open thread – March 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 :)

{ 1,409 comments… read them below }

  1. Anie

    I need some help on phrasing.

    I like my boss. We get along very well. In some aspects though, her personal opinions are highly offensive to me. I haven’t made an issue, in the past, with her sharing these opinions. I tend to shrug and change the subject, nod and say “I see what you’re saying” and change the subject, etc.

    Yesterday, my boss was discussing religion, which segued into marriage which of course evolved into gay marriage. My responses throughout were mostly “I don’t know anything about that” or even just “I’m unfamiliar.”
    While she was trying to end on a positive note about gay marriage, she said something horrifically repulsive to me. Basically, paraphrased, “I’m sure there are plenty of states where you can f*** sheep, so I don’t know why those people are against gay marriage.”

    I’m sure I don’t need to explain why that comparison is wildly hurtful. I also don’t think it matters what she may or may not be aware of about my sexual orientation. This kind of language isn’t appropriate.

    My response, because I was so shocked, was to stare at her in silence for about thirty seconds. (I was honestly without words.) Then I just walked away. She hasn’t mentioned anything, but I know she in no way thinks she misspoke. Because this sort of comment will happen again (she’s just that free with her opinions), how can I redirect her/stop her?

    1. AAA

      This is horrible. I don’t have any constructive advice, but I am so so sorry. I’d find it very difficult to work for someone like that.

    2. IT Kat

      Wow. I am so sorry you have to work with someone like that. I don’t really have any advice, only sympathy… although I know that one of the suggestions floating around the AAM community is when someone says something so completely out of the realm of reason like that is just to state: “WOW.” Like you are totally shocked and in disbelief that was said. Maybe followed up by a “I can’t believe you just said that.” And hurriedly ending the conversation?

        1. Bekx

          I just used the “Wow.” on a facebook friend who was posting something offensive about my religion. I used the magic “Wow.” and within the hour he deleted the post. Probably helped that he has a crush on me and was mortified, but “Wow.” really does work in all situations!!

        2. Labyrinthine

          For what it is worth, sometimes the blank stare and walking away does it, too. My process (stopping and redirecting before wildly offensive words spew forth) works at the beginning, but “wow” and blank stares work great once offense has been made.

          1. HR Generalist

            I agree- I’ve mastered the “early redirect” tactic from interviewing with hiring managers who are totally clueless. When I see them heading in an offensive/illegal direction I say “Okay! Sorry to interrupt, let’s get right to the task at hand here..”

            It would be a lot harder with your boss but maybe leaving the situation, limiting any small talk. In my person life I sometimes say, “Why do you think that?” or “What made you believe that?” to make them think about what they just said, I don’t know if I’d want that kind of confrontation with my boss though, I’d rather just avoid it altogether and not hear about their offensive opinions.

    3. K

      Does she randomly come up to you and share these opinions, or is she e.g. trying to make conversation while waiting for a meeting to start?

      For the former, I’d try to gently convince her to leave by saying something like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to talk now. I have to get this project done.”

      For the latter, I’d try to redirect the conversation towards something work-related or a more gentile subject. Instead of responding to her last comment, ask a question about something else, like “Have you tried that new cupcake shop?”

      1. Anie

        She was just making conversation. I’ve never tried to redirect her before, so that’s a good idea. I’m more used to just letting it was over me and sounding non-committal.

        Thanks

    4. Anie

      Okay, looking back on this more, I could just say, “I find that to be offensive, actually.” Maybe soften it with a grimace or something instead of coming off as super POed and stone-faced? But that’s so hard! And she was talking across several feet of space, loud enough for everyone in our very small office to hear. I don’t like to make waves or act defensive. I feel like I’ll come across as the trouble-maker or hard to work with.

      1. LillianMcGee

        I think it’s also appropriate to come to her in private after the fact to tell her what she said was offensive and why. I don’t think everything needs to be called out in the moment. Sometimes it’s better to take time to process. She might also have taken some time to reflect on what she said!

        1. JB

          I agree. Many topics should be brought up later because if you say something in the moment, the person would be defensive. Just walking away from the situation for an hour or even a day or two until you can make sure you’re calm, they’re calm and not in the middle of something urgent or stressful, and you’ve figured out how to approach it.

      2. TL -

        Or a neutral, quiet, “Did you really mean to liken being gay to beastiality?”

        If you say that with a tone that’s really non-offensive, non-combative, it tends to make people think about what they said and how they’re coming across. It sounds like your boss’s problem is that she’s not really thinking, so a well-placed question may get her to think.

        1. Meg

          I must be in the minority on this one because the way it was paraphrased made it sound like they weren’t likening being gay to beastiality, but that the state’s voters and residents were okay with humans having sex with animals, but not okay with humans having sex with other humans.

          Still wildly inappropriate, but I don’t think (judging solely on the paraphrased “I’m sure there are plenty of states where you can f*** sheep, so I don’t know why those people are against gay marriage”) they meant it in a “being gay is like beastiality.” I don’t know the context of the rest of the conversation, but it seemed they were taking a stab at various states’ laws, commenting on how incredulous it is that beastiality (of all acts) is perfectly legal in some states, but marrying a same sex partner isn’t.

          Or at least, I hope that’s how they meant it.

          1. Ineloquent

            Also, just a non-helpful aside… I believe the last state to allow beastiality, Oregon, has made it illegal. So it’s not even a factual offensive statement that she was making.

            1. Snoskred

              Yeah this fact is where I would go. I’d pull her aside and say “You know the other day when you said some states allow people to f*** sheep? I did some research on this, and the last state that allowed bestiality made it illegal on X date. So there are no states left in America where it is legal to f*** an animal. I just thought you would want to have the correct information on this, because if you use this argument with other people they might make a point of disagreeing with you and you would be in the wrong if they googled. Also, just be aware, when I researched, I discovered that some people find the concept bestiality to be offensive.”

              This way, you get to be the super helpful factual person. You could cut the last line if you wanted or change it to “I have to admit, to compare gay marriage to bestiality was a little offensive to me, because (insert reasons).”

              I have people who used to re-post all those urban legends, and instead of just telling them they were idiots and wrong, I would say “Always snopes it first” and link to where, with just a quick google, they could have found out this was an urban legend. That way I am super helpful researching facts friend, not mega bitch saying they were wrong without proof. :)

          2. BritChick

            +1 – That’s how I read it too and I can see why she may not see it as having been offensive as she was “on the side” of gay marriage, not against it

      3. Labyrinthine

        I know there are only a few states that have this, but if you work in a state where sexual orientation is a protected class, ongoing comments like this are what employers get sued for.

        1. Gandalf the Nude

          Even in states where sexual orientation isn’t a protected class, I think a comment like this, combined with similar instances, would fall under sexual harassment. Also, if I’m recalling correctly, some great cases have been made where harassment relating to one’s sexual orientation has been treated as gender discrimination since, presumably, if the victim was a different gender, the harasser would not be harassing them. Not that I think Anie should jump straight to legal action, just that it might be an available avenue if push came to shove.

          PS – All my sympathy, Anie. What a disgusting thing for her to say.

          1. Bobbi

            Agreed. It crosses several lines. You have every right to ask her not to even talk about those topics at work, let alone make offensive remarks. In fact, I am not sure what the work environment is, but swearing is unprofessional in most cases.

          2. Labyrinthine

            I agree jumping right to legal action is almost never advisable. But it does give a safer way of expressing that she is Not. OK. with these comments. She can even phrase it as concern for the company/boss “I think we should be careful, if someone were offended by this conversation we might run afoul of harassment laws”

    5. HeyNonnyNonny

      I had a coworker– a sweet old lady senior to me– explain to me that legalizing gay marriage is what’s causing all the recent natural disasters. I tend to be as blank as possible, so that I’m no fun to talk to, or I try to bring the conversation back to work somehow. It sucks, but I know there’s no way she’s going to change her mind and realize why this is problematic. Good luck :/

      1. Anie

        That’s exactly it! There’s nothing I can do to change her mind and I’m not really interested in trying in the middle of my work day anyway. Good luck with your co-worker

      2. BethRA

        I think you should suggest to such people that it’s probably no accident that the Boston Red Sox only managed to win a World Series again AFTER Massachusetts began recognizing gay marriage.

        (I’ll take your weather whack-jobbery, and raise you a sports-sillyness!)

    6. CrescentFresh

      Whaaaaaat. This is right up there with the worst boss stories I’ve seen on AAM and I’m so sorry the boss is yours this time. You said you haven’t made an issue with her opinions in the past, but is there any reason not to start making an issue of them now? A phrase I like to use when barely restraining the urge to shame someone is, “I’m don’t know if you know this, but that’s actually a really offensive thing to say.”

      1. Anie

        “I’m don’t know if you know this, but that’s actually a really offensive thing to say.” I like that, because it doesn’t come off as bitchy (which I lean toward too easily). It does open up the doors for a discussion, if that’s something I decided I wanted to engage in. Thanks!

        1. Alma

          Perhaps, “That statement is offensive on so many levels.” This could even be preceeded by the flat “Wow.”

      2. Bekx

        +1, I have a feeling the manager didn’t realize how offensive she was being. It sounds like she was just trying to be funny and really, really failed.

        1. Windchime

          I dunno, a lot of people mask cruel, unkind statements as “jokes”. It sounds to me like she was indeed comparing being gay to bestiality, which is outrageously unkind at the very least.

          1. Snoskred

            I don’t know, maybe I am reading it wrong, but when I read the initial post I thought the boss was making an argument in favour of gay marriage, and was trying to say that states which did not have gay marriage probably allowed bestiality. So that could read as the boss trying to “put down” of states which do not allow gay marriage rather than comparing gay marriage to bestiality.

            Perhaps Anie could clarify on this point because I do think the two possible ways of reading this are very different things and should result in two quite different reactions. :)

    7. Allison Mary

      I think I would’ve had the same reaction of silence/disbelief the first time I heard that comment. But if I had time to go sit and think about it, I would prepare myself next time to say something like, “I’m pretty uncomfortable with this. Would it be possible to keep our focus more on work-related topics?”

    8. C Average

      My boss also sometimes shares astonishing (and, to me, cringe-worthy) observations and opinions.

      I’ve taken to simply not engaging when this happens.

      On the rare occasions when she’s asked me what I think or why I’m not responding, I’ve just said something like, “Political talk at work makes me uncomfortable, so I’m trying to steer clear.”

      So far, this approach hasn’t met with any opposition, though the unpleasant observations continue. At least I’m not expected to participate, though.

      If I cared about her at all, I’d maybe consider it worth it to change her mind. But she’s not worth it.

    9. Future Analyst

      I actually think your response was perfect. You’re not trying to engage her in a conversation about why what she said was horrible (ugh, I can’t even imagine), you’re just leaving the conversation. In the future, if you can tell that she’s about to start a conversation about similar topics, you can say “I would not like to discuss this” and walk away. Typically, people like this are not open to hearing opinions that conflict with their own, so I wouldn’t try to change her mind on anything, but you can certainly refuse to engage in these types of conversations. And if she continues to seek you out for conversations like this, repeatedly tell her that you would not like to discuss religion/politics/etc. at work. If she continues, respectfully tell her that she’s making you uncomfortable. Beyond that, it becomes something you need to tell HR. You certainly don’t have to bring your own sexual orientation into the conversation– these comments would make anyone decent uncomfortable, regardless of their orientation.

      Also, I’m so sorry that you work with someone like this.

      1. Rat Racer

        Yes – I agree here. It’s really tricky when it’s your boss and not your co-worker. It can truly backfire if you make her feel like she said something politically offensive (even though that’s one of the most offensive things I’ve ever heard of a manager saying).

    10. Creag an Tuire

      Y’know, that’s the first time I’ve heard an opinion on marriage equality that manages to be mind-bogglingly offensive to both sides of the argument. So… props, I guess?

    11. Labyrinthine

      Oh my lord.

      My response to reading that was to stare at my screen in shock. She actually said that!?

      For this (and so many other) reason, I am a big proponent of not discussing politics, religion or civil rights issues in the work place (unless, of course, that is your line of work). Because there is always that person that thinks they are saying something nice, but in reality is being wildly offensive to anyone with a sense of common decency.

      When it comes up I usually say directly “You know, I really don’t like discussing these things at work. It often seems to upset people” and then redirect “Do you have a moment to go over [insert work issue, project, recent email, policy, process, etc] now?”

    12. Cubicle Joe

      One of the biggest problems in our society is the belief that if you supposedly have the “high ground” on an issue, then you can say whatever you want and no one has the right to question you. Liberals and conservatives are equally guilty of it.

      In situations like that, I usually say something nebulous like “how about that” or “it certainly is an interesting topic”.

      Some people feel the need to constantly pick at you about social issues, and if you don’t join in with an equal amount of outrage, then they often assume that you disagree with them. In reality, I’m just trying to get away from them.

      1. hildi

        “In situations like that, I usually say something nebulous like “how about that” or “it certainly is an interesting topic”.”

        Love this

    13. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      To me, “I see what your saying” implies agreement, at least to some degree, which might encourage her to keep talking – it sounds sort of…supportive. Other commenters have good ideas for alternatives for the shocking stuff. If you are looking for a day-to-day neutral phrase, I might go with “sounds like you feel strongly about that” or “huh” or “oh. + [comment about weather, etc,].

      1. TheSockMonkey

        Yeah, you want to be careful about responding in a way that makes her or anyone nearby think you agree.

        (I have had that come back to bite me before)

    14. DL

      I had a somewhat similar situation recently in a car with few of external colleagues. The rest of the group thought it was hilarious and clever that one’s straight son responded to a query of whether he was gay with “yes, I’m a lesbian stuck in a boy’s body”. I thought about pointing out that this would mean he’s trans, and that’s not a joke. In the end I held my tongue because I didn’t know these people at all.

      1. jamlady

        I come from a line of rural small-town folk and then half of my mom’s side of the family started coming out with my mom’s generation. I grew up learning ways to politely inform people when a mistake is made without coming off as rude or preachy. That being said, it’s so hard to pull it off in a professional capacity. I try to stay out of it unless someone is being downright hateful. The situation you were in was kind of rough. They honestly may not have known about the reality of the child’s response, but then again would have informing them of it really done anything but make the car ride uncomfortable? Sigh. If the child’s response was serious, they’ll figure it out eventually I guess. Sorry :/ rough situation!

    15. A Non

      If you think she’s the type to take a hint, you can pointedly redirect the conversation. “So how ’bout them Yankees?” said in a completely flat tone of voice is a time honored one. Or any other change of topic will do. How well it works depends how clueful she is and how much she wants to avoid offending you.

      You have all my sympathies. What a… wow.

      1. Alma

        I like that one, especially because it is one of those obvious, cliche’d, change the topic statement. And say it with a flat, emotionless tone.

    16. MsM

      If you don’t want to call her out: “You know, I don’t think I’m the right audience for this discussion. Can we get back to [work-related topic]?”

      If want to be a little clearer that this is not okay: “I don’t think this is an appropriate discussion for work.” Or “I disagree with that strongly, but I don’t think debating it will accomplish anything productive. Why don’t we just stay off this topic from now on? [Rewind and pick the conversation back up at the last point where you were comfortable.]”

      Or “Wow.” “Wow” works. And if that fails, then go to HR.

    17. Phlox

      Voicing your concerns, as mentioned above, sound like a good way. I might try using wow myself. Recently tried the incredulous eye brow raise face to a coworker when he asked me if I knew how the sun moved in the sky. It clearly failed to translate because he proceeded to explain.

      1. Clever Name

        Man. I’d be tempted to argue with them and say that it’s actually Helios on his golden chariot that is pulled by horses across the sky. ;)

        I had a coworker say something rude to me, and I just raised my eyebrows in response. Luckily she realized how she sounded, but it sounds like she is savvier than your coworker.

    18. Hermoine Granger

      I’ve had similar experiences with two bosses that would make socially inappropriate comments.

      The first boss made a joke to me about another co-workers weight and I was so caught off guard (as he’d never said anything like that before) that I could only manage to look at him in puzzled amazement. He never made another comment along those lines to me again.

      The second boss was just a socially awkward jerk and would make inappropriate comments all the time. Others in the office had gotten quite used to him being this way so they would laugh it off and change the subject. I made the mistake of doing the same when I first started there thinking it would ease the awkwardness. However, when I realized that this was just feeding his behavior I made it a point to not try to laugh it off and would instead not reply and allow the silence to linger. He continued joking in that way with the other staff but eventually got the point and stopped doing it with me.

    19. Anie

      On the flip side, I do have pleasant interactions with people at my work. One of my closer co-workers recently got moved to the other side of the office. I’m not normally one to complain (joke) but this morning I came in with a slight cold and wasn’t feeling happy. After suffering through him and his new desk-mates having a grand morning together, I may have mentioned to him how much I hated hearing him bond with them. Mentioned it—at length. Loudly. Cause now I’m all left out, you know?

      Him and his new friends bought me a get-well card, signed: “The other side of the office.”

    20. Not So NewReader

      “I really don’t want to talk about that type of stuff at work. If someone over hears the conversation they could file a complaint.”

      OR

      “Oh, don’t go there. Look, we have some stuff here that needs immediate attention. Here is x, y and z.”
      (I like this one because you are telling her point blank not to discuss these topics with you- she will figure that out later because this is a “hit and run” statement. You hit it, then run to the next topic.)

      OR
      “I try not to get involved in topics like that. I find that they zap my energy and emotions if I do it too much.”
      (I like this one, too, because it’s true for me.)

    21. Christine

      I think you should be direct and say that comments like that are entirely inappropriate in the workplace. Put her on notice that the behavior will not be tolerated. And start keeping notes of dates and times because I fear that this could turn into a lawsuit for the company at some point in time and you may be called as a witness.

    22. Anon369

      Ha. My boss routinely makes comments like this. I’ve found unless the person gets reprimanded, and hard, from above, it won’t change, and there’s little I can do to stop it. I still side-eye or point out that it’s harmful, because I have the political capital/tenure to do so, and other people on the team may not.

    23. BeenThere

      I’m so sorry you had to hear those comments – regardless of whatever your orientation is, to say that at work is awful. My coworker turned manager would say things like this regularly, among the also occasional racist remark. As friends with and deeply regarded as “invaluable” by HR (we reported up through them). It went on for my entire employment and I’d told my manager but was scared to go to an actual HR and didn’t want to be “outed” if make this employee angry (everyone was sorta scared of them and heir comments were so out there and frequent everyone just sorta accepted it). Despite my protest my manager did go to HR who said they didn’t need to do anything. After that person became my manager I went to them directly with my concerns within a couple days of their promotion. Their response was people say offensive stuff in the office all the time. Fired three weeks later (without any issue through my tenure).

      Despite my bad luck… I echo what other people have said here about direct confrontation. Your reactions were similar to mine. If the comment had relevance to something work related I may have said “Sorry that happened” or “that’s weird”. I think this person was sorta tone def when it came to shame or any sense of discomfort. But who knows!!! Anyway, you have both my sympathy and empathy. I never got to hear gay marriage compared to “sheep sleep” but I was informed gays are all pedophiles. Educational.

    24. hapax legomenon

      Is this really a battle that you need to fight?

      People say stupid shit. It’s different for everyone, and I’m not 100% consistent on this, but I find the concept of imposing my will upon another person to prevent them from speaking a lot more offensive than the stupid stuff that comes out of their mouths.

    25. BeckyDaTechie

      13, actually, with no restrictions on that kind of animal abuse. *smdh* But to compare that to humans getting married may well be “talk to HR” behavior. I won’t be of much help with wording because I usually respond with “I don’t care to hear someone else’s religious or political opinions at work. Can we change the subject, or should we continue a work-oriented conversation later?” long before someone reaches that point. (Incidentally, I often burn bridges by being too bluntly honest, but some people don’t get to cultivate common sense before they reach adulthood and need reminders now and then.)

      I’m so sorry you’re in this situation. I hope you’ll keep us posted and that it resolves for the better?

  2. C Average

    I’ve been waiting for this!

    There have been a couple of letters recently that highlighted the fact that people can do well in a lot of workplaces despite not having strong writing skills.

    And it’s a truth pretty much universally acknowledged that many, many starving writers are currently making lattes and wishing they had a job that put their writing skills to better use.

    Do you think that good writing is valued sufficiently in your workplace? Why or why not? Why do you think so many organizations don’t place a high value on good writing as a basic requirement of every position?

    1. Anie

      I’ve never worked with people who don’t have good writing skills. But then I work in publishing….

      1. bridget

        Same – my industry demands it. For the most part, one is just not a good lawyer unless one has very strong writing skills (there may be some exceptions for specific types of lawyers, like patent lawyers or something, but I wouldn’t really know). It’s 90% of the job, or more.

        1. attornaut

          You would think that, yes. Then you read some of the emails that I get from fellow attorneys and realize that apparently that’s not a required skill.

        2. Stephanie

          Depends on the patent lawyer. You do have to be able to explain the invention the novelty (or lack of novelty if you’re suing) behind it, but I definitely read some poorly written applications.

    2. Enjay

      It’s not necessary to be a good writer in many positions. IT is a prime example. Technical skills are more highly valued than communication skills. A writer might be starving at the coffee shop, but she wouldn’t be able to translate her talents into an IT position.

      1. Future Analyst

        I really disagree with this. If you cannot communicate (in any field, IT and engineering included), you cannot truly be good at your job, unless your job requires zero interaction with others. Your ideas and solutions are only as good as their implementation, and implementation of a good idea will require communicating with others about it.

        Also, as someone who studied English and is now working in database administration, I respectfully disagree that writing skills don’t translate into IT. If anything, if you’re already practiced in getting your point across in a clear and concise manner, you’re well prepared for working with systems that require very clear and concise inputs.

        1. JB

          I agree. But I think we all agree that the skills needed to succeed in writing a novel aren’t the same as needed to do technical writing. I think sometimes people think that communication skills aren’t important in some fields because we tend to think of communication skills as something that’s only a subset of communication skills.

          I don’t think that was clear, and I do write for a living, but my brain is done for the week.

        2. Bunny

          Perhaps, but there’s a big difference between the kind of writing skill that someone working in IT etc might need compared to the kind of writing skill someone who considers themselves a *good writer* is thinking of.

          I’m a good writer, when I try to be. I can create elegant prose, and my work has been published more than once. But that’s really meaningless in my current job, although writing emails is a large part of it. Because “You are unable to log in because your account was deactivated. I have reactivated your account and reset your password to *****. Please refer to your local administrator regarding the issue with your access permissions.” requires basically decent spelling and grammar, but not much else.

          And even then, I’m sometimes shocked by the quality of emails we receive from our customers, who all work in the prestigious Chocolate Teapot Insurance industry, where you’d expect things like precise communication to be vital. And yet so many emails we receive are something like “Page is wrong and I cannot read document. This is SERIOUS because I canNOT do my work UNTIL it is fixed please make it work right NOW.” Half a dozen emails later and it turns out they’re talking about having forgotten to install adobe acrobat on their personal laptop that they shouldn’t even be using to work from home in the first place.

      2. Mad Non Hatter

        I have to agree with Future Analyst. As a professional in IT (specifically software development), I do admit that I am surrounded by people with a wide range of communication skills. But being able to clearly communicate a concept, explain an issue or write clear documentation really makes the difference between being considered adequate and being exemplary. I’m not saying that the poorer communicators are considered inferior, but they are less likely to be approached and more likely to be considered individuals rather than team members.

        Also when working with some of the code that these people write, it comes across as difficult to read and lacking adequate documentation as to what it does.

        1. QAT Contractor

          YUP! I end up testing all that code you write, and while I don’t specifically see the code usually, if people don’t write well, there can be big differences in understanding what the expected results of an action should be.

          There are some entry level people that can just read and do, but they usually don’t last long or aren’t given tasks that are more important, if they require documentation. If all an individual wants to do is sit around and run tests that someone else wrote forever then writing isn’t as critical, even when they find a defect, because they can copy paste from a good tests to covey the defect.

          Good writing skills are quite essential in the IT field for people who want to move up and on to better tasks/roles as a team player rather than just being some person they assign menial tasks to all the time.

      3. Jen

        My husband works in IT. He was fortunate to get an associate in journalism but then got his bachelor’s degree in programming. He’s a fantastic writer and it’s helped him in all of his jobs as an IT professional. At his current job when they have to document things, he’s always telling me how poorly written the document that people contribute to is.

        He mentioned that even basic words are misspelled or not used correctly. Often times he has coworkers approach him and ask him to proof something they’ve written to make sure they sound as clear and concise as possible.

        So I definitely think no matter what field you’re in, excellent communications/writing is needed.

      4. VintageLydia USA

        My husband works in enterprise IT and he spends fully half his working hours writing, both reports internally and externally. If he weren’t a talented business writer AND very good at IT, he wouldn’t be able to do his job.

    3. matcha123

      The places I’ve worked at say that value quality writing, but I don’t think they know what quality writing is. The biggest reason is that my co-workers, and the people who check my work, are not native English speakers and have spent limited time overseas. They don’t want well-written pieces as much as they want me to force English to fit with their limited knowledge of the language.

      No one wants to say they don’t care about writing because the written word is one of the pillars of a civilized society. At the same time, many people don’t read enough or write enough or care enough to put effort into improving the quality of the work they put out to the public.

      1. Beezus

        I think you touched on a really good point there. In jobs where writing skill is important, the type of skill that matters can vary. I would say I’m a good writer, but I am good at writing very detailed information in a way that is well-organized and easy to follow. I think I would be good at the type of writing your workplace values, as well – I’ve worked with ESL people before, and I’m quick to pick up the vocabulary level and phrasing style someone is comfortable with and communicating at that level. However, I tend to write with the object of answering all of someone’s logical questions in one go before they ask them, so I would struggle in a capacity where being very concise was important; and while my grammar, spelling, and punctuation are pretty good, I’m too rusty in those areas to be able to step right into a role where I’d be editing for formal publication.

      2. LQ

        It doesn’t matter how well written something is if no one understands it so I have to say I’m kind of with your coworkers on this. Especially if they are the audience, or your audience contains people with limited English.

        Communication is about someone else understanding what you said, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

        1. matcha123

          In our case, the majority of our recipients are native English speakers. The problem I face when I translate is bad writing in the original; I don’t want to pass it on to my English translation, but I have to stay faithful to the original. Coworkers want translations that sound natural, but don’t want to budge on unnatural phrases.
          Conversations inevitably follow the same pattern:
          “Could you check this letter the Chairman wrote? We’re sending it to High Level Official.”
          “Well, you should take out these sentences and rewrite these ones.”
          “The Chairman really wants to use those phrases. Can you just make it sound natural?”
          “Uh. OK… Take out this ‘the’ and rearrange this…”
          “We can’t do that. Does it sound fine the way it is? We shouldn’t change anything.”
          “I mean…you could use this phrase if you wanted to… It’s not common. But, if that’s what you want…”
          “Great, thanks!”
          ” :'( “

          1. Beezus

            Ouch. It sounds like they’re uncomfortable with changing something someone in authority wrote, or are uncomfortable sending out writing attributed to them that isn’t in their own voice, perhaps? Is it possible that you’re misinterpreting the extent that you’re expected to improve the quality of the pieces you review? Are you supposed to make them sound like a native English speaker wrote them, or are you just there to avoid major gaffes like the famed “Nothing Sucks Like Electrolux” ads? If it’s the former, they’re not really letting you do your job, and you should push back. If you’re just there to avoid major snafus and miscommunication, though, you might have to let go on phrasing choices.

            1. matcha123

              It’s like what JB below wrote; my coworkers (in all of the jobs I’ve held here) want natural, “perfect” and high-quality English. But, this sentence can’t be changed. Oh, and that phrase is absolutely necessary, so if it’s grammatically incorrect we *should* change it, but if the grammar is fine, can’t we keep it???

              I also translate from Japanese to English and I have a lot of my work re-written. I’ve noticed how it’s influencing my writing outside of work, ie- the quality has definitely slipped, and I’m trying to do what I can to bring myself up to a satisfactory level.

              I’ve noticed shoddy English from large companies, like Sony, in their user manuals. I assume they are crowdsourcing their translations rather than having someone “in-house” do them.

          2. JB

            I have heard complaints about this from people who work in corporate offices in South Korea. They have coworkers who ask them to proofread marketing material, but what they really want is to use phrases that have come to be business buzzwords there but sound weird to native English speakers. They have pretty much exactly the conversations you’ve described.

            The frustrating thing isn’t that their coworkers are using phrases that don’t make sense in English. They don’t care about that because native and fluent English speakers aren’t the target audience, and it’s the kind of phrases that will sound good to the target audience. The frustrating part is that they get asked to proofread when what is wanted isn’t really proofreading, it’s telling them what they want to hear.

            1. matcha123

              That’s how it is in Japan, too!
              “No, ‘Let’s Getting Now!!!’ is not acceptable.”
              “But that’s what it says in Japanese.”
              “Yeah…no…”
              “Oh, we can’t use ‘-ing’ here, how is ‘Let’s Get Now!!!’?”
              “That’s not better. What are we getting?”
              “We don’t want to say.”
              “Well, you need to say.”
              “This grammar is wrong? [insert technical explanation of English grammar here]”
              “How about [phrase that sounds like something resembling English]?”
              “That’s too long. The boss likes the original, so we should use that.”
              “:/”

    4. Foxtrot

      Unfortunately, engineers as a whole have horrible writing skills…at least the ones I’ve come across. While writing would be nice, it’s much more important that you have the technical chops. Bad emails don’t come with lawsuits – bad bridges do.

      1. AnotherAlison

        Actually bad emails due too, in the construction business anyway. That’s why we have email archiving software. eDiscovery is a big deal in construction claim litigation.

    5. HeyNonnyNonny

      I am a technical writer and editor. I think that more companies are learning that good writing is important, but they’re also learning that they can have subject matter experts generate content and then have a good writer work as an editor and clean it up– which is what I do. I’m in a very technical field, and it makes a lot of sense to me. The engineers get to focus on their primary work, and I make sure that internal and external communications actually make sense.

      1. CH

        Sounds like you and I have basically the same job. I clean up the writing of 8 people who are technical experts. I can’t do what they do and they may be able, but don’t really try, to do what I do.

      2. Elizabeth West

        I do the cleaning up part. I couldn’t do the job my consultants do, mainly because I don’t have a background in the industry, but I write well enough to make their reports look pretty. :)

    6. Laurel Gray

      In my work place, I don’t know but I will say that I do have a short list of “f****** idiots” based on how they communicate via email. I stayed out of the comments yesterday about email communication because I have strong opinions on what I think that our smart phones and social media are doing to our basic writing skills. I think these days people make waaaay too many excuses for others’ lack of basic writing skills.

      I think orgs don’t place a high value on good writing because I think essentially, depending on the position, they feel like as long as the person can get by with whatever shotty skills they have., it is okay.

      1. LQ

        The people who are worst at my org are the people who pride themselves on not having smart phones. So I’m not sure I agree. I think some people with smart phones are great, some aren’t. Some people with flip phones or no phones are great, some aren’t.

    7. Jennifer

      As a person who used to write for a living, I do NOT think good writing is valued in most fields. Writers are easily the most disposable people at any job….which is why I don’t write for a living any more. (You don’t know how badly I wince when my coworkers send out half-readable, misspelled, all lower case, grammatically terrible e-mails to the entire list.)

      Why aren’t writers valued? I can’t really say for sure, but it’s probably for the same reasons that English majors, artists, etc. aren’t valued in life. They’re expendable, they don’t bring in tons of money, they have “soft skills.” Most writers, artists, creatives, etc. don’t bring in money in the way that a salesperson does, or keep things going in the way that programmers/techies do, and don’t have whopping amounts of powers like managers, etc. A writer is essentially a clerical worker, and nobody cares about those people.

      I consider myself very lucky compared to my former coworkers because I got the boot from my writing job in 2001 and was able to get into my current industry a few months later. Now virtually all of them are freelancing and scrambling, from what I’ve heard. And I’m talking about my supervisors, not just the professional writers.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny

        My theory is that writers aren’t valued because everyone thinks, “Well, I use English all the time, of course I’m good at it!”

        Yeah, buddy, I drive a car every day, that doesn’t mean I can fix it.

      2. Lore

        Although as a counterpoint: I work in publishing, where of course good writing is valued. But there’s also been this weird divide between the amount of copyediting, proofreading, etc that we do on our books, and the sort of ad hoc way internal communications are handled. I’ve recently been asked to edit a number of corporate communications in various contexts, and everyone involved has a little lightbulb go off when they get back the polished versions and see what a difference a good edit makes, and how much easier it is to read polished writing–especially when you’re talking about documents that go out, say, to all our authors, or go on a public website.

      3. Alma

        Ages ago, when small stones were used for currency, I was recruited into a large bank’s management program because I could write well. This was pre-computer, and though I did my rotation through credit analysis, was able to take their work and present a well-thought-out, concise, loan presentation for the Loan Committee. Yes, I am an English Major…

      4. Anx

        Also, many people are good, but not great writers and can do something else very well. I imagine it’s easy to cut down on writing staff when other workers can cover the tasks almost (but not quite) as well.

    8. IT Kat

      I work in IT, and for a consulting company – for that reason, yes good writing is valued (we are working at a lot of clients and are the face of our company, so they want to make sure that we present a good impression!). But at the same time – if there was a choice between good writing and tech knowledge, we’re going to hire for the knowledge. You can be a best-selling novelist, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to fix a client’s $30k corporate application gone wrong.

    9. Future Analyst

      Ugh. This is one of my biggest complaints about the current environment in which I’m working– no-one cares about proper grammar, punctuation, and general flow of their communication. There’s generally a sense of “who cares” about those things, and I’m embarrassed about what goes out sometimes. Between the individuals who write our dept. policy manuals to our customer-facing clerks, the writing is just badly done and looks childish. I suspect part of it is that the pool of individuals who work in this field are generally not motivated to go above and beyond, and since the higher ups write poorly, it just trickles down. I know I’m generally more critical of it than most people (English major, and I used to work as a copyeditor), but simple sentence structure and grammar are not that hard– it shouldn’t be optional!

      Lastly, since we hear more and more about how profitable STEM areas are, and colleges have begun to cut back on the humanities (and writing, in particular) requirements for graduation, it’ll likely become worse and worse. Unfortunately, unless companies start putting a premium on excellent communication skills (the way that they do for certifications), there will be less incentive for anyone to really hone their writing skills.

      1. Jennifer

        I get to see communications from STEM students that are downright kinda illiterate. I keep thinking “you have to have taken at least a few English classes here, really….” But then again, I doubt anyone cares so much or wants to learn and if they pass, whatever.

        I had one English professor in college right at the end of my college career who said she could REALLY teach me to write academically if I wanted….but it was one of my last English classes ever and I had no intention of going to grad school so I declined.

      2. Anx

        I was a STEM student. I actually hope the humanities requirements become more flexible. In my program, pre-requisite requirements could prevent you from taking classes until your junior or senior year. I ended up having to drop a critical elective (very central to my program) to take even more humanities after my graduation audit. I had already taken 5 English classes (2 required), political science, two sociology classes, two humanities/letters classes, two writing classes, some psychology classes, and I’m sure some other humanities (or at least non-stem) classes.

        I’d rather schools be flexible in giving credits for specific gen ed requirements than keep the requirements so rigid that students have no room to explore minors or secondary interests.

    10. AnotherAlison

      I work in engineering and construction. Poor communication skills, including both written and verbal, will keep you from advancing at some point, but when we are hiring anything below a lead engineer, writing is definitely less important than your technical skills. We would like everyone to be the total package, but sometimes you just need butts in chairs to do the technical work.

      Once you’re at the level where you are working with clients directly, you need to be able to write, but in our typical emails, no one is going to get too spun up about messing up a tricky verb/subject agreement. I do have a coworker with hillbilly grammar–written and verbal–and most of his work has to be run through someone else to make sure we don’t look bad to outside contacts. Most people who struggle with this will work with an admin assistant or proposal writer to make sure anything important is well written.

    11. Stephanie

      I was in engineering, where it was always a plus if you could write well. It definitely wasn’t a requirement (at least at the lower levels, IME).

      In the more info science/legal jobs I had, they claimed they wanted good writing skills, but we had to be trained to write things in a specific way as avoid any ambiguities or we used form paragraphs. I wouldn’t say that was exactly good writing, either. It took me a while to shake a few years of legal writing off.

      1. RG

        Hi Stephanie! If you don’t mind my asking, can you go into more detail about the info science/legal jobs you’ve had? I have an engineering degree and jumped straight into patent prosecution, but I’d like to know more about other jobs that include a focus on technical writing. If you’d prefer to talk about this through email or another means of communication rather than posting more specific information here, then please let me know!

        1. Stephanie

          Sure, happy to! I think the details might be a little *too* in the weeds for the comments here, so send me an email when you get a chance: stephanie dot m dot jennings at gmail dot com.

    12. LBK

      I think good writing is undervalued in general because people don’t realize how much of a talent it is. It’s more than just knowing grammar rules; it’s about phrasing, tone, gauging your audience, and a whole bunch of other intangible, generally unteachable traits. It’s assumed too often that the majority of professional workers have the skills to be good writers, but I think it’s a much lower percentage than that.

      As such, I think many employers settle for adequate writing instead of great writing, because a) great writers are hard to find, and b) companies don’t even know how to find them because they assume anyone who’s done a job that required any kind of writing is probably a good writer. The screening process is too lax for that skill.

    13. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’ve always worked in places where good writing was valued and highly rewarded. Although now that I think about it, all of those places have been run by people who were good writers themselves, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a connection there. Also, places that value good writing tend to know how hard it is to find it, which then leads them to value it even more. (I’m not talking here about technically competent writing, but about good writing beyond that — voice, style, flow.)

      1. gloria

        This makes sense to me! I think if you have a certain sensitivity to language, it comes out in your own writing (even in emails and memos, which was honestly a surprise to me – this sounds kind of snotty but I don’t think I realized I was a good writer outside of an academic context until I entered the working world and learned how many ways highly educated adults can craft awkward, stilted sentences), and it also lets you appreciate the same quality in others. If language is purely functional to you, your own writing likely won’t be anything special, nor will you necessarily pick up on that “extra something” in others.

        I’m currently in a writing-based position at a young company, and I’m one of the only employees who doesn’t do any admin/HR stuff, but my boss – who’s not much of a writer – has asked me to evaluate other people’s writing samples in a way that suggested he really didn’t trust his own ability to gauge the quality of writing (they were very short), which was very strange to me but makes sense when I think about it in this context.

      2. little Cindy Lou who

        I agree. Managers I’ve worked for who value good communication have appreciated my writing skills (even to the point of tasking me to write up how a change in policy impacts our team and what we need to do to be in compliance). But one who loved the written word and would obsess over wording in his work really enjoyed and appreciated what I would write (logs, emails, etc). And these were accounting and finance teams, so being crystal clear definitely makes a difference.

    14. Mockingjay

      I am a technical writer. I could give you chapter and verse why writing skills are so important. And I am willing to bet my next meager paycheck that behind those people is someone like me cleaning up their work.

      In my industry, the boss or customer sees only the end product, signed off by the lead engineer. What is often not known, is that I did the all data analysis, wrote the entire document, then ran it by the engineer for his (cursory) approval.

      Recently though, I had the opportunity to work on some documents directly for the customer. They were amazingly appreciative and emailed a number of glowing compliments to my boss. Boss was completely surprised; however, he still has me on “office housekeeping” tasks because he just doesn’t get that I have a vast technical background…but that’s another thread.

    15. jhhj

      I would say that we value good writing, but don’t expect it from most of our employees. That is never their main job, so when we need something written carefully, we have a consultant. Not that our other employees are typically BAD writers, but the writing in their jobs is so minor that we would never use it as a plus or a minus in hiring decisions (this means we are very forgiving with CVs, too).

    16. AdAgencyChick

      It is STUNNING to me how many people who work in advertising — a communications field! — write poorly. Even some copywriters produce sentences that I can’t call good English.

      I have no good explanation for this. I just hate it!

      1. LMW

        Yes! I am continually astonished by how much we pay our agencies for crappy writing. I am willing to pay my star writers a ton because they actually deliver quality in less time than the cheaper writers. (Seriously, I pay one of my writers $100 an hour. She’s worth it. I want to be her when I grow up.)

      2. CH

        There are a couple of ads in regular play on local radio that just make my ears bleed! I can’t believe that any copywriter could have written them; I’m guessing they came straight from the business owner’s desk.

      3. Myrin

        I had that same feeling regarding lawyers and – most recently – tax accountants. It wasn’t “bad” writing in that the meaning wasn’t clear but there were some absolutely appalling spelling mistakes. I mean, I’m getting my Master’s in German (which is my mothertongue and the language the mentioned documents were in) so I might be a tad too extreme and nitpicky when it comes to the written word but PLEASE.

    17. LMW

      I spent the first half of my career in publishing and I was shocked when I moved to the corporate world and realized how many people can’t write a coherent sentence. I still make my living from writing and editing and it takes a long time for people to recognize that I actually provide a lot of value to the company. When I started in my current role, I worked with a lot of engineers and there was a real sentiment that anyone can do writing or marketing (you don’t need to be smart or have extensive training). It was only when people began to see the extensive editing I was doing to their documents that I started getting some respect.

    18. mdv

      Good writing is not valued that highly “in my workplace”, but *my* good writing skills (and editing, etc) are highly valued — I know that because I got assigned to the university’s master planning project to help with the final two rounds of editing the entire master plan, not just hte parts relevant to my department, and nearly all of my changes were implemented in the final document.

    19. Anon For This...

      I’m kind of surprised to see IT mentioned as a field where writing skills aren’t needed. I GENTLY disagree with that. :)

      Maybe my particular organization is different than most (software developers are embedded in the business units they support instead of being centralized), but I spend a lot of time communicating. It’s obviously extremely important to fix a critical bug in a production system…but it’s almost as important to be able to communicate to the directors what caused the issue, what the impacts were, how we fixed it, and how we’re going to prevent it from happening again!

      1. Windchime

        Yes, I have to agree. I work on a BI team and there is a very clear divide between the team members who are able to communicate clearly and effectively, and those who are not. It’s great to be able to write code, but if you can’t do the documentation or communicate what you’ve done to the end users, it’s of limited use.

        It’s funny; we’ve got one person on our team whose native language is not English. Usually, his/her emails consist of “Yes” or “No” or “it’s done”. But recently, s/he was very upset over a situation and s/he sent out a beautifully crafted, very well written email that really kind of told us all off! I was very impressed; it’s not that s/he is unable to communicate in writing, s/he just chooses not to!

    20. Chriama

      Because there’s a large difference between ‘acceptable’ writing and ‘good’ or ‘great’ writing.

      Going from poor to acceptable is mostly a matter of knowing and following the rules (basic grammar, starting emails with a greeting, etc). In verbal communication, our brains re-write the message as it enters our ears so that it makes sense. Written communication, doesn’t have that advantage, so going from acceptable to good requires an intuitive understanding of written communication that most people will never develop.

      Therefore, while many people can recognize great writing when they see it, most people can’t actually go from acceptable writing to great writing.

    21. puddin

      My workplace does not value adept writing skills. It might be valued in some specific departments, but overall communication skills are not reinforced here.

      I will have to leave it at that as I getting hives thinking about how this negatively effects so many aspects of everyone’s jobs.

    22. squids

      Sometimes I feel like the token “good writer” in my workplace. I’m regularly given other peoples’ work to proofread. I try not to mind as long as it stays occasional, but …

    23. Emme

      I worked as an admin in a nonprofit, and was promoted to an analyst position based on my strong writing skills. It’s not a talent I was ever aware of- I thought I had average writing skills, and I don’t actually like the process of writing as I find it very stressful- but I somehow managed to impress my boss.

    24. SLG

      I think it very much depends on how you define good writing. I’m a writer/editor, with a background in publishing and corporate communications, now working for an in-house marketing team. Maybe it’s that working in publishing has made me optimistic in some ways and cynical in others. But I tend to think that in a business context, “good writing” is defined as writing that gets the results you want.

      For instance, there are situations where a proposal that could use several more rounds of editing (it’s wordy, clumsy, poorly organized) wins the contract anyway. I don’t like that it is that way, but I can’t really argue with it unless I can demonstrate that a better-written proposal would bring the company more income.

      In other contexts, writing that’s tight, clever, and brilliantly persuasive really is necessary to achieve business objectives (getting blog traffic, getting website visitors to make a purchase, persuading a client to give you a corporate communications contract, etc.).

      So I think it all really depends on what you’re trying to achieve!

      1. literateliz

        Thisthisthis. As someone whose job it is to worry about grammar (and who spent a good 15 minutes arguing about colons and commas at work yesterday), I’m surprised at how often I find myself falling on the “well, as long as it gets things done” side of this debate. Especially in terms of emails. I mentioned in another comment that one of the most brilliant bosses I’ve had, a longtime editor who had an uncanny ability to make my various pitches and press releases shine with a few strokes of a pen, sent emails along the lines of “pls pitch for valendtines day – tx!” (These were to me, an intern–I imagine her emails to prospective authors were a bit more polished.) Other people in the office joked about helping me decode her emails, but after a small learning curve on my part, those emails did get things done.

        1. fposte

          I think that’s true with a lot of knowledge, though–there’s an hourglass shape to the pattern of attention or reverence you give to a subject. You start out not knowing or caring, and then in school you know more and care more and more about doing it right, and that peaks about the end of high school when you’re at your narrowest view of what’s acceptable; college, grad school, working in writing, all move you increasingly away from prescriptivism and more toward “Eh, it’s a house style” or “Eh, usage is always more variable than rules suggest” (or “Eh, I’ve done that all day and now I just want to watch cartoons”).

          1. Jen RO

            This such a good observation, and it would have never occurred to me (my mind was a little blown when I read your reply). In my case, I went through all these steps while learning my current job (tech writing) and I’m now at the ‘eh, we don’t need to follow this rule *all* the time’ stage. The Language Log and Chicago’s Q&A section had a lot to do with my learning to relax…

    25. Retail Lifer

      The higher-ups at several companies I’ve worked for have had terrible communication skills and not much of an understanding of grammar and punctuation. It’s incredibly frustrating to read an email from someone who makes at least twice what I do (AT LEAST!) and have to read through all of their glaring errors. At the last company I worked for, the person in charge of corporate communications told me that her position existed primarily to fix what these executives wrote before it was sent out to the masses. My grammar and proof-reading skills could use some work, but jeez. I don’t require a full-time employee to translate for me.

    26. Beancounter in Texas

      tl;dr – I like how much basic writing skills have come to the foreground of importance with the advent of social media. (Per Weird Al’s point in his song “Word Crimes.”)

    27. Traveler

      Nope. I think to make it, as with many other things, you need writing that is “good enough” or “passable”. Even though we write for the public on a consistent basis in my position, it’s rare that a document for publication wouldn’t pass through 3-5 people for wordsmithing/grammar. So to have one person that excels isn’t very important.

      It’s sad in a way, but I also think there are few people out there that have really exceptional writing abilities, so the combination of abilities spread over 3 people is better than trying to find that one person out there. On the subject of starving writers…I think the problem is you can be a fantastic writer, but lack other very important qualities you need to make it through corporate/nonprofit workforce.

    28. Anony-moose

      Oh yes, I’d say writing is hugely valued and one of the most important skills I have. Then again, writing is about 75 percent of my job.

      I was just talking with my boyfriend about this. We’re both former English majors, and he even has two advanced degrees in English literature. Now he’s in advertising (copywriter) and i’m in the nonprofit world (grantwriter / corporate relations). I consider us both writers but it’s a far cry from the aspirations of my youth where I imagined myself sitting in a hip coffeeshop writing the Great American Novel or regaling readers with stories of my neurotic family and even more neurotic cat.

      But in the workplace, writing = communication. Being a strong writer is key. I find for me that writing continually makes me a more strategic thinker and more flexible as well. Love what everyone else has to say on the subject too!

    29. Not So NewReader

      What I am seeing is that places are concerned with the thinking behind the content. Anyone can learn where to put a comma or a period, if they choose. The real kicker is does the content show that thinking is going on?
      I don’t tend to think of incoherent or near incoherent emails as a writing problem . I think it points to a bigger problem in that the person does not know their subject matter. Or it could be that the writer does not give a darn if the reader can figure out what is being said. You can take that person and teach them everything there is to know about punctuation and you are not going to fix the problem.

      Ever open up a law book and read a random page? I have seen lawyers mutter, “What the HELL does this mean?”
      There is a writing style for when you do not want people to know what you just said. And then there is a writing style for when you want everyone to be on the same page.

    30. Elizabeth West

      To answer your third question I think it’s because they are under the mistaken impression that
      1) anyone can write
      2) that anyone can be taught to write well (no, this is not true for everyone) and that they’ll have the time/patience to teach them (they often don’t)
      3) if you like to write/are really good at it, YOU SHOULD DO IT FOR NOTHING BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT AND IT IS YOUR PASSION (ugh).

      /rant over

      Personally, I subscribe to the Joker’s philosophy: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free!”

    31. MaryMary

      I think there are a couple things at play here. First, for many positions being a good writer isn’t the primary qualification. “Strong communication skills” might make the top five, but really, the hiring manager is looking for a great salesperson, or a strong coder, or a financial whiz.

      Communication skills are also different from writing skills. Before everyone had a computer and email, someone could hide poor writing skills behind a good assistant. If you’re at a certain level, you still can. Everything our CEO sends is written by one of his assistants or someone else in the office. But he’s a strong public speaker, great one on one, and he’s at a point where he can delegate out writing. We have another VP who had been at the company nearly as long as the CEO, but he isn’t in charge and doesn’t have a dedicated assistant. He sends embarrassing, misspelled, typo-filled emails from his phone, and it’s becoming a resource problem to find people to type up his hand written notes (to say nothing of finding someone to massage those notes into something you could send to a client). He constantly complains about not having dedicated help, but businesses just aren’t staffed that way anymore.

    32. Shell

      Like many before me have said, “good writing” is a concept that’s pretty hard to pin down, because what’s “good” depends heavily on the context of the writing.

      I write fanfiction as a hobby. According to anonymous reviews on the internet, I’m pretty good at it (though in fairness, fandom culture does strongly skew towards the positive). But I don’t think my business communication skills are anything too noteworthy. I get my point across, more or less, but I certainly don’t think my external and internal emails are amazing. I also write and edit FAQs for a website as a volunteering activity, which polishes up my technical writing abilities a little, but again, I don’t think I write anything amazing.

      I’ve seen some terrible writing for sure, but I think most people in the professional world is pretty much at where I am: solid but unremarkable. And I’d call that “average”–not great, not bad. I certainly don’t consider myself a “strong” writer in the business communication sense, just okay. And most people I’ve met in the working world have met this bar.

    33. Treena Kravm

      Well, the CEO of our org literally can’t write a coherent email. Anything she sends out to all staff is literally written by the communications director. My boss sometimes emails with her directly and her writing is littered with multiple typos, poor grammar, run-on sentences, to the point where it’s sometimes difficult to understand what she’s trying to say. She’s been working here for 30+ years and isn’t going anywhere.

      If writing is a part of a job, but those skills aren’t valued, it’s usually top-down/dysfunction.

  3. ACA

    So last week, after I found out I wasn’t advancing to the final round of interviews for a job I really, really thought I had a chance at, I emailed the HR rep back to basically say, “Thanks for letting me know, I look forward to working with whomever you hire, is there anything you think I can do to be a stronger candidate in the future?” If she responded at all, I was expecting her to say something like “We were looking for a candidate with more experience in X/with more background in Y/with a Master’s degree.”

    Instead she told me that my body language was too closed and nervous during the interview, and that the questions I asked weren’t strong enough.

    And I just feel so furious and frustrated. I prepared more for that interview than I ever had for any other, but it was an HR interview, so how was I supposed to ask questions about the office environment? The management style? The day-to-day challenges? I know I could do this job, because I’m in contact with the woman currently covering the job (let’s call her Lucinda) on a regular basis helping her out with the responsibilities. I helped train the previous person in the job on one of the systems we use, and presumably I’ll have to help train the new person. There is so much overlap between my current job and this job.

    Lucinda will be one of the second-round interviewers and has known from the beginning that I was applying for the job, and had told me that I had her full support. When, during one of our many phone calls, I told her I wasn’t being moved forward, she was shocked. At that point she hadn’t gotten a list of final candidates yet from HR, but she said that when she does she’s going to do her best to advocate for me to be added to that list, because (since she is someone who is currently working with me!) she really believes that I’d be a great fit. I don’t know if it will do any good, but it was great to hear.

    I’m assuming that whoever they’re considering for this job instead of me must be some kind of superstar. And since I’ll have to work with that person, I know that it will make my life easier if they’re great at their job. But right now, I’m having a really hard time keeping positive about this.

    1. VictoriaHR

      UGH – body language and “wrong” questions aren’t a good basis for not moving someone forward in an interview IMO – it’s all about can the person do the job and be a good fit in the role. That HR person sucks.

      1. The IT Manager

        I think the body language comment or rather the seems NERVOUS comment is actually somewhat useful. It is something ACA can work on and practice preventing since an interview is a very short window to make an impression (for non-internal jobs) and interviewers will rely on body lanaguage to gauage candidates.

      2. Traveler

        I think there is some merit to it. I know it hurts, because it’s a quality some people never manage to overcome (or at least give the appearance of).

        However, I hired an intern once that was closed off/nervous during an interview. She was exceptionally qualified otherwise though, so I rolled with it, chalking the nervousness up to interview anxiety. We’ve all been there, and I hate the idea of punishing for something we all go through. Unfortunately, when she started she was just as awkward/nervous in the day to day. I heard about it constantly from other employees and since the role she was brought on for was sometimes public facing – I had to prompt her a lot. It made me wish I had taken more cues from the interview.

        1. Lily in NYC

          I was overruled once – I didn’t want to make an offer to someone because she was so unbelievably timid during her interview. She turned bright pink after every question, whispered her answers, and sat like a rock when we asked if she had questions. Her aunt was our HR director and we were forced to hire her. She ended up being a superstar. It took her a month to warm up, and while she was always a bit reserved, she was incredible at her job and I was sad to see her leave after a couple of years.

          1. Traveler

            This is what I was hoping for. She was eventually much more open with me on a one-to-one basis, but not outside of that. I think she may have had some social anxiety, which if she was a longer term employee would have been something we could have worked through. As a relatively short term intern I don’t think there was enough time for her to warm up to it.

      3. jamlady

        My industry involves a lot of dealing with the angry public. You HAVE to be confident and perceptive for this work as well as very knowledgeable of how your company prefers to handle these situations. If you go into an interview in this industry without asking the right questions, they’re going to be nervous that a) you’ve never had to deal with these situations before and therefore didn’t even think to ask and b) that you’re not going to be able to handle a very important part of the job. It’s a weird part too – not something you think about when you’re starting out and definitely not something in job postings. However, it does come with the territory and you have that first interview to show you can handle it.

    2. Judy

      I find it somewhat odd that HR would be talking with you for an internal position. Whenever I’ve had internal interviews, the hiring manager always was my point of contact to learn about the status of the position. I’ve also heard about the status in person or over the phone, not through email.

      I also find it odd that HR would be giving out the list of final candidates whether it’s internal or external hires. Usually the hiring manager gives the list to HR to contact for interviews, not the other way around. But I’m in engineering, so HR really doesn’t know how to figure out what we need in a role.

      1. sittingduck

        I know its hard to think about these things from the outside when you are so close to it – but I wouldn’t discount the feedback you did get. I get that you are frustrated because you prepared for this interview and really feel that you are good for this position – but here’s the thing.

        You asked for feedback, and you got it. Just because it wasn’t the feedback you were expecting, that doesn’t mean you should discount it.

        The other candidates who did make it through seemingly had better body language and questions that the HR person felt was appropriate. So while I know its hard to imagine what these questions could have been, it would seem that someone else did have the ‘right’ questions.

        As for the body language, criticism can be hard to take, but I would take a good look at yourself from someone elses perspective to see how they might be seeing you. You may not notice that you are doing things that are offputting to others.

        Use this as a learning experience to take a good critical look at yourself and to improve for next time.

        I am sorry you feel slighted for this promotion. I know it sucks to think you are a sure-in for a second interview and then to find out you didn’t make it.

    3. The IT Manager

      So is this for an internal position? If so then dinging you for the lack of strong questions is silly since you are able to speak with the people who can best answer those questions.

    4. C Average

      On one hand, I’m indignant on your behalf, because it sucks to know you could do a job really well and to be out of the running based on optics.

      On the other hand, I think it’s worth noting that you got the kind of feedback most candidates WISH they got: you got truthful and actionable information rather than some palaver about more qualified candidates (which, though quite likely true, doesn’t offer YOU anything helpful for next time). You got an explanation for why they chose not to proceed with you in particular. Most of the time, it’s next to impossible to get that kind of feedback, in part because people react defensively.

      Being effective in interviews and being a good candidate for a job aren’t the same thing. In addition to being qualified, you need to be able to sell yourself as the right person in an interview setting. The HR folks have given you some specific things to work on, and I’d recommend working on them.

      That said, downthread there’s a comment from someone in a similar scenario who was able to get back in the mix by leveraging a personal connection, and it sounds like you may be able to do that, too. I hope so! If you make it to that next round of interviews through your connection with Lucinda, try to be cognizant of your body language and your overall affect in an interview setting. An effective interview presence in addition to rock-solid qualifications will be hard to beat.

      Good luck!

    5. College Career Counselor

      Unfortunately, you often never know what an interviewer is looking for (and the feedback you got was vague enough to be unactionable–questions not “strong enough” how?). The body language thing is potentially useful to you, if you think it’s legitimate feedback. Leaning forward, making sure not to cross arms, etc. can help counter the perception of “closed” body language (note: I’m not saying that you actually WERE closed off/nervous).

      However, you definitely have my sympathies. I had an interview a while back that I thought went really well. I was prepared, knowledgeable about the organization, had specific answers to questions, etc. The external search consultant working with the institution walked me out and went out of his way to tell me that I’d done a masterful job and gave the best interview he’d seen thus far. I was feeling pretty good, based on my own assessment AND that of a knowledgeable person also in the room. Naturally, I was not selected to move forward.

      I hope Lucinda is successful in advocating for you to go to the next round.

    6. Jennifer

      Oooh, I’m so sorry to hear how that went. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Geez.

      It seems like all the time there is some “superstar” out there that’s always better than us, isn’t there.

    7. Not Today Satan

      I’m sorry that this happened. I naturally have sort of diminutive posture, especially when I feel nervous or vulnerable. I’ve started sitting with my arms on the chair’s arm rest, or with one arm on the arm rest and one arm on the table (this one is good because it makes you lean forward too). It forces you to open up and I think it makes you both look and feel more confident and authoritative.

  4. Nervous Accountant

    So I found out that a coworker doesn’t like me and it’s bothering me a lot! it’s not in my head. It happened all of a sudden and I don’t know why. We got along well before. He’s my boss’s favorite person and extremely close with her though he isn’t senior or has any bearing on hiring and firing. And I’m feeling it from more and more people, this freeze….no one really talks to me anymore. The thing is, in the beginning everyone was friendly and welcoming. I would sit w them or go out to lunch once in a while. Now….no one really talks to me save for 1 friend or a few coworkers. . I still see the same groups going out or talking and hanging out. But I feel this freeze.

    I smile at everyone as much as I can and say good morning or be nice and polite. If someone needs something I do it right away. If someone says they need a spoon or Splenda I jump up right away with something to offer. Is this sad?

    I’m not sure what I even did anymore. I want people to like me, to approach me. My work isn’t being affected exactly since everyone is professional and friendly but I still feel…unliked…and I hate it. And FYI I feel it from my boss too now. I feel like it’s so petty to be hurt and upset over but I’m lost. Once they start sensing Ur not liked they’ll say “U don’t work well with others ” and bam another reason to be let go.

    1. Anie

      Maybe you’re trying too hard? I know, in the past, when I’ve had a co-worker or too try overly hard to be friendly it was a bit of a turn off.

    2. Sunshine

      Nervous accountant, it sounds like you are speculating on a lot of unknowns. Speaking from experience of letting things get to me when I really shouldn’t have, it is so worthwhile and relieving to speak up. I would suggest maybe inviting other people to lunch. People also love talking about themselves so general questions (not too invasive) could help open the dialogue a bit. I think if you open the dialogue and take initiative then people will be drawn to you as the person who makes things happen. I have been through too many experiences where I was waiting for something to happen to me, but it takes two people for something to happen.

      You could always kill them with kindness too!

      Its also worthwhile to take a look at yourself too, I do not enjoy my lunch break when one particular person is there. This person always interrupts other people and speaks over them and ends up dominating the conversation. They also go on and on about things that aren’t relevant to the conversation and goes off on personal tangents. I dread when they join me for lunch when I am with others.

      1. Nervous Accountant

        I am thinking of asking the coworker what’s up, but i prolly won’t be able to talk to
        Him without bursting into tears and that’s not what I want to do.

        If I was new I would understand, but I was friendly with these people before. I can’t pinpoint what exactly changed.

        1. Sunshine

          Just remember – keep it professional, these aren’t your friends they’re your coworkers. If you think there is too big of a chance of getting emotional, I don’t think it’s the right time to bring it up- that will make things worse. Do you have the weekend off? From your later post it sounds like you need some sleep! Lack of sleep always affects me.

        2. Betsy Bobbins

          My favorite line to use in these types of situations is, ‘Have I done something to offend you?’. It has magically transformed interactions with strangers and those closer to me alike. You can certainly preface it with context, but it’s a less confrontational approach that allows the person to either air a grievance, or shames them into changing their behavior by pointing it out.

          1. Humpty

            I also like, “You seem (insert word).” “You seem irritated with me.” “You seem annoyed.” This brings with it a little bit of weight of physical evidence – it’s harder to skate with a “no” and if they’ve been acting irritated/annoyed/passive aggressive, they know they’ve been caught and I’m not just going to blindly scuttle around trying to appease them. Usually it gets people to come clean about what’s going on or they stop the behavior so they can avoid the conversation.

    3. Artemesia

      This sounds miserable. Is it the first time this has happened e.g. is it THIS workplace? Or has this happened in other settings.

      I would stop doing things that seem obsequious or like you are begging for favor like jumping up and getting someone a splenda or spoon. This may be coming across badly. Be cordial and polite but don’t scurry about providing non work assistance as a bid to being appreciated. I would keep doing good work and try to work on cordial interactions around work; don’t go overboard but perhaps once a day initiate an interaction around a work issue e.g. clarification about something or feedback on something.

      Is there any particular moment when this change occurred or has it been gradual? If gradual, it may be a social signals issue; if sudden could there be some particular thing you did that came across badly. Some workplaces are like junior high school and small things can cause problems. If this kind of situation is one you have encountered before you may want to get some counseling around social skills. If it is a new thing then you may be encountering a dysfunctional workplace or immature co-workers. It sounds miserable. I’m sorry.

    4. HeyNonnyNonny

      This sounds pretty normal to me, actually– at first, everyone’s friendly. Then friendships start to settle, and you only end up with a few people that you actually get along with beyond the professional-friendly level. I don’t think it’s a problem at all, just that not everyone will be friends with everyone else.

      1. fposte

        I think this is a really good point. NA, you say you have a friend and a few co-workers you talk to, and I think that’s pretty common at a workplace. If by “not talking” you mean they refuse to answer when you speak to them or tell people to tell you stuff rather than talking to you directly, then that is a problem, but if you mean they don’t chat socially to you, I think that’s just workplace dynamics shaking out.

        Though I’m with Artemesia–don’t leap up to get personal stuff for people who can get it themselves. That’s not a great route to being liked. It’s okay to sometimes bring something back for people when you’re already at the condiment counter or whatever, but doing personal errands comes across as self-devaluing–“My time and effort aren’t worth a thing, not like yours!” You don’t want friends who rely on you not valuing yourself.

    5. mdv

      My personality would be to just straight up ask someone you know/like “so… a lot of people in the office seem to be treating me really differently all of a sudden – any idea what happened?”

    6. C Average

      Awww, I’m sorry. It sucks to be an alleged adult and feel like you’ve been cast in a mashup of “The Apprentice” and a John Hughes teen drama. (Can you tell I’ve been there, too?)

      Do you think any of this is just plain the time of year? Spring is legendarily stressful for accountants, nervous and otherwise. Maybe everyone is just so stressed out that they’re falling into familiar and comfortable patterns of workplace friendship and conversation, rather than taking the time to be inclusive of someone they don’t know as well.

      As for the person who doesn’t like you . . . try not to overrev on that (which I know is way harder said than done). Dislike is such a funny thing. Often the root cause is completely arbitrary and not well understood even by the person feeling the dislike. You have some useful information–there’s a person you rub wrong–and you’re looking for an explanation for this, but there might not be a good one. I’d try to steer clear of this person as much as you can, and be purely professional when you do need to interact.

      Are there people in or outside of your workplace you know have good feelings toward you? Connect with them. Are there little pockets of joy you can find in each day–a good book you can read during your lunch break, a walk outside somewhere pleasant, a favorite comfort food? Make sure you have a little touchpoint of happiness in each day.

      This all sounds hard. I hope things get better for you.

    7. Dang

      I get it, it can feel like such a personal attach, but try really hard not to take it personally. Everyone is not going to like everyone. You haven’t liked every single person you’ve met, right? And no need to speculate on why- you can’t always apply logic and you’ll just drive yourself crazy doing it. Concentrate on the people who do enjoy you and just be yourself. Easier said than done, but some things are just out of your control. I know it sucks, though.

    8. LQ

      Focus on keeping your head down and on your work, and be polite, but you may want to cut back on going out of your way to help. Use lots of polite words (pleases/thank yous go a long way without feeling like someone is trying to hard).

      And try to make sure you are developing and nurturing relationships outside of work. Both networking, and just making new friends too. It can help, especially if things are very stressful at work with something like this.

      I wish you the best.

    9. ScottySmalls

      It probably won’t solve everything, but you should lay off on getting things for people. There’s a theory that people like you better when you personally ask them to do you a favor. ITS not the same someone asks “Does anyone have a pen?” And you’re always the one with the pen because there’s no reciprocity. I’d be interested to see what would happen if you asked some people who are freezing you out for small favors.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2011/11/16/do-me-a-favor-so-youll-like-me-the-reverse-psychology-of-likeability/

      1. Not So NewReader

        Thanks for this link- very interesting.
        I read some where about the importance of making sure that favors are reciprocated. In OP’s setting, other people would get her Splenda, etc, sometimes.
        But this makes a lot of sense.

        OP, the other thing I would suggest is to make yourself think nicely of these people. It is amazing how you change your thinking and relationships change. If you catch yourself thinking a negative thought, back tract and say “nope, I meant, I wish them well.” My theory is that it’s not so much that people do not like us, its that we have decided we do not like them and do not realize we have made that decision.

    10. Traveler

      This happens sometimes, and it may have absolutely nothing to do with you or anything you did. I had it happen once because I was working as a contractor and the boss had apparently been praising my work to other employees. I think it made them nervous that I might be promoted from contractor to full time. My immediate supervisor (who I had actually helped recommend for promotion, though she did not know that) started treating me like trash. I eventually just had to leave. So, if that’s an option for you, you may want to consider it.

    11. Clever Name

      Well, unfortunately, you can’t make everyone like you. I’ve had a similar experience, and it’s been one of the more painful experiences I’ve had. Basically a coworker made me feel he was my friend until I found out that he actually hates my guts. Do you have someone you trust at work you could talk to about it? See if you can figure out why they don’t like you. Sometimes it’s something you’ve done, and sometimes it’s nothing you have control over, but is still good to know (in my case it’s a bit of both).

  5. Future Analyst

    Managers—how do you know when to let someone go if they’re in a temporary position? We’ve hired three temps for an 18 month project, and one is just not picking up her assigned tasks as quickly as we’d like. The other two are doing well, exceptional even, so I don’t think it’s that our standards are too stringent. This temp has been here three weeks, and is still making too many careless mistakes. The work is not difficult, just requires close attention to detail, and I think if she hasn’t put forth the required effort in her first couple of weeks, we’re just not going to get there.
    The biggest concern for me is that though the software that we use to complete the work has tracking mechanisms and we can pinpoint exactly who did what, this temp sometimes denies that she was the one who made the mistake. Everything we do here is fixable, as long as we know what to fix, and if she cannot own up to mistakes, I just don’t think it’s going to work. But is three weeks too short of a time period to accurately assess that?

    1. Elkay

      Sounds like the biggest problem is that she’s denying she made the error in the face of evidence proving otherwise. Anecdotal experience says once she knows you can track this stuff she’ll try to cover her tracks by amending the error so it doesn’t point to her. You’ve got concrete examples that she’s not meeting requirements and isn’t willing to learn. Sounds like it’s time to let her go (plus three weeks is short enough that she won’t have a huge gap on her resume).

    2. Joey

      Cut her loose if she’s easily replaced and you’ve already given her some feedback about the errors

    3. Xarcady

      This is one of the reasons a company hires temps. You can give them a reasonable time to learn the job and if they don’t/can’t, you cut your losses and let them go.

      You can try improving her performance if you want–has anyone told her she is making too many mistakes and what kind of mistakes and shown her how to prevent them, and who to tell if she makes one? If you want, someone can have a clear, direct talk with her, making it clear what needs to change and what will happen if it doesn’t–i.e. she will be let go. You can also let the temp agency know, as they might be able to do something with her. I might have The Talk and give her another week, max, to improve. But I’ve worked temp jobs where people just didn’t show up one day, and it was usually performance based.

      But you aren’t required to do anything. All you really need to do is call the temp agency and tell them you don’t want her back. They will do the hard part of telling her.

      People tend to temp because they need the money. So, speaking as someone who is temping right now, it would be a kindness to give this woman a chance to improve. But you don’t have to take as long as with a regular employee. One talk, one explanation, one clear setting out of what will happen, one clear direction as to what she needs to do if a mistake happens, and then monitor her for a few days. If she can’t meet the minimum requirements after that, let her go. And let her move on to work that she is better suited for.

    4. Artemesia

      The second time she denied making an error was the time to let her go. And your sense that she isn’t ‘getting it’ after three weeks is also good reason to let her go. But the denial is a bigger problem than being slow to catch on. She isn’t working out. Time to move on. The fact that you have two people who are working out as expected gives you confidence that this is the right move.

    5. Chriama

      Lying about relevant work issues is an acceptable dealbreaker, IMO. If you’re hesitant to fire her immediately, you need to
      a) call her out on the lies. you can track this information, so the only thing lying does is make her look like she doesn’t want to improve
      b) tell her what standards she needs to meet by when, in order to keep the rest of her contract.

    6. Observer

      For some things, I would say 3 weeks is too short. But denying that she did x, when you know from the system? Unless it’s possible that someone is using her login (whether on purpose of by accident), that’s a red flag after one day.

  6. Ali Cat

    UK Readers – Any advice or tips on job hunting in NE England? I’m just starting out in my career and am American but at some point in the next year or so I plan on moving to the UK to be with my soon-to-be husband. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Elkay

      Where abouts in NE England are you going to be based and what type of work are you looking to do?

      1. Ali Cat

        Probably in the Newcastle area. I’ve got a few advanced degrees in random niche subjects (archaeology and related fields), but am currently working as an low-level administrator for a small college. I’ve been told I’ve been approved for a promotion to a position with more responsibilities and a better title, but the problem I’m having is that I will only have a couple of years experience in this field by the time I am planning to move.

        1. Elkay

          Newcastle has a couple of universities (Newcastle and Northumbria), when I get home I’ll dig out some of the web pages I used to use when I worked for a university, if you think they might be useful?

          1. Cath in Canada

            Newcastle alumna here! I’m so jealous, I miss the city and the Northumberland coast (my birthplace).

            The university has its own antiquities museum, called the Hancock – your archaeology background might be useful there. There are also a couple of big hospitals that do medical research, plus the Centre for Life, who might need someone with your academic admin background. Durham, Sunderland, and Middlesbrough also have universities within a somewhat reasonable commute. Just be sure not to support any of their football teams – NUFC all the way! Toon Toon! etc.

    2. misspiggy

      Don’t worry too much if salaries seem low compared to the South-East: cost of living is much lower too, primarily because of rent/house price differences. But the price of housing varies quite a lot between individual places in this region, so try to find companies which pay well in relation to your likely rental or mortgage costs. Transport networks, while usually good, tend to have more ‘dead zones’ than some parts of the country, so research exactly how you would get to jobs. The best-paying firms are likely to be engineering-focused, and the universities in that part of the world are pretty strong employers too. The other main employer might well be the NHS. All of these will publish technical and management jobs in the broadsheet press or technical magazines, as well as on their websites. Back office type jobs are more likely to be through local recruitment agencies, so do a lot of research and follow up with them. Remember that salaries might be lower than you expect because they won’t cover you for medical insurance. You won’t need insurance or to pay for emergency health care, but you’ll need to look into how you would cover your other healthcare costs as a non-European. Good luck!

      1. Ali Cat

        Thanks for the advice! I’ve actually been looking at entry-level university administration jobs in that area and sadly the pay is similar to what I’m getting paid now (once you do the conversion). So I’m not so worried about that. I’m more concerned that they won’t give me a fighting chance since all my job experience is in the US and its limited (only 2 years) and my degrees are not really relevant to business/management/administration (okay they’re not at all relevant).

        1. misspiggy

          Actually, it could be an advantage. The US university sector may be seen as more cutting-edge and efficient than the UK in its business and administration practices, so you could emphasise all the useful strategies and tools you learned about. As long as you also show evidence of applying new processes and information quickly, and adapting flexibly to different workplace norms and cultures, you should be fine. Researching the regulatory regimes and legal requirements affecting English universities would be a good idea, remembering that there are sometimes quite different laws and standards affecting the different countries which make up the UK. Also taking into account the impact of EC laws and regulations. I’m thinking data protection laws, admissions practices, HR and accounting rules and so on. Even if you don’t have detailed knowledge of these, knowing how regulations in these areas could affect university administration could be useful.

          1. misspiggy

            Oh, and the lack of a business degree doesn’t matter at all in most university administration areas. There’s still a fair amount of intellectual snobbery about management degrees. If you have a passion for another academic area, and can show how it’s helped you build relevant skills, that will probably be a plus. Many university administration teams want someone who is an enthusiastic supporter of a range of academic learning and research.

        2. RFWL

          It will take a while but eventually you will stop doing the conversion and just get on with things. :)

          My partner and I moved to London last year and it took almost a year for us to both get jobs, with a lot of close chances lost along the way. The recruiter thing didn’t work well for us at all – he got screwed around a bunch and I didn’t have the pedigree for those in my line of work that a recruiter would contact me. In the end I found my role on LinkedIn and he was contacted by a recruiter for a super niche skill he has he incidentally picked up when he was pursuing his degree. We both indicated on CVs that we have the right to live and work in the UK without restriction (so they know you aren’t bound to your current employer). Definitely keep a bunch of channels open and not rely solely on recruiters – I have also noticed that it seems like the hidden job market is more active here than the US.

          Supposedly getting UK experience is what matters a lot to most employers, so you may want to take just something to get by when you arrive while you look for the longer term job otherwise you will go nuts and it will put a toll on your relationship. Alternatively some people suggest volunteering to get experience on the resume.

        3. Bunny

          The cost of living thing misspiggy mentioned made me think!

          On moving – remember that whatever you’ve budgeted for rent and utilities will also need to include covering council tax rates, which vary depending on the property you’re renting. These are separate to income tax, and are payable by monthly direct debit for 10 months out of every 12.

          Also, when job hunting – keep in mind that roads and public transport aren’t like they are in the USA. We’re a small country, so our infrastructure isn’t great at handling efficient coverage of small distances. Especially if you don’t drive, limit your job searching to a smaller net around the location you expect to live, and use google maps to at least estimate travel times to the locations you apply for.

      2. Carrie in Scotland

        Yes this.

        Historically, NE England is industrial/manufacturing and the salaries reflect the area. I think if you live in a small place you’ll struggle if you don’t drive, as the transport just isn’t there. Places like Durham, Alnwick are pretty, much of the larger cities and towns are industrial and not so pretty.

        Beautiful part of the country – country parks, can get to the lake district etc and not too far away from Scotland either! (might be slightly biased on that last point…)

      3. Rae

        She won’t need to worry about any healthcare costs as a legal resident of the UK. Just wanted to point that out in case you think you needs extra health insurance, Ali Cat.

        I made the move to the UK with only a couple years work experience and I found recruitment agencies to be very important in my job search. Definitely sign up with one or a few. I also had a degree that has nothing to do wih my field. Basically, just get your resume edited to be more of a CV and I found job searching to be like the US!

        1. Ali Cat

          This may be a silly question – but will recruitment agencies work with someone like me who has such limited experience in their field? I always just assumed that those agencies would only look for highly specialized candidates, not ones doing general administrative work.

          1. Elkay

            If you want general admin there are lots of agencies who will place you, Reed is one of them. Just put a day aside to go into the city centre with a few CVs and go and sign up with them. In my (limited) experience, they’ll sit down and have a chat with you about the type of work you’re looking for, you may need to make an appointment to go back but just walking in isn’t frowned upon.

    3. Violet Rose

      Fellow-American-working-in-the-UK-fistbump! My experience is pretty limited to the Southeast, so will be less useful than other commenters, but if you have any questions or wonders about working abroad I’ll do my best to answer.

      1. Ali Cat

        Hey hey! I do have a lot of silly questions – like do you put the fact that you’re legally there on a visa in your cover letter and how do you do that without it sounding weird? What have you found to be the biggest adjustment in terms of work culture?

        1. Violet Rose

          I didn’t mention my visa status on my cover letter at all, because I was hoping to be sponsored (but had a backup plan in case I couldn’t be). My interviewer did say, “Do you have permission to work in the UK?” – that’s really the important bit, so if you want to mention it, I’d phrase it like that, either in your cover letter or at interview. [For the record, I had a few months at the end of my student visa, then re-entered the UK on a commonwealth-specific visa –

          As far as workplace culture goes, it’s a small thing, but definitely learn the relationship between your office/work group/whatever and tea. Ours has a kettle, and if one person wants a cup, they will make the offer to everyone in the room. I get the impression this is very, very common for offices: in my first few weeks, I didn’t make tea once because by the time I even thought of it, someone else was boiling the kettle and making the rounds, and so my higher-ups poked fun at the fact that I never made the tea. Oh, and “tea” is assumed to include milk, but sugar preference varies wildly.

          1. Cath in Canada

            For my first few years in Canada I had a “Status in Canada” line near the top of my CV, right under my contact info. (“Status in Canada: [visa type], would need sponsorship from employer” then “Status in Canada: Permanent Resident, no employment restrictions”. I now have “Citizenship: Canadian and British”.

        2. Violet Rose

          Oops, didn’t realise I left my first paragraph hanging, there. That was supposed to end with, “– dual citizenship came very much in handy there.”

  7. Nervous Accountant

    Just not a great week. I was forwarded a really bad review from a client that was full of lies…normally I take feedback well and reflect on it, my managers and boss are all aware of this and acknowledge this. But this time….I did everything right and even had documentation to back it up. Did my boss care? Nope!
    I did everything right but this…..it makes me so upset..

    Doesn’t help that both of my direct managers who (I think) wanted me to stay on are on leave so…idk….

    In other aspects of my work im doing better…my boss doesn’t review my work directly but I haven’t heard any complaints from the senior accountants who do (not that I’m a rockstar but I’m not incompetent either). I’m not the lowest or highest producer but personally I feel 100x more confident about what I’m doing and thus a better producer this year. My boss acknowledges this too. I was on top of my work and nothing major slipped through the cracks and I got to go home at s reasonable hour on deadline day. I feel like this should make some difference but then one client complaint (lies no less!) can undo EVERYTHING and shit hits th fan. Is it like that everywhere?

    It doesn’t help I’ve been working 13 days straight and on little sleep.

    1. fposte

      It doesn’t sound like it undid everything, though; it just sounds like it made somebody unhappy that your client was unhappy. I don’t think there’s any level of achievement that means you don’t hear about that. It also sounds like overall the job is going okay, or okay as an account position can during tax season. So congratulations on that!

      Try to get as much sleep as you can considering the time of year; I think it’ll make a lot of this stuff seems smaller.

    2. catsAreCool

      It depends. In my workplace, as long as they know you did a good job, they aren’t going to be mad at you because a customer was unfairly angry. Of course, if this happens a lot, they might start wondering why.

  8. Wip

    What was the first time you felt like a manager?

    This is my first management position and coming into it I felt weird thinking of myself as being in charge. Recently I’ve been having minor issues with an employee. I was nervous but I called her into my office and had a talk with her about it. It went very well and she’s responded nicely to the feedback. Ever since then I’ve felt like a real manager. I feel a lot more confident in my authority and that I can have the difficult conversations. I’ve still got a lot of learning to do, but it feels really good to take ownership of being a leader.

    I was just curious if any others have had experiences like that where it just clicked, or if it was a slower process that you can’t really pinpoint.

    1. louise

      Nothing is coming to mind right off, but just yesterday I was musing about when I first felt like a real adult — in my 20s at a massive event that had a lot of children at it. One child couldn’t find his chaperone and asked me for help. I wanted to look around and be like, um, I think you’re looking for an adult but I realized that was me, and I quickly solved his problem.

      1. gloria

        The first time I felt like a real adult was when I was working with kids and there was a bug on the table and I realized I was the grown-up who had to smash it! Of course I was 19 at the time so it was a fairly temporary feeling of adulthood. 8 years later my ratio of adult-to-non-adult feelings has shifted steadily upward but there are still times when I feel like I’m in a B-list comedy about a teenager faking her way in the world, soon to be caught out to hilarious effect.

      2. Beancounter in Texas

        I’m in the second half of my 30’s with two mortgages, a car payment, a paid off student loan and an 18 month old toddler, and I still can’t believe I’m an adult. I was a very serious child, but as I get older, I take life less seriously and have more fun.

    2. Nom d'pixels

      I had a new-to-me direct report. I work in one of those places where your boss, their boss, and maybe even one more up the ladder are aware of what you do and will try to give you assignments. This employee, Theon, had been directly reporting to someone who was incompetent. There was a kind of interim time where Theon reported to his supervisor’s supervisor instead, and his supervisor also became involved. They were all giving Theon conflicting projects and all expected him to follow their instructions.
      As soon as Theon moved to my team, I sat down with everyone involved and explained that any assignments he was given needed to come through me. I told them that if he were given any assignments directly by them, he was to run them by my first. That meeting was their one chance to prioritize anything they wanted him to do, but I wasn’t going to allow him to be pulled in several directions.
      Theon ended up being a pretty bad employee who fortunately found another job during his PIP, but I did feel like I was really stepping up to the plate in that meeting.

      1. KarenT

        Definitely sounds to me like you stepped up to the plate! You handled that situation really well and it was the right thing to do. Theon’s poor performance shouldn’t impact his need for clear direction.

    3. Not So NewReader

      One day a couple people came to me, “We changed things, this process is so much easier now. We want to show you.” They were excited. (step a: it was important that I go see this) I went to look and they had reduced labor by 75% and the job was being handled well (step b: their thinking was aligned with mine- “let’s streamline and not kill ourselves doing this”). They said, “Do you have to get permission for these changes? Will we get in trouble?” (step c: This seals the deal. I took a deep breath. No, I don’t feel I need permission to authorize reduction of labor for a given task by 75%.) I told them if anyone says anything tell them to come chat with me. (step 4: They were doing a good job, I was proud to work with them and I wanted them to think of more ways to reduce the labor intensiveness of our work. I felt like I had settle into my role and they had settled in to theirs. We had arrived.)

    4. onnellinen

      For me, it clicked when I learned that staff on my team get together for a drink regularly outside work, and I had not been invited! :)

  9. Ali

    I found out yesterday that I did not get a social media job I had a phone interview for a month ago. The recruiter said it took time to get back to me because the hiring manager changed what he/she was seeking in the job, and I didn’t have experience in the two things they wanted someone to have experience with. The recruiter told me I could keep applying for jobs in the company, but seeing as they took two months to contact me initially and another month to notify me after my interview, they’re not really at the top of my list. But hey, at least they are keeping in touch, right?

    Still, I am *so* weary of hearing some variation of “Your background is great/you’d be an asset/you have good skills, but you don’t have experience in X.”

    I was considering going to grad school *if* I could get this one assistantship offered through my desired program. However, I found out that the assistantship stipend would only cover university tuition, not the tuition for your college/department, so I’d still have to come up with over $10,000 in tuition before factoring in living expenses, books and other things. I’ve ultimately decided to take myself out of the process, since $10,000+ is still a substantial amount to me. So now I finally learned what everyone else here is saying about grad school to be true.

    I really thought I would have some opportunities pop up, but that’s not the case. I’m going to NYC in a few weeks to house sit for my sister who is going on vacation, so I’m hoping to keep applying to employers in the area and mention that I’ll be in town to see if I can get some interviews. Onward and upward.

    1. VictoriaHR

      Hang in there, you’ll find something. The economy’s still at a point where employers can be choosy and keep searching for the “purple squirrel” i.e. the one person that’s almost impossible to find, that has every qualification and skill that they’re looking for.

    2. QAT Contractor

      I was in the same boat at the start of my career. It seemed like if you didn’t have any working experience in every single thing the company wanted, you were immediately rejected. I did have quite a few interviews that resulted in the same “you would be good but…” and it did end up dragging on me after a while. Eventually I decided to give up for a while and not apply anywhere. I already had 2 part time jobs that were paying me plenty to continue my lifestyle, but they weren’t helping me reach my professional career that I wanted.

      I did get lucky though. A company found my resume on Monster and had me come in for an interview. Two days after that interview I got an offer and accepted. I’ve been with the same company now for 7.5 years and still love it.

      I know this isn’t the best approach to take, or really good advice at all :-p, but the point is, eventually you will find something. The company I though I wanted to work for as a dream job didn’t work out and I’ve been glad it didn’t after I hear more and more about that company over the years. I still get to do what I wanted to do, but for a much better company.

      If you want to gain some experience in X Y and Z, I do suggest looking up books, videos, training sessions or even software (if available) and learning it on your own. Though it might not be “real workplace” experience, at least you know of X Y and Z and can apply your knowledge.

    3. C Average

      I’m sorry you’re having such a rough go of it.

      I’ll bet a change of scenery will be nice, and it should be a really pleasant time of year in NYC. I’ll be there myself in late April for my nephew’s bar mitzvah and am really looking forward to the trip. Such a fun city with so much cool stuff to see and do.

      Try to enjoy having a place to yourself, being in a new setting, and being in close proximity to a lot of employers and a lot of interesting sights.

      I remember a while back you’d started a blog. Any progress on that front? (I’m a serial blog abandoner and am always impressed by people who can start one and stick with it.)

    4. Hermoine Granger

      I’m in a similar boat and don’t have much advice to offer beyond keep trying and eventually you’ll find something. Companies are still holding out hope for unicorns (and I’m guessing they’re finding them) so there’s nothing else you can really do but keep keeping on.

    5. Khoots

      I’m in the same boat but recently met with someone in the industry who gave me some great advice! Try getting involved with some different membership organizations or even looking for volunteer opportunities in your field. As long as you’re okay with doing some extra unpaid work this will not only get you some great professional networking in but there’s also an opportunity to learn some new skills you may not have right now. I hope this helps and good luck on your search!

  10. Stephanie

    After I complained about feeling stuck in my underemployment gig, I guess the fates smiled upon me: I have a phone interview at my company for something in line with my background! And it’s full-time (they hire a lot of people as part-timers).

    I’m being considered as an external candidate. That being said, do I tell my boss I have an interview for a different position at the company? He knows my current role is underemployment and is supportive of me moving on. If so, when?

    1. AnotherAlison

      Yea! Great news.

      Your situation is a little different since you’re a contractor with your current boss, but from what you’ve said, I think you should tell him. I did internal transfers a few times. The first times NOT telling my current boss I was looking, and then the last time going to my boss first. The last time was definitely the best experience. The other times, other managers in the interviewing process told my boss for me anyway. I don’t know if that would happen since you’re an external candidate, but it looks better coming from you than someone else.

      1. Stephanie

        Er, would email be sufficient? Usually, I would opt to tell him in person, but we’re working the same shift at different facilities the next couple of weeks. What would I say?

        1. the gold digger

          Hi boss!

          I am really happy to let you know that I will have a phone interview for x position with hiring manager Y next Wednesday. I have enjoyed working at Company Z so far, so am especially interested in the opportunity to make a deeper contribution in [functional area]. As you know, my background is in [blah blah] and I have been trying to get back into that area.

          [Some kind of nice closing]

          Stephanie

      2. AnotherAlison

        Actually, now that I think about it, when I told my last boss that I was interested in a position working for New Boss, he spoke with him first, before I applied or reached out. It was great because New Boss didn’t know me at all. Gold Digger’s suggestion is great.

    2. ThursdaysGeek

      If he’s a good boss and knows all that, I’d tell him sooner rather than later. Because if he thinks you will do good in that other job, he can advocate for you. You certainly want him to be prepared to speak to your qualifications when he is called for a reference.

    3. Dang

      Good luck Stephanie! I don’t see anything wrong with telling your boss if he’s supportive, he might even be able to put in a good word for you.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale

      Good luck!!! Fingers are crossed. I would tell your boss, especially if he’s been supportive.

    5. Nanc

      I’m on the Tell Him Train. If possible, offer any help you can–writing a job description, list of duties/priorities, what’s new since you came to the job, etc.–to help him fill your position quickly when you get the full-time gig. Makes you look good and will help him out.

      Let us know when it happens.

      (I’m in full put out the good vibes If You Build It, They Will Come mode today!)

    6. fposte

      Good luck, Stephanie! And I’m with everybody else–tell the boss, do it by email since he’s not around, and might as well do it earlier rather than later.

    7. Not So NewReader

      If you know you have a supportive boss, tell him immediately.
      And much luck with this- you sound really excited. Fingers crossed!

  11. Sunflower

    How common is it for companies to offer remote workers a co-working space as part of their benefits?

    1. Sunflower

      Some context around this- I interviewed for a remote working position and 80% of the team works from home. They seem to want me to also work from my home but I’d much rather work from a co-working station in a building- at least part of the time. I’d be willing to dish the cash out myself if need be but wondering if it’s a reasonable thing to ask for as part of benefits? (note: their salary max is also my minimum amount so I might have to use some of my negotiating power there). I’ve been seeing a lot of great remote position so this would be helpful to know just in general for the future!

      1. Nachos Bell Grande

        It’s reasonable to ask, but I’d be hesitant to expect anything. If it’s a virtual team, they might use remote workers intentionally to pay less overhead. Most people who look for remote jobs already have a comfortable office setup, so it may be assumed that you would too. I’m a little jealous that a coworking station is an option for you. They don’t have those here and I’m so professionally lonely. :/

      2. Holly Day

        If most people work from home I’d guess they may not be super eager to set you up in a co-working space, but if if the hiring manager really wanted you then they may be be open to putting that on the table. Do some research on costs locally, and perhaps have an alternate option available — if you haven’t worked from home before, maybe try it for two months and agree to re-evaluate with your manager at the end of that time? Presumably, by then you’ll better understand your day-to-day work, can make a better case for why paying for a co-working space would benefit them (not just you) and have established yourself as a rock star, and they may be more willing to make that investment in your workspace.

  12. Anonymousforthisone

    Frustration posting.

    I applied for a promotion position last January. After a round of phone interviews, then a panel interview with 5 people asking questions, they told me they would have a decision the next week. Two weeks later, they decided they couldn’t decide between two of us, so each of us met with the VP of the area for a final interview. That was a week ago this past Thursday.

    On Monday, we were told that the decision would come “soon, very soon.” On Tuesday, we received emails that the HR person we were working with had a new boss who wanted to review the interview notes, etc., so the announcement would be delayed until next Monday.

    I, of course, cannot stop myself from reading into why in the heck the new manager would want to review all of the interview notes, etc. in preparation for a decision. My mind immediately went to the fact that I am a woman over 40 and the other candidate (who I know and with whom I have been communicating throughout this process) is a man under 40. I have decided, in my brain, that they want to ensure there is no room for an EEOC complaint because they decided not to promote me.

    Of course, I have no evidence of this, but the process has been so frustrating and tiring that I cannot help but let my mind go in that direction.

    Thanks for listening. I have been waiting for this thread all week!!!!

    1. Joey

      The new manager wants to be sure everything was good. Maybe she wants to make sure the right folks interviewed, that there was a diverse pool of candidates interviewed, and that she agrees with the selection makes sense. Ie the justification for the selection is appropriate, the salary offer is appropriate, etc

    2. the gold digger

      I first applied for the job I have now last January. I didn’t start until August – didn’t get an offer until June – because they rewrote the job description (to fit me better) and then hired a new VP who had to weigh in as well.

      I am a woman over 40. It never occurred to me that that might be a factor.

      1. Anonymousforthisone

        Thank you. I did say that I have no evidence of this, so your comments helped immensely.

    3. Beezus

      I would interpret this as the new HR manager has taken an interest in the hiring process and wants input on the hiring decisions they have pending, so they need time to bring him/her up to speed.

      1. Anonymousforthisone

        Thanks. I will be able to think of that all weekend, instead of my worst-case scenario.

      1. Anonymousforthisone

        It has, in the not-so-recent past, so I think that is why my mind went there. I appreciate everyone’s comments because they have given me different outlooks on the situation. I hope to be able to let you know on next Friday’s thread that I got the job!

  13. Not Today Satan

    Last week I posted about interviewing for a temp job that I’m overqualified for. I followed most of y’alls advice–I wore a suit (mostly because it’s the simpler option tbh!) and I emphasized what I would learn in this position. I didn’t feel overdressed–in fact one of the interviewers wore a tie. And… I got the job! Thanks everybody. :)

  14. AmyNYC

    This is half question/half rant – I requested to use one vacation day for a long weekend (weekend + Monday) and my boss said “next time, it’ll be for more time, right?” I asked what he meant, he said the company prefers people to take vacation time in big chunks, not “a day here, a day there.” From reading this blog I know that this is legal and companies are well within their rights to say how you can use vacation, but UGH.
    We’re a mid-size company – about 30 people, so I guess can see how that might be easier for management to keep track of who’s in and out of the office, but really HOW HARD is it to look at a calendar and see where people are?!
    Does anyone else have this policy? Can anyone on the management side explain why you like it?

    1. the_scientist

      This would drive me CRAZY, because I love taking an occasional “no-work Wednesday” or tacking an extra day onto a long weekend! I always make the request with lots of advance notice and make sure that it’s not going to be an inconvenient time. I’m sure it is a lot easier to keep track of bigger chunks of vacation but try not to micro-manage people’s time off! I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to want to use their vacation time as they choose.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhausen

      Does your company have a block leave policy? Mine makes everyone take a two week stretch of vacation at some point every year. It’s a fraud prevention thing.

      1. Alison with one L

        Would you explain how making an employee take a two week vacation prevents fraud? I have no idea how the two are connected…

        1. College Career Counselor

          If someone’s out for two weeks, you can go over their records, duties, etc. (essentially audit their performance) to determine if they’re embezzling/stealing. Much harder to do if someone’s only out a day or two.

        2. Anastasia Beaverhausen

          I’m not sure how widespread this is, it may be just a finance thing. It’s based upon the expecation that if an employee is running a scam, fraud, making trades that she doesn’t want to see the light of day… this is bound to turn up during a two week absence (without computer/blackberry access) when her colleagues are covering herwork.

          A lot of companies now have this policy after a few very well publicized cases of rogue traders, fraudsters, like Jerome Kerviel etc who made a couple companies lose millions.

          1. ac

            I think this is pretty strictly limited to financial services positions — I actually haven’t seen it outside of that arena. I *WISH* my employer made me take that long off in a row… people here don’t take more than one week off at a time, and usually that’s only 1, maybe 2, times per year.

        3. C Average

          I’ve seen this topic come up in discussions here before, and it’s always been explained that when you can look at regularly occurring discrepancies and irregularities and overlay those with who was in the office when, sometimes patterns emerge. Like, chocolate teapot inventory is always off except when Wakeen is on vacation.

        4. Anastasia Beaverhausen

          It’s also why, in finance at least, it’s a red flag if someone never takes vacations/always works very long hours/doesn’t let anyone ever help them, etc. Contrary to the image and perhaps general expecations of some of these institutions, but such hardcore devotion can be a sign that someone is trying to keep something under wraps.

          1. Hermoine Granger

            That’s interesting. Since the Madoff scandal, have companies or the SEC implemented any new rules / guidelines aimed at preventing similar scams?

            On a somewhat related note, I read an article a while back about how some employees at financial companies were taking advantage of meal perks by fudging their work hours. The companies had corporate accounts with Seamless and generously covered meals if an employee was working late (ex: past 7pm). The employees admitted that they really only needed to work until 5pm but would hang around the office, go to the gym for an hour or so, and then return to the office around 7pm to order dinner on the company’s dime. Some folks were ordering lobster and other pricey dinners.

            I’m not sure if you’d be able to answer this but if the stock market is open from 9am-5pm, why are Wall St folks / stockbrokers portrayed as having poor work life balance? Or is it more along the lines of the the job just being stressful?

            1. Anony-moose

              I can’t imagine wanting to stay an extra 2+ hours at the office for a free meal unless I were really strapped for cash!

            2. CA Admin

              My company will reimburse for dinner if people work late, but only up to $20, so it doesn’t make the fraud worth it unless you’re really, really broke. Besides, the associates at my firm are so overworked that I’d be shocked if they had time to go to the gym. Ever.

            3. Anastasia Beaverhausen

              Lots of important global stock markets operate on different hours than the NYSE, and also lots of finance jobs are not directly related to the stock market. And then there’s some people who definitely exaggerate the “woe is me, I’m always working until 2AM”, lol.

        5. MaryMary

          I’ve heard of situations where a person in accounting is out for a week, and suddenly people find checks made out to the person instead of the company, wire transfers to non-company bank accounts, a sudden inability to balance the books….

    3. Sunflower

      ahh that would drive me nuts!! most people i know prefer to take long weekends for obvious reasons. And I’d have to imagine it’s much easier to pick up work if someone takes a day here and there as opposed to a whole week? Unless it’s a fraud prevention thing as Anastasia Beaverhausen suggested

    4. Anony

      One reason for taking a week of vacation at a time is so you truly have time to de-stress from your work. Taking a day here and there does not always allow you that decompression time. That said, I cannot remember the last time I took a full week of vacation. Really. Now I’m thinking that is kinda sad…

      1. Nom d'pixels

        I find that occasionally taking a long weekend is key to my mental health. Recently, I had a major burnout. I took a Friday off and just went cross-country skiing. That short time alone in the back country was what I need to recharge.

      2. Natalie

        Ah, but they’re not mutually exclusive. I get 3 weeks of vacation – I can take 2 “real” vacations a year and still have plenty of random days to use here and there.

    5. The IT Manager

      This is a policy for fraud prevention usually in jobs involving money/accounts.

      Additionally it could just be work-life balance encouraging people to take time to get away for a period longer than just a day. Tacking one day on a three day weekend doesn’t necessarily give you more decompresion/stress relief than a normal week. My agency encourages it, and I think it is to the employees benefit.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhausen

        Yeah, that would be totally reasonable as well! And that’s another reason I’m really grateful for our block leave policy: you get two weeks where they even take away your remote computer and phone accesses, so it really gives you a chance to deconnect from work completely. It’s refreshing to think I couldn’t even check my emails if I wanted to.

    6. JMW

      When employees take their vacations only on Fridays and Mondays, it means the office is always running short of personnel on those two days. It puts too much of a burden on the few who are left on those days.

    7. Retail Lifer

      Work just piles up here when one of us is gone – there’s no one that can (or will) help out if someone’s not there. I prefer to just take an extra-long weekend (Thursday, Friday, plus the weekend) several times a year. I can’t even imagine what I’d walk into if I were gone for two weeks straight! That being said, no retailer I’ve ever worked for would even consider giving two weeks off in a row. You’re lucky if your pre-approved vacation isn’t yanked at the last minute due to some random major thing that corporate is making you do or a staffing issue.

    8. Treena Kravm

      This is interesting to me, because my husband’s company feels the exact opposite. Every time he wants to take a full week, it has to be blocked off way in advance, and it’s a “big deal.” But we usually prefer taking weekend trips, and that’s easy. The idea is that since he’s the project lead, he acts as a resource to a lot of people, so when he’s gone for a day, their question can just wait. But when it’s a whole week, they act like it’s a disaster. Our wedding/honeymoon he got to take of 3 weeks and that was only because it was our honeymoon.

  15. miki

    So I was told to post my yesterday’s comment here:
    How to deal with a coworker who keeps sighing all day long, talking to himself and in general hmmphing all day long (it’s hard to explain in words) ? It’s hmmph sound, along with aha!, wow, followed by sigh, aha, hmmph again, mumbling to himself… repeat for all the time he is at his desk. It’s this http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/humphing and then it’s aha http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/aha?s=t hahha (spoken) back to aha!, wow, sigh, aha, wow, sometimes even a real snorting sound …
    He is a new coworker (less than 3 weeks on the job), and I do want to give him benefit of doubt, but I am not the only one noticing and being bothered (distracted) with this strange behavior. The only time I think it’s quiet is when he leaves the desk.

    1. Katie the Fed

      “Is everything ok, Marvin? You’re sighing an awful lot”

      Try that and see what happens.

        1. Katie the Fed

          I thought of that too. But unless the OP is aware of that, there’s no reason she can’t ask.

      1. Midge

        My SO says that to me sometimes. Apparently I sigh a lot at home. He also calls me Sighy McSigherson. I would not recommend doing that to your coworker.

    2. Xarcady

      Oh, I had a co-worker like that. Constant “mouth sounds”–humming, throat clearing, ahems, ahhas, teeth clicking, lip smaking, little popping noises, sighing, 5-10 times a minute (yes, I timed her one day when doing that was the only thing keeping me sane). Drove me nuts, and I sat right next to her.

      I couldn’t figure out any way to address the issue politely, so I just dealt with it for a year and a half, until they moved me to a different office. Looking forward to suggestions on this one.

    3. mdv

      OMG, one of my coworkers does this all day long — sighing and harrumpfing, and I’m pretty sure I can “hear” him rolling his eyes, too! In our case, it is a sign that he is in over his head, or getting worked up over something inconsequential. (and he’s been here for YEARS, and still can’t do some basic things… like math.)

    4. AnonAcademic

      My labmate does this, we share an office. I don’t think it’s really *that* strange, a lot of people talk or mutter to themselves when they’re alone or lost in thought. The issue is that it’s bothering other people (in my case I don’t mind the noises). What I’d say is “Hey Marvin, I don’t know if you’re aware, but you kind of mutter to yourself when you work and it’s a bit distracting.” See what they say. Ask if they can work on improving this habit and see if they do.

      Are noise cancelling earphones an option? Or potentially moving to a different part of the office, out of range of Marvin (or vice versa, him being put in his own corner somewhere)?

      1. Dynamic Beige

        Noise cancelling headphones don’t really cancel out all noise/voices talking, but more underlying white noise, the louder noises he makes will probably still be heard. When I use mine on airplanes, I can still hear the announcements. Wearing noise cancelling headphones while listening to music of your choice would drown out the guy and would have the extra added benefit that you’re wearing a “do not disturb” sign of a sort.

    5. Anony

      By EX BF’s kids (8 & 10) hum and sing almost constantly (in the store, watching TV, eating dinner, in the middle of a conversation)! I would ask them to stop, because….really, how much of that can a person take? But he got upset and told me I was being rude because they were expressing themselves and I should not stifle that expression. I literally thought about ten to fifteen years from now when someone would be writing in to AAM asking what to do about their singing/humming coworker!

      Vastly differing parenting styles was one of the many, many reasons he gets a capital EX.

      1. Retail Lifer

        This reminds me of that episode of Roseanne when Florence Henderson guest starred and DJ had to hang out with her weird son, Elijah. Roseanne nicknamed him Elijah Minelli because he was always singing to himself. DON’T LET THOSE KIDS BE ELIJAH MINELLI.

    6. C Average

      “Hey, Eeyore, can you tone down the ‘oh, bother’ over there?”

      This is what I want to say to people like this. I only say it in my mind, but saying it in my mind amuses me, which makes me feel better.

      Also, anyone who thinks this kind of body language and nonverbal communication doesn’t matter should go back and watch the Bush/Gore debate from 2000.

      Sighhhhhh . . .

    7. beachlover

      I don’t really have a solution. I think perhaps you are now hyper-aware of these tics, so I can understand it can really start to drive someone crazy! Perhaps easier said then done, but hopefully you can find a way to ignore or take your mind off of them , and perhaps soon it will just become another “background” noise. I sit right outside my Boss’s office and she has a little humming noise that she makes when she is really concentrating, I don’t’ think she even realizes she makes it. It doesn’t bother me, but I am very good at tuning out extraneous noise. It reminds me of my mom, she had a song that she would hum, when she was cleanning house or cooking. We would all refer to it, and she never had a clue that she did it. To this day, everyone of us can hum that song if asked. She passed away sometime ago, but every once in a while it will pop into my head. I think perhaps it is her way of letting me know that she is still watching over me.

  16. IT Kat

    I’m currently full-time employed by a consulting company (Company A), and am out on contract for 12 months with a client (Company B). Company B has mentioned to me that they are making my position a full-time internal position, and encouraged me to apply to it when it is publically posted; I would like to do so.

    My question is, when and how do I bring this up to Company A, who is my current employer? I did sign a non-compete when I started working for them, several years ago, which ordinarily would mean I cannot apply to any positions posted by Company B for two years after I cease working for Company A; however, I know other coworkers have successfully transitioned to working for clients. I’d be willing to pay Company A an financial penalty/headhunting fee, if I interview and am offered the position. (Due to the nature of Company B, they would be unable to pay this fee.)

    I just don’t know how to bring it up to my employer (Company A)…. Anyone have advice?

    1. MT

      You should also check to see if Company A and Company B have an agreement as well. Most times if a company contracts out work from a different company there is usually a no-poaching agreement. I would check with company B to find this out.

      1. IT Kat

        Actually, I know that they don’t… long story but I was in on the ground floor of the whole thing, and their contracting agreement is literally a page. Technically the client that Company A has a (sparse) agreement with is Company C; that’s who pays my Company A. And Company B (where I physically am) pays Company C for me.

        If it helps, this whole thing is a Federal Government subcontracting deal; it’s not uncommon to have multiple sub-contractors like this.

      2. Mike C.

        Are no-poaching agreements ever legal in the United States? That sounds like a crazy restraint of trade to me. Google/Apple/ got in huge trouble for doing this.

        1. Artemesia

          I think the rule of thumb in the US is if it hurts the employer it is illegal but if it hurts the worker, it is just fine.

          1. IT Kat

            Close, but not quite true… companies sue each other all the time for things that actually aren’t illegal. Those high-priced lawyers gotta earn their salaries somehow.

            I think the biggest thing is that unfair doesn’t equal illegal. And that’s where workers run afoul – they don’t have the funds to give the lawyers to find a loophole in the law to sue the company, where big companies have teams of lawyers who look for just that.

        2. CA Admin

          Non-poaching agreements are allowed in certain situations–like temps or consultants. The reason that Google & Apple got into trouble is that they’re competitors, so it’s considered unlawful collusion. With business partners, especially ones that “lend” you their workers, it makes sense to have those kind of agreements in place to protect your talent pool.

        3. MT

          If you are in direct compition with each other, than no-poaching agreements are illegal. If if it a company you are entering into a contract with for services provided, a lot of times there is a mutual understanding that it is not allowed.

    2. Judy

      Are you close enough to any of the others who did the transition so that you could talk with them? Invite one of them to lunch, and bring the subject up.

      1. IT Kat

        Unfortunately, no – one of them I wasn’t close with before he left to work for a client (he was in a different department; I just know because of the management email “Please wish Coworker well, he is moving on to Client”, and I’ve heard it mentioned about one or two other people but they were before my time.

    3. MT

      You can always have someone from company B put out a feeler to someone higher up in company A . They can just be like, we wanted to make the position perm and what would it take for us to hire so-and-so.

      1. IT Kat

        I’ll see if I can have someone here do that… my fear is that management of Company A will come back to question me and I don’t know what to tell them yet. :(

        1. IT Kat

          As clarification – not sure what to tell them yet because I don’t want my loyalty called into question if I DON’T get the job.

        2. MT

          I think thats why you have company b do the asking. Company b can just say we are want to start interviewing, but we wanted to ask you before we talked with so-and-so.

          1. IT Kat

            That’s helpful, phrasing, thank you! I’ll see if my project manager at Company B would be willing to reach out to Company A like that.

        3. QAT Contractor

          Yes, if you have Company B do the asking, make sure they are clear that the job has only been mentioned and you informed them of a non-compete clause you have with Company A. Even in a sub-contracting job it’s still Company A that you work for and Company B is still technically a client.

          The best way is to have Company B indicate they are making a full time position available and were wondering if there was any way they could interview you. Most likely there is a buyout option of the non-compete that will have to be paid BEFORE they can even interview you.

          I would be very careful about this approach and be basically promised to be hired by Company B rather than just interviewed as a potential.

          1. IT Kat

            I don’t think I’ve heard of a non-compete that had to be bought out before even an interview! I would think that wouldn’t be enforceable in a court of law. Being hired, sure, but interviewed? I’d like to see where that was ever successfully enforced….

            1. QAT Contractor

              My current employer does it this way. It’s a way to really make sure they are protected from being poached. If they find out you were interviewed they can go after you.

              Is it likely to happen? Probably not. It would take a lot of work to prove that you had an interview before being bought out. They also can’t make you an offer or ask what salary/hourly rate it would take for you to leave. Again, hard to prove, but it’s in the non-compete we sign.

              Our non-compete is only 6 months if you quit or 1 year if still working for us. Also get’s super messy when you toss in the kind of vague question: does all it take is my company having to work for them or did I specifically have to work with the other company through mine?

              1. IT Kat

                Wow. I wonder if they throw clauses like that in just to deter employees, even though they know it’d be nearly impossible for them to get proof to enforce it?

                You have my sympathies, because I would imagine that a place who has non-competes like that also has other horribly restrictive and ridiculous policies and procedures…..

                1. QAT Contractor

                  I believe it is to deter employees from just wanting to jump ship, but also the companies we are contracted to.

                  As for other policies.. not really a whole lot of super restrictive ones. None actually come to mind at all beyond obvious ones like be at work during core hours, do 40 a week (min), submit your timesheet, don’t do stupid stuff on the internet, etc.

                  It’s a great job and great company to work for other than the one non-compete stipulation. We are actually all full time employees, and paid as such, whether we are on a client or not, which is a huge difference from the other contracting companies around here and one of the reasons I was drawn to working here.

    4. Mike C.

      Depending on your job or your state, it’s likely that non-compete is bullshit. Not even Formula 1 engineers have gardening leave/non-compete times of longer than a year.

      Also, does Company A actually enforce their non-competes?

      /I f***ing hate the concept of an unpaid non-compete. If you want to keep me on as an employee, then treat me right. If you want me out of the working world, then how am I supposed to pay my bills? Anyone who uses unpaid non-competes should be thrown into a canyon.

      1. IT Kat

        Honestly, I almost didn’t accept the offer with Company A when they presented me with a non-compete, way back when I was hired. The only reason I did is because at the time, I had not many choices (bad economy, couldn’t afford to spend another 3-4 months looking), and it was a position that offered a lot of opportunities – which it has, over the last two years.

        I was told verbally at time of hire that they don’t enforce the non-compete unless one of the developers attempts to take custom code and go to a client… but of course that verbal promise is only as good as the paper it was written on.

        I don’t believe that they will enforce the non-compete, but at the same time, I don’t want to be known as “that employee who sued” so I’d rather pay whatever buyout might be involved.

        1. Mike C.

          They would be the ones suing, not you.

          Also, the “stealing custom code thing” is a crap excuse. There are already laws against that sort of activity – it’s called theft.

          Aren’t buyouts generally in the range of a year or more of salary?

          1. IT Kat

            True, they would be the ones suing. But I’d still be in court… and potential employers who do a background check in the future would probably see it. That’s more what I was worried about. It’s not fair, but it’s a fact of life that if you have two similar candidates and one has been involved in legal proceedings vs. a former employer and the other hasn’t, you’re going to lean in the direction of the one who hasn’t.

            I’ve never dealt with non-competes before, but I have dealt with working for temp companies and being hired on by clients. Usually in that case it was a percent of the yearly salary as a ‘headhunter’ fee – it seems to me that a year or more of salary wouldn’t be reasonable, at that point no one would ever get hired because they’d be paying essentially double the employee’s market value for a year.

            For clarification, the non-compete I have is very, very general and doesn’t mention a buyout at all. I assume there would be one, however. (Honestly, I don’t even think it is enforceable in my case – but I want to be as prepared as possible.)

            I’m not arguing that the non-compete is crap. ;) I didn’t think the custom code excuse made sense when I was given the explanation, either.

          2. QAT Contractor

            It depends on the industry and the contract really. I believe my company asks for 6 months of salary (what the employee is getting paid) in order to drop the clause.

            I could be wrong though as the last time I heard it brougth up was about 4 years ago when a friend of mine was being persued by one of our clients. In that case he told them to work it out with our company and that they would have to buy out his contract, not him. So that was helpful.

  17. Aussie Teacher

    I have a confession – I have always felt slightly smug thinking “Come on, people, AAM posts every week about how you need to mentally move on if you apply to a job and let it be a pleasant surprise if they contact you. Stop second-guessing why they haven’t called you or considering annoying them by contacting them to find out where your application is at.” But I’ve finally applied for my first job after 5 years as a SAHM and I’m so anxious! Applications closed a week ago and I would have expected a call for an interview based on my experience, but there’s been nothing but crickets! (There haven’t been many jobs in my field lately that are part-time, so this is currently the only iron I have in the fire.) I know a week is peanuts in hiring fields, but I’m alternating between “I DEFINITELY don’t have the job” (and mentally writing my gracious follow-up email to ask for feedback on how to make myself a stronger candidate for next time) and “Of course they are just busy, they’ll call soon. You’ll definitely get an interview.”

    So yeah, bundle of nerves here – please send thoughts and prayers my way for an interview (I know I may not get the job, but I’d really like the interview practice)!

    1. Nobody Here By That Name

      Good luck! And I’ve had the exact same experience of longtime reader eye-rolling turned into my own anxiety when I apply for jobs, so I know that feeling well.

    2. Xarcady

      Sending good luck your way!

      If it is any help, my story is that I’m temping at a job. They had a full-time opening and I was encouraged by the manager of the department to apply. The job posting went public the first week in January and I applied right away.

      It’s mid-March and nothing. I’m still temping, so I’d know if they were doing any interviewing, and they are not. I suspect they are all just too busy to conduct interviews right now–there have been some shortened deadlines and some clients have piled on extra work that absolutely has to be done.

      So on the one hand, I know they haven’t hired anyone yet. And on the other, it is very hard to move on from this application, because I’m here every day! And I would really like this job–like the company, like the work, it’s in my field, the benefits are great, the commute is a breeze, the co-workers are nice.

      So I completely understand where you are at.

      1. Aussie Teacher

        Oh wow! That’s much worse! Can you chat to the manager of the dept you applied to to see where they are at with the position? I hope you get an interview soon!

        1. Xarcady

          And. . . someone just gave notice today. She’s moving to the other side of the country, so it’s not a case of rats leaving a sinking ship sort of thing.

          But now the department will be down two people. ARGH! Just hire me already. Or cut me loose. Something.

          But the lesson here, for all of us job hunters, is that they are still interesting in filling at least one of these positions–and it has been three months since they first posted the job ad. There’s been some postings on this site about how it is taking companies much longer to fill open positions, and I appear to be living in exactly that situation.

          My current mantra: Remain hopeful and keep applying to more jobs.

          Which is a bit better than my current personal slogan: Staving off disaster one day at a time. (The car just needed a new water pump. Underemployment stinks.)

    3. puddin

      I am experiencing the same humble pie moments. LOL. It is so easy to get caught up in the emotions.

    4. SaraV

      I’m now going on a month and 16 days from applying for a job and haven’t heard a blessed thing. Having read AAM for so long, I’m not too worked up about it, but it’s still quite frustrating how long companies leave you dangling.

      Actually just checked the company’s website in the midst of posting this. Position filled. Thanks for letting me know! *wipes dripped sarcasm off phone screen*

    5. gloria

      Haha, when I woke up today to no emails I was like OH GOD, I’LL NEVER FIND A JOB AS A [POSITION], then had a stern talk with myself on account of having sent in my first cover letter on…. Wednesday. Of this week. So I feel you, and am sending positive vibes your way!

    6. Colleen

      Give them two to three times as long to respond as you think would be needed. At this point, contacting them wouldn’t do anything positive. They know you are interested, so they will contact you if you appear to meet their needs. There is no way you can speed them up, or let them know you are more interested by calling. So, wait. Wait and see.

      Having said that, I know that I have been a bundle of nerves at every stage when I have applied for jobs, so this is a matter of do as I say, not as I do!

      Best of luck to you!

  18. Fawn

    Hi all! I recently learned that I have about $1000 of professional development funding that I need to use by May. Because of the short timeline, I’m looking for recomendations for books or online courses related to one of the following areas: intergenerational communication, adult education, or developing counselling skills.

    If anyone has any recs, I would appreciate it!

    1. Emme

      I took an online professional development course at UCLA extension, and I was very pleased with the quality of the course. I don’t know if they have the courses you are looking for, but it would be worth a look. A new round of classes are starting at the end of the month, so you might have to act quickly. The website is ucla extension . edu

    2. Mallory Janis Ian

      If you can find a conference to attend in July or August, you could spend a good chunk of the money on registration and airfare. If there’s any left after that, you could prepay for some other things, such as the roundtrip shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel, etc. Then you’d just have to see if you could get your hotel reimbursed upon return from the trip; is the $1,000 renewed annually? At my past job, our professional development money expired on June 30 (last day of the fiscal year) and was renewed on July 1 (first day of the next fiscal year). I’ve attended conferences in the summer where I’ve depleted my allotted funds on airfare and registration (booked well in advance) and then used my next-fiscal-year funds for lodging/meals/incidentals reimbursement upon return from the trip; maybe you could do that.

  19. the_scientist

    I got an email from my new boss this morning that basically said “you rock and keep up the good work”. This week has been a real “trial by fire” week for me and I haven’t been here long enough to really understand all the internal dynamics and undercurrents at play here, so at each step of the process I was worried about emailing the wrong person/not including the right person/overstepping the boundaries of who I should be communicating with vs. where my boss should be taking over. What a relief to hear that I haven’t made a total ass of myself!

    1. OriginalEmma

      How gratifying! Nice. Save that in a personal commendation folder for yourself, you can review it at performance appraisal time or when you just need a pick-me-up.

      1. Gandalf the Nude

        I started doing this after seeing folks talk about a “Kudos” folder a couple weeks ago! It has been so helpful on stressful days. I wish there were a way to save compliments made in phone calls, as well. I feel like I get more of those, haha.

        1. College Career Counselor

          No reason you can’t take a couple of minutes to write down the specifics (who called, what was the problem/project/issue, what did they say about your performance) and email it to yourself to keep in a kudos or “psychological income” folder.

    2. Fante

      What a great start! I have a friend whose company has a colleague ‘kudos’ type of program, and if an employee gets a certain number of acknowledgement from other coworkers, they get a $100 giftcard. Such a great incentive system!

    3. C Average

      Aww, that’s so nice! I wish more people would do that kind of thing. I’ve gotten a few such emails through the years and I treasure them.

  20. illini02

    How would you ask about a raise when your yearly performance evaluation wasn’t great? I’m in sales. My sales numbers are great. However my performance evaluation dinged me a lot on other things (which in my opinion don’t affect the fact that I’m exceeding my numbers). Regardless though, while it wasn’t great, I do think I at least deserve the standard 3% cost of living increase. Problem is, my supervisors, who did my evaluation, isn’t in charge of raises. Do I bring this up with him? Go straight to his boss (who is in charge of it)? Do I bring up the evaluation at all? Any advice is appreciated.

    1. Nanc

      No suggestions for the raise thing, but I would suggest following up with your supervisor about the Dinged Things. Even when managers/supervisors aren’t in charge of OKing a raise, we are often asked for our opinion. Dinged Things may not seem important to you, but they are to him because he raised them in your review. If he didn’t give you any feedback on how you might improve, ask. You might write out your questions/comments first and either schedule a meeting, or email them to him and ask to schedule a time to discuss. You excel in posting great sales numbers, fine, why not do everything you can to excel in the areas your boss dinged? Sometimes it doesn’t take that much to bring an area of responsibility up the the boss’s standard.

    2. Holly Day

      Do you know what criteria your company uses to grant raises? If it’s very numbers driven then you can lean on your sales numbers and make a strong case that you’re exceeding expectations. If your company — or the boss in charge of raises — really looks at your overall performance and these other factors then that’s important to know to make a better case for your overall contributions, and know for your next review what’s measured.

      Is this your first raise cycle with the company? If so, you could go to your supervisor and ask something like “how does the raise process work? Is that something I talk to you about, or should I go right to Jane the Boss?” If not your supervisor, it may be helpful to talk to a trusted colleague or two who have been through it before and can give you advice about how much (and to whom) you can make a pitch for your own raise. Some organizations you just won’t have much say, either because of a formula or overall budgetary constraints that don’t have anything to do with your performance or how much you deserve a raise.

  21. Katie the Fed

    So….I’m (hopefully) returning to work next week after a 5-week absence.

    Any tips for how to triage everything I’ll have to do? My email will be a mess – I didn’t even have a chance to put up an out-of-office because this was an unexpected absence. And my employees – so much to catch up on.

    What would you want from a manager who’s been out that long?

    1. IT Kat

      Personally, if it were my manager coming back after a long unexpected absence, I’d like maybe 30 min to touch base with them for anything that I handled that may concern them – for instance: “It was mostly business as normal, but Suzie from ClientA called with this urgent issue, and this is how I handled it.” Not a blow-by-blow, but more of an sync meeting so you were aware of things that happened during the absence so that you didn’t get blindsided by them later.

      As for coming back after an absence – I’d suggest taking the first day and just triaging email, mail, correspondence, cleaning out your inbox, etc.

    2. Adam

      I think that most reasonable people would expect that you’d need some time to get caught up after an extended absence. So if you’re direct reports are available I’d request meetings with them as soon as possible to get the lay of the land with each of them and then outline your plan of attack for getting up to speed. “I’ll be in meetings at this time. I’m blocking out this time to clear out my inbox.”

      And then just hammer away at everything like it insulted your dog.

    3. OriginalEmma

      An “I’m back!” e-mail or quick team huddle where you lay out your plans for the week. Like “Today, I’ll be answering all my backed e-mails, so please only interrupt me if the building is on fire. Tuesday through Thursday will be 30 minute one-on-ones to get up to speed on important events during my absence. I’ll schedule those starting today. Friday will be X.” etc. etc.

      That’s assuming you even KNOW what your plans will be! But I thought this might be nice to avoid the avalanche of information that’ll hit you when you walk in the door. Expectation management and all that.

    4. The Office Admin

      If you could arrange a meeting early that first day with most of your employees, to ask them what they need from you and what you need urgent updates on.
      As an employee, I usually have a running list of “stuff” I need from my boss. signatures, call backs, more signatures, accounting problems so when he’s gone for a couple weeks, we have a lot of catching up to do. We tend to do a separate meeting and then he catches up with the Superintendent.
      So, meeting with all(if appropriate, like they all have the same work focuses) or separately with your top reports, depending on what makes the most sense for your work.
      Then, triage your email.
      Having meetings before your email will help give you context for some of your emails and also allow you to say at the start of your meeting: “I haven’t read my emails yet, so keep that in mind, don’t update me on something you’ve already sent an email detailing this issue to me”
      I usually create temp email folders to sort everything into. Labeled something like: NOW, THIS WEEK, SEND TO SOMEONE ELSE, and NEED TO KNOW(needs to be read but little to no action needs to be taken).

      1. Katie the Fed

        Oh I like that system too. I’ll give it a try.

        I usually check email first but the meetings are a good idea – just to be aware of anything big before I delve into the email.

    5. LillianMcGee

      They probably will just want to update you on major projects/issues. My manager isn’t too involved in my day-to-day tasks, so when he came back from parental leave I didn’t have much I needed from him except, “Whenever you’re settled, we need to talk about X project which needs your input to move forward.” Maybe try to schedule individual or group check-ins with your employees?

      As for triage, best of luck! I like to use Outlook folders and flags for emails. I go through all my unread emails at once. Flags get further attention right away, and into folders go emails that need thoughtful, non-urgent responses.

      1. Katie the Fed

        That’s a good idea (a folder for things that need a response).

        I will have probably 7,000 – 10,000 new messages (not exaggerating – I’m on a ton of distros.) The good news is most of those won’t actually need any action from me.

        I’ve never been gone this long – ack!

        1. Christy

          I would do searches for distros that you know you get so you can process them all at once. Since it’s been five weeks, you’ve probably gotten multiple messages from the distros. If you search for them first (or search for them whenever you come across one) then you’ll be able to read through and archive or just delete all immediately. It might help you get through mail faster.

        2. Ama

          Does your email system offer the ability to group messages in conversations? I usually hate it for work email, but if I’m returning to the absence after a long vacation, I sometimes flip to conversation view so I can get the full picture of each situation all at once.

    6. Mimmy

      If you’re still recovering physically (e.g. lingering pain or fatigue), you might want to remind them of this. I don’t mean giving details of the reason for your absence, but if I were a manager, I’d want my reports to understand that I’m still getting back on my feet and that I may tire a bit more easily. On the other side of the desk, as a report, I’d want my manager to be upfront and to tell me when they need a little extra breathing room. If I know my manager isn’t feeling well, I’d want to know that so I know when to back off a bit.

      Good luck, and remember to be kind to yourself this first week back.

    7. C Average

      Ask your key people to provide the top five things they need from you. Often those lists will have a lot of overlap and will help you prioritize your action items. It also subtly sets the expectation that everyone’s really important stuff will get looked at right away and that other less important stuff may have to wait a bit.

    8. ZSD

      The head of my unit was out for about a month and a half or so last year for a family emergency. When she came back, we gave her three or four days to just catch up on her own stuff before she met with the whole unit to get updates on our work. That way, she could take some time to orient herself regarding her own work (and probably get over the shell-shock of being in an office environment again) before she had to worry about being a boss as well.
      If your employees have made it five weeks without you, they can probably make it three more days while you remind yourself of what your own work is like.

  22. LBK

    Anyone have tips for dealing with chronic yawning? I just started a new job and any time I’m training with my manager, I cannot stop myself from yawning every few minutes. I’m never feeling tired when this happens – as soon as he leaves and I’m working on my own, it stops. I suspect this is all tied into my ADD, which is generally manageable so I don’t take meds for it, but I do find myself getting drowsy easily any time I’m more passively listening to something rather than being actively engaged doing something (I’ll doze off while watching TV all the time, for example, even during my favorite shows).

    Aside from possibly going back on my meds to help keep me alert, anyone have ideas on how to combat this? It’s really awkward and I don’t want my manager to think he’s boring me to death any time he’s showing me how to do something.

    1. Anonsie

      I tend to yawn when I’m concentrating, so I yawn a ton in trainings. Being alert or awake has nothing to do with it, not sure why it happens. I have no constructive solution, unfortunately.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Any chance you’re nervous? I yawn when I’m nervous and recently read this is a common reaction. I spent the whole 20 minutes before my Lasik yawning uncontrollably; it was weird.

      1. LBK

        Oo, that might be it! I get really nervous during the training sessions when he’s watching me work in Excel since all I can think of is that I’m doing everything horribly wrong and he’s silently judging me for not using more shortcuts or functions or something. I’m totally self-taught, which has served me fine in past roles since I was usually the only person in the department who knew anything about it at all. I’m much more self-conscious now that I’m surrounded by other Excel experts.

      2. LeahC

        Dogs yawn to diffuse inter-dog tension. Pretty sure it’s the same with humans too. I agree, maybe you are feeling tense and this is an involuntary relaxing mechanism.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhausen

      I yawn a ton in meetings so I try to disguise it by leaning my mouth/chin into my hands like I’m being very pensive.

      1. LBK

        That’s been my technique so far (basically attempting to physically hold my top and bottom jaw together while I yawn) but I suspect it’s not too subtle since he’s sitting around 2 feet away from me.

    4. Nachos Bell Grande

      When you feel a yawn coming on, can you focus on your breathing instead, and try taking deep breaths through your nose?

      This might be helpful for you – Playing with a little doodad in my lap (I use a pretty rock I got on vacation or a 12 sided die) helps me focus on meetings / trainings / conference calls. I use one hand for taking notes while the other hand is busy feeling each side of the doodad, and I can discreetly hide it in my lap when I need two hands to type or whatever.

      Also I can’t stop yawning now that I read this comment.

      1. LBK

        Oo, I can try the doodad thing for sure. When I’m at home I usually refresh Twitter/Facebook on my phone to keep my hands occupied but I obviously can’t do that while I’m working. Will have to bring in a more analogue trinket to see if that helps.

    5. C Average

      You can actually yawn with your mouth closed.

      I learned this from a J.D. Salinger short story, “For Esme, With Love and Squalor.” The relevant passage: “The young lady, however, seemed slightly bored with her own singing ability, or perhaps just with the time and place; twice, between verses, I saw her yawn. It was a ladylike yawn, a closed-mouth yawn, but you couldn’t miss it; her nostril wings gave her away.”

      After reading this, I taught myself to swallow a yawn. This has proven a remarkably useful skill for a variety of situations. Thanks, J.D. Salinger!

      1. Nashira

        If you have trouble with thr closed mouth model, you can also practice stretching your jaw slightly forward and doing a slow exhale through your mouth. I have TMJD and my jaw spasms on me, so I yawn regardless of how awake I am. This often works to disguise it well enough.

    6. Mike C.

      Sleep more and increase your caffeine/stimulant consumption? Maybe walk around during your breaks?

    7. Holly Day

      I’ve heard that people yawn more when we’re not getting enough oxygen, it it possible you’re nervous with New Boss and taking shallower breaths and therefore yawning to get that big breath your body wants? If I start yawning a lot when I’m not tired I’ve started taking a few deep breaths and it seems to help.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I have heard this, also. Breathing in through the nostrils and out through your mouth (discretely) will force oxygen into your blood stream. This could help to curb the yawning.

    8. Alison with one L

      Not particularly helpful, but am I the only one who yawned when I read this question? Now I can’t stop.

      1. fposte

        Nope; me too. And I get in loops really easily, so if I were worried about yawning I’d yawn even more.

    9. Anx

      I have anxiety disorder and have many ADHD PI traits. I do this yawning thing all of the time and it’s incredibly frustrating.

      For me, it’s mostly an anxiety thing. I don’t think I just yawn because I’m nervous, but it’s sort of like a fidget, so maybe ADHD is a factor.

      Do you have regular yawns or burpish yawns

  23. Belle & Sam

    For those who have been discouraged by internal interviews/positions, I wanted to share some good news.

    I applied for an internal position a few weeks ago. My company lists the hiring manager (HM) for each position, so I reached out directly to the HM. The HM set up a meeting with me to discuss the role about a week later.

    Between applying and meeting with the HM, I received a rejection notice from our recruiter, which obviously disappointed me. When I met with HM, they loved my background/skills set and highly encouraged me to apply. I told them that I had and had been rejected. They were shocked and reached out to the recruiter directly and told them to add me back in the mix. I have had a formal interview with the recruiter and will meet with the HM and the rest of the team next week for the main interview.

    It just goes to show that persistence is key and that Taleo is the worst. ever.

    1. Aussie Teacher

      That’s great news! Luckily the HM will have much more say over who gets hired than the recruiter, and they already like you. It would be great if the recruiter could actually use the HM’s feedback (“you/your software kicked out this highly desirable candidate”) to make some changes on their end too. Good luck for your main interview next week!

      1. VictoriaHR

        This happens to me sometimes as a recruiter. In the initial requirements-gathering meeting, the HM will be like “experience in X is crucial, they NEED to have skills in Y” and then someone who’s an internal candidate or friend-of-a-friend applies and suddenly those things aren’t crucial any more. And if I’ve declined someone in the system for not having what the HM said they definitely needed, suddenly it’s my fault.

    2. Jubilance

      Taleo and HR folks that aren’t well-versed in what skills are required are the bane of my existence. A lot of recruiters are looking for “milk chocolate teapots” experience in those exact terms and don’t realize that “dark chocolate teapots” and “white chocolate teapots” are closely related. I wish there was more opportunity for people with experience in the area to transition into recruiting.

      1. Stephanie

        Ugh, yes. This. Some recruiters are fantastic, but sometimes the gulf seems so wide between the recruiter and the hiring manager (and perhaps this is the HM’s fault for not explaining “No, we really can hire a white chocolate teapot person for this dark chocolate teapot role, but the latter is preferred”).

        IIRC, you’re at big company, right? Do they usually get technical recruiters from more traditional backgrounds?

    3. Belle & Sam

      One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post that I met every single qualification that the listing asked for. For example, a “nice to have” for the position is experience working in a very specific environment (think molding handles for chocolate teapots in a specialized English teapot factory) – I held a similar position in this very environment for several years. I think that’s why the HM was so eager for to apply. This experience is outlined very clearly in my resume as well, so I’m sure what happened in Taleo.

  24. Stephanie

    Second question: I’m heading to a big engineering conference next week. There’s a job and school fair (where I’ve gotten interviews and offers before), and I’m planning to attend some sessions as well.

    Conference tips?

    Also, I’ve lost some weight since I last wore my suit. It’s not horrible, it’s just baggy in weird places. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to get it tailored. Suits are sort of hard to find in my area (unless it’s a candy-colored Easter suit). Could I do a blazer and dress instead?

    1. Elkay

      I’d say blazer and dress are fine as long as you’re going to be comfortable in them all day at the conference/fair. Failing that just rock the Easter look, add bunny ears maybe?!

        1. MaryMary

          Many years ago, a friend of mine went to interview for an engineering internship in a baby blue suit with a short, flippy skirt. She thought a suit was a suit. Luckily, she’s brilliant, because she got the job but they told her to never wear that suit into the office again.

    2. the_scientist

      Coming from a science background and having attended scientific conferences in the past, I would think that a sheath dress (or something more formal/suit-like than say, a casual jersey dress) and a classic blazer would be totally fine. Having said that, with the job fair aspect the expectation might be that everyone wears a suit….

      1. periwinkle

        Engineers in suits? My employer is a big engineering company in the PacNW. I’m impressed that our engineers remember to wear shoes most of the time.

        Anyway, a sheath dress + blazer is a classic. Stick with neutrals and bring lots of accessories to change up your look.

        1. Glorified Plumber

          Agreed! I work for a big engineering company in the PacNW too… When someone shows up at work with their shirt tucked in, it’s time to razz them about having an interview somewhere else.

          I think as long as you look dressed up, you’ll knock it out of the park!

          The PacNW is pretty chill… though, I shouldn’t assume your conference is up here.

          1. C Average

            This makes me laugh.

            Last summer I took my stepdaughter on a tour of my company (also Pacific northwest, also tech-ish) and explained to her that it’s easy to tell when people are visiting or interviewing for a job or working for a vendor here, because those are the only people with their shirts tucked in. We ran an experiment where we took a good look at everyone we saw with a tucked-in shirt. Every last one had on a visitor badge or a vendor’s logo.

            1. Stephanie

              When I interned at a tech company in SoCal, I kept a running tally of Hawaiian or plaid shirts. (Untucked, of course.)

  25. bassclefchick

    Hi everyone! I’m not a regular commenter, but I check out this site daily and absolutely love this community! Everyone is so supportive so I thought I’d share.

    I’ve been a temp for about 4 years now. The market is still really tight here. Luckily, I’ve mostly had assignments that have lasted for a year (or more). Unfortunately, due to “lack of head count” or office politics (sometimes both), none of the companies have been able to hire me on, even though they want to. So, I’ve been slowly looking for a more permanent gig.

    Well, this week I found the golden, sparly unicorn of the near perfect dream job! Yes, I know there’s no such thing. This position is Programmng Coordinator for my local Performing Arts Center. It looked SO COOL. But then, I read the requirements. I don’t have enough of the qualifications to be a strong candidate. But I figured, it couldn’t hurt.

    I applied on Tuesday. Emailed the resume and cover letter. I got a response from the Director of HR on Wednesday stating they want me to complete the Affirmative Action Form. But then he ALSO said although there were 2 attachments, they were both of the cover letter!!! OH NO!!!! Man, I could just KICK myself. But, BUT!!!! The HR Director FORGOT to attach the Affirmative Action form the first time he emailed me!!!! So, I’m HOPING against hope that messing up attaching my resume won’t automatically kick me out of the running. I attached the Affirmative Action form AND my resume in response (and apologized profusely).

    That’s all I can do. I can’t go back and do it right the first time. I really didn’t think I’d even get an interview when I applied. Could really use some positive thoughts!

    1. Elkay

      If it was enough to kick you out of the running they probably wouldn’t have contacted you at all, good luck!

    2. LMW

      You know, I was once in a similar position — I was a temp for three years (one company) and then I applied for a really high level position that paid almost twice my salary. I had a really discouraging first interview (the HR screener was put out by that fact that she had to dial 1 before the area code, even though we had the same area code). And I got it! So it can happen, even when you get off to a weird start.
      Good luck!

      1. VintageLydia USA

        (the HR screener was put out by that fact that she had to dial 1 before the area code, even though we had the same area code)

        That is so incredibly petty o.o

    3. Artemesia

      I have made this mistake so often with attachments that I now always open the attachments before I send the document. It is a very easy mistake to make and at least they opened your attachment. Fingers crossed for you.

    4. Not So NewReader

      If you were out of the running why would he bother contacting you? I don’t get that part.
      Let it go. It’s okay. Focus on being your superstar self.

  26. Chana

    People who work while chronically ill, how do you handle calling out sick when you catch a cold or something? If I don’t have a fever/something contagious and I can physically handle an hour commute on public transit I figure I’m good to work, but after the first few days of a cold (it was over a long weekend) I came back and people kept commenting that I looked bad enough to stay at home. I got my usual amount of work done but I guess I could have used the extra day of rest. Either that or I look a lot worse without makeup than I thought.

    It’s just hard to tell when I’m really “sick enough” to stay home because that day, the level of discomfort I had was the same as my daily level of pain/discomfort from my illness. How do you decide when you’re sick enough to stay home?

      1. Chana

        Thank you. My non-chronically-ill friends always say “use the pain scale!” but the pain scale has unfortunately become meaningless to me, haha.

        1. Nobody Here By That Name

          Fellow chronic illness person here who also knows what that’s like. I have that with doctors too, like do you mean on *my* scale of 1 to 10 or on a regular person’s scale?

          1. Cordelia Naismith

            IANAD, but I think they probably mean your personal pain scale. There is no objective measurement of pain — just what it feels like to you. I think doctors use the pain scale to measure changes in pain over time. Are you feeling better, worse, or the same than when they checked on you a few hours ago? I can’t imagine the pain scale is useful as a snapshot of a particular moment. One person’s 5 could be another person’s 3 and yet another person’s 7.

          2. Nashira

            Your personal scale. I describe my worst ever pain, then give them a rating, since my tolerance and threshold are screwball after eleven years of pain. I even clarify that it’s a log scale.

    1. mdv

      I came to work throughout a 3-week bout of pneumonia. Yeah, maybe I’m crazy, probably could have used it as a good excuse to stay home, even though I FELT FINE, except for the coughing. But I digress. My suggestion, if you felt well enough to be at work, would be to respond “I actually feel a lot better than I look, but I really appreciate your concern!”

      1. Chana

        I like your phrasing, thank you! I will use that in the future. I am also sorry that you caught pneumonia. I’ve never had that but I know it’s hard to deal with.

    2. puddin

      If I am sick, I stay home. I honestly do not base it on how I feel. I base my decision on what would happen if I went to work and spent energy there instead at home healing. So, I guess I think about how much going to work will ‘cost’ me health-wise. I will choose to stay home one day and recuperate rather than go into work and be sick for three days.

      1. Chana

        My problem is that I’m “sick” every day. So when I catch a cold and it feels the same discomfort-wise as my illness does, it’s hard to tell how sick I actually am and if I do need extra rest. I usually can’t tell until I wake up the next day if the previous day would’ve been better spent at home. It’s so hard to guess!

        1. misspiggy

          Having had another think about this, my barometer tends to be how many infections I seem to be getting. When this goes up, I take more sick time. More frequent or persistent infections are a sign that my body is under more strain than usual, and that can send everything south in bad ways. My priority is to protect my long-term capacity to work.

        2. puddin

          Ah, my daily issues are compounded when I am ill – they are not similar in how they feel. They are easily discernible – so I usually know that my symptoms are from a cold, flu, hangover or from my illness.

      2. De (Germany)

        The problem for those of us with chronic illnesses is that we are often very aware of how often we are sick. So going to work with a cold is often a defense mechanism to get the amount of sick days down to more normal levels.

        OP, I wish I had an answer, but I just share your problem :-/

        1. Artemesia

          I have never stayed home from work with a cold so the issue I see would be whether it was really exacerbating your underlying health issue.

    3. K

      Unfortunately I don’t have great advice because I have the same problem. It’s easier for me to make a decision if I encounter a symptom that I don’t usually have. For instance yesterday I got a massive headache that wouldn’t go away with medication (which is rare for me) so I felt a little less guilty about working from home for half a day today (half PTO).

      1. Chana

        I’m sorry you have the same issue. Unusual symptoms are good to watch out for. I hope your headache is fully gone now or will be soon!

    4. AnonAnalyst

      Ugh, I struggle with this. To the point that I’ve been the patient zero a couple of times in my office because I didn’t realize I was sick until several days in, when everyone else had already been exposed. Not good.

      I think I’ve gone overboard in dragging myself in when I really should have stayed home, so my new approach is to consider whether I’ll actually be at all productive when I feel really terrible, and if not, to decide if I really have to go in (like for meetings or something else I’d need to be there for). Like someone mentioned down thread, if I have unusual symptoms, I’ll also try to stay home so that I don’t make everyone else sick. Unfortunately, a lot of the symptoms I get when I have an illness coming on are the same as ones I normally have, so I’m not always successful in keeping the germs out of the office despite my best efforts!

      1. Chana

        I have this problem, not being able to tell the first symptoms are a new thing. The last time I was sick, it started with a sore throat, but it just felt like a problem from the fan blowing on me all night. So I went to work with some sore throat drops feeling fine, and got sent home later half-asleep with a fever.

        I want to stop going overboard coming in too. Maybe it’s just going to take time (and catching more colds) before I learn what the signs of me being newly sick are.

    5. ali

      I have a chronic illness that leaves me immunocompromised all the time, so I’ve always got colds or infections, in addition to the illness itself. I’ve been this way the majority of my life and have always been open and honest about it with my coworkers. They don’t need to know the details, but I’ve often used the “I feel better than I look” line. But it gets tiresome really fast. So in my current job, when I was first hired my manager was remote, so I took that as a sign and negotiated to work from home 3 days a week. It has made life SO much easier. It’s gotten even more flexible in the last year, so it’s actually work from home whenever I need to now instead. I still try to go in at least twice a week, but I’m not stressed about it if I don’t. HR has it on record that this is part of my employment agreement.

      I realize not everyone has that luxury, but when I saw the opportunity to negotiate it, I jumped on it (and it was the first time I ever negotiated anything – I additionally managed to negotiate a higher salary than the offer with this job!)

      1. Chana

        I’m glad that you’re able to work from home like that! I am lucky that my illness/medication does not affect my immune system but I know a few people with that problem. Unfortunately, my job doesn’t really lend itself to working from home now, but maybe in a few years if I switch to another kind of position. It’s something to keep in mind!

    6. Not So NewReader

      I got sick years ago and I was having problems for a while. Calling in came at a high price, so it was better to work sick than stay home.

      I made a list of things that made my workday super hard. It was an informal list- things got added and subtracted over time.
      The number one thing on my list was my ears. I had a heck of a time there, so ears trumped everything else.

      On a secondary level, I would look for two or more of the following:

      Internals: Can’t think clearly; concerns about safety traveling; nose running like a faucet; did not sleep much the night before.

      Externals: Big Thing at work in a few days, must be rested; already had Big Thing at work and I was exhausted; weather- I could not drive in a storm with my judgement so impaired.

      I think you see the idea here. Instead of just forcing myself to go to work, I took a closer look at what I was requiring of myself. Interestingly, I found myself calling in less because I had a bit of a handle on my rationale for making the call. For example: Driving into work in a snowstorm, on three hours of sleep with a nose that would not stop pouring was just not doable for me. (Yes, I used to do this. Then I realized I was making myself sicker.)

      1. Chana

        A formula of different symptoms and tasks might help. I’m glad that it’s helped you out. I know the feeling of going in with no sleep!

        I’ve actually stayed home more from snow shutting down the public transit system than I’ve ever stayed home from being sick. It’s so much easier when something external makes the decisions for you :P

    7. C.L. Ensor

      I have the same problem in reverse. I have worked for a (very) big financial firm for almost 15 years. I was healthy for most of those years and was swept up in a massive layoff. Somewhere along the line I began to develop respiratory infections. These became progressively worse and my lungs have been scarred. After a year of layoff, I was rehired with a promotion. I am a seasoned analyst, so the expectation was that I would be able to hit the ground running. However, soon after coming back to this new department, I was hospitalized for a month for pneumonia. And that, unfortunately, has been the trend for the last 2 years. I was recently diagnosed with a genetic disorder that causes rapid, progressive lung disease-treatable but not curable. My immune system is moderately compromised due to my meds, and when I catch a cold, it typically lands me in the hospital.
      I have missed a cumulative total of 4 plus months of work in less than 2 years. Although, I cannot help it, etc. etc., I am aware that I am more of a burden to my team than an asset. Business is business, after all. So, when I got my first evaluation and got a poor rating 5 months into the job, I wasn’t too upset. My manager is a decent person. Illness kept me from meeting my goals for the year, I suppose.
      I am a really proud person and have always been a high performer so I set out to try to compensate for my illnesses by working that much harder and longer when I was there.
      However, I began to notice that my new team did not talk to me or invite me to team events. Again, I chalked it up to lack of credibility and resolved to show them who I am.
      Yeah, but I kept getting sick. And since I have a chronic illness, the perception is …well, Big Deal.
      Still, I redoubled my efforts and took my laptop home every night–worked many hours a week when I was healthy and I had some decent accomplishments but they were minimized, barely noticed.
      A second poor review.
      This one I balked at, because I had met my goals and made significant contributions to our bottom line. I told my manager how I felt and broke down each error in the review (for measurable goals).
      He acknowledged that I did great work when I am there, but ….
      Since that time, I have been completely marginalized as an employee. They hired contractors to work on the interesting projects and gave me a coloring book and crayons and sent me off to the corner. We work in an agile style team room so I sit in here and listen to them all day in their meetings while I sit in the corner with my busywork.
      My manager began documenting every word he said to me, denying vacation requests, and forbade me to work from home or have any flex time. I had raised a case with HR about my rating many months ago, and I thought perhaps I was getting a little retaliation or something,. So, I decided it wasn’t worth it and asked HR to close my case. They refused, noting that their investigation had turned up some concerns re: my manager’s ignorance of FMLA laws and they need to protect the company.
      Now, I just suit up, show up and do my work. It is still hard to feel so irrelevant and invisible, when I could be contributing, but I know that things tend to work themselves out. With age comes poor health sometimes, but it also comes with wisdom and understanding, thank goodness.!

  27. hansgirlfriend

    Our company, and my position specifically, has historically high turnover. We are only five years old, and folks who have been here for three years are considered very senior. Two of my co-workers just hit their one year anniversary, only to learn that they are not eligible for a raise until one year from the end of their 90 day probation period. So, if they started in March of 2014, they are not eligible until June 2015.

    Our boss was similarly surprised, since none of us were informed of this policy during our hiring period. It is, however, in the employee handbook. The job title has not changed, but the responsibilities have shifted during the last year. It is also worth noting that I make more than these co-workers thanks to Alison’s salary negotiation advice, though I’ve only been here six months.

    What do you think, gentle readers? Can they still (pardon the pun) raise the possibility in their review or to HR? I’m sure this policy is legal, but is it standard anywhere else?

    1. misspiggy

      We had this situation – once we realised we made sure to bring new people on at slightly higher than we would otherwise have offered, and explain the situation to them in advance.

    2. Mike C.

      Yes, bring it up. It’s a stupid policy over all and your company needs all the help they can get with regards to company turnover.

    3. Artemesia

      I hope the two employees start looking for work elsewhere immediately and can get a new job with a raise which the rest of you can use to push for changing a ridiculous policy.

    4. Not So NewReader

      I had that set up at one place I worked BUT you got a raise at 90 days. You had your starting pay, at 90 days you got a bump in pay and then you waited 12 months for your next raise. It really did not bother anyone that much.

  28. Aunt Vixen

    Ugh. Missed a thing yesterday that could have been really bad if we hadn’t had today to fix it. Normally around here when we have to scramble to do something at the last minute, it’s because someone higher up didn’t ask us to do it any sooner; but in this case, I had n things to accomplish and I accomplished exactly n–1 of them. /o\

    And it’s snowing.

    At least nobody is angry at me, and very likely nobody is more disappointed in me than I am in myself. But still.

    1. C Average

      Ugh, I’m sorry. Screwing up and KNOWING you screwed up and knowing that your screw-up caused extra work for other people is such a crappy feeling. Everyone’s done it, of course, but it still feels awful.

      I’m glad no one is angry at you. A team that forgives the occasional, understandable, fixable, and much-regretted mistake is a good team to be on.

  29. Mpls

    I made a career switch a year ago, moving into an area that is hard to break into with the work experience I have. Basically, someone took a chance on me having potential based on my education and some old work experience. The job was with a small consulting firm (6 people when I started, now down to 3), and two people have left in the last month. The plan was always to move into a company at some point (companies have the same job title/positions as the work I’m doing now, so it’s a logical move), maybe after 2 or 3 years or so.

    A really on-point opening showed up at a company I’d be interested in going back to (worked there prior to going back to school) that I match the characteristics for really well. No question, I’m going to apply… and would probably take it if offered.

    I am feeling a bit guilty about leaving so soon, though. Boss took a chance and taught me a lot, but I’m not loving the small office, not crazy about being in a consulting environment (bits and pieces of projects from different clients, constantly changing gears), not crazy about being in a small business environment (wearing lots of different hats). Because the business is so small, I don’t want to leave them in a lurch (totally hypothetical at this point, I realize), but I don’t want to be trapped by loyalty just because someone took a chance on me once.

    1. Hermoine Granger

      I’d say go for it and make sure that you fully assess the opportunity during the interview process. If it does truly match your needs / expectations and you’re offered the job then take it with no regrets.

      I passed on two opportunities in the past out of loyalty to companies that had taken a chance on hiring me and it came back to bite me both times. I don’t believe in job hopping but if a great position presents itself, I think you have an obligation to be loyal to yourself and at least give the opportunity full consideration.

    2. sittingduck

      Its ok to feel guilty – but its also okay to do what makes you happy too.

      Have you brought up your concerns with your new boss? It might be a good idea to voice your concerns, perhaps there are some changes that could be made to make you happier where you are – or not. But then at least your boss will know that you aren’t thrilled with the work environment and it will be more understandable when you move on.

      If it just comes out of left field when/if you leave – but you’ve never voiced that you aren’t totally happy – I can see that being more of a ‘miff’ to the boss who took a chance on you. But if she knows that this work environment just isn’t your forte then she will understand why you have to move on.

      1. Mpls

        The stuff that I’m not crazy about is pretty much a function of consulting work, and since that’s pretty much the job model she has going, I don’t see that changing. About the only thing she could do is hire more people to make it a little more social – but she kind of got burned with hiring before (8 people have come and gone in the past year) so she’s being a little more deliberate about it now.

        I figure I would play it more as “this great opportunity came up that I would hate to pass up”.

    3. lawsuited

      I think this is really a consideration for further along in the hiring process. It sounds like a unique opportunity (at a company you’ve already worked at, so you would know some of the players and systems) that won’t come along often (or ever again) so it’s worth jumping a little sooner than you would have otherwise. There are other things you could do to show your current employer that you appreciate the chance she took on you – giving a long notice period to ease the transition, referring people you know who might be a good fit to make hiring easier, etc. If you know you have to make the move anyway, staying another 6 or 12 months is not going to help your boss that much anyway.

    4. QAT Contractor

      As Alison has said to many others, a short stint at one job won’t kill your career, but you only get the one grace time, so make absolutely sure that this new job is something you are going to be willing to do for a while.

      It also depends on how long you have been at the current job. Has it been a year? 3 months? That won’t have a huge factor on your career, but it is something to consider.

      1. Mpls

        I’ve been at the current position for just over a year now, was initially considering 2-3 years total in order to get the necessary experience to move on elsewhere.

  30. VictoriaHR

    I’ll be starting a new job soon doing in -house recruiting for software engineers. I know there’s a huge bias in IT against recruiters because there’s so many bad recruiters out there, but I plan to respect candidates’ time and not bug them, etc. My new company is all about building relationships with candidates, even if not hiring them right away, and maintaining contact for years via LinkedIn, etc. What are some good ways to go about doing that while still respecting the candidates as much as possible?

    1. AnonAcademic

      My husband is in IT and I’ve heard stories/complaints about the dozen or so recruiters he’s been dealing with lately. The most frequent/frustrating issue is recruiters having no attention span, e.g. if the first job they submit his resume for doesn’t pan out, they drop off the face of the earth forever. Sometimes they don’t even tell him the outcome, he just infers from the lack of contact. The recruiters he likes always fill him in on the outcome and provide specific feedback (i.e. “they wanted someone with closer to 10 years managerial experience”). If he checks in with them periodically, they reply promptly and tell him about any upcoming positions he should expect to hear about. Honestly the more I write, the more I think that if you have even basic competence at your job you’ll be ahead of the norm in the field (unfortunately).

      1. VictoriaHR

        Thank you! :) That’s the goal, to get to know folks when they’re starting their careers (so college career fairs, etc.) and follow their careers on LinkedIn and whatnot, and hopefully at some point their interests will meet up with a position that we have available. The president of my company very specifically said that he wants to offer quality employees for the projects we work on, not quantity (i.e. the staffing agencies who throw hundreds of possible candidates who are sort-of qualified at every opening). So getting to know the candidates is key.

        1. TheSockMonkey

          I think you are well on your way to being a great IT recruiter.

          I sometimes am contacted by IT recruiters when the job is not even a remote match for my skills and background. For example, contacting me for a job that requires one year of experience when I have 8. Or for jobs that require a long list of skills when I have none of them on my resume.

          I think as long as you are thoughtful about what you are doing, and it sounds like you are, you will be fine. Good luck to you!

  31. Amber Rose

    Any ideas for convincing/bribing your boss to complete tasks they keep putting off?

    Everyone at my company is required to have a safety certificate that has to be renewed every year. To renew you have to complete an online course and test. My boss’s has been expired since last October. He literally runs away when people ask him about it.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny

        If that’s the case, maybe you can block out a long meeting time with him so that he can get it done without worrying about scheduling or interruptions.

      2. Amber Rose

        It’s like a half hour if you skip/fast forward the admittedly horrible and cheesy learning videos.

        1. Adam

          Then I would carve out some time for him to where it would be easy to get it done. Ideally you shouldn’t have to hand-hold him through it but make it easy for him to get it done and he’ll probably comply.

    1. Fante

      I’ve had a boss like this before– as his executive assistant I would schedule things like that into his day and hand-hold him through the whole thing. Does this guy have an assistant– and could you appeal to him/her?

      1. Amber Rose

        Sadly no. Myself as safety-in-training and the existing safety coordinator are intended to harass everyone into being up to date.

        1. Student

          If you can, start revoking privileges tied to the safety thing. Revoke access to areas that require this safety cert. Revoke internet access.

          If you don’t have the authority to do that, time to be juvenile about it. Blockade him in his office. Stand in the doorway until he gets it done. Bring a chair and a book to show you mean business, sit down in the doorway, tell him what you are doing, and start whistling obnoxiously.

          Can’t pin him in his office? Steal his computer monitors, leave a ransom note indicating that he will have to do the training in your office, while you watch, if he wants his monitors back.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Or you can go the opposite way and tell him, “Look, people are required to do this and if they see you not doing it- it sends the wrong message.” Or you can try the angle of what will happen if he does not do this.
            Tell him what his deadline is and let it go. Sometimes acting like we assume we are talking to a competent adult is more scary/motivational than all the nagging in the world. You could land on, “I will not keep mentioning this to you. We absolutely need you to do this.”

    2. Anonsie

      I’ll nag a little at first but when it gets to this point, I’ll let it sit until there’s the potential for consequences on the horizon or I can’t do something they want until it’s done. There usually has to be some actual motivation. I also use really non-agentive language which for reasons I don’t understand seems to be more effective than being more direct at that point.

      “Can you handle x thing for this…”
      “Oh, yeah, I can do that but they require everyone’s safety training to be up to date before they’ll process it so that needs to be prepared before I can send it in.”

    3. ThursdaysGeek

      Years ago I worked at a shoe repair and my boss always put off fixing shoes that were due that day. I once made a deal with him: if he finished all the shoes that were due that day, I’d pay for his dinner at the best place in town. If he didn’t, he’d pay for my dinner there. It was a win-win solution for me: either I didn’t get yelled at by customers that day because their shoes weren’t done, or else I got a nice dinner. I ended up getting a nice dinner.

      But that’s to say, can you bribe him in some way? I’m assuming that it’s your job that it gets done. Tell him you know he is avoiding this, but you’ll provide x benefit if he’ll do it. But don’t offer the other side of the equation, that he’ll give you z benefit if it isn’t done, because he may prefer that to doing the training.

    4. A Non

      Can he be bribed with cookies or other baked goods? (This works on me.) Maybe something like “I’m bringing in doughnuts the day that the whole office’s certificates are up to date. I need your help to accomplish this!”

    5. C Average

      Are there any actual consequences to him not completing the training? Is he the sole holdout preventing the company from having 100% compliance (resulting in possible embarrassment)? Is he not able to perform certain tasks as a result of him not having the training? Is your company legally at risk if he doesn’t renew the certificate?

      1. Amber Rose

        Technically it’s not that big of a deal paperwork wise until the safety auditor comes. In two years.

        That said, if we have a safety incident and he’s involved there could be legal complications.

  32. Adam

    No questions from me. Just asking for well wishes and good luck as I ramp up my job search. I currently work in Cubicle City, and in my last one-on-one with my manager it was stated to me that my neighbors think I’m too loud. This is not my manager’s assessment. In fact, when word of this got to him he was actually pretty pissed on my behalf. My job is heavily customer service based but the powers that be (in their mysterious wisdom…) decreed that a year ago we would merge with another department that has very little to do with my then department’s functions, and the people in that department moved to the same floor space as us.

    But it’s not me as a person that is too loud; it’s my core job functions. Part of my duties involve packing materials and shipping them out, and I use a tape gun which can admittedly get noisy. But realistically this takes up maybe 5% of my day. The other thing is I have to answer the phones and field customer service calls, and apparently this is a point of contention as well. I’m not the best judge of my own voice, so I thought “Well if my voice is too loud I can make an effort to scale it back a bit” even though if you were to say to anybody who knows me that I have a loud voice they’d probably look at you cross-eyed.

    But nope, apparently it’s not the volume of my voice. It’s the fact that they can hear me. Period. My new colleagues are the communications/editing/PR type so they communicate entirely by email, and I guess hearing a phone is distracting to them.

    So my organization is doing some remodeling and we’ll all be moving to a new floor in a few months and people are claiming new cubicle spots on the floor plan. And it was gently suggested that perhaps I could take the spot way in the back corner with several empty cubicles between me and everyone else to cut down on the noise.

    My manager was livid in my favor, but has no real pull. I just find it hilarious as I have long since written this place off as this is just the latest in a LONG line of head scratchers. So I go with the flow until I can skip merrily out the front door for good. Here’s hoping it’s sooner rather than later.

    Happy Friday!

    1. OriginalEmma

      I’m sorry. You sound like you work at my buddy’s old job where they placed the CSRs next to the software development/IT security/other concentration-intensive jobs and it was unpleasant for everyone involved, no matter how much the CSRs tried to moderate their voices on phone calls.

      1. Adam

        Sadly, I am well below the pay grade to justify my own office to muffle the noise in this place, and there is a long history of those in charge of doing what they can to save money but not thinking about how to do so efficiently (nor asking the staff for much input).

        And since I am so gosh-darn polite and pleasant to work with no one will ever address me directly with this kind of stuff. :P

    2. Eugenie

      Can you combine your new cubicle with the empty ones and create one mega epic-cube? Seriously, as a cube-dweller I’d love the privacy and lack of foot traffic past my space!

      1. Adam

        I actually don’t mind it either. I never talk to the majority of these people anyways and our jobs have zero cross-interaction, so if they want to isolate me in a Fortress of Solitude I will not a complain a bit and gleefully post a cheeky sign on the front saying “Beware of Noise Pollution.”

    3. Hermoine Granger

      This is why I don’t understand this current push for low/no wall cubicles, open workspaces, etc. Different jobs types require different work environments / levels of quiet.

      Why didn’t they try to work out a compromise until the move? Have your colleagues wear headphones to block out your calls and you move to a different area of the office when you need to tape things?

      1. Windchime

        The current push is simply because it’s cheaper. You can cram more people into a room if there aren’t any cubicles.

        I’m finally in a room where most of the people are also people who have to concentrate quietly, and it’s really nice. Previously, I was in a room right next to a bunch of people who spent the day laughing, hooting and hollering all day long. Great place to put a bunch of programmers who need to be able to concentrate.

    4. catsAreCool

      I have learned that some people (like me) prefer some background noise, and others really need it quiet. Seems like they could have some areas for quiet for people who don’t need to be on the phone, and that way people who do need to be on the phone don’t have to worry about being heard. Seems unreasonable that you should be inaudible to co-workers while being audible to whoever you’re talking to.

  33. Lore

    I’ve recently been put on a steering committee for a public-facing company website. I’m doing all the content editing, and also contributing the occasional piece of writing. But none of the pieces I’ve written so far have my byline (either they’re “Written by Company” or, in one case, it was a “behind the scenes” piece about the work done on a particular project–I conceived it, put together the elements from the project that appear in it, and then fleshed out some very rough copy written by one of the creators, but the project creator gets the byline. Which I don’t object to–she did the creative work featured in the article). So how do I put them on my resume? And can I put them as “publications” on LinkedIn, or does that look shady? (Or should I be asking for bylines? I think they’d be fine with that, it just would be a weird fit with the rest of my job here, and so far they’ve been reserving bylines for writers who are associated in a more public-facing way with the content they’re creating; my job is definitely more behind the scenes.)

    1. misspiggy

      There’s nothing to stop you from putting the work you have done on your resume, as long as your references would be likely to agree that you did it.

    2. LMW

      It’s pretty common to include corporate stuff on your resume without a byline. It’s rare to actually get one, and usually doesn’t provide a benefit to the company unless you are a known subject matter expert or high ranking executive. If I were looking at your resume, I’d think nothing of you including pieces without your name on it, or pieces you’d ghostwritten that were published under a different byline — I’d actually expect it.

  34. Dani X

    Sometimes I feel like I am the only person who doesn’t have a dream job! Is that something everyone should have? I just want a job where I know what I am doing and feel like I am contributing to things – that i am not just a cog in a machine. A lit of other stuff is nice to have but I don’t have an ideal that I am working towards.

    1. Adam

      I’ve felt like that. Of my intimate circle of college friends I was the only one that didn’t end up in a great job right out of school (for various reasons). So while they were generally all working on interesting stuff, and getting paid better, I was more digging away in the salt mines.

      Fortunately I avoided the jealousy route. More just felt painfully inadequate at times. But just because it’s taking me longer and I don’t have a marked career road map doesn’t mean I can’t do better!

    2. Sunshine

      I’m in the same boat! How do you know what you want to do when there are so many possibilities out there? I just want a company that treats people right and fairly. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to tailor what they want to do or jobs they go for? I am in admin now but I want to get out of admin eventually but I need to know what I want to do before I can get out!

      I’ve heard so many stories of people who “stumpled upon” their dream job or it just “fell in their lap” I’ve been waiting for that to happen to me- an aha moment even. But I would like to be proactive on some soul searching professionally.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny

      No, I don’t either! I work to live, not live to work, so I’d be pretty happy in any nice job.

    4. OriginalEmma

      Do you want a dream job? Do you need your job to be personally fulfilling? Does it need to contribute to some higher social cause? It might not be something everyone wants, since everyone wants something different. Plenty of folks are content to grind away because their jobs gives them the money and regular hours that make extracurricular activities worth it.

      tl;dr – are you experiencing work FOMO?

      I like my job. It does contribute to a higher social cause. I feel good about what I do, but it took me years to get here and it’s not a “dream job” because my dreams keep changing. I am very happy here, though, and it lets me do things after work that I prize (like buying all the books!).

    5. AnotherAlison

      I strongly believe the ideas proposed by Cal Newport: “Passion is found by first building a rare and valuable talent and using it to take control of your career path.” I think that dovetails nicely with the idea of a dream job. How could you possibly know a dream job when you start out and haven’t used the skills required in said dream job?

      Even if you are more experienced in the work world, you just may not have done anything yet that puts you on the path of envisioning a dream job. (I worked in a printing company in high school. I can’t imagine any job in that place I would have wanted as part of my long-term career.) And I think some people simply don’t think of work this way, and that’s fine. My mom has worked in accounts receivables for 28 years. She never wanted anything more. It’s foreign thinking to me, but hey, we’re just wired differently.

      1. beachlover

        I agree, I really enjoy my job, but is it my dream job? No, because I have not found a job that would pay me to play with puppies and kittens on the beach, with a supply of good books, while eating great food and drinking good wine!

      2. Adam

        And people who do have “Dream Jobs” still have days where they don’t want to go to work.

      3. Not So NewReader

        I agree. Most people I know drag themselves into work everyday. I think some people gloss over the rough spots of their jobs, even to themselves.

    6. Amber Rose

      That IS your dream job though right? My dream job is the same: a job that pays well enough that I can be comfortable, treats me well and values my input. I ultimately don’t care WHAT it is as long as it meets those points.

      That’s why I’ve been job hopping all these years through so manydifferent industries. I get bored or fed up and move to the next possible “perfect” job.

    7. Wolfey

      Oh, I hear you too. I have a boyfriend, friends, and mentors who really love what they do most of the time, but my two jobs out of school have both sucked and I’m starting to worry that the problem lies with me–unrealistic expectations, never satisfied, no work ethic–rather than the firms. I just want a job where the mission makes the world better, I’m respected and valued as a human being and teammate, the responsibilities are engaging, the ethos is collaborative and friendly, and I can enjoy hobbies and passions outside of work.

    8. voluptuousfire

      I don’t have a “dream job” either. I want the same thing: a job where I know what I’m doing, that I’m contributing to things and that pays me well.

      I do know what I would like though: a calm, steady environment, a great team to work with and reasonable hours. I don’t think that’s crazy.

      It does make me feel better knowing someone who is in the same mindset. I do think many people are in that boat than they let on. Not having a particular career path to some is hard to fathom.

  35. Anon27

    I work in Marketing and a big part of my job is writing (for web, print, social, press releases, it really varies). When I was hired I was told that a big reason they chose me was because of my strong writing and the writing test I completed. But it seems like whenever my boss gives me a writing assignment she ends up rewriting big chunks of it. I know what I turn in is solid and doesn’t contain errors. The feedback I get is usually pretty subjective like “this is fine but you should make it more compelling” or “this should have a lighter tone.” One time the feedback was, “this is fine, but could be better.” I feel like beyond making blatant grammatical errors or leaving out significant details, it’s really totally subjective whether a piece of writing is “good” or “bad.” Has anyone else been in a similar situation? I guess it’s just frustrating because it’s hard to figure out exactly what I’d need to do to make things “good” and I end up agonizing over every word I write now.

    1. Persephone Mulberry

      I would take some time analyzing your drafts compared to your boss’s edits and seeing if you can’t come up with some of your own takeaways. It sounds like the boss’s edits come down on the side of “tone” quite a bit and while you’re right that “good” is a bit subjective, a piece can be “good” and still not be right for the audience or message.

    2. misspiggy

      The main thing to do in this situation is to ask for examples of really excellent writing, and try to work out what is good about them. But also try asking your boss who the audience for the work is, and what this audience really needs from the writing.

    3. LMW

      It’s totally normal to receive a lot of subjective feedback and rewrites in that type of role. The difference is if your boss is just doing it to get things the way she wants it, or if she’s trying to say you are coming up short somehow. I’ve been in both situations. I had one boss who would rewrite everything just because she wanted everything exactly the way she wanted it. She acknowledged that I was doing strong work, but she had a compulsion to keep tweaking up until deadline. At first it was really off putting, but I got used to it and just considered it part of the process.
      I had another boss who just refused to be happy with anything I did and could never give me any specific feedback on what was wrong — the difference is that her stance was that I was doing things wrong, she just couldn’t tell me what or provide examples to help me to it better. I actually left that department because it was so frustrating it impacted our relationship. (I started taking it as a way for her to personally criticize me, since she wasn’t able to help me improve, despite my constantly asking things like “Can you show me a specific sentence or paragraph that’s not hitting the mark and explain why?” or “Can you show me an example that does this better, so I can compare it to what I’m doing?”)

    4. Gwen

      Agreed that it sounds like you have tone issues. Writing can be subjective, but I would assume that your boss has a better picture of what kind of reaction a piece of writing will get from its intended audience and trust her judgment, unless you have a reason not to do so. I’m also a copywriter, and I’ve gotten feedback like “it just needs to be sexier.” Sometimes that’s hard, but I try to really take it and pick out what kind of feeling she’s trying to draw out of the piece, and in return, I’ve gotten a lot of kudos for being able to take critique well and pick up on new directions quickly. It’s part of the gig, to be honest, and sorry if this sounds dickish, but you probably should agonize over every word if you want to do great work. Every word matters in marketing.

    5. literateliz

      Hmm. This could go both ways, and it’s hard to tell without seeing the actual edits. If you’re entry-level or early in your career, and you trust your boss’s writing/editing ability and judgment, this seems like a great opportunity to get the kind of guidance and feedback that a lot of people wish they could have at their jobs. Good writing is somewhat subjective, and different people will always write and edit differently, but I disagree that it’s TOTALLY subjective. Tone matters, branding matters, there’s always room for improvement and it’s great if your boss can give you specifics.

      The feedback does sound kind of unhelpful. “This is fine, but could be better” – totally unhelpful. “This should have a lighter tone” is better, but I would hope for something more along the lines of “This flap copy should have a lighter tone since it’s for a humor title; right now it’s purely descriptive, nothing grabs you and readers are unlikely to read past the first few lines. Try something more like XYZ” or whatever.

      There are good editors and bad editors. I’ve received edits that made me bristle, so I know where you’re coming from. (In fact, I often butt heads with a higher-up at my current job over punctuation–which is our job, so we’re not totally wasting time, but it’s annoying.) On the other hand, I had one boss (who ironically would probably drive all the people complaining about bad communication skills upthread crazy–text-speak, typos, vagueness, the works) who would take one look at a press release I had slaved over, strike out a line or two, move something around, and the result was undeniably better. I don’t know which your boss is, but it’s worth considering her comments carefully (and maybe asking for more details) to see if they have merit.

      1. hapax legomenon

        This.

        “You have to give an editor something to change, or he gets frustrated. After he pees in it himself, he likes the flavor much better, so he buys it.”

        ― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

    6. Bend & Snap

      As someone who both writes and edits as a major part of my job–you need to ask for actionable feedback. You can sit there all day and wonder what you should do differently, but you’ll never know unless you ask. So instead of trying to interpret what “a lighter tone” means, ask specifically what she’d like to see. More casual word use? Shorter sentences? etc. As for examples or very specific feedback. You’re not a mind reader and you can’t improve if you aren’t getting actionable guidance.

      With that said, some people just like to tear up writing and make it “better” no matter how good it is. There’s not a lot you can do with that except roll with it.

    7. Jessie's Girl

      I spent a couple years working for an internet marketer (I’m sure not exactly the same thing) and I figured, since I did well in writing assignments in college, I’d do well working there. It was my first job out of college.

      It didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. I found that my boss’ idea of good “copy writing” and actually well written text are different because, “she went to seminars to learn how to appeal to customers.”

      It will take some time but you just need to learn your boss’ writing style. I became paranoid regarding everything I wrote for a few years’ after that job (even though it was “just a job” and I did not intend to stay in marketing beyond the time it took me to get a job related to my major).
      I realized that I could write well, and incorporate some of the things I learned from my first job, when it matters. Unfortunately, it seems you may need to compromise your current writing style for whatever it is that you boss prefers.

      I would suggest asking him/her for some tips to succeed, e.g., books that he/she has read.

  36. KerryOwl

    Today is my last day! I gave notice four weeks ago and now today is my last day. I am very excited/nervous. I still need to do a little documentation and clear up my area — hopefully that doesn’t take longer than I’m expecting. I don’t really require any advice or anything, I just want to say it out loud! Or, you know. Type it out . . . just type it out, I guess.

    My husband and I are moving to the mountains and we don’t have jobs lined up yet! This seems to make everybody nervous but I’m just excited about it. Although MOVING in this weather could turn out to be a nightmare. THAT is what I am nervous about. Ah well, it’ll work out one way or another.

    1. LTX

      Good luck, and congratulations!! Today is my last day at a job too, and I am so excited I just want to dance.

  37. Fante

    I’ve been job searching for the past few months to get out of my toxic work environment. I’m applying to similar positions to the one I have now.

    Meanwhile, I’m planning to finally get all my ducks in a row to apply for enrollment to a full-time graduate program in the next 1-2 years. Understandably, prospective employers aren’t eager to hire someone who plans to leave for grad school within a year or two; they want to hire someone who plans to stick around.

    My current job is not exciting or engaging to me and I would be pursuing something completely different in grad school, so during interviews when the interviewer probes for an idea of my long term plans and goals, I give a vague answer about seeking more professional development opportunities and finding a workplace that I feel compelled to settle into. This isn’t false, but I’m definitely omitting a huge piece of information and, with that, the key to what I’m interested in and what makes me tick.

    This is a moral grey area… I NEED to get out of this toxic workplace, but I feel icky lying and omitting to prospective employers that I would hope to build a solid working relationship with. I’d appreciate any input!

    1. Fante

      By the way– I’m also applying to jobs in line with what I’d be going to grad school for, but realistically the positions I’m qualified for would pay much less than I’m earning now, and the ones that would pay comparably tend to cut me out of the running because I don’t have a masters.

    2. Jennifer

      I work at a university so perhaps not surprisingly, we have a relatively high number of employees who stay for just a couple of years before leaving for graduate school. There’s a whole subset of research assistant positions where that’s actually the norm — generally when we look at turnover and similar metrics, we do two sets, one with this group included and one without, even. They’re working here as much for the professor’s reference and to bolster their grad school app as for the paycheck, and I’m not actually sure someone who wasn’t at least seriously considering graduate school would be considered as a candidate for these positions. Any chance there might be similar situations in your field and your area?

      1. fposte

        Here you’d have to be a student to be a research assistant, but the overall point I agree with; we’ve had several front-office staffers who’ve then entered and graduated from our program, for instance. And in general universities are wildly in favor of you going to grad school, so they aren’t offended if you quit to do it (and will give good recommendations, too).

  38. louise

    Just want to share a small triumph – I didn’t weigh in on the recent poker face discussion yesterday, but it kind of goes along with that:

    I’ve held it together a lot over the last few months when a year or two ago I would have either teared up at these same situations or completely lost it and been crying hard enough (out of anger and/or frustration) that I would have had to excuse myself. One of these times was this morning when my boss came on too strong when he questioned me about something and say “No way are we doing that.” A year ago I would have felt attacked, but this morning I calmly stated how I’d arrived at my conclusion and at the end he said he completely understood my reasoning and motivation and would advocate for my position with the other decision maker. He’s also a reasonable person, so that’s why that worked. :)

    Anyway, it just feels good to feel more in control of my emotions. I wish I could give a step-by-step plan of how it happened but it was kind of organic–my boss and I have had discussions about how I tend to cry if I’m really angry or frustrated and since then, he’s stopped me several times and said “your nose is turning red like you’re about to cry. There’s no reason to be that upset about this situation, just tell me what I need to know.” Some people would piss me off if they said that, but for some reason it has worked with him and I’ve responded by saying yeah, I’m really passionate about this situation/topic/event actually, here’s why. Somehow over the last few months, I’ve been able to just hold it together a little better. Been on antidepressants for years also–no intention of stopping them now just in case that would screw up this new ability!

  39. teapot analyst

    Regular going anon.

    I was hired to replace a person who held the title of “Teapot Analyst”. When I was brought on board, we originally pitched the idea of having my title be “Teapot Analyzing Assistant”, but eventually said we’ll go with “Executive Assistant” for now since the boss was thinking of starting some new projects that I might have a hand in and I might not even spend all my time with teapot analysis, although much of my time would be.

    The projects did not go through as planned and are now tabled until further notice. So I am doing (almost) the exact same job as my predecessor. I say almost because I have no direct experience in teapots and teapot analysis whatsoever (I came with transferable skills); I wasn’t told anything about my predecessor (who has left the organization) but it’s possible he had more knowledge that merited the better title, even if we do a lot of the same day-to-day tasks. I don’t do any admin tasks as befitting of an Executive Assistant; the only admin tasks I do is help with front desk relief if it gets really busy or if the receptionist goes for lunch. Thus, Executive Assistant is a misnomer. If those projects ever come to fruition, I will probably take them on in addition to my full breadth of teapot analysis tasks.

    When my probation period finishes, we will revisit my title (this part was agreed to prior to my signing) and then they’ll print me business cards. Should I make the pitch to be called “Teapot Analyst”, or is that too lofty for a person who would–by then–have only three months of experience with teapots in total? If it matters, the teapot analyzing department is a department of two, so I’d like to avoid the assistant tag if I could, for vanity if nothing else :) But I understand if that would be reaching.

    (By the way, salary reviews show that I am paid exceptionally well for a “teapot analyzing assistant”, and probably around 30th percentile–i.e. well within the lower end of market rate, and decent for someone with no direct experience in teapots–for a “teapot analyst.”)

    1. Christy

      Go for Teapot Analyst. You’re doing teapot analyst work, you should get credit for it. It’s hard enough to get respect for what you’re doing when you’re new–don’t let your title make it worse.

    2. puddin

      I say go for it. Your title should reflect what you do – not necessarily how long you have done it, if you analyze teapots, then the title is spot on.

  40. Midge

    I just need to share something that got under my skin.

    Another department recently held a company-wide goodbye lunch for a longtime employee who was leaving. The director of the department (a woman with kids) said a few words about the employee who is leaving (also a woman with kids) that really didn’t sit well with me. The director started by saying that there were many wonderful things that could be said about the employee. But what was really amazing about her was that even though her job was incredibly demanding she always managed to come in with perfect make up, always had salad for lunch, and never ate from the communal chocolate bowl in the afternoon. She also said something about how the employee balance home and work life so well.

    I think the director was being a bit flippant, but it made me pretty uncomfortable that the accomplishments she was highlighting were that the employee was pretty and thin.

    1. Adam

      It really can be weird to consider what other people “value” the most. I wonder how the departing employee felt?

    2. Anastasia Beaverhausen

      I would be SO insulted if THAT was what my director chose to remember about my time at their company

      1. bridget

        At my great-grandmother’s funeral, 97% of the nice things that were said about her life were about how clean her house always was. I mean, clean houses are great and hygenic and whatever, but I would be kind of insulted if THAT was what my life boiled down to.

    3. misspiggy

      I think the pressure of saying something nice about departing employees gets to some bosses and they screw up – possibly because they realise they never bothered to get to know the employee properly in the first place. Mine chose to tell the hilarious story of how I collapsed in the office due to my complex chronic health condition, which most people in the room had no prior knowledge of.

      1. Kelly L.

        I’m now imagining the speech she’d give for me if I worked there and left. “Her hair turned into a rat’s nest if you looked at it funny, she ate cheese for lunch every day, and you could not trust her within a mile of the communal chocolate bowl…”

    4. AnonAcademic

      Sorry but that is some serious shade throwing right there! Whether intentional or not, the boss is implying that this employee’s health and grooming habits are more memorable than her work.

    5. puddin

      What I got out of that is the Director is happy the employee is leaving because her pretty faced, no chocolate, salad loving self was making the Director look weak willed and ugly.

      1. jamlady

        Right? I feel like with someone else they would have been like “I’m so sad Marjorie is leaving because she gained nearly 30 pounds while she was here and made me feel good about myself”. Ridiculous.

    6. Nom d'pixels

      My initial thought is that what she said in inappropriate. However, the two might have a person relationship where the employee would say things like she just didn’t feel right without her makeup, or how important her diet was to her. It might be that the boss was making a nod to those things.

      1. Not So NewReader

        If that is the case, she could have said something to the effect of “on a personal level I admire her because _____.” Or she could have just made general reference to “many of her personal traits have been inspiring for me.”

    7. JMW

      Though her job was incredibly demanding, the leaving employee took time to care for herself, as exemplified by the makeup, salads, chocolate, and work/life balance. Perhaps the director really admired her for her balance and self-care. And perhaps the work part was left unsaid because the director figured everyone knew about those parts. I agree it wasn’t the best speech, but maybe it was well-intended and actually quite personal?

    8. Lily in NYC

      I can’t remember if I told this story here or on Gawker: At a former job, the CEO introduced me to someone and said “Lily’s claim to fame is that she dated XXX” (son of a famous politician). I got annoyed and replied: “I’d rather you say that my claim to fame is that I have a degree from a top school or that I am a really good classical pianist”. Needless to say, CEO was not my biggest fan after that. I really should have bit my tongue or waited to say something in private.

    9. Midge

      I agree with some commenters that there may very well have been a rapport/ongoing discussion about these things that I’m not aware of. But I’m glad others find this weird and inappropriate, too.

    10. catsAreCool

      “she always managed to come in with perfect make up, always had salad for lunch, and never ate from the communal chocolate bowl in the afternoon.” Of all the things a person could say, these are not what I’d want said about me. Then again, none of them are true of me :)

  41. Dr. Johnny Fever

    Looking for advice on interviewing without any interviewers. :)

    My job was eliminated a few weeks ago and I’m working through my notice period. I have a good lead on a new job, and have my 2nd interview – but it’s recorded! The hiring leader preselects questions – I have a secure link where I will view these questions and answer them on webcam as if the people were there.

    I feed off energy in interviews – I tend to be animated, at ease, witty, and generally winning (you know how I am, babies! lol). I’m not sure how to keep that same energy in a such a flat space.

    Also, I’m worried about a webcan setup that emphasizes my double chin, lighting that makes me look green, etc.

    Any one gone through this before and have any tips? Or does anyone want to marvel at the strangeness of this just as I am?

    1. Ama

      Could you have a friend sit with you (in your eyeline, but out of sight of the camera) to just react to what you are saying? I’m sympathetic because I’ve recently realized that in conversation, I also need to see people’s reactions or I get flustered and tend to ramble (it’s why I hate talking on the phone).

    2. MsM

      I’m just envious that you thrive on interview energy. If you can’t get a real friend to sit with you, I’d try and imagine the best interview you’ve ever had, and pretend that person’s sitting across from you.

    3. HigherEd Admin

      I did two of these recently. Is it through HireVue? If so, here’s what I did:

      I used my iPad so that I could wander around until I found a quiet space that also had flattering light. Then I turned on the iPad camera and fiddled around with it until I found a good angle. HireVue lets you practice recording yourself as many times as you want until you feel comfortable with the system.

      It was helpful for me to remember that everyone else had to interview this way, too. And that everyone else was probably just ask awkward recording themselves as I was.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever

        You nailed it. I’m trained on it as a Live interviewer, but I’ve never encountered it as the OnDemand interviewee. That’s a good idea on the tablet – hadn’t even crossed my mind. I have a tilting tabletop I was going to try to use to see if I could get the cam at eyelevel.

        And yeah, you’re right – everyone else is going to be somewhat awkward. I like the other advice above to imagine a great interview and keep that in mind for the energy.

        Someone told me to dance and sing loudly right before the interview to release endorphins and loosen up. I may find someplace to go to pretend to be Bruno Mars make a dragon want to retire and see if that works to get the energy up.

    4. CrazyCatLady

      I had one of these interviews before — the part that was tough for me was that I still expected to “hear” the questions being asked, even if they were pre-recorded. In reality, the questions just appeared on the screen, in writing. It felt super awkward to respond verbally to a written question. I didn’t get the job, or an in person interview, so I have no tips.

  42. YandO

    I need help.

    My boss wants me to log into his email and send emails from him. I used to send emails from his email address and sign my name, but compliance ended that. Now, to avoid problems with compliance, he wants me to sign his name.

    This is complicated in ways I cannot disclose here (compliance stuff), but my question really is this: is it ok, legally and ethically, to send emails I wrote, boss has not reviewed or approved, and sign his name?

    My gut tells me “no”, but I cannot really find a ground to stand on here. It’s not illegal. He gives me the approval, but…..I am uneasy.

    1. Anonsie

      It can be ok in specific circumstances, but evidently this is an issue in your industry, so maybe not in this case.

    2. Fante

      I often draft and send things for my boss, always with his approval but occasionally without his review. It makes me nervous, too, but seems to be standard in this industry. However, I always sign off using my boss’ name and my own initials; I would take issue with omitting my own initials as a matter of accountability. It has happened before that he gets up in arms about a typo and I can point to someone else’s initials (proof that it wasn’t me!)– and on the flip side, if you omit your initials, you could become the scape goat for anything sent from him in error (because who knows for sure which came from him or you?).

    3. Anastasia Beaverhausen

      Don’t do it – this will not end well, especially considering you compliance people have already told him to knock if off. Look into sending emails ‘on behalf of’. I often see emails (mostly from executive assistants) like this, where it’s clear at the top of the email that the message is sent by Jonathan on behalf of Jack. I think in Outlook you can find this under ‘Delegate Access’ in your account option. This way you leave a clear trail of who sends what.

      1. EmilyG

        The delegates idea is a good one!

        When I was an executive assistant to someone in pre-email days (or email hadn’t really clicked with the leadership of the company anyway) I used to send letters often on my boss’s behalf daily and there were several conventions to indicate who had done what. I’d type ABC/def in the foot of the letter where her initials were ABC and mine are DEF, to indicate what I’d typed up. I’d write “dictated but not signed” or “dictated but not reviewed” as needed. Or, I’d sign in cursive neatly her name A. C—- and then my own initials if signing on her behalf. Often she would just tell me to write a “nice thank-you” to someone which I’d invent out of whole cloth, type ABC/def, and sign with my initials. She encouraged/directed me to do all of this but of course she really trusted me, and also there were no compliance issues at stake.

        If I were you, I’d either do Anastasia B’s idea, or sign both his name and your initials (“Boss Guy/yo”). Either of those would convey that you’re signing something with his full authority, but you’re not claiming to be him.

        1. Fante

          This continues to be the convention in legal work, which is behind the times by about two decades. I still use a fax machine and typewriter occasionally! :-P

          1. EmilyG

            I’ve actually tried to fake this as a way of indicating aggressively that I intend to follow up. Like writing a letter to my gym to quit and putting DEF/jns at the bottom where DEF is me and jns is an imaginary person. I suspect it works, but maybe it won’t for long as fewer people are familiar with it. Like you say, I’ve only seen it in a more old-fashioned style of office.

    4. Jillociraptor

      I do this too–all the time. It is definitely weird, and I think you should try to hold on to that weird feeling as much as possible as an internal check, but it’s definitely a thing people do. Some things I’ve done to feel better about the weirdness:

      1. Make sure I’m managing up like crazy. My manager needs to know any potential risk, awkwardness, etc. I have to assume that everyone I email is going to find her and ask her, “So what was that thing about?” and she needs to be prepped to answer that.
      2. Run any sensitive communication by her first. If anything’s particularly challenging, I try to build in time for her to see the message I’m drafting first and sign off before I send.

      To your specific question: yes, this is okay. Especially if your boss is more higher up in the organization, it’s very common for their email to be managed by other people. Now, if you’re signing off on major decisions, or anything that could get your boss/team/organization in trouble, refer to 1 and 2 above, but this is a very common thing and if your boss is good with you being in his inbox, I think you’re okay.

    5. Dang

      Can he delegate rights a la outlook?

      If I sent a calendar invitation or email “from” one of my bosses it says “sent on behalf of x by [me]” or something like that.

      1. YandO

        no, due to the circumstances beyond my control, we only use web-based version of outlook and that’s the only version we can use.

        1. Judy

          A quick google search shows that some web based outlook versions do have delegation ability, and some don’t. I’m assuming you’ve checked that, but did want to mention it was available.

          Most companies have strict requirements about not using other people’s login, it seems odd to me that a company that has “compliance” issues allows this.

      2. Fuzzy

        Outlook delegation is amazing. I second using that, or seeing if your email server has something similar.

    6. YandO

      Thanks for your responses. I will try to hold off on doing this for as long as possible. Hopefully I will have another job lined up then….

      Which is unlikely cause I just a bunch of rejections this week. I am sad and frustrated.

    7. The Office Admin

      Is he dictating emails to you?
      Or are you just responding to emails people send to him?
      I do this for my boss, usually he dictates to me, but usually I sign off like this:

      Thanks/Sincerely/Talk soon,
      David Rosen

      op

      Lowercase letters below that are my initials, op (Olivia Pope ;) which is the universal way for an EA or secretary to sign off on taking a dictated letter or email.

      1. YandO

        no, he does not dictate emails to me

        on occasion he does, then I have no problem signing his name.

        I respond to 99% of emails without his input, whether they are addressed to me or him.

    8. Mockingjay

      Can you send them from your email account instead?

      I often have to “deliver” reports on behalf of my lead. Because I am not authorized officially to do so (he’s government, I am supporting contractor), I email a very standard business “letter,” with lead cc’ed, always, and mentioning his instruction in the first line.

      Dear Ms. Coffeepot:
      Per Mr. Teapot’s direction, attached is the report regarding handle safety.
      If you have any questions, please contact Lead Engineer Wakeen at ___.
      Thank you,
      Teapot Technical Writer

    9. Mike C.

      For compliance issues, why not have a policy where signature holders can delegate signature authority on a temporary basis to qualified individuals?

      Then you’d see something like “Signed: YandO, under authority of YandO’s Boss”. Then your boss can get the stuff signed and tractability is maintained.

    10. Observer

      Actually, you really want to check with your compliance people on this – if they already said that it’s not ok to send messages from his email signing your name, then there is a good chance that you actually are not allowed to send messages from his account at all.

    11. Jazzy Red

      Late to the party, but I hope you see this.

      dontdoit, dontdoit, dontdoit!

      I knew an admin whose boss told her she could sign the financial documents since she was the one who did all the research and work on them. He went to every bank in the area and got loans from them all, using the same collateral, which is illegal as hell. He was investigated and the FBI came to HER and said, is this your signature on these documents. She almost went to prison because of that jerk boss.

      If you feel uneasy about this, tell your boss “I am not comfortable doing this” and don’t say any more. See what he says – that will give you an indication of his motives. If he still wants you to do this, go back to YOUR original suggestion, or have your signature on his emails read “Della Street, on behalf of Perry Mason”.

      Stick to your guns. It’s bad enough if you get in trouble because of your own doing.

  43. Former Diet Coke Addict

    This Week in My Job: Payday is supposed to be Thursday and we have not yet been paid. My boss snapped at us when we asked where the cheques were, saying “I’m working on them for God’s sake!” when his actual answer was that he didn’t want to come back from his cottage to do payroll. (I do think that when you have a Labour Board investigation the previous week it’s probably not best to go screwing around with pay, but that’s just me.)

    He also asked for our passwords and lists of our major contacts. Generally he seems to be operating as if we’re on our last legs as a business and he’s preparing for the End Times, so we shall see in the next month if I still have a job to go to….

    1. Another Ellie

      I do not understand people who don’t have “pay the employees” as the number one most important thing in their minds.

      I’m sorry that your job seems to be getting progressively more awful, but at least if it collapses you’ll be relieved of some stress? I had my contract not renewed last year because of budgets, and the stress of job-searching was not even close to the stress I’d been under because of the job.

  44. Rat Racer

    I have a question: I am on tons of conference calls all the live-long day, and I work from home so nobody can see me. I find it TERRIBLY difficult to sit still and listen (especially in the longer meetings where I am there to absorb information and comment occasionally) without doing something with my hands or clicking around on my computer.

    I’m trying to find something I can do to keep my hands busy but that occupies only a tiny bit of real estate in my brain so that I can pay attention. I’m a terrible artist and doodling doesn’t really work for me. Does anyone have any suggestions? Maybe I should just learn how to sit still and be zen, but my busy buzzing mind really struggles with that…

      1. Rat Racer

        Oh – thinking putty – will have to Google that. Will also need to hide it if I order some because my kids will find it an requisition it immediately.

    1. Persephone Mulberry

      Can you get a wireless headset so that you can move around? Fold laundry, straighten the living room, etc. Wireless setups for landlines can be spendy, but if you typically call in on your cell, you can probably find a reasonably priced bluetooth earpiece.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        I’ve got one of those, a Plantronics somethingorother and it is the best thing, sliced bread is jealous. If I need a glass of water, I just get up and go get it. Folding laundry is something I should cue up and have standing by for the next conference call, but they unfortunately often revolve around reviewing at least one document. Just being able to answer the phone and not have to cradle it against my shoulder so I can use both hands at the computer is heaven.

        If you can’t afford one of those, Rat Racer, how about a set of hand exercisers — the kind that look like giant clothespins. I would really say check into some kind of headset though, you could be walking around your place, doing all kinds of things if all you have to do is listen and comment.

        1. Anon369

          Agreed. .. headset is the key. Now I pace around my office and find my recall and attention is SO MUCH BETTER.

    2. The IT Manager

      Can you stand during these meetings or parts of them to get you away from the keyboard?

      1. Monodon monoceros

        Yes, definitely get a cat, and if it is like mine, you will use both hands to constantly push it away from the laptop. It’s like a cat magnet or something :)

        1. periwinkle

          I work from home one day a week. Cat + headset with a tempting microphone to chew on = thank goodness for the mute button.

        2. the gold digger

          Spring must be coming, because there is cat hair all over my computer from working at home yesterday. There is nothing like being occupied with something important, like making a living, to attract a cat in search of attention. (“It is a truth universally acknowledged…”)

          When I wasn’t pushing the cat away, I was shelling beans.

          1. Dynamic Beige

            My cats are weird. They don’t want to walk on my computer, they are not interested in it at all. They won’t sit in my lap. They don’t go in cardboard boxes. The only times they really bug me it’s because it’s near feeding time and then they just sit there and stare. I’m torn on whether this is a great thing or if I’m missing out on some sort of universal cat experience.

      2. Vancouver Reader

        I was going to suggest knitting as well. Just make sure your side is muted so people don’t hear the click click click of knitting needles. Apparently that drives some people to distraction.

    3. Artemesia

      Can you do a weight routine while on the phone — e.g. use headphones and have a set of small weights so you can do various repetitive weight exercises while talking. This doesn’t take your attention away from content like surfing the net would, but maybe it will keep you focussed. I do this when I have a task that has lots of 5 min down times e.g. I am digitizing negatives at the moment and for each set of 12, there is a 5-8 minutes processing time — too little to engage in something intelligent, but too much to waste — so that is when I do my weight exercises, balance exercises etc.

    4. periwinkle

      Pipe cleaners, or whatever they’re being called these days. (chenille stems? really?) One of my coworkers handles all the logistics for the week-long training workshops we run. She ensures that every table has a basket full of pipe cleaners so students can keep their hands quietly occupied. Spirals are very popular as people like to just twist the stem around and around their fingers.

    5. Another Rat Racer

      Puzzles. My entire department is on conference calls all day and our office has puzzles spread out on four empty work stations. You will see us there throughout the day, quietly piecing things together with headsets on.

    6. Cath in Canada

      A friend of mine does yoga during her conference calls. Mine are all at 5:30 or 6 am, which is way too early for anything other than huddling on the sofa, so I can’t speak for how well it works, but she enjoys it!

    7. MaryMary

      We spent a lot of time on conference calls at OldJob, so little desk toys were very popular. Try bucky balls (but not if you have small children or curious pets), a slinky, a tangle toy, or a stress ball. Just google fidget toys, and you’ll find a bunch.

  45. Not Today Satan

    And now that I’ll be working again (soon) I finally have a question that’s not related to job hunting!

    So, at my last job (which happened to be a very toxic environment) there was an aggressively CYA feel to most emails. Like if Mary asked Bob for something and then asked him for it again, instead of responding he would forward his previous response to her. I’m not sure if I’m describing it well. Another example where Mary’s in the wrong might be CCing the person’s boss on the first followup email. But that type of thing always seemed unnecessarily hostile/defensive to me (assuming the first email was cordial/not accusatory). But on the other hand, for a temp job I had recently, the HR rep emailed me asking for documents I had already sent. I didn’t want to risk looking like I didn’t follow directions, so I forwarded my original email (and included a friendly note). What are your thoughts on striking a balance in this regard?

    1. Aussie Teacher

      I agree with your approach – I don’t like looking as if I’m incompetent so I always reply by forwarding the original email with a friendly note saying “Here they are again – I sent them on [date] but you might have missed them” etc.

    2. Karowen

      The only thing I would suggest doing differently is get in the habit of attaching the original email to the current one instead of forwarding it. That way the other person can find it easily if they need to keep that trail going or if the subject line had changed. But then, the original situation you described (with resending the email instead of responding) doesn’t seem weird to me.

      1. Not Today Satan

        The place was toxic and miserable, so it’s hard to figure out what practices are miserable in nature, and which were made miserable by the culture of that place.

  46. Confused

    I had a strange situation come up at work and I am looking for advice on how this was handled. I work for a small company with about 20 employees. Last year during my annual review in the beginning of 2014, I asked my manager and CEO if there was any system in place for employees to accrue more time off the longer they have been at the company. They got back to me and offered an extra 5 days vacation in lieu of the end year bonus, which usually works out to one weeks pay. I told both that I would want to take advantage of this during 2014 and would love the extra days off. Our time off goes from hire date – hire date, not by the calendar year.

    Fast forward to the end of the year and I did get a bonus in my check, but I assumed that it was a smaller bonus than I would have received if I hadn’t accepted the 5 extra days.

    During the beginning of the year, I took 2 days off, one sick and one scheduled day off. During my sick day I got an email from my manager telling me that I was -2 days for my time off. By my accounting, I actually had 3 days left to take before my time renewed. This went back and forth for a bit and basically they never withheld my bonus and never “gave” me those extra 5 days (there is no official database or anything for time off).

    They are docking my pay this week and taking out 2 days worth of pay to account for the 2 days I took. I am an exempt employee. Is this even legal? I’m just so peeved that I regularly put in 50-60 hour work weeks and they are going to nickle and dime me over 2 days.

    1. Aussie Teacher

      I can’t answer the legal/exempt side of things, but given you accepted 5 days in lieu of the end of year bonus, you should have queried it when you received an end of year bonus! You’ll need to refer back to your original agreement but if they do agree to give you the 5 days (3 remaining) they may want you to pay back the bonus.

          1. fposte

            I’m also not sure if it’s kosher to do it retroactively–it sounds they’re docking Confused’s pay during a pay period when Confused worked every day. But that’s a genuine “I’m not sure,” not “they can’t.” Confused, I might give your state DOL a call (there may be stricter state rules than Federal anyway).

            And, as you doubtless already have decided, in future follow up any discussions about employment terms with email laying out the discussion and confirming it. You’re actually taking this better than I would–I’d be pretty ticked off.

            1. Confused

              I’m very ticked off, but not sure there is much I can do about it. They are taking the 2 days money from a pay period where I worked everyday. The thing that irritates me is how much over time I’ve worked in the past and with my over time, I’d have more than enough hours to cover those 2 days. But this seems to be status quo where I work – they want you to give give give to them, but they do not budge on much.

              1. Chuchundra

                Docking you for a sick day is a clear violation of the FLSA’s rules for exempt employees. If a company violates these rules, employees can be ruled non-exempt and than sue for all their back overtime.

                You might casually mention this to your boss.

                The other thing you can do is work your 40 hours and go home for a week or two.

        1. Anomanom

          Actually, they can dock your vacation time for being out, but they can’t dock your pay if you are exempt. So, yes they can force you to use vacation days, but it sounds like they are actually making you take unpaid days, which is not legal if they are paying you as an exempt employee. If you worked one day in the week, you are paid for the week. The only exception being in cases of termination of employment mid week.

  47. Reader With No Name for Post

    This hasn’t been a good week. I’d researched market value for salaries and based a raise request upon a government pay schedule for our area. This was back in October and there was a lack of funds. We hired 2 new people since then and one has 2 years experience and no CPA license. In PA you need 150 college credits to test for the exam and she told us she doesn’t know if she wants to obtain her CPA license. I have 7 years experience, a CPA license and have been licensed for 2 years.

    Through an indiscretion of my boss leaving papers laying where she shouldn’t have I saw Jane’s pay rate. Her annual salary is $5,000+ more than mine in spite of my experience. The major difference is I worked for Teapot Handles which was bought out by Chocolate Teapots and Teapot Handles had a much lower salary scale. I’m angry because I’ve absorbed the majority of the work of a full-time person who quit and kept all my work plus my workload has grown. My bosses say they’re happy with me but all raises are mostly cost of living which is better than nothing. It’s been a difficult week after seeing that.

    1. Retail Lifer

      Completely different industry, but this has happened to me at, oh, pretty much every single job I’ve stayed at for any length of time. All of it: being more qualified than new people, new people getting paid more despite that, and having to pick up the slack of either lesser qualified people or that of those that have left but haven’t been replaced. I don’t have any advice, as this just keeps happening to me, but I do sympathize. It sucks.

  48. Eugenie

    So my boss is retiring later this year and his boss (CFO) is talking about some major re-structuring of our division (of which I am one of the department heads). I know he’s specifically looking at changing the way my team is structured (and potentially looking for a way to eliminate one of my weaker team members). I’m not opposed to that, but as with any kind of re-structuring it makes me nervous. Any tips for weathering the next few months?

    1. Monodon monoceros

      Not much advice, but for me when things like this are talked about, I like to keep up with what they are talking about doing, but try not to plan too much on those things actually happening. I’ve heard so many times at different jobs that “Management wants to do X” and X never actually happens. So it’s good to know what they are thinking, but don’t waste too much time being either excited, or worried, about those things materializing.

    2. Not So NewReader

      Some retiring bosses can go into a very compassionate mode. If your boss is feeling the compassion, maybe you can ask him what to expect with the restructuring and get an answer that you find consoling.

    3. PoorDecisions101

      As one of the department heads, I’m guessing you’ll have the chance to have input in the restructuring process.

      My advice is to plan, plan and plan. Think about the worst case scenarios which can happen and the best way to rebuff this by having a spiel ready on the potential harm it could do to the business by going in that direction. Think about the best way you think the department could run and have a spiel ready for that too with all the productivity/cost benefits your alternative could do for the business.

      Make sure to push to have everything planned out prior to making the changes and don’t leave your people floundering for months about what’s going on. Even if it’s just saying that it’s business as usual for now and that you will continue to back them up.

  49. Nobody Here By That Name

    Semi-related to the poker face discussion from yesterday: how do you deal with coming into work for a company when it no longer aligns with your morals? I’m already looking for another job, so that piece is taken care of. But I’m finding it difficult to be in the office and not call people on the executive team to task for the horrendous way they treated one of our employees.

    I’ve read AAM long enough to know that the way they treated this employee is completely legal. It’s just disrespectful in a way I can’t stomach. How can I keep my head down and my mouth shut without feeling like I’m betraying my own values?

    1. Beancounter in Texas

      I struggle with that too, as my company has fired people for a list of grievances that stretch back for years, but never actually corrected the employee or warned them in writing. I’ve heard of stories of previous employees being terminated after the same fashion, seen it occur at least twice myself, and sometimes wonder if it’ll happen to me one day.

      I’m also in a position to somewhat advise those in power to fire to hold employees accountable and write up warnings when feasible. I’ve advised to let them know how serious the offense is and when their job is on the line. This is how I cope – I try to change the status quo.

      In your case, think of not burning the bridge for your own benefit. You’ve made your judgment, and you sound disgusted. There are three things you can do about a situation you don’t like: change it, remove yourself from it or accept it (which does not include complaining). If you can communicate in a rational manner and think speaking to someone about it might bring some positive change, then do that. Otherwise, if you cannot respect your company any more and feel your job performance may reflect that, then you’ll have to weigh the importance of your morals against your need for regular income. Good luck.

    2. Elizabeth West

      The only way I could do this when I had had enough of Exjob was to just stop caring. In my head, I would tell myself, “Not my circus; not my monkeys,” over and over. When something went wrong, I could then deal with it dispassionately instead of getting upset.

      Also, I had people I could vent to offsite. And another thing that helped was this: I would plug my flash drive into my computer and open a Notepad document and save it to the flash drive. Then if someone pissed me off, I could type the most horrendous things into it as a sort of stream-of-consciousness rant, like “Bob is such a [blankety blank blank]. He needs to DIAF. If he bullies Jack one more time, I hope a ceiling beam falls on his head and splats him all over the office. And I am not cleaning it up!” To anyone watching me, it merely appeared that I was typing calmly and busily. In reality, I would discharge those feelings into the Notepad doc where no one but me could see them.

      At the end of the day, I closed it and took the drive home, and as soon as I left the office, I put Bob and the rest of the crap out of my mind for the day. Extra points if the flash drive is password protected, in case you forget and leave it in there. :)

    3. Not So NewReader

      Depending on how you think the bullied person may react, you could go to him and say “I think what is happening to you is so unfair.”
      I worked a retail job once where a high school student told me she had to quit because she could not watch the boss bad mouth me for one more day. I appreciated her speaking up.
      In turn, I have said similar things to people. I am not sure if that makes me feel more ethical. But sometimes I think that we should put our comments/thoughts in a place where it will do the most good. You might get more result by talking to the person rather than talking to management.

  50. Dang

    Hey y’all! I wrote in a few weeks ago about my bizarre job offer in academia after a short phone interview.

    Some background: I moved back home after a rough time personally in June 2013. Since then, I’ve applied to hundreds and hundreds of jobs, gone on dozens of interviews and second interviews… with not much luck.

    Last June I accepted a temp to perm position as an admin. The people are fantastic, but having been a temp for 9 months with no sign of an actual perm offer, coupled with the fact that it really has nothing to do with my background/skills, I knew I had to keep looking.

    Then I got the random offer in academia which would require a move. I had never met the people I”d work with and they were insistent that they weren’t available to meet me for another few weeks, well after the deadline for accepting the job. It was in a city I was very interested in moving to, and the job on paper was great, but there were red flags galore.

    Luckily, I’d been interviewing with another place for over a month. Multiple interviews followed by a week of silence and a request for another meeting or phone call. I hadn’t heard after my final interview, so I took the advice AAM has given before and told them I had another offer via email. They offered me the job the very next day, and I just completed the paperwork!

    So after almost 2 years of searching, I got two official offers within two days, and I’m starting my new job (which I don’t have to move for) in 2 weeks!

  51. One-income couples

    My husband is thinking about going part-time and maybe eventually quitting his job to focus on writing a novel. It’s something I’ve told him we could make work but I’m nervous.

    Financially, we can do this, at least for now. I make upwards of $200K. He makes about a quarter of that and has a long commute. I love my work. He doesn’t like his and is frustrated by not having time to write. It’s starting to seem silly that he commutes an hour each way to a job he doesn’t like when I’m bringing in so much money.

    We’d be fine if he wasn’t working for a while. We might be fine if he wasn’t working forever, as long as my career keeps going the way it has been. I cover most of our household expenses anyway since I make so much more than him, but up until now he’s always had money of his own (we’ve traditionally kept our money separate).

    How do we do this without me starting to resent being the sole wage earner? Does he take on more work around the house? Some other arrangement? What happens if I hit a career bump and he’s been out of the workforce? Isn’t it inherently better (safer) to have two incomes? How do people make this work?

      1. arjumand

        OH MY GOD. That was really something to read, and then the followup (did you read the followup?).

        Turns out all the supposed bartering he was doing to save them money was nonexistent (there was something about not having anything left in their account at the end of the month because he spent all their money on pot), and when she finally dumped him, while she was relieved, she was still left with his debt to pay off.

        I noticed all the well-wishers with the “YOU DO YOU, GURL” on the initial post were conspicuous in their absence on the followup.

        Just glad that she saw the light, eventually. I mean, just reading the initial post was making me slightly nauseous at the thought of having to support two people on a librarian’s salary.

    1. the_scientist

      Oh, this is a really interesting question and I’d love to hear other people’s responses! My initial take is that this might be one of those situations where a “side gig” is actually a really good option. Specifically, could your husband do consulting work/copy-editing/tutoring/freelancing or something on a part-time basis? That would allow him to bring in income, potentially work from home or with flexible hours, and have something on his resume in case he wants or needs to get back into the workforce.

      On this issue of resenting being the sole wage-earner, if that’s something you’re really concerned about I’d spend time unpacking that alone and with your husband. I do think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask him to take on more work around the home as a trade-off. It might also be worthwhile to have a ‘deadline’ at which you’ll stop and re-evaluate how the situation is working for both of you. Lots of families do make it work with only one income earner, so it can be done! Although I agree with you that it’s scary to not have that back up if the primary earner gets sick/is laid off etc.

    2. Adam

      My personal view is: if you are married you are a team. And if you are married then your partner’s personal happiness is JUST AS important to you as your own is.

      *Note the “JUST AS important” is not “MORE important”

      So within the framework that you are a team, you figure out what each person contributes to make it work and feel like you aren’t always doing the heavy lifting with whatever it is.

      Your fear seems to be centered on finances, so I think it’s a good idea to figure out what exactly you’re afraid of. Is there something tangible that you can point to that is a real problem, like you two have a lot of debt you’re paying off, or are you scared of “What ifs?”

      If it’s the former, than you plan how to attack that particular issue in a manageable way until it’s no longer an issue.

      If it’s the later, then you talk it out with each other and decide if there’s any legitimacy to these “What ifs?” or if it’s primarily anxiety. If your career has been going well for a while, is there any reason to think that will suddenly stop? If your husband wants to get a job again, is there any reason to think he won’t be able to?

      Most of the time I think a lot of our fears are driven more by anxiety then any actual dangers. So long as you and your husband are communicating and in agreement with wherever you’re going you can whether the challenges for sure.

      Good luck!

    3. misspiggy

      Given that with your salary it sounds like a cleaner wouldn’t be a stretch, I’m not sure that him taking on more work in the house is automatically a good idea. If that’s not actually essential, why don’t you discuss in detail what you both want in your lives? Would you shouldering all the wage-earning contribute to his satisfaction in life, and how? What could he do to improve your life satisfaction? You might end up at exactly the same place – he could well do all the housework, if that is really the thing which would make you the happiest – but it would be worth exploring all your options together.

    4. Dr. Johnny Fever

      My family has done this. In our case, my husband was laid off and wanted badly to be a stay-at-home dad, so we decided to make it work on my salary. He takes care of everything house and school related. I concentrate on work (which has increased in quality without divided attention) and help him at times when I can.

      It can be tough. It will take time to transition. Luckily, he’s OK with being a kept man, and I’m good with working. Try to save or make some sort of cushion in case of career bump, and *communicate* with each other about home, duties, finances, and feelings. Set financial checkpoints to review how your input/output is going so that if your husband has to go back into the workforce he’ll have time to prepare.

      Good luck.

      1. Adam

        +1 To the financial cushion. Ideally, every household should tally up their monthly hard bills and then save up enough so that if income ever does go away they’ll have savings to get them through 3-6 months, and that savings becomes untouchable until such time you might need it.

        Obviously, that can be difficult and take a lot of time for people to save up, but if the OP’s household is currently bringing in upwards of $250K I can’t imagine it would take too long to get that sorted out unless their finances are out of control.

    5. araminty

      I did this last year. My husband is the earner, I was burnt out and grumpy all the time, and thought I’d like to concentrate on myself and my own projects for a while. So I took a year off.

      It was… OK. I learned a lot about myself, including that I’m not great with unstructured time. WEEKS would go by when I wouldn’t write a thing, housework piled up, my art was uninspired. I was stuck at home, too, unable to really travel because of the nebulous sense of responsibility I felt to be at home and contributing to some extent, although I took occasional overnight solo camping trips.

      It didn’t cost us much, as a family, in that my earning potential has always been low (my field, combined with where we live) and my lifestyle was really frugal – almost never went out, and the equipment for my creative pursuits (writing and photography) I already had. When I decided to rejoin the work force, I had lots of interviews and found an interesting position relatively quickly, although the salary leaves a lot to be desired. My year off came up occasionally in the job application process, but didn’t seem to be a problem, I just explained that I had been working on personal projects <– useful phrase :)

      Like you, my husband loves his job, and is good at it, and even though his industry is notorious for sudden layoffs, we were always confident that if the worst happened, we had enough financial cushioning to last through a potential job search for him. He was very good about being the breadwinner and didn't make me feel guilty for not contributing financially.

      So that's our experience. I hope your husband can do better than me at working for himself! I did have some warning signs before I went into it – failing NaNoWriMo SEVEN times should have been a red flag, huh? I definitely feel I learned a lot about myself and my priorities, and it's given me food for thought about my future plans.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        “not great with unstructured time.”

        My questions are sort of related to this comment in that I would want to know if my spouse had a plan. Does your husband have an actual novel in the works, or at least an outline? Does he take part in writers’ workshops, courses or other things to further himself along? There is one that a local college does (I believe it’s all online) where the goal is to complete a novel with the help of an author mentor (one who has had an actual book published, and sometimes semi-famous authors not people who wrote books you’ve never heard of), but they have limited enrollment, it’s hard to get accepted into it and it’s not cheap. Does he currently devote X hours per week working on this novel? Is this fiction or something that would require a lot of research — is there an estimate on how long producing a first draft might take? I’d say along with talking about it, do a trial run for a week. He must have some vacation time that he could use as a bit of a test drive of this new way of living. It may be that he needs a part time job just to limit the time he spends staring at a blank computer screen and give him some structure to his day, it might also be a way to ease into being a full-time writer by only writing for a half day and building up to it. Has he researched methods for working by himself to keep himself motivated? Have you read what he’s written and do you believe in it?

        If you’re OK with him quitting his job to work on his book… but then you have expectations that he’ll do all the housework or have dinner on the table when you get home or ______, you are not going to be happy if he’s blissed out playing Halo all day instead of working on The Great Insert Country Here Novel — justifiably so. You want a partner in life, not a man-child to support. I’m not a writer but it seems to me that anyone who does this has to treat it just like a job, with set hours and estimated times for completion but with no guarantee of a big payoff at the end, I imagine that’s a hard slog. So long as you’ve got a financial cushion and you don’t think your job is in immediate jeopardy and you’re not living some crazy spendthrift lifestyle, you should be fine financially. How you work out whether he should have a part-time job for spending money or you’re going to set up some sort of joint account (if you don’t have one already) that he can use for spending money is up to what you can both work out together. I would also suggest that you discuss a time limit, depending on progress. I mean, you may be OK with him writing for a year, but I doubt you would be OK with it indefinitely. Some people need a lot of time to figure out what they’re good at, where their interests lie/what their passion is and this may be one step in that.

        1. OP for this question

          These are all good points and resonate with me. You’re right that it would bug me if he was sleeping the day away or playing video games while I work all day. It would bug me a lot. Of course, people need downtime, so we’d need to come to some understanding about what this would look like and what could be a trigger for issues.

          (I do believe in his writing, which I agree is crucial for an arrangement like this.)

          1. Anony-moose

            This, oh this. About two years ago my partner took some time off. He had chosen not to pursue a PhD program and gave himself about two months to not worry about next steps. He had the financial security to do this and I was fully supportive. He also had a few freelance clients that – in theory – would give him some structure.

            The shit hit the fan for me when I came home one day from a long day of work. He was leaving to visit a friend at 5am the following morning, and all I wanted to do was eat dinner together.

            I walk in. The house is a mess. Dishes in every room. Video games and other leisure activities had been the theme of the day. And then he had to write to meet a client deadline and blew me off for dinner.

            Let me tell you, that was a one-time fight. I was so mad I think he saw quickly that his unstructured time was having a real effect on ME.

          2. Dynamic Beige

            If you two do decide to go through with this, you might want to have a discussion about him getting a set time to decompress from his previous job and prepare for the day when he starts being a full/part time writer. I mean that maybe after he quits he gets two weeks to just do whatever, including play video games all day long if he feels he needs to do that. To set up his office/writing space if he doesn’t have one already. To play around or experiment if working at Starbucks is better than working at home. I listened to a podcast this week about a company called Focus@Will that has music sets for specific time periods. There are no vocals and it’s designed to help you focus. It was actually a very interesting podcast, especially since a few of their channels offer music for ADHD and the guy explained how it works. I can see though that kind of like a Pomodoro timer, having a service you log into, choose a set period of time and plug in and listen while you work might help restructure your time. I’m considering giving it a try since it’s been occurring to me over the past couple of months that I have problems dealing with unstructured time as well. :/

          3. Elizabeth West

            +1 for building in downtime. And remember that writing doesn’t always look like writing–sometimes it looks like doing nothing, but there is mental work going on. And I think it’s a good idea for him to have something related to keep his skills up, not to mention to generate at least a little income he can call his own.

            Boy, I wish I could be the next person we hear about here who could end up in a position to write full-time. #jelly :P

    6. AnotherAlison

      My husband sold one business 10 years ago and started doing what he’s doing now, but it took a while to get traction, so he was working maybe half-time at first (~1-3 yrs).

      I think this could be similar, since your husband is considering part-time working and writing, which is still work but isn’t really WORK.

      One one hand, it was awesome that he could do more of the kid stuff, but he never really cooked or cleaned. (Me neither, ha!) We were okay on my income, but I did find that I resented his toys. My husband has a few very expensive hobbies. The only other problem is that some of my husband’s friends are dicks and would make comments about him doing “nothing” while I was the “man” of the house. So, if you can work out how disposable income gets allocated and your husband’s friends are more progressive, it can be fine, but be prepared for unexpected stressors to arise.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Oh, it’s work.

        Imagine doing homework every day for at least a few hours at a time. For six months. When you’re done with the first draft, then the REAL slog begins (revision, editing, etc. etc.).

        It’s most definitely work.

    7. puddin

      I am doing this now. Mr puddin is completing school for his BS and does not work outside the home. We do not have the same income as you, but we are upper middle class with my salary alone. It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that he was not just laying around the house. I had to get over that hump. But a person’s value – especially a spouse’s – is not based on their income. I learned that it was all about money from my Mom growing up – I had to unlearn it for this arrangement to work. (Oddly one of the things that helped me navigate this was arguing with my mom, justifying my decisions to her.)

      Mr puddin did take on the role of house husband, but he is better at that than I am and much more of a caretaker than me. That decision had just as much to do with my lack of domestic talents as it does with the fact that he had more time at home. You may need to try a few different ‘contribution strategies’ to find the one that fits for the both of you. I will tell you that once he is back in the workforce, we are getting a cleaning person. The idea is that no one should feel taken advantage of. So, lots of thank yous, appreciation, and open communication about what the expectations are.

      If your career hits a bump, then you change course. Its not like he is going to forget how to have a job. He can always seek employment again. It might be more difficult without being employed but plenty of people do it all the time; its not impossible. To feel ‘safer’ live on 1/2 your current income. or some portion of it. Savings will help you be guarded against poor economies. I do not think that two incomes is necessarily safer because frankly most people end up spending them both anyway. Savings is the key to relative stability through rough patches. Frankly, at your income level I will assume you have liquid assets that you can use in case of emergencies like a house, downgrade the car(s), other stuff.

      I do feel some pressure sometimes – days I wish I could rage quit (which I would not do anyways, but certainly not as the sole earner) or days when I want to take that totally cool looking non-profit job that pays diddly. However, I think of myself as very very lucky (and proud of myself) to have an income where I can help the person I love the most achieve their dreams in the most ideal way possible.

      Good luck to both of you!

    8. Mike C.

      Since in many ways you and your husband are already a joint legal entity, I think you need to start treating your money the same way. There were times where my wife was making more than I was, and now the reverse is true. The way I look at it is that the person spending less time working should be taking on more of the other adult responsibilities.

      At the same time, writing is a full time job, is it not? So you may wish to take that into account as well.

      The best thing to do is sit down with your husband and sort all this stuff out. Come to an agreement where expectations are laid out, there are backup plans if stuff happens and give each other permission to revisit the issue down the road.

      1. LTX

        I agree with all of this. For several years my husband was a SAHD and now he works primarily from home, and I out-earn him by quite a bit. We approach everything from money to cleaning the shower as a team, and we negotiate and re-negotiate who will do what all the time.

        One big trick to out-earning your spouse is this: don’t treat money as mine and yours; treat it as OURS and make decisions accordingly. That bonus I get at year-end isn’t MY bonus, it’s ours because all our family members make sacrifices so I can work full time. The gifts my husband gets on Pastor Appreciation Day aren’t his, they belong to our family because being a pastor’s wife or pastor’s kid ain’t always easy. Also, decide what your spending threshold will be and agree to discuss all purchases over that amount in advance; it cuts down on arguments after the fact.

        Mike C.’s point about writing being full time is very important–just because your partner is at home doesn’t mean he’s available to pick up dry cleaning or watch the kids or call the cable company, so don’t just EXPECT him to do those things, rather ask politely and negotiate when needed.

        The most important part will be communication–and I can’t emphasize that enough. Go into this with the attitude that by giving him space to pursue what he loves, it’ll benefit the whole family. Best of luck!

      2. jamlady

        I agree. My husband and I do not keep anything separate, especially our finances, because we’re partners. We’ve legally joined in order to build a life together, so everything we give and take is done for us as a couple and agreed upon as a couple. We have a budget we agree on and set monthly – if something needs to change, we discuss it. It’s out life together

        1. jamlady

          Ugh that submitted before I was done, but my point is, I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if we had lines drawn in our marriage.

      3. Mike C.

        Just as an aside, this isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, and it’s something my wife and I are always working on. It’s a process.

        Besides, what happens when he becomes a world-wide best selling author and he’s making 10x what you are? Got to get in on the ground floor here! :D

    9. Maxwell Edison

      We are more like one-and-a-half income. After I quit Toxic Job last December, my husband became the main wage earner and I am freelancing from home (I’m an editor – please don’t judge my skills based on what I post here!). The idea is that we live off what he makes and all my income goes into savings for big occasional expenses (things like property taxes). So far, so good. I’m much happier, which makes him happy. I’m better able to keep track of the Young Master Edison’s homework. So far the one thing that isn’t working is my fiction writing, as my freelance editing hours sometimes can be a bit erratic. I may take a month off later this year to bang out the next book. So far the toughest part has been reminding spouse and kid (who are both of the “consider the lilies of the field” school of finance) why can’t throw around money the way we used to.

    10. Artemesia

      I would have a very clear time frame for this and talk through the potential problems. It is one thing for him to focus on writing but too many people end up lying around, procrastinating, playing video games and never getting words to paper. I personally know if a man who did what your husband proposes to do and it is years later and he has never submitted anything to a publisher. Does he have a well developed idea and some initial work done. What is his time frame. What is his plan to get it reviewed by a publisher? What does he think a reasonable time should be before he looks for full time work again.

      The trap of procrastination and the worker bee feeling used is so common that it should be openly discussed. And if he is home writing, he should also be doing most of the cooking or some similar set of household responsibilities so you are not doing all the support, working full time and commuting and then coming home to wait on him.

      Lots of people can’t be self disciplined enough to do this. This needs to be hammered out on the front end so it doesn’t become a giant elephant in the marriage.

    11. VintageLydia USA

      We’ve been a single family income for almost 6 years and the first few of those we had no kids (which takes up all my time now.) One thing that is really important for us is every penny he earns is mine as well (and the few times I earn money doing odd jobs or temping, the same applies.) This started when we were both earning about the same amount and we were living pay check to pay check so pulling everything into one pot was essential just to cover the bills. So right now we pay the bills, obviously, and I go shopping for things like groceries and household supplies (and he knows that even though I’m shopping at Target, the vast majority of what I’m bringing home is for both our benefit or more likely lately for the spawn.) But he doesn’t begrudge it when I buy art supplies or clothes or whatever and I don’t begrudge him buying the things he likes. It’s all within the budget.

      I think what happens for a lot of couples that aren’t used to operating this way is the person who earns the money gets annoyed when the person who doesn’t earn money spends some on themselves, while at the same time the earner going out to lunch often or buying themselves things much more frequently. It can create an imbalance where the non-earner feels guilty going to lunch with a friend once a month but otherwise staying home and not feeling like they can do anything or buy themselves even something small while the earner is going out to lunch every day and buying themselves things at a much more frequent rate.

      One thing my husband and I talked about doing is setting aside an allowance for both us. We both get an EQUAL amount of money to spend or save as we see fit separate from the household budget that would cover food, household goods, and things for the sprog. Right now we do things free form but Mr. Vintage recently realized that I spend next to no money on myself and *he* feels guilty about that. (I mean, I do feel guilty spending money. It’s not like I’m not doing anything during the day but I feel weird going out and buying a nice pair of jeans and stupid stuff like that–totally my hang up and nothing he’s put on me. We can certainly afford it. If I had my allowance to do whatever with knowing everything else is covered I would feel more comfortable occasionally treating myself.)

    12. Jean

      Chiming in as a serious avocational poet (mostly unpublished, but 30+ years of seriously writing poetry & occasional prose):

      Writing is _definitely_ work even if it provides scant if any pay or other indicators of employment (workplace, coworkers, office politics, dress code, clear-ish paths for advancement)! The writer needs time to write, edit, and revise but also needs time, space, and energy to gather/research background information. Depending on the project and the writer, one may or may not also have writing peers, a writing group, or collaborators. Similarly one may or may not network with colleagues or attend public readings and/or other cultural events. Finally, writing demands commitment and consistency and being in shape. (Athletes, dancers, and musicians have similar requirements. I’m sure that bench chemists, real estate lawyers, waitresses, and administrative assistants also have rigorous “being in the groove” requirements; they just aren’t as frequently discussed by the general society.)

      FWIW my own writing has always been fitted in–or ignored–amidst the other business of living, ranging from mid-twenty-something angst to mid-thirty-something career changes to mid-forties complications of parenting a child with Asperger’s syndrome. Not to mention marriage, moving, maintaining friendships, and managing the usual business of adulthood…

    13. C Average

      I am basically the equivalent of your husband in this equation. In three weeks I am leaving my low-paying, going-nowhere, frustrating, creativity-sucking corporate job to spend the indefinite future writing from home.

      I’m doing so with the expectation that I’m going to be 90% responsible for the administrative household tasks: everything from keeping the house clean to doing the shopping to schlepping my stepkids where they need to go. By taking on the sole-breadwinner mantle, he’s giving me the freedom to be creative. I’m planning to give him the freedom to give his all at work and to come home to minimal responsibilities.

      I have some recurring freelance writing and editing work I’m committing to, in part because I want to have some “fun” money that’s mine alone and that I don’t have to ask for. I also plan to build up a bigger freelance portfolio, in part because every bit of notoriety I can gain as a writer will help when the novel does go to press. (And yes, I know it’s possible no publisher will want it, no one will read it, etc., but right now I’m focused on the “just write the damned thing” part.) And I have some creative endeavors I’m taking on that will bring in some money. I’m open to the possibility that any of these things–writing, editing, or crafts–could grow into a bigger part of my working-from-home life.

      I’m also committed to doing enough quantifiable work that even while I’m focusing on the novel, at no point will it become dishonest for me to call myself a freelance whatever on my resume. If something does happen to his job and I need to return to working a day job, I want to be able to produce evidence–a successful blog, published clips, documented projects–that I’ve been working productively all along. I need side gigs that can easily be parlayed into full-time gigs should the need arise.

      I’m also looking for ways I can make our lifestyle less costly through my being at home. I’ll be able to cook more meals, make more homemade food, and shop more strategically. I’m hoping some of this will make up for what we’ll lose by me stepping out of the corporate workforce.

      It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. We’ve been having a lot of conversations about it, including the logistics.

      I suspect my biggest difficulty may be in staying out of the comments section on AAM when I should be writing. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about how to structure my day to ensure that I get to spend quality time writing AND spend time here!

    14. the gold digger

      My husband, who was the big wage earner (he was making twice what I make), is taking a one-year sabbatical. The deal is that he is now in charge of laundry and housecleaning and snowshoveling and cutting the grass and in general, all the stuff around the house that I did when he was working and I was not.

      I get home from work and everything is (mostly) done. (And then he finishes it while I just want to relax, which I find really annoying.) It’s nice not to have to do chores any more, but I would still rather have the money.

    15. Not So NewReader

      I was just talking about this today with someone. They made a good point. The non-working spouse has to be ready for a sudden change in plans. For example: If the working spouse gets injured and needs to reduce their hours. Or- and this is more subtle- the injured working spouse just needs to know that there is money coming in from another source. Injuries can be expensive and can drain a tight budget, even if the working spouse is able to keep working. The point was there are times where psychologically the working spouse needs to have the non-working spouse at least get a temporary PT job. It’s something to be aware of.

      In my own marriage, I think one thing that saved a lot of hassle was that we each had our own discretionary money. This was a modest amount of money that was a no fly zone. Whatever the other one purchased with the money, no comment was made. If there is space in the budget for discretionary spending, setting up a no fly zone for modest amounts of spending can be allow for some breathing room for both partners. If he came home with a gizmo very similar to the other ten gizmos he already had, I said nothing because that was his discretionary money to use as he chose. Likewise with me. It felt good just to turn a blind eye, rather than fret over the expenditure.

    16. Snoskred

      I think to-do lists are super important in this situation. Just this morning I had another example of why.

      I have a to-do day planner and I list all my planned tasks for my weekdays. The reason for this is simple – if I do not write things down that need doing, I can forget them and get lost in a temporal vortex eg binge watching teevee or reading on the web. I love ticking things off the list, it is super awesome, plus, when the other half wonders what I did today, he knows where to look. Because if you are constantly asking someone who is at home while you are at work “What did you do today” that can be a bit confronting and cause arguments.

      The Other Half who works can add things to my to-do list. On weekends, we usually both have to do lists – stuff we would like to get done by the end of the weekend. However today The Other Half got started on his jobs without writing a list, without checking my list and without letting me know what he planned. So, some things got done twice. I did not realise until I was scooping the kitty litter and I was all.. hmm.. there is nothing in here and it has been 24 hours since I scooped this! At which point I thought maybe there had been a miscommunication and I asked if he had already done it. Of course he had, and he’d done all the things I was *about* to do.

      I also think a discussion about things you would like the staying at home person to do is something that needs to happen before you sign off on this plan. :) EG I do the cooking for the most part and we meal plan.

      The more you discuss and plan in advance, the less likelihood of feeling resentful because the other half is not reading your mind and doing things you mentally expect them to do. Plus, if you use a to do list and you forget to put something on there, that is on you not on the other half. :)

      Unless of course he is psychic and a mind reader. In that case, he ought to get into doing readings because there could be serious money in that! ;)

  52. SystemsLady

    Let me do some unhealthy venting about a hotshot temp I’ve had to deal with lately. (Background: He’s very junior career wise to everybody in the department – not entry level but very close – and is only a temp because his first job offer choice was another job with a much later start date):

    * It being conference championship/NCAA season, we recently took a late lunch hour in the conference room (which has a TV) to watch the second half of a game that ended very, very poorly for the team the people in there would’ve been supporting. This guy openly says he isn’t a sports fan but joined us for the free food. He stayed in there after he finished eating and mostly spent his time, but in particular the last 5 minutes of the game, making fun of the frustrated reactions of the people watching the game.
    * He aparently made a sales meeting he got dragged into go badly by butting in to spend time expounding on how good he is at [system Y we sometimes interface with that isn’t sold by our company]. I don’t know the details, but knowing the customer, there was no reason for him to even be talking about system Y.
    * In relation to another project that only tangentially involves system Y, he outright said “yeah, I’m better at system Y than [one of the best workers in the department]”. Directly to said worker.
    * He added to a conversation we were having about a bad, but definitely one-off thing by saying “yeah, that’s why I didn’t take this job”.
    * He regularly makes fun of the quirks of various people in the department have in a non-friendly fashion, and in a way that’s not appropriate for somebody who’s been here for a month.
    * Whenever somebody asks a senior coworker for advice and he’s around, he butts in and give his own advice. Advice that usually corresponds exactly with what the person asking for advice was trying to avoid doing.

    Pretty much nothing I can do about this guy, aside from avoiding contact with him as much as I can, and he’s gone in 3 months anyway, so I’m just trying to ignore it and act ~super~ nice to him. It would be hard for HR to boot him, and frankly we need the help with “busy work” until the next new person arrives.

    Happy Friday…and good luck to the company that permanently snagged this snowflake!

    1. LillianMcGee

      How do people survive being completely oblivious of their own behavior like this??? I’ll never understand.

      1. SystemsLady

        If you’re in the first stages of bulldozing yourself a career, you probably don’t care.

        Though why you’d bother with the whole routine at a company 1) you’re temping at & 2) won’t compete with or even run into at your “real” job is beyond me.

    2. Nom d'pixels

      Make sure that the boss knows what is going on. Several years ago, we had a temp with a horrible attititude, but apparently, she knew how to put on a good face for the boss and was hired permanently. Several of us wished we had spoken up instead of just assuming that it was obvious.

      1. Artemesia

        This. And perhaps ask if the temp can be even more temporary than planned and someone better hired. But make sure each disaster is documented and well known to the boss so he can not be easily continued by someone who ‘didn’t know.’

        And someone should be managing this jerk.

        1. SystemsLady

          The manager has been out these past two weeks, so that’s part of why he’s been so bad.

      2. SystemsLady

        With that and some info I got today about his next job “offer”, definitely going to keep that in mind (we are noticing he’s trying to suck up to the boss as well, but it seemed petty to mention it).

        My boss was there for the sales meeting that went sour, so maybe he’ll listen to us if we speak up.

        But the hiring situation in our field is tough enough that I’m afraid he’d keep him anyway if he asks, so my bigger hopes lie in hotshot temp continuing to think this job is as beneath him as he clearly thinks it is.

        Thanks!

    3. BethRA

      Can they not get another temp? I get putting up with someone being an annoying asshat, but shouldn’t messing up a sales meeting get him the boot?

      I don’t get whey people act like this, but I really don’t get why companies keep them around.

      1. SystemsLady

        Ironically, precisely due to it being a big/frequent client, everything ended up OK, but the client was apparently noticeably annoyed.

        I’m not privy to the details so I’m not sure how blatant it was.

        I’m hoping at the very least the boss stops bringing him in front of clients (there’s no reason to with what he’s doing). But it happened shortly before he went on vacation, so I’m not sure.

    4. Observer

      As the others say, let his boss know. Also, see if you can make sure that HR knows – you want this in his file so that if it comes up again with a position for another manager, the information it there.

  53. puddin

    So I read this in a job posting…LMFAO. The company has very similar messages on its web/LI/FB presence.
    • Must be computer and web savvy. Rocket science is not required – just the ability to type quickly, use multiple applications simultaneously, and refer to Google as “Google” and not “The Google.”

    And can I just add that asking me questions like “do you want to work for a company that provides great hours and really great pay?” or any of those ‘intro’ questions in a job posting are a huge pet peeve, almost red flag, of mine. It just seems so unprofessional to me. Am I being too picky?

    1. Dang

      I think they come across as corny and trying too hard. I don’t think I’d rule out applying just for the cheesiness, but I might be on higher alert if I went in for an interview.

    2. SystemsLady

      I was going to say the next step is companies asking you to prove you know memes to get hired, but I remembered I read a picture of a job posting with a requirement to compose a meme just the other day! Wish I remembered where that was…

    3. Colette

      They don’t bother me, but what do they want you to say? “No, actually, I want to work for a company that wants me to work every second hour of the day, for minimum wage or less.”

  54. Violet Rose

    A brief quote from the CEO Who Says Terrible Things.

    The scene: we are catching glimpses of the solar eclipse through the clouds, walking the fine line called “cloudy enough to catch a glimpse without searing your retinas”, when the sun disappears behind said cloud for the umpteenth time. CEO says, in the tone of someone who is just expecting a laugh, “we should have a ritual sacrifice of a female in the office.”

    Guess who holds the title of “only woman in the office”.

    HOW DOES ONE EVEN RESPOND TO THAT???

    And thank you to the people who replied last week – I got caught up in the week-end and didn’t check the thread for a few days, but the responses flipped the switch in my head from “this guy annoys me and that’s why the things he says annoy me” to “this guy annoys me and the things he says ARE SOMETIMES ACTUALLY TERRIBLE”. I haven’t done any serious legwork, but I’ve started thinking about what I want to do and what skills I should brush up on to beef up my resume/portfolio.

    1. Jennifer

      I’d probably make a comment about going out to commit seppuku and then get my ass fired, so maybe you shouldn’t listen to me…

      But seriously, you can’t respond publicly, you just end up fuming privately.

      Also, WTF?!??

    2. Not So NewReader

      “Because they have laws about that type of thing. They will tell the police it was your idea.”

      “Boss, you need to get modern. Current thinking is that bosses go first.”

    3. Elizabeth West

      Gah! This CEO is the one who should be sacrificed, IMO. :P Too bad someone couldn’t say, “Who says it has to be a female? Let’s go, boss!”

      Off-topic, and I know this sounds mean, but I was evilly glad to hear that it was so cloudy. Made me feel less awful about not being in London and missing the eclipse. And all the cloud tweets on Twitter were funny. We were supposed to have northern lights way down here because of the solar storm, but we missed those too. Yep, you guessed it–clouds. :P

      1. Violet Rose

        Hah, makes perfect sense to me – it meant your entire Twitter feed was one, big, comforting, “You didn’t miss much!” I remember once being really bitter that I couldn’t make it to a certain convention, only to have my bitterness turn to relief (with just a *pinch* of smug glee) to hear that the convention utterly tanked. It wasn’t DashCon, if that means anything to you, but played out in a very similar fashion.

  55. NBF

    Please assure me this isn’t how all hiring processes work.

    I haven’t job searched in 7 years when I got my current job, but I am beginning to search again in a new location. I applied for a really great job in late February. The application deadline was at the end of February, one week after the job was initially posted. I didn’t hear anything at all until this week and had mentally moved on. This Tuesday, I got an email from them asking to do a telephone interview Wednesday morning, and that that was the only day they would be conducting interviews. Unfortunately I was out of the country on vacation with no cell service and no wifi for Skype at the requested time (I tend to vacation in remote locations) and too little notice to arrange to have the ability to call the next morning. They were not able to accommodate a telephone interview on any later date.

    This was a director level job, and would not have a very big pool of qualified applicants. It would have been a great opportunity for me, and although the location wasn’t perfect, the job itself would have suited my skills and strengths perfectly. It was just really frustrating to me that I heard nothing for three weeks after the application deadline, and then got one day notice for telephone interviews that were performed one day only.

    1. Dawn

      No, that’s totally ridiculous. Like, “what the hell are they thinking” levels of ridiculous. It’s very flippant of them to assume that everyone who applied to the job could drop everything and schedule a phone call with less than 24 hours notice. Definitely not a company you would want to work for!

    2. Elizabeth West

      I agree with Dawn. It sounds more like a way to weed out candidates than actually find anyone good. “Welp, we’ll schedule it for this one day and anyone who can’t do it goes right into the round file. That should cut down on these applications!” Or just stupidly disorganized.

      Bullet dodged!

  56. applicant

    Mostly just looking for some commiseration from other applicants. I had two phone interviews for a very specialized dream job. Things were moving very quickly – i.e., HR calling to set up interviews in very quick succession, with an ‘as soon as possible’ attitude – and seemed to be going well. The second call ended with the hiring manager waxing effusive about how we were going to work something out to bring me onto the team and that he was going to have HR set up a final call to introduce me to another team member. That was a week ago. Radio silence. Nobody on the team or HR is out of the office (inside source). Yes, I’m moving on, applying to other jobs, etc. But what is taking so long??

    1. AnonForNow

      I’m in a somewhat similar situation. I am being considered for a position that currently has no other applicants, is very specialized, located in a remote area I happen to be headed to, and the position was moving fast. Multiple interviews, references checked, expressed serious interest, etc. and now I’ve been waiting. I just try to remind myself that A) no call had come in saying I didn’t get it so I’m still being considered and B) these people have more pressing matters than hiring and interview processes always get placed on the back burner. It’s a waiting game and patience is key (even if you’d rather just know right now haha).

    2. Dawn

      HR is “busy”, or someone else got hit by a bus and now there’s an emergency scramble to fill their position, or something else came up and HR is dealing with that instead, or HR is reviewing your application materials to make sure that they are in line with the results of their ritual chicken sacrifice and entrail readings that they do before bringing in anyone new.

      I don’t mean to sound super jaded buuuuuut… I have never seen an HR department (in a company larger than 50 people) that moved quickly on hiring. Deep breath, I’m sure this time next week you’ll have good news!

  57. Anonsie

    Any strong reactions to NPR’s income spreads for what constitutes middle class in a few American cities?

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2015/03/19/394057221/how-much-or-little-the-middle-class-makes-in-30-u-s-cities

    I had been wondering for a long time where my own salary hit on the spread for this city, but this was actually a bit of a gut punch for myself and a few of my friends. We’re all well below the 25th percentile for our cities. Most of us came from very solidly working class backgrounds and we’ve all been trying most of our lives to achieve some level of upward mobility through various means, and we’ve all always struggled with money but not as much as our parents did. I suppose we’ve always attributed that to The Way Things Are. We were looking at this last night, though, and I think there was an overall feeling that we had not made the strides we felt we had. I know intellectually that it doesn’t matter what percentile you’re in, but I was left with a rather defeated feeling that there isn’t a way for me to get all the way up to that median.

    1. AnotherAlison

      Keep in mind this particular set of data is family income and it’s all ages. I didn’t see this one before, but I looked through a similar Pew study that had data by household size and age. If you are 45 and a family of four below the 25th percentile, that’s different than if you are 25 and single.

      1. Mike C.

        I think it would be more useful to look at age cohorts over time with inflation adjusted numbers for an area.

    2. literateliz

      Did you see this? “This counts only families, which the government defines as households with two or more people related by birth, marriage or adoption.” So that income would be for a married couple.

      As a single in San Francisco, I had the opposite reaction–I’m actually kind of shocked to see that I might almost scrape the bottom of the 25th percentile on my own if I hustle up enough freelance work this year. With so many people telling me the sky is falling, I kind of appreciate the reality check.

      1. Anonsie

        Yeah, most of us are married or partnered and I’d say about half of us have at least one child.

        1. Anonsie

          Wait, that wasn’t clear. I am talking about whole family income here, nearly all of us qualified as families by that definition.

        2. AnotherAlison

          Well, I can still kind of see that not being that unusual. My sister’s cohort falls in that bucket. She’s 28 and got hung up by the recession. She got a job last fall that brings her out of that lower bracket, but until then she was even with her cohabitating BF. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

          1. AnotherAlison

            Can I also say that I always want to be helpful and motivational when this type of convo comes up, but I always feel like an asshole instead?

    3. fposte

      It’s interesting info, but I think they’re making a huge mistake by treating “median income” and “middle class” as synonymous.

      And I think Another Alison has a particularly good point on the age front–this includes people who’ve been working for 20, 30, 40 years. It’d be interesting to see it done for each age bracket.

        1. fposte

          Heh. Yeah, that would be disheartening for those of us outside of that industry. But I still think they’re way off in confusing “median” with “middle class,” and you’ve just illustrated another reason why. After all, you don’t suddenly fall out of the middle class if a research park moves in next to you and ups the local salary average.

    4. Mike C.

      If the bands are wide (and they get really, really wide at 90% and above), it leads to (and already has in some cases) lead to very serious economic issues. That’s why you see minimum wage increases popping up all over the place, regardless of the “color” of the state and so on.

      Wage stagnation is a very real thing, and it’s been going on for 40 years.

  58. accounting princess

    I think someone (potential future employer) hit reply instead of forward on an email to me. The email is addressed to another person, and I don’t see her CC’ed. Should I politely point out that maybe the email was supposed to go to someone else? He could have done a BCC, so I don’t know. I just had a phone interview with him, and the email is asking the other person to set up an 2nd phone interview with me.

  59. All Aboard the Failboat

    Can y’all tell me some of your experiences with six hour marathon interviews? I had one this week and totally blew it because it felt like an interrogation (This is why they don’t trust me with government secrets, I suppose.) I’m not a public speaker (which is why I write for a living) though I can fake it for an hour or two max. Do these happen outside of hip/fresh/young startup-vibe companies? How do you prepare differently for these? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie

      I did one for a big consulting company. It was exhausting. And for some reason, we didn’t do lunch, so I was famished by the end of the day. (I was lucky the guy at breakfast gave me extra pieces of sausage.)

      I interviewed with everyone on the team (including a peer). The last interview ran over and I was flying back home the same day. And this was in LA, so a little voice in the back of my head was like “OMG, traffic! Will I make it?” In retrospect, this was silly, as they would have just rebooked me (short-haul flight in the same neck of the country, so there were other flights).

      In terms of prep, I asked for my interviewers beforehand and researched them. I had different questions for the junior analyst versus the practice lead. I also made sure my answers were consistent between interviews. If you’re ok with riffing in the interviews, you can also use what the previous interviewers said as a basis for questions (“Oh, Wakeen said earlier that your team has a strong focus on client-driven solutions. Can you comment on that?”)

    2. Kelly L.

      I had an interview for an admin position in academia that wasn’t 6 hours long, but it was definitely long. I had a regular interview, followed by an interview by another person in the department, followed by what almost amounted to a training on their special software. It got so into the weeds on this software that I felt pretty sure they were hiring me*. Nope. I got a rejection email the next day.

      *Mostly based on the job I’d had before that, where I went in to interview and the department chair forgot to actually tell me I was hired, but just started launching into what she’d have me doing on my start day, etc. I thought it was hypothetical, but she’d just missed a step! :D I loved her. I worked there for almost 10 years.

    3. EmilyG

      This is common in my industry. I’ve gotten used to it, even though as an introvert I find it completely, utterly exhausting. My only tips are that it really helps to know it’s going to be like that in advance (I always have), use bathroom breaks or any 15 minutes they give you as a break to be really zen (somehow get your “introvert downtime” out of it at hyperspeed?), and be prepared to utterly crash afterwards. I think after my first one I ate 3/4 of a pizza and slept for 11 hours (but I got the job).

      1. Stephanie

        Oh yeah, I completely crashed after the one I mentioned above. I went to Panda Express (it was on the ground floor of the building), ate an obscene amount of orange chicken and then passed out on the plane (for all 45 minutes of my flight).

        1. CheeryO

          +1

          I ate an entire small pizza and then proceeded to sleep through a 15 hour train ride (my flight got cancelled because of a snow storm back home).

      2. All Aboard the Failboat

        Glad yours worked out for you! What industry are you in, if you don’t mind me nosing?

        That’s one of the things that threw me off about mine – No breaks at all! Just one after the other after the other. By the time one person was done with me, the other was waiting by the door.

        1. EmilyG

          Libraries, but I’ve done an interview in another industry that was also a full day. Actually, my non-library one was the only time there were official breaks, but that was even more harrowing because after each 45 minute session, they’d go elsewhere and confer about whether to keep interviewing you or reject you right then. In my library interviews, I often ended up with de facto breaks where the interviewers themselves got worn out and ran out of questions.

          It has also helped me to keep reminding myself “most people I know in this industry are genuinely nice; these are just nice librarians I haven’t met yet.”

        2. Calacademic

          This was how my interviews were (academic and industry). One was 2 days of back-to-back-to-back interviews. It was really uncomfortable to even have to use the restroom as someone had to wait outside to escort me to my next destination.

    4. CheeryO

      I had a marathon interview for an entry-level engineering consulting job in a big northeastern city. They flew me in, so I imagine it would have been a couple separate interviews if I were local. I met with three different teams of two, as well as HR and the CEO, and I had lunch with a couple junior employees. I think it was about five hours, total. It was hard, especially as someone who does not particularly enjoy being the center of attention.

      I think the rush of being in a new city (and flying by myself for the first time!) made it survivable for me. I was firing on all cylinders, and I thought that the progression of interviews (from behavioral to lightly technical to super technical to the conversation with the CEO about The Future of The Company) felt pretty natural. I also felt like I immediately fit in, culturally, which really put me at ease.

      I think preparation is key for marathon interviews. I had quite a few questions prepared, and I wasn’t shy about expanding upon things that I had learned earlier in the day with the higher-ups. Also, I think it’s doubly important to get a good night’s sleep, eat breakfast, and keep hydrated so your brain doesn’t shut down on you.

    5. Just Another Techie

      My company does those, for a couple reasons. One, we want the candidate to get a good sense of what the team is like, so she interviews with six or seven different people. Two, we want to insulate ourselves from making a bad decision because one person on the team is having a bad day, or thought the candidate looked too much like their dad, or didn’t like the candidates shoes, or whatever other stupid reason. Three, we really don’t want to deal with the hassle of bringing a candidate in for multiple interviews. One and done–after the day long interview you’ll either get an offer or be cut loose (and told about it).

      So what do we expect? We definitely don’t expect sparking witty banter all day. We’ve all been through the same wringer and remember how exhausting it was. We also don’t expect high marks on every single portion of the technical interview; as long as you ace at least some of them it’s okay to be a bit weak on others. We want to see how you hold up under stress, since sometimes our work can be very stressful. Can you mostly keep it together or do you crumble? We want to see how you react to being asked something you can’t possibly be expected to know already, because we want to know what it’s going to be like stuck at a whiteboard with you when we’re all having a “Our director promised the customer WHAT in the WHAT NOW” moment.

      And we’re definitely not a hip young startup company. The company is older than I am :)

  60. TotesMaGoats

    I’ve actually had a whole week where I didn’t actively hate my job. Maybe it was the added sunshine? I do have a story to relate. And not so much a “what should I have done” but “how do I mitigate my attitude on this”

    So, after a big team meeting (our whole division), there was a non-mandatory happy hour. And it was actually a voluntary thing. I went. My boss, who I actively dislike, was buying a round. I’m not going to turn down a free drink. I did pick the most expensive one though. :) I do the chat thing and then have to leave. And two things happened.

    1. My VP turns and goes to give me a side hug and I think, accidentally, kissed my forehead right at my hairline. I said I think accidentally because we’re a pretty demonstrative group and hugging and cheek kissing aren’t out of the norm. Also, he’s really tall and even in heels I’m pretty short. I think he didn’t gauge the lean down to rest his head on mine properly. I found the whole thing amusing all weekend long.

    2. Then I turn to my AVP, and he grips me in an incredibly tight side hug. He is holding my shoulder so tight that it almost hurts. Our faces our so close I could count the pores on his face. I don’t know how much he’d consumed at that point but he’s never done that before. He goes on and on about how this is going to be a great year, a great year. Things are going to be great. And I’m just like “uh huh”. And trying to pull away. He finally lets me go.

    I’ve never been so uncomfortable. And normally, I think it wouldn’t have fazed me but because I’m so irritated by him on a regular basis I can’t let it go. Any advice on that?

    1. Violet Rose

      Oh, wow. I know that would make ME super uncomfortable –you are well within bounds to feel awkward, uncomfortable, put-upon, or skeeved out!

      Paradoxically, I sometimes feel less bothered if I give myself permission to feel bothered, or if someone else agrees, “Yeah, that was kind of weird.” It removes the layer of, “I don’t think this should bother me, why does it bother me?” (How many times can I say bother in a short paragraph?)

    2. Not So NewReader

      I think I would consider saying something to the AVP or to your own boss. There was really no need for tugging on you like that. It sounds like it beyond the norms for even this huggy group.

      I don’t mind hugs and I would find that awkward. And if he smelled like alcohol, I’d have a real problem.

      I usually autopsy situations like this so I can prepare something to say. I may never need it, but I hate getting caught speechless. I think here I would have said “okay you made your point. Let go. Right now.”

    3. Elizabeth West

      I’m thinking it was probably the alcohol. Maybe the AVP was trying to copy the VP and it just turned into awkward? I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

      But then, I’m the kind of person where if someone squish-hugs me, I say, “We have to stop meeting like this!” or I make I-can’t-breathe noises or something.

  61. Holly

    I know there’s a billion articles about this online, but I want to know AAM’s community’s thoughts: what do you do to combat exhaustion and burnout on the job? (excluding talking to your manager/boss about reducing workload, etc., as that isn’t an option.)

    1. AnonEMoose

      I try to do little things to take care of myself. Taking a short walk when things get super stressful. Indulging in a cup of hot chocolate from the coffee shop. A very hot shower when I get home. Whatever small thing makes me feel a little better, plus trying to have very firm boundaries between work and home. I take public transit, so I try to use my commute time to sort of consciously shed the stress/work mindset and just be home when I’m home.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny

        +1 to the public transit/commute time to step away from work. I read on my way home, and I end up so caught up in the story that I forget to wheel-spin about work.

        1. Beancounter in Texas

          Ditto. I find reading very relaxing, as I get caught up in the story and forget reality, so my Kindle permanently resides in my purse for lunch hours to myself & food.

    2. nona

      Little things to take care of yourself like AnonEMoose said.

      Be careful about time management at work. If you can’t reduce the workload, break it down into a manageable or at least less stressful schedule.

      Look at your other options. Maybe you’ll feel better if you know what your “escape” options are. Maybe you’ll feel better if you look into other options and learn that focusing on your current job is the best choice right now.

      Try to avoid complaining about it, entering bitch-eating-crackers mode with coworkers, or otherwise being self-indulgent when you feel frustrated. It’s hard, but you need to be careful to not feed into your own exhaustion.

    3. Not So NewReader

      The number one thing for me is to realize that I am probably done with the job. But the rest of my answer is self-care stuff- rest, eat simple foods (meats/veggies/fruits), drink plenty of water and get more rest.

    4. BeckyDaTechie

      Change up the routine at home. Usually run in the morning? Try a pilates or yoga DVD or a starter class at the Y. Sit at home all weekend brooding about what a So-And-So Whosits is? Volunteer at a local dog rescue, visit nursing homes, find new hiking or bike trails. Doing something different changes the time you *can* control so you’re more rested during the time you have to just bear down and deal.

    5. Elizabeth West

      When you leave at the end of the day, leave work at the office. Make the drive/journey home a transition–“I’m not at work now; this is MY time.” Repeat that to yourself if you start thinking about work stuff at home.

  62. LV Ladybug

    My company his highering for a low level supervisor postion. It has already been posted (through our HR, I wasn’t much involved in the posting) and I am receivng tons of resumes. However, there are some people that are way more qualified or maybe looking for a more prestigious position than what we are actually hiring for. When I start calling to set up interviews, how should I weed out those who might be looking to make more than the 26k/year we are offering. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time if they think this position is for much more.

    I also don’t want to put these people in the “no” pile if they are looking for something low key right now.

    1. TotesMaGoats

      This is the benefit of the phone screen. Be explicit that the salary is X and the responsibilities are Y and let people self select out. My mom had to push to hire someone for a basically entry level position who had a master’s and was making way above the posted salary. The person wanted a job with a lot less responsibility and hours because she had a young child and her old job was killing her family life.

    2. Fante

      This is why employers should disclose salary ranges in the job description! I know there are more factors considered in that decision, but dang. It takes so much time to apply to openings these days with a cover letter and tailored resume and applications that need to know your high school GPA… it’d be nice to know if it’s even in the same ballpark salary-wise before investing all that time.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      That salary is low enough that I’d disclose it before even setting up phone screens, or you’ll end up wasting a bunch of time (yours and theirs). I’d send emails to everyone you want to talk to, with some info about the job, including salary, and say that if it continues to sound like a good fit, you’d like to set up a phone call to talk more.

      1. LV Ladybug

        That’s a great idea! Like I mentioned, HR put out the posting and I didn’t have control on what was listed other than the job description and now I have to deal with all of the resumes and interviews and the last thing I want to do is waste people’s time.

      2. Meredith

        Yes. A friend applied for a job in a high-COL area she wanted to move to, and she really appreciated it when someone from the organization called to tell her the salary was pretty low for the area. The person at the org thought my friend would be a candidate, but that the salary would probably not be attractive to her. My friend ended up bowing out, and it saved everyone a bunch of time and effort. It would have been even better for the salary to have been announced in the posting!

  63. Labyrinthine

    So good ol’ Wakeem is still with us. HR and upper management decided even after his poor attitude, outright refusing to follow directions and generally just being unable to do the work to our standards, we should give him another chance.

    So I gave him a warning. He took this opportunity to tell me he didn’t appreciate how I spoke to him, that he felt disrespected and that is why he didn’t follow directions. While I am always open to feedback and I sincerely do want to hear when my communication style doesn’t work for someone (admittedly, I am often blunt and to the point – I try to adjust this when I know it doesn’t work for someone), I have a big issue with a team member that tells me they won’t follow directions if they don’t like how it is couched.

    So I sat down with my manager and we talked it over. We basically came to the decision that I am done micromanaging Wakeem and his work. I told him in his 1:1, again very explicitly, what I require from him. I recommended he talk with his peers for ideas on how to structure his day to meet our goals, etc. And then I told him it was on him.

    We’ll see how this pans out. Frankly, I want him gone. I can’t trust him and he takes time that I could use developing my other workers. I recently heard there is another business opening in town and my secret hope is that he will hear about it and go there. I know we are understaffed (and this is why he still has a job – because anyone is better than no one in his role) but he is killing the morale. I spend time on each 1:1 with my other team members talking about how Wakeem makes their work harder and stresses them out.

    1. Marcela

      Oh, god. Last year I was in the same spot. I recommended my boss to hire somebody without programming experience, to be the second programmer in our team. She said she wanted a new career, from scientist to developer. She was with us 3 months and from the beginning it was very obvious she didn’t like what we did, so she made a lot of mistakes, forgot most of the things we taught her, refused to follow standards, etc. etc. etc. When I, as her direct superviser, addressed that, she said exactly this: “she didn’t appreciate how I spoke to her, that she felt disrespected” and that is why she could not follow instructions or work properly. After she made two “scenes” to me (now I doubt that’s how you say in English), almost crying, complaining that I hated her, our boss didn’t like her, nobody in the office made any effort to help her and understand her, because the career change was so big and we didn’t understand (I did the same thing 10 years ago), my boss decided to let her go. It was a horrible time.

      1. Blue_eyes

        Marcela – I think you would probably say “made a scene”. “After she made a scene two times…” Your phrasing makes sense though, at least enough that anyone would know what you meant.

        Some people will always decide they don’t like your tone when they don’t want to hear your message. My sister-in-law is known in her family for whining “stop yelling!” whenever her parents told her off.

      2. Labyrinthine

        Marcela, I strongly suspect these may be the same person (kidding, but it is very similar including the almost crying, nobody likes them, no one understands them, I hate him, boss doesn’t like him and so on).

        It is exhausting.

        The last incident was when I gave him two specific options for how he could handle a hard situation. I said, choose X or choose Y. He demanded to do Z. I told him Z wasn’t an option, X or Y were his options and only he could decide which to do but it had to be one of them. He didn’t like either (both had a negative impact on him but were truly the only two viable options). He complained I gave him an ultimatum. Uh..yea. That is exactly what I did.

        1. Marcela

          Yes, that’s the word: exhausting. Afterward, my husband and I realized we spent the 3 whole months talking about her: how to help her when we thought she wanted to work with us, and later how to deal with the ridiculous “she could not work when she felt I was annoyed”.

          Even my father told me I needed to cut our losses. I did resist to that: I was once in her shoes and I wanted so hard to give her the same opportunity somebody gave me. The last straw was the second time she made a scene because she chose the day she knew my boss wasn’t in the office (the scenes were only with me). I called him to give up (as I was the only one defending her at that point) as soon as she left.

          Good luck, Labyrinthine. With some of it, he will go.

      3. hapax legomenon

        I’m not sure I can objectively prove it, but I swear there has been some kind increase in the use of this “tactic” of responding to criticism with “you’re being disrespectful!” over the last 2-3 years. I think it’s bullshit. This is something that someone has learned as a scheme – an often effective scheme – to avoid the consequences of doing a crappy job.

    2. Not So NewReader

      He felt disrespected and that is why he did not follow instructions?

      Awesome. This will carry him far in life. not.

      I wonder what he would do if he had a boss that was actually mean to him. Anyway, this is not how adults handle problems in the work place. I hope someone explained that to him. Deliberately not following instructions is called sabotage and is a fire-able offense in most companies.
      He has was too many disconnects going on there.

  64. RosieR

    Young Professional here. I’m in my first management type role and I have a bunch of projects, some very big with huge budgets and others that are one-off requests. I’m having a really hard time staying organized. Does anyone have any recommendations for project management tools that have been helpful for them? Keep in mind my company blocks google drive, dropbox and pretty much most file sharing sites, but I do have the entire microsoft office suite.

    TIA.

    1. Fuzzy

      I’m not organized enough to use it (my desk is covered in post-ts, but it works) but I know a ton of people who swear by Evernote.

    2. misspiggy

      MS Project isn’t bad, but if you’re stuck with Office only you can use Excel for project management with more setting-up. Being clear with yourself about what information you need and when is probably the first step though.

    3. Jillociraptor

      I really like Asana. Do you have One Note? That’s worked great for me too — you can have separate pages for each project, and there’s a feature where you can mark text on each of those pages as “to dos,” which can then get rolled up all in one place on a separate page. Makes it really easy to toggle between in depth on one project and seeing the whole picture!

      1. Alex

        Second One Note. I have a different notebook for A projects, B projects, and C projects. They are all on tabs down the left side. Within each notebook are separate tabs at the top. For my stuff it makes sense to tab by different entity, but I’ve seen people do this by months, client names, sub projects, whatever makes more sense to you. Then within each individual tab, you have “pages” on the right side you can label. I usually use these at virtual note pages for meeting notes on that project, clippings from important related content, brainstorming, etc.

        In combination with a pretty well organized virtual foldering system and being on-top of my email organization, I’ve really streamlined my virtual organization.

        I also find I use the “sticky notes” program (built in to Microsoft) all the time.

      2. SystemsLady

        +1 for OneNote

        I love how you can make to do list items and have them pulled right into Outlook tasks (I don’t always bother setting dates, but when I have a lot of e-mails and to do list items it’s nice that I can).

      3. CA Admin

        I love One Note for travel planning. You can attach all confirmations, lists, meetings, etc. in a way that’s very intuitive.

    4. EmilyG

      After struggling with Evernote and Microsoft OneNote and Wunderlist for a while I went back to paper and pencil, which I think was inspired by Allison’s book (at least one major part). Those online tools are all nice but they seem better for capturing scads of data than for prioritizing.

      I use a tiny notebook as a to-do list. Each page is one day and I only write the “big rocks” on it. “Finish report” not “answer email.”

      I use a big notebook to take notes in meetings. I have a page going for each person who reports to me and my boss, marked off with tape flags. So if I meet with Sarah, I open to my Sarah page and see anything that I jotted down to discuss with her since our last meeting plus any notes from last time. I tried to do this in Evernote and it just didn’t stick, I’m not sure why. You could do this for projects in addition to people or instead of them but most of my projects are attached to one person.

      I use post-its to jot down things that fall into my brain during meetings, or phone numbers I don’t need for long. I pretty much clear out the post-its at the end of each day, but–key thing–they keep my notebooks from containing anything incidental, unimportant, or ephemeral.

    5. ERB

      I second One-note, especially for coordinating with others. Something I’ve recently picked up is using a Kanban board/outline on my wall. The pros are moving the post-its around is pretty satisfying, but you do have to remember to write things down as they come up. You could also try keeping a running list in a small notebook, a little more portable.

    6. Not Today Satan

      I just keep a spreadsheet of all my projects. There are columns for Project name/client name/due date/what I’ve done/what I need to do/stuff I’m waiting on from others, etc. I update it as I go along, and when I finish the project, I highlight it in grey and move it to the top.

    7. Kirsten

      I keep a list of my current projects with important dates in a word table that I print and hang in my cube. I then keep a written to do list in a notebook. Very old school but it works for me.

  65. Nom d'pixels

    Ugh. I have to fire someone for the first time today. I wanted to just get it over with, but my boss thinks it is less disruptive to do it near the end of the day, and he is taking the lead on this. The firing is justified, but it still sucks.

    1. Frustrated Manager

      I hate that feeling too. Good luck. I understand what you are going through. I’ve personally gone home and cried about several that I’ve had to do and it doesn’t seem to get any easier…

      1. Nom d'pixels

        Thanks, I have been stressing about this for weeks. I have had several conversations with the employee about how she is not meeting expectations, but her work hasn’t improved.

        1. Nachos Bell Grande

          If you’ve had enough conversations about the end being near, they may honestly be relieved – Even if not at the moment, then in retrospect someday. Not meeting expectations is a real drain on your self-esteem.

          Good luck!

    1. Senor Poncho

      Eh, I think the bar exam itself is fine insofar as it’s probably a necessary filter. Most people pass, and it’s not as difficult as people make it seem. Stressful, sure, tiring, sure, but the vast majority of first-time takers end up passing. The exam, in and of itself, is not really a huge barrier to entry. The bigger barriers are law school and the debt incurred during law school. So….

      My issues are more (a) the cost of law school generally, (b) the fact that the bar comes after one incurs those costs, (c) the cost of the exam itself, and (d) the reciprocity issues between states and the fact that there’s no (real) uniform bar exam — so the exam turns out to be protectionist insofar as it costs x thousand dollars and six months or so of time to get admitted in another jurisdiction (really for no good reason).

      1. Stephanie

        Yeah, one of the friends I sent this to mentioned the crazy reciprocity rules. “I saw this job in [different state] that looks awesome, but I refuse to sit for another bar exam. Refuse.”

  66. Rye-Ann

    There are a couple of things I felt like saying today.

    First, just a rant (kinda). I’m not going to be graduating with my Master’s until August, but I thought it would be good to start applying for jobs now, due to the difficulty with finding a job in my field in my state and also just for the practice. I saw an opening that seemed like a really good fit, so I applied, and the next day they asked me about when I would be available! I obviously had to tell them that it probably wouldn’t be until late August/September and I haven’t heard back. I’m just so frustrated that my graduation date is probably going to prevent me from being considered for the job, and I’m afraid that I won’t find anything else like it. :\

    Second, a question. I’m a teaching assistant right now, helping teach a chemistry lab course at a University. The students in this course have organized a potluck for everyone in the class. I knew about this before, but what I didn’t realize was that I was invited! I (and also the professor of the course, so they invited him too) got an e-mail about it this morning. Now, I’m not going to go, because it’s tonight, which is too last-minute for me (plus, I’m kind of tired anyway). However, it made me curious – would it even be appropriate for me or my professor to go? If it matters, I highly doubt that my professor will go. On the one hand, they did invite us, which could mean that they don’t think it’s weird. On the other hand, they may have felt like they had to invite us. I’m just not sure!

    1. Nom d'pixels

      Depending on the size of the company and the nature of the job, they might be willing to wait until August, but it is hard to say. Where I work, things move pretty slowly, and positions requiring advanced degrees can be hard to fill, so that wouldn’t be unreasonable for the right candidate. However, positions only requiring a BS would probably not allow more than 4-6 weeks. I say to go ahead and apply. If they say that is too long to wait, you might be able to get on their radar for another position that opens up.

      As far as your students, that type of socialization is OK. When I TA’d in grad school (also chemistry), I would not date students or even join a small group that invited me for a drink, but if there was an entire class get-together, that was appropriate. That way, you cannot be interpreted as playing favorites and individuals won’t expect any special treatment. Of course, you would want to be on your best behavior and not drink too much or say anything embarrassing.

      1. Rye-Ann

        I already did apply…I’m not going to get my hopes up, but my chances are still better than if I didn’t apply! Anyway, I am hoping that it will, as you say, at least get me on the radar. Who knows? Maybe whoever they do hire won’t work out for some reason and they’ll need someone else!

        What you’re saying about the student get-together makes sense. The only thing that worries me is that the invite e-mail, while sent to me, the professor, and some of the other students, was NOT sent to everyone, which made me wonder a bit if everyone was indeed invited (though there are other reasonable explanations of course).

    2. Anonsie

      They always tell you to start job hunting many months out, but when I was applying for jobs as a student everyone seemed annoyed that I had such a long timeline before I could start and it definitely got me passed over a few times.

      1. Treena Kravm

        I think they give students that advice, because usually the first 5-10 applications aren’t that good anyway, and the long timeline gives you ample time to practice. But yea, it kind of hurts you in a smaller field where they’ll be frustrated with your timeline.

        1. Rye-Ann

          Hmm…hopefully it doesn’t hurt my chances in the long run. :\ I guess my thought process is that even if I can’t get any of the jobs I’m applying to now, I’m not going to miss out on job postings that crop up later on because of that.

          1. Treena Kravm

            I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It would have to be a really tiny field and you would also have to handle it really poorly. As in, get the job offer and then announce your availability. As long as you’re upfront, you should be good. If you make an otherwise great impression, it can fast-track later applications at the same place.

      2. Judy

        I think that the job hunting many months out is supposed to be for the companies that are recruiting on campus, and for the major employers who hire a “class” every June of at least 5 new grads.

  67. Zillah

    When job searching in a competitive field in a major city, around how many applications sent out without getting any responses would you guys say should be a flag to look at your resume and cover letters again? How many do you think is a good goal per week, assuming one isn’t working, has decent savings, and is writing each letter completely from scratch?

    1. Dawn

      Amount of well crafted, tailored applications with no response? Maybe 6-10 or so. Really, don’t expect too much in the way of responses, as AAM has said a bajillion times, most companies don’t update applicants on the status of their applications.

      As to how many? I would say as many as you can do without feeling burnt out or discouraged. Depending on the complexity of the applications that could be as little as two a week or as many as two a day, that’s up to you.

    2. Seattle Writer Girl

      I applied to literally 100 jobs in a 6-month period. I had a 14% response rate from application to phone screen/interview and 2 offers.

    3. Blue_eyes

      I think how many you send should depend on how many good-fit openings you find, and how many you can do without feeling overwhelmed. Are the positions you’re applying for all so different that they require an entire cover letter from scratch? The things I’m applying for are fairly varied, but mostly use the same skills so I’m able to use large chunks over and over again with small re-writes. I send about 1 application per week on average, but I work part-time, and am being fairly selective about only applying where I think I can make a really strong case for myself (which is a bit tricky since I’m looking to switch fields). In the past year I’ve had 4 interviews for jobs in the field I want to be in, and all of those were in the past 6 months, after I started reading AAM (definitely not a coincidence).

  68. LAI

    I am looking for advice on how to navigate the politics in a large office. I’ve always worked on pretty small teams before (7-8 people) so it was easy to hear everyone’s opinion, get a majority consensus, etc. My new job is on a team of 30 people, including a leadership team of 5 people. It feels like it’s impossible to keep track of what everyone is doing or what things are changing, but the biggest problem is the lack of decision-making. Because no one is “in charge”, I never know who to ask about which issue. Or if someone on the leadership team says something, I don’t know if that’s just their opinion or an official decision that’s been made. (There is a director, but she is usually insanely busy with higher-level things and we’re lucky if we can catch her in the hallway to ask a quick question.) Has anyone been in this kind of system before and have suggestions for how to get information I need to do my job?

  69. Rin

    I need some advice: a friend of mine thinks she’s gong to be fired, so she wants to quit first, so it looks better on future applications. The problem is she’s been at this job for less than a year, the one before it was for only a year and a half, and the six months before that she was unemployed. She’s going to try to apply for something before she gets fired, but should she give her two weeks notice, even though she doesn’t have anything yet? Does it look worse to be looking for a job without one if a) she quits not having one lined up or b) she was fired?

    1. Frustrated Manager

      Seems worse to be fired, but she should probably consider why she’s not able to keep jobs. That seems like a huge problem/red flag to me.

      1. Rin

        Well, she left the previous job for this one, because it was pretty messed up. And this one is also a little messed up. I think she just needs to find a nice, stable job in a normal company.

    2. Blue_eyes

      Quitting may make her ineligible for unemployment benefits, so she should take that into consideration. Perhaps she should start looking for and applying to jobs now and wait for them to fire her.

  70. Seashell

    Anyone from central/southwest Ohio (thinking specifically Columbus/Dayton/Cinci), do you know any of the best companies to work? I went to college there and I’ve been out for about 6 years but there’s part of me that has been thinking about possibly going back, if I could secure a really solid job. My current salary/cost of of living is holding me back from certain things and I can’t help but wonder if I went somewhere else I could get the things I want.

    1. Stephanie

      My friend’s uncle seems to really like L Brands (the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, among others), based in Columbus. Procter and Gamble is in Cincinnati, correct? I was born in Cincinnati and my parents were both working at GE. They seemed to like it (admittedly, this was nearly 30 years ago). If I remember correctly, one of the Japanese automakers is in Columbus.

      1. Not So NewReader

        My dad’s friend worked at GE there decades ago. Irrelevant, but it made me smile.

    2. Sparrow

      Honda is in Marysville, which is about 20-30 minutes northwest of Columbus. Cardinal Health is a big employer in the Dublin area (northwest suburb of Columbus). There is also AEP, Chase, Battelle and Ohio State. Not sure what type of work you do, but there are also several major hospitals in the area.

  71. Alex

    I’m 17 and in the UK.
    So we were having a lesson on Cv writing on Monday and the teacher suggested that we left our name and contact details until the end because `everyone has a name’ and ‘it’ll stop prejudice’. She also stated that we should put our political views on there.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhausen

      I can see her point about the name (let them look at your experience first), but it seems really misguided since it’s such an unusual thing to do that an employer will probably just think that you don’t know how to write a CV.

      As to that second point, that’s terrible advice! What was her explanation for that, I wonder? That’s just so out of touch with professional convention that I’m really worried about this person being given a platform to give frankly stupid advice to high schoolers who may not all know that it’s stupid.

    2. misspiggy

      Oh no no no… part of the problem may be that teachers don’t have the same job application process as most others, so they don’t have much direct experience of normal job applications. I’ve definitely known British people who have changed their names to avoid prejudice in getting jobs, sadly; but leaving your name off the top of a CV is likely to annoy the reader so much that they don’t read the thing properly.

    3. Nom d'pixels

      That is so, so wrong. First of all, putting your name and contact information at the end won’t stop predjudice, it will just make it look like you don’t understand basic formatting.

      Second, when people review resumes or CVs, they look for red flags. How are the communication skills? Attention to detail? Dealing with that employee who tries to force their opinions on someone else is a nightmare. They want someone who won’t cause trouble and will be easy to work with. Putting your political views on there is a huge red flag that you are going to push them on other people. Even if I agreed 100% with a candidate’s views, I would reject them for fear of how many times HR would get involved because they wouldn’t just let other people be.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      What?! Your political views?

      This is really awful advice, and being given to people who will probably believe her.

      I’d happily write to this teacher if you’d like me to.

    5. Elkay

      Your teacher is wrong. My only exception to this would be if you’re applying to be an MP’s researcher then you might include that you’re a member of their party.

      1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

        Yeah, I applied to a job as a political party member’s EA once and said in my cover letter that I was a registered member of the party, but that’s the only time I can see it being remotely appropriate!

      2. Carrie in Scotland

        I feel like quoting the West Wing with “just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong and get used to it.”
        Because yeah. WTF.

    6. Student

      Hiding your name at the end is not going to reduce rejections due to prejudice. No one’s resume is so outstanding that someone with prejudice will skim through it, get to the name at the end, and suddenly go “Epiphany! I’ve been wrong about this gender/ethnic group/ religion / racial group! This person is amazing and I must hire him/her, and mend my ways!”

      They will say instead, “Huh, a !@#$ with this good of a resume is probably lying. Rejected.”

    7. arjumand

      OK. Ok. Need to calm down a little here, because this is why teachers get a bad reputation.

      So, I’m a teacher, and though I’m not in the UK, I’m in a European country which used to be a colony, and so we get a lot of our job-seeking etc inspiration from UK standards.

      I don’t do CV lessons anymore because we’re all supposed to be using the Europass template nowadays, and that definitely includes name and contact details at the beginning. And definitely DOESN’T include anything about political views (WTF). I didn’t use the Europass the last time I polished up my CV because I find it a bit utilitarian, but as it’s a template you can always alter it to your own needs.

      Besides, both Word and Open Office have CV (resume) templates available, so just ignore what this person is saying and check them out.

      If you need any advice in CV writing, just answer this!

  72. AnonEMoose

    I’ve been pondering this recently. I don’t manage people in my paid employment (and I prefer it that way). But as some of you may remember, I volunteer with a local-to-me science fiction convention, and in that position, I’m responsible for managing about 20 or so volunteers.

    So my question is: What are the differences between managing paid employees and managing volunteers?

    Two things I can think of off the top of my head:

    Volunteers, on some level, really have to want to be there. If they don’t feel appreciated, or things in their lives explode, they can and will just walk away.

    And because they are doing the tasks they’re doing for me kind of around the rest of their lives (paid employment, families, other commitments), flexibility is a must, but has to be balanced with accountability.

    1. The IT Manager

      Also you will be unlikely to hold volunteers to the same standards as employees, you don’t discipline them, you don’t fire them (usually), etc so in that way it is easier to manage volunteers.

      1. araminty

        It’s important that volunteers are accountable, though. And if your vol really messes up, you WILL have to have the same kind of discussion you’d have with an employee, even coming down to “don’t come in on Monday.”

        Since they’re not getting monetary recompense, make sure your volunteers feel like they’re getting something else of value for their work. FEED them! Offer to write letters of recommendation. Make sure you understand their skills and motivations, to ensure that you’re assigning them appropriate tasks. Thank them, profusely and honestly. Listen to their feedback and act on it.

        You know, the usual :)

        1. the gold digger

          1. Don’t get pissy if the person who volunteers every other Wednesday is not interested in spending an entire weekend taking inventory.

          2. If you do expect people to spend a weekend taking inventory, then buy them lunch. Do not say, “And remember to bring lunch!”

      2. AnonEMoose

        Actually, there have been instances in which we have disciplined or even fired volunteers. Usually for pretty serious stuff, like violating the harassment policy (yes, we have one and we take it seriously!), a pattern of treating attendees poorly, things like that. So it does happen, and it is definitely not fun when it does.

      3. Treena Kravm

        Oh it is waaay harder to manage volunteers. Convincing people to produce good work for free (especially with a negligible budget for retention) is miserable. Ugh.

    2. Alex

      In one environment where I volunteer regularly, a few of the volunteers have a very entitled attitude – “They need me here, they can’t fire me, I can walk away anytime I want, I’m doing them a favor”. These people often show up late, don’t show up at all with no notice, are cranky and grumbly, and expect free or discounted services from the organization. I have no idea how to manage that but thought I’d add the comment in case it is helpful.

      1. AnonEMoose

        We get some similar stuff. Usually longtime volunteers who are sure they know how things “should” be or that things “have always been done this way,” and they get pretty incensed when stuff changes. They do at least show up, though, so there’s that much.

  73. RandomName

    Is there a new resume trend now of using big blocks of text with duties separated by commas instead of using clear, concise bullet points? One staffing agency sent us two resumes in that format.

    Interestingly enough, we received one resume in that block text format from a direct hire candidate who had plagiarized word-for-word the entire Career Profile section from a sample resume website (which didn’t even apply to the candidate’s experience), but did not copy the bulleted experience format from that sample resume on her own resume.

    1. Fuzzy

      There must be, because a friend asked me to look over his and it had the same big block of text format. He told me the college career center told him to do it. UGH.

      1. RandomName

        I honestly don’t take the time to read through them when I see them like that unless there are no good candidates in the pool of resumes I’ve received. Then I grudgingly go back through them. Which is actually why I even caught the plagiarized resume. I moved on immediately upon first opening it. But in a pool of crappy candidate resumes, that one got a second look. I was actually thinking the experience, though not the strongest, warranted at least a phone interview, but the Career Profile listed 15 years of experience in a role that didn’t even remotely match the Experience section. So I googled the first sentence and there it was! First Google result! So we are passing on that candidate altogether. I’d like to tell her why, but I think it would be a waste of time.

        1. Fuzzy

          They really are totally unreadable. We’re looking at intern resumes right now and they’re bulleted and clean–which I’m SO happy about.

          It is a waste of time. It’s her fault that she plagiarized poorly.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhausen

      Maybe these people had the misfortune of using the same outplacement company as OP # 4 on the most recent short answers post?

    3. The IT Manager

      plagiarized word-for-word the entire Career Profile section from a sample resume website (which didn’t even apply to the candidate’s experience), but did not copy the bulleted experience format from that sample resume on her own resume.

      That shows very poor attention to detail.

    4. Not Today Satan

      Sometimes staffing agencies reformat resumes without consulting the applicant, unfortunately. I wouldn’t hold it against the applicant if otherwise they look good.

      1. RandomName

        We contacted the staffing agency about one of the block text resumes because it didn’t list any dates next to the positions the person held. The staffing agency responded by saying that the person needed a lot of resume coaching. Both the HR Manager and I both said, “and that’s AFTER the coaching?” So, maybe you’re right that they coached her to put the resume in that format.

        I used to read through those resumes, but we get so many resumes when we advertise positions in my department and at certain times of the month/year I’m very busy so I skip them unless they happen to be in a round of unimpressive candidates. We do get enough strong ones in bullet format, that I never think “what if” for not looking at the block-text ones more closely.

    5. Jennifer

      I bet they were having issues with their formatting–or specifically fitting everything on to 2 pages only.

      1. RandomName

        It just seems like it’s worse this round of hiring than it has been for previous rounds. We have a new HR manager screening our resumes now, so maybe the previous one used to filter them out before sending them on to me.

    6. Renee

      No, that’s actually very similar to the way I was taught to do a resume 25 years or so ago, although the duties were described in short sentences. It’s very traditional and probably regarded as more formal by career centers and agencies. It was still very much the norm in our legal community (in a large city) when I left to go in-house about four years ago. I only adopted the bullet point format after leaving the field.

      1. Renee

        We were also taught that a resume could only be one page. Period. I remember one employer saying that they threw out any resume over one page. Also, even though “References available upon request” is unnecessary because it is obvious, it was best to include it because “it demonstrates that you know the way things are done.”

        1. What she said...

          +1. This was the way I was taught, too. So, you could be seeing this with applicants who are not recent grads. I didn’t even know that conventions had changed until I discovered this site.

    7. BeckyDaTechie

      Not a new trend. My “job search counselor” through the Labor Board expected the same thing. He also wanted me to put in an “objective” section which I’d already taken out. (I actually missed the call for the interview that got my new position because I was talking to the labor board guy.)

      1. RandomName

        So if people are giving this advice, I wonder if there are any hiring managers out there who are saying,”What’s with these bullet point resumes? They hardly give any information at all. I want to see every. single. duty. a person has had while working in their previous positions even if they’re not relevant to the job I’m hiring for.”

        1. Renee

          Quite possibly they are. Back in the stone age, when I entered the workforce, there seemed to be a right and correct way to do a resume, and I was warned that not following conventions would imply that I was inexperienced and/or unprofessional because I either did not know or did not care to do things the right way. I have no doubt that there are some hiring managers that see candidates with bullet point resumes that way, depending on the industry. My very traditional resume passed muster with all of the legal recruiters I met with. I was very nervous about switching to bullet points, and I only did so because I was switching fields, and it was the easiest way to downplay the litigation experience and highlight the skills that would translate in-house. It makes me feel a little sad to hear that hiring managers denigrate candidate that still submit these resumes because that is how they were taught, and I believe they do show an aptitude for producing to prescribed guidelines.

          1. RandomName

            I think it shows a lack of resourcefulness. Anyone who is job searching should be doing their homework and making sure their resume reflects current norms.

  74. Sophia in the DMV

    Sorry I haven’t been as active 1) after I gave birth in July then even less active after 2) I started a new job in Ian.

    Question to academics and publishers – I just finished writing a book prospectus and am finalizing the revisions from my diss. Any advice before sending it off? How much of the lit review do I cut out – all? That seems to be the advice but also doesn’t seem scholarly…

    1. jamlady

      I have nothing for you on the job stuff, but yay for you! Sounds like a big last year for you :) Hope you and baby are doing well!

  75. Perpetua

    What would you do if you had conflicting reports about an event? Today, an employee came to me about some negative comments allegedly shared by one of our interns/occasional student workers during a mini-celebration we had over lunch over an award our company got recently. Employee said that Intern said “poisonous” remarks about employees and the type of work that we do and he (Employee) was pretty worked up about it, but couldn’t remember much about exact wording or specific comments. A bit later, I called Intern (he’d already left by that time) to ask him about it, he said that it was misunderstood sarcasm, that he has a good opinion of us and likes working here. I told him that even if it was sarcasm, a celebratory lunch is not the place for it and that we don’t find such behaviour very professional, but now I’m at a loss what to do when it comes to keeping him or letting him go. He’s easily replaceable, being only called in to come for a couple of hours or a couple of days when we have more work, and we’d rather have someone who truly likes being here, but I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable over this “he said, she said” situation.

    1. SMT

      Sometimes adults have to accept that other adults use tones (or sarcasm) when they shouldn’t, or don’t mean to. If only one person was disturbed by this, I’m not sure what else there is to do other than have the conversation with the intern about ‘keeping it professional’ even in the break room, during celebrations, etc. It’s hard to manage an issue you didn’t actually witness.