I’ve been grumpy at work, warning my predecessor about her reference, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I’ve been grumpy at work — how can I salvage it now?

I’m am into my first year at the office and would appreciate some tips on how to behave and interact with others. Basically, I’m an open book, so people know when I’m happy and when I’m not. Naturally when I’m upset or angry, people can tell. I have been really stressed and haven’t been nice recently. Basically grumpy. Is there any way I can salvage the situation? Nobody is shoo-ing away from me; I just thought I might be able to do something about it.

Yeah, you really don’t want to be openly grumpy at work. I mean, we’re all human, but being openly grumpy more than very, very occasionally and more than one day at a time is … not great for your reputation and your relationships with coworkers. That’s doubly true if it’s more anger than stress, or if it comes across as anger. You’re pretty much expected to pull it together and be reasonably pleasant — or at least not unpleasant — when you’re at work. It’s part of what they’re paying you for. It’s especially the case when you’re newer (both to the work world itself and to this particular job), because you don’t have a long history of different behavior to weigh against it.

If you were really rude to anyone, apologize. But otherwise, just move immediately into pleasant-cheerful- and-helpful mode, and stick to it. After a while, you should hopefully counteract whatever happened earlier.

2. Should I warn my predecessor that she shouldn’t keep using us as a reference?

I work in a field where you basically have to wait for someone to die before a job becomes available. So last year, when the perfect job became available and I was able to grab it, I was totally thrilled.

I hadn’t done my research on the company too well (I checked their site, but not their newspaper articles) and only found out when friends started laughing when I told them where I was going to work that the person in the job before me had been involved a huge scandal that involved her, a top politician, and our company in a massive court case. It was a major drama that has affected our company negatively, and she doesn’t work here anymore for obvious reasons. It was a big enough drama that it’s still in the papers occasionally. I’m perfectly happy here, it’s all good, and this is a nice place to work, so I’m stunned that she’d do what she did to the organization.

But the person who used to have this job is still claiming to work here. She still lists this place on her LinkedIn page, for example, even though she left last year. I was told just now that another organization phoned to ask if she still worked here as she’d applied for a job there, and the person who answered the phone was very pointed and precise in saying that she hadn’t worked here in some time (but not why). So my predecessor is getting to reference checking in finding a new job, but no further.

Thing is, I’m kind of sympathetic to her situation. She’s probably waiting for someone else to die to get another job. She made a huge mistake, but I don’t think she should suffer forever for it. We all make mistakes – but then maybe not on this scale. Should I ignore it and let the people who answer the phone just sabotage her? (She’s incredibly unpopular here, as you can imagine, so they are delighted to do it. But they suffered far more than I.) This would be a good point towards her not lying about still working here. Should I warn her? I could contact her on LinkedIn and let her know not to bother saying she’s still here or using us as a reference. Or do I mind my own business and just listen to the people here laugh as they get their revenge?

This really isn’t your business, and you should stay out of it. This isn’t a situation where someone is being wronged and you can step in to serve justice; she’s simply reaping the natural consequences of her actions. And surely she knows that she shouldn’t be using your organization as a reference — it’s more likely that your employer is getting calls not because she’s proactively offering them as a reference, but just because it’s clear from her resume that she used to work there. (Employers don’t have to stick to the provided reference list, after all.) But if she IS proactively suggesting them as a reference, that’s bizarrely out of touch, but still not yours to fix.

3. Dealing with a parent’s serious illness at work

I recently learned that my mother has an illness that’s advanced. Though she will be undergoing treatment, it’s possible that she will get sick or worse soon given her condition. How do I let people know about this at work? Since so much of what will happen from here is unknown, I’d rather not tell people too soon just so I can deal with this on my own, but I don’t want to disappear suddenly for something I knew was happening. Complicating matters is that I’ve just been put on a big project that runs over the next few months, and I’m the only person on our immediate team with a certification needed to complete much of our work.

What I did in this situation (with my dad) was to talk to my boss and let her know what was going on, and that I wasn’t sure yet what kind of time I might need off or how it might impact things beyond that, but that I’d keep her posted as things developed. People are generally very understanding of this kind of thing.

I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, and I hope things go as well as they can for your mom and your whole family in the coming months.

4. Can I insist on a written performance evaluation?

My first annual review is coming up. My boss told me that it will be “verbal.” However, if my boss presents a form for me to sign after my verbal annual review, should I sign it? My boss and I have had ups and downs and I prefer a review in writing because I think she’ll use a verbal annual review later down the line for a performance improvement plan to say “See, I told you in the annual review you should do xyz and you didn’t so now I’m putting you on a performance plan” (my word against hers). Can I request an annual review in writing?

Nope. It’s up to her whether she wants to do it in writing or not. As for signing, refusing to sign an evaluation looks really, really bad — it’s a very quick way to completely destroy the relationship in about five seconds. Keep in mind that you’re not signing to indicate that you agree with the evaluation; you’re signing to indicate receipt of it. If that’s not clear from the form, it’s fine to write in “signing to acknowledge receipt only.”

Plus, she doesn’t need “proof” in the form of a written evaluation to later put you on a performance improvement plan. If she wants to do that, she can do it at any time.

Overall, it sounds like there are much bigger problems here anyway. You’re feeling adversarial and not trusting her, and you think a performance improvement plan is in your future — all signs that the relationship either needs dramatic repair and/or that you should be actively job searching.

5. Can we put interviewees to work to see how quickly they learn?

I have a question regarding my little 50-employee company. Our warehouse manager has interviewees come in to interview and also put them to work (unpaid) for 30 minutes to “see how quickly they learn and follow direction.” Is this legal?

Is it real work that the company then uses? If so, no, that’s not legal. People who do actual work that the company benefits from have to be paid. But if the work is being used strictly to assess their skills, that’s perfectly legal (and very commonplace).

{ 171 comments… read them below }

  1. Graciosa*

    Regarding #1, think about what triggers this response in you so you can learn to manage it.

    For example, I will get heavily stressed if I don’t get enough down time (I’m a fairly extreme introvert). I can tell when it’s starting to become a problem – my patience gets shorter, I’m less tolerant of mistakes, etc. – but knowing this allows me to manage it more effectively.

    I tell myself (repeatedly) that I’m not really mad about X, I’m just over-scheduled, but I only have to get to [day] and then it will be better.

    I don’t know what your triggers are – and sometimes they’re bigger issues in your life that take much longer to resolve – but identify them, accept them (telling yourself not to feel something is pointless), and focus on managing the effects. Yes, you’re grumpy, but you don’t have to show it at work – behavior is a choice. Knowing what’s likely to set you off will help you make more considered choices.

    Good luck.

    1. FiveByFive*

      I’m an extreme introvert as well, and I work in an office full of extroverts. Being openly grumpy is the ONLY way I can get any uninterrupted time to work. I do have a reputation now for being “moody” or “aloof” or whatever, but that’s a small price to pay for actually getting work done at the office. So for me, having this reputation is actually very helpful (not that I would recommend this to everyone, of course).

      1. MK*

        I think having a reputation for being aloof is not a problem, but being moody is, because it suggests you are letting your emotions dictate your actions and expecting your coworkers to deal with it. I would cultivate a very reserved manner instead.

        1. FiveByFive*

          “Reserved” doesn’t cut it with the Gabby McChattys. Nasty glares tend to work better. “FiveByFive is moody today, stay away” is music to my ears.

          1. Van Wilder*

            That works for you but what about your employees or coworkers? There is a fellow manager at my job who has moods and it breaks my heart to hear our shared employees stressing and speculating about how she is today.

          2. Sarahnova*

            I suspect it’s not music to your manager’s, and if you have direct reports, now or in the future, it will significantly limit their ability to get their work done. Nobody works in isolation these days, and this strategy may well backfire on you, I’m afraid. Studies have repeatedly shown that people who are competent but unlike d lose their jobs before people who are incompetent but liked.

          3. FiveByFive*

            Well, it’s a trade-off, to be sure. I have no direct reports, and my boss understands the situation and is incapable/unwilling to stifle those with the gift of gab. I have no concern if these people like me or not, but yes there are risks involved here.

            1. Anna*

              Yeah, but a nasty glare is immature and not at all useful. I’m not sure why anyone would think being actively disliked at work is some sort of accomplishment.

              1. FiveByFive*

                I think some of my coworkers are lacking much of a social life, and so the office serves as their outlet. I just don’t have the time or the desire to cater to that. You say a glare is not useful – but in fact it is entirely useful. Sadly it is the only approach that has worked.

          4. KT*

            I do caution against this. While it may work for you at this stage of your career, it can be a carerr-limiting attitude/tactic.

            My former boss was like this. While she was incredibly good at her job, an extreme high performer, everyone knew when she was having a bad day and would learn to avoid her. She thought, like you, that this was a good thing! She could get work done uninterrupted.

            Until it came time for a promotion, when a less qualified got the job over her when she should have been a sure-thing. During her review, it came up that while she was excellent, her moodiness and inability to have a poker face at work made management think she couldn’t handle a leadership position with poise and wouldn’t be able to keep a team together with decent morale.

            Moodiness and stuff happens-I get it. But there’s really no place for it at work.

            1. Samantha*

              +1. I’ve had a boss like this too. Not fun feeling like you have to walk on eggshells around them and wondering if they’re upset with you.

            2. Stranger than Fiction*

              I’m kind of known for being a bit grumpy at times at work, but in my case, it’s acceptable. This is something that’s going to vary depending on culture, etc. I have very good relationships with my two managers, and their managers highly respect my work, as well. I’m generally nice to people, but I also have a very dry sense of humor and don’t mind telling you (I’m lookin’ at you Sales) I’m too busy for your nonsense right now or things like that. Everyone kind of knows to leave me alone at certain times of the month (when heavy reporting is due, not because of my cycle).

            3. FiveByFive*

              KT – that’s sad for her. Assuming she wanted the management position. I sure as heck do not want any kind of management position at this place. It would be a nightmare! And yes, the people who would become my reports in that situation would not be happy about the new roles.

              It’s not a good situation, but the mix of personalities here is… less than ideal IMO.

      2. Dutch Thunder*

        I’ve got a colleague like this. To his mind, he is just getting work done, and he’s annoyed that he keeps getting feedback on his uncooperative behaviour in reviews. He’s been explicitly told it’s holding him back from promotions.

        His attitude is infamous, and people actively avoid dealing with him. Of course, this does mean he’s often left out of the loop, which then frustrates him greatly. I’m saying this only because being known as grumpy and aloof could be affecting your career in ways you don’t have clear visibility off.

        There’s nothing wrong with a, “Sorry, I can’t talk right now, I’m in the middle of something, could you come back at 3?” but that doesn’t have to be aloof or moody. Your boss shouldn’t have to stifle people with the gift of the gab – ideally you’d develop assertive but cooperative ways of letting people know when it’s not a good time (for example, by letting them know a different time that would suit you).

        1. Michele*

          That works with some people, but not others. I do experiments that will fail if they are interrupted at the wrong step. I won’t stop them for anything short of a building evacuation. I tell people, “I need to finish this, but we can talk in about 45 minutes.” Some people understand, but some get really pissy about it. Recently, someone complained to my boss that I was refusing to communicate with her because I did that. She kept pushing me to interrupt the experiment, and I told her that she would either have to solve the problem herself or wait.
          It really makes me mad that it is assumed that the people trying to work are the problem.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            The words you wrote here aren’t rude or grumpy, but it’s possible your tone was. There’s nothing wrong with telling people at work that you can’t socialize and need to work, or if in a situation like yours, you say exactly what you did. And some people will get annoyed because it’s inconvenient to them or they get their feelings hurt really easily. But as long as you are not actually rude (and tone and body language matters a lot here), then you are not the problem.

            1. A Teacher*

              But if you’ve said it repeatedly–like more than 5 times and tried to explain it, I don’t know how else its going to come across. At some point you’re only human and exasperation is going to come out.

          2. Dutch Thunder*

            I absolutely don’t think you’re the problem because you’re trying to do work. Your experiment example sounds like a situation in which you’re completely right to refuse interruptions at those critical times. However, from what FiveByFive was writing, that is his default setting, not just something he uses at those times when it’s vital he isn’t interrupted.

            If your colleagues need to ask you questions, it’s completely reasonable for you to indicate when they’ve chosen an inopportune moment. But if their jobs require information from you, it wouldn’t be reasonable to be known for an unfriendly, uncooperative attitude that means you’re never open to questions, and the vibe I got from FiveByFive is that he likes to discourage colleague contact as a rule.

            As for your experiments – it sounds like you need a sign! “Experiment in progress – please leave post it and I’ll contact you in the next hour.” Do your colleagues understand how vital it is that you are uninterrupted during the critical part of your experiment? It might be worth talking to them sometime when you’re not in the middle of one, to explain the consequences.

            1. FiveByFive*

              Dutch, you’re generally correct about my position. I have nicely told people that emails and IMs are less disruptive for things that are not urgent. And I definitely don’t need to be socializing when I have deadlines (which is quite often). But the requests fall on deaf ears.

              Sadly for some people, politeness and directness doesn’t work. Some people just thrive on talking incessantly and can’t understand that someone else may not. Acting unapproachable seems to be the only method that works, I’m afraid.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Then management needs to intervene. It sounds like you have gone as far as you can on your own. The interruptions from others, undermine the company’s efforts because you must stay focused on work in progress. Your boss needs to put it out there that people cannot be interrupting you. I think the sign combined with management’s active participation here might make a difference.

                1. FiveByFive*

                  I actually did try a sign once :)

                  Management’s philosophy is that everyone’s personality is different. My manager has said he sympathizes with my struggles with the outgoing types, but believes I just need to keep reminding them to respect my space. I’m sure he also sympathizes with them when they complain about my moodiness. :)

                  It’s just different personalities. I take work seriously, and others have more of a carefree attitude and feel that everyone should play along. I’m sure they think I just need to loosen up and come out of my shell.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      We could be twins. I’m the exact same way.

      The hardest part of my job is having to lead software testing events. Think 10-12 people, all together in a conference room all day every day for 5-10 work days. An introvert’s worst nightmare!

      I had to do one of these in January, and one day was particularly trying. All day long it was a barrage of questions: “Can you come take a look at this?” “Why didn’t this work?” “What am I doing wrong?” OMG. I did realize this was good since it meant the users were engaged, and really actively using the system. But it was totally draining and exhausting for someone who comes up as 89% introverted on the Myers Briggs test!!

      At the end of the day I begged off going to dinner and spent the evening alone. It was heavenly. I came right out and told a couple coworkers, “I’ve had way too much human interaction today and I need an evening alone.” Thankfully they understood.

      1. FiveByFive*

        I hear ya Ann! I’m exceptionally high on the introversion scale as well. The extroverted types I’m talking about are very uncomfortable with quiet. If the office is quiet for even ten or fifteen minutes, you can count on someone commenting about it – loudly so everyone can hear – to break up the silence. “WOW! It’s so QUIET in here! Everyone must be working REALLY HARD!!!” Well, we were until you did that…!

        1. LAI*

          FiveByFive, I kind of understand where you’re coming from. I used to share an office with a coworker who liked to chat and it was very disruptive to me. I was thrilled to finally get my own office and now I’m much more productive. At the same time though, I don’t agree with the solution you’ve decided on – are you really ok with being intentionally mean to others to get what you want? It sounds like you don’t care about the possible consequences to you and your career, which is fine, but what about the impact on your coworkers? I don’t consider myself to be highly sensitive, but it still sucks when someone is mean or rude to me for no reason. Are you sure you’ve exhausted all other options? For example, could you ask to work from a private conference room occasionally or from home once or twice per week? Even just saying politely “I can’t talk now”, and then putting on headphones or walking away?

          1. FiveByFive*

            I do those things too. I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying I’m “mean” or rude “for no reason”. When people are repeatedly impolite to me, and dismiss nicely phrased requests to limit their interruptions, then being a bit snippy and showing some impatience doesn’t seem entirely uncalled for, to me. And since it seems like that’s the only response that carries any weight, I’d rather that then lose productivity on a daily basis.

    3. Ann without an e*

      I have been dealing with a rather difficult individual, and the saga the individual has created……..stiiiiiilllllllll.
      1. How you feel is valid. Do not let other people try to invalidate how you feel, they don’t know the “minor” details and that is where the devil loves to hang out.
      2. I have found this great 15 minute yoga video that I stream on my phone and do in this one broom closet…….I get the janitor to open it for me, she is a lovely woman, and no one knows where I am I do my yoga sometimes I mediate for an extra minute or two let myself out and lock the door.
      3. Lavender tea is wonderful, the lavender is calming and the tea has caffeine but not like coffee so you don’t get jittery. Lavender air fresheners work well too. Drinking too much lavender can have a laxative effect. Also lavender oil gets rid of mosquito (other bugs too) bites in hours.

      Note: There are lots of different styles of yoga, it is a practice, you must find the one that is right for you. I’m a type A and prefer flow yoga.

      1. BeenThere*

        Oh oh, I love Forrest yoga, it’s a type of flow however there are heaps of pose modifications for back, neck, shoulder, wrist etc. issues.

  2. GrumpyandSleepybutNotDopey*

    I commiserate. I am not a morning person, and though I like to think I am polite and professional 90 percent of the time, my true feelings often = grumpy given lack of sleep/stress/huge workload/adjustment to a quirky manager and I just started this new job less than a year ago. I definitely try to ‘pull it together’ but there are some days when I pray hard that no one needs too much from me and I can slink the day away in my corner of the office. Plus, I don’t want to seem too rehearsed, or scary–like, Betty Draper-esque. Any tips or advice?

    1. Jen RO*

      I’m also grumpy if I don’t get enough sleep (or if I’m hungry). I try to reign it in, but sometimes it’s impossible, and then I just apologize in advance to everyone.

    2. Chloe Silverado*

      Everyone has bad days sometimes. I was specifically hired for my current role because of my positive attitude, but every now and then stress gets the better of me and I’m a little less than cheerful. When I know I have negative interactions with people – like yesterday, for example! – I simply go to the person and say “Sorry I wasn’t myself in that meeting/by the watercooler/when you came to my desk earlier – I’m having a rough day, but didn’t mean it personally.” People usually respond with something like “No worries, we’ve all been there!” and all is well.

      If you know you’re going to have a less than polite and professional day, I think burying yourself in work (if reasonable in your job role) isn’t a bad idea. Unless someone has an urgent need, you could say you’re on a deadline or need to focus on a detail-oriented task but can discuss tomorrow. That way you can avoid a negative interaction without having to put on a persona.

      1. fposte*

        Speaking generally on the “No worries”–that’s the polite response to such a statement, but it doesn’t mean the behavior isn’t having an impact. Apologizing always puts somebody miles ahead of somebody who doesn’t apologize, but grumpiness and snappiness can still make people wary of somebody even if they accept the apologies.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, exactly. Grumpiness can be balanced with apologies, but only up to a certain degree and frequency. At a certain point, apologies don’t cut it anymore, but your coworkers probably won’t say that to you. This is just general and not aimed at Chloe, who seems to be saying she’s *not* frequently or badly grumpy, just a little off now and then (and who isn’t?).

    3. Koko*

      For me, it helps to make sure I’m clear that my coworkers aren’t responsible for whatever’s stressing me out. I make sure I’m very clear on the source of the stress, I’m actively working to alleviate the problem at the root, and when a mundane/routine request grates on me because of unrelated stress, I don’t let myself lash out at the requester because it frankly has nothing to do with them.

      It’s the same way you stop yourself from being a “dump truck” to waiters and cab drivers and checkout clerks when you’re having a bad day – just remind myself that while I might be having the crappiest day of my life, this person isn’t to blame and is trying to have a good day of their own without me dump-trucking my own crap all over them.

      Another thing that makes it easier is to have collaborative relationships with your work peers. You can use each other for light venting (along the lines of, “omg this week! Are you as swamped as I am? I’m counting the minutes to happy hour!” rather than “omg that bitch in our department, can believe her nerve??””) and you can also rely on each other for support. I have a colleague who does different work than me but uses a lot of the same processes and tools (e.g. she makes the chocolate teapots and I make candied spoons, but we both know how to use the boiler and the molds and how to package a finished product). Whenever my workload is a little light for the week and I can see she’s got a lot more going on I’ll offer to take some smaller tasks off her plate, and she does the same for me when I’m swamped. Over the years this give-and-take has really helped save both of us during some crazy weeks, and it makes me appreciate her so much that the thought of taking my frustration out on her never even crosses my mind on my worst day.

  3. Zahra*

    #4 Maybe it would be a good idea to email her a recap of the verbal evaluation, that way you do have a written record of your discussion. It might even be useful for you to check back that email to make sure you’re still on track.

      1. Xarcady*

        Yes, this. I had a boss who was notorious for telling you one thing in a meeting, and then two days later freaking out because you were doing exactly what she’d told you to do. But she either forgot she’d told you, or she’d changed her mind without telling you, or something.

        So after every meeting or conversation where she assigned me something, I’d email her. Very quick and basic, but listing everything she’d told me to do. And asking her to let me know if my understanding of the conversation was correct. If she didn’t reply, then I would assume I was okay.

        1. shep*

          Oh my goodness, yes. Everything in your first paragraph describes one of my old supervisors. It’s exhausting, right?

    1. OP#4*


      Thanks for your advice. I had the review and even though it was overwhelmingly positive, my boss’ boss one comment was basically attacking what my boss said is a strength. Alison is right–I was focusing on how to make this job work but it’s time to move on.

  4. Marina*

    This is off-topic, but I wanted to say I had an interview today and took the chance to use Alison’s Best Interview Question Ever–the “what’s the difference in this role between someone good and really great” one–and the interviewer smiled, sat up straighter, and said “great question”. It’s magic. Plus I got some very useful information. Although one of these days I swear I’m going to get someone who responds by asking if I read this blog. :)

    1. Michele*

      I will be interviewing people soon. I will have to think of an answer in case anyone asks that.

      1. some1*

        If a candidate doesn’t ask the specific question, I think it’s still a good idea to proactively mention what would make some good at the role when discussing expectations.

    2. De Minimis*

      I had an impromptu interview over the weekend and successfully used that question for the first time ever!

      I’ve never been able to get it to work before, but I think the issue was the jobs I had been looking at in the past were in very rigid environments [government, public accounting…]. Seems like when you start looking more at regular companies you get a lot better response. Employers really want to see candidates who are focused on exceeding goals and on constantly improving.

    3. Editrix*

      An interviewer had the same reaction when I asked that a few weeks ago! She said, “Wow, no one’s ever asked me that before.” I decided the job wasn’t a good fit for me, but it felt good knocking their socks off :-)

  5. Vancouver Reader*

    OP1, I am an open book as well when it comes to showing how I’m feeling so if I’m in a particularly bad mood, I try and warn people in case I snap at them. However, I tend to be a generally happy person at work, so I’d be forgiven for having an off day.

    OP3, my sincerest sympathies. My mom developed a rare blood disease, and I found out while at work that she was hospitalized, and I broke down crying in front of my colleagues. That’s how they found out, so obviously I don’t have any good suggestions, just hoping for the best for your mom.

  6. Renatta de Luxe*

    #4: there is something unwholesome about the notion of a verbal annual review. It might be allowed and “legal” and so forth, but – I guess I don’t even understand why a manager would do such a thing?

    Unless they were enormously disciplined, I can visualize many managers sitting there for the duration and extemporizing on the reviewee’s bad habits: “… and another thing: your shoes make too much noise when you walk on tile.”

    I’d think they’d at least have a list of notes to go over. If they have notes, why not share them with the reviewee?

    Or is the point of this supposed to be that the manager is doing the reviewee a favor by not committing anything bad to writing?

    The entire concept just seems … off.

    1. kac*

      This year my manager gave my a oral review. Nothing was in writing or even formally structured, but it was actually a wonderful experience. We get along very well, and it was more of a genuine dialogue about strengths & successes, areas for improvement & ways to actually accomplish those improvements. Because it was less formal (but still official) I felt comfortable really sharing the areas where I’d like to improve.

      It was the best (in terms of: most useful) review I’ve ever had! But, she’s also the best manager I’ve ever had, so I may have felt that way if it was more formal, too. I don’t think this style would work for everyone, but it worked here!

      1. AVP*

        I’ve had it done this way too, and really liked it. It helped that I get along really well with my manager, he had mainly good feedback with a few specific things to address. I took notes on those (like Alison suggests below) and gave him a few ideas for how we could reframe some things or change processes, which he wrote down, and it was over.

        I think if you’re going into it in an adversarial time in your relationship, which the OP seems to be, it might be a really different case. However if the true goal is to put the OP on an improvement plan, or document issues, you’d think they would want it in writing.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think it’s crazy. The idea would be to both step back and reflect on how things are going and what could make them go even better, and there’s no reason that can’t be a genuine conversation, rather than something that must be written down in advance. I’d certainly take notes into a conversation like that, but I don’t think you have to have an entire formal form filled out if the context allows for something more conversational.

    3. Merry and Bright*

      I worked in one place where reviews were half-yearly but everywhere else it has been annual (certainly in permanent jobs). I have always had a written summary of the review given to me, sometimes broken down into different subjects depending how the organization did these things. This is given to me a few days later . Then I sign it, and there is usually a section for me to add any comments I want to make. It is photocopied, and the employer keeps the original for my HR record, and gives me the copy to keep.

      I have always kept my record safely at home and find it useful for tracking my progress for the next year, and also for job searches and interviews. The material is very useful for that.

      It may just be what I am used to but the idea of a verbal-only review does not sit too easily with me.

  7. Lipton Tea For Me*

    #1 Where I work is basically hated by the whole country at this time of year and I have been dealing with mistakes made in payroll so that I didn’t get a whole paycheck for over 3 months. I finally got a letter in the mail that felt like everything I’d worked on to correct it thus far was for naught. My first thought other than being annoyed all over again was, you can either let it go or be angry. I chose to let it go as sustained anger for any length of time only makes me tired. So you too, can choose to let it go and be grumpy some other time. Just take a step back, take a deep breath and jump back into your job.

    #4 There are no rules that say you cannot take notes during the review! Usually if a manager is going to come back after the fact and pull the rug out from under you, they have to have documentation that they addressed whatever the issue is that pulling the rug out from under you involved. I suppose they can always make something up, but they can do that any time. But for me, I need the review in writing as I will not remember all the points made if I cannot refer back to something in writing. In your shoes, I’d either recap as others have suggested or take notes during the review.

    1. Anon in SC*

      If you work where I’m guessing, and tomorrow is a big day for your agency, not getting your paycheck is really not cool! (not that it ever is, but really…that stinks.)

      1. LiptonTeaForMe*

        Sorry to clarify, I meant an actual paycheck for 80 hours, not a paycheck for more than 3 months.

        1. De Minimis*

          Still pretty bad.

          I’ve ran into similar problems, not with pay thankfully but with health benefits. When I began this job I filled out my health insurance enrollment form, but apparently it was never processed. Eventually I got a meeting with both local and outside HR and there was no explanation given as to what the problem was, but basically I could either pay several pay periods worth of premiums at once, or wait till open enrollment. I opted for the latter.

          1. Anna*

            This happened with my 401k. It irritates the hell out of me. Why should *I* pay for *their* screw up?

  8. Snoskred*

    #4 – I’d go into this meeting with a notepad and pen, and write down the things she says she wants you to improve as she says them. Then, when signing the paper, I would write all of those things onto it, before I signed it.

    I did this once at a 6 month probation review where my probation was extended 6 months because I wore a hat inside for one hour. Seriously, that was the reason they gave.

    I had an excellent reason for wearing the hat – it was a workplace where we got moved to another level for the last hour of our shift – everyone downstairs had left for the day by 6pm – and I was placed at a desk I’d never sat at before and there was a light shining directly into my eyes from a badly placed roof light, so I spoke to the shift supervisor and we agreed instead of moving desks the quickest and easiest thing to do would be for me to put on a baseball cap – it wasn’t even my hat, it belonged to the shift supervisor.

    One of the other supervisors happened to see this. They did not bother to ask the shift supervisor about it but decided this offense was worthy of extending my probation another 6 months. When they had a meeting to tell me this, I explained what had happened but they clearly did not care. I asked them to put it into writing but they refused, probably because they knew it would make them look ridiculous. They asked me to sign the probation extension, and I said I would not sign it unless the reason was clearly stated on there. They kept demanding, I kept refusing, and in the end I said I’ll write it on there myself. By that point I just wanted to go home and throw things.

    When I told the shift supervisor what had happened, they went to management and told them there was a good reason for the hat, and that they themselves had suggested and supplied it, but their minds were made up.

    I knew then that this place was not somewhere I wanted to stay, and I got out of there as fast as I could. It was a shame because I really loved the job and some of the people I worked with, they’d spent considerable time training me and to make such a fuss over a baseball cap.. especially when there were maybe 6 other people in the building. It was so petty and stupid.

    1. OP#4*

      WOW! That’s ridiculous. I did write down a lot but as soon as the conversation turned adversarial during the review, I stopped writing because I resolved that I should actively job hunt.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You noted above that it was overwhelmingly positive. That doesn’t sound adversarial! Any chance that you’re taking any criticism as adversarial? I realize there could be more to the story, but this description and the one above sound so contradictory.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          From that comment, it sounds like the boss’s boss is criticising a particular aspect of the employee’s behavior. The overwhelmingly positive comments/reaction of the direct boss may be less salient, if the boss above her is critical. The criticism may or may not be warranted and/or there may be nothing the OP can do to push back if the person’s mind is made up.

        2. OP#4*

          My direct boss gave me a positive review. Her boss, who was also in the review, took what my boss said was a major strength and said it was my weakness. My boss is fine. My boss’ boss is nitpicky.

    2. Maxwell Edison*

      Wow, I think that beats out the “you walk around with your head tilted” feedback I got as the most ridiculous negative feedback ever.

  9. Marzipan*

    #5, even if it were legal to give candidates actual work, it’s unlikely to be consistent as an interview task (unless the work literally never varies, at all, ever). To enable you to compare candidates (or, evaluate an individual candidate against the standard you’re looking for), you really need a standardised task; and you need to define exactly what aspects of the job spec you’re evaluating through that task.

    Tasks are really valuable as a way of seeing the person in action, but they are a certain amount of work to set up and administer. In fairness to the warehouse manager, there’s also a certain amount of work involved in explaining any work task to someone and monitoring how they carry it out so I doubt that over the course of half an hour the company is getting much benefit from it even if applicants are being given ‘real’ work. However, if this is what’s currently happening, then you could approach the issue by pointing out that the current process could run foul of the law, and propose coming up with a standard task instead.

    1. Marzipan*

      Incidentally, I don’t mean ‘the company probably isn’t getting much benefit from the work’ to come across as ‘so therefore it’s fine!’ but as ‘so the warehouse manager is probably not going mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha at all the free work’. But either way, a standard task would be a better bet.

    2. Graciosa*

      It’s easier if it’s standardized, but I don’t think the task needs to be that standard if what’s being tested is primarily the ability to follow instructions.

      The analogy I came up with was an audition process where the dancers have X amount of time to learn a short routine. It doesn’t actually matter if one person is tested on learning kick-kick-turn-step and another is tested on turn-step-kick-turn. The choreographer or director should be able to see in either case if they can learn and perform a routine quickly.

      With respect to the company benefiting from the work, I’m having a hard time seeing that there’s likely to be real benefit in having to explain and watch someone perform a task in only thirty minutes. The loss of management productivity does not lead me to believe that this is an excuse to get a lot of work done without hiring anyone.

      However, if anyone might make that argument (based on the work performed) then I would suggest a technique used by the military for some training – test one person on a task, then test the next person on the task in reverse. In the military, this is one group digs a hole, the next group fills it in (which is very efficient if you think about it). For a warehouse, one person can be taught to move the boxes from pallet A to pallet B, and the next person can move them back.

      It’s a little silly in some ways, but it does eliminate any argument that the company is really benefiting from the work.

      1. Marzipan*

        Yeah, but equally it would be unfair if one dancer were asked to do kick-kick-turn-step and another to do kick-kick-jump-pirouette-splits-jump-kick-jump-kick-turn-step, and having something (or several possible equivalent somethings) prepared helps avoid that. It’s not that the task necessarily needs to be identical – for example, we quite often do a communication task with candidates, but we have a range of different-but-similar ones we use – but that you need to have planned it somewhat.

        I do think it’s quite important to carefully plan what instructions you’ll be giving someone, if the task is intended to assess how well they follow them – I don’t think it’s as simple as just ‘give some instructions and see what happens’. If the instructions vary a lot, or are sometimes clearer than other times, or relate to wildly different tasks some of which take a lot more time to learn than others, then the results you get may reflect more on that than on the candidate, which isn’t helpful to anyone. If someone gets ‘Put the blue boxes over there’ and someone else gets ‘Go get the frooble – that’s the middle sized tubey thing in the third room on your right – and take it to the spout room (upstairs, through the door, do a u-turn, look diagonally left). Then balance it on the wiffle-splatch, making sure to connect the electrodes in the correct sequence – blue, green, pink, puce, lavender, purple, mauve. Then come back via staircase B – whatever you do, do NOT use staircase 2.’ – well, that says more about us than it does about them. And I think that sort of over-complicated task becomes more likely if you don’t plan, because that might just be what needs doing at that point – whereas a planned task is specifically not something you need doing, but something designed for a purpose.

        I like the do-and-undo idea; that gets round having to reset everything for the next person.

        1. Graciosa*

          I think from a hiring perspective, we need to keep in mind the distinction between “unfair” and illegal.

          Is it unfair if someone gets a significantly different task or instruction? Yes. Does hiring have to be fair? No. As long as the cause is not a legally prohibited reason, it’s not a legal problem.

          In this case, the issue presented was whether or not the company was benefiting from the work. The element of improperly unpaid labor has to be addressed, but the company can use unfair hiring practices that don’t illegally discriminate or provide unpaid labor.

          For example, if each dancer drew their instructions randomly, some could be ridiculously difficult while others were easy without violating a law. It would be unfair (and kind of stupid) but not illegal.

          1. Marzipan*

            I don’t so much mean unfair in the sense of ‘Wah! Injustice!’; more that it wouldn’t be an accurate representation of the skills of the different candidates, and could therefore lead to the company inadvertently hiring weaker applicants because they did well in a skewed test. If, in the above scenario, they come away thinking ‘Apollo followed instructions clearly and didn’t have to ask twice, but Lavinia really seemed to struggle’ then it indicates precisely nothing if Apollo was blue-box guy and Lavinia drew the frooble straw. They may end up passing on a potentially great candidate and appointing a so-so one, if they don’t design the task (or potential range of tasks) to be representative of what they’re looking for, and ensure they’re reasonably possible for someone new to that particular workplace. That’s what I mean by ‘fair’ – it’s something that benefits the company at least as much as the candidates.

            And actually, thinking about it, another benefit of a standard task or set of tasks is that it helps avoid any suggestion of bias or discrimination. If Lavinia misses out on the job but later finds out from her friend Apollo that she had a massively harder task, she could come to believe that she was given the impossible task because she’s a woman/from an ethnic minority/gay/disabled/other potential reason for discrimination, and this could cause difficulties for the company. Whereas, if all applicants do more or less the same thing, this isn’t an issue.

            In this particular setting, maybe all the work is sufficiently similar that none of this is matters, but I still think is worth thinking of interview tasks as a designed activity and not just part of the regular work, because they’re more controllable (and therefore useful to the employer) that way. And legal!

    3. yup*

      To OP #5,

      If you decide to keep the 30 minute mock work environment, offer some compensation (that they would feel is fair) and see how they work for you. I think it can save you a lot in the long run to see someone working versus hiring, training, and carefully letting go after not trying them out first (I’m assuming this was your intention).

      1. yup*

        just remembered, check the laws around this if the work is dangerous at all or sensitive and get any legal waiver stuff taken care of, too.

  10. MK*

    OP2, I am confused by your attitude in this. Your company is being asked if person X works there; they respond with the truth that she hasn’t done so for a while. And you label this as “sabotaging” her and “getting revenge”? Why? What do you expect them to do, lie for her? Refuse to give information? I realise that it’s not pleasant if people are gleeful about her being unemployed, but if she has wronged them as much as you say, it’s only human. And it’s really not your call when/if they should forgive her.

    Another thing that’s not your call is whether she deserves a second chance; that’s for the people who will take a risk in hiring her to decide. By the way, if companies are calling to find out if she is still working at your company, it’s not because she put them down as a reference, it’s because she is lying about this, at least by implication.

    I really don’t understand your stance in this.

    1. Van Wilder*

      Well said. If she’s lying about where she works, what does she expect? It’s not sabotage, although I understand it’s hard to watch others take such glee in it.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      Yeah I don’t get this either, you can’t fault the company for answering correctly when they have ask a direct question and it’s really not the OP’s situation to be involved in, if they try and get involved it wont make them look good.

    3. UKAnon*

      “Should I ignore it and let the people who answer the phone just sabotage her? (She’s incredibly unpopular here, as you can imagine, so they are delighted to do it. But they suffered far more than I.)”

      I read that as meaning that there was more said than just ‘she no longer works here’ but it could be read either way so clarification would be good.

      1. MK*

        Actually, the OP mentions that the company is “pointed and precise in saying that she hadn’t worked here in some time (but not why).”

        So, they are not even giving her a bad reference, they simply say she hasn’t been an employee for some time. I assume they do so in a cold manner, so the asker can infer that she didn’t leave on good terms, but that’s not sabotaging. It wouldn’t even be sabotaging if they did say bad things about her, as long as they are true.

        1. UKAnon*

          As I say, I can read it both ways. The fact that those two statements are separated might imply that they said that *and* that OP’s heard them say other things about her performance while she was there – although OP also says “I was told just now” so it’s not even clear whether she’s hearing of this directly or through the grapevine… We need more info to clarify what’s going on!

          1. LBK*

            Honestly though, I don’t think it makes a difference. The company calling for the reference has every right to want to know about performance and the former employer has every right to tell them. No one is being wronged here unless the company lies about what she did. Even if they’re giving every gory detail of the situation, that doesn’t sound wrong to me as long as it’s being stated factually and without editorializing.

            If anything, I think they actually owe it to the new employer to give them a heads up. I’d be pretty pissed as a hiring manager if I made a reference call and only found out after the fact that the former employer had failed to mention a huge scandal that led to the employee being terminated – things like that are exactly what I’d want to uncover during a reference check, because the employee’s probably not too keen on revealing that herself.

          2. Oryx*

            But as long as they aren’t *lying* about that performance, they aren’t doing anything wrong.

        2. Leah*

          It sounds like they’re actually giving her more than she deserves, considering her actions made the news on more than one occasion.

    4. Jen RO*

      And I wouldn’t read too much into LinkedIn not being updated. Yes, candidates should be proactively changing the information, but I know many, many people who simply forget. I have ex-coworkers who left years ago and still show up on LI as working here.

      1. LBK*

        Huh, I just realized my LI still says I work at the job I left a month and a half ago. Probably should fix that.

      2. Graciosa*

        I hardly ever update mine unless I’m job searching, so it is definitely out of date.

        On the plus side, the employer is still right, I just haven’t bothered updating my current position.

    5. LBK*

      Yeah I agree, I’m baffled about the OP’s attitude as well. This isn’t a case of getting revenge or sabotaging someone, this is someone living with the consequences of their actions. I don’t understand what the alternative would be – it actually sounds like they’re being reasonably nice by just stating the most basic facts without delving into why or saying they shouldn’t hire her. They’re certainly under no obligation to cover for her; your work history doesn’t exist just at your current company and then vanish when you leave, you carry everything you’ve done throughout your career. That includes mistakes.

      I’m in favor of giving people a second chance if you think they’re reformed, but no one is under obligation to pretend this is still your first chance.

    6. Dot Warner*

      I agree. If anything, this woman is sabotaging herself, both with the scandal she was involved in before and by implying that she still works for this company.

    7. Clever Username*

      This. I came her to say exactly what MK said so beautifully. The truth is not sabotage.

    8. Mike B.*

      Indeed! “Revenge” is not a great way to characterize what’s going on; she’s just seeing the consequences of her actions. Her former company is being frank about whatever she did, which any prospective employers would probably learn on Google anyway.

      She’s got to deal with this situation one way or another, and she’s no doubt getting plenty of advice from the people in her life. You don’t need to chime in because it’s simply none of your business.

      And while I’m quite sure you can’t give any details that would identify you, I’m dying to know what happened here.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I think OP is seeing the one person get whipped over and over and OP is getting tired/shocked/something by it all.

      OP,I think everyone understands why we are supposed to stay out of a married couples arguments. We will not win. Or even if we win, we will lose in the long run. This is more of that. These folks really know former coworker, they have been through things with her that they are not telling you. Please respect the unspokens. Let the people in the situation handle the situation.

      If you try to advocate for the former employee or even “seem” to be defending her, this will give you nothing but problems in the long run. Additionally, you were not hired to be her protector. You were hired to be a asset and ally to the company.

      In short, it’s a bad plan to align yourself with someone who is extremely unpopular. That alignment will hurt your job and in turn you.

  11. Chriama*

    The thing is, this is a warehouse. It’s not like asking interviewers to create a marketing plan and then stealing it. I’m assuming it’s manual labor, which means the line is much easier to cross.

    I’m basically imagining people coming in and doing a sort observation (e.g. FedEx does these, but you just tour the facility) and then the warehouse manager gets them to actually sling boxes for 30 minutes to see how fast and accurate they are. If this is work that you’d pay an employee to do, that’s really unethical. However, if it’s a simulation that produces no actual value for the company outside of the interview process (I guess if they’d got a whole dummy assembly line set up?) then that’s ok.

    Bottom line: if the business currently or would pay an employee to do this work, or if they benefit from this work outside of the specific interview process, then they can’t ask job interviewees to do this for free.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If it’s repetitive work, anyone can do something quickly for 30 minutes. The real question is how are they holding up by Friday morning after doing things quickly all week?
      Accuracy and speed fade as the week wears on.

  12. BritCred*

    #3 – I pulled my boss aside and told him the situation and we worked out how he needed me to contact him if I needed to deal with my Step father and I wouldn’t be at work etc. Which was very helpful.

    I could then text and call in the day that Mum needed me to come help with his care arrangements at short notice. And when he died over Easter a few weeks later I texted the boss and arranged for the next day off without having to deal with explaining and going into detail.

    A couple of days later without me having to explain too much to the boss during the worst of the emotions my coworkers were aware of why i had been off and it helped a lot.

    1. Stuck in the Snow*

      That’s basically what I did when my mother was diagnosed with cancer – and it made it so much easier when she passed, being able to notify my manager in the briefest terms possible. She then spread the word to the rest of the team, so that by the time I was in to work that morning (my choice, I had projects that I needed to wrap up for my peace of mine before leaving the office) everyone knew and was quietly & professionally sympathetic. Not having to tell everyone over and over again my situation while it was at crisis point was a real gift.

      After I got back from the funeral, several coworkers who had also lost parents relatively young and/or lost family to cancer made a point of reaching out to offer support, and I deeply appreciated that.

      The entire experience – I was a new employee – showed me a side of my team that I didn’t expect: they were incredibly humane, from the big boss on down. Honestly, it’s probably kept me at this business longer than I should have stayed, as I’ve forgiven a lot of other crappy behavior due to their being so kind while my mother was dying.

      1. Cautionary tail*

        My situation was similar. For my mom’s cancer I let my boss know the situation and gave short monthly updates as part of my regular briefings. One day I got a call from the hospital and then I stuck my head in my boss’s office and just said “I gotta go” and left. We merely exchanged knowing glances but that was all that was needed.

    2. Jen RO*

      When a coworker’s father was diagnosed with cancer she let the boss know that she will be away for a few days, and that the length of her leave would depend on the outcome of her father’s surgery. While she was away, she kept me and another coworker updated, so we could keep the boss up to date (he is in another country/time zone).

    3. Meg Murry*

      I agree that just letting the boss know, and going over what the procedure is for contacting them now would be a good way to go. Even if you are the only person with the official certification, can you and the boss identify one person who would be able to at least babysit the project as your backup if you need to be out with little notice?

      Last, you should clarify with your boss and/or HR if there is official FMLA paperwork you should fill out in anticipation of your absences. Its a lot easier to get this kind of thing done now and have it put in place when it’s not an emergency than it is to try to deal with mid-crisis, and its especially important if your company has some kind of official attendance policy – you don’t want you and your boss to have to go down the path of you officially needing to be warned or disciplined according to the policy. Some places unfortunately don’t allow the boss to just waive the attendance policy, they need the paperwork in place. Be aware that FMLA can be taken intermittently, so by having that paperwork in place you would be able to take a day here, and afternoon there, a week here, etc – it’s not only for situations where someone is going to be out of the office in a continuous block, which a lot of people are not aware of. That way if it does come to the point where you need to be off for several continuous days or weeks, you have everything in place.

      I’m sorry you are going through this OP, and I hope you find your boss and coworkers understanding.

      1. Sospeso*

        I second this. My mom’s cancer recurred around the one-year mark at OldJob, and I started a continuous leave under FMLA as soon as I was eligible. I didn’t think to get the paperwork in place in advance, and that would have provided some peace of mind. I wish I would have done it sooner, actually. Also, if you’re not FMLA eligible for some reason, it’s still worth the conversation with your manager in case you are interested in taking leave – your company may offer a personal leave.

    4. Drewby*

      I sympathize with the OP #3. My father is currently being treated for pancreatic cancer (made worse by my mother slipping on ice, breaking her wrist, leaving her unable to drive for 2 months while healing). As soon as I found out, I informed my team lead of the situation who in turn looped the director of my department in. Separately, both of them said they’re sorry about my ordeal and that they were willing to work with my schedule to accommodate in the meantime. As good as that was to hear, I felt it was a tough conversation to have since I’ve only been with the company 6 months and they were great about letting me take 2 weeks off for my honeymoon shortly thereafter. Upon expressing this concern, they reassured me that this wasn’t going to be an issue, which certainly helped.

      While I can’t speak for your organization, it’s definitely worth bringing the subject up with your superiors to provide some context, especially if your situation is affecting your mood or productivity. I would like to think they would be sympathetic and willing to help.

      1. Sospeso*

        These are all good points. I agree that especially if you are finding yourself out of sorts at work, it can be good to mention what’s going on to your team. When I found myself being more abrupt with clients at OldJob during my mom’s illness (not rude, just not my typical fairly bubbly demeanor), my boss asked if there was something going on. We were able to create a gameplan for those nights I had extra trouble with our clients, which was – in retrospect – a big part of what kept me working at all during such a stressful time in my personal life.

    5. Chinook*

      OP #3 – I am dealing with this with a member of a bard I sit on. The person in charge of our membership is dealing with an ill father. She was new at the job and thought she was slacking off and/or unorganized (which gave us huge concerns as she is President-in-Waiting) until she told someone about her father’s recent cancer diagnosis. By hiding this stresser, she only made herself look bad and didn’t allow for anyone to help take up her understandable slack. Once she revealed it to us, we were not only able to give her our support and understanding, but we were able to soothe any fears she had about not getting her job done (i.e. tonight is our new member induction ceremony which she is in charge of but today is her dad’s first chemo in a city 2 hours away) by letting her know what we needed from her (new member names) and what can be handed to someone else if we have a heads up (literally everything else as long as we know she isn’t taking care of it/not going to be there).

      What I am saying is that you need to loop your boss in so she can understand any “unprofessional behaviour” (distracted at work, sudden absences) as well as work on a back-up plan that prioritizes what can get pushed back vs. the urgent stuff that needs to be handed over to someone else (either for the short term time being or on a short notice when youa re out of the office). This is one of those times where documenting what needs to be done, what has been done and where to find stuff can help not only everyone else but also you as there will be times when you forget what you have been doing at work because your family is on your mind and you become distracted.

      Also, feel free to not disclose details. Saying your mother is ill and you need to help her should be enough for a caring boss. They do not need/deserve to know how you are helping or what the illness is (because feeding their cat while in hospital is just as important as sitting next to them. Also, ensuring you have time to sleep after spending the night at your mother’s bedside counts as helping).

      1. Alma*

        You are so fortunate to have a boss who understands, and is willing to be flexible. I know this will make it easier for you to be where you need to be when you need to be there.

        Before FMLA I was in a management program. My Mother died tragically, and I came back to work too soon. No one suggested I needed more time. I would begin to sob at the drop of a hat. I did utilize EAP, but counseling was difficult to manage because I was working in an office an hour and a half away from where I lived.

        I was put on probation, and delayed six months? nine months? from moving on to the next phase of training. I was miserable. When I went to the Corporate “academy” week, I excelled. Upper management couldn’t believe it. My “weakness” continued to be held over my head. There were so few women in management then.

        I’m so thankful that the work place is kinder and gentler these days for all of you coming up through the ranks.

  13. Kathlynn*

    I think, so long as you are upfront with your coworkers, and do not direct your grumpiness at them, it’s less of a problem to be grumpy. Sometimes issues really cannot be pushed aside. Like if you are sick, quitting smoking, or really stressed. The key thing is to watch out for how you are treating your coworkers/customers. You need to try your best to keep it from effecting those interactions. When I’m having a bad day I avoid everyone like the plague. And my coworkers usually know that it’s not their fault. I’ve also been around a lot of grumpy coworkers and customers. Coworkers, it’s easier to ignore the grumpiness when a coworker is quiet or careful in what they say, compared to a coworker who is constantly raging about the smallest issue.

  14. Brownie Queen*

    #3, you have my sympathies. I am currently going through an illness with a parent. I have been open and candid with my boss, co-workers and customer and they have all been very understanding. Do you have the capability to work remote? This has been my saving grace as I live a few states away from my immediate family and it allows me the flexibility to be there and still fulfill my job responsibilities.

    1. OP#3*

      Everyone – thank you for your kind thoughts and the comments on the situation with my mother. I can work remotely, which will be helpful. And I will tell my manager soon – I think by putting this off it’s almost helped me feel as if the situation is not really happening. One other question/concern is how to handle informing the people I work with in the company who are not in touch with my manager – I’d rather not tell more people than necessary, but I don’t want to disappear suddenly.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I think this is a good time for the phrase “out of the office due to a family medical emergency” in an Out of Office status (even if you are technically checking emails, it might be good to put up an OoO in case you aren’t getting back to them as quickly as you would in-office).

        I would suggest that although you can technically work remotely, you shouldn’t feel that you absolutely have to – this may be emotionally draining for you, so if you need to take FMLA days, by all means use them, and save remote working for the most urgent parts of your job, not the routine stuff that could be picked up by others.

  15. Nobody*

    #5 – I think it’s a great idea to have some kind of skills test (especially in a case like this where it’s probably hard to assess the skills by merely asking questions), but if you’re going to make candidates do physical labor during the interview, you really need to warn them in advance and advise them on attire. Presumably, this is not the type of job for which candidates would normally wear a suit to interview, but they still probably dress better than they would for the job. It would be really unfair, for example, to expect a woman who wore a skirt and high heels for the interview to run around the warehouse and climb ladders.

    1. "Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things,"*

      With you here on the clothes thing. The employer could get round this by suggesting a dress code for the interview.

      The skills test is a good thing to do. It brings to mind the employee from the recent post to claimed to have software experience which he didn’t have.

      1. Mephyle*

        Even more to the point than a dress code for the interview, would be an explicit list of things they might be asked to do – climb a ladder, lift a heavy box – and the suggesting to “dress accordingly”.

    2. Marzipan*

      That’s a really good point. When I’m inviting candidates to interview I normally try to give them some idea of what to expect (so, something like: ‘Your interview will commence with a short skills test which will involve using a computer, followed by questions from a panel of three interviewers. You will also be given a 30-minute walking tour of the site, for which we recommend you wear suitable footwear. Please do advise us of any accessibility requirements relating to any of the above so we can make the appropriate adjustments’ or whatever) but this would definitely be really important if you want them to do a physical task.

      Apart from anything else, yeah, it’s not a very accurate predictor of ability in the role if the warehouse supervisor is thinking a candidate is rubbish based on her performance in that task, while actually she’s just thinking ‘Eek! I’m really not comfortable bending over in this top! And if I actually manage to climb that ladder in these shoes, everyone will be able to see my knickers!’. And it potentially becomes quite gendered for that reason, since men’s smart clothes tend not to be so restrictive as women’s.

  16. Lindrine*

    OP#1 – I have been the team grumpy pants, partly to counteract a co-worker who hated to say no to people. I am also not good at hiding emotions. I have a lot of tells, including a “nose crinkle” when I don’t like something. I have to mentally put myself in a disassociated state of polite interest. If it gets really bad, I write things down, since that helps me distance myself emotionally. Here’s what I recommend for the chatty people: Give yourself 1 minute to talk to someone if they come up to your desk. Smile and be pleasant, then say “oh, no I have to hurry up and get [x] done! I’ll talk to you later.” If you can, give yourself “meetings” during the day to get work done. Then put on headphones if you are allowed or better yet a bluetooth headset. If your office uses IM, set up a custom meeting message or “Workin’ It!” away message. And yes, looking firm and not too friendly and saying “Things are pretty hectic today” can help. Also asking people for updates about work they owe you – it is amazing how fast people disappear.

    OP#3 – I went through the exact same thing with my father. He had been fighting cancer for several years, but by the time they caught it, it had spread throughout his body. He was in hospice care at home, and they told us he might have a few weeks, might have a few days. I discussed things with my boss and boss’ boss and they said “go take care of your family”. Allison’s advice is spot on.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      #3 In all companies with whom I’ve worked, any time a serious illness has arisen or family event (like birth), the people who can make the decision for the employee to have some flexible time have made it happen. A few were in the position to generously give paid time off without requiring use of PTO or vacation benefits. I hope all companies are this understanding and compassionate.

      1. Chinook*

        Ditto in all companies I have worked for being very understanding around family illnesses and deaths. Since some of these requests involved me having to take off enough time to fly across the country on zero notice, this has been huge. The best boss ever even went as far as saying “go now, we will figure the paperwork/time off issue later” when I told him that I, his only office person in an IT firm, that I didn’t know if I would be gone a few days or more than a week to a place without internet. And he meant it!

  17. Lizzy May*

    #1 I suggest trying out some coping strategies to see if you can clear your mind a bit and break out of the grumps when you notice them. Would a quick walk and some fresh air help? A little meditation? Try something to reframe your mindset. Everyone has bad days but long term you need a plan to deal with or without it impacting your coworkers.

  18. OP#4*

    Thanks for all of your advice. The problem is I have a supervisor and then she has a supervisor and my boss’ boss is very undermining and adversarial. I shouldn’t even be working closely with her but she very much micromanages my boss and is a very petty person. I had the verbal annual review and the one thing my boss said I’m very good at, my boss boss (during the annual review) nitpicked and came up with the most ridiculous rationale to say I need to work on that one strength. My boss likes me but her boss doesn’t. Apparently, this is a “thing” with her a lot of former employees who have just moved on rather than deal with her nonsense. She is supposed to be our big executive but she spends a lot of her time reading staff emails and checking my office mailboxes and nitpicking so I found it odd when it came time for annual review that she would ALL OF A SUDDEN choose such an informal method. I felt like it may be a set up. Thanks for all of your advice–there was actually nothing to sign after at the annual review.

    1. bridget*

      I know this isn’t the original question, but I’m wondering what’s causing your defensiveness to the review process in general, given that this is your first year at this job, your feedback was “overwhelmingly positive,” and this boss’s boss seems unpleasant and hard to deal with, but not incredibly outside of the norm (based on these details; maybe there are others). It’s not that unusual to have two different supervisors have different views on what priorities should be, and so each will see the same conduct differently. My immediate boss may appreciate my meticulousness and thoroughness, but the next supervisor up who has a bigger picture view of What Needs to Be Done And When thinks that I’m inefficient. This puts you in the uncomfortable spot of trying to balance competing priorities, but if it were me, I wouldn’t take it as a job dealbreaker in and of itself. Further, criticism (and even what appears to be nitpicky criticism) usually isn’t an out-and-out attack, like you stated in a previous comment.

      tl;dr – It may be that the boss’s boss creates such a bad work environment that it’s worth moving on, but if not, you may be jumping to being defensive and adversarial too quickly without it being warranted.

      1. bridget*

        That may have been inartfully worded – I’m saying that 1) informal feedback and 2) contradictory feedback from two supervisors doesn’t warrant defensiveness. It’s just one of those things.

        1. OP#4*

          Thanks Bridget. I get along with my boss fine, but my boss’ boss has created a lot of friction because she micromanages my boss. For example, at the review, my boss’ boss emphasized that I should come to her with any questions about any aspects of my job and because she is the ultimate decision-maker–this essentially sidelines my boss. In addition, my boss’ boss is irrational and very petty and has likes to target me for small, petty things, so I don’t really like more interaction with her than necessary. She let me know I have NO potential of moving up the ladder and she (my boss’ boss) just doesn’t like me. Apparently, I’m in a long line of employees to whom this happens to with her. I was terrified of the review. What happened was that my boss said overwhelmingly positive things, and then her boss jumped in and undercut and essentially said negative things which were directly related to what my boss called strengths. At the end of the day, my boss’ boss’ decision trumps and she made that VERY clear so if she doesn’t personally like me AND she is petty AND she targets me, then I feel she will just sideline me so that I can be terminated or leave on my own accord. That’s the story and that’s a whole different situation I need advice on, but that’s a big of the backstory of what I was terrified of this verbal annual review.

  19. Allison*

    I feel you, OP #1, I’ve been grumpy a lot these days. Bad weather, stupid breakup with my stupid ex and his stupid face, stupid drivers on my commute, overly aggressive drivers on my commute, and an airheaded co-worker who talks to me like I’m some teenage bimbo who doesn’t know how to do my job, all combine to make me really grumpy very often. Really, I’ve considered putting a picture of Grumpy Cat on my cubicle wall, or maybe as my laptop background . . .

    A couple things help:

    1) Caffeine. A 5 Hour Energy shot, or a generic energy shot from Costco, can work wonders in turning me into Happy Cat, especially when it’s combined with the right music.

    2) Getting out of the office helps. Working from home once a week is good, or if that’s not possible, at least take a walk every now and then to get away, clear your mind, and get the blood flowing.

    3) Find ways to blow off steam after work. I dance most nights a week, and having something fun to do after work not only puts me in a better mood in general (conversely, when I wasn’t dancing as often, I found myself more anxious and irritable), but gives me something to look forward to when work is making me grumpy.

    1. Dasha*

      “stupid breakup with my stupid ex and his stupid face” comment really made me laugh! Sounds like you’re having a rough patch and I hope things get better for you, Allison!

      1. AnonEMoose*

        A friend of mine once referred to her then-recent ex as a “bastard coated bastard with creamy bastard filling.”

        1. Allison*

          she totally stole that from Scrubs. I wouldn’t call my ex a bastard, just a moron, and maybe a man-baby.

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      I’m loving the caffeine turning her into Happy Cat. That’s magical and so true. OP1, if your health doesn’t preclude you from consuming caffeine, it is a known mood booster.

      1. Allison*

        I’ll also mention that a little wine after work can be magical as well. Once you’re done driving, of course!

    3. nona*

      That caffeine/music combination is magical.

      Having something good to do before or after work helps me feel better, too. Just getting up early to make a better breakfast and watch something on Netflix in the morning makes a big difference.

      1. Allison*

        Are you me? That’s how I start my morning too! Eggs, fruit, and a whole grain English muffin with low fat cream cheese, while watching Mad Men on Netflix is my current routine – previous shows have been Scrubs, Gilmore Girls, and the occasional standup special.

          1. Dutch Thunder*

            Also, am I the only one who watches a bit of Gilmore girls to “Lorelai up” before difficult conversations at work? (To be clear, I watch the night before, not at work. I’m not sure my boss would like that.)

    4. Chinook*

      “I’ve considered putting a picture of Grumpy Cat on my cubicle wall, or maybe as my laptop background ”

      Forget grumpy cat as wallpaper. I haev discovered a photo of snow monkey poking out of a hot springs with his hair pointing in all directions with the goofiest grin ever. I have yet to meet one person who has seen it on my computer not LOL when they saw it.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          You are right – I’m crabby this morning, and I thought “no way is this picture going to even make me smile INTERNALLY” and I’m downloading it right now to send to my friends.

  20. Alis*


    I do not understand why circumventing a reference check has ever crossed your mind?

    If this field is THAT small, then the reputation of your current employment may be very important within the circle, correct? Giving a positive reference to someone who may not qualify for it could reflect terribly upon your new company.

    Not to mention, why would you risk your own job? You weren’t an insider, you don’t know what happened – many times, even coworkers don’t know. That’s the whole point of speaking to former supervisors.

    I can’t imagine, as a new employee, feeling I had any input on the reference of a former employee who left before me.

    1. Alis*

      I realize now you meant to let her know not to use them rather than anything positive, but the point still stands.

  21. Dot Warner*

    OP #1, I feel for you because I’m basically in the same situation. I hate my job and I’ve been trying not to take it out on my coworkers (the only part of the job I actually like). You say you’ve been stressed; would it help for you to take a long weekend and just relax? Even a staycation can do wonders for your mental health. If it’s something outside of work that’s upsetting you, maybe 3-4 days off can help you deal with it, or at least forget about it for a little while. Or, if it’s work that’s causing all your stress, maybe a few days off will help you get started on job hunting. Either way, good luck!

  22. Dasha*

    #1 I have been that grumpy person before. I once had a job where I was one person with four bosses and they were all constantly fighting. I had two that would scream at me for no reason. I also had an extremely stressful position even though I was basically doing the same thing my co-workers were just for a different department they had normal managers and normal workloads. We had an open floor plan and they’d constantly talk, goof off, play around, look at the internet, etc while I was getting screamed at (I was one person in Teapot Promotions & Design and the other six were in Teapot Marketing). I couldn’t help but to be incredibly grumpy, especially since I was working so hard and everyone else was playing around all day. Ultimately, the only solution for me was to leave. One of the best decisions I made for my mental and physical health. Don’t miss that place at all.

    So, OP #1 I ask – is work causing you to be grumpy or something else? If it is something else, then try to put it away during working hours but if it is work really examine what is bothering you. Is it going to get better? Are you going to be able to learn to cope with it? Or maybe you need to find a better place?

    I also found that just being able to talk to a friend about things that were bothering me helped a lot and I agree with another poster who mentioned working from home one day a week, taking a walk, having something fun to look forward to after work, etc.

  23. Courtney*

    I was at a job where I was very unhappy and it showed badly. Management didn’t support employees at all when needed. I had a client who would routinely swear and was verbally abusive and I warned her and hung up the phone on her during one of her verbal, profanity-laced tirades after telling her several times we needed to talk when calm and would work through the issues.

    My boss rode my behind until I called her back and she screamed and she swore at me again. We had an in person meeting during which he was present and she swore at me in front of him while he sat there. Yes I was very grumpy, stressed and downright miserable at that job. But when you need the income what can you do until you can find another job.

  24. Lanya*

    #1, If your grumpiness is a cyclical thing, sometimes it helps to explain why it is happening, and people may be a bit more forgiving about it. I tend to get moody/grumpy during allergy season (aka right now). My allergies make me feel very irritable, and my ears become sensitive to loud noises, which is tough when you have loud coworkers. So my patience can run short. And then the allergy medicine, although it helps my symptoms, has the side effect of anxiety, which is also not fun to be around. So…it’s not a great time of year. I always try to apologize in advance and explain to people why I might seem moody for a few weeks every April, and I maintain a pleasant demeanor the rest of the year.

  25. LBK*

    #1 I’ve had a few managers tell me that I’m very hot and cold and that my personal life emotions shine through in my work attitude too often. If this is an option for you, I would book a conference room for an hour or two in the morning on those grumpy days and do your work in there – having some quiet time to just dive into your work can you help refocus and relax. I know I’m extra irritable about interruptions when I’m grumpy, so having some time to churn out pure productivity can help you work some of the grump out of your system before you have to talk to your coworkers.

    I realize this isn’t always feasible depending on your job duties, but I’d recommend trying it out if it is.

  26. YandO*

    I am grumpy. I hate my boss. I hate that he lies to me and the clients. I hate that he has not delivered on promises he made when I took this job. I hate that he and his wife are inappropriate with me on regular basis.

    Yeah, I am grumpy. I try to limit my interactions with them to a bare minimum. This is not good for their business, but it is crucial for my sanity.

    Also, job search has helped in some ways, but made it tougher in many other ways.

    Do the best you can and give yourself a break when “the best” is only slightly improved grumpy version of yourself.

  27. Sospeso*

    OP #3, so sorry to hear that you are dealing with this. The illness of a parent can be so tough, and then you find yourself balancing that with work as well. I understand wanting to have time to process it on your own first, especially because the nature of so many serious conditions is that they’re somewhat unpredictable. It can be challenging to know how to mentally prepare yourself.

    I’d encourage you to talk with your direct supervisor about it at least. Give them a heads up about the situation, and as Alison said, let them know you’ll update them as things develop. They may ask if you are okay with them informing your team, so it’s worth considering how you feel about that before broaching the conversation. This might also be a good opportunity to discuss a loose contingency plan about the project you’re working on, in case you’re unable to continue it or take point on it in the future. That kind of thing seemed very trite to me when I my mom’s cancer recurred: you know, here’s one of the most serious things that could possibly be happening, and I am ruminating about work projects. But addressing some of it up front when things were (relatively) low stress gave me the ability to put work on the back (back back) burner when I needed to be there with my mom.

    Sending good thoughts your way.

  28. RG*

    OP #1, something a college friend told me once might help: whenever you have a situation that causes a negative reaction, pick a short amount of time based in the situation. 30 seconds, 5 minutes, whatever seems appropriate based on the situation. Then, for that short period of time, be angry, sulk, cry, or whatever it is toy want to do; in other words, just feel. But once that time is up, you stop. You’re done focusing on what that situation is, and instead are moving on to either problem solving the situation or something. That way, you can acknowledge your feelings, because sometimes things do suck and do upset you, but you’re also not wallowing in those feelings; it has a definite endpoint.

    1. nona*


      This works for me. I haven’t been upset enough to need it at work, but this works. Didn’t know anyone else did it.

    2. OriginalEmma*

      Reminds me of Jack’s method of quelling fear on LOST (I believe it was letting himself feel absolutely afraid while counting for 5 seconds, then sucking it up when he hit 0 and getting on with – in this case – spinal surgery that would determine whether his patient would walk again).

  29. Cubicle Joe*

    The cubicle to the right of me:

    I’m hungry I’m tired I’m achy I’m grumpy I’m stressed I’m so busy but oddly enough have enough time to tell you that I’m busy.

    To the left of me:

    Everything is awful and everyone is awful and the world is awful and if you don’t spend all day telling everyone that then you are awful, too.

    Unfortunately, we live in a society where many people think that everything they feel MUST be shared.

    Lighten up, do your job, and stop using coworkers as therapists.

    1. Allison*

      I get really annoyed with people who constantly vocalize their stress at work. All the moaning, groaning, huffing, puffing, and grunting really wears on ya. And the stomping, and the rushing around, and the urgent whispering, and the “ohhh I’m sooooo busy, I have sooooo many meetings, can you believe how busy it is?? BUSY BUSY BUSY!”

      Look, I get it, work isn’t fun. Work can be stressful, and life can be tough, and I’m not saying people can’t ever talk about what’s bothering them, but I do see how negativity can spread if you’re just radiating it all day.

    2. Dana*

      When I worked in the pharmacy I had a pharmacist/manager/boss who would lose his s**t when…we got busy, a customer irritated him, etc., but he would get red in the face, bang things, throw the phone at the receiver, swear under his breath (and sometimes not), be short at the staff, and just generally make me want to hide in the corner (I was a teenager). I was terrified of him until I got to know the other side of him, which was very helpful, happy and even fun to be around. I would mention to OP #1 that how you act when you aren’t grumpy can make a huge difference, or at least it did for this guy. I could excuse the bouts of anger because he made up for it when he was in a good mood. If he wasn’t ever happy or pleasant to be around, I would have felt differently. Maybe that’s just me.

  30. Merry and Bright*

    On #2, I wonder if potential employers calling for references are going on more than the LinkedIn profile? The OP has noted that the ex-employee hasn’t updated her profile so it suggests she is still employed by the organization (though it is true as discussed here before that people can be a bit slow to update their details).

    I don’t know how routine it really is for hirers to Google potential employees. But perhaps they have done just that, seen her name come up in the scandal and are phoning the Old Employer to check things out? If the field is that small, they might already be aware of this and so are calling the organization first? Or perhaps she has implied on her resume/CV that she is still working there. I guess it depends how far through the hiring process the hiring companies already are, and in what order they take these steps.

    Obviously there is absolutely nothing wrong in the organization giving out accurate information to potential employers who call up. But I can understand the OP feeling uncomfortable watching her coworkers seeming to take pleasure in it all; this could be heightened for her because it happened before her time there so she is at least half a step removed from it. However, being human, if a coworker has done something to harm your organization’s public name in the media it is understandable for the rest of you to react that way. Big scandals have wide ripple effect.

  31. Hillary*

    #5 – this may be a situation where a temp agency is your friend. I used to work at a warehouse where we had to flex labor up and down a lot. We always preferred referrals, so we’d sometimes have the agency come in Monday morning and sign up our team for the week. In this kind of environment you might be able to get them for a longer trial and pay through an agency instead of payroll.

  32. maggiethecat*

    I am having an issue with the website. I am trying to read scrolling down and keep getting sent ‘up thread’ to where the video ad is once again visible. (Where as when I scroll down to read the ad is not in sight after a certain point). This is in Chrome and on my desktop if that helps!

  33. Observer*

    To OP #1, something that might help is thinking about your attitude towards the whole issue. There seems to be a meme in our culture that open = honest = good, often even when it leads to difficult behavior. As you have discovered, that kind of thing can cause problems. The catch here is that the underlying assumption is often unstated (even internally) and unexamined, but influences behavior without a person realizing it. However, trying to curb the negative results of a behavior or attitude without recognizing the issues with that attitude is harder than if you also deal with the underlying attitude.

    In your case, it might be easier for you to handle things appropriately if you start to consciously remind yourself that it is not bad, dishonest or hypocritical for you to sometimes mask or hide your emotions, or to act in ways that are counter to the way you are feeling. That in fact, sometimes that is a very good thing to do. It’s much easier to do things for which you can give yourself a pat on the back, than slightly icky things that you HAVE to do.

    1. C Average*

      Yep, this. Authenticity is great, except when it’s not. Part of coexisting with other people is sometimes acting better than you feel.

    2. Cubicle Joe*

      >>> It is not bad to sometimes . . . mask or hide your emotions.


      These “telling it like it is” types seem to pride themselves on letting it all hang out.

      Fact is, they display the utmost in immaturity and insecurity.

      I learned in kindergarten that you don’t shove Susie at the water fountain, and you don’t tell your least favorite aunt that she’s fat.

      Amazing number of so-called adults who think they don’t have to filter anything. Sometimes you just have to buck up, hold your tongue, and get on with the day.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I so agree with the comments here. Life is not a contest to see who is the most miserable. Matter of fact, those who can carry on are those who have a better quality of life over all.
      I have been reading here and there about how we respond in bad situations dictates are overall quality of life. What we decide to do when the chips are down can make us or break us for YEARS to come.
      Recently one friend had problem X. Another friend saw the problem and decided to help. The friend with the problem started running her mouth about other people and her miserable life and so on. Guess what happened next? My second friend did NOT help the first friend. In as much as he felt bad about her difficulty she was running down people who had been good to him. Problem X still sits there untouched. And how many times does this happen? We have no way of knowing.
      So, yeah, we can let all that honesty show for all to see, but it comes with a price. Call it karma, fate, human nature, it’s there.

  34. Observer*

    To #2, I don’t really understand your question. Yes, I get that the glee you are hearing is unpleasant. But the rest puzzles me.

    Firstly, why are you calling what your co-workers are doing “sabotage”? From your description, they are doing nothing of the sort. It’s not just that what they are saying is totally true. It’s also that they are not even adding unnecessary information. You noted that when someone called your co-worker, she didn’t even say WHY the former worker left. What were you expecting her to do? It’s not reasonable to expect people to try to fudge the truth here, for someone who put the organization in a very bad place.

    The bigger the mess someone makes, the bigger and longer term the consequences are. If she messed up so badly that anyone googling her name or the name of your organization will quickly find out about it and the damage she did to the organization, then the results really are going to haunt her. That’s the classic definition of a “career liiting move.” And in a field that is as small and tight as you describe, it often DOES mean the end of a career in that field. I’m not going to get into whether this is deserved; it doesn’t make a difference. It IS, however, something that anyone who engages in actions that put their organization at the wrong and of a law suit should expect.

  35. Twentysomething Millennial*

    Regarding #2. My first boss was really horrible, toxic, and unprofessional. Just to give you an idea of how unprofessional she is, when I gave my two weeks, she sent me an angry email saying how ungrateful I was of her generosity in giving me, a recent grad, a chance to work for her. She laid us off after 4 months and then hired us on a contract basis because she couldn’t pay us full-time, and yet thought we were ungrateful young people. Anyway, I’m afraid of putting her company on my resume and listing her as a reference because I really wouldn’t put it past her to badmouth me. But seeing as it’s good experience and I would only have one other professiona job experience, should I include it anyway?

    1. M*

      Are you currently working or still looking for a job?

      I would include the job on resume but leave her off as a personal reference. If you’re already working then use newest manager and cultivate relationship with others that are relevant (for example if you volunteer somewhere on a regular basis using skills that are work applicable have someone from the organization act as a reference). If you absolutely need a reference from that job can you ask another supervisor/manager to be your contact? Your reference doesn’t have to still work there but they need to be able to discuss your work while you were there.

    2. Observer*

      Also, if she says things like “it was so ungrateful for twentysomething to leave my employ” most prospective employers will understand that she is the problem, not you. If they don’t get it, then that tells you something very valuable about the employer. I wouldn’t accept a job for an employer like that unless I were desperate.

    3. Anx*

      At this point, I wonder if ‘ungrateful’ and ‘entitled’ are just words to gaslight young, inexperienced, and desperate workers into thinking they are crazy for questioning these types of work environments and management styles.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I tend to think so. It enables them to keep doing what ever stupid thing they are doing.

  36. Susan*


    I’m a naturally negative person, too. I think I inherited it from my parents. There’s this speech I like — um, here’s a very non painful, shortened, motion graphics version of it that I find really inspirational. I think sometimes when you stop to consider everyone else is as stressed, tired, and unhappy as you are it easier to have a little compassion in how you interact with them.


  37. MsChanandlerBong*

    Hearing about people doing unpaid work makes my eye twitch, mostly because I’m in the freelance writing world, and a lot of potential “clients” (usually cheapskates who don’t want to pay) give out test assignments. A client really should be able to evaluate a writer’s skill based on his or her portfolio. If not, then a test sample isn’t so bad if everyone has to write about the exact same topic.

    Unfortunately, some people use the application process as a way to get free work. If they need 10 articles, for example, they’ll narrow the pool to 10 “finalists” and then give each person a different topic. At the end of the process, no one is hired, but the client has 10 free articles.

  38. Audiophile*

    #5 I saw a job post once, that said be prepared to work half the day, at the later stage of the interview.
    I couldn’t tell if this was to assess skills or to utilize talent, but it definitely turned me off from applying.
    I can understand testing for skills such as Microsoft Office or Photoshop, but this job post really made it sound like you’d be working with your potential team and spend half your day on actual work that the company would later use.

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