal documents (credit report, lease agreement, etc.) into a folder called “Manager’s Personal” and told her all that stuff was there. She then didn’t move the documents for another 3 months, despite knowing that I had access.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Same. Totally nosy here. The key to being nosy is to keep all that info to yourself– it’s like Googling your blind date but pretending you know nothing about him.

    1. cajun2core*

      You did the right thing.

      There would have been no benefit to you seeing his salary. As Allison has said many times here, salaries are independently negotiated. Just because one person gets more money than you do even if you perform the same job, doesn’t mean that you are entitled to that salary. Also, that person’s salary may have been their ending salary which may have been based upon years working with the company.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Ignorance is bliss. I think you did the right thing. No matter what the salary was, or what the notes said, it likely would have made you upset. When you get a peek of information, it is so easy to misinterpret it because you don’t have the whole picture.
      I hope your boss gives you kudos for returning the documents!

    3. Brett*

      The performance review might have been way more interesting and useful than the salary.

      When I took this job…
      I received my predecessor’s workstation. He left a pros/cons list in his “My Documents” folder titled something like “Should I quit my job”. At the time he wrote the document, he had been with this organization exactly as long as I have now been here. Now I know that the “cons” half of his list was dead-on (I did actually get in touch with him to let him know that was left behind, and he told me I should read it).

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Remember though that their ending salary might have been higher if your predecessor were in the job for a while. I can’t blame you for being curious, however; I would have felt the same way!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Please let yourself up for air.
      You’ve got it set up so you will not win either way.
      FWIW, I agree with the others, you did the right thing. I have gone in both directions with similar situations. I found that I am actually happier not knowing. Even if you found out that she made less than you do- you could still find something to chew on. Like maybe she worked there x years and all her raises added up to less than what you make starting out. What does that bode for you in years to come? grrr. NO, stay out of this stuff. The work day is hard enough.

    6. Clever Name*

      I once came across a disciplinary action letter for a coworker when I was searching through a former employees files for records pertinent to my job. I have no idea why former employee had that document, but I read the hell out of it. (And never mentioned a word of it to a soul)

  24. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    My boss is having the Labour Board come for an investigation next week. This week he’s been telling us that he may or may not close the place for a week in March. Why? “To cut payroll over spring break when it’s always dead.” The flaw in this plan is that we work over an entire country, none of which has break at the same time, and we are always incredibly busy EVERY week in March! My boss always goes to Cuba that week–he’s never been here and therefore seems to believe that while the former and following weeks are busy as hell, that one week is dead because he personally spends it in Cuba.

    Not to mention we would like to know beforehand if he’s going to randomly close for a week!

    It’s so very difficult to retain any sort of enthusiasm or energy for work when every week we have some kind of ridiculous curveball thrown our way!

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        I have an interview next week that I’m fairly cautious about, since the interviewer gas already changed the job description from the initial listing (from full time to part time)–but it won’t hurt me to go and see what the deal is there. If nothing else I’d like the practice interviewing!

  25. Ali*

    So I had a phone interview yesterday and I have mixed feelings about how it went. Overall, I feel very positive about it and it was a pleasant surprise to hear from the company. I’d applied there in December, and the recruiter didn’t schedule my phone interview until Tuesday. I seemed to have a good rapport with the woman yesterday and I tried to ask engaging questions and show that I’d done my homework. (It was a social media job, so I mentioned looking at their Instagram and the things they do, for example.) However, as seems to be par for the course with some of my interviews, she said she’s concerned that I don’t have the experience they’re looking for but that she’ll talk with the hiring manager to see how big of a deal it is before bringing me in from out of town.

    I’m kind of upset that this “you don’t have experience” thing keeps cropping up when the companies are the ones calling me for interviews when they know what is and isn’t on my resume. But, this company is based in NYC and is a big brand name to boot, so I also feel confident knowing my resume was good enough to solicit an interview from out of my hometown. And it came just as I was thinking no one in NYC would ever call me. So I guess that’s good?

    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. This is the second interview I’ve had since the start of the new year, so I have some faith that my resume/cover letter aren’t all that bad.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Sounds like your cover letter/resume are excellent, if the lack of experience is a concern but they’re still calling you – there was enough promising about your materials to make them want to talk to you, and enough promising about your phone interview that while they’re being honest that the experience might be an issue, they’re still considering moving forward – subject to the hiring manager’s input. Fingers crossed, but at least you know you’re doing well on how you present yourself, written and verbal. :)

  26. Anon for this*

    So…I’m 36.5 weeks pregnant, and my boss keeps making comments about how happy she is there’s another chubby person in the office, and I no longer look like I’m using the hallway as a runway to show people how skinny I am. Like…multiple times a day. I’m a pretty laid back person, but this is entering wtf territory for me.

    I can usually just shrug it off, but sometimes you just need to vent, you know?

      1. nona*

        Replying to myself because I decided not to say it the first time, but I’m going to say it.

        Comments about your body would be unacceptable from anybody else. This woman’s no better than a strange man bothering you on the street.

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      That is utterly bizarre and off putting. If it were me, I would probably just mentally chalk it up to weirdness and let it go since you’ll be on mat leave fairly soon–but if it gets too much for you, I think you’d be within your rights to say “Boss, would you mind not remarking on my size, please?” because wow.

      1. LBK*

        The part that gets me though is that apparently the manager has been silently judging her when she was thinner. That’s just as inappropriate.

          1. LBK*

            I almost think that’s worse…I’d at least want to know if someone was judging me for something really weird and inappropriate so I could put a stop to it. Imagine if she’d never gotten pregnant and the manager had just perpetually thought of her as a show off without ever telling her.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Well, yes. But people are going to judge. You can’t really concern yourself with what people think. You can DEFINITELY concern yourself with what they say though.

        1. Anon for this*

          There’s something very weight-centric about my particular office. Most people do weight watchers together and multiple people have commented about what I’m eating when I wasn’t pregnant. Note: it’s not a pound of m&ms everyday. Mostly sandwiches.

          E.g. “I wish I could eat whatever I want and not gain weight.”

          Uh, yeah…me too.

          1. Anonsie*

            Oh lord, I’ve gotten this before. It’s especially weird because I’m not actually very thin or hot or anything, I’m not the Cerie to their Liz Lemon or whatever. It is 100% about them and projecting their own feelings about their own bodies onto people around them.

    2. LBK*

      Wow. That is wildly inappropriate. I would say something along the lines of “I’d appreciate if you would stop making comments about my weight, both current and past. If there’s a problem with the way I carry myself that affects my perception as an employee and colleague, please let me know so it can be addressed, but otherwise I’d prefer to focus on my work rather than my appearance.”

    3. LizB*

      Whoa, that is super wtf and inappropriate. I don’t know how to address it exactly — if you had a good relationship with your boss, you could mention that you prefer not to have people make comments about your body (which should be common sense)… but if she’s making these comments in the first place, she’s clearly not a reasonable person.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      You’d be 100% in the right saying something short and direct like “I’m really uncomfortable with you commenting about my size – please stop!”

      You can use “please” because she’s your boss.

      She has issues.

    5. MJH*

      Maybe a puzzled and concerned, “Is that how I come across when I’m not pregnant?” like you are really sad and hurt? Because that is how I would feel if someone said that to me. I mean, if you feel like dealing with it.

      (Also, I am 38.5 weeks pregnant, so, my sympathies.)

    6. hildi*

      Is she heavy? Probably completely insecure. Those kind of comments always come from insecurity. People that are fine with themselves are usually fine with others in this regard. Will be curious to how she reacts after your baby is born. Congrats, btw!

      1. hildi*

        And holy crap I better qualify this by saying that I don’t believe all heavy people {raising my hand here} are insecure and jealous of others. Just when there’s this kind of vitriol coming from someone I would argue there’s insecurity at the root of it.

        1. LBK*

          I totally got that sense too – sounds like projection of her own body issues more than anything the OP is doing.

    7. Elkay*

      Are you not tempted to start treating the hallway as a runway and doing a spin every time you get to the end?

      1. Traveller*

        Take your jacket off half way, look back over your shoulder and stick your hip out before going back the other way!

    8. Anon for this*

      I guess I should mention that we have always had a ‘jokey’ relationship, and I suspect that the majority of this comes from that place…it doesn’t make it ok, but it doesn’t make me feel as bad about it. Part of it is just trying to be funny and failing miserably.

      1. fposte*

        Oof. I think guiding her away from these jokes would be a kindness to her as well as a seriously good thing for you. “Please don’t make comments about my body–it makes me really uncomfortable” is another script possibility.

      2. LBK*

        I think it’s fine to say in that case “I know we normally have a friendly, joking relationship, but this is one area that’s more sensitive and I’d prefer not to joke about it.”

      3. Mephyle*

        I fear that remarks like “Please don’t comment on my body, it makes me uncomfortable” are not going to sit well with her. Her reaction (interior) will likely be “Oh, you’re uncomfortable? Well I’m uncomfortable being heavy. All the time. And it’s not going to change in a few weeks, unlike you. So you’re going to hear about it.”

    9. Steve G*

      Tell her it would be a moot point if she did something to lose they weight besides talk about it, and tell her not to worry, she will once again be the only office “chubby.”

      Woops, my NY attitude has slipped out again..

    10. LizNYC*

      Your best response might be to just say “Wow,” per Carolyn Hax, and see what she does. These comments are totally inappropriate.

    11. Nerd Girl*

      I would be tempted to say something along the lines of “well, I am making a human being with my body and in 3.5 weeks the office will have lost it’s other chubby person. Make sure this runway is clear so when I come back from Maternity leave I can strut my stuff.”
      Of course, I wouldn’t actually say it but I’d bust my butt to lose that baby weight and I WOULD strut down that hallway my first day back. :)

    12. Flip Side*

      I can relate somewhat to this… I’ve lost 60 pounds in the last year through eating less & moving more. Whenever I run into a co-worker, I get a “You look GREAT!” comment. Wtf? Did I look terrible before?!

      I don’t know which is worse, that or the side eye glances at me.

    13. Vanelope Von Schweetz*

      I totally get it. When I was pregnant, I had a co-worker say to me that I looked huge at 25 weeks and I looked like I was having twins. I was SO mad.

  27. Calla*

    Since I’ve been house-ridden post surgery I’ve been doing things to entertain myself like reading the glassdoor reviews, including my current company. And within the last 1-2 months, HR’s responses on the site to (validly) dissatisfied employees have included blatant lies that I and anyone currently at the company would know. Like factually, statistically wrong, not just opinion or putting a spin. So when people tell you to take glassdoor with a grain of salt, definitely do it for both sides!

    1. Sunflower*

      Glassdoor has become my enemy I can never win with. If I see too many positive reviews, I think something is up. I looked up a staffing company on there and they had terrible reviews. I clicked on a very similar company and it sounded cult like with the way people described the work. Felt like the company made their employees go in and write how amazing they were!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Mine had one bad review that was obviously people upset with a particular manager/office culture and the rest were quite positive. It made me wonder, but it actually is a really good company to work for, which verified what I’ve heard through the grapevine.

  28. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’m hoping the ad problems of the last 1-2 weeks may have been largely fixed as of this morning.

    However, if you start seeing ad problems again, please (a) clear your cache and (b) if you’re still seeing them after that, email me (alison @ with details. Thank you!

    1. CAA*

      I am still seeing an occasional problem that I haven’t pinned down. The way I read AAM and other blogs is to start from Feedly and use my middle mouse button to open the posts I want to read in a new tab. I then go from tab to tab, reading each item. I’m now getting a Flash plugin error on the AAM pages from time to time. My whole browser slows to a crawl and then I get the popup asking if I want to stop the script. I can’t tell if there’s a specific ad that’s got bad Flash code, or if it just doesn’t like to run when it’s not the tab with focus. Disqus scripts also cause a lot of problems on other blogs when they’re loading on background tabs, so it could be something like that.

      If I’m able to pin it down to a specific ad, I’ll email you.

        1. CAA*

          I agree, it’s not a Feedly issue, it’s coming from a background tab, which would not be Feedly. Yes, I’ve cleared my browser’s cache and Flash’s cache. Also verified that both computers that have experienced the problem have the latest Flash plug-in and latest version of Firefox.

          I did see the problem earlier today, but at that time I had tabs other than AAM also open in the background, so I can’t conclude that today’s issue was related to an AAM ad; though I am certain that yesterday’s occurrence was.

  29. charlotte*

    Hi all,

    Any ideas on giving presents to bosses?

    I’m one year into my job and my boss’ birthday is around the corner. Any suggestion? Nothing fancy and expensive. Maybe the price of a Starbucks drink. What do you all think? Is this appropriate? Any other ideas??

    1. Calla*

      I have never given a real gift to my boss, and I think that’s the general advice. However, I don’t think recognition (i.e. a card) or a small treat are out of line. By small treat I mean get her that Starbucks drink if you know her favorite, a bag of Lindt truffles if you know she likes chocolate, etc. If you can do something to make her day easier (i.e. as an admin, if she plans on working, I’d still make the day light on meetings), then do that.

    2. Natalie*

      I wouldn’t. Gifts usually flow downward in an office environment, from bosses to junior staff. If you really feel you want to mark the occasion, maybe give your boss a nice card.

    3. RandomName*

      I wouldn’t give a gift to your boss at all. You could circulate a card that you and his/her other direct reports sign with nice messages in them or treat you’ve baked at home. My direct report gave me a Christmas gift this year and I thanked him for it and told him I appreciated his thinking of me, but that it wasn’t necessary, his hard work is enough, and that office etiquette dictates that gifts should flow downward.

    4. Darth Admin*

      Don’t. I’d be really uncomfortable if my reports got me a present for my birthday. It was weird enough when someone brought in a cake. Very nice – don’t get me wrong – but I don’t want people to feel like they have to do that. Far better would be to simply wish her a happy birthday and maybe tell her something you like about working with her.

    5. Hlyssande*

      We did give our supervisor and manager gifts for the holidays this year. I was a little uncomfortable with it, but they were both really happy and we combined it with bringing in snacks and drinks for just our team. Made for a nice thing the Friday before the holidays.

    6. Sunflower*

      I wouldn’t give one. A card is nice and fine enough. Maybe make a baked item if you really wish to do something?

    7. Hearts On Fire*

      I think a nice card and/or some homemade treats (i.e. cupcakes, cookies, etc.) is fine.

      Please don’t do what some of my former co-workers did – buy their boss a diamond bracelet, an expensive lunch, and a $100 birthday cake. Wow.

      1. charlotte*

        Hi all,

        II was thinking something more like a Starbucks coffee, not really some expensive stuff. Would that still work? How would getting a cup of coffee differ from something I baked myself (for those who suggested bakes) because baking seems to require more effort than a cup of coffee.

        Thanks for all your inputs!

        1. EmilyG*

          From my POV the baking would be less sensitive because it could be with an air of “I just love to bake so I brought something in!” (although of course sometimes people get pressganged into baking…) and also it could be something the whole office could share in honor of someone’s bday instead of a gift to just that person, which seems more low key to me.

          But I agree with the people saying to just get a card or say something to acknowledge it. I try to make sure no one knows my birthday. If someone gave me a gift I’d start wondering “Do I have to keep track of everyone’s birthdays on the team and acknowledge them or else look like a jerk?” :/

  30. Margaret Lea*

    I manage a call center. In one of my year-end reports, I suggested getting rid of a specific calling shift and transitioning the callers to other shifts. Yesterday, I had a meeting in the head office and they love my idea but I have to implement it now. They want the shift gone by next week. As for transitioning the callers, I’m supposed to transition the best and fire all of the worst. Basically, I have to fire about 20% of my callers. I haven’t gotten any guidance from upper management on how to do this and I feel like this is my fault because of my suggestions in the year-end report. (Except my original plan didn’t include firing anyone because there is room for current shifts to absorb the other one. How do I fire all of these people? Is it fair to say I don’t agree with this decision (because I don’t) or do I just let them think it was all my idea (because it kind of was)? This is the first time I’ve ever had to fire anyone and I’ve only been in this job for 8 months.

    1. BRR*

      I wouldn’t tell them you don’t agree with it. Put yourself on the other side, imagine being fired by someone who is saying they don’t agree with firing you. I can’t exactly put it into words but that would piss me off.

      And I’m so sorry you have to do this, this majorly sucks.

    2. Natalie*

      Even though they’ve asked you to terminate your lowest performers this sounds more like a layoff to me. The people are being let go because they’re cutting staff, not because Jane and Joe and Bob were so bad that they needed to be fired.

      I’ve never let any go, but it seems to me the conversation is different in a layoff scenario.

    3. Steve G*

      Are they letting you give severance pay to the employees being let go? That would certainly ease the tensions. Also, I agree with Natalie below that it sounds like a layoff, not firings, so even if the person isn’t great, if you are getting rid of their shift……you can’t really tell them during the firing “it’s just not working out,” because that ultimately isn’t why your firing them.

    4. AnonAcademic*

      My husband has been on both ends of layoffs like this. He says that when it was clearly for organizational/financial reasons it was easier to take. So I would explain to them that the business is reorganizing, and you are very sad to say that means that you’ll have to let them go. You tell them their position is being eliminated.

      You also need to clarify if this is a layoff or firing with the higher ups because it could affect their ability to collect unemployment. If you can reassure the employees you let go that they will qualify for unemployment that helps. If you can offer any amount of severance (even just a week or two of pay) that will also help.

      1. Natalie*

        Actually, in most states they’ll be eligible for unemployment even if they’re officially “fired”. You usually have to be fired for something exceptionally bad, not just being a mediocre employee, to no longer be eligible.

        However, if you tell them they’re being fired, rather than laid off, a lot of them probably won’t bother applying for unemployment because this misconception is so widespread. To me, that is a strong argument for telling these employees it’s a layoff.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      1. This is a layoff, not a firing. (Their positions are being eliminated; they’re not being fired for performance.) Make sure you use the correct terminology with them.

      2. Find out ahead of time if your company will offer severance.

      3. Ask your management for guidance on how to handle this. Explicitly say, “I’ve never done this before and want to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible and the company is protected.”

      4. Do not say you disagree with it. You’re representing the company here, not yourself.

      1. Joey*

        Well in essence they are being fired for performance if there is room for them elsewhere. It’s just a convenient time to do it.

        1. some1*

          Yes and no. They are RIFing due to a restructuring of the shifts – and they choosing performance as the metric for who will be laid off (instead of seniority or salary or something else). They would not be letting these people go if the restructure wasn’t happening.

          1. Joey*

            Its not much different than an employer firing you for performance but agreeing to list it as a lay off for your benefit.

            1. Natalie*

              There’s nothing to suggest these people would be fired for performance if the OP didn’t have to cut her staff. Being “the worst” among a group doesn’t mean that one isn’t meeting expectations – if you’re ranking people, someone’s gotta be last.

              1. Joey*

                Sure there is. If there’s room for them and they still don’t want them that’s a strong sign they’re not meeting expectations.

                1. LBK*

                  That doesn’t sound like an accurate reading of the situation to me – it sounds like the OP’s plan made room for them but the higher ups decided not to. If the department is permanently shrinking in size, that’s a layoff, not a firing. This is no different than any other downsizing or reorganization where you have to fire X% of people and the easiest way to do it is by performance.

        2. Natalie*

          Are those positions going to be re-filled with better performers?

          People use layoffs to get rid of poor performers all the time. It doesn’t mean they weren’t laid off.

          1. Margaret Lea*

            I honestly don’t know. Probably not because there isn’t room for as many people without this shift.

    6. Joey*

      ask if that decision can be changed. Then show them how they can achieve their goals without firing anyone. Sounds like it might be hard to defend keeping poor performers.

  31. Ama*

    So I have spent the last two weeks rushing to prep a last minute launch of a program that we were originally planning to launch this summer, but which certain PTB decided they’d rather launch in this fiscal year. *Other* PTB did not particularly support this plan (you have to apply to this program, and to fit it into this fiscal year meant an application period about half what we usually have). So there’s been a lot of internal discussion and back and forth with a firm end date of today (since launching any later than that would *really* be too short a timeline)… and they decided to wait and launch at our usual time.

    This is mostly great news for me — all my yearly project timelines have been based around the fact that the program was scheduled for summer, so adding it on top of everything would have meant a ridiculous amount of work (not to mention I was hoping to take some vacation in April which would have become impossible). It also means the program is basically prepped for the summer launch well in advance. But it’s still kind of deflating to have spent the last two weeks working super hard and coordinating the external vendors we work with on ads and our application system to be ready to go at the last minute to now have to send a bunch of, “well, never mind” emails.

  32. Dani S*

    I work in social services and I’m trying to put together a basic job search skills class. Most of my clients are looking for positions in food services, retail, or jobs like construction and welding. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on searching for office jobs, thanks in no small part to this website. But does the same advice apply for jobs like fast food or retail? I’ve applied for these kinds of jobs when I was in school, but I never even got called in for an interview, so I’m feeling doubtful of my knowledge in this area. And I have no idea where to start with manual labor jobs. Is there anything that I should address differently (such as applying in person)? Any good resources to help me start putting together a simple class? Thanks in advance!

    1. fposte*

      Look through the AAM archives for posts, including (I think?) guest posts, by Kimberlee Stiens, who has a lot of experience in this area. I just searched on “Kim” and “fast food” in the archives and got some good hits right up top.

    2. Kelly L.*

      They’re trending toward being more online, actually. It’s probably not universal yet, but when I was working at the public library, I met a lot of patrons who were using our computers to apply for retail and factory jobs, as these jobs had moved their application processes online. Additionally, there was a retail job I applied to when I was unemployed myself, where I dropped in but was directed to the website instead. I think the key thing is probably to look at each individual job and do what they ask for. There doesn’t seem to be a universal rule yet, but it’ll be pointless at best and a turn-off at worst if an applicant tries to go through an incorrect channel.

      Disclaimer: I’m not an official or expert anything. This is anecdotal.

    3. MaryMary*

      Have you thought about reaching out to some local business owners? Maybe even the local chamber of commerce. They would be able to given you specific advice on what they’re looking for and how they do things. You might even be able to make some connections between your program participants and local employers.

    4. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      One tip that applies especially to online applications: If they do one of those personality tests, where you have a spectrum of, say, 1-5, where 1 is Strongly Agree and 5 is Strongly Disagree, ONLY put 1’s and 5’s. Absolutely no 2s, 3s, or 4s. That little tidbit was actually revealed to me by a hiring manager at a retail store who knew he wanted to hire me, but corporate required all applicants to do this test.

      Also, when asked in an interview “Why do you want to work here?” don’t say “I have to apply for jobs to keep my unemployment.” I have actually received that answer several times in hiring fast food positions. I got sick of the bullshit, so the last person that said that, I gave an offer to just to spite him. He was actually an OK employee.

      1. LBK*

        I got sick of the bullshit, so the last person that said that, I gave an offer to just to spite him. He was actually an OK employee.

        That is hilarious.

    5. PuppyPetter*

      I would see if you could get a few of the fast food/retail/blue-collar business owners in to do a career talk. What they do, why take an entry level FF job (i.e. what it can lead to), expectations of employers…
      The basics for any interview – dress appropriately (sometimes you have to define “appropriate” too), speak clearly, write clearly, be able to speak about yourself for a full minute/no one or two word answers, sit up straight, shake hands…

    6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Maybe seek out someone who IS an expert in this area. Do you have any friends in retail management? (I do – if you’re interested, I could ask a friend if they would be interested in chatting with you.)