open thread – April 10, 2015

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

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

{ 1,308 comments… read them below }

  1. TCO

    I could use some tips on strong resume words. I took a great new job about 9 months ago, and while I’m not looking to leave, I do want to update my resume and LinkedIn profile with my new responsibilities.

    I came from small organizations where I had a lot of ownership over my work. My resume is filled with words like “developed,” “managed,” and “oversaw.”

    In my current job, I have much less autonomy. I’ll gain more over time, but in the meantime my role is more of a program supporter than a program manager. My official job description is filled with words like “coordinate,” “support,” and “assist,” and those are pretty accurate descriptions of what I do. It’s high-level support, and a very respected and competitive role, but I still don’t have true ownership over many of my projects.

    It’s not really a step down in the level of work, but it certainly looks different on paper. I don’t want to overstate my program management/ownership (especially since I’m connected to all of my coworkers on LinkedIn), but I also don’t want to give the impression that this job has less responsibility than my prior jobs.

    Any advice about how I finesse this?

    1. danr

      Don’t “finesse” anything. Let yourself grow into the position and change your profile as your role changes. The people in the company will know if you’re being honest in how you describe what you do, and they’re your main audience now.

      1. TCO

        Actually, I work with a lot of external stakeholders, and some of them are pretty influential. Networking is a big deal here and could give me opportunities when I’m ready to move. My skills will obviously come out in my interactions with people, but I also want to make my LinkedIn profile really reflect my talents.

    2. Malissa

      Can you go with some thing like:
      Supports X amount of users
      Coordinates 3 teams to project completion

      Coordinate and support are both powerful words. Use them, just include specific metrics.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Focus less on “strong resume words” (that tends to be kind of weak advice from people who don’t write great resumes) and more on ensuring that as many bullet points as possible describe achievements, not just activities you engaged in. It shouldn’t read like a list of duties; it should read like a list of outcomes that you achieved.

      1. TCO

        That’s a helpful reminder; thanks. I’d say my current LinkedIn description describes my accomplishments, but not necessarily the impacts of those accomplishments, if that makes sense. I could strengthen it by highlighting the ways in which our team’s work outcomes have improved thanks to the “behind the scenes” efforts I put in.

    4. Career Counselor

      Hi,
      This question is not career counselor-client related but an internal office question. I am the only one in my office who works with my organization, so sometimes it is hard to figure out who I to report to on non-work related matters. However, there is this awful woman that works next to me. She is very rude to her boss and coworkers. I have only said a couple of words to her in the year that she has been here, but she knows I do not like her. I am assuming she has asked her coworkers why I don’t like her and I am not sure if they have told her the truth. Pretty much everyone in the office has either complained to her boss or the center supervisor about her behavior and her tone. I am leaving just because of her. Is there any point in when I do leave writing her a letter saying that she needs to be nicer to people? I know people do not change that easily, but it frustrates me that she gets away with it and good talent is leaving because of her (not only me but others in the office have requested a transfer).
      Thank you,

      1. River

        Any point? It might make you feel a sense of satisfaction, I suppose. Other than that, no. If her boss and supervisor already know people have problems working with her, and they haven’t addressed it, then that’s really the issue here. Of course, it’s possible they are doing something about these complaints that you simply are not privy to.

        Either way, sending her a letter as you suggest is not going to do anything to help the situation. If you have an exit interview, you could politely bring this up. Otherwise, move on and forget it.

  2. edj3

    I’d love your thoughts on a question my husband and I were discussing last week.

    I had an offer coming in on a consulting position—great pay, 15 month commitment, doing work I like in a new-to-me industry. I’ve been doing external consulting for the last seven years or so, and getting that kind of a long-contract is a Very Good Thing. However, I also knew I probably had an offer coming in for a permanent position, which I was very interested in.

    My husband thought that I could ask the hiring manager for the consulting job for a few days to think about it so I could talk to the hiring manager for the permanent position. I thought that no, that would be very strange, that in consulting you pretty much answer on the spot. Of course that may be confirmation bias on my part, because that’s what I’ve done.

    If you’ve hired consultants, what’s your take? Would you give your top person the couple of days or would you say never mind, cross that name off your list and move to #2?

    1. IT Kat

      Personally, I’d give the top contender a few days. Consulting is a job, like any other. I think any reasonable person would feel the same and be willing to wait a few days, unless it’s something that has been communicated as needed to be started ASAP.

      Note the keyword up there: “reasonable”. As we know, not all people are reasonable. But unless you’ve seen red flags during the process, I don’t see any reason to not ask.

    2. QAT Contractor

      I don’t think it’s strange at all. As a consultant you can easily have a lot of open positions you are contacted about at the same time and taking a couple days to think about which one will be better for you makes sense.

    3. KathyGeiss

      I’m not in consulting and I don’t hire consultants, so disregard if this doesn’t work.

      Could you go with a version of the truth? Say something like, “this sounds great for me but I have another client up in the air right now that I’d like to confirm with first to ensure I can dedicate the appropriate tkme to this project. Can you give me 3 days to firm that up before I give you an answer?”

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Or even “something else up in the air” if you don’t want to say it’s another potential client.

    4. edj3

      You guys are making my husband do his happy dance since you’ve all lined up with what he thought :)

  3. Yellow Flowers

    I had an interesting AAM/Alison moment this week. I’m growing frustrated with an administrative assistant in my office. My first response was wanting to vent about it to someone else who works for me in a different position but would understand my frustration. Then I realized how inappropriate it was for me to talk to one employee about another. So, I thought of reaching out to a peer in my office – another department head – that I’m friendly with and talking with her. As I was thinking of what I would say to her, I realized that was also inappropriate, and if I had an problem with an employee, THAT is who I should be talking to. Thanks to Alison and the AAM community for helping me realize that if I have a problem with someone, the first step should be talking with that person. Seems pretty basic, but it was a really powerful realization.

    1. cuppa

      Sometimes it’s amazing to me how I know things, but I don’t realize them. Once I come to the realization that I am doing the wrong thing, or I need to do something else, it’s like a big DUH!

    2. KathyGeiss

      This is awesome.

      I’ve been in the position where a boss vents to me about other employees and I can confirm it’s truly awkward. Even when I totally agree with the boss about the problem it felt weird and uncomfortable. Yay for you for avoiding that!

    3. Gen

      I can absolutely relate to this. There have been at least a dozen instances where I’ve stopped myself from complaining even to my husband about work and thought, “what would Alison do?” This is one of the greatest things I’ve learned from reading this site religiously for two years now.

        1. HeyNonnyNonny

          I’d settle for a cross stitch sampler or something, I could hang it right in my cube!

    4. Michele

      Could you please let about half the people in my department know about this? No one ever addresses things directly. They will literally huddle in corners and whisper about another person rather than have a conversation with the person they are whispering about. It is like a junion high school hallway around here.

    5. Rin

      The only time this doesn’t work is when the person just won’t hear. Like if I tell this one person he’s doing something either incorrectly or even annoying or whatever, he’ll scream or attack me, but if I tell my boss to tell him, then sometimes he’ll change. It’s because he doesn’t respect me, and I couldn’t possibly know what I’m talking about or be annoyed by anything he does.

  4. Sue

    What makes a good manager?

    I’ve been in the professional workforce, at two different Fortune 500 companies, for 10 years, in which time I’ve had over a dozen managers, and I wouldn’t consider any of them a particularly good manager. There are some I liked on a personal level, and some whose knowledge and professional achievements I respected, but none I actually considered to be good at managing. I’m thinking about entering the management track myself, but I’m concerned about the fact that I don’t have a single role model to whom I can look as an example of a good manager.

    I recognize that management is harder than it looks, and sometimes I wonder if being a good manager and being a successful manager are mutually exclusive. All of my managers who have succeeded in moving up the ladder have treated employees terribly — threatening and punishing employees, not respecting work/life balance, lying and making false promises to employees, and throwing employees under the bus at every opportunity. I would hate myself if I became this kind of manager, and yet it seems as though this style of management gets rewarded.

    I also recognize that “good management” depends on perspective. For example, poor performers and unmotivated employees like managers who will leave them alone and not hold them accountable, but this is clearly not good management, and could cause resentment from good performers. I think a lot of the shortfalls I’ve seen in management styles come down to addressing conflicts and performance problems, and my managers have generally been split between (1) avoiding conflict, letting problems fester, and allowing poor performers to drag the team down, and (2) being jerks, addressing problems with threats and intimidation, and punishing the whole team for the failings of a few.

    TL;DR: What makes a manager good? If you’ve had a good manager — someone who could be a role model for aspiring managers — what differentiates them from the bad and mediocre ones? How can a manager strike a balance between treating her employees well and pleasing her own managers?

    1. Dawn

      A good manager will help you see and develop your professional strengths. She’ll also help you identify your professional weaknesses or shortcomings, and help you make them stronger. She’ll push you to do new things, encourage you to stretch yourself, offer advice when it’s needed, and guide you to grow. She’ll force independence while at the same time having your back so you know you can come to her if you need to. She’ll dictate tasks when that’s what’s called for, and she’ll leave things up to your own judgement when she knows that you can handle it. Most importantly, she’ll trust you and the things that she’s taught you and will guide you to autonomy, and ultimately guide you towards wherever you want to go in your career whether it’s moving into her job or into a different role, or growing within your own role and expanding your responsibilities.

    2. The Other Dawn

      For me it’s treating people fairly, not playing favorites, being willing to be “in the weeds” sometimes along with your direct reports when it’s needed, listening, and going to bat for people when it’s called for.

      1. The Other Dawn

        Obviously there’s more, but that’s off the top of my head.

        Another one…telling someone they need to improve on something, rather than letting it go and letting them think everything is A-OK. Didn’t happen to me, but I’ve seen it happen.

      2. Jennifer

        I second this. Being on the side of your employees and doing your best to fight for them instead of leaving them under the bus.

        I love my manager, but … yeah, she’s not one of those “bad managers,” so she never got ahead, I guess. Well, I doubt she cares too much on that score.

      3. JPixel

        +1 to working alongside your employees in the trenches, whether it’s filling in for someone below you or just sticking around when you could easily just go home and let the people below you deal with whatever the problem is.

    3. Apollo Warbucks

      I’m sure I read something Alison had written that said some of her worst managers taught her the most, as an example of not what to do. So not having a positive role model isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    4. C Average

      You know, I’ve been trying to work this out myself. I recently sent a thank-you email to the best manager I’ve ever had, and just trying to put into words WHY he was the best manager I’ve ever had was really challenging.

      I think his best quality was his ability to set and maintain a calm, confident tone. I imagine working for him was like being on the crew of a ship with a wise, experienced captain. The dude just had a very cool head and calm demeanor and an ability to spread that emotional climate to those who reported to him. Working for him, I felt like all problems were ultimately solvable and no project was too hard.

      He was incredibly astute at office politics and at the same time incredibly direct in his own interactions–a combination I’ve found to be almost unheard of. He operated with complete awareness of the various spoken and unspoken hierarchies, but managed to be unfailingly honest and authentic.

      He asked for exactly what he wanted in clear words, and he gave clear feedback. You never had to wonder whether he was pleased with your work or not. He’d praise you if he was pleased, and he’d give you direct, kind, and in-private feedback when he wasn’t.

      He worked insanely hard and set a very high standard for his team. It’s the only team I’ve ever been on where I truly believe the manager was the hardest-working person on the team. He never said he expected any of the rest of us to work as hard as he did, but the example he set inspired all of us to do our best.

      The dude was a mensch, personally and professionally. It was a privilege to work for him.

    5. KathyGeiss

      Have you considered looking for a different company that has a culture of training and rewarding good management? I feel like some companies do well at this and others don’t so even moving within a company won’t provide good management. At my company, managers are trained in leadership and people management. They aren’t always the best at the skill or technical aspect of the team but they are hired for people management skills. It makes a huge difference.

      Sounds like the companies you’ve worked for reward poor management as a part of their culture.

      1. Sue

        The awful management was one of the main reasons I changed companies in the first place, but the second company was just as bad! I’m not sure I want to keep moving around because of this; I feel like it’s a bit of a wild goose chase.

        Oddly enough, both companies have quite a bit of formal management training. Every new manager attends a 3-week management training class as well as Crucial Conversations training. I just think the companies don’t practice what they preach. I’ve seen a lot of managers start out ok, but quickly fall into the same bad habits as the rest of management.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Some companies have all the right talk but then do not allow people to have the time to actually do it. They switch deadlines, change responsibilities and so on which just sets off a chain of chaos.
          I worked for a company that added on 2-3 more procedures every week. This was on top of the the 110K procedures we already had. “Oh, it only takes a minute or two.” Well, that is true, but that is also a superficial view of what is going on. A 8 hour day is 480 minutes. It is not possible to do 600 tasks that only take a minute in that same period. To me it was simple math.
          Honestly, I think that some of the things companies preach is merely to satisfy external stakeholders. “Yes, we always tell our people X, Y and Z.”
          Yeah, but do you give them time to do it????

        2. Graciosa

          I think part of the issue is the fundamental question of how managers are rewarded.

          One nice thing for me at the moment is that I have a manager who is clearly concerned about how well I’m developing talent on my team. If my manager was solely focused on short-term production, my job as a manager would be a lot harder.

          This doesn’t mean that I have no responsibility for results – I absolutely do. It does mean my boss reacts positively when I tell him that I’m sending someone out for training, or that the whole team will be unavailable for a couple days because we’re going to work off site on a long-term improvement project.

          A reaction of “How can X be out of the office when we have so much work to do?” would send a very different message about what my boss thinks my priorities should be.

    6. Stef

      I remember a couple of posts from Alison where she explained that she learned how to be a good manager by trying to NOT do what the terrible manager she had in the past did.
      I think that goes perfectly here: do you remember being pissed of by managers treating people unfairly or letting things fester? Aim to treat the people you supervise as you would have liked to be treated and don’t fall into the common fear of facing issues when they present themselves and fix them.

    7. JPixel

      I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I consider where my own career in management should be going. Here are the first things that come to my mind when I think about a good manager. It’s someone who:
      1. Meets with employees and sets clear goals for the job and for how to be successful
      2. Addresses issues as they happen and makes sure employees understand the repercussions
      3. Gives positive feedback when people do well – directly to the person and publicly (to the department, other managers, whoever is relevant)
      4. Understands what her employees do even if she doesn’t have that specific skill set and is not afraid to ask questions/not be the expert
      5. Is invested in growing and retaining talent and making them feel valuable, even if employees are not in their “dream jobs” – i.e. even if the job has low pay, bad hours, little responsibility, etc.

      I think a mediocre manager dodges uncomfortable situations or only cares that the job gets done, not that it gets done well.

      1. The HR Witch

        +1 to these, and adding
        6. Asks for and works with feedback from her team – even the best manager has learning edges/blind spots and those being managed often have the best perspective for identifying them!

    8. matcha123

      The places I’ve worked full-time probably differ from the typical American office; I have one person who’s kind of like the manager of my little island of four (including myself). She has the final word on most of our work before it’s passed off to our department’s two higher-ups.

      What she does that I like is observe. She doesn’t immediately go with the loudest or flashiest person. She tries to delegate work as fairly as she can and tries to match tasks to areas we have competence in. For example, she knows that I have some knowledge about website building and such, so she’s asked me to tackle our website and web related translations. It’s also easy to voice our ideas and she encourages us to use our vacation time.

      This is certainly easier with a smaller group, but I think that in general people who are a bit quieter have their ideas and work styles suppressed by louder and more aggressive types.

    9. Joey

      The ability to be tough but kind. And someone who gets results by motivating you to perform. They motivate you by removing the barriers in front of you, making the environment as pleasant as possible, treating you with respect and dignity, and is fair.

    10. The RO-Cat

      My go-to book was – and still is – First Break All The Rules. It doesn’t really depict the portrait of the Ultimate Manager, but it gives enough information for anyone to get there. I learned a lot from it (and its sequel, Follow This Path).

    11. AdAgencyChick

      1. Empathy (without crossing the line into coddling). A manager who puts herself into her employees’ shoes is a manager who won’t dump all the work onto them while she waltzes out the door at 5 PM, who will take care to communicate clearly (because often, when you don’t get back the work product you want, it’s because you didn’t ask for it as clearly as you thought you did), and who will keep an eye on her direct reports’ long-term career paths — even if that means one day managing a direct report into a different position or even helping her find opportunities outside the organization. I realize this last is sometimes at odds with what an employer wants — if, say, a star performer is being underpaid, the organization might prefer that the manager focus on ways to retain that employee without paying her more. But I think part of being a good manager is helping people along the career path that’s best for them, not necessarily working your direct reports for as much as you can get out of them until they figure out they could be doing better elsewhere.

      2. Knowing how to discipline and, when necessary, fire, with compassion. You can like an employee and treat her well even through a PIP or a firing, recognizing that a bad fit doesn’t necessarily mean a bad person.

      3. Not being afraid of difficult conversations, and going into one prepared for what *might* happen, but also not having a script in your head of what will happen, so that you’re prepared to listen to what reaction you actually get (in case it’s not the one you’re anticipating).

    12. TheLazyB

      Wow. Reading this i realise one of my very first managers was good but most of the others have sucked.
      I think i need to learn to manage myself.

    13. JMegan

      The best manager I ever had was when I worked in a bookstore.

      *When giving instructions, he would show us what to do, then give us the space to do it.
      *If we did something well, he would tell us. If we made a mistake, he would tell us how to fix it.
      *He shielded us from the Big Boss, who was a micromanaging nitwit.
      *He did formal performance reviews annually, and that there were never any surprises in them (see above.)
      *He kept the schedule for part-timers as stable and predictable as possible, with changes posted as far in advance as possible.
      *The store occasionally held events in the evening, after our usual closing hours. He tried to make sure that everybody got their preference for working or not working the extra hours; and when that wasn’t possible he was transparent and fair about assigning them.

      In short – he respected his staff as human beings with lives outside the store, he assumed we were able to do our jobs, and he helped us out when we didn’t. That bookstore is long gone, but if I had the opportunity I would work for him again in a heartbeat!

  5. Nervous Accountant

    I emailed Alison but I’d like some advice on this if its not too late….?

    The other day I got a message from a coworker that said “other than being weird I think “Nervous Accountant” is kind of a bitch bc she never wants to help with work”. Once she realized she sent it to me she sent me more msgs expressing embarrassment and that she meant to say someone else’s name.

    Normally, I would have given benefit of the doubt but then my gut tells me otherwise.

    [The quick background if it matters?–I posted in the open thread about 2 weeks ago about how people thought I was weird ans not in a good way and didn’t like me, a friend-coworker explained why and I fixed those habits….it helped a little].

    This person though, this was someone I had considered a work friend. I never got any feeling from her that she was upset w me about anything. And whenever she had questions about work I did my best to help her but I’m fairly inexperienced as well so I’m still unsure of many things.

    The friend-coworker was trying to mend things by saying this person who sent the msg felt really bad and doesn’t dislike me…yet she hasn’t once approached me to apologize. I’m carrying on like normal and just don’t speak to her (haven’t needed to buy if I did I think i would be polite and professional).

    What do you guys think? Am I overreacting? Is this something you take to a manager? Should I say something to her or let it go? I’ve always had a hard time standing up for myself and I end up letting people walk all over me. Even when I got the chat all I said was “I’m sorry I always try to help you the best that I can.”

    Im just so so so tired of being on eggshells. I think I have so many good things to offer as a friend and coworker but it doesn’t feel like anyone sees it. It feels like everyone else is allowed to have flaws and still be well liked. I put 100% into everything and clients (sometimes) say I’m mean and coworkers call me a bitch.

    I’ve had 2-3 days to calm down now but i felt pretty shitty that night and I still have bad feelings. One of the things I loved about this company from temping last year was how friendly and genuine everyone was with each other. I hear advice all the time that friends at work are a no no but it gets so damn lonely now.

    1. Sunshine

      I’m so sorry that was wildly unprofessional, mean and inappropriate of your coworker! You have every right to feel hurt. Honestly I have no idea how to handle this. Is there a way to forward the message to HR or a manager and ask how do you deal with this? I even don’t like that advice as it would likely backfire, I am curious how others with more professional experience have to say, I am about 5 years into the workforce. But it sounds like a change would be good for you and a new environment. Maybe this just isn’t the right fit, you deserve to be somewhere where you don’t have to worry about this and can just focus on work and the interpersonal relationships come naturally. That is how it has always happened for me I never concerned myself with making friend at work but just continued to be a pleasant, engaging person and hard worker and it all just came with that.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I actually wouldn’t take this to a manager or HR, in part because of the other context that Nervous Accountant has shared here previously, where her boss has been concerned she’s not being warm enough with clients. I’d be wary of giving your boss further reason to worry about relationship-building skills. (Actually, even if that weren’t the case, I don’t think I’d take this to a boss or HR — it’s not really escalation-worthy like that. But I think especially important not to do it if the boss is already worrying about how you’re getting along with others.)

        1. The IT Manager

          I agree. How is the manager supposed to deal with this? So far this is one-off mistake. Obviously it was a mis-directed message so co-worker wasn’t really meaning to hurt nervous accountant. I would hope co-worker learned her lesson about not doing this again or at least triple checking the “To” box if she does.

          I feel for nervous accountant. I have been the one who is very much excluded from group in the past situations, but there’s nothing here for management to fix.

        2. Nervous Accountant

          I didn’t think of it from this angle, but it makes sense! I stillthink most of the people I work with are nice, this was the first time I experienced any outright hostility but I think my mistake was trying to be friends with anyone (aside from friend-coworker I mentioend above because I was friends with her before she started working here). Regarding client issues, things started out rough, but I’ve improved significantly and my boss sees that. The last time a client complained, the coworker who brought it forth admitted that the client had lied about everything. A small comfort, but I think it counts for something? I thought that this was finally going to be the place Whre I wouldn’t have any coworker issues.

          1. Molly

            In your shoes, I think I would take the high road. Include this coworker in your efforts to build better relationships with your colleagues. If you’re fixing issues with your work style to fit better with the office culture, practice your new, improved behaviors on this colleague. Be nice and warm to her – genuinely nice and warm, not fake nice and warm, because that’s how you change people’s minds about you

            I would never mention this email issue to her or to anyone else at the office again. When you get into the interpersonal weeds like this at work, it always makes you look bad – no matter how justified you might be.

    2. Katie the Fed

      Oh, god. That’s the worst. My sister actually once sent me a text message about me that she’d meant for her husband. I called her out on it.

      Here’s the thing with your coworker – you know she was badmouthing you. She knows you know. She was writing about you and accidentally put your name in the “to” line. It happens. She got caught.

      I wouldn’t take it to the manager, but I would definitely let the work friendship cool off. She’s not your friend, she’s a gossip and a jerk. Just do your thing at work and do a good job, but don’t lose sleep over whether or not these people like you personally.

    3. Dawn

      Dude this is high school level drama bomb crap. Of course you feel crappy- what happened was crappy! But it’s NOT YOUR FAULT and it doesn’t have a place at work, at all. I had a great mentor who said that she always endeavored to be pleasant and professional with everyone she worked with, but that she didn’t come to work to make friends- if she made a friend out of a co-worker, then that was a bonus, but she didn’t seek warmth and friendship from her work colleagues and she didn’t expect it. I think that’s great advice because it helps draw a boundary wherein you can be in Work Mode when you’re at work- pulling out your professional, neutral, pleasant self- and then be in Friend Mode when you’re not at work (and ONLY when you’re not at work).

      You don’t need to be buddies, friends, or pals with the people you work with. You NEED to be professional, pleasant, and competent. If friendships arise out of that, great. If not, whatever.

      1. Sunflower

        So true. My boss hates this one department and thinks they’re weird. Why? Because 1. they ask him to do annoying things even though he knows it’s their job to ask and his to send them and 2. They don’t stop by his office to chat like other people do. Of course, my boss is also the guy that loves to walk around all day and talk to people and wants to be a ‘cool boss’. So I would not put much weight in their opinions. FWIW- I think the department is very nice, but based on the way our office is set-up, I just don’t have a lot of reason to talk to them that often. I enjoy the conversations I have with them and just because we barely talk, it means nothing about my feelings towards any of them. Of course, not all people are so advanced to understand these things so that could be playing into this too!

    4. Bend & Snap

      That’s so mean. And so unprofessional.

      I’d focus less on “friends at work” and focus more on healthy working relationships. That message is an indicator that there are still bridges to build.

      Do you have a mentor in the office? That’s someone who could advise you on how to deal with this person going forward. I’m also wondering if that note is worthy of taking to management, if there are other ways this person is making your job difficult.

      If you don’t have a mentor, it’s definitely worth looking into.

    5. Persephone Mulberry

      Depending on your relationship with your manager, I might go to them and say that you “overheard” someone say that they didn’t think you pull your weight, and ask if there’s something you need to be doing more/differently. I assume that if this is a genuine perception, you want to fix it, right? If you’re not comfortable going to your manager, you could perhaps ask friend-coworker. I might even suggest asking the coworker directly, IF you think she will believe that you really want her feedback and aren’t just being defensive.

      1. Afiendishthingy

        I like this approach. Don’t let it come across like you’re whining that people don’t like you because as AAM and others have said that’s not an issue for your boss to handle, but rather that you’ve heard there’s a concern and you want your manager’s take on it and how you could address it if she thinks it’s a valid criticism.

        And I am so, so sorry this happened. You are more than your job, more than how your coworkers and clients see you. You’ve been sounding pretty beaten down. I hope things start looking up.

    6. Natalie

      Oh, ouch. That sucks. I’ve been lonely at a job and it was pretty painful, and this kind of thing never helps. (I found a printout of my boss complaining to my other boss about me, which, holy unprofessional batman. Why did you print that email?)*

      If you feel fairly confident that you are helping when and where you can and not slacking, I would ignore it. At most I might talk to my manager about how they perceived my performance, specifically where pitching in is concerned. Probably easier said than done, but I just don’t see a conversation with this co-worker getting you anywhere.

      Clients thinking you’re mean is more of a problem. Is your manager working with you on that?

      *I think you can be lonely at a job without the alternative being besties with all of your co-workers. There’s a healthy level of friendliness and camaraderie that is noticeable if it’s absent.

    7. Carrie in Scotland

      I don’t have any advice, but I like what Katie the Fed says above.

      Also, I’m sorry that your job/workplace situation isn’t really improving – you’ve had a rough few months from what you’ve posted previously with 1 thing & another. *hugs*

    8. Malissa

      Are you me?
      I would go to the person in question and directly but nicely say, “I’d appreciate it if in the future if you have a problem with me that you bring it to me. I didn’t realize you wanted more help from me. As I am new and fairly inexperienced here I’m nervous when it comes to helping others out. But if you would like me to help you in any way I would be more than willing to give it a try.”
      But mostly if I were you I’d work on gaining more confidence in my own skills, so you feel better about what you are doing and feel more confident about helping others. also remember there is a line between helping people and being a door mat.

        1. Not So NewReader

          I totally agree with this advice. I have done it a few times. I cannot describe how much relief I got from doing this. Yes, it was the hardest thing in the world. You know what I was afraid of the most? An irrational reaction. I feared that I would be told something that didn’t even make sense or something I had done would be taken out of context and totally misconstrued. That was my fear. I don’t like fighting those fights. At all!

          Instead what I usually found was back pedaling. Lots and lots of back pedaling. Very seldom did the person actually state a clear problem to me. Almost NEVER did the person state a problem that was within my means to fix.
          In the end, I felt good about myself. I felt that I had stood up for myself. And it did encourage certain types of people to watch what they said.

          And yes, you have learned a lot about this person that you would have been happier not knowing. But. The rule holds: be careful what you say to people. Do not say things that you would not say to the whole group. You can’t control what this person did to you but you can control how you handle yourself going forward. What this means is tell the third party that is bridging this for you to STOP. Tell the 3rd party that if the emailer wants to talk to you she can but you are done discussing it. Only deal with people directly, do not let 3rd parties get involved. Third party “helpers” only add to the drama. If you go to a person and discuss matters directly that only raises you UP as a professional.

          You could chose not to go to this person and discuss the email. That is fine, also. Remember though that is a choice you have made. Don’t spend weeks beating yourself up because you later decided it was a poor choice. If you make this choice decide that you are going to be content with this choice. Don’t keep revisiting it in your mind. There were times where I let stuff go, too. It wasn’t the hill to die on. I had more pressing matters going on. You could just simply say, “I am sorry she feels that way. I hope at some point she feels she can come talk things over with me.”

          1. Nervous Accountant

            I’m inclined to do this but I’m not sure if it’s because it’s just easier tto let it go than to confront or because it’s REALLY not a hill to die on. One reason to let it go is that our biggest deadline is only a few days away and I need all my focus on my work rather than on this. I know from past experience that I’ve regretted letting these type of things take up mental space when I could have focused on other things. But then another part of me burns that someone can get away with
            And what she said is completely wrong. I always help when she asks, we all help each other. I’m always nice and helpful to my coworkers.

            1. Not So NewReader

              I think you have found your answer. I worked in a place where there was a lot going on all day, more so than other jobs. Somewhere along the lines, I decided when in doubt my default would be to focus on the job itself. Just like you are saying, I had a finite amount of energy.
              Over time, I started realizing that this default answer helped me. While others were caught up in who said what to whom, I was knocking out great work. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I could walk over to a bad-mouthing coworker and start a conversation, because I was not the one that did anything wrong here.

              Take satisfaction in knowing that YOUR professionalism remains intact here.

              1. C Average

                Yep, yep, yep. Given what you’ve said, it totally makes sense to stay productive, stay professional, and let guilt burn a hole in your colleague without any further input from you.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        I think this is good advice. I would probably change the first part sentence and say instead “I’m sorry if I have done anything to make you think you couldn’t talk to me about this directly,” and the rest of what Malissa said. In other circumstances I’d go with exactly what Malissa said, but since you have had trouble with relationships with your coworkers already, it could benefit you to get them to think of you as more approachable.

        Yes, your coworker is in the wrong here. But by being the bigger person, you will have this coworker’s gratitude, you’ll feel potentially fix the awkwardness and hopefully have at least one problem who will talk to you about this kind of thing, you’ll look awesome, and you’ll have an example for your boss about how you work on having a good relationship with coworkers. Even if your coworker is totally wrong about you not helping with work, you don’t want coworkers to think of you that way. Even reputations based on false impressions can affect your reputation.

    9. cuppa

      I don’t have any advice, but something slightly similar happened to me last week at work, and I know how you feel. Sometimes I feel like I try my best and I just can’t win. I am having trouble figuring out what to do other than find someone else to work. Sorry I don’t have anything better, but good luck.

    10. Sadsack

      I am really sorry that you are in this position. I will be interested in what others have to say about it, because I am just not sure what advice to give! I would also be very hurt. You seem like you have already heard some criticism, considered its validity, and tried to make changes accordingly, which is all good. I wouldn’t recommend going to your manager just yet. I think what your coworker did was extremely mean and really unprofessional. I wonder if you went to her quietly and said, “Look, I know that the comment was really about me, I just think we should talk about it because I want to know if there is anything I should change about how I work, or if you just have some misunderstanding about me that I can clarify.” I think the fact that she is writing about you to coworkers in such a negative way, especially the bitch comment, is really shitty and maybe should be addressed by management, I am just not sure if that should happen until you’ve talked to her.

    11. QAT Contractor

      Caught red handed for sure. Very inappropriate and hurtful, so you do have every right to be upset.

      Not everyone’s personality clicks with others; same for sense of humor. The way you interact with others is perfectly normal to you and your friends outside of work, but at work you are forced to interact with other personalities you might not normally interact with.

      It’s unfortunate that while you think you are being helpful, this other person doesn’t think so and is obviously a jerk about it behind your back. If she really thought you weren’t helpful she should have had a professional conversation with you face to face to address that fact. If that didn’t work, then talk to the manager, but not to other coworkers in such a rude and middle school bully type of way.

      What I would do from here is to just remain professional, she already called herself out on the mistake and tried what was likely an embarrassment fueled attempt at an apology that may or may not be genuine. If she were to truely be sorry she would also say that to your face, not through another person or chat system. If she asks you for help in the future (which doesn’t seem likely) don’t drop everything to do it with a hope of repairing the relationship; only take on the extra work if you really do have extra time to devote to it.

      She’s the one that snuffed out the work friendship, not you.

    12. Partly Cloudy

      I agree with the others who said don’t take this to a manager. It will look like schoolyard tattling.

      Clients sometimes say you’re mean? To you, or…? How do you know this?

      1. fposte

        Yes, good question. I like the rest of the answers for responding–and not responding–to your ridiculous co-worker, but I’m still wondering about this bit. I know sometimes accountants are mean in the sense of “You’re ruining my delusion! I don’t have money I thought I did!”, and maybe that’s what’s going on here, too. If so, I wouldn’t worry about that.

        1. Malissa

          I once had a boss tell me that if I wan’t occasionally making someone mad I probably wan’t doing my job right.
          But there’s also a finesse in explaining to people that their budget won’t support what they want to do and what they are doing could be illegal and they should really stop. And those skills are that are learned through training and experience.

      2. Nervous Accountant

        A large part of my job is having phone consultations with clients. After their call, they’re sent a survey so they fill out that survey; either they fill out the survey with feedback or they complain to the salesperson who sold them our company’s services. When I started working a few months ago, I was getting a lot of complaints that clients thought I was rude, or nasty. My managers addressed these with me (ti was a rough conversation, like maybe they just didn’t like my voice or my tone was still too Unpleasant no matter how hard I tried etc), and within a few days/weeks, I was improving and received acknowledgement of this. 2.5 months ago I was moved ot another team where the clients were located in a different geographic location, and I have not heard of those complaints again (that made a little difference). So it has been over 2 months since I’ve heard about any client complaints and my boss acknowledges this.

        1. catsAreCool

          That sounds like a rough conversation. Did the manager provide any concrete examples?

    13. Receptionist Without A Cause

      I have a friend who uses the phrase ‘drama vector’ to describe people like that. Anything you feed into the drama vector will only come back to you as stress and conflicted emotions, so it’s best just to treat them as a slightly distant acquaintance and limit their influence on you.

    14. C Average

      Ohhhhhh, I’m sorry. I know how much this kind of thing hurts.

      I’ve been on both sides of this: I’ve had something unkind I said about a colleague get back to her when I never intended for that to happen, and I’ve been the person who had something unkind said about me by a colleague who didn’t intend for me to see the message.

      First off, I’d say try to put it in perspective. Have you ever tossed off an unkind comment to a third party not because you really hated the person, but because you were momentarily frustrated or just feeling mean and it felt good to express it? Imagine if the subject had heard you. This is what’s happened here. EVERYONE does it–I mean, imagine if everything said here in the AAM comments got back to the person being discussed! People make judgments about other people all the time and, although I’m not saying it’s OK, it also doesn’t always indicate a level of animosity that needs to have you walking on eggshells. The comment I made about a colleague was made in a moment of pique in what I believed to be a place she’d never see it–but she did. I’m so grateful that she was eventually able to see it for what it was–one misplaced comment made in an emotional moment, not a permanent referendum on HER. She’s forgiven me, we have worked well together, and we were able to put my horrible gaffe behind us and be an effective team.

      Secondly, is there any grain of truth to what’s being said? This is the hard one. When I accidentally received a message not intended for me, it was from someone very high up in the company, and she was mocking my writing style and overall demeanor, making it clear that I was not and never would be one of the cool kids. I instantly felt like I’d been sent back to the eighth grade. I hid behind my monitor and wept for, like, half a day. (I’ve never been more grateful for an unshared cube and an oversized monitor.) But on further analysis, I realized that she was right about one thing: my style of writing and interacting didn’t mesh with the hip, edgy persona our brand was going for. It was a reality check: it made me realize I would never get a writing gig in the marketing department here, which was something I’d previously considered a realistic career option.

      Is there something you can do to be a more active contributor, even though you’re new? Is that a question you can take to your manager? Take a few days to process this and think it over, but do consider whether there’s anything at all in that feedback that might be actionable for you.

      If at all possible, try to open up some direct communication with the person who wrote the IM. Tell her you were hurt by what she wrote and that it wasn’t appropriate, and that you’d like to move past this and work effectively together. Let her know if she has any actionable feedback on your work that she can provide in a kind and direct and professional way, you’re open to hearing it, because you care about doing a good job and being an effective member of your team. Tell her you do not wish to be the subject of further gossip, though.

      Having this conversation with someone many levels above me was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do professionally speaking. I had to completely check my ego, which is always hard. But we managed to salvage a productive professional relationship, my manager (with whom I discussed what had happened) praised my discretion and ability to take care of the problem myself in a professional way, and the person who criticized me went on to say some very kind things about me when I announced my resignation a couple weeks back.

      1. badger_doc

        This is a GREAT reply!! Good advice and something even I will consider taking in the future as I am going through something a little similar at my workplace. Thanks C!

    15. Nobody

      How awful… Your coworker is really rude and unprofessional, but I would NOT recommend taking this kind of thing to management or HR. First of all, management might get annoyed with you for causing drama (and I’m not saying it’s your fault — it’s not — but that doesn’t mean management will see it that way) and make the situation even worse. The childish coworker would probably either deny it or laugh it off like she was obviously just joking around and you’re weird for taking it seriously. Secondly, if the coworker finds out you went to management or HR, she might target you even more. Always remember that HR is not your friend. They exist to protect the company, not to help employees.

      I once went to HR about something. I was in the bathroom and a group of young new employees fresh out of college came in, talking about what a bitch I am for asking them to tone down their noisy social conversations. I wouldn’t have taken it to HR except for the fact that they started talking about plans to teach me a lesson and get me in trouble by accusing me of doing something terrible. I thought if I preemptively told HR that they were planning this, people wouldn’t believe their accusations, but guess what? They did it two days later and I was suspended for weeks while the accusations were investigated (and even when I was cleared, there were NO consequences for the liars). The worst part is that they know I heard them, because I walked right past them on my way out of the bathroom. They just looked at each other and giggled. I still don’t know what I should have done, but I do know that going to HR was not it.

      Have you thought about looking for another job? A lot of the things you said here remind me of what things were like in my previous job. It took a lot of searching, but I finally got out of there and went to a different company, and people actually like me and are nice to me here. I’m sure you’re right that you have a lot to offer, and I hope you find a job where people will see that.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Not helpful now, I do realize that. I am sorry this happened to you. Bullies like this count on “facts” such as “no one will believe Coworker if she repeats what we said”.

        The truth of the matter is that sometimes people DO believe us when we report something like this. Additionally, we can keep going until we find someone who WILL listen. If HR does not listen, perhaps the boss will listen. If the boss does not listen perhaps a respected senior coworker will listen. Granted, it could be that no one will listen, but OTH, if we have the sheer gall to keep going, we might find someone who will listen.

        1. Nobody

          The facts were in my favor, so I was eventually cleared of the allegations, but not before I was humiliated and slandered and had my job threatened. Anyway, my point in sharing this story is that sometimes people decide they don’t like you for whatever reason. Maybe it was something you did or said, maybe it was what you look like or how you dress, maybe it was random. But when someone has it in for you, the situation can very quickly spiral out of control. I think a lot of it is because of cognitive dissonance, because nobody wants to believe they’re the mean girls picking on an innocent coworker, so the meaner they are, the more invested they get in convincing themselves and others that you deserve it, you’re the bitch. And once multiple people side against you, it’s hard to turn things around because management and HR are now preconditioned to assume any problems must be your fault.

          That’s why I would urge anyone in this situation to get out if possible. It sucks to be pushed out of a job, but it’s better to start somewhere new where people aren’t conditioned to think you’re the enemy than to stick around while people make your life miserable.

    16. Nervous Accountant

      Thank you e veryone for replying. I usually only browse AAM on my phone and not at the work computer (open plan and all) but I always appreciate the advice everyone gives whenever I post! I usually take a few days to type out a post, that’s why I have such long posts but never really follow up, but I read everything and am so thankful that anyone decides to take the time to respond!

      A few people did suggest I go to HR but I didn’t want to for many reasons, some indicated here, some for my own reasons, and also, its tax season and I doubt my manager would appreciate having to deal with this. As it is, I didn’t mention anything to anyone else..

      1. RidingNerdy

        Best of luck with the remaining (few! yay! fist bump!) days of busy season. I know how nerves can get frazzled and the worst of people starts to show. Keep your head up! Lots of good advice here.

      2. Sarah

        This suggestion might not help right now, but after tax season if you want to work on others perception of you at work, maybe read up a little on body-language or unspoken communication/signalling? I had a job once that required me to work with new people every day and establish relationships quickly that would allow the other person to feel comfortable while being interviewed and providing personal information. I was lucky enough to have a family member who is a counsellor and she gave me a few tips both on reading other people’s non-verbal signals and on the non-verbal signals I would send to make people more comfortable with me. It really helped me produce better work, and I appreciated feeling like I had something concrete to focus on and learn about.

      3. Jaune Desprez

        I’m so sorry this happened to you, but at least you’ve gotten great support and advice here. And I think you’re making the right decision to let it pass without comment, especially during your busy season.

        You mentioned one thing that I don’t think anyone else touched on, which is that your coworkers sometimes ask for help that you don’t feel able to provide because you’re still new and unsure. What’s worked really well for me in the past is to say something like, “I’m still new to X and I haven’t run across this question before, so I don’t know how do that yet. However, Jane has been great with all my other X questions, and I bet she’ll know. Why don’t we both go and see if she has a minute to explain it to us?”

        I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you can take a little time to rest and regroup after the 15th!

  6. Guten Tag!

    Trying to brainstorm a list of potential jobs that are part of the customer service field, jobs with a good amount of interactions with customers/clients. Any ideas besides the standard retail, food service, strictly phone-operator, and technical support jobs?

      1. Carrie in Scotland

        Similarly, working in a library/museum/art gallery etc.

        To be honest, I work in an academic place and still have quite a lot of dealings with students/prospective students/academics etc.

        1. stillLAH

          Or the arts field in general: orchestra and theater ticketing have a lot of public interaction.

    1. Allstonian

      Have you considered hospitality? The Front Desk at a hotel is very customer service oriented.

    2. ali

      any sort of hospitality job – from hotel front desk to shuttle driver. also most types of business consultants/trainers.

    3. HigherEd Admin

      Echoing hospitality. I worked at the front desk of a hotel during college and LOVED the interaction with the guests (well, the nice ones anyway).

      Any reception-type role has a lot of interaction. Our career center has a front desk that is the first stop for students to ask questions and get information and generally learn more about what we do.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I went from food service to reception. It was a natural extension of customer service. Trouble is, those jobs don’t typically pay much more than food service unless you find one in a larger company (or one that actually values having a professional person at the front desk).

      2. Elsajeni

        I feel like there are a lot of student-facing (or prospective-student-facing) jobs in higher ed that could fall into this category.

    4. manomanon

      Donor or member services in a non-profit of some kind. Some parts are a bit more data entry than you may want but depending on the level there’s a lot of communication with the outside/customer service aspects of the job.

      1. Development professional

        YES! Look for titles like “Development Associate” or “Membership Coordinator” stuff like that. You almost never see the words “donor” or “fundraising” in non-profit fundraising titles but that’s what they are. And if you’re squeamish about the idea of asking for money, you should know that many of these jobs don’t actually require you to do that, especially at the entry level.

    5. Celeste

      Flight attendant. Hairdresser/barber. Realtor. Photographer. Sales. Bar tender. Wedding coordinator. Travel agent.

    6. Natalie

      I’m not sure what the generic title is, but account reps. Like, we have a national account with a supply house and there is one person at the company that we route all of our problems through.

    7. TCO

      Have you considered tech support? First-tier support is very, very dependent on providing good customer service.

    8. Paige Turner

      Hair salon receptionist was my favorite job (free haircuts and a more “professional” set of duties than standard retail). If you have any particular hobbies/interests, you might find jobs related to that where you’d enjoy the work more and have more knowledge that could help you get hired- for example, if you like dogs, try a vet office, dog-walking company, groomer, pet store, etc.

    9. Noelle

      Constituent services in government. Contact your local congressman or senator (in the U.S., in other countries this obviously would be a bit different) or other local government agency. There are tons of jobs where you work with people who have problems with government (the IRS messed up my taxes, how do I file for benefits, etc. etc.) and you help them out. I’ve gotten to do it a little bit in my job and it can be very rewarding.

    10. Nanc

      Parks and Recreation! Everything from city recreation departments to national parks, historic sites, etc. Or tour guides. A friend worked her way through college as a tour guide at the Winchester Mystery House and she was an awesome tour guide! The heat wasn’t great in most parts of the building so for winter I helped her sew a ton of ruffles on a pair of thermal underwear bottoms so when she lifted her skirt to climb the stairs she still looked like she was in period costume.

    11. Ethan Messere

      Event management. An entry level position will probably have lots of interface with customers.

    12. Mallory Janis Ian

      What a timely question! I’ve just been considering it myself. I’m an administrative assistant, and I’ve realized that what I’ve most loved about my job is the interactions with people.

      I’ve enjoyed the direct one-on-one interaction of being the assistant for one boss, maintaining his* calendar, arranging his travel, editing his writing (or writing for him), being the person who he bounces ideas around with and being able to offer insights that he perhaps hasn’t considered. I feel valuable when doing this sort of work, and I’ve received good feedback and high praise for this part of my work. I’ve also received high praise for my work supporting the faculty (willingness to help, providing a buffer between them and the fact that we worked for a large bureaucracy, understanding what they were working on and being able to provide relevant support).

      However, I’ve been called out by coworkers at my level for not being the fastest or best at the routine paper-pushing type stuff, which is a weakness of mine — I tend to procrastinate it and then do a furious catch-up session when I can’t stand it any longer. I know that is irritating for my coworkers, and I do my best to manage myself in that regard, but it doesn’t come naturally and I have to be strict with myself to keep it from getting out of hand. My past two bosses acknowledged that this was a weakness of mine, but they valued my other contributions enough that they considered it minor. My most recent past bosses responded by rearranging my more routine tasks onto someone a little lower on the hierarchy (with me overseeing rather than doing) and giving me more of the exciting stuff — which was great for me, although I realize probably annoying for [some of] my coworkers. One coworker, in fact, complained to my bosses about it, and they told her that rearranging my workload was worth it to them because of the value I provided in other areas that they considered more important. The coworker who complained actually came back to me and told me this herself; she said, “Man, they sure do love you; they’ll do anything to make you happy.”

      Anyway, the purpose of the above is not to brag. I just wonder how to go about purposely seeking out jobs that are more like that? I’ve been wonder if executive assisting would be more what I’m looking for? Are there jobs with regular daytime, M – F hours, relatively good pay, and benefits (not like retail) but with more of a people/customer service focus? I’m trying to find something that requires more from my areas of strength and less from my areas of weakness.

      *I’m using “he” because my past two bosses where this has been the working relationship have been men; I don’t care if it’s a man or a woman, as long as the working relationship is good.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Sorry — I didn’t realize this would be so long! I’ve been brooding over this question for awhile, and I just poured it all out in a single post!

      2. Guten Tag!

        Yes to all of the above! I am in the exact same situation of working in an office but not getting as much of the customer service angle as I’d like! That’s why I made this brainstorming post, because I was a job with a greater focus on customer service. Glad I’m not the only one! :)

      3. Alexis

        The executive assistant positions I’ve seen involve a lot of the work you mention enjoying. Those are probably the most regular M-F position I know of in that vein.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          One of my friends went from administrative assisting to executive assisting, and she says that the pace and quality of the work she gets is much more satisfying. She said she couldn’t believe she was actually getting paid substantially *more* for what seemed like so much *less* work. For her, it was moving from supporting a dean in an academic unit to supporting a development officer in the upper administration, but she said that it was such a relief to be rid of the paper-pushing, academic-cycle-driven parts of her previous job. I would love to find a job about which I felt the same as she does about hers.

    13. Felicia

      Member services in a member based professional association – only half of what I do, but it’s what you’re describing. Basically big professions have professional associations, and you’d be dealing with member concerns and information.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Oooh, that sounds like a good one! I’ll have to check into it. I seem to have fallen in with architects and designers in my administrative career (8 years as assistant to a university department head, then on to his private design firm as his assistant / office manager). All my LinkedIn contacts are in the design professions, so I bet I could smoothly make the change to one of the design-related professional organizations, where I’d already know a ton of people on the member side.

        1. Felicia

          That is a good idea! I work for a professional organization for a certain health professional and now that I work at one, it will be likely i will have an easier time working at teh others. Architects and designers definitely have a professional association! There is generally one per province (or one per state if you’re American), so you usually find them around the capitals of provinces/states.

    14. Karen (another fed)

      I work in customer service/customer experience design/improvement. It’s a thing. I got involved by asking LOTS of questions about my company. Your access to that sort of team may depend somewhat on where you live/if anything is HQ’d nearby. (I work at the agency headquarters of a small, specialized government agency.) Private sector brands have it – which is what my team is modeled after.

      1. Alexis

        Seconding this. If you’re near a city there are bound to be companies looking for Customer Service/Support/Success agents. If you’re at all good with computers (as in, can effectively Google things and answer emails) there are lots of young tech companies with teams that are actively involved with helping customers and getting feedback. Smaller companies don’t use call centers, and some let you work remotely. Of course, the hours can be annoying depending on how much you value your nights/weekends.

    15. Afiendishthingy

      My first job after college was as a Visitor Assistant at a children’s museum. Definitely my best customer service job! Basically got paid to play with kids, and the percentage of rude customers was MUCH lower than my other customer service jobs (food service and an inbound call center).

  7. Job-Hunt Newbie

    Hi all,

    As you can see from my username, I am a newbie to all of this. I am graduating in a month with my Masters degree. I’ve worked my behind off in college, and managed to get a lot of experiences and skills that make me marketable in the field I’m looking to enter. I’ve been putting in applications for around five months now.

    Now, everything seems to be drying up. One timeline said a decision would be sent out a while back, and I haven’t heard anything. The other two I haven’t heard from in over a month, and it’s getting to the end of the timeline I was given; I am at the point where I may have been offered an on-site interview. I’m still holding out hope that I will hear back on time, but I’m not sure if that will happen.

    I’m getting rejection letters (one over 4 months after applying and hearing nothing to tell me the position was filled). I’m getting so burnt out from putting in applications, doing phone screens, and writing cover letter after cover letter with nothing to show for it. I’m terrified I won’t have a job come graduation. My anxiety has been through the roof lately, and I can’t sleep because of the constant heart palpitations and worry. I recently broke down at work; I had one of those Kim Kardashian cries at my desk.

    How do you stay positive and motivated during this process? I know I am in the same boat as thousands of other grads, but the stress of this process is really taking a toll on me. I almost want to stop trying and take a year off, try to get a part time job, and travel or something. But student loans don’t let you take a break like that.

    I have four job postings in front of me to apply for today. The prospect is making me want to throw up, cry, and take a four hour nap from exhaustion because I am so burnt out from all of this. I should be excited and happy for the prospect of finally being done with school (for now), but instead I feel like an anxious ball of emotions, and terrified of graduating and being jobless.

    1. Dawn

      Have you sought counseling for how you feel? This sounds like a severe state of anxiety beyond what we’re able to help with here in this comment thread. Your school should have some resources for you so you can talk to someone and work through your feelings- please, seek them out and talk!

      How you feel is normal- having anxiety about this process is normal- and getting help with it will let you get beyond the stuck feeling you’re at now and move you towards progressing in your life goals. If you feel burnt out and like crying at the prospect of doing a job application, that’s severe stress and anxiety that’s negatively impacting your life, so please seek help for working through it!

      1. TCO

        Agreed. What you’re experiencing from companies (long delays, not hearing back) is pretty normal, but that doesn’t make it easy. The stress you’re experiencing is not “normal” and you don’t have to feel this anxious. A few sessions with the right school counselor could help you feel much lighter and less weighed-down.

      2. Job-Hunt Newbie

        I have in the past; I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder as a teen, and was eventually able to manage my symptoms without medication. I think given the fact that this is a major life change I am about to experience with no security in sight is making it more difficult to handle than the other crises I’ve been able to work through. Transitioning into the “adult” world is scary when there’s no plan in place! It also is scary when you don’t seem to be getting any good news regarding your transition.

        After yesterday’s Kim Kardashian ugly cry episode, I was definitely considering going back to my old therapist and seeing about getting on some anxiety medicine short-term; just need to see if my insurance can be taken there.

        1. TCO

          It sounds like you already know therapy can be helpful during big life changes, which is great. Sometimes I’ve felt like a “failure” when I need to return to therapy after some time off, but that’s just untrue self-talk. It’s perfectly natural to want to revisit some of that coaching and support during such a major transition that’s unlike anything you’ve gone through before. Good luck!

        2. Anx

          Therapy helped me with long-term unemployment, but not completely. I still have a lot of anxiety that no amount of CBT can overcome.

          This may be a controversial opinion, but I think my depression and anxiety symptoms were actually a pretty normal response to being chronically broke, with some student loan debt, and knowing the only reason I didn’t have more was that grandfather sold his business to help my brother, sister, and I go to college. I think I’d rather have more student debt that to feel the burden of making his sacrifice work it.

          So while I didn’t think there was anything abnormal about being super stressed about maintaining food and housing and eventually getting a professional job, those emotions weren’t helpful and were an obstacle.

          I still struggle with this. I graduated in 2008 and am still doing part-time work when I can find it, but therapy has helped a lot.

          1. Afiendishthingy

            I agree completely. I work in a field that pays employees who don’t have an advanced degree and professional certification very badly, and the experience you get from those (often rewarding but very stressful and challenging) dues-paying jobs is also essential to moving up to the higher positions. So I made $22k for a long time, in a part of the country where that is really, really not enough. I have generalized anxiety disorder, and yes, therapy and medication help, but no amount was going to keep me from feeling anxious about whether the landlord was going to deposit my rent check before pay day.

            I finished my masters a year ago and my anxiety was out of control while I was job searching. Imposter syndrome and money problems (and history of anxiety) are an awesome combo!

            I got a decent job though, and financial concerns are greatly reduced. Still struggling with anxiety related to adjusting to the new job- my therapist diagnosed it as “growing pains” and said “you’re so vulnerable at the beginning of your career, you’re like an open wound.” But it’s getting better! I would definitely look at going back to therapy and possibly meds if appropriate, but also recognize it’s situational and will pass. I’ll pray for you, if you don’t mind that sort of thing, and send out virtual hugs if you do :)

            1. Anx

              Yes. It’s situational, but a very long situation (the better part of a decade).

              It is actually incredibly helpful to hear others acknowledge that therapy and positivity aren’t going to eliminate stress and pressure, especially one so much of it is external. It has already gotten much better.

              Sidenote:
              There were moments that therapy made things worse. So much of the literature I was given included examples of people who were happily married and had good jobs and still weren’t happy. I know it’s very important to let people know that it’s okay to have things work out and still not be happy, but it was a little alienating when so many of my symptoms were tied to my unemployment. Fortunately the actual sessions were much more focused on my particular situation.

    2. Christian Troy

      My experience is not so different than yours, sort of. But I think you have to be prepared in this market that your job hunt may take significantly longer than anticipated. Your anxiety seems pretty bad right now so I second the recommendation of speaking to a professional or finding other outlets for you to channel your energy.

    3. Paige Turner

      Yeah, I feel the same way (unfortunately, I’m a few years out of grad school). I do have some advice though- 1) you CAN put your loans on hold or lower your payments if you’re unemployed or low-income. It might not be the best financial choice longterm, but putting my loans on hold when I got laid off really helped with some of the “Am I going to starve???” panic. 2) You’re not the only one trying to find a job in a tough market. Working retail or part-time is a good way to have a little money coming in and to get out of the house and interact with people. Getting a part-time retail job while job hunting is totally normal. 3) People always tell me to volunteer and network, which is generally good advice, but if you’re super stressed and overwhelmed (like me), that can feel hard to do. Spend time with friends and hobbies- don’t cut yourself off and do nothing but job hunt and worry. Do something you enjoy- read a book, sports, whatever- regularly. I know it’s easier said than done- good luck.

      1. Job-Hunt Newbie

        Deferment is scary, since some of my very high-interest federal loans are unsubbed (so glad I don’t have private..), and I’ve been making payments early since August to help bring those interest rates down. I’m not opposed to it, but hoping to avoid it!

        Thank you so much for you advice. I really need to remember to take time for myself and do stuff I enjoy. Already tough enough to find “me” time between work, grad school, and job hunting!

        1. Natalie

          It is scary, but getting remember that your anxiety response isn’t actually helping with the fear. You’re not a bunny hiding from a fox. :)

          In another comment, you mentioned that during your last treatment experience you developed some skills to manage your anxiety without drugs. I wonder – how much of that coping is based around planning ahead? Have you developed any skills for managing your anxiety in the moment, when you either couldn’t have planned ahead or that plan failed? If so, those are the coping skills you want to draw on now.

          If not, I think that would be a good thing to develop. I know it can seem pointless when you feel like you have your anxiety under control, and of course wading back into the experience to develop the coping skills is SO SHITTY. But I will tell you – I had developed similar planning-oriented coping skills and thought I really had my anxiety under control. Until I didn’t, and I had some panic attacks, and it was the worst. I had to go back to square one and unlearn my desire to plan everything.

          1. Job-Hunt Newbie

            A huge chunk is definitely about planning ahead; it’s why I started applying to jobs early. I’m big on having plans in place (like my huge grad project; it’s been in the works over a year; when it only needed to be thought up six months ago; its gone through countless revisions and not gone as planned at some points. But having a basic framework has helped me not get too overwhelmed when something goes wrong), because I hate leaving stuff off until the last minute.

            I think my biggest issue is I need to remember I’ll be okay, and this is something I ultimately can’t plan for. People around me are getting great news about their job searches, and some are getting job offers, and I feel like I’m not going to be that lucky. But my family is behind me 100% no matter what happens, I have more than enough saved to make my loan payments if I’m unemployed for over half a year, and at the end of the day, I’ll still have my two degrees. I’m at the mercy of the search committees, and I can only plan so much for this.

            Thank you so much for your advice and kind words. It is so appreciated!

    4. L

      Hang in there! I (as well as countless other people) have been in this exact same boat. It’s an awful feeling, but you have to keep telling yourself that if you don’t apply to the four jobs in front of you, then you’re eliminating the possibility that you’ll get any of them, and then you’ll have to go through this stressful cycle again.

      What has worked for me to stay sane and to fight the anxiety: exercising every day, eating healthy, listening to old episodes of This American Life, going to therapy, volunteering.

      Best of luck to you!

      1. Job-Hunt Newbie

        Thank you! I already have the staying active and eating well part down, as well as some volunteering. I haven’t seen This American Life, but I think I need to check it out!

    5. Development professional

      Take a day off! Seriously. Just one day, but don’t think about or look at job applications at all whatsoever. And use the time instead to do something you really like.

      Also, now that you’re closer to graduation, you actually might find that things will pick up because you’re going to be available soon and pretty much everyone wants to fill vacancies “immediately” even if they’re slow moving on their end. Four or five months ago you could have easily been passed over because you weren’t available for another six months and that wasn’t going to work. Not so now.

    6. CheeryO

      I’m sure you will get a lot of great advice, but I just want to say that it is NOT the end of the world if you are unemployed come graduation time (as long as you’re alright financially, of course). I graduated with my Master’s about a year and a half ago, and I was jobless for six months after graduation. (And that was just a stopgap – it was another six months until I got a job in my field.) I had a great GPA and several internships, and it still took a long time for the right opportunity to come up. No one judged me for it; it’s just of the world these days.

      Please (and I know this is WAY easier said than done) try to relax a bit and just take things day by day. You’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself right now. Maybe take a break for a couple days, or a week if application deadlines allow it, and just try to recharge a little.

    7. Stephanie

      Try to stay positive, take time for yourself and it’s ok to take a day off from applying. I’ve been job searching and interviewing for 9 months. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would take this long to find a job with a decade of experience. I have picked up a part time job in retail to get me out of the house and interacting with others. Wishing you the best!

    8. Nanc

      Have you thought about temping? Temping will give you some income while you are looking for a job that’s a good fit and will get you out in a professional environment giving you a chance to learn some workplace skills. I temped after my BA and my MA and initially took all the short term jobs–they’re harder to fill because most folks are looking for a long term or a temp to perm position. I had my last-before-this job as a long-term temp assignment and they ultimately hired me full time. If you sign up with a national agency your record will follow you if you change locations. And the agency reps can be great references. There are also agencies that specialize in certain fields so do a bit of research and see if there’s one near you. At the very least, if you have good basic computer skills you can probably get placed in admin/support jobs which will give you some income while you keep looking.

      Good luck and keep us posted!

      1. Alexis

        This. I’m temping now between jobs, and did when I first graduated as well (with a BA). I hadn’t really considered it an option until a friend told me he got his job via temping. It’s keeping me busy and I feel more sane than I did sitting around sending apps into the void and fretting. Additionally, if you’re anything like me, anxiety grows with fear of the unknown. Making a worst-case scenario plan helped (making a spreadsheet for a 0-income budget, seeing where I could minimize costs, etc.).

        I also wouldn’t discount the idea of taking time off. If you can set up a personal project (whether it’s writing, art, teaching yourself to code, whatever) to do during your time off, it may even help with your job search later on. Unless you’re going into a super-lucrative career right off the bat, it’s gonna take 10+ years to pay off loans anyway. Adding one more year in exchange for priceless experience isn’t a bad trade, especially if you do so cheaply.

    9. Not So NewReader

      Please take time each day to do something for your physical well-being. I know, it’s not the question you asked. Stress like yours depletes our bodies of vitamins and minerals at an incredibly fast pace. Lacking vitamins and minerals, all kinds of stuff happens- shakes, panic attacks, dizziness and so on. Keep it simple keep, keep it doable. Decide to increase your water intake. Or decide you will eat a salad once a day. Or decide to meditate. Put something back into you. You are doing all these things that are just zapping you, heck, it would exhaust anyone! Decide not to let yourself drain, and drain and drain. What simple thing can you do today to fortify yourself? (Don’t answer here. It’s just a question for mulling.)

    10. themmases

      Can you talk to your boss or faculty you trust and see if they can help or at least offer advice?

      My experience in grad school has been that almost all of us make assumptions about how things work or what kind of help is available that are often way off base. It makes sense– we are at our school for a limited time and often not experiencing this whole backstage world of the permanent staff who actually get things done. There is a lot of pressure as a grad student to come prepared and figure things out for yourself, and I think we miss out on help that would have been available had we just asked.

      Your boss and your advisor probably want to help you. They’ve invested a lot of time and effort in you, and anyway it reflects well on them when you succeed. You never know who or what they may know about that would open doors for you.

    11. Stitch

      I so feel you… I graduated in December, which is awkward because no one’s hiring. Best I can hope for is a job starting in the summer, but it probably won’t really be in my field because it has strict recruiting timelines (they interview people in September/October for positions starting the following May.) I may have to wait another year and a half before I find a role in my field.

      But I’ve been trying. I’ve made it through ever more stressful phone interviews, and promising in-person interviews, that all turn out to be nothing. But even with the anxiety caused by everything, I’ve found having different paths and options that I’m pursuing decreases my fear tremendously.

      For instance: While I was waiting back to hear whether I had an offer or not from one place, I was in the phone-interview rounds with another. The first place has rejected me, but now I’m focusing on applying to non-profit positions in the hopes their timelines will be less stringent. I try applying to different cities where I have extended family. I try to always make sure I have multiple options open and worth pursuing. If I’m ever in a place where it looks like I’m dependent on one company’s yes or no, I get really stressed. With more than one option, I just funnel my thoughts into the jobs that haven’t said no yet.

    12. There are smarter ways to find a job once you've graduated!

      Job-Hunt Newbie,

      I’ve been helping new grads find jobs for a few years now, so let me suggest a few things that have made a huge difference for my mentees\ (one also suffering from huge anxiety from lack of response after applying to hundreds of jobs).

      1) Go out during the weekend to a part of the city that you live where there are lots of commercial buildings. Walk around and take note of any company names that may sound like they hire for the type of job you do.

      2) Go to LinkedIn to find out more about these companies. See if they have any openings listed in LinkedIn, indeed.com, or their own website, so you can apply to those openings.

      3) Find out about local meetings (using meetup.com, finding professional organizations in your city, etc.), and try to go to a few of them (you should be able to find some free events to attend — professional talks, etc.). Make a point to, each time you attend, to meet 1-3 people — once you’ve done that, you’re free to go (that should help keep anxiety at a minimum). Spread the word that you are graduating and looking for a job — many of these events even have a time for recruiters to announce the openings they have, so make sure you bring copies of your resume with you in case that happens.

      It may seem strange in these days of Internet that offline activities (walking around the neighborhood, going to in-person events) can help you find jobs, but trust me, my mentees saw a huge difference in the number of phone calls they got after starting to use these strategies. They learned that you can find much less competitive job openings this way (smaller, less known firms that don’t get tons of resumes every time they advertise online, and contacts who may be asked by friends if they know someone for a new opening and who will be happy to connect you with the hiring manager).

      These activities will help you find the “hidden job market”, the less visible job openings that are out there and people are trying to fill through word of mouth (or are posted on the company’s website but nobody sees it because it’s not a famous brand). This will put you way ahead of the other new grads who are only searching online and applying to the same jobs as thousand of others candidates. The mentees to whom I recommended these strategies all saw a huge difference. Out of 5 people, only one is still unemployed, but that’s because he chose not to take a job in technical support that a small business owner offered him after he got the company’s name walking around his neighborhood (he’s volunteering with a professional organization and expanding his network there to find a job with a different title).

      Good luck!

      1. Welcome Wagon

        ^^This is fantastic advice. The job hunt process can be overwhelming, and those feelings are compounded exponentially if you struggle with anxiety or have difficulty cruising along without a plan or a paycheck. This method of targeted networking is effective and worked for me when I was at a loss for what to do. I’m not a new grad; rather, I’ve been in the workforce 9 years but transitioned industries and careers 2 years ago. For personal reasons, I relocated across the country to a new city where I had no connections (and no job lined up) just 1 year ago. Rebuilding my professional network was key but networking seemed so daunting and ambiguous, especially in a city where I knew NO ONE. This targeted approach was perfect. It made the process manageable, and networking is how I secured the best position I’ve ever had in my career. Best of luck to you, Job-Hunt Newbie.

  8. matcha123

    I have a question about “leadership.”
    It seems like a common interview question and something that we should
    be highlighting in our cover letters. But what if you have no aptitude for leadership?

    I’ve thought for a while that “leadership” is less about leading and advising and more
    about having a crew of people to back up your knowledge, ideas and skills. If you don’t
    have back up, you can’t lead…because there’s no one there to trust and go along with
    what you say.

    Of course there are some people with the ability to pull people to them and guide them,
    but I would venture that those people are in the minority.
    So, how can someone with no apparent leadership ability talk about leadership?
    If you ask such a question, what kind of answer are you looking for?

    1. fposte

      Is it that common in interviews? It might be without my knowing, but I haven’t heard much about it. When I’ve asked about it, I don’t generally use that word, though I guess it is some of what I’m looking for. I’m asking about initiative, the ability to work with people to complete projects, the ability to supervise people who are peers and sometimes older and more experienced. It doesn’t to me mean you lead every single group of people and every single situation.

      I don’t think it’s hugely rare, at least at the level I’m talking about. I’m not funding an Antarctic expedition, I’m hiring people to do academic support. It’s possible that even that level of authority isn’t something that suits you, at least right now, but I also think you might be considering the bar to be a lot higher than it really is.

    2. Dr. Doll

      Depends upon the level of the position. In a lower level position, I would be looking for “leadership” to be operationalized in terms of pulling your weight, being judicious, taking initiative as fposte suggests, not being shy to speak up with good ideas or respectful constructive criticism, volunteering to do things and then DOING them, looking for ways we can get better and taking those ideas to the right person.

      In a higher level position, I’m looking for all of the above plus tons of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, ability to wait rather than to react, along with the ability to make a decision and follow through, communication skills, listening skills… I could go on here for quite a long time.

      If you’re asked about “leadership” a lot, educate yourself about the concept, decide what applies to you, and then formulate some thoughts on specific behaviors or skills that you have, that operationalize aspects of the concept.

      Leadership skills can indeed be learned; you don’t need natural ability to develop some good skills. You might need natural ability PLUS skill development if you want to be a really prominent leader in your organization (kind of like Michael Jordan had to practice!) but you can do a lot with attentive thought and practice.

    3. Nachos Bell Grande

      You can display leadership by being a good influence on your peers, vocally supporting management decisions and company goals, stuff like that. You don’t necessarily need to have people behind you, or direct reports, or an official mentorship – you can lead by being seen as influential.

      1. Not So NewReader

        This. You can lead by having innovative ideas. You can also lead by being the go-to troubleshooter for the group. You might find yourself made into an informal leader because you are the person that gets things done, so people come to you. Lastly, you can become a leader because you simply listen to what people say and respond in an appropriate manner. There are so. many. people who can. not. do. this.

    4. Jillociraptor

      When I think about leadership, I’m looking, basically, for people who bring a strong sense of vision and personal responsibility for everything they do. When an opportunity arises, do they wait for someone else to decide what to do, or do they seek out ways to maximize it? When something goes wrong, do they do the bare minimum to fix the problem, or do they seek a solution that addresses the root cause? When working with others, do they rely on hierarchy and directives, or do they really seek out ways to find common ground and interest?

      I manage administrative support staff, so I’m hiring for and coaching people who have no direct authority over others, and have roles that are in large part responsive. That makes the idea of “leadership” hard for them to grasp sometimes, but it always applies. Basically, do you try to have a personal impact on your work, and leave it better than you found it, or are you just executing as asked?

    5. matcha123

      Thanks for the replies :)

      I’ve been asked, “Can you give an example of a time where you demonstrated leadership?” and while I have one or two stories I try to use, one is from my time in university and another is from about four years ago. Neither of them are all that inspiring. But maybe I’m selling myself short.

      Based your replies, I think I have a lot more to pull from! Thanks!

    6. Merely

      Ooh, thank you for this. I have absolutely no interest in and no aptitude for managing others, and I thought that meant I’d always be BSing these leadership interview questions. It was nice to see in the replies that leader is not necessarily equivalent to manager.

  9. Newbie Annonie

    Time to play ‘Is This A Real Job’!

    I really enjoy working events. I enjoy setting up and assisting people at the event and ensuring that things run smoothly. However I wouldn’t want to be the person in charge, the main event planner.

    Is there such a job in the event planning industry that doesn’t require you to be the boss?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I don’t see why not. Most event planners need an assistant– someone to make sure things run smoothly, small details are addressed, etc., especially when all kinds of things go wonky.

      For what it’s worth, I believe– and I’ve said here a few times– that people who are content where they are can be worth their weight in gold. There is so much value in people enjoying what they do (or being good at it or happy to do it, even if they don’t enjoy it) without wanting to get to the next level. Someone who is reliable, dependable, and competent, AND satisfied in his/her role for a very long time? I would do whatever I could to make that person feel happy and appreciated.

    2. HigherEd Admin

      Absolutely. You can be part of an events team, you can be part of the on-site support staff, etc. A lot of these types of jobs would be found at universities, conference centers, hotels, etc.

    3. reader

      Of course, for really big events there’s the one person in charge and tons of people beneath them doing exactly what you described.

    4. Sarah Nicole

      What about corporate event planning? Those departments often have one person who is really “in charge,” but several other people who are involved in running the events, and some companies do a ton of events throughout the year. Also, I’ve seen executive assistants do this type of things a lot. If you found a position with a decent amount of event coordination, would you mind the other side of supporting an executive? It could be close to the same thing with some of the tasks, like calendar coordination, travel planning, and such. Just a thought. Good luck in finding your job!

    5. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

      When I worked as a banquet bartender there was the big boss, and then several other smaller bosses scattered around, one in charge of bars, one in charge of the dining room, another general liaison to act as back up/cover more ground. So there are certainly those kinds of support positions out there- though I don’t know how much they have to participate in the planning

    6. Development professional

      There are tons of jobs like this. And not just in event planning firms. For some non-profits, this is also a big part of fundraising (“development”) jobs. Look for titles like Special Events Assistant. Or even Development Assistant and see how many of the responsibilities are event-related. For some, it’s close to zero, but for others it can be like 3/4.

    7. Traveler

      In organizations large enough or that have emphasis on events, there is a Director, and under the director a coordinator for events. The coordinator does a lot of the logistics and is in charge of quite a bit behind the scenes, but the director is the “main event planner”. Just be sure when you start look though, as these terms get used interchangeably at times.

    8. madge

      Absolutely! Are you near a college? At my university (~13,000 employees, in Midwestern US town, if that helps), we have event coordinators and event assistants. A study of all roles was recently done to ensure that our job titles/pay range (which tends to have about a $15k range) match our peer institutions, FWIW.

      For us, event coordinators average $40k and while they do make some decisions and do most of the planning, they still report to a director, who makes final decisions. Event assistants average $27k and do very little, if any, planning but take care of nametags, invitation creation/mailing, on-site assistance, etc. Corporate jobs in our area tend to pay more than we do, but we have better benefits and much more generous vacation/sick leave packages.

      Hope this helps!

    9. Sunflower

      I’m an event/meeting planner!! It really depends if you’re willing to do the background work also. You’d be hard pressed to find a full-time job that is simply helping out with events in that capacity- except at a hotel but the pay is extremely low and you’d mostly be doing set-up/tear down or serving the food. Full-time jobs are going to have other components depending on the org.

      Events can range anywhere from 4 people to 400,000 people so your level of experience and pay really depend on the type of events you’re doing. I run educational meetings and conferences (anywhere from 3-200 people). I am the main planner and I handle all the logistics and actual management of the event but I do have a boss who has to approve a good amount of stuff I do. I’m salaried, non-exempt and while my pay sucks(as does my company), it’s certainly well above minimum wage.

      For social events, many planners require assistants (but these might be part time if you’re only required to work during the actual event). Corporate will pay a little more but usually corporate event planners do a lot more of the background work and depending on the org, it can be tied in with marketing or sales. Working in a hotel, the sales and catering office has a coordinator that assists the managers with lots of things. Often times they are doing the majority of the work and the managers are just signing off on it.

      I second the suggestion of a college. There are tons and tons of jobs at colleges that require you to help out with events but you most certainly aren’t the manager. Going through UPenn job listings, most of their coordinator positions require you to help out with events within the department.

    10. HR Shenanigans

      Absolutely. Look into jobs in catering in a position called “Pantry” or as a “Butler” – it entails much of what you’re describing.

    11. Anna

      There are. You might be an event coordinator, or community relations coordinator, or any other job that includes the word “coordinator”. You might be in charge on the ground, but the details are decided by someone else. I used to be the coordinator person and now I’m the planner person. Being in charge on the ground means you’re finding the volunteers and helping set up, but you’re not making the big decisions or deciding on the theme or anything like that.

    12. Felicia

      Lots. They are particularly common in big non profits – often schools or hospitals have them too. Usually they are called Events Assistance or something like that – that would usually be the first job for the person who ends up “in charge” too.

  10. Katie the Fed

    OK, I promised I’d post about my strange new person.

    I mentioned him last week, and in the meantime I’ve sat down with him and giving him very clear guidance and a way forward. But he’s just so…strange. Like, he seems baffled by the basics of pretty much everything – what issues to bring to a manager, what to look up on your own, what to ask a colleague about. When we finish talking he just stands there until I’m like “ok, that’s all – thank you.” and sometimes he’ll KEEP standing there until I say “ok, I need to get back to work so you should go back to your desk”

    Add to this that he’s super formal about everything. I asked him about his previous projects and his answer sounded like a very rehearsed job interview response, like “I’ve done X and I’m really looking forward to applying it to Y” but I only asked what kinds of projects he’d worked on before. And he still always includes this “I just want to let you know how excited I am to be here.”

    His emails are equally formal. They all start with a “Dear Sir or Madam” and end with a “thank you for your attention to this matter” even when there’s no matter at hand really.

    Everything out of him is so stilted and formal – I find him really difficult to talk to. Whenever he talks it feels very canned and insincere.

    I’m not sure, but I suspect he might be a cyborg.

        1. cuppa

          So, wait, if he e-mails you, does he say “Dear Sir or Madam”? Like, he knows who he’s emailing and what gender you are? Wow.

        2. Ama

          Wow. I could maybe see him doing it for the first week or so, but it’s a little concerning that he’s not picking up on the workplace conventions on his own.

          Could he just be really nervous? At my current job I spent months terrified that I was do something that would cause them to fire me (I had some bad job PTSD from an old workplace where I was repeatedly blindsided by criticism after being assured I was doing great). It’s an odd way of expressing it, but maybe he’s afraid to loosen up without an explicit instruction to do so.

          1. CheeryO

            This was my thought as well. I’m naturally a little uptight, especially when I’m nervous, and it takes me a long time to warm up to new jobs (like, months). I can pick up on the fact that I’m being weird, but I can’t stop the weirdly stiff/stilted things from coming out of my mouth. Once I get to know my coworkers and the job duties, it gets better. Slowly.

      1. Katie the Fed

        No he actually addresses those to my first name now after I told him to stop calling me “Ma’am”

      2. OfficePrincess

        I’m all for respecting people’s pronouns, but buddy, this isn’t the way to go about it!

    1. AndersonDarling

      The formalness and oddness may dissipate as he has more interactions. If possible, I’d invite him to meetings just to observe, or possibly to take notes so he can learn what is and isn’t important. CC him on emails that even remotely involve him so he can see how people communicate in email.

        1. Kelly L.

          Dang! That was my first guess too–there’s a young veteran I deal with in my job, who does everything about five notches more formally than everybody else does. He’s very nice, just so…formal! :)

    2. LouG

      Wait, so if he emails just you, he starts his email with “Dear Sir or Madam”? That is just so bizarre.

      1. Katie the Fed

        No – he stopped calling me ma’am after I told him to call me by my first name. He doesn’t really email me much though – he just lurks around me until I talk to him. He also has no concept of when people are busy or not.

    3. A Jane

      I’d point out that some of his manners and communication are overly formal and it can be odd or even offputting for the office? Also, maybe he doesn’t have any experience being chill.

    4. Lo

      Definitely a cyborg.

      I just read your posts from last week on this….good luck with you craziness at work and with this new hire. I think if you can address the issues directly, right when he says them, that will work well. But if you feel better doing it in a more formal setting, take some of the time in those “sit down” meetings he keeps requesting. Either way, both you and he will be better off for it. GOOD LUCK!

    5. Persephone Mulberry

      I am not a therapist, but I wonder if perhaps he falls on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. It kind of sounds like he has developed very specific self protocols for interacting with others and doesn’t know how to deviate from them.

      1. Natalie

        In a similar vein, I had a co-worker like this who AFAICT had crippling anxiety, exacerbated by some really dysfunctional prior work environments.

      2. Cordelia Naismith

        I was wondering about this, too. I mean, I don’t want to internet diagnose a stranger, but…the thought occurred. I would try being very specific in my interactions with him — your “Okay, that’s all” interaction is a perfect example. Some autistic people wouldn’t understand that “that’s all” means “we’re done; go back to your desk now” — you have to actually say that last part out loud. Social interaction is a network of unspoken expectations; some autistic students I’ve had in the past tended not to understand these unspoken expectations at all. You have to make them explicit. And even then, they may not understand that just because X is appropriate in Work Situation A (the job interview), that doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it in Work Situation B (day-to-day work life).

        You said you’re giving him very clear guidance; that’s good, and I think that’s all you can do. I mean, he might not be autistic at all, just an odd duck. Either way, clearly articulating your expectations is a good thing. I don’t think you can do anything about the social oddities.

        Or maybe he is a cyborg. Who knows?

      3. Katie the Fed

        Honestly, the thought had crossed my mind because he has SO much trouble with social cues. I’d be happy to work with it if I could figure out how to.

          1. Katie the Fed

            I took more time to read those when I got home – I’ll definitely carve out more time to talk to him next week and make sure he’s understanding the directions. I feel like an ass if he’s dealing with this

        1. Myrin

          How does one go about finding out something like this about a coworker, especially as, as someone said below, he might not even know himself?

          I know in a lot of cases the cause for [behaviour] doesn’t matter as it’s disturbing/scary/inappropriate either way, but I feel like in a case like this it would be relatively easy to accommodate someone once you know the root of what’s going on.

          1. Natalie

            Eh, I think the diagnosis ends up being a bit of a red flag. If they need accommodation, it’s up to them to decide that and advocate for it, regardless of whatever condition they may have. Otherwise it can so easily end up like the woman who uses a cane who wrote in about her supervisor trying to manage the LW’s disability for her. Well-meaning or not, it’s kind of infantilizing to decide someone else’s level of disability on their behalf.

            It’s also not as helpful as people think, IMO. Many mental health conditions and trauma responses share a handful of symptoms/behaviors.

          2. Ž

            I am autistic. I think that if a person’s behaviour is scary/creepy you don’t have an obligation to try to troubleshoot it because you need to take care of yourself. I think this person’s behaviour as described seems to not be just weird though, not scary/creepy? If so, I think it is good to look at advice on talking with autistic people like “explain things in literal terms” or just explain yourself clearly and a little bluntly. Whether the person is autistic or not, it’s the best way to get something through to them. And it means that later if you need to talk to a manager you can say what words you tried using and that it didn’t work.

            For example, I used to think that whenever someone arrived you were supposed to greet them. And I thought that arrived meant “came into the room”. So someone would return from the toilet and I would say “Hi name!” and someone would wander out of my sight and then 10 minutes later back into my sight and I would say “Hi name!” and finally a 3 year old pointed out what I was doing “mommy she says hi EVERY TIME i come into the room. every 5 minutes!” Kids are really great about being blunt. and ever since then I only say hi if it’s the first time I’m seeing somebody in a day and sometimes not even then.

            If someone said “okay, when I say “thanks that’s all” and turn away from you, that means I think we’re done with the conversation and if you think we’re probably done too, then you can wander off”, that would probably be the end of me standing around confusedly after the conversation has ended. :) Or if that’s too blunt, switching to say “okay, great, let’s get back to work then” might help clue me in if “thanks *turns away*” wasn’t doing it.

            Also, as an autistic woman, my trouble reading social situations and reading between the lines makes me a lot more vulnerable to be creeped on by other people rather than the other way around. imagine being approached by a stranger and not being able to tell whether they’re going to ask you for directions or assault you. and erring on the ask for directions side because you’ve been told that it’s rude to be unhelpful. If someone’s creeping you out, you don’t have any obligation to try to help them. even if they might be autistic. if someone’s creeping you while maintaining good plausible deniability that takes a lot more social skills than we usually have. it requires being able to successfully guess how other people will read the situation, know how to downplay certain things, know what to do in front of others and what to only do when you two are alone.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          I hate diagnosing people over the internet and as the parent of an Asperger’s son I hate it when people pull out Aspie for anything out of norm but…………..

          The description you’ve given is classic Aspgergers, like, you just described my son, especially in new situations.

          In the case of my son, he’s never going to be less formal but he’s happy to adapt to whatevs when it is laid out for him, clearly. What you get in return is someone who is happy to follow the laid out routine, over and over, executed faithfully every time.

          1. Katie the Fed

            Thank you. I’ve read about Aspergers but never actually encountered someone with it. Which may or may not be the case with him, but it might help me learn to adjust my approach

        3. Sarah

          I used to work with someone like this and it was only a problem until I realized that I was the only one who didn’t like saying things like “thanks, I need to get back to work now so you should go.” Once I realized I was the only one uncomfortable I just started saying out loud things I usually assume silently then things got really easy. I think it had the side effect of helping younger staff too who learned faster when things had words instead of silent assumed ques.

      4. Receptionist Without A Cause

        I second this! Super formal manners and difficulty interpreting social cues says ‘possibly neuro-atypical’ to me. If you don’t have a great grasp on the nuances of personal interaction, it can be hard to know when to be casual and when to be polite so he probably defaults to ‘super-polite’ because it’s the safest option.

      5. Katie

        Yup, this set off my “on the spectrum” alarm too. I used to work with life skills training for young adults with special needs, many of whom were on the spectrum. His interactions sound similar to a lot of the “hacks” we taught our students in how to interact appropriately in the workplace. Some were not able to read into nuance, so teaching them to generally behave more formally was better than being too informal. Many would often overgeneralize the “rules” they learned (e.g., the fact that you should shake hands with your interviewer does not mean that you should shake hands with coworkers each day you walk in, the script for writing a cover letter varies drastically from emailing a coworker, etc.). We would spend time each morning with them sharing about interactions with coworkers, and talking about common scenarios and appropriate behavior for each.

        These all seem like very simple skills for people who are neurotypical, but can be VERY difficult to understand for someone who needs to learn by rote for each new situation. I had a student who spent an hour per day learning about reading emotions. Many of my students made fantastic employees when under the wing of an accommodating employer, they just needed an initial push in the right direction. It is very disarming for the employer if you don’t know what to look for, however!

        1. Katie the Fed

          This is helpful, and I feel like an ass for not realizing it. Like I said, the thought crossed my mind but it’s such a strange situation that I wasn’t sure what to do with it

          1. Katie

            Know that you are not alone in your frustrations :) The hardest part for me was realizing how literal my students often were– it’s tough to keep in mind when your general MO is sarcasm!

        2. Afiendishthingy

          This is so interesting to me because I have worked a lot with kids (age 3-21) with much lower functioning autism, with a huge range of skills and deficits and complex needs, but the aspergers/high functioning autism end seems even more complex to me. I had a coworker who I suspect was on the spectrum and I’m sure he meant well but he drove me bonkers! He was another paraprofessional in a classroom of kids with autism and it was just not a good fit. He would ask me a question, then talk over me the whole time I was answering, then a ask someone else the same question 2 minutes later. Also when you’re trying to teach social skills to kids with autism it helps to have social skills yourself. Poor dude did not last long. Helping people on the higher functioning end of the spectrum learn job an social skills is a really awesome thing to do but I don’t know if I could handle it- I’m more comfortable with making behavior plans and communication goals for the nonverbal 6 year old who bit me the other day.

          1. Afiendishthingy

            Some clarification because I am worried this comment sounds like I’m saying “people with high functioning autism are annoying.” I think what I meant was I wouldn’t want to be the one trying to teach the subtle social cues and tips for professional life because it’s such a difficult task. It’s the same reason why people who understand a given subject (say, theoretical physics, or even just their native language) forwards and backwards aren’t necessarily good teachers to beginners in that subject. There’s so much we take for granted that it’s very difficult to teach because we don’t even realize others don’t know. And it’s very easy for someone to be dismissed as weird or rude when they don’t get this stuff, because their disability isn’t readily apparent. Anyway, we don’t know for sure this is the case with Katie’s employee. Regardless I think a playbook is A good idea.

      6. Marzipan

        I had a similar thought; he sounds to me as though he could possibly be somewhere on the autistic spectrum (or, even if he isn’t, as though adopting the kind of clear language and approach you’d use with someone in that situation could be beneficial).

    6. TCO

      Have you tried having those kind, direct conversations Alison so often recommends? He doesn’t pick up on social cues, but maybe he could follow some directives: “When you e-mail people here, address them by their first name, not ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’.” That obviously doesn’t fix the entire issue, but it could eliminate a couple of the most annoying behaviors.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, I think this is a situation where really clear, explicit feedback is going to serve both of you well! Be really clear with him about what TCO says, and also the other stuff too. For example: “I’ve noticed that when we’re done with a meeting, you tend to wait to be explicitly told you can leave. If I say ‘that’s all, that means we’re done and it’s okay to leave. Other people will use that cue too, so I want you to recognize it.”

        1. fposte

          I don’t see an alternative, though, save for termination. This may just be one of those “doing the Lord’s work” management scenarios.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Yep. This is it. Only you can decide how much of this you want to do. And only you can tell if it is worthwhile for the company to keep him on. There might be too much remedial work, that you simply cannot provide given your givens. (I worked in human service for years.) There is an expectation that at some point the person will work under their own steam and not need this level of guidance. If they cannot go under their own steam, then the job is not for them.

            Look for some idea that at some point he will meet the level he needs to be on.

          2. JB (not in Houston)

            Ha! And yes. I’m having to decide whether I want to do that with an intern right now (not the same kind of thing, she just doesn’t seem to get that this is a job), but I haven’t wanted to bother for various reasons. But if I think of it that way, maybe I will. :)

    7. Malissa

      The guy needs a work playbook. Seriously. He has no idea how to interact at work. But it does sound like he can change if asked.
      I’d give him one thing a week to work on. In no time at all you’ll have his coworkers fooled into thinking he’s human.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Yeah I want to carve some more time out for him next week. I really want to give him a chance.

    8. GeekChick603

      Any possibility he’s on the high-functioning end of autistic and he has these scripted behaviors to help him interact with people?

      1. Katie the Fed

        I thought about that. I hate to diagnose strangers, but I feel like it might help me understand how to communicate because what I’m doing isn’t working too well. I’ve done the clear and specific feedback but I have to keep it to one issue at a time.

        1. Ellie H.

          Setting aside diagnosing strangers or self-diagnosing or anything, plenty of advice for talking to or interacting with people on the autism spectrum, or for those people on how to talk to others who aren’t, can be just generally useful for situations with people who aren’t because of the way it emphasizes clarity rather than expecting the other person to read between the lines. For example I’ve used advice about having relationship conversations with someone on the autism spectrum (both applying it to me, like how I can do it better, and to the other person, like how I can explain what I am saying extremely clearly and without expecting the other person to make subtle emotional inferences) and found it very helpful.

    9. Anonicorn

      Are you sure you didn’t hire Moss from IT Crowd?

      Dear Sir stroke Madam,
      I am writing to inform you of a fire which has broken out at the premises of… No, that’s too formal.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I love that show!!

        My favorite bit ever was the Fredo episode, when they were talking about the Godfather in reference to Jen’s new position, and Roy said, “Isn’t that right, Moss? Fredo…from the film…he was essentially a pimp.”

        And Moss said, “No! He took the ring to Mordor!”

        I had to pause it for something like five minutes because I was laughing so hard.

        1. Anna

          My favorite is still when Moss told everyone Jen was dead. I’m starting to laugh right now thinking about it.

          1. Career Counselorette

            My favorite is when he went on the game show.

            “Good morning. That’s a nice tnntnbba.”

            1. Kitchenalia

              My favourite is the computer controlling the bomb-disposal robot.
              ‘What kind of operating system does it use?’ ‘It’s Vista’
              Moss: ‘We are going to die!’

    10. Disappointed_BorderLine_Autistic

      As someone who struggles with organic social interactions, and does not pick up on social ques that others find simple/natural, I found this thread hurtful.

      I one time had to take a test that showed all these peoples faces and I was suppose to identify the emotion – I got all but one wrong. I too struggled with being too formal (because I was trying to be nice/polite) and I often find myself standing silently thinking (is it rude to walk away right now? Is this person done?).

      Only through hours, nay days, of study and hard work have I gotten to place where I’m just socially awkward and not socially incomprehensible.

      I can tell you that comments like “he’s a weird” or “I think he’s a cyborg” definitely won’t help this individual and are incredibly insensitive to a sometimes crippling disability (a lack of emotional intelligence makes your life really hard, and it’s not an easily learned subject).

      Definitely do give this individual one small item to work on a week (such as hey don’t be so formal in emails). Perhaps have them sign up for an emotional intelligence class/module if your company has one. Definitely shut down co-workers talking about how weird/cyborgish this co-worker is as that will only further alienate him.

      Focus on the positives this individual brings and understand that they just won’t excel in casual/freeform social settings, but may be fantastic presenters/public speakers.

      It’s weird, because I am totally terrible at organic conversations but I’ve won a ton of public speaking awards and am very good and presenting/teaching.

      1. Katie the Fed

        I’m sorry – I can see how it would come across that way and I apologize. I will say this is entirely new to me – if he actually told me something similar to what you said about how you have trouble with this, I would probably have an easier time with it. Like, if he told me what works best in communicating. Because I’m trying and it’s just really frustrating – this is a job that requires a lot of interaction so it stands out a lot. And he’s still fairly new so I havent’ figured out what he’s good at.

        1. Catherine in Canada

          Not sure where to put this comment, but here goes.

          Please keep in mind that while your co-worker _may_ have some degree of ASD, he may not know. I’m 57 years old and was diagnosed only last summer (it took a long time in my case to translate “always being out of step” into “a real thing that I maybe can do something about”. )

          My whole life was whack-a-mole, still is to a certain extent. And the thing is, you get into more “trouble” being overly _informal_ than you do being formal, so formal is often the safest course to take. Teasing, joking, even _standing_ in a relaxed manner is very subtle and difficult to do, and easy to get wrong.

          So, please, whack away! (as much as you have time for of course, I never expected anyone to hold my hand, just wished for some patience sometimes.)

          1. Katie the Fed

            Thanks for your perspective. I feel bad because I didn’t appreciate what he might be dealing with – I was more focused on what I’m dealing with.

            I’m really going to try to carve out some time and give him the lay of the land next week – norms, expectations, informal rules, etc.

        2. thisisit

          given the stigma and snark around this, why in the world would he be upfront about issues with people he barely knows and doesn’t necessarily trust? of course it would be great if people just discussed these issues, but i can see why they’d keep silent and hope they don’t come across too much like a “cyborg”.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            Because it’s better than having your coworkers think you’re just weird? I get the stigma, and I get not wanting to speak up. It’s the same for people who have a mental illness that’s affecting their work. There’s often such a stigma with it that people don’t want to explain.

            But it seems in some cases, the alternative of people not understanding is worse. Maybe it’s just my generation and my part of the world, but the people I know and work with would be a lot more patient with someone who is on the spectrum than somebody who just can’t be bothered learning how to interact with people.

      2. Cordelia Naismith

        I apologize for the cyborg line in my comment, too. I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m sorry.

      3. J.B.

        I’m so sorry, and I’m embarking on this struggle as a parent of a possibly autistic child. Sometimes the kindest people say things quickly especially online. I hope you have great support and wouldn’t mind more tips for myself in the future!

    11. CAA

      Does he use “Dear Sir or Madam” even when he knows whether the addressee is male or female? That really is weird.

      I usually don’t like diagnosis by Internet, but this does sound a bit like someone I used to work with. Interactions were so stilted, and he took everything so literally that it was painful for everyone else. After we’d been working together for a couple of years, he told me he had autism and so he had been taught the rules for being social and it was hard for him when other people didn’t follow those rules. He liked me because I followed the rules.

      I am not sure what exactly that means about me, but it explained a lot about him.

      1. Nashira

        Probably that you’re very consistent in your ways of showing emotion and handling certain kinds of interactions. A lot of people… really aren’t consistent, or there’s not really good visual cues as to how they are feeling or why they’re responding certain ways, for those of us who have to learn to read body language and facial expression by rote.

    12. AnonToday

      Can I just second how much I hate “thank you for your attention to this matter”? It’s so unnecessary. Just say thank you. There is no matter. For God’s sake.

    13. The Toxic Avenger

      Hi, Katie! I am glad you updated us – I was thinking about you and how this whole situation was playing out.
      Based on what I’ve heard so far:
      – He’s a contractor who is supposed to be making your life easier, but he’s making it way, way harder at a time when you just can’t afford extra work.
      – You’ve asked another team member to pull additional weight of her own to carry him.
      – He still isn’t working independently and requires too much direction, intervention, and instruction from you.

      At this point, would it be easier to let him go, or do you need the help so badly that the pain of finding a replacement would be greater than sticking with him?

      1. Christy

        +1. Can you request a new contractor? This seems to me to be really the problem of his contracting supervisors, not you.

      2. Katie the Fed

        I don’t want to cut him loose just yet because I feel like he really MIGHT have something to offer, but I do agree we need to see it soon. I know he’s trying hard, and it’s a tough market out there so if I cut him loose I don’t know that he’d find something right away. I want to give him a chance – a few more weeks at least.

        1. The Toxic Avenger

          Yes, I hear you. I’ve been in your shoes, for sure. I tend to give people chances until it is crystal clear that it just.isn’t.working. Looking back, sometimes I wish I had called it sooner, but most of the time, I was glad I handled it the way I did because I knew I did everything I could. Hang in there Katie. You sound like an awesome boss to me.

        2. Mockingjay

          As a contractor myself, it’s my job is to support our Government clients, not vice versa.

          Since he is apparently onsite with you, you might feel obligated to help him out (your threads demonstrate that you are a wonderful, caring manager – I wish you were my “Govie”), but please involve his company manager. The company may have more awareness of the employee’s circumstances than they can legally reveal to the customer, and they can work on his behaviors directly.

          He might be better off supporting at your project at his corporate location, if that has a more structured environment. For instance, he could dial in to a meeting, and it will be clear when it ends. “Okay, Fred, that’s all and we are hanging up now.” There are always options. Bless you for wanting to pursue them!

          1. The Toxic Avenger

            Yes, this. I understand that you don’t want to show him the door just yet, but if you have not involved the account manager, now’s the time. Thank you for the view from the “other side” Mockingjay!

        3. Graciosa

          The question in my mind is how well he can succeed in this specific job.

          If there are core duties he performs brilliantly (like something he does on his own in front of a computer?) I’m more inclined to think having to issue very specific instructions in other areas is a manageable quirk.

          If a fair amount of the job involves working with other people in ways that aren’t natural to him, it may not be the right fit for him.

          1. Katie the Fed

            he’s really new so I don’t know yet. We’re still working on the basics. Other people usually pick this stuff up much faster so I’m not sure how much more time to give him, but I want to make an effort to spend more time with him next week and give him some VERY clear guidance and overview of the norms around here

      1. Katie the Fed

        I’m sorry. I’m venting a little bit here because I’m frustrated because it feels like we’re speaking completely different languages and I just CANNOT figure out how to communicate with him. I want him to be successful – I could actually tell his company “nope, not working out” but I’m trying to figure out a way to make it work. This is a new one for me, truly.

        1. knitchic79

          We just had to let someone go because of this sort of thing. She just could not get it. It was a sad mixture of relief (that we didn’t have to carry her weight anymore) and sad (there is no way she is finding anything anytime soon, just way too many issues) when she was gone. I feel for you hun, not a fun place to be.

        2. Not So NewReader

          You have a rock and a hard place thing going on. If you knew he needed a specific accommodation, I am sure you would stand on your head to try to get him what he needs.

          Without that info, you don’t have a lot of options.
          If you “guess” there is a disability of some sort then you are diagnosing- that’s not good. If you ignore the individual differences in people then you are a heartless boss. This leaves you are walking in that uncharted gray area that is so difficult to navigate.

          This is just a random thought here, do you think that someone would be interested in mentoring him? Is there someone there that he feels comfortable with that he might listen to? This would take some of the load off of you and might be a relief to him if he does not like hearing “stuff” from a boss type person. I have done this and it seemed to go okay. (Notice I say “seemed to go okay”. I was not privy to every thing that went on.) Well, actually what happened was other people got interested in helping the person, too, not just the people I asked.
          The person ended up going to the doctor and receiving a diagnosis. She came into work one day EXTREMELY happy. I said “what’s up?” She said, “I never fit in. I never knew why. NOW, I do! It has a NAME. I know what is wrong and why!” [Yeah, I was blinking back the tears.]

          1. fposte

            I like that idea. As I indicated, I do think there’s real value, if somebody can take the time to do it, in teaching people things that will enable them to fare better in the workplace in future; it’s just that it can be a hard thing to make time for when it’s not something that’s factored into your workload.

  11. AnonToday

    I’ve suffered a couple work-related disappointments in the last 24 hours (sorry this is long):

    1) I just found out I didn’t get the job I really, really wanted. I was told I interviewed well but that they wanted someone who was a little more familiar with the business. It’s a totally reasonable response, but I am nonetheless pretty bummed. I have two other things in the works, so hopefully one of them pans out because…

    2) I just found out that one of my biggest programs is going to be canceled due to budget constraints. I suspected this might happen, but am a bit peeved by the delivery of the message. It was announced during a staff meeting, and I wasn’t given a heads-up in advance. I had to hear the news with everyone else. It would have been nice to get some time to process the news first. On top of that, another one of my big programs is probably going to be canceled because of scheduling conflicts. So now I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be working on over the course of the next year. A job that was already filled with downtime is now going to over-saturated with it. I am going to be so bored.

    3) One of the jobs I’m up for is not something I’m entirely sold on taking. It combines something I’m really good at and love doing, with something I’m less enthusiastic about (and was initially trying to get away from). It would be great growth opportunity, though, and would put me in a great position for the types of roles I’m really seeking in 2-3 years’ time. I could really learn a lot, but I might not love everything I do. Do the pros outweigh the cons?

    1. Jennifer

      How much is your current job likely to be at risk, given the changes that just happened? I might be more up for taking the job you don’t want to do so much if your current one is heading downhill.

      1. AnonToday

        I am 99.9% sure my job is not at risk. I have other programs and duties that haven’t been (and won’t be) eliminated. Much of my work is seasonal, however — so I’m busy for two months and then have nothing to do for two months and then busy for three months and then not busy for 5 months. Eliminating those two programs increases my “not busy” time. I would prefer to be busy all the time! The potential new role (haven’t received an offer or anything yet) would definitely keep me busy all the time, but not necessarily doing things I want to be doing. (And some of the work is networking with potential clients — which is something that makes me VERY nervous.)

    2. themmases

      Can you talk to anyone else who holds or has held the jobs you want in the future, or are there visible people in your organization who have your goal job that you could just observe? It might really help you with #3 if you know how they got there and whether their path is typical.

      If the part of your potential job that you dislike is a dues-paying type thing (or at least seen that way in some organizations), you probably have a good chance of doing your time and then relinquishing that task when you move up. Other areas of expertise cling to you and you may move up, but you’ll do so as Director of Teapot R&D who has a great background in Drudgery, rather than as Director of Teapot R&D who has years of experience in Task You’d Do for Free.

      If the new job just involved dues-paying– even potentially a lot of dues-paying– with an industry-standard light at the end of the tunnel, personally I’d take that especially since you sound unhappy at your current job. If it’s the kind of expertise that could stick to you, then it depends more on how much you love Task You’d Do for Free vs. how much you hate Drudgery, your security in your current job, and how rare the offer really is (are comparable jobs with better-for-you duties unicorns?).

    3. Not So NewReader

      On point number 3. Can you do Not Sold on Taking job for 2-3 years? Some people can do sprints if they know something else is on the horizon.

      What have you seen at this company? One place I worked I would get word that Terrible Job was coming in and I would be in charge of it. Well this happened a few times before I caught on. Terrible Job usually morphed into something manageable by the time we got it flowing. Then after awhile, Terrible Job went away. And in came Horrendous Job and that too managed to work down to nothing as bad as when it started.
      If you have seen patterns like this, then I would chose to stay and ride it out if I had nothing else going on.
      Since you feel that it will put you in a good spot in a short time, I would have to seriously consider doing it.

      1. knitchic79

        +100 I would so much rather so something I don’t prefer, along with something I enjoy if the alternative is months of boredom. As far as having the scary part of networking…maybe that is a blessing in disguise. I know when I took over managing a larger, more profitable section I was freaking terrified. That I would foul it up, that everyone would figure out what a fraud I was, you know the usual. But really it’s been amazing! It took time but I’m much more relaxed and now it feels natural. I bet you could rock that job!

  12. Pipes

    This morning, a coworker on another team (she does the same thing I do, just in a different part of the US) pinged me on our company’s IM and told me her manager’s spot was open, and asked me to apply. She thought I would make an awesome manager, based on some work I’ve been asked to take on and present to the entire US teams. I am totally gratified, but not interested in the position. But, should I take this info to my manager as an example for how well these presentations have been received? This is actually the second time in two weeks someone has mentioned management to me (but the first was an offhand, thanks for the info, we think you’d make a great manager, vs the solicitation to actually apply).

    1. CoffeeLover

      It’s a little awkward to pass this along verbatim because she’s also recommending you for a job. It could come off as if you’re actually considering moving on, which might not be the signal you want to send your manager. Maybe just copy and paste the part of the IM that talks about the presentation and forward that to your manager with a note saying something like, “Jane, just gave me some great feedback about the presentation I did last fall. Just wanted to give you a heads up.” Or something like that :)

      1. CoffeeLover

        Alternatively, if it’s not something you can copy and paste, you could ask your coworker to send some positive feedback your way. Say something like, “Thank you for passing this along, but I’m not really looking to move into X. I’m really happy to hear you enjoyed the presentation though. If you’re willing, I would appreciate it if you could send a quick message to [Your Manager]. She would like to hear the presentations are being received well.”

        *Also, there shouldn’t be a comma after the “Jane” in my message above.

        1. Pipes

          Would this advice change if you knew this was a company where internal moves were expected and supported, and my manager already knows I am looking for new opportunities (and is helping out)?

  13. Jaune Desprez

    Can you tell me how long you’ve been able to wait for the right new employee to start?

    I’m currently interviewing for a job in New City, and they’ve indicated that they hope to make a decision by the end of April. However, I’m still in Old City and wouldn’t be able to start until the end of May. It’s a specialized position that’s been open for some time, and the duties have been temporarily divided among other team members with busy jobs of their own. I have extensive direct experience with the work in question and have been informed that I’m the front-runner for the position. While I’m not placing a whole lot of weight on that assurance, for the sake of this question, please assume that it’s actually the case.

    In your experience, would a one-month wait for Ms. Right deter you from making an offer? How long would the wait have to be before you decided to go with Ms. Right Now?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I would always wait for the right person! If you go with the wrong person, you risk needing to find the right person sooner than you expected. Most hiring processes are super slow anyway– a month doesn’t sound that off to me. My current job waited a month for me, and I was in the same city!

    2. The IT Manager

      I wouldn’t blink at a month’s wait. Givn what you describe it sounds like it can wait an extra two or three weeks for you to relocate esepcially since it’s already been vacant for sometime due to their process.

    3. EmilyG

      I think this is always going to depend on the quality of the competition–is there another candidate who is almost as strong as you and can start tomorrow?–but if it’s been open for some time that’s probably not the case. Also, I would look at whether the candidate who can’t start right away has a solid and clear reason why (as opposed to a variable succession of postponements and excuses)–but you don’t. So in your case I would definitely wait.

    4. OfficePrincess

      If they’re at all reasonable, they’re expecting that whoever they choose will need to give two weeks notice. So, at most, you’d be asking for an extra two weeks. But, given the way hiring timelines tend to stretch, you may find yourself only needing an extra week or less.

      I’ve been burned by taking the best available option when I (thought I) needed someone right away. It’s not worth it. I’d gladly wait a week or two to have my first choice!

    5. Lily in NYC

      My office would be fine with a month. I think we’ve even gone 3 months for a few really good candidates who needed to finish up school or deal with an overseas move.

    6. Joey

      The higher the position and therefore the harder to fill the longer I’m willing to wait. A month and a half though for an average professional position? If I didn’t know up front? you’d better be pretty outstanding.

    7. AnotherFed

      A month is nothing… we often do our entry level hiring process a few months before graduations, or even end up making offers to people who are a semester and change away from graduation.

    8. Apollo Warbucks

      A month seems very reasonable to me, if two weeks is standard an extra two weeks on top of that isn’t to bad.

    9. thisisit

      a month is no big deal. besides, they always say they’ll have an answer by X date, and it always takes longer. be honest when they ask about availability.

    10. Sheep

      In Norway, where I am from, we often have three months notice. New employers will have to wait!

    11. kirsten

      I’ve waited a month before too. I think it someone asked for 3 months we might say no, but a month has never been an issue.

  14. Sigh...

    It’s been a tough few weeks and I’m hoping for some positive vibes. I’ve admitted to myself how unhappy my job makes me and that I want to transition out of this kind of role.

    I’m starting my search now but of course, that will take time. I also am having trouble pushing my accomplishments as I feel pretty worn down.

    Any tips?

    1. Rocket

      No tips to share because I’m feeling exactly that way too. I mostly keep myself going with the knowledge that I want to leave my current job on a good note so that I can use them as references.

      Good luck, and know that you’re not alone!

    2. Sunflower

      Any sorts of things- even outside of work- you can do to get your confidence up? Any little boost of confidence helps, even if it’s not work related.

      Something that is a relatively easy place to start is just making a list of things you’re good at or nice things people have said about you. Do you have an idea of what kind of role you’re looking to get into?

      I would also start by just looking around to see what jobs are available. Just knowing jobs are out there can help me a lot!

    3. Not So NewReader

      Pretend you are talking about your good friend and you are recommending him for a great job that you know he would be a good fit. It’s easier to talk up a friend than it to talk up ourselves sometimes.

    4. Lee

      Take each day as it comes, try to find small things each day that you appreciate about your role. Make the most of your lunch break if not, try to make sure it breaks the day up. Try not to job search too often (when I was job hunting I was checking the same websites multiple times a day which wasn’t productive and made me exhausted without achieving anything). Keep your head up!

      Agree with Not So NewReader too! Write down every little thing you’ve achieved at work and go from there.

      Good luck!

  15. Cher Horowitz

    Is being persistent when interested in a job really that bad? Last Friday, I applied for a job that I am a great fit for skills and interest wise, but haven’t heard back. I had someone I know who knows someone at the company shoot over a recommendation for me on Wednesday, and her contact said she would fast track my application, but I still haven’t heard back. Would it be so terrible to follow up with the person I initially applied to and if not, what’s the best strategy for this?

    1. Sunshine

      LOVE THE NAME. But yes I do think it is bad, I’ve interviewed candidates and been the point of contact for open positions within my old organization (Not HR) and it isn’t the person’s full time job to hire for a position, there are likely other things going on, fires that need to be put out, long meetings that take away from the full time job etc. It’s like dating you don’t want to scare them off.

      1. Cher Horowitz

        Thanks everyone! I guess I just generally assume that if I don’t hear back within a few days then they’re not interested. Perhaps that’s not the case. I will hold off.

        1. Sunflower

          Nope not the case at all. I submitted an application on Feb. 13, contacted on on March 25 and had a phone interview 2 days later. Just heard back today, April 10. They are slightly changing the position and just sent me a new description. If I’m still interested, they want to bring me in. Sometimes these things just take time!

          It’s also worth noting that sometimes the application process isn’t rolling. If they intend to keep a position open for one month, they might not even look at applications until the time to close it comes around.

    2. Bend & Snap

      I think you just have to wait. You already made contact through your friend.

      As a hiring manager it’s really annoying when candidates are high-touch about follow up. It’s intrusive and nobody is ever going to say “Oh I have news so I’m glad you called!” If they have news, they’ll get in touch.

    3. Cordelia Naismith

      It’s only been a week! I would wait at least one more week before asking about your application. Hiring is a slow process, even “fast tracked” applications.

    4. Jaune Desprez

      Do not do this. Right now you are living in Applicant Space, which increases your anxiety, decreases your confidence, and alters your sense of time. Time is not really passing at the rate that you perceive! Give it at least a couple of weeks before you follow up. Seriously. Two entire weeks.

      1. Traveler

        “Applicant Space”

        Yes. I get nervous when it takes more than 2-3 weeks to hear something, but there have been job processes where it took 4 months to even get the interview. You just have to apply, assume you didn’t get it, and move on with your life and treat the call back like a pleasant surprise.

      2. Michele

        I agree. Even if someone promised to fast track an application, and you submitted it on Wednesday, that was only 2 days ago. That is a very short period of time from the company’s point of view. Finding a job is the most important thing you have going on right now. Unfortunately for you, the people doing the hiring have a dozen other things going on. Also, they may be waiting for a batch of resumes to come in before they look at any of them. I am hiring right now, but I never look at resumes more than twice a week, then I set aside a block of time and look at everything together.

    5. IT Kat

      Nooo. It’s only been a week, and you had someone internally shoot over a recommendation. At this point, I’d suggest moving on and letting it be a surprise if/when they contact you. Maybe follow up one more time in two weeks, but after that let it go.

      Hiring processes sometimes take MONTHS. And a lot of times, they don’t even start to get back to candidates until the job posting closes – which might be a few weeks or longer.

    6. Sadsack

      I agree with Sunshine. It’s just been a week. I would wait a couple of weeks before requesting an update.

    7. FinallyFriday

      Definitely wait! The earliest I heard back about any job I applied for was a month. Checking in after only a week would be overkill.

  16. Natalie

    It’s becoming increasingly apparent that my new direct manager suuuuuucks. Micro-manager, passive aggressive, and prone to fly off the handle over minor issues that were either caused by his inability to communicate clearly or his tendency to hand things to us at the last minute for now reason. Oh, and he wants to be friendly somehow? He’s a remote manager which seems to be making things worse.

    Ugh, I really don’t want to job hunt right now. I’m in school at night and a little bit ago I decided to buy a house, so you know, I’m busy.

    On a positive note, I’m pretty sure I CRUSHED my accounting exam yesterday. Not forgetting my calculator makes all the difference in the world!

    1. fposte

      Congrats on the accounting exam; knowing how to make the calculator read “BOOBIES” upside down gets ’em every time.

      Good luck on the remote manager. I think distance makes it so much harder to manage up, which is tough enough already.

      1. Elizabeth West

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

        I just flashed back to middle school math class; we got calculators for the first time and that is the first thing everybody did.

        And congrats on acing the exam, Natalie!

        1. Natalie

          Did you have the stupid Dolly Parton joke? I don’t remember it exactly but it involve math and calculators and her… assets.

          1. Joline

            Ours was always just about a lady and ended up with her being “boob-less.”

            There once was a lady with 69 ______ (it’s been a long time, I do not remember what she had 69 of)
            That was too too too many
            She went to 51st Street to see Doctor X
            Had 8 operations which left her boob-less

            6922251 x 8 = 55378008

  17. Possibly just crazy drama but maybe not?

    I’m a somewhat regular reader/commenter and I’m extremely embarrassed to post this so I’m going anon but work is causing me extreme stress and I’ve even had nightmares about it and I’ve never in my life had this kind of thing happen to me (at work at least).

    I work for a small company and although I like my job there has been some inappropriate behavior from some older men here towards me (ie two men old enough to be my father asking me on dates) I promptly said I’m sorry but that’s inappropriate and it stopped but it was still very unsettling and geez even if it wasn’t at work they are 20-30 years older than me! I’ve been in the working world awhile (I’m 29) and even when I was very young I’ve never had this happen before at least not at work. I hope I don’t come off sounding dramatic about all this but I also barely spoke to these men before they asked me out and nothing beyond office small talk!

    In addition to the above there is something else…

    Without getting in to too much detail, one of my coworkers “warned” me that the owner of the company tries to have affairs with all the younger women in the office. The problem is I don’t know if this person is just starting drama or is “out to get me” but I work independently from him so I’m not sure what he would have to gain. He framed it as he was just looking out for me and I don’t know him well enough or the company well enough as I’ve only been here 1.5 months

    I probably would have just written this off as drama but I think I’m on high alert due to the other two guys…

    I have access to the previous person in my positions emails and I did notice when I was researching something that there was a fairly high turn over like they went through several people in several positions (all female names) maybe that’s not a huge red flag but I guess worth mentioning

    There’s really no other red flags and the owner is very nice to me but has not really said anything except once a comment that I must have a fast metabolism or something? He has no way tried to be inappropriate with me as of yet

    I’m not sure if anyone can really help me and really my only thinking is not to be alone with the owner but maybe someone can share their thoughts/experiences?

    I would hate for this to be true because I really do like my new job so far and it would be incredibly awful and awkward if he did try to start something.

    Also sorry if this is weird, ramble-y and/or I sound completely insane. Please excuse any typos I’m posting from my phone. I could perhaps be completely over reacting but I haven’t really been at the job long enough to tell.

    1. cuppa

      I think the only thing you can do is be aware, enforce your boundaries, and if it does pan out to be true, decide if you want to leave.
      If you already told the other guys no, and they haven’t pushed it further, then I would let that go. No sense in worrying about that if it doesn’t happen again. With the owner, I would be cautious but not overly so. I think it is wise to try not to be alone around him, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid him in other situations. I would probably be a little more cautious in my interactions around him to not seem overly friendly/open, but if you keep things business related you may not even have a problem.
      Overall, if you like the job and there aren’t anymore issues, I don’t see any reason to leave, but there is the potential for more issues. I would wait and see.

    2. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

      I think you’re overly freaked out given the facts, to be honest.

      Two guys at work asked you out – that’s icky, sure, but it sounds like they accepted your no and everyone has moved on with their lives. Assuming they’re not punishing you at work for the refusal, and that they’re not harassing you or continuing to ask you out following the no, I don’t think this is anything to worry about. Sometimes coworkers date. Sometimes coworkers who are 20-30 years apart in age date. It’s not something I’d do (and I’d be kind of squicked about it, privately, if it was happening in my workplace), but if they were reasonably respectful in the asking (and the dating thing generally isn’t against company policy), I think it’s fine to just let it go and proceed as normal.

      As for the boss thing, I again think you’re being a little overboard – he hasn’t been inappropriate with you, he’s nice to you, and you like the work. So keep doing good work and being professional, and keeping the guys in the workplace (including the owner) at professional arms-length. I guess if it’s reasonable for your position you could avoid being alone with the owner, but it doesn’t sound from what you’ve included here like you’re going to be in danger if you’re alone with him, so I’m not sure that I’d start refusing to do job duties or roping co-workers into meetings they shouldn’t be in just to avoid being alone with the guy – that’d look weird and would be more likely to jeopardize your position, I’d think, than turning the guy down for a date if it comes up (and even if the owner were to “try to start an affair” with you, you haven’t said anything that leads me to believe you’d end up fired if you turned him down – are there other female employees in the workplace? Is the owner sleeping with all of them?)

      Definitely keep your eyes open for any red flags with the owner, make sure you’re maintaining your own boundaries by keeping conversations professional and non-personal, and focus on doing good work. The archives at Captain Awkward are a great resource for ideas about boundary-setting/identifying red flags (in the workplace and in life), so if you’re not totally sure what I mean by any that, that’d be a good place to look for more detailed guidance.

      Overall, is it kind of icky/vaguely uncool that guys old enough to be your dad asked you out in your first month on the job? Yes. Would it be incredibly awkward if the business owner tried to date you? Yup, absolutely. Do you need to start panicking or job hunting or both based on the information you have so far? No, no way (unless there’s more to the situation than what you’ve posted in your OP).

    3. Same boat, same drama

      Ha, OK, I’ll also go a little more anon to say that are you working in the same company as me?

      Our work force is made almost entirely of young attractive ladies, and the CEO definitely pushes a lot of inappropriate behaviors like hugs and drinking at office parties.

      I’ve managed to avoid the weird drama by 1) being married– not helpful, I know! 2) remaining professional at all times. It’s really easy to get sucked into inappropriate habits when others are doing it, but it sounds like you’ve got a handle on staying cool when that happens. I think if you stay the course, your company– including the possibly creepy owner– will let you be. And, for me at least, it hasn’t hurt my position or reputation in the company, since I do good work and keep clients happy.

      Good luck!

    4. I have a creepy boss

      At least the previous 3-4 people in my position and several former other female employees have slept with my boss. Nobody told me this. It really would have explained things better if they had mentioned something up front. Knowledge is powerful. This kind of information is something to keep in mind but continue to be professional and shut down the inappropriate behavior quickly. Don’t be afraid to be alone with the boss just know you may have to shut him down. Usually guys who sleep around a lot will do a lot of probing and ask wierd questions before they’ll make the actual pass.

    5. Me, Too

      Another regular commenter going anon to respond to this. I’ve had this happen to me before, although the man never approached me. They just told many of the staff that I was “hot” and they “wanted” me. Then the staff started seeing favoritism on his part, and started spreading rumors that I had only gotten the job because he wanted to get me in bed. It was ridiculous because I was well qualified, but, alas that is not the way the drama mill works. One of the supervisory staff members confronted me finally with “You’re only here because he wants to %^&* you. Didn’t you know that?” Then everyone started treating me like dirt, giving me all the tasks no one else wanted and not letting me do anything else to get forward. I assume in their eyes, I was getting forward by having the manager’s attention. Never mind that I didn’t want it or encourage it.
      I had to quit. I hated it because I liked the job, before the drama my coworkers had seemed like great people, and I hate being the person to walk away from a situation like that. I didn’t know what else to do, and it was making me feel so small and worthless.

    6. Simplytea

      Honestly, your worrying is not helping. You have some information, which may or may not be true, and I’m sure either it’ll fizzle out or you’ll find out it’s correct.

      Either way, be excited about your new job! And just be aware of the way you’re presenting yourself, and be immediately responsive to comments that are inappropriate (e.g. I don’t appreciate comments like those, and do not want to hear about this in the future).

    7. Merry and Bright

      I’ve been in a new job no time at all, and two men old enough to be my father have asked me out? Too right I would be freaked out.

    8. Not So NewReader

      You’ve got two guys that asked you out. And another person warned you about the owner. There’s something about things happening in threes that tends to be unsettling.

      Here’s one way to break it down:
      The two guys asking you out could be indicative of the culture of the company. Or NOT. It could be coincidence. Can’t tell for sure, but as another person said above here- the guys respected your NO.
      So someone warned you that the owner liked to start affairs. Forewarned is forearmed. Stay professional and stay business focused. If he does ask you out, “My policy is not to date people I work with.” You are not going to prevent him from asking, but you can be ready with your answer.

      As to the person who told you this, take what he is saying at face value, until he proves himself to be a jerk, assume he really had the best of intentions. This means not adopting him as your new best friend but just remaining your usual professional self. Your life goes on as usual, until you see substantial reason to change course.

      The few times I was warned about someone the warning proved to be correct. The person who warned me turned out to be an okay person. Fortunately, I was able to use a work focus and create an appearance of not noticing subtle behaviors. It’s amazing what can just go away when you do not seem to notice. For more blatant stuff, you can handle it because you already have handled with “NO”.

  18. Paige Turner

    Federal resumes! O_o
    I live in DC and I’ve applied to a few fed jobs through USAJobs with no success. I was at the library and happened to see the book Federal Resume Guidebook (5th ed by Troutman).
    I had NO IDEA that my resume for federal job applications was supposed to be so different from my “regular” resume. I feel like an idiot.
    So now I am writing a federal resume- I appreciate having found this book, but I find it a bit hard to read and kind of overwhelming. I’ve found some other advice online too but I always value AAM advice more than other sites. FWIW, I have a social science MA and some scattered relevant experience working for universities, plus a lot of retail experience (my job search has been pretty terrible). Does anyone have any tips on writing a federal resume?

    1. Christy

      I posted about this in last week’s open thread and got a few responses: control+F for my name.

      1. The Office Admin

        This is the coolest thing I have seen this week. Does this work on every website?
        What is this magic??

    2. The Office Admin

      I’m sure someone who has gotten a Fed job/works there now would be better for this, but I’ve applied for Fed jobs, both before I knew how their resumes should be and now, where I have a separate Fed resume.
      I used to just get rejected(using my standard resume) but recently, I made the top level qualifications, Gold or Excellent or some thing like that for a secretary position, but was rejected because they were specifically looking for veterans. It didn’t say that in the posting, but I was just glad to have been qualified, if that makes sense? I was like, YES! I can keep applying for these positions because I make the top level, there’s HOPE!!
      What can I say, I’ve been job hunting for a very very very long time!

      Make your resume LONG and wordy, and make sure the dates read 06/2008 to 10/2013 NOT June 2008 to October 2013.
      Also, I make a separate paragraph at the top that says: Qualifications pertinent to X Job and then bullet point keyword phrasing
      Good luck!

    3. Traveler

      Right? I feel like it’s an open secret among people who have already worked with the feds but I felt like such a plebeian when I found out. I bet they tossed my resume in the trashcan with a pile of other people who handed in the wrong information. I found a few videos on youtube that were pretty helpful in demystifying the process a bit and asked my friends that had already worked for the feds for help. I’ll post the youtube link in another post since it’ll probably get sidelined for the moment.

      1. periwinkle

        The feds aren’t the only ones with an automated screening process that requires certain resume wording. Around here you can take a seminar on the “secrets” for getting hired by my (very, very large) employer and I’m sure that resume phrasing is lesson #1. If our ATS is screening for “project management”, it will ignore “project manager” and “managed projects”. You have to wonder how many resumes of wonderfully qualified applicants never made it to a human. The only reason I made it was because a current employee told me how to revise my resume in a way that made the ATS happy. (I never figured out how to make the fed system happy after two years of trying, alas)

      1. Paige Turner

        Thanks for all the replies :) I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt like a plebeian loser- it doesn’t help that I have literally dozens of friends/acquaintances here in DC who are feds and no one mentioned it before. Crossing my fingers that my applications will start going somewhere now…

        1. ElCee

          Federalsoup dot com is another source.
          The federal application process is a very different beast than all other sectors–even state and local government. Most of the time you wait a LONG time to hear anything.
          It’s a learning curve but we have all been there (or at least, those of us who started applying after the USAJobs “overhaul” a few years ago). You’ll get the hang of it. When you do manage to score the elusive interview, it is very satisfying! And then a job offer–even more so!

    4. Simplytea

      Something a lot of people don’t know is they use a computer system to sort the thousands of applications they have into qualified sections.

      To make the cert, you have to basically use EXACTLY the words they use, no synonyms, especially the ones in the “specialized” section. Change your resume for EVERY job you apply for. Give highest marks for all the multiple choices even if they aren’t true–I don’t advocate for this, and don’t do it, but you won’t make the cert if you don’t have highest marks for all.

  19. OhNo

    What is the best way to open negotiations for a promotion? I got offered a promotion at my current job that will become official after I graduate – which is great! I’ve already verbally accepted, because I know I’ll take it, at least for a while, no matter what the pay rate is.

    When I do get the official offer, though, what would be a good way to negotiate the pay and/or benefits is I want to do so? Should I preemptively talk to my boss about it, or should I wait until the written offer comes through and discuss it then? And what is reasonable to negotiate for a just-above-entry-level position? I know pay is an option, but what about schedules or vacation time?

    1. sittingduck

      You can negotiate for anything, vacation time, pay, schedules – but a lot of it depends on the job type (you need to determine what is appropriate and what is not).

      It doesn’t hurt to negotiate, even if you would take any pay rate – because you could get more.

      That being said, since you have already verbally accepted the position, they may not negotiate with you, since you’ve basically told them you will take it.

      Your power in negotiation is that it may be a deal breaker, so if you’ve already accepted the position, they know its not a deal breaker.

      But you could still try.

    2. Artemesia

      If you have already accepted you are not in much of a position to negotiate — you said yes. When someone makes this kind of offer, you say how interested you are about taking about it further. When you talk about it further you probe about the new responsibilities and expectations and then you ask them about the salary range and pitch your suitability to be fairly high in the range for XYZ reasons. If they offer Z flatly then you ask if there is some flexibility because you think as a result of XYZ you bring something extra to the table. When you accept without details, you are in a week position to negotiate. The best way to handle it might be to ignore that you already accepted and try to open a discussion of the parameters of the role and your new responsibilities and the expected salary — and then work from there. Next time, don’t say ‘yes’, say ‘how interesting, I look forward to discussing this.’

  20. manomanon

    How do you stop yourself from over-explaining things? I fall into the trap of listing all the possible solutions plus which one I picked and why when asked something. I do this because in my last position my manager put a lot of decision making responsibilities I shouldn’t have had onto me and then made me justify them to our top people. However, it’s not as necessary now and I find that I can’t make myself stop. My new manager only cares about why I made the choice that I did- not the whole variety of choices I had and why I didn’t choose options b, c and d. She doesn’t seem bothered by this trait but I’m finding that the habit eats up our one on one meetings and we either run over or I don’t get everything I need from the meeting.

    1. Dawn

      I used to do this! If your manager has explicitly stated that she doesn’t need the other justifications/explanations from you, take her at her word and STOP. I found it helped a lot if I would make notes on what I would say before I went into 1:1 meetings and then just stuck to those notes. So I’d write out the decision I made and why I made it, and then just stick to the notes when talking about it instead of going off on every little tangential other potential decision that could have been made but wasn’t.

    2. HigherEd Admin

      Could you train yourself to use a script? Something like, “I weighed a lot of options, but ultimately decided that A was the best solution because of X and Y reasons. If you want to know more about my decision process, I’m happy to elaborate, but I am excited to move forward with A.”

      1. Natalie

        Yes. I tend to give way too much background, and I’ve trained myself to start at the most important thing and then ask if someone wants more background. Or, in email, put it in it’s own “Background” section at the bottom of the email, under the action item.

    3. TCO

      I agree that it might help to write things out. Type your narrative about why you made the decision you did, and then go back through and edit out 95% of it. That’s often much easier to do in writing than during the conversation.

      Would it also help to have an informal agenda for your 1:1 meetings? If you have a clear checklist of everything you want to cover it might help you stay focused on keeping things brief.

    4. fposte

      I’m like this generally in lots of situations, and for me the problem is not knowing my ending when I start, so I don’t recognize it when it whizzes past me. If this is you, try keeping your eye on the information goal and stopping when you reach it.

      1. Pontoon Pirate

        That’s such a good description of how most of my conversations go that I’m stealing it immediately.

    5. manomanon

      Thank you all these are helpful strategies. We do have an agenda of sorts for our one on ones. I have a bulleted list of things I want to cover and/or need her input on. I will start putting more detail onto it though which might be a better impetus for me to stay on point.
      I like the idea of adding a script to my prep for these meetings.
      Email tends to be a bit easier for me since I can edit out most of the things that are irrelevant before hitting send.

    6. TinyPjM

      I used to do this a LOT, a lot a lot. What works for me is to act like I am explaining something to a child. Not to mean that I dumb down things, but it helps me be less descriptive and more brief.

    7. Not So NewReader

      I read on here and it seems to be true: Start with your conclusion. “I decided on solution X for this situation. My reason for this choice is that X will allow us to[insert: have A, use B or end up with C] where as none of the other solutions offered this.”

      Make it your habit to start with the answer and work back. One thing I have done is tell myself, “Cut to the chase!” if I don’t get there fast enough, I remind myself “The chase! The chase!”

      Reality is that you should have a good reason for your choices and you should be able to explain that to anyone who asks. So it is fine to have something prepared and waiting just in case someone asks. You don’t have to explain the moment by moment with this boss though.
      My current boss will spot check me. Most stuff keeps going, but once in a while she will pause and say “what about this?” And I am ready with my reply.

  21. InternalApplicant

    Alison’s article on applying for an internal position was perfectly timed. A coworked recently left our department (of 5, now 4 people) and I am interviewing for her job. On Monday my other coworker, who would be my supervisor, is doing phone interviews. Since I’m already in the office this will just be a 20-minute meeting with her. Then if all goes well I’ll do a half-day of in-person interviews later in the week. My question is, do you think I need to wear a suit on Monday, or just for the other day? I’ll already be in my usual business casual (dress pants and button-down — I’m female), and I think I’d feel a little ridiculous dressing up in a suit all day for a short meeting with my coworker who has basically already told me I’ll make it through to the next round. What do you think?

    1. Paige Turner

      I think, wear the suit. You can always take the jacket off before and after the interview so you don’t feel so dressed up the rest of the day. Even if you know (or think) you’re already going to the next round, it doesn’t seem like there’s any downside to wearing the suit and it couldn’t hurt to show that you’re really serious about the position.

    2. Xarcady

      So it’s kind of like an in-person phone screen?

      I’d kick my regular outfit up a notch. Maybe a nice cardigan over the button-down, and nicer shoes. And pay attention to the little grooming details. Not the full-on suit, but a half step above my usual look.

      Just enough to show that you are taking the entire process seriously, even though this step appears to be just checking off a box: Yep, did the phone screen.

      1. the gold digger

        I know of someone who was working as a temp at a public university. She applied for the full-time position for which she was temping. For her phone screen interview, the hiring manager, who was her current supervisor, went into her office, closed the door, and called the temp who was sitting right outside of her office. She was apologetic about it, explaining every candidate had to be interviewed the exact same way.

  22. Not Today Satan

    Do any of you have experience in account management/sales? I have an interview for a job like this next week. Normally I’m not interested in sales, but I have interest (and expertise/a master’s degree) in the industry/product. From what they described during the phone screen, the vast majority of my clients will already be clients of the company (I won’t need to do much/any cold calling etc). I will spent 2-3 days working from home and 2-3 days on the road visiting clients, I guess seeing if they’re happy with what they have and trying to discern their current/future needs. There’s a decent base salary + bonuses (so it’s not commission based).

    Any words of wisdom? My dad is a regional sales rep so the world isn’t *totally* foreign to me but I’m still trying to figure out if it’s something I’d like/be good at. I’m definitely not “Salesy” but I’m good at building relationships with people.

    1. Alex

      This sounds similar to my job. One thing you should be comfortable with is constant follow-up of people, both internal and external. With an AM job, you are likely to be depending on coworkers, partners, other vendors, management, etc. for many aspects of delivering to your clients. You’re sort of a project manager in this regard, so make sure you can be comfortable pulling your colleagues in the directions you need them to be in, especially when you’re under deadlines and not getting responses.

      Similarly, you’ll have to play this role with clients as well. Keep them on track and don’t let conversations go cold. Even though you’re not going to be cold-calling, you will likely need to be very proactive in reaching out to people within the organizations that you haven’t had any relationship with but might influence or own some product set that you’d like to get into that company with. It’s easy to be complacent when the client already has your product, but you’ll get in trouble if you aren’t proactive about really crawling and canvassing the business to make new connections, because a competitor will be, and if they get a product that you sell as a side-item in the door because you weren’t being proactive enough, then you’ll kick yourself.

      This is my experience anyway. It can be grind, but it can be fun.

      1. Pipes

        I was going to reply, but this comment really hits it on the nose. I am in an AM role for technology, and I do not do any cold calling either. My time is split between following up on deals I am working (time management is very important – I work with our smallest customers, so I have 30 – 50 sales deals going on at any given time. Our AMs working with the largest customers may only have one, but many many moving parts in that single deal), and answering questions / solving problems for my customers and partners.

        When people hear “sales”, they immediately think of used car salesmen or something along those lines. With these types of jobs, don’t even think sales! Think of the opportunity for uncovering and solving customer problems. If that’s something of interest to you, it’ll be worth it. I love my job!

    2. puddin

      Ouch, I am cringing at your last sentence. No good salesperson is “Salesy”. A good salesperson is a consultant who is helping their client uncover needs/problems and offering viable solutions. Most employers want salespeople who listen more than they talk. Asking open ended questions of their clients to find out what the opportunity to offer a product or service is. For example, I used to sell computers in a retail store in the early 90’s we would have people come in a say that they needed a computer that did word processing so they could balance their checkbook electronically. OK now we all now that is not a thing, but back then there was a lot of education and learning that went along with sales. And really, that is how is should be all the time.

      The idea is to know your customers goals, their business, their 5 year plan so that you can enmesh what you are selling where and when it fits into your clients plans.

      If you want to read up on current sales theories I recommend, “The Little Red Book of Selling” by Jeffry Gitomer and “Challenger Sales” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.

      1. Not Today Satan

        Thank you! I didn’t mean to insult sales people at all; sorry if it came across that way.

        1. puddin

          Oh no worries! I am not offended at all. :)

          I just worry that people always think that sales is about lying and being pushy therefore don’t consider it a job option.

      2. Pennalynn Lott

        Thanks, puddin. I was in tech sales for 20 years (before deciding this past winter to go back to school for a degree in accounting and, ultimately, a CPA), and the one thing I loved about sales was being able to help customers solve problems. Listening is a huge part of that. So is being able to say, “I think you’ve got a good handle on X, and nothing I have to offer can improve it.”

        Sales – “good” sales, anyway – isn’t about “selling ice to Eskimos”, it’s about helping people solve problems with your products and/or services. If you can’t help them, then you move on. You don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. That’s a waste of time (both yours and theirs) and a great way to ruin your company’s reputation.

        In my years of experience, the place where sales gets a [justifiable] bad rap is in consumer sales. You have to sell a ton of individual units of X to a ton of individual retail customers, and bad behavior in that realm gets diluted (and is oftentimes encouraged by management). B2B (business-to-business) sales, especially in tech, is a whole other animal with a different, better, set of rules.

  23. cuppa

    So I’ve transferred locations, and word on the street is that this spot gets pretty warm during the summer months. Year round, I’m pretty much a dress or skirt/shirt with a cardigan girl. I’m used to being in places with high air conditioning, so I’m usually cold.
    Any ideas for how to dress for a warm office? I’ve come up with skipping the pantyhose, but I’m looking for ideas. Most of my dresses are sleeveless, and I’m not really comfortable showing completely bare arms. Any suggestions for great pieces with short sleeves?

    1. Dawn

      If you can, get a little fan to put under your desk. My office gets hot for 2-3 hours midday, and having a little bit of air moving around helps a ton!

      1. Elizabeth West

        I was going to say this too. My office is usually cold, but I have a fan for when I finish doing stair climbs, to help me cool off. It definitely helps.

    2. Violet Rose

      You could layer a short-sleeved/t-shirt cardigan over the dresses! I see cute pictures and tutorials on pinterest all the time, but most of my shirts have longer sleeves than the shrugs and would look ridiculous, so I don’t wear them myself.

      1. Violet Rose

        D’oh, remind me to refresh before replying; I see ACA beat me to it. To make a useless comment less useless: I used to live in an area known for being warm, casual, and beachfront, so you could easily get away with wearing nice t-shirts, but lightweight, short-sleeved button-downs and blouses were also pretty popular.

    3. LillianMcGee

      I’m in Chicago where the summer months are hot, humid, sticky, yuck. They BLAST the air conditioning basically everywhere. I don’t leave home without my jean jacket or light leather. Cardigans aplenty. Layer!

    4. Natalie

      Pay attention to fabric. IMO synthetics are the absolute worst in the summer (unless they’re althetic or performance gear) – they don’t breathe, so I just stink to high heaven by the end of the day no matter what I do. Cotton and linen are your friends for both too warm and a little too cool.

      1. CoffeeLover

        Agreed. Just go for light material. Light material skirts, light material shirts, light material pants. I would also go for flowy over fitted. So choose a-line skirts instead of pencil skirts.

    5. Mitchell

      Think same outfit, different fabrics. You’d be surprised how much difference it makes.

    6. cuppa

      Thanks, everyone! This was really helpful! I think I am going to get a fan and check out some short-sleeved sweaters.

    7. Xarcady

      Try to avoid nylon. It’s a very heat-retentive material. And it seems to be all over the place in the fashion industry right now. I’m seeing a lot of nylon and nylon/polyester blends for summer clothes–these are just going to be hot.

      As someone suggested above, cotton and linen are good choices. So is rayon, or a rayon/linen or rayon/cotton blend. Ramie blended with cotton is also a good choice for sweaters.

    8. Mephyle

      When it gets really hot, it really helps to avoid things that touch you around your waist. In other words, this is the time to not wear skirts, or dresses that have a seam or elastic at the waist, and stick to shift dresses.

  24. Little bit frustrated

    I got a rejection about 24hrs after sending in a marathon form application. I read AAMs “rejection” section, and am feeling a little better. And yes, in a way, of course it’s better to know that not. But, I still feel a bit frustrated. I guess that’s why they make chocolate…

    1. Carrie in Scotland

      …and cake :) it’s never fun being rejected but keep going, you’ll get something soon!

    2. Not Today Satan

      I hate getting those so shortly after applying. :( I’ve gotten them as soon as 25 minutes after submitting. So demoralizing.

      1. Merry and Bright

        +100 I think Alison posted a comment the other day where she said even if she knew quite quickly that an applicant wasn’t a good fit, she will wait about a week before sending a rejection. It is much less insulting and softens the blow.

    3. Malissa

      I look at is a bullet dodged. If they reject you before a human has looked over your resume, you didn’t want to work for them anyway.

    4. Merry and Bright

      To paraphrase Groucho Marx, you don’t want to work somewhere that wouldn’t have you.

      Their loss. :)

    5. The Office Admin

      I got a job rejection about 30 minutes after I found out that the apartment we wanted to move into doesn’t allow our dog breed after they said all three times we visited the complex that yes, our dog would be fine, no big deal.
      Right.
      Kick me when I’m down people, jeez.
      Would you rather have a rejection 1 day after applying, or 3 months after applying?

    6. Tau

      I hear you – I got a rejection for a job I was really excited about the day after I sent in the application this week myself. :( Chocolate sounds like a very good solution to me.

    7. Little bit frustrated

      I just wanted to get my “Thank Yous” in before this thread gets completely buried. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way, and the encouragement really helps. You all made my day much brighter, thanks! :-)

  25. _ism_

    The more I post and receive feedback on my work situation (here and other sites too), the more despondent I am becoming. All the news and blogs about the wage gap between men and women, and the raising of minimum wages whether real or hypothetical… those don’t help. I am worried that I am going to experience rising anxiety and depression the longer I try to stick it out here. (The backstory is long, but suffice it to say I’m stuck here, it’s considered a “good job” and I’ve been at it for a year, and it is ESSENTIAL to remain employed.) Managers don’t respect me or actively dislike me. I let it slip to my boss that I may have Asperger’s and now she talks to me like I’m stupid, and gets extra frustrated when I want to talk about the details or process of something. I’m being paid less than a Walmart cashier, but my role seems pretty important. They’ve put me on a massive regulatory compliance project that I am teaching myself from the ground up. I crunch numbers and find errors in our order system all day every day. I’m being asked to train new hires on Excel, but am not told what exactly they need to learn or what their experience level is. I had to report sexual harrassment. The HR lady resents me for some reason and called me names when I needed information about my benefits. I get good feedback from my boss, but also bad feedback. I need this job, I need the good reference and the experience because I have been a serial job hopper, homeless and addicted and depressed in the very recent past. I am stuck in a better situation than before, but at the same time I’m starting to realize it’s not good enough and I’m worth more.

    1. fposte

      That all sounds really frustrating. I don’t have much to offer about the job part, except for know your own worth and keep your head up, but do you have a therapist to help with the anxiety and the depression? It sounds like resilience will be key here, and therapy is often a way to enhance it.

      1. _ism_

        Thanks. I am constantly second-guessing my worth, with all the media buzz conflicting with my own personal issues. When I figure out these health benefits I will look into a therapist.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Please watch less media. I think that is good advice for all of us, dial it back. It’s not helping us and in some cases it can hurt us. It can pull down our thinking and in turn pull down our health. Please make a deliberate effort to find positive things to read/watch.

          Maybe you can find a 800 number to call and talk to someone about your benefits.

          You can ask the new hires what their experience is with Excel so that solves half the problem with training. If you boss will not inform you what to teach them, then teach them the types of things you use or you see others around you using. Hit the stuff that is the most often used or causes the most questions/difficulties. Bonus points for teaching them how to find their own answers if they have a problem.

          You sound very alone/lonely at your job. This would do in anyone- most people would want to jump up and run out the door. I am not sure what would help here. I think you have been reading/commenting here for a little while now. Keep reading. The effect is cumulative, over time your outlook/perceptions/thoughts on things will broaden. This is what is happening to all of us here, which is why we keep reading. This is a crock pot solution, not a microwave solution. Let what you read here just percolate for a bit and see where that puts you.

          1. _ism_

            Thanks for the kind words. The percolation has started, I think… by media buzz, I just mean all the news blogs about the minimum wage and gender pay gap. I don’t see them on TV, but I do internet way too much.

            1. PX

              Be selective about where you internet. I have a carefully curated bubble I check regularly, and while I know there’s a lot more out there, I’ve made the conscious decision for my own mental health to just not go there. So that would be my tip!

  26. Violet Rose

    I spoke to my manager about the sexist/prejudiced comments in the office, and it didn’t blow up in my face! I presented it as, “comments like these could get us in trouble as we get larger, if we ever want to employ people who are [female, gay, Muslim, etc.]”. I’m not sure it really sank in, since there was a lot of, “Unfortunately, that’s the way he is,” and “he’s equally likely to pick on [people who are, say, from a particular city – not anything that is a protected class].” But, he wasn’t dismissive, and I feel like I’ve now laid the groundwork in case it gets worse or I feel the need to speak up more often.

    1. Violet Rose

      For context, I’ve postedthree previous rants about this specific guy and his specific comments. (CommentGuy is the CEO, and my manager is next in command, so Manager was really the only person to whom I could go.) I didn’t bring up all of the examples I listed here, just the two I thought would seem most egregious from a third part perspective.

      So much more I probably should have said, with less waffling, but I feel better for having said SOMEthing.

      (And of course, if anyone else has similar stories, I’d love to hear!)

    2. Anastasia Beaverhausen

      Go you!! I’m very proud you did that. What a weak ass attempt at explaining this away though, on your manager’s (?) part.

      1. Violet Rose

        Yeah, I think he was trying to be comforting, but I don’t think he quite Got It. (He did at least say, “If he says something really out of line and you don’t feel like confronting him, come to me”.) I don’t think he’s ever dealt with a complaint like that before, so I’m curious to see how this goes.

    3. Anonicorn

      I’m glad your feeling more positive than before and I admittedly have no context for your situation, but “unfortunately, that’s the way he is,” IS NOT OK coming from a manager when someone reports sexist/prejudice comments.

      1. Violet Rose

        The complication is, the guy I was complaining about outranks us both, so Manager wasn’t just deflecting – his power really is limited here. But I’m hoping that now that I’ve pointed out how gendered assumptions can be harmful, he’ll start hearing them more.

    4. Elizabeth West

      Not my experience, but at Exjob, we once got a female sales rep–she was really nice and I thought, Yay, more of us in the office (there were only five women in the entire company at the time, counting Bosswife, and even less after she and CoolSupervisor left). She was a little overweight but by no means grossly obese or anything.

      The guys were SO MEAN to her–they made constant comments about how much she ate, called her names like dump truck behind her back, made fat jokes continually. Not just the office guys, but the shop guys as well. I tried to call them on it when I heard it, but they either totally ignored me or pooh-poohed me.

      She barely lasted two weeks before bailing on the job, citing a back injury. Bullshit, and good for her for leaving. This disgusted me so much I would have walked out myself if I could have. After she left, someone said, “I bet her back wasn’t really bad–she just didn’t like this job.” I said, “Why would she, when you guys said nasty things about her all the time?” “Oh you just have to learn to take shit around here; we’re just kidding.”

      Even thinking about that now makes me so mad I could spit, but I couldn’t afford to do anything about it at the time. I wish now that I’d reported it, though I don’t think it would have done any good. I’m just glad she left because DAMN.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Some companies know how to REPEL good people while other companies are looking to attract new people.

        One of the hallmarks of bullying is, “Oh, what? Can’t take a joke?” Bullies are exhausting people because no matter what they are always right.

      2. Violet Rose

        I thought I replied to this last night; I must’ve spaced and closed the window instead. Anyway:

        0_0 WOW. Just… WOW. I’m glad she got out of there too! And Not So NewReader nailed it on “Can’t take a joke?” Actual jokes don’t depend on cruelty to be “funny”.

  27. the_scientist

    Here’s a good open thread question! My relationship with my former master’s supervisor has turned a bit awkward. We had some bumps during the course of my program and thesis writing-she was definitely a tough supervisor, but I know her toughness made me the researcher that I am and I never shied away from taking responsibility for mistakes. In the end, my defense went swimmingly, and we immediately started working on a manuscript. It was rejected (I don’t totally disagree; on its own it doesn’t tell a hugely compelling story) but when I went to start working on a second manuscript, she totally fell off the radar. I’ve basically given up on getting this published because she just will not respond to my emails and I need her OK to move forward.

    To make it more awkward, she works for my old job as an investigator. When I announced that I was leaving, every other investigator and many of our other external collaborators reached out to thank me for my work and wish me well. I heard *nothing* from her…..until last week (three months after the fact) when I got a LinkedIn request from her. And, maybe I’m putting too much emotional energy into a LinkedIn request, but….I’m honestly kind of peeved. She let me down as an advisor by not helping me get published, and she couldn’t take 30 seconds out of her schedule to send me an email wishing me well? I know she’s busy but I honestly don’t think anyone is that busy. I can’t *not* accept the request, because that’s too awkward, but I feel like by accepting it I’m tacitly accepting that it’s ok to be sort of cast aside/forgotten about (wrt the manuscript). I’ve been stewing about this for days and I need an objective opinion on whether I’m blowing this totally out of proportion, as a habitual over-thinker.

    1. Christian Troy

      Someone from my master’s program “friended” me on LinkedIn about a year after I last saw him in person. We didn’t get along during our group project for various reasons that are complicated and I ran into him having a meeting with our professor about me when I turned in the final paper. I accepted his request on the basis that I didn’t want it to look bad to other people from our program, nothing more and nothing less.

      So, I get where you’re coming, but at the same time, you never know what the future holds when it comes to connections.

    2. fposte

      Yeah, there’s a fair bit of suck in there. I don’t think it’s personal to you–my guess is that there’s stuff going on for her that you don’t know about–and I’d definitely let go of the “congratulations” email thing. Additionally, LinkedIn requests seem to be automatically generated most of the time, so I don’t think she’s necessarily consciously behind that.

      The failure to approve the manuscript is another issue. This is a practice outside of my discipline, so I don’t know the conventions, but if all she has to do it as rubber-stamp so you can continue and not be an actual contributing co-author, she really needs to do that. Does she have office hours, and can you turn up with the paperwork during them? Is there a program supervisor or dean whom you can contact if you can’t pin her down that way–not to file a complaint, but it ask if there’s a way around the problem or anybody else who can provide the approval?

      I think taking a specific action may help you think about it less. And thinking about it less would be a good thing.

      1. the_scientist

        Yes, my thought is that the LinkedIn request was automatically generated. And I do know that there were some other things happening in her life that may have caused her to fall behind on email. I think it’s fair that I need to let go of the congratulations thing, although I maintain that it’s a bit rude!

        Regarding the manuscript, she will be a co-author, so it’s more than just a rubber stamp. It would involve reviewing the manuscript and suggesting revisions and additions. The manuscript is part of my thesis, so it’s already written and I have a journal picked out and the approval of my co-supervisor (another co-author) but co-supervisor will not proceed without primary supervisor’s input (this is reasonable and typical) and it would be unethical to remove her as an author. Unfortunately, I went to grad school in a city three hours away from where I currently live and work, so even if she kept regular office hours (she doesn’t), I can’t exactly show up at her door! She IS the program head, but I could follow-up with the department head, potentially. However, publishing was not a requirement to complete this program (it’s a master’s, not a PhD), so I could see a response of “well, it’s at the discretion of your supervisor so there’s nothing we can do”. It may be that I just need to write it off, which is a shame because I think it’s totally publishable (albeit not ground-breaking or high-impact) and I would love a first-author manuscript- and it’s to her advantage to publish it, since she’s an author!

        1. AnonAcademic

          Have you sent an email stating that you plan to submit the paper on X date, and you will need her feedback by Y date if she wants to suggest any changes? You can even add in “If I don’t hear from you by X date I will assume the paper is fine as-is.”

          If she’s the department head it’s entirely likely she’s swamped in admin tasks and you might need to put direct time pressure on her for her to get back to you.

        2. Cath in Canada

          How many people are authors on both manuscripts – is it just you and her? Would it be at all feasible to have a junior member of the group – maybe an undergrad, or a very new grad student – do a small amount of work on the project to extend either manuscript enough that they could be a second (or third or fourth or whatever) author? That would be a big deal for someone that junior, and having someone who’s actually physically there who’s also pushing the supervisor to get involved could be just the extra momentum you need. It could also allow you to salvage the first manuscript, assuming that resubmitting to a lower impact journal isn’t an option for you.

          Personally I wouldn’t involve the department head – that has the potential to backfire spectacularly, in many of the possible scenarios.

          Good luck!

        3. TL -

          It’s kind of a big deal if she’s not helping you publish (assuming, from your name, that you’re in the sciences.) I think you have the right to be more than annoyed with her – the congrats thing is not a big deal but the publishing thing would push me straight to bitch-eating-crackers mode.

        4. fposte

          As I’ve said, I don’t know the field conventions–is it possible that this is a one-bite-at-the-cherry situation, and having put in the work for the first submission she’s peacing out on subsequent publishing attempts?

          1. the_scientist

            Thanks all, for your thoughtful replies! Cath, I don’t know if it’s possible to have a junior student get involved- the manuscript is 90% written since it was part of my master’s thesis and since I’m no longer connected in any tangible way to my supervisor, I’m not sure how many students she currently has, if any- no undergrads, for sure. There would be three authors, and given the extent of her contribution to my thesis I think that ethically, she needs to remain an author. On further reflection, I think you’re right that involving the department head has the potential to end very poorly.

            Regarding giving her a hard deadline, I think she’d be furious about that, to be honest. She’s *very* particular and will not sign her name to anything without going over it with a fine-tooth comb (possibly why she’s so slow to respond to things?) At my old job, she would frequently stall the progress of time-sensitive projects by taking forever to get around to reviewing them and then demanding substantial revisions. So I could do it that way, but that would be the end of the relationship for sure.

            Fposte- the plan was always to get at least 2 manuscripts out of my thesis; we had the option of chapter or manuscript format and I chose the manuscript format so it would be easier to publish. Maybe she decided I needed too much coaching or my writing wasn’t up to par (she is very critical of everyone’s writing) after the first manuscript, but it would have been better for her to just say so? She’s always trying to publish and has fast-tracked a whole bunch of manuscripts in the past year, so maybe that’s where her focus is and she’s not interested in a last-author manuscript right now……but if she just doesn’t respond to several months worth of follow-up emails I’m never going to know. I’m stumped.

            And not so new reader- she is an investigator for my former job, so I know she’s around and healthy. Just unresponsive to email.

            1. fposte

              Yes, she absolutely should respond. She’s doing a crap job of supervising. If your question ultimately is just “Hey, is my supervisor crappy?” the answer is definitely yes.

            2. AnonAcademic

              I’m sorry to hear that she’s so unreasonable. She doesn’t sound like a very good mentor. In my field, publications are how you get jobs and grants, so someone kiboshing publishing for dumb reasons is a Big Deal. Big enough that it might be worth burning a bridge over, because it could come down to your career advancement vs. preserving the relationship. It doesn’t sound like it’s that high stakes in your situation and so I understand the bind you’re in.

    3. Not So NewReader

      I hope this is off the wall and has nothing to do with your setting. I had a friend going for a doctorate. His adviser fell off the radar just like you are saying. Long story made very short it turned out that the adviser was terminally ill.

      If you cannot get an answer from her, please call someone around her and ask if she is okay.

  28. Carrie in Scotland

    OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS IT’S APRIL!

    I’m officially on the job hunt in the city I’m relocating to during the summer and have found 2 positions to apply to already.

    This stuff is getting real. Eeek.

    1. The IT Manager

      It gets real fast. I just completed my move which I was talking about in November and December. And boom, it’s April and I working from my new home. Just keep chugging along and take breaks before you get burnt out on everything to packing, moving, job hunting.

    2. S

      I started applying for jobs in February and now here I am in April with a new job to start next month and I turned in my notice at my current place. It all moves fast! Good luck with your job hunt!

  29. SLG

    Any suggestions on how to move into a different department when there’s no formal job listed, but work needs to be done and I have the skillset to do it?

    For reference, this is a company with a fairly casual, go-for-it-and-get-sh*t-done culture, but it’s becoming more formal as the company grows. I have good relationships in the department I want to move into, and I’m picking up projects for them on the side as I’m able. When I asked an HR rep for advice, they told me to literally create a job description, give it to the people I want to work for, and pitch myself to fill the role. That seems a little aggressive to me — not to mention risky because you get one shot at pulling a move like that, and if you get it wrong, it’s hard to recover from.

    Fortunately my manager is aware of what I want and is willing to advocate for it as well. I’m networking like crazy (among other things, took the VP to coffee and he offered to have coffee with me again). So far I’ve been told there’s no budget for a new position, but this is the type of company where that can change very quickly. Any suggestions on what else I can be doing?

    1. Astatine Product Manager

      ” That seems a little aggressive to me.” I do not think so! I actually think your HR rep had a good suggestion.

      As for your concern, “you get one shot at pulling a move like that, and if you get it wrong, it’s hard to recover from”, I believe you can avoid any risk by being non-aggressive about it, saying something like “I realize there is no current budget for this, but for reasons X, Y, and Z, I do believe it would be a good idea to have this new job created, and I thought I’d bring you the job description I came up with for your consideration”. Make it very clear that you saw an opportunity and wanted to discuss it, but would not be dissatisfied if the idea is turned down for financial or other reasons.

      In fact, when people talk about how important “initiative taking” is, that’s what it means! Finding a problem that’s important for the company to solve (hopefully in its critical path) and coming up with a solution without having to be told to do so. As long as you are not arrogant about it, and make it very clear that you’d understand if it it’s not possible to go with your suggestion, I don’t think there’s any risk of it backfiring (especially since your own manager is willing to advocate for it).

      One thing to consider is whether you think this can be “sold” as a long-term job. You say “work needs to be done”, but is it work that keeps being replenished, or an one-off project (which you could write a proposal for being temporarily reassigned to?). Be your own “devil advocate” and figure out if you can make a convincing case for a permanent new job title, or need to recommend a temporary task force that you would lead. Note that regardless of the outcome of your proposal, this can become an excellent talking point for “tell me about a time when you showed initiative at work” interview question. Good luck!

      1. SLG

        Thanks for the advice! This is helpful — I was having a hard time imagining how to present a job description in a non-obnoxious way. Definitely will go for it.

  30. Ali

    So I had a phone interview today for a social media job with a national outsourced services provider. I’m familiar with the company already so didn’t have to do much research there. However, there is now a marketing/sales component to the job that was not in the description when I applied or mentioned by the recruiter. (I know, “other duties as assigned” and all.) The HR manager who interviewed me said a couple people have already backed off the position after hearing that. I told her I wanted to learn more about the role, as I was interested in working in marketing eventually, but wasn’t prepared for the sales aspect of it or the part that requires design work. She said she would see if she could arrange a phone screen with the marketing manager for me, so now I’m waiting on that.

    I’m disappointed because this job seemed like a great fit! But, if I were to be offered it and accept, I’d have to move five hours away. I wouldn’t want to do that for a role that didn’t totally work for me because I’d end up back in my dead-end hometown. I also had reservations about the city, because it’s pretty similar to where I live now in terms of population and (lack of) decent activities to do, so I admit that held me back. I had cold feet and nerves yesterday and now it all seems to make sense, unfortunately.

    The door isn’t totally shut here, but I think my enthusiasm about the position has dropped.

    1. voluptuousfire

      +1. Been there, have the tshirt, commemorative plate and shot glass to prove it.

      Good luck!

  31. loquaciousaych

    I got a new job!!!!!!!!!!! and I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE it! I am out of sales and out of retail, two HUGE bonuses in my personal book! At 42, with over 20 years of sales, I was just really burned out on it and to get into something else was HUGE.

    I’m now the Activities Director for an assisted living community, and it is the best job I have had in about 10 years. I am thrilled and challenged every day.

    BTW, THANK YOU ALISON for giving me the courage to be much more direct in the interview for this job than I would have been a couple years ago.

    1. CrazyCatLady

      Congratulations! How did you successfully make the transition from sales to being the activities director?

      1. loquaciousaych

        I was lucky, and the fit was just *RIGHT*. I knew it and so did the Administrator interviewing me- immediately.

        Seriously, I used soft skills and administrative experience in my resume to show off that I can handle lots of high level thinking and strategic planning, and wrote a KILLER cover letter.

    2. Persephone Mulberry

      This is super timely! My husband has been doing retail his entire professional career (about 15 years) and is getting super burnt out as well. We were just talking last night about what other options are out there where he “can help people without having to sell stuff to them.”

      What other kinds of positions did you look at?

      1. loquaciousaych

        Administrative positions mostly, but I also considered (and applied for) records clerk and stuff like that.

    3. FinallyFriday

      That’s awesome, congratulations!

      If you don’t mind me asking (feel free to not answer if I’m prying too much), what kind of qualifications do you need for that kind of career in an assisted living community? That’s a path I’m considering going down and some inside knowledge would be much appreciated.

      1. loquaciousaych

        Assisted living usually doesn’t have any certification or educational experience requirements. Skilled nursing does. I did find out that if they could have added any single “bonus thing” to me as a package overall, they would have liked a degree, but they were not going to overlook the fit just because I didn’t have one.

        The things you need are: a passion for connecting with people and building relationships, long term planning skills, willingness to manage yourself (and sometimes others), ability to handle sensitive and tough situations well, and an engaging personality. I truly feel I have all of these abilities in spades.

        I would volunteer for a while to get a feel for it, because it is really wonderful and fun! But it’s work!

  32. Self Aware Anonymous

    This is pretty embarrassing to admit and I hope people have constructive advice on this.

    I am prone to gossiping at work and I hate it about myself. I tell myself I’ll stop, but I have a hard time actually stopping. I’ve worked in mostly small and toxic workplaces where the gossip started at the top. In every single position, the management would gossip about other people to me and I think that’s where it started. It almost felt like it gave me permission to gossip (I know that’s not a valid excuse, which is why I want to change it.)

    I don’t like how I feel after gossiping about others. But I seem unable to stop myself – it’s like a compulsion. Probably before I can change it, I need to figure out why I’m doing it… but I’m not sure! If anyone has any suggestions on how to break this bad habit, I’d really appreciate it, because willpower alone isn’t helping me.

    1. Dawn

      Write it all down in a diary or on a blog that only you have access to. Get it out of your system in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone. And maybe seek counseling to get to the bottom of why you have the compulsion in the first place. Good luck!

    2. Carrie in Scotland

      I have been that person.
      My last place of work was really gossipy and bitchy. I don’t quite know how I got out of doing it, but for months in my current job I was overwhelmed with, well, how normal it was. Getting out of the toxic environment does help.
      Is there maybe a way of letting it out when you get home, like writing it out and shredding it?

      1. Self Aware Anoymous

        I definitely do let it out at home too – usually just venting to my partner. But he’s probably sick of hearing it too. Writing it down and then throwing it away seems like a good idea though.

        1. HeyNonnyNonny

          Yes, venting at home helps a lot.

          Also, wasn’t it here I read about the idea of ‘positive gossip’? It’s a really easy habit to start cause you’re still participating in the gossip, but then starting throwing in nice things too.

    3. AndersonDarling

      #1 It’s good that you can identify the issue in yourself and want to correct it.
      #2 I’ve found that gossiping runs rampant in companies where the culture is very competitive or if there is poor management/oversight. It’s also bad in companies where there is no communication, then all the information you can get comes from gossip.
      Maybe you could find the source of why you want to gossip? Is the gossip about certain people or is it about the workplace?
      Sometime people gossip because they can’t connect with co-workers in other ways. Can you find common interests with your co-workers and talk about those instead?
      Good Luck!

    4. matcha123

      The places I’ve worked are prone to gossip. I think we all like it when people gather around to listen to something we say. What I do is ask myself if this is something someone needs to know; if it is going to hurt the person I’m talking about and whether or not I think this information will allow people to trust me more or not.

      More often than not, I bite my tongue. If people want to gossip or rant at me, I will listen and sound sympathetic. Honestly, right now I’m sitting on some juicy information that I would love to share, but I’m keeping it to myself because it only serves to scratch the telling itch and nothing else :)

    5. straws

      I have the same problem some times! I try to catch myself in the moment and say something out loud, like “That was completely uncalled for, I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry.” I feel like since I’ve started that, I’ve definitely cut back and it also has the bonus of calling the other person out so they (hopefully) don’t continue gossiping with me in the future!

    6. Anonicorn

      Been there. This might sound silly, but I used to set “don’t gossip” calendar reminders that opened at the start of each day with messages like, you have control over your own behavior, this is not making you happy, etc.

    7. OriginalEmma

      Can you replace the mental thoughts with something else? Like a mental rubber-band-snap that jolts you out of automatically speaking just because you need to have your say. Whenever you get the urge to gossip, perhaps you can think “Would I say this to [subject of gossip’s] face? No. Stop.” Or like another commenter posted ages ago, when poster herself started gossiping to another coworker, the other coworker said “Oh, no, I don’t do that.” It really made her think about what she was doing. Perhaps saying “Oh, no, I don’t do that” will help?

      1. Elizabeth West

        Or use a real rubber band snap. Put a hair band on your wrist. Every time you catch yourself thinking about telling someone a juicy thing, yell “Stop!” at yourself in your head and snap it hard. I also second the writing-it-down thing. I used to do that when I was trying to stop complaining at Exjob–I’d open a Notepad document and rant away in it, save it to my flash drive, and take it home at the end of the day.

        .

    8. LillianMcGee

      People tend to demonize gossip, but it’s actually one of the most powerful ways we bond with other humans. Think about it… don’t you feel closer to someone who just shared with you that interesting tidbit of information? I think gossip is okay, as long as you are not sharing things that are sensitive in nature (like if I do payroll, I’m not gonna gossip about how so-and-so just got a raise), or mean-spirited. Try to imagine the person you’re talking about is eavesdropping in the next room. Say something, but make it kind!

    9. fposte

      I’m with Lillian. Think about what makes you like gossiping (and boy, do I get it) and see if you can find that another way. I think that’s one of the great things about water-cooler television shows–they give people something to share that’s not about their co-workers.

    10. Jillociraptor

      Ugh, I hear you. I LOVE to gossip and a lot of my job is being able to pick up rumblings and things heard through the grapevine and translate those into useful information, so I can’t go cold turkey.

      One thing that has really helped me is not just to STOP gossiping, but to try to take on a kind of new persona. For example, when I was feeling really frustrated with my manager (and others were too so there was lots of venting!) rather than going into conversations excited to say “you won’t believe what nutty thing Jane did this week!”, I decided to try to think of myself as an Eminently Reasonable Person who always shows empathy. So I’d go into conversations more ready to say, “Hmm, I wonder if she might have actually meant X.”

      It did NOT change my deep passion for gossip (the struggle is real), but it did help me hone a more professional persona.

    11. Oh gosh - me too!

      I have just resorted to letting people know to not tell me anything that needs to be a secret. I try very hard to not do negative gossip but it TOUGH. I only try to have positive gossip – only say things that are nice, kind and true but I still slip up from time to time. We all have faults and just realize that you are human, just like everyone else.

    12. Nobody

      Try to imagine that whoever you’re talking about might be listening in on your conversation — because it could be true. The person could be standing around the corner, or the person you’re talking to could go straight to the person you’re talking about and say, “You’ll never believe what Self Aware Anonymous is saying about you!”

    13. Joey

      Picture them gossiping about you. Or better picture how you’ll feel if the person were to find out.

      1. Self Aware Anonymous

        Good point, particularly about how I’d feel if they find out. I immediately feel that sort of regret and sinking feeling in my stomach after gossiping, too.

    14. Sandy

      Good gossip!

      Hear me out. I had a supervisor once who told me that he made a practice of clamping his mouth shut whenever he heard something bad about someone, but telling it far and wide whenever he heard something good.

      I decided to implement it as my own personal policy a few years ago, and it’s WONDERFUL. You still get the satisfaction of gossiping, but you become known as the positive person around the office and it somehow seems to come back two or threefold.

      Try it!

      1. C Average

        This! I am all about Good Gossip, too.

        I’ve also set some pretty explicit intentions both internally and externally. I’ve flat-out told colleagues, “Look, this conversation isn’t going anywhere productive. I really don’t want to gossip about Jane, or anyone else, for that matter. Can we change the station?”

        The first few times I did it, I felt like Gallant from “Goofus & Gallant,” but it did work. And now people aren’t as apt to try to gossip with me.

    15. Ashamedgossip

      I also find it really easy to follow the crowd in a gossipy workplace. And I’m pretty good at shutting down somebody if they try to gossip about someone I like overall, even if it’s someone who has some irritating habits. But if someone complains about someone I don’t like? Sorry, i jump right on that bitch train. My desk is in a room with 9 other people, and we all supervise part time employees who work in clients’ homes, and each client has a clinical supervisor and a coordinator who share supervisory responsibilities. (We are in the office maybe 65-80% of the time, depending on our specific roles, and face to face with clients the rest of the time.) I haven’t heard much gossip about the in office staff, but I am sorry to say we gossip CONSTANTLY about our in-home staff, who are mostly in their 20s and don’t have much work experience. We do talk about the ones who are good, also, but we complain a lot about the ones who aren’t. To me this feels not quite so bad as if we were blatantly backstabbing the people we see every day, but it’s definitely not good. I’m not sure I can give it up cold turkey! But I will definitely try to go as much toward the Nice Gossip as possible.

    16. Not So NewReader

      Some people gain energy from gossiping. If they don’t gossip they do not have energy to get through their workday. What will happen if you don’t gossip?

      A tidbit that is helpful to remember: People are showing you how they talk about you behind your back. And you are showing them how you talk about them behind their backs. Is that how you want them to know you and think of you as being?

      Last thought: This is people’s LIVES. If someone’s son is a big drug addict that is not something good or anything to rejoice over. Some people look at other people’s misery to reassure themselves that they are doing well in this world. I am sorry, but if I have to use this type of information to reassure myself all is well in my life- then I have hit rock bottom.

      We all gossip. Sometimes if I have cross words with someone, I might go to someone else for insight or suggestions. In the process of having this convo, I am gossiping. Other times I find out a friend is not well. So I tell a couple of mutual friends and they check in on the sick friend… and quickly tick-off the sick friend. I just gossiped. I don’t believe that all gossiping can be avoided. I think that your best bet is to go case by case and ask yourself each time, “What is my point in repeating this story?” That question slowed me down a lot.

    17. Sammy J

      I love office gossiping too! and then I hate myself for doing it! The only thing that helped me was changing jobs to an office that didn’t gossip…. :(

  33. ThatGirl

    I have a situation at work that I would love some input on.

    I am a co-director of a rather large grant program on the east coast. We have a tiny staff – 4 (myself, my co-director, and two assistants). We are part of a large university and report directly to a VP. A little background about me – I have a MA in a technical field, and got my manager chops on a digital project (managing a staff of 6 in a larger organization of about 30). I don’t really profess to be a great manager, but I am reasonable and work well with others. The two assistants in the office are about my age (mid 30’s) – and we work together quite well. We also employ some students workers for additional tasks. I supervise quote a few of them, and enjoy it – as I like working with college students.

    Perhaps you might be able to see where this is going. My co-director. She is a member of a religious order, is in her 50’s and doesn’t know how to relate to and work with others. (I should add that age and membership to a religious order are not creating an issue – my staff works regularly with members of religious orders who are in their 60’s+ and we love them! – it is definitely a personality issue) She speaks condescendingly to the other staff, throws people under the bus in the blink of an eye, and doesn’t really do any work (aside from attending conferences and walking around campus). Relations in the office are tense and the office staff and the students have pretty much removed themselves from contact with her. She and I recently had a meeting in which she told me that she didn’t understand why people didn’t like her and told me she had no experience working with a team. Since we are co-directors, I didn’t know what to say, but offered her some resources to help her (a few books). I thought about it a bit, and went to my direct supervisor to let her know that this had happened, and to tell her that I thought my co-director could really use a mentor – since she has no management experience and doesn’t know how to work with a team.

    My direct supervisor decided that I should be the one to mentor her, since she opened up the door for me to share people’s complaints about her (I get them all the time). I don’t feel comfortable doing this for a few reasons – mainly because there is already an inter-office popularity contest (created by her, not me – I don’t care a lick about being popular) between us AND I am swamped with work – report writing, budgeting, meetings, etc.

    How do I handle this? I know that my direct supervisor isn’t going to help much more here – I’ve asked before for assistance and received not very much. I would appreciate any input or opinions folks could give me.

    1. My Heart is Breaking Over Maybe Having to Leave My Job

      Honestly, I think you should be honest with your direct supervisor and tell her that based on the conversation you already gave her some direction, and you’re not quite sure that a peer is the right person to do this kind of mentoring. Though, she has opened up to you about this, so maybe you ARE the right person to do this? Maybe she started that ‘popularity contest’ because she feels threatened by you – because she views you as so much more competent than she is, and that’s the only way she could possibly win (though it seems like she’s definitely not winning any popularity contests).

      I really think you should try to give her some direction. Maybe being friendlier towards her in that way would also help to soften some of the tensions in in your office as well? IT really could be an issue that she feels threatened by the fact that you’re younger, and you’re her peer. I think it could be worth a shot.

      1. ThatGirl

        I did tell my manager that I thought it would be inappropriate and probably not go over very well. She then said she would think about finding her a mentor outside the department – which means nothing will happen.

        I agree with trying to soften some of the tensions. I’ve been trying to make small interpersonal connections – little icebreakers here and there to get people more comfortable with her and to get her more comfortable socializing. She doesn’t know how to socialize – and tends to creep up to people (and conversations) standing there awkwardly behind them. I figured if people knew a little more about each other – it might make conversation easier.

    2. fposte

      Ugh. I’m with you on it being a bad idea for you to be her mentor–that’s a relationship with some power discrepancy that you shouldn’t have with a co-director. I also wonder if what your co-director is going to think of the idea–if she rejects it outright (which I couldn’t blame her for doing), maybe that would be something you could take back to your supervisor.

      But if she’s actually willing to buy in and you do end up having to do it, I’d say you’re entitled to make it work for you as much as you can, given the obstacles you describe. A chat over lunch once a month where you focus on a certain aspect of professionalism and note how people respond to different approaches, maybe? And then give yourself permission to leave it alone in the meantime?

      1. ThatGirl

        I have to say that I would think she would be embarrassed to have me mentor her – given our age and the power demographics in the office.

        I also should say that I’ve been on the receiving end of her abuse. She tends to like to make me look stupid in meetings – which doesn’t bother me, since I know most of our staff and consultants know that I am smarter than she tries to make me out to be. I am, however, slightly resentful to help someone who has been so cruel to me.

    3. Persephone Mulberry

      Skipping over the mentorship piece for now (totally concur with fposte on that), would it be possible to divide the job duties between you so that you are the primary “people manager” and your co-director handles some other aspect of the department?

      I don’t know how (or if) you’d bring this up to the powers that be, but is there a reason this is a co-directorship? Does this other person bring some historical knowledge, contacts, something that the department particularly values?

      1. ThatGirl

        We are a co-directorship because she has specialized knowledge (being a member of a religious order) that I do not. Our boss likes this dual leader model – and we actually interviewed together in the third round to make sure we were a good fit, so to speak. Also, I have the real world experience of project management, which she does not (phd in management, tho).

        I am, technically, the manager of the entire unit – all of the people report to me (staff, consultants, students, etc). That doesn’t bar her from requesting that they do tasks for her – and that is where her interpersonal skills fail. We tried creating a project request sheet that all staff use when requesting assistance with a task. She doesn’t complete them properly – and any request to have her give them more information is met with a huffy “I don’t have time for that – I could just do it myself.”

    4. Not So NewReader

      I agree that you are probably not the one to mentor her.

      Does she even want to fix the problem?

      I am not there, so I do not see the many aspects of this question. Is there some way you can give her a little corner of the project and tell her that is her part? It could come down to this because she is basically killing your efforts, not contributing and does not seem to be wanting to fix any off this.

      OTH, you could try mentoring her, document the results and report back to your boss. I do think you have an opening here in that you could say, “You mentioned the other day that you felt no one liked you. If you want to change that, I am willing to help.”

      OR Why not get her Alison’s book on managing???

      1. ThatGirl

        My boyfriend’s mom pointed out to me that if my co-director really wanted to fix the problem, she could take advantage of many of the workshops offered in our women in leadership program.

        Honestly, I don’t think she wants to fix the problem and be a manager. What I think she does want to fix is how unpopular she is in the office. She wants to be popular and well liked in the office, not actually learn how to function as a team member and a leader. The irony is that, I am terribly awkward and introverted socially, but can lead a team fairly decently. I couldn’t teach her to be popular if it killed me.

        When we started this co-directorship, my mentor encouraged me to clearly divide and set expectations with my co-director so that leadership was clearly outlined and defined. We have 4 initiatives we are working on – we agreed to do 1 of them as a team, my co-director and I each took our own, and gave the last one to our technical assistant. Once she figured out what she had actually signed up for – she panicked, said she couldn’t do it, and it got passed to our boss to complete.

        Honestly, I don’t have anything left to give her. I successfully manage my initiative, balance the budget and write reports, and am currently working on a new project proposal. She won’t work with numbers and is a terrible writer. You can probably sense my frustration – as our grant runs for 3 years, and we are halfway through it and my pile of work just keeps getting bigger and bigger, while she takes laps around our office building because she is bored.

        I should probably give her Alison’s book. This blog has helped me so much as a manager. It might help!

        1. Not So NewReader

          She wants a new car without the monthly payments. Meanwhile, the rest of us all make monthly payments.
          What gets me here is that it’s not your job to fix her. Yet here you are. If you do get her Alison’s book, just tell her this is what managers do to become liked/respected.

          Uh… I don’t usually suggest stuff like this but she is a nun. Can you ask another nun for prayers on this situation? I have seen that work when nothing else does. Could be me though.

    5. SC in SC

      I would offer that any investment in mentoring your co-director will hopefully pay dividends in the long run. Currently, the person you should share workload and responsibilities with is contributing nothing. Even worse, they’re a drain on your time since you have to deal with issues and complaints. Assuming that the mentoring will take, you’ll eventually get a co-worker you can share responsibilities with. This should have a ripple effect and hopefully correct some of the other issues. It’s the same concept of why it’s so important to develop your people. One thing you have going for you is that your co-worker recognizes that there’s a problem and wants to fix it. That’s half the battle right there. Based on what you described and that she came to you looking for help, it sounds like this is more a matter her not knowing what to do as opposed to not wanting to fix the problem.

      One thing to keep in mind that mentoring can take on many different roles and styles. This doesn’t have to be a formal relationship. Peer to peer mentoring can be just as effective. If I were in this situation, I’d see about scheduling regular one on one sessions to discuss sharing responsibilities but also use that time to discuss work culture, people interactions, etc. If you can help this person become a functioning co-director you’ll have someone you can push work to, you’ll stop having to deal with complaints, you’ll have a happier and more effective group and the popularity contest dynamic will fade away. It’s worth the effort.

  34. Good_Intentions

    New Job Jitters

    Okay, Alison’s great advice helped me secure a fantastic job that is several levels above my previous position. I’m a fidgety combination of excited and nervous for Monday, my first day on the job.

    AAM commentariat, please share any tips you may have to cope with the stress leading up to starting a new job. Also, do you have any tips to prep the day before (go to bed early, lay out clothes and accessories, pack lunch the night before, etc.).

    Again, I’m incredibly eager to start this new chapter of my professional life, but I am seeking advice from the many talented people on this thread.

    Thanks!

    1. Dasha

      It’s totally normal to feel nervous. I bet once you get there and get started you’ll feel better. My advice is don’t be too hard on yourself and give yourself time to learn where everything is, what everyone’s name is, and of course the new job! Congrats on your new job! :)

    2. ThatGirl

      They selected you because you were the best candidate – that means that you’ve got the skills and the personality to be successful there – congrats!

      Although this isn’t a first day tip, I always like to listen, listen, listen when I start a new job. The more you can learn about the people that you are working with and the environment that you are working in, the easier the transition!

      1. Elizabeth West

        Agreed–they WANT you to succeed!

        Listening is good and even taking notes if you feel like you need to. I know when I start a job, everything is just a jumble, and notes help me slow down in the moment and pay better attention.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      Nervous is not only normal, it can be good! If you go in too calm and thinking you already know everything… you wouldn’t. :)

      Practical: plan your outfit in advance, and have a backup just in case, and wear shoes that are relatively comfortable so you can walk around. Make sure you do the commute/drive once or twice– there won’t be as much traffic during the weekend, but you’ll want to feel confident that you know the route. Packing lunch the night before is good. Bring a notebook and a pen, maybe some Post-Its.

      Good luck!

    4. Ann Furthermore

      I say definitely pick out what you’re going to wear, although not necessarily lay it out. Also, make sure you know where to go, and how much time you’ll need to get to the office in morning rush hour traffic, and give yourself a buffer. I would plan to be there 10 minutes early. You might need to park in a different area on your first day, if you parked in visitor parking during your interview(s).

      Congrats and good luck!

    5. Nanc

      Hopefully they’ll have a great on boarding process, but just in case, have a list of stuff to ask/do to fill the time the first day, especially if it takes a few hours to get your email, phone and computer access set up. For example:
      Where’s the nearest restroom, drinking fountain, emergency exit, office supply cupboard, lunchroom, etc.
      Are there any professional journals or websites to read/review.
      Does the company/product have a LinkedIn group or other type of community you can join to get a handle on the culture.
      Are there SOPs for the job that you can review (and if there aren’t, add it to your list of stuff to create!)
      If there are any special or unfamiliar software programs you’ll be using, ask about tutorials or training.

    6. Not So NewReader

      I make sure I eat substantial meals. Chicken or salmon the night before and eggs for breakfast. I have to get something lasting into me because the jitters will burn right through my food.

      Remind yourself that the first day is a free pass. No one will expect too much from you on the first day. And the second day will be much easier than the first day.

  35. BRR

    So an update. My meds haven’t helped that much and my work has been pretty bad as a result. I’ve now been placed on probation which is a precursor to a PIP. Even if I somehow manage to get through the quality issue I think it would be a poor choice to try and stay here. My manager will always view me with skepticism and she’s frustrated that I’m not carrying my weight and I’m not sure she’ll forget that (which we have a lot in common because I’m also frustrated that I’m not doing the quality of work I know I’m capable of). I’m going to start job hunting while I still have a job. This process offers me a fair amount of time. I’m just a little lost because I’m not sure if I can do a job well even if my mental illnesses were more in check.

    1. CrazyCatLady

      I’m really sorry to hear you’re going through such a tough time. Some mental illnesses have a way of convincing us untrue things are actually true and I wonder if that’s why you’re thinking you couldn’t do a job well, even if your mental illness were in check. Is there any evidence behind that thought? It’s hard not to let a current failure color our views of everything – I do the same thing.

      I do hope your situation gets better and that your meds start to help.

      1. BRR

        Im going to talk about it with my therapist first tonight then email my old boss who is a great mentor. Sloppy work has been a reoccurring problem and no list of tips on the Internet has helped. I was hoping it could be fixed medically and I’m not sure if it can or that there is plenty of room to try and get my brain back to what I think normal is.

    2. Carrie in Scotland

      I’m sorry :(
      *hug*
      I hope things with your mental health start to get better and that you manage to find another job – it might be better for you, as well.

    3. fposte

      I’m sorry, BRR. I know you’ve been trying to make things work, and it’s rotten that they’re not. And I’m with CrazyCatLady in thinking that the illness really skews your perspective on your capability, so I doubt that you’re correct there.

      Is there a pattern to your work sloppiness that you can avert in a different field or different position? That might be a workaround in the meantime.

      1. BRR

        I’m thinking different position. I’ve been here slightly short of two years at least. Also hubby is going to start looking more in his search. He’s been tied to where we live but maybe he can find a job elsewhere now.

      2. BRR

        Also because I have said medical issues are at play in regards to my performance my boss said hr would contact me but encouraged me to reach out to them sooner.

        I’m wondering if I should ask about an accommodation with moving spaces to some place quieter? There’s really nowhere to go though and being on probation I’m not sure if they would allow me to work at home. Especially when nobody else is allowed to even though we are set up to. I feel like it’s really too late for anything though. I’d really like to take a period of leave but I’m not sure about that either. I feel defeated even if I pass this.

        I’m replying to you because I have always thought of your advice as being amazing and I’m hoping you have email notifications turned on for replies :).

        1. fposte

          Sorry, I’ve had an all-day work thing today. If your doctor believes a quieter space could well mitigate the problem, I think it’s worth asking for ADA accommodation and you should contact HR ASAP. Where it gets greyer for me is if your doctor is more like “Meh, I don’t know, why not try?” So what has your doctor said? I don’t recall the leave details–I think it came up that you’re eligible for FMLA, though I don’t remember what your PTO supplies are like. Would the household be okay if you took time off unpaid? Do you know if you left after FMLA whether you would have to pay back your part of health premiums for the leave period? And, again, has the therapist has any opinions about the leave idea? Do you think you’d feel relieved at being away from the office, or do you think you’d fill the free time with listening to the bad things depression-brain says about life?

          I’m being kind of noncommittal, I realize, but what I suspect you want to avoid is trying more things that don’t work out; you’re already running toward a narrative that nothing ever will work out, and I think that’s both pernicious and untrue. So I’d be inclined to pick one, and to pick the one that seems likeliest to make me feel better about myself.

          But the other thing I want to say is that even though it may feel like it, it’s really not the end of the world if you get fired, or if you feel better but then leave because your manager still is wary of you. None of this puts you in the category of bad or incompetent person. I think the depression music in your head wants to make this out to be doom, and it’s not.” People fuck up; people have health stuff that impairs their work. It happens to all of us. And it sucks, and we rage and we grieve and we guilt, oh, god, we guilt. But then we find that there’s a lot more happening in our story than that, and it shrinks in the rear-view mirror.

          I know there will be more happening in your story.

            1. QualityControlFreak

              She’s a bard, our fposte. A great resource and overall awesome person. Many thanks.

          1. BRR

            Thank you for your thoughts and continued support. Everything is so helpful and beautifully said. I’m going to email HR Monday and ask what my options are. I can get by financial for some time if I take unpaid leave (although short term disability would be nice if I can get it). If I take time off I think it would a nice change versus struggling at work and I would maintain therapy.

            My big fear is that I was fired from my last job (which was also my first) and if I got fired again, trying to job hunt with two jobs and two firings. I’m going to start job hunting to head this off.

    4. brightstar

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this!

      Just wondering, when you say sloppy work is it in the attention to details? Some people just aren’t good at very detail oriented tasks and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it does mean certain jobs aren’t a good fit for them and vice versa.

      1. BRR

        My job has a lot of report writing. I miss grammatical things, sometimes don’t find all the information I need to put in, and my boss does not like my writing style.

        The grammatical error aspect got better when my meds were working well but has since left. That was a concentration while proof reading. I tend to notice the tiny things in my private life which is why I’m so frustrated I miss a typo. I think it’s a focus while reading thing.

        Fact omission is a concern. I think my head was not clear but I’m not sure if this is where I can’t fix it with medication.

        Writing style is subjective. While she is a good writer I don’t think I’m that bad.

        1. brightstar

          I hope you and your doctor’s find meds that work for you, and soon. It’s very frustrating to know you could perform better but something is holding you back. I’ve been there in the past where no matter how hard I tried, I kept slipping on things.

          And yeah, writing style is completely subjective.

        2. knitchic79

          BR have you tried reading your text through a colored divider? You know, the plasticy things that go in binders. I have bad ADD and when I have trouble focusing on text I tape a tinted divider to my screen, or lay it over the paper if it’s printed. I forget the science behind it, but for me it quiets my brain and helps me relax into what I’m doing. It could help you with the grammar issues.
          As for fact omission, it may help there too. As you read through your text try pretending you are the person receiving the report. Write down any questions you have. Then go back and add in any information you can. I have to remind myself of this fairly often. It takes practice but it’s doable.

        3. catsAreCool

          Something that I’ve done sometimes is to start with a list of the facts that I need to include and then change them into a report. That way, I should have the facts because I started with them.

    5. Not So NewReader

      I am not totally convinced that all of this is “on” you, so to speak. Having seen bosses get on people’s backs and not let up, I am wondering how much of this is bad boss or just a poor boss?

      A while ago I had a boss ride me, to the point she drove me out of the place. Her problem with me was that I am female. That one she hid very well. I would not have known if others had not told me. The problem that I did see is that she thought I was old. I was 45. I believe she was only a few years younger than me. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, I could do that would please her. She wrote me up for things that SHE made up! I did not even argue about the lies- I gave notice and left. I want to work with adults, not children.
      I notice that you are willing to say you did this or that. It sounds like you have spent a good chunk of time thinking about your role in this. But I hope you spend some time considering the boss’ actions and are those actions truly fair? I hope you are not absorbing stuff that is not yours to absorb. It’s an easy pit to fall into.

  36. Audiophile

    I’m trying to figure out the best way to word something.

    I’ve had an influential person offer to help me, presumably in my job search. I haven’t seen him in a while, so I’d like to send a quick LinkedIn message and say I’d like to take him up on his offer. (I’d said no a few times in the past, because I felt funny about it.)

    Any tips? I’d appreciate it.

    1. Dasha

      What if you just sent something short and polite? “Hello, X. I’m currently looking for a new position. I know we’ve spoke before about this and if you have any leads/tips/advice I’d greatly appreciate the help.”

    2. Not Today Satan

      This isn’t an answer to your question, but do you have his email or phone? I don’t think LinkedIn is the best method of communication.

      1. Audiophile

        I don’t. So I’d have to just wait for him to come back into the building.

        I was thinking of just writing a general, “it’s always a pleasure to see you at x company. I’m not sure when you’ll be in again but I’d like to catch up and chat. ” That way I’m doing the request in person.

        1. fposte

          But you don’t want to catch up and chat. You want him to help you in your job search. I understand you’re trying not to sound peremptory, but you’re also avoiding being clear :-). I’d draw on Dasha’s wording to include the point in the email.

        2. TNTT

          No don’t do this. I hate when people reach out to schedule a “chat” and then make the ask in person. Time. Waster. Make the ask in writing so I can evaluate whether I can/want to help you without being put on the spot.

          1. Audiophile

            The reason for the soft ask, is because I wasn’t entirely sure he was offering to help me search for a job.

            1. Audiophile

              It was more general. “Let me know if you need anything.” Which I interpreted as an offer to help me job search.

              1. TNTT

                I think that makes it even more necessary to be direct. Setting up the time just to “chat” not only takes up a much larger chunk of his time but also puts in the position of having to evaluate and respond to your request on the spot. I’d say something like this:

                “It’s always a pleasure to see you at X company. I’m not sure when you might be in again, but I wanted to reach out because I’m beginning a job search. You’ve been a great help to me in the past on other issues. If you have any leads/tips/advice on starting my search I’d greatly appreciate the input.”

                (h/t Dasha for most of that!)

                1. Audiophile

                  You’re right. I was just nervous I may have misinterpreted the discussion. But the worst that can happen, is he says that’s not what he meant.

                  Thanks for the help all. Dasha, TNIT and fposte especially.

                  I’ll unfortunately have to do this all via LinkedIn message because I don’t have his email or phone number. And I keep missing him when he comes into the building.

                2. TNTT

                  It will work out, I’m sure! And hey, at least it’s way less awkward for you to realize you misinterpreted his intent via LinkedIn than while sitting in front of him in a coffee shop!

                3. Audiophile

                  Lol that’s very true!

                  I’m pretty sure I’m not wrong, but you know how the doubt starts to creep up on you.

  37. Fed Up

    I’m really fed up with my coworkers’ noise and chatter and really unprofessional antics (for example, one coworker reads out inappropriate Tinder messages she gets). I work in an open area with other people in similar roles. It’s really taking a toll on me to the point where I have to go the bathroom to get away. I’ve addressed the issue with my manager and she’s talked to the others, and for a while it’ll get better but they’ll just lapse back to what they do before. I wear headphones, but it’s uncomfortable for long hours and I feel like if I’m just isolating myself, I might as well go work in a quiet room (which I’ve also proposed to my supervisor). Anyway, it’s gotten to the point where I just feel depressed at work and I’ve made counseling appointments for work stress. I feel like quitting but it’s a good job (I like a lot about it, just not my coworkers), so I want to figure out how to handle it. Any advice, suggestions, similar stories? I really don’t want to be the quitter who leaves a perfectly fine job because of coworkers she can’t stand, but it’s really bringing me down.

    1. Dasha

      Have you asked your coworker if she could maybe quiet it down? Alison gives great wording (very polite but very direct) for these sorts of requests. If they’re being loud I don’t think it is inappropriate for you to ask them to tone it down.

      1. Fed Up

        I have, and they will tone it down. But after a while, they’ll get excited over something and return back to the way they are. It’s just the way they are used to–they’ve been like this for years before I joined, so it’s not intentional.

        1. Abc123

          Is the problem just one or two coworkers in particular or is it the entire office? Is there anyone else there who shares your frustrations? If it’s just a particularly chatty/informal culture, there may not be all that much you can do.

          1. Fed Up

            It’s all 3 of my coworkers that are super chatty. When I addressed it with my superiors, they also feel that the chatter has gotten out of hand. The other departments with open space do talk but don’t have ongoing chatter. It is a casual, friendly office, but my area is quite homogenous, which is what causes the nonstop chatter.

            1. Natalie

              Is there anything you can do environmentally? Move to the farthest away spot in the open area? Wear headphones? Get one of those canopies for your cube from ThinkGeek?

      2. cuppa

        I don’t know if this is something you’re interested in doing, but are there parts of the conversation where you could join in to build a rapport? Obviously, if you don’t want to join in with Tinder messages, I totally get that. But, if they are talking about a new restaurant, or a hobby, or weekend plans, or something like that, maybe joining in politely for a few moments and then letting them know you have to get back to work can help. It might also give you more leverage when there’s an uncomfortable topic.

        1. Fed Up

          I tried piping up every now and then at the start, but they’re quite cliquey from years of working together. I’m also just not interested in what they’re interested in or talk about, and I really don’t want to pick up their interests, like watch the TV shows they watch that I don’t care about just to try to fit in.

          1. catsAreCool

            Can they move you to another part of the building? That seems like the easiest way to deal with it.

    2. Celeste

      Can you see about moving to the farthest edge if there is no quiet room you can be moved to? Sometimes just having it be background noise helps to tune it out. Being right on top of it is the worst. It’s not like you’re ever going to be close with them, so I don’t think they’ll miss you. I’m guessing everybody seems to get their stuff done and the public doesn’t see them, so it’s a low priority for management to intervene much.

      But you might just be a person who needs a quieter environment, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. I certainly prefer it. If you can work out a move to the quiet room, I say do it. You can always schedule breaks to come out and socialize, or invite somebody in for a bit. It does not have to mean isolating yourself. I think a change of venue will work wonders, and will be a lot easier than trying to make other people fix what they don’t even think is broken.

      1. Spiky Plant

        Yeah, it sounds like that’s just the culture of the place. An individual that doesn’t have backup from leadership can’t change culture. You either thrive, adapt (like going to a quiet room), or unfortunately leave.

        1. Windchime

          Yep. We used to have this problem in the group that I am in. It was awful; there were about a half-dozen people that spent 90% of their day chatting and laughing and goofing off. Most of them actually didn’t have enough work to do, so they were bored and spent the time visiting. Their supervisor was one of the people who was the main culprit; he would hang around in his employees’ cubes and tell stores and laugh. For hours. It drove me crazy. But when the layoffs came, that was the group that took the biggest hit and the chatters are all gone. Normally stories like this don’t have a happy ending, but our room is nice and quiet now.

  38. Overthinking Anon

    I did my Skype interview this week and, guess what! I’m overthinking it now. :P I think I did respectably enough but I’m now second-guessing a bunch of parts of my answers, or the kinds of examples I chose–it’s hard to both answer questions and maintain an awareness of the overall picture you’re presenting simultaneously! Now I’m trying to let it go (let it goooo), but it’s hard because there aren’t a lot of job openings that are right for me to apply to, so each one seems like a precious resource. Chin up, though–it’s Friday.

      1. Overthinking Anon

        In person is good! I’ll keep my fingers crossed too. I sent a thank you email and got a friendly reply.

  39. LizB

    A minor vent/WTF:

    My housemate can be somewhat… naive about how the world works, shall we say. She’s worked a particular seasonal position for several years, and this year has also had a full-time job that takes place mostly during that job’s off-season, but also overlaps a little bit with the beginning of their active time. Apparently she just asked her Full Time Job boss for 12 (unpaid, mostly nonconsecutive) days off during this month and next month so she can attend some required trainings for Seasonal Job, and he approved 3 of the 12 days (it’s a busy time at Full Time Job and they need her there). Last night she asked me, “If I just take the other days anyway, is he going to fire me?”

    …I couldn’t even answer, because to me, it’s obvious that the answer is YES! If you don’t show up for work on NINE DAYS during a two-month period, you are likely to get fired. She seems to think this situation is very unfair and he should give her all the days off because she needs to train for Seasonal Job, but my opinion is that life isn’t fair. I might be being too harsh though, so, wise AAM commenters: what say you?

    1. TCO

      Oh, you’re totally in the right. 12 days off, paid or not, is more than many people take in an entire year (sick leave excluded). Some managers probably would allow this, but it’s entirely reasonable not to during the busy season.

    2. The IT Manager

      Your mental repsonse is not too harsh. That level of cluelessness and naivety is frustrating.

      And if you can answer less sarcatically than I would, it would be doing her a service to tell her that if you skip out on 9 days of work you are likely to get fired. But it’s hard because frustrating especially if I were depneding on her for her part of the rent.

      1. Cordelia Naismith

        Heck, if you skip out on one day of work, you’re likely to get fired. You can’t just not show up because you have something else you’d rather do instead.

    3. Adam

      I’m not even sure that “Life isn’t fair” even applies here. When you accept a job you make a commitment to it and unless they are on completely different operating schedules or have some reasonable accommodations you can’t do another job at the same time. In the end you have to choose.

    4. Persephone Mulberry

      I posted this as a comment in someone else’s thread, but I wanted to throw it out to the masses as well. My husband has been working in retail for about 15 years – he had an 18 month stint as a church youth director about 10 years ago (which was his long term career plan but things went south when the church hired a new minister, which soured him on the work, and here we are today) – and is getting super, super burnt out on selling as well as the bureaucracy of working for a behemoth multinational company. He is the assistant manager at his store and has filled in as interim store manager on multiple occasions (the store is hiring its fourth manager in four years, and no, they’ve already told him he won’t be considered?? Thank you, bureaucracy).

      Anyway, he wants to get out of retail. He wants to “help people without having to sell things to them”. He has management experience. He does not want to go back to school. What fields/jobs should he be looking into?

      1. Sheepla

        This may sound odd, but I knew two different people who transitioned from years of retail work to a college admissions counselor. I have no idea what skill sets were transferable between those two jobs, but somehow it worked.

        1. Persephone Mulberry

          Oh, I totally forgot he did that for a year, too. Of course, it was for UOP which means it involved the worst of the hard core sales tactics (you never gave up until they hung up on you). I’m sure working for a school that isn’t all about the dollar signs would be a better deal.

      2. Kay

        Customer service maybe? Depending on the company and field can move up into an account coordinator/management role after a year or two, and it can pay well

    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      Not too harsh at all. I’d tell her that for most jobs, one or two unexcused absences can lead to punitive action, up to and including dismissal, especially if she’s asked for the time off and been denied. A second job should never interfere with your first job, or your second job may become your only job.

    6. EvilQueenRegina

      While I’m from England where we get more time off allowed anyway so the idea of 12 days itself doesn’t shock me, if her manager only approved three days and she takes the rest regardless then yes I can see her getting fired. We had someone at my place ask for time she wasn’t entitled to, get it refused, ask for the time unpaid, still get it refused, then no call no show anyway. She never returned to the job but had the cheek to ask for a reference.

  40. gloria

    Yesterday at an interview for a job I’d be thrilled to get, the person interviewing me told me I write great cover letter. I think at this point no one needs any more evidence in favor of Alison’s advice, but I thought I’d share! (I have another interview with them on Tuesday, so cross your fingers for me!)

    1. TCO

      At the job I started about 8 months ago, one of the EDITORS I interviewed with complimented my cover letter! I thought that was high praise from a great writer. Alison’s advice definitely works. Good luck!

  41. Sunflower

    So is anyone familiar with Mike Brzezinski and the ‘Know Your Value’ tour? I debated the value of going with a $225 price tag. This agenda included three topics- all geared towards women: how to get the money you deserve, how to ‘have it all’ and how to display confidence. Curious what people’s thoughts are on these sorts of conferences? I assume the main point really is to network at these?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I’m not familiar with him or his philosophies, but my first thought is the main point of these conferences is to make money for the person organizing them. I’d look at this one with a healthy dose of skepticism before parting with that much money.

    2. The IT Manager

      I’m not familiar with him or his philosophies, but I think it is impossible to “have it all” (you must mak compromises) so I wouldn;t want to spend money on this unless I knew more.

    3. Audiophile

      I’ve seen more than a few of these conferences, and they always make me chuckle. I’m going to charge $300 and tell you stuff you probably already know. Don’t ask me for a refund, because I don’t offer them.

      All jokes aside, if you think you’ll get some value out of it, try it. But at this point, they’re all noise.

    4. Sunflower

      Sorry that was a typo- Mike should be MIKA- she’s a woman. She is also a TV host/reporter. I read her book by the same name and there was some good information in there on negotiating and confidence and the list of speakers was impressive in the sense that she had many high-powered men and women. But I really was not sure what the heck the need for a big conference was since I think the majority of the valuable stuff was in the book and if it’s not industry specific, a lot of it is just vague ‘yes keep trying’ types of advice

      1. Persephone Mulberry

        Oh, I know who you’re talking about now. I also read that book. I’m sure the conference is more of a “you get to hear all the same stuff that’s in my book but IN PERSON!!” type deal. I would pass.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          Yeah, I agree. What a difference a letter makes sometimes, right? I know exactly who Mika Brzezinski is, and while I like her (most of the time), I wouldn’t pay that much money to hear her talk, especially if this is part of the promotion for her book.

  42. Anonym

    Calling all successful extroverted introverts for help!
    I have been told by a colleague that I need to be more ‘visible’ at a new job (6 months). The role is a support to other teams (research) and I need to be more clued into what’s happening in other team…. Which I’m not right now :(
    I’m by nature quiet and don’t initiate conversation.. this needs to change but I don’t know how to. Could someone help with the baby steps I could take to break out of my shell and be less awkward about being more ‘social’. Thanks!

    1. Alex

      What has helped me is to have a set of scripted lines – this sounds weird, but I swear it makes things easier. For example, if I need to insert myself into a project or a department, my standard opening line might be something like “I am excited to be joining the team handling the xyz project, and I’d like to dive right in and get familiarized with the landscape and history of this project. Would you happen to have 30 mins on Thursday afternoon to go over it with me?” And then in that meeting, if it makes sense, propose a 15 minute reoccurring touch-base meeting and get it on the calendars.

      For a team type situation, you could use something similar. “I am excited to be supporting your research team, and I’d love to get a better/deeper understanding of the environment, goals, and opportunities where I can help more. Would you happen to have 30 mins on Thursday afternoon to go over it with me?”

    2. ThatGirl

      I find it really helpful to be less introverted within the confines of a meeting.

      It might be helpful for you to find out of the other team has a regular meeting that you might be able to attend (ideally regularly). If not, then perhaps you could suggest (as Alex just said) to have a regular status meeting. If you are comfortable leading a meeting (I’m socially introverted, but can be extroverted when I have a purpose – like running a meeting), then you can do little (non-intrusive, non-physical) ice-breakers. I make my team answer a “question of the day” at our meetings (at yesterday’s meeting, I asked everyone “what did you want to be when you grew up?” – the responses were awesome, and really broke the ice and got us moving in the right direction).

    3. OriginalEmma

      Oh, friend, I feel your pain! But we quiet folk can be taught. :)

      How are you with greetings and small talk? What’s your office culture around information sharing and even just watercooler chat? How often do you see this other team and in what contexts (e.g., only in meetings, passing in the hallway or the caf, etc.)?

      The reason I ask is because simply mingling and asking about how folks are doing and how their work is going can be very helpful in gaining the visibility (and intel) you need. It’s also way less intimidating (in some respects) that a formal one-on-one conversation or a group meeting.

      1. Anonym

        I’m living on the hope that I can be taught :) otherwise I may as well give up on the job!

        Some teams are friendly some aren’t. So I def need to crack the mingling for intel to succeed. Any tips?

        1. TL -

          Smile when you see someone in the hallways.

          Seriously. Not a big production, just a quick light-up of the face if you make eye contact. Don’t worry if they don’t smile back – not everyone does or maybe they’re lost in thought. But they’ll associate you with being a friendly person and are more likely to strike up a conversation with you if they’re in a place/time that allows for small talk.

    4. fposte

      In addition to what others are saying, do some research. Where are other people talking that you aren’t? Are there emailed conversations that you read without contributing to? Whose participation would you like to emulate? Use answers to those to guide some future diving in. You don’t even have to utter brilliant observations–this is where those seemingly meaningless “Thanks, Bob, I learned a lot from that presentation!” notes turn out to be actually meaningful.

      1. Anonym

        Right now I don’t even know what the other teams talk about and I feel awkward inserting myself uninvited

        1. fposte

          Well, I didn’t say “what,” I said “where,” including the possibility of email. If you are where the conversations happen, that’s going to get you more information right there.

          But more important to me is the “I feel awkward” thing. Well, of course you do; you’re used to doing things a certain way, and this would make you feel vulnerable. But I don’t know if you can achieve what you’re looking for without being willing to feel awkward and vulnerable sometimes. Additionally, I’ll note that waiting to be invited is a big risk, because it’s likely to leave you where you are as far as being informed about the teams. Small talk scripts are great, but I also think that those are more for social awareness and visibility, and it sounds like you were being told that they also want to see more professional engagement from you. So what I would recommend is that, without being invited :-), you contact the team leads and say you’re looking to be more in the loop so you could support them better. Is there a regular meeting or other opportunity for you to sit in and get a better understanding of their process and needs? [You may have more workplace specific stuff, but the point is–reach out and propose.]

    5. Lizzy

      Whoa, are me? I just got my first job evaluation (been here close to 5 months), and was told something very similar. In my case, my supervisor, who is the Managing Director, told me to be more clued in on the needs of our Board President during outreach events and to not be afraid to take the lead if necessary. There were other criticisms related to me being too quiet and intense, but the main criticism pertained to me not communicating more diligently with the Board President when I am assisting her at events.

      I am already working on asserting myself more and strengthening my communication skills. I think it is important to pinpoint what makes you hesitant or holds you back from initiating work-related conversation. Me personally? Two reasons: 1.) I tend to be an over sharer and overwhelm coworkers when it comes to talking about work projects, and 2.) I fear coming as brusque or too demanding. But I have to understand that my perceptions are not always how others see things; I see myself as a quiet, hardworking type, but if my critique is telling me to speak up more and ask more questions or take the lead during chaotic moments at our events (oh, and there are plenty at our events), then I have to accept that there is such a thing as being too quiet.

      I hope others can chime too.

      1. Anonym

        (i) there is such a thing as being too quiet. (/i)
        Yep that’s what is happening with me too!

    6. Beebs the Elder

      In this case, do you really need to be more “social”? (Not that that’s a bad thing . . . ) If your real task is to find out what’s going on in the other team, I bet if you just ask a few starter questions (take Alex’s advice and pre-plan them) you’ll get people talking all about their project. Your job then is to be a good listener and ask follow up questions–the focus is on the other person/people, not on you, which might make it easier. If you have to reach out to initiate the conversation, again Alex’s advice about framing it as a short meeting to help you better understand their needs is really good. You won’t have to really make small talk at first, just focused job talk, and hopefully that will make it easier to move into more “social” conversation later.

    7. Anonym

      Thanks everyone, really helpful responses.
      To respond… I see them every day… these are 3 other teams, who I support with whatever research needs they have. I’m actually not a part of any email conversations unless there’s a specific need… which is the problem. I want to be proactive in plugging into opportunities to contribute.
      The mingling that OriginalEmma talks about is key to that from what I can see … so any scripts for that? I find anything less than specific task-related communication to be hard to start and awkward. Sigh. Help pls

      1. Not So NewReader

        Think about them and just them.

        “How are you today?”
        “How was your ride in, it’s kind of nasty out there.”
        “Did you catch the cake in the break room?”
        “How’s your son’s broken arm doing?”
        “Oh that is a nice ring/bag/skirt, do you mind me asking where you found that?”

        Never forget people love to talk about themselves. After that they love to talk about their families and their things/vacations.

  43. Alex

    I’d really love to hear any updates or follow-up thoughts from the person who wrote in about hating all kinds of work – OP if you’re out there, I’m sure there are some people on this board that would love to hear from you. :)

    1. AndersonDarling

      Yes, it was a really thought provoking topic. And the comments were really great…it could have gone in an awful direction, but everyone seemed sympathetic.
      I’m still thinking about the OP’s situation. I even asked my husband if he felt that he could tell me if he hated working.

  44. AnonForThis

    I recently found out that one of our board members said something pretty awful & insulting to a newer employee about 4 months ago. The information came 2nd hand and confidentially, and I’m not sure what to do with it. Basically, the newer employee is hispanic (born/raised in the US, but does speak fluent Spanish) and the board member, upon meeting her at a company social event, started the conversation by asking if she spoke English. The board member herself is European with a thick accent. She’s sometimes hard to understand and often uses incorrect English, although I don’t see a harmless way of interpreting this comment. The person who brought this to me did so out of concern for the newer employee’s morale & how it affected her view of the company, so I feel like I should do something. I’m not sure what since I’m not supposed to know and she obviously didn’t feel comfortable speaking up in the first place. I supervise her direct boss, so I’m not sure if I should talk to her, her boss, our CEO, or just leave it alone since it was 4 months ago…

    1. KathyGeiss

      Ugh this is terrible. If this had just happened, I would recommend saying something to the CEO but it was so long ago that I feel like that changes things (even though I can’t think of a good reason why it changes things).

      Do you have a good relationship with your CEO? Maybe you could fill them in so that you can both keep a closer eye on ensuring this sort of thing doesn’t happen again or at least be more aware of micro aggressions that may seem innocuous without this context?

      If anything else happens, is definitely move on it in whatever way is most appropriate in your work environment (talking to the CEO, Hr or directly to the director).

      1. AnonForThis

        I do have a good relationship with the CEO, but I know he’ll be concerned and probably talk to the employee directly. I’m not sure if that’s the best idea since I’m not even supposed to know, but I know he wouldn’t be able to let it rest. I’m leaning toward just letting it go until something comes up that gives me an appropriate opening.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Just spitballing here: if the board member is from Europe, which is much more linguistically heterogeneous and varied than the US, is it possible she’s just used to meeting a lot of non-English speakers? I know that that doesn’t change the fact that it was somewhat racist assumption, but in the US people throw around accusations of not speaking English as a code for not being a true ‘Murrican, whereas it probably has a very different context in Europe.

      (I learned to say “Excuse me, do you speak English?” in the languages of the countries to which I traveled last year, which amused the locals greatly as they all spoke perfect English, but then I was in very tourist-y areas of northern Europe where English is more of a business necessity.)

      1. AnonForThis

        I suppose that’s possible. She’s lived in the US for 10+ years though, and the employee has no indicators that she might even know Spanish outside of her appearance. I’m certain it wasn’t malicious, she’s generally a sweet woman, but it’s a damaging statement nonetheless.

        1. Partly Cloudy

          Jumping off from The Cosmic Avenger’s comment, you said in your original post that the European board member “often uses incorrect English.” Could it be that she actually meant to ask if the employee can speak Spanish and the word “English” accidentally came out instead? I suppose that could be perceived as stereotyping also, but again, cultural differences come into play.

          I was born in Europe (but raised in the US) and my mother STILL has an accent and misuses words after 30+ years of living here.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Okay, the real problem here is that you feel like you are not supposed to know. If you were told directly, then you could proceed through channels to deal with the question.

      Not all confidential information can be kept confidential. That is just the way it is. Go back to the person who told you and tell them that they have put you in an awkward situation. I mean, really, what is the point of telling you if you cannot do something about it?
      Tell your informer that you want to know if there are any further occurrences and you will be going forward at that point. Explain that no how, no way, do you want anyone feeling uncomfortable or worse yet discriminated against. In order for that to happen, you will not be able to keep information confidential and you must be updated if anything further occurs.

  45. Adam

    Looking for general guidance: what do you typically do when your work enters a slow period? We’re talking days to even weeks of time where there just isn’t a lot to do and when you approach your manager about it the best he can do is shrug and say “Look busy.”

    1. cuppa

      Continuing education/professional development. Reviewing policies and procedures. Cleaning/organizing your desk. Strategic planning for your role or department. Join a professional organization and get involved. Read trade publications or news. Read AAM :). Good luck!

      1. Adam

        I’ve been leaning towards professional development/online learning via free sites, but wondered about the ethics of this, especially if I’m learning something not particularly pertinent to my actual job. There really isn’t anything to learn about my job at this point. So I fear it would come across as web surfing. Intelligent web surfing, but still web surfing. Same with reading a book at my desk.

        And I’m running out of things to dust. :P

        1. cuppa

          To me, if it’s something you can apply to your job or industry, it would be ok, but I get your hesitation.
          And there are always things to dust!! ;)

        2. Natalie

          If all you’re getting from your manager is “look busy”, I’m not really sure they have the right to complain. But if you’re really concerned, why not run it by your manager first?

    2. Lizabeth

      Back up the computer, delete files that aren’t needed anymore, clean the desk and file cabinate. After that read professional blogs that relate to your career, and start some online training on something related to your career.

    3. matcha123

      I read this site; clean my desk; clean my desktop and look over old work and see if there’s areas I could improve.

    4. Laurel Gray

      1.) Read AAM
      2.) Shuffle papers on your desk
      3.) Write out your grocery list on paper
      4.) Read more AAM
      5.) Write a list of 5 things you would immediately go out and purchase if someone gave you $10k and 60 minutes to spend it
      6.) Shuffle more papers on your desk.
      7.) Get up and go to the filing cabinet, take out papers and bring them to your desk to shuffle
      8.) Write out a list of your top 5 favorite athletes or authors or whatever
      9.) Shuffle more papers on your desk
      10.) Get up and return the files you took from the filing cabinet

      Just kind of repeat this in a vicious cycle. Get up and have a quick chat by the water cooler or coffee pot if applicable.

        1. Kelly L.

          And then you need to brew more coffee, so you have to go get water to refill the reservoir and then you have to make more coffee…

      1. Calacademic

        The spending $10k in 60 minutes thing can actually be job related. I keep a running list of “if I had a $1M” for work equipment. If a big shot/VC comes by, I can tell them EXACTLY what would be useful in my position. I even have a folder of quotes.

      2. Afiendishthingy

        Love it!! Unfortunately I hit a lull in my workload last month but we’re still supposed to log a certain number of billable hours and these activities wouldn’t qualify. (Wouldn’t be a big deal except I’ve had a run of low productivity months… I am trying to improve my time management skills but it’s a work in progress. Did a LOT of stuff Monday-Wednesday this week (especially Wednesday), less yesterday (and felt totally brain dead and fried the whole time), and I’ve spent the last hour and a half on AAM…

    5. AvonLady Barksdale

      Read AAM. Fall down the archive hole. Read online articles. The trick here is that reading articles online is less obvious than online shopping, though I’ve done that too.

      Cleaning up files and calendars is a good use of time too.

    6. Xarcady

      There are a lot of free online tutorials for most software. I’ve found these very useful for filling up time. And every so often, I get to use some of what I’ve learned, so it can be useful in a work-related way, as well.

      My problem is that during busy times, I can think of a million projects to do around the office–clear out specific files, scan documents and then shred them, clear out cubicles where no one sits, wash the conference room windows, start an office newsletter–but the second it gets slow, all these wonderful things escape my brain and I’m lost. So now I keep a list of them, and use it during downtimes.

    7. Editrix

      Add RSS feeds to your outlook (if you have it) to read blogs but have it look like work. Works for AAM too.

    8. S

      That happened to me a couple months ago. I read a lot of news articles during that time; I work at a political non-profit that advocates for a contentious issue, so I caught up with my Politico/The Hill reading… the way I saw it, it was professional development (and senior staff is always talking about the importance of being informed, especially for my department).

      I also tried to schedule 1:1s with other co-workers that I wanted to learn from who were also in the same sort of lull. Nothing long, just a quick 15 minute coffee chat or 10 mins in an empty conference room, just to share ideas. It helped me build my rapport with other departments and co-workers, so when my work picked up again, it was so much easier to communicate across departments!

    9. ThatOneRedhead

      You can also get books as PDF files. Sometimes if you want to read, but look busy, this is a good option.

    10. Afiendishthingy

      Are there any processes you could streamline or improve? Materials you could create? Checklists, tables? Anything you could laminate? Laminate EVERYTHING

    11. Libretta

      Kindle for PC/Mac – all text, no pictures, looks like work! Though I agree with the productive suggestions above. :)

    12. catsAreCool

      I have very rarely had extra time at my job, but on those rare occasions, I work on updating and writing documentation so that when it gets busier, we can use this documentation to help people more quickly.

      Training and learning new things are also good.

  46. variety

    Was wondering if anyone had any experience in applying for jobs through Berkshire Hathaway’s online portal. My daughter is a sports reporter looking to move on from her current employer. Most of the jobs she has seen are part of the BH family and all use the same system. It’s one of those where you can change what you have inputted but can’t keep more than 1 presence, ie, no multiple cover letters. So far all she’s ever gotten is the standard ‘we have received your application’ response. Her has gotten her interviews with other papers but nothing from BH. Assuming she is just as qualified as the next person is there something she should/could do to get her through to the hiring managers?

  47. KathyGeiss

    No question. Just a vent and a confession.
    I had an unprofessional moment this week. A colleague told me to stop being so “emotional”. I frequently joke around with this colleague and he intended it to be light hearted but this is the third time he’s said that to me and I snapped. I told him not to use that word because it was sexist and delegitimized my totally reasonable request.
    I’m totally comfortable with my response. But! I told him this in the middle of an open-plan office. I should have pulled him aside for a more private discussion but I was so mad I sort of lost my head (I didn’t yell but I did speak firmly).

    The irritating part is that he doesn’t get it. He says he will try to remember not to say that anymore but he doesn’t understand why (even after I explained it). Ugh.

    1. Adam

      I inadvertently eavesdropped on a similar conversation at a former job. Two female coworkers were talking right outside my cubicle and while I don’t know what one said that triggered the other, she went into a very stern mini-lecture about being careful with assuming and racial biases. This person’s job is centered on promoting diversity within the organization so she had the ability to go on for quite some time if she wanted to, but thankfully it was brief because I felt really awkward for my coworker. She’s normally a very sweet agreeable person so I have no idea what could have been said that would prompt such a reaction and I never asked since it very much felt like none of my business.

      The kicker is that there was a very small empty meeting room with a door five feet away from them, so it would have been easy to make this conversation much more private.

    2. cuppa

      I had a similar moment last week. I totally get how you’re feeling, and although I feel that I was justified in my response, I shouldn’t have engaged and I did. I did the same thing you did — I didn’t yell but I spoke more firmly than I should have.
      I already knew this about myself, but I was reminded again that I bottle things until I get pushed too far and then I lose my head. I’m still working on ways to not do that. (If anyone has any suggestions, I’m open to them; nothing’s worked for me so far!) It doesn’t help that there are a few frustrations with my job right now that are stressful and I’m nearing burnout.
      I totally get what you’re saying about the person not getting it, ugh. I think that’s why I ‘m the most frustrated that I engaged — if they had gotten it, it would have been worth it, but it didn’t work out that way. Keeping that lesson for next time. :)

    3. erd

      Good for you! I agree it would have been preferable to pull him aside and speak to him privately, but I also don’t think it’s completely unprofessional to have the conversation within hearing distance of others. Maybe others will learn, even if he didn’t, and you might have inspired someone to speak up in the future about sexist (or other inappropriate) comments.

    4. catsAreCool

      I don’t know why some people tell other people to stop being so emotional. If I’m feeling very emotional, being told to stop just makes it worse. I don’t think it makes sense to tell people to stop feeling what they are feeling.

  48. anonima in tejas

    what are other management/work/best practices blogs that you read?

    I started reading Road Warrior, Corporette, and Capital Hill Style. I could use a few others on management, working well, etc.

  49. Lionness

    I am hoping for a bit of advice. I don’t normally post, but I always love reading these!

    I am in my first supervisor job. I have a small team that I manage and one person is causing a bit of a headache for the other two. They are all high performers but one, we’ll call her Megan, is a complainer. It is almost like a stream of consciousness all day. Every day. And it is exhausting her team mates. I’ve discussed it with Megan before and the issue seems to be that she doesn’t see it as complaints, just commentary.

    I’ve tried have a direct conversation about it, explaining how it is impacting the team (interrupting their work, impacting morale, etc) but it doesn’t seem to be working. Does anyone have any thoughts on how I can address this in a way that maybe I haven’t thought of?

    1. cuppa

      One thing that worked for me was telling the person that comments needed to be constructive and related to her work. In this case, she was complaining about everything and everyone and the negativity was draining. I told her to stay focused on her own work and not the work of others, and no complaining just for the sake of complaining, and then I held her to that. It helped. I think a similar expectation needs to be set here. Good luck.

      1. Sadsack

        That sounds like good advice. Lionness, maybe telling your employee that it doesn’t matter whether she considers her complaining to just be commentary. It is having a negative impact on the other employees, so she needs to stop.

    2. Laurel Gray

      I had a coworker who had this criticism (it was true) in her performance evaluation and guess what she went around the office doing after? COMPLAINING. Sadsack is right, there needs to be a consequence in place.

      Is there a such thing as a PIP for attitude? Sometimes the directness and borderline snark of telling someone that they have options that include finding employment elsewhere has to be an option. Megan has to know that her “commentary” is not going to bring any change or awareness and only makes her come off as a nuisance.

      1. EvilQueenRegina

        I had one once who was asked to tone down the oversharing about her ailments and her exes in the office. It just resulted in a rant about how dare our manager ask her to stop it. She definitely needed a consequence.

    3. River

      Have you told her directly to stop it? Not justifying, not explaining, not discussing, just telling her that it has to stop? And that there will be consequences for her continued employment if she doesn’t stop it? (And can you back that up with actual consequences?)

      It doesn’t matter if it’s complaining or commentary, it’s a problem for your team and she has to stop it. Don’t get drawn into discussing it!

    4. brightstar

      You need to be clear with her that the comments need to stop despite that she sees no harm in it. Discuss possible repercussions with her, whether it is moving to warning her in writing, etc. Stay on top of it and document these things (also document the good things).

    5. C Average

      I sort of think that people like this need to be given immediate consequences, just like puppies being house-trained. For instance:

      MEGAN: Blah blah blah oh bother blah blah blah . . .

      LIONNESS: Megan, can I see you in my office, please?

      [MEGAN and LIONNESS step into office.]

      LIONNESS: I’ve spoken with you before about the fact that I’d like to see a more constructive attitude from you. The comment you just made was the kind of thing I meant. It’s fine for you to feel any way you want to, but for the sake of office morale, I need you to develop a better filter. I do not want to hear similar comments from you again. Are we clear?

      Repeat as needed.

      1. catsAreCool

        Yeah, what C Average said. The negative person might not realize how negative she’s being. I’ve worked near a negative person, and it really exhausted me, even though that person wasn’t negative all the time.

    6. Violet Rose

      Ack, I used to be like this! Things I thought of as harmless or silly observations sounded way harsher and more complaint to everyone else around me. I don’t remember how I caught on, but it probably involved hearing a lot of “do you really not like this show?” or “I didn’t think it was that bad.” I’m pretty sure I got this habit from my mom, as she does the exact same thing – it used to cause a lot of fights, but now I simply remind myself that no, she’s not mocking my interests, that’s just her way of making conversation and showing interest :)

      Anyway, echoing C Average to point out examples of negative comments as she says them – it may trigger a lightbulb moment, it may not, but at least it’ll teach her what you (all) don’t want to hear! You could also tell her that her entire internal monologue – whether she sees it as negative or neutral – should STAY internal.

  50. Former Diet Coke Addict

    My boss continues on his parade of poor management–today we have a supplier from another province stopping by briefly to chat with us. My boss says he doesn’t want to talk to him because he’s afraid the supplier will be irritated with us, so he told my coworker “Tell him I went to lunch with my wife and couldn’t see him.” Except…they talked this morning and my boss said “Sure, stop by!” Therefore making my coworker look like an idiot.

    We’re also still all waiting on tenterhooks to see if the deal goes through where if it does–we get to stay open and make a profit! If it doesn’t–we close because we definitely don’t have a quarter million lying around.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Well, the coworker doesn’t look so much like an idiot, more your boss. Even if the supplier sees your boss in his office, I’m sure they’ll think the poor coworker is just the messenger of stupid, not the source.

  51. A Nonnus Mousus

    This is less of a question question and more of a polling question… For the last few weeks I’ve had a temp directly reporting to me and assisting me while things ramp up in my department. He’s great is many different ways and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him to whomever hires him after he leaves here. The weird thing is this: his typing skills are…. not good. He hen-pecks on the keyboard with two fingers and while he does eventually get his thoughts out, it takes much longer than it would if he were a touch-typist. This causes a lot of typos which he needs to go back in and correct since he isn’t looking at the screen when he is typing. Other than that, he’s fantastic! Very quick to learn and open to feedback. I just can’t seem to get past this one thing.

    My question is this: for those of you who are in positions to hire people (As a bit of background, I am in a tech field), would you automatically assume that someone who would be applying for a position that involves a computer would know how to type and/or type fast? I was always under the impression that this was something that was generally considered a requirement. Now I am not so sure. I’ve been endeavoring to help my temp to practice his typing and work to improve since I see it as a necessity, but I’m curious as to the thoughts of the AAM hive-mind.

      1. A Nonnus Mousus

        I’ve been having him practice in his spare time and I try to guide him when I see him typing incorrectly. One of the things that threw me off were conversations with several different friends/colleagues who told me “Oh, that’s not a requirement. I can’t type either”. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure whether or not I was actually in the majority.

        1. cuppa

          I think the key is the speed and accuracy here. I’m a Mavis Beacon dropout, but I can still type 45-50 wpm with pretty good accuracy. But, I would probably tell people that “I can’t type”, since I don’t type the proper way. I agree with Alison, it needs to be developed.

          1. SevenSixOne

            Yeah, I never learned to type the “right” way because I lost a fingertip when I was a baby, but I do all right. I don’t think it matters whether you use all ten fingers with the proper position or you’re a hunt-and-pecker as long as you can type ~30 wpm accurately.

            1. the gold digger

              How does a baby lose a fingertip?

              I lost a tiny bit of my pinkie after a post-jet lag mandoline/fennel tragedy (where my husband panicked and did not even put the bandaid I had requested on my finger while I was passed out – of course I passed out – there was blood – and so I had to put on my own bandage once I came to), but most people don’t let babies play with mandolines or knives.

              1. SevenSixOne

                I was in a foldable stroller that wasn’t locked in the open position and my finger got caught in the hinge :/ I only lost the very end of my finger, so now it has no fingerprint and a weird little half-size curved nail that grows over the fingertip.

                1. the gold digger

                  Oh ouch! Your poor parents.

                  So if you and I ever commit murder together, you will have to wear gloves and I, with my little toe that never touches the ground, so I always leave a four-toed footprint, will have to wear shoes.

        2. Sadsack

          I am not a great typist, either. I sort of do a combo of touch and hunt/peck! However, I am not in a job where fast typing is really necessary, and I proofread/correct my work. If speed isn’t a priority, he should at least take time to proofread. Is speed really a requirement of his job, or is it just something that you are surprised he lacks? I would think that accuracy is more important, but you’re a better judge, of course.

        3. erd

          I think lots of people who claim they “can’t type” probably just can’t type very well :) Plus, even if they can’t type, it’s only going to hurt this temp if he can’t either!

          Help him find an online course (I’m betting there are free ones online) rather than just practicing – he has to be practicing the right way to actually get any better at it.

    1. The IT Manager

      What you described is a problem. I use four fingers to type and a thumb for the space bar and I look at the keyboard, but I type pretty fast. So he doesn’t need to to learn to be a 80 wpm touch typist, but he does need to get his skills up – as cuppa said both speed and accuracy.

      1. Kelly L.

        Yeah, I type with about three fingers and type 70 wpm. :D It horrifies people when they watch, but the job gets done. It doesn’t so much matter how he types as whether he can do the job in a timely and accurate way, whatever hand configuration he uses.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever

        If he codes, he might be able to get by – but his skills do need improvement.

        If he’s an analyst or in QA, his lack of typing skills are a dealbreaker. It would be a kindness for you to let him know and give some recommendations for how he can improve. You are not responsible for his improvement. You give him the tools; it’s up to him from there.

        1. catsAreCool

          What Jonny Fever said. I know some coders who are 2 fingered typists, but they’re fast, so no one worries about it.

    2. The Office Admin

      I type about 50 WPM but I can’t/don’t type by touch. I use my index fingers and my thumbs.
      That being said, I don’t really make typos or grammar mistakes, so this may be more of him not being conscientious about how important typing correctly is. That’s what you should focus on, not so much his inability to touch type but his inability to correct typos or prevent them.

    3. Partly Cloudy

      I learned to type in chat rooms and on comment boards. :) I’m sure it’s not the “right” way, but I use most (not all) of my fingers and I was around 50 wpm with 100% accuracy when I last tested myself. It’s much more motivational to practice when you have something vested in the subject matter. Keeping up with online conversations did it for me, and I wasn’t even trying.

    4. Haven't thought of a name yet...

      I’m a software developer. We have several other devs who peck at the keyboard because they’re new to the US. While the German and Turkish keyboards are similar, it’s dissimilar enough to cause them to “peck” at the keyboard.

      But as a dev, typing fast isn’t a requirement for the job. (You think up the code at a much slower pace than maximum typing speed.) It’s very dependent on role — even in the tech field.

      1. Joline

        I actually find things like a German keyboard really mess me up just because it is so similar. If it was an entirely different layout I think I’d be better at just learning that layout or watching the keyboard but because it’s just a couple of switches (eg. the Y and the Z are switched) I get really thrown for a loop because I get in a good rhythm and then one of those pops in and it just stymies me completely.

        1. Jen RO

          I was on a work trip recently and I had to use a French coworker’s laptop… my password contains an a, a q, and numbers. That was a pain…
          (A and Q are switched, and for numbers you had to press Shift.)

    5. Windchime

      I think that typing accurately is more important that typing quickly, at least in my tech job. One of our best programmers is from another country, so her typing in our languages (English and SQL) is very slow, hunt-and-pec. She still gets more good work done than anyone else. Having said that, Alison is correct in that this seems to be an easily fixable thing.

      Side note: My kids grew up doing online chatting, so they learned to type before they took “keyboarding” class. One of my kids types in the correct “home-row” position; the other has this weird way of typing with three fingers on one hand and two on the other, and he is REALLY fast. It’s so strange to watch. He types by touch, but just in a very strange way.

  52. Blue Anne

    For the next month, I’m on an assignment where I’m carpooling in with three male colleagues. They’re all nice guys, I get along with them well and we work well together. But there’s some low-level sexism that goes on.

    For example, this morning they were talking about a very competent female manager who recently returned from maternity leave. They mentioned what his husband does, and that he makes a lot of money at it. One colleague said he “doesn’t even know why she works any more.” (Uh, probably the same reasons you do, really.) Another agreed, and said that he thought she’d probably be pregnant again by the end of the year, and also did we know that it’s illegal to ask whether a woman wants kid in an interview in this country?! How crazy!

    Or the other day, on our way out, we passed a woman coming out of the office who was middle aged and dressed in a very “trendy” way. They all talked for a minute about whether she thought she was hot, whether maybe she had once been hot, but it was just sad to keep dressing that way and bleaching your hair when you hit middle age. I just… ugh.

    Plus this is all with the background noise of pop music on the radio, with some current hit song with pretty graphic sex talk and stuff.

    This is getting pretty damn uncomfortable for me but I’m running into the classic bind of say something and be the killjoy feminist who makes everyone uncomfortable, or say nothing and be, you know, the person who enables it.

    How would you guys handle it?

    1. AndersonDarling

      The “what her husband does” conversation could go either way. I could have that discussion about a man instead of a woman, but I’d do it from the perspective of “If my spouse made that much $$, I’d be watching Judge Judy all day.”
      The discussion about the “hot” lady could be bad, but it depends on how long it went on and exactly what words were used. If it was just in passing, then I would let it go. But it is something to keep note of in case it is the start of a pattern.
      I had a discussion about how hot Harrison Ford was and is still kind of hot…I hope no one overheard and thought the conversation was harassment.

      1. Blue Anne

        Yeeeaaah, but in the context of them speculating about her having more kids and then using that to lead in to shock at not being allowd go ask women about whether they want kids in interview?..

        Personally, I have a lot of trouble imagining that conversation being had about a man.

    2. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

      I think you can call them on it without being a “killjoy feminist” – usually I just go with “Really?” with a raised eyebrow. Depending on my relationship with the speaker, I may go a little further – for example, in response to the conversation about the trendy woman, I probably would’ve gone with “Well gee, we better go get her and let her know you guys don’t approve! I mean, the only possible reason a woman could be dressing the way she dresses is to impress men, so we better make sure she knows she’s not up to snuff, right?” if the guys were peers/people I had a work-friend-type relationship with.

      I think you can make it clear what they’re saying is not okay without being a “killjoy” about it with carefully-deployed sarcasm/mild disbelief that they’re even having whatever conversation.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny

      You have my sympathies. I’m hoping others chime in with better advice, but I’d consider a gentle ‘Guys, that’s not really appropriate’ or maybe ‘You don’t realize it, but that’s really offensive to women.’ Eh? Maybe they’re super open-minded? /wishful thinking

    4. Anastasia Beaverhausen

      Take pride in making them uncomfortable, tbh. They’re clearly not considering how uncomfortable they’re making you, so be that killjoy feminist and be her well.

    5. Christy

      Be the killjoy feminist who makes everyone uncomfortable. They’ve already made you uncomfortable. They are the problem. Pointing out the problem does not make you the problem.

      1. Blue Anne

        The things is, I do have to work with them and I do like working with them. I don’t want them to get weird on me.

      2. Anx

        I know this, but thank you for posting this!

        I’m not sure I’d say anything at work, but I’m probably at a point in my life where I need to stop worrying about making people uncomfortable when they clearly have no compunction about making me uncomfortable when I can afford to upset the apple cart.

        I’ve dabbled in self-assertion recently. I definitely pulled out the “I can’t talk to you about this when you’re being so emotional” line to a bunch of men who get very defensive and illogical about their right to talk about how ugly some of their colleagues were. It was glorious.

    6. Cordelia Naismith

      Maybe ask the guys if they have kids? “Oh, you do? And you still work? Huh, imagine that.”

      Or maybe not.

    7. literateliz

      I don’t have any advice, but just wanted to say that I’m surprised to hear this referred to as “low-level” sexism. It sounds pretty appalling to me.

      But then again, the thread about maternity leave from a few days ago (or was it last week’s open thread?) was pretty eye-opening/mind-boggling to me, so I might just be a killjoy feminist myself. :\

      1. Blue Anne

        The thing is that it’s always so quick. It’s ten seconds in half an hour of chatting in the car. But it’s happening regularly.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Proud killjoy feminist here.

        I’m with you – this doesn’t sound low-level to me. I’d probably say something casually in the moment (along the lines of “I don’t think she’s dressing for your approval”) and then sit down with one or several of them later and mention that it makes you uncomfortable.

    8. Blue Anne

      I’m actually I’m the car with them right now. So far we’ve had chat about “trannies” in Brazil, and what client fancies which of our femae colleagues.

      Blargh.

      1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

        This sounds made for “are you seriously talking about this right now? Seriously?” in exasperated-big-sister tone.

        1. Blue Anne

          I’m proud of myself right now. They moved on to talking about the trend for crop-tops and I got in the point that maybe women were wearing them because it’s warm out and they’re more comfortable, and some sarcastic “God yeah, they definitely shouldn’t wear comfy clothes if you don’t want to see it”.

          Point made, weirdness avoided. Need to keep this up.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            Nice!

            Also, this sounds increasingly not “low level.” It sounds like it’s taking place on every car ride? Which suggests it’s just their way of being in the world? And they’re comfortable using pejorative slang with work colleagues? Ugh.

          2. Natalie

            Very, very much YMMV, but would something fairly concise but still kind of “bro-y” and casual work? A la, “Dude, quit being an ass.” Depending on how casual swearing comes across in your workplace.

          3. Clever Name

            Right on! I think you found just the right tactic. And if they openly assess a woman in front of you, join in. It will probably make them feel uncomfortable, and the best part is if any of them are dumb enough to say anything to you about it, you can be all, “What? You guys were doing it?”

    9. KathyGeiss

      I agree with others who recommend saying something about it. My advice: keep it casual (many good suggestions already) and then give them an out. Change the subject to something else they can move on to without having to draw attention to what happened.

      Eg. “Really? People work for all sorts of reasons. So, anybody see that hilarious video about the newscaster petting a koala?”

  53. YandO

    I work for a small firm of 4, where two are the owners (married couple)

    Wife is responsible for payroll. She forgets to pay me (and my co-worker) 2 out of 3 times. Paychecks are a day to two days late. At first she was apologetic, but at this point she is not even that. In fact, she gets annoyed with me for bringing it up.

    I have come to a conclusion that the best thing for my sanity is to not expect a check until two days after the scheduled payday.

    Is there anything else I can/should do?

    1. BRR

      Is the other person being paid late? Are they within the amount of time they legally have to pay you?

      1. YandO

        Yes, the other person gets paid late too, sometimes with even bigger gap

        Yes, they are well within the legal limit

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          If they’re within the legal limit, there’s not really much more you can do. I’d just start mentally assuming the payday is whatever your state law says it needs to be. If you get it earlier, let it be a nice surprise.

    2. Jaune Desprez

      I have zero patience for shenanigans of this nature. I’d probably send her an Outlook reminder two days before every payday: “YandO’s paycheck due Friday.” Also, I’d start job hunting, because this is not a good workplace.

      1. TNTT

        I worked in a very similar place, and can I just say that this Outlook reminder would have resulted in World War 3, hahahah.

        Is husband aware about the lateness? If not, make sure he is. I think Alison has answered questions in the past about when payments to salaried employees are due in the US and provided helpful scripts for bringing it up.

        And yeah, start job shopping.

        1. YandO

          TNTT,

          I cc’ed him on a few emails about it. He ignored them.

          I am a salaried non-exempt employee. It’s a mess.

      2. YandO

        she has calendar reminders that she set up herself, but she is just “too busy” to get it done.

        and I am job hunting like theres is no tomorrow

      1. YandO

        see, I don’t know how that works. Can’t they say “Our payday is actually Friday and we were paying her Wed to be nice?”

        1. TNTT

          I can’t from my phone, but you should really try to find Alison’s old posts on this. She explains it well so you can hopefully see if that kind of call would be helpful to you.

          Otherwise, that really stinks and unfortunately I don’t have much better advice than to keep looking for jobs. When the situation got so bad at my place, I left.

          I will say, try to brush off her “getting annoyed” with you when you bring it up. It’s a really serious problem and she’s not doing her job.

    3. Partly Cloudy

      I call BS on her forgetting. She remembers to pay herself and her husband, and for crying out loud, there are only two other people to remember!

      Definitely start job-hunting.

  54. Meg Murry

    Anyone have any advice on dealing with imposter syndrome/paranoia when starting a new job? I have a bit of bad job PTSD, and every time my boss says “hey, I want to talk to you” I immediately go to “oh god I’m in trouble. I’m going to get yelled at/repremanded/fired”

    I also have a momentary “uh-oh, are my new coworkers writing about me?” with every new AAM post until I get to a detail that reveal it isn’t me (or that the letter writer is trying to throw me off … but I”m not quite that paranoid yet).

    Any tips besides “keep breathing” and “stop flipping out!”? It hasn’t really interfered too much with my life yet, so I don’t need any major interventions – and “get to therapy” isn’t a choice until my new insurance kicks in in a month or two.

    1. Jill of All Trades

      Maybe at the end of each day think through the day and make a list of everything you felt you did well, felt proud of, learned, etc. Force yourself to acknowledge your success and development, and you may start to be able to operate from a position of balanced perspective instead of a fearful one. Cause honey, that’s no way to live…

      1. KathyGeiss

        I like this and to add to it: write those things down. Get a little journal and just write one or two “yay me” thoughts.

        Another tip which may or may not be helpful. For me, fake it till you make it was a real thing. I would give myself a little pep talk before big meetings and if I got called in to see the boss I would say in my head “no big deal; happens all the time”. Even when I didn’t believe it, actively thinking it helped me.

      1. Afiendishthingy

        So it sounds like you recognize you think this way because of your previous experience, and that it’s not reflective of how your current boss and coworkers see you. Could you try to just catch yourself when these thoughts come up and say to yourself “I’m having an irrational thought” or “that’s the PTSD talking, not current boss (or whoever)”? Don’t beat yourself up for having the thought, just acknowledge it for what it is and move on.

        Also I would write down any positive feedback you get and keep it in a Self Esteem document. And if you’re freaking out about a given situation, imagine a friend telling you the same story about themselves and what you would tell them.

        I hope it gets better soon!

    2. Steve G

      I would advice to pick up some new hard/technical skills you can mentally use as a crutch when you start to doubt yourself.

      Whenever I feel this way, I learn how to do a new thing or 2 that most people don’t know how to do in Salesforce or in a MS application.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Ugh. I hate it when I cannot shake that off.

      Someone explained this to me, it should have been obvious to me but it wasn’t. I was too busy worrying for it to be obvious. Let’s say that the boss called you in the office to ream you ten times. (We need a number, will pick ten just to keep rolling along here.) So what that means is it might be that you have to be called into the boss’ office 20-30 times for good conversations before you are able to shift the bad conversations to the back burner.
      It’s not an instant fix. And sometimes, it takes much longer than we’d like. Here’s something you can hang on to- just as you do not want the boss assuming you are a silly bumbling worker you can’t assume the boss is a screamin’ demon. Tell yourself that you have to give people a chance to prove themselves, just like you want a chance to prove yourself. This helped me sometimes.

  55. GrumpityGrump

    An update from my post a couple of weeks ago re: the impending leadership retreat I was dreading. I survived. I did enjoy getting to know everyone else, I did not enjoy all the outdoor team building games, I did enjoy some delicious food and great scenery, I will never enjoy sleeping in a large room with many other people.

    I am a certified introvert, but I did the thing, opted out when I felt I really needed to (it was “challenge by choice”), and am very glad to have it behind me. If anyone else has something similarly uncomfortable looming, I’ll be your biggest cheerleader. From an anonymous, introvert-friendly distance.

    1. Alex

      Haha loved this update – I have a pending activity I’m dreading in a few weeks that includes “team building watersports”.. in bathing suits, with coworkers, competing against the executives.. *cringe*.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny

      I have a sportsing game coming up for work. I reaaally don’t want to go because I’m introverted and don’t want to socialize, and I’m suffering from a huge sports overload lately. Sigh. I’m really hoping there at least will be hot dogs.

    3. C Average

      Congratulations on your survival!

      I am working out the last week of my notice period just at the time discussion has started picking up about all the Fun! Group! Activities! that will be occurring during my soon-to-be-former team’s global summit this summer. It’s making me very happy about my decision to leave the company to go freelance. :)

    4. Partly Cloudy

      “…I will never enjoy sleeping in a large room with many other people.”

      THIS.

      Not that the other stuff is how I would choose to spend my time, but the shared sleeping quarters… [shudder]. Why why why do members of management think this is a good idea? Introverts NEED our alone time.

    5. GrumpityGrump

      You are all definitely my kind of people! One thing that helped me was bonding a bit with another introvert who was having an even harder time than I was. We paired up where possible in group activities and literally hauled each other through.

      May you each find an understanding ally at your events! Especially where bathing suits are involved: that one gave me the vapors for a few minutes. At times like those I just try to remind myself that even if it feels like eternity in the moment, no day has more than 24 hours, and it will pass and be history soon.

  56. LOtheAdmin

    Perfect timing!

    Here’s the story. I interviewed yesterday at a high end hot air balloon place this week. My job would be as an office assistant. As part of the interview process, I was told that myself and a guest would have to take a hot air balloon flight along with other customers on a weekend.

    As someone who has a hard time with heights (dizziness and crying holla), I already e-mailed them back and told them I wouldn’t be able to do this. I’m fairly sure this will disqualify me from the hiring process.

    This is a pretty unique situation, so I’m wondering what other people think about being require to take a hot air balloon flight in order to be hired for an office job. Is this a little too much to ask?

    1. TCO

      It’s unusual, but I think its appropriateness depends on the exact job duties. If you ever have to represent the company to prospective riders, answer questions about the experience, etc. I think it’s reasonable to expect you experience it yourself. “Knowing the business,” even parts not directly related to your job, is a huge advantage in many workplaces.

      That said, as a hiring manager I wouldn’t let that be a deal-breaker unless your daily job duties required really close interaction with the balloon experience itself.

      1. LOtheAdmin

        Part of the job would be booking flights when customers call, so I would imagine questions about the experience would come into play at least a little bit. Before I interviewed, I heard the manager
        booking a customer and heard her going into detail about the flights and what it’s like.

        Part of the reason I’m asking this question is out of curiosity because I’ve never encountered something like this. I’m pretty sure I nailed this interview, but because of this dumb fear I have, I probably won’t get this. I really liked the office and the people in it and would love to work for them and I made both of the managers laugh in my interview and we all had this great banter and yeah. Frustrated doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.

        Quite frankly, I’d rather be frustrated on the ground than have a panic attack (or worse) in the air and freak out other customers.

        1. Elizabeth West

          The reasons everyone else is giving make sense in this context. You probably will have to answer questions about it, and like Gene said, it’s a very unique experience (from what I understand). If you think you could possibly manage it, maybe they could take you up but not go very high.

          It would be a dealbreaker for me personally, because me on a balloon ride will never ever happen in this lifetime.

    2. Gene

      My dad flew a hot air balloon commercially for a decade or so and I crewed for him a lot.

      Balloon flight is very different from other types of height. There is nothing connecting you to the ground, so you don’t have a frame of reference. The basket is stable, there’s no bouncing, only minor movements when people move around. And the silence most of the time is amazing, you can hear people talking on the ground below (or hear nothing but the heater when it’s on.)

      In answer to your question, it’s unusual, but you need to be able to convey to people who are the potential customers what balloon flight is like; and you can’t do that without experiencing it. It’s like nothing else you’ve done.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        Ok, unlike Elizabeth West, I think I need to go on a balloon ride. That sounds pretty amazing.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      I agree with everyone that it makes perfect sense in this situation. When customers call, they’ll have questions and they might be nervous, and you really need to know the experience firsthand. It’s like working in the box office of a theater– you ought to be familiar with the show, either through marketing materials or by watching a rehearsal. You don’t have to answer every question, but you should have a good idea of what your customers will be getting into.

    4. Gene

      Another thought while sitting in the dentist chair:

      Email them back and ask if you can try out a tethered flight to see if that is possible for you. That’s where the balloon is tied to something secure (like a truck) and will stay within 50-100 feet of the surface. It doesn’t feel the same unless it’s totally calm, but if you can do that, you can do a free flight.

      The fact that you know what “tethered flight” means might just count in your favor.

  57. Jennifer

    I’m the only one of my group here today. I am terrified they’ll make me be on the phones all day because I’ll be the only here to answer them if they’re short, and then there’s the perennial problem of being asked questions about things I have no idea about.

    One of my coworkers put a hold on someone’s record for some petty thing (and then she went on vacation for a week and a half) and I got asked about it yesterday. I was all, “I had no idea we could even do such a thing or why she would have done that.” I am still finding out all these things I’m “supposed” to know that I didn’t know existed. And this is why I just cannot answer questions at work (and then get in trouble for not answering them). Gah.

    1. LillianMcGee

      If you’re new they shouldn’t reasonably expect you to be able to answer every question every time. If it were me, I’d say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I will find it and follow up with you.” And then follow up. For heaven’s sake, follow up. In the meantime also be vigilant and spongelike… absorb everything you hear the others talking about and do your homework to find out what it means. I learned a lot by rooting around in my company’s shared drive reading meeting minutes and documents I knew I’d have to eventually produce myself.

      1. catsAreCool

        In my experience, customers are OK with you not knowing something, as long as you can get the answers for them or connect them with someone who does have the answers. “Let me check on that and get back to you.” usually works pretty well.

    2. Xarcady

      First, take a deep breath. You can do this.

      Second, when a call comes in and you don’t know the answer, take the caller’s name and phone number, the details of the problem and tell them someone will get back to them. Even if you are supposed to answer all the questions on the first phone call, you are alone in the department today, and it would be understandable for you to do this if a question needed some research or several calls came in at once.

      Third, is there anyone in today that you could ask this questions? If so, wait until you have 3-5 questions and then go and ask for help. (Bunch the questions up so you aren’t disturbing them every 10 minutes.) If there isn’t anyone, give the callers a likely day/time when they will get a return phone call.

      Fourth, keep track of how many questions you can answer, and how many you can’t. You may have more knowledge than you know.

      Fifth, while it is hard to ask for training when you don’t know what to be trained on, you can use these phone calls to your advantage. Keep a list of subjects you don’t know about, and when there is some downtime, and some more people in the office, ask for the information you need.

      Also, check around. Are there any manuals or policy sheets or other instructions anywhere? Physical copies in binders? Folders and files on the company intranet?

      You’ve now identified areas where you need training. If you can’t find resources to fill the gaps, this is something to take to your manager. Let her know that you’ve realized you really don’t know as much about X, Y and Z as you should, and ask for her advice on how to get better at those.

      1. C Average

        This. All of this.

        Part of my job is to write scripts for our call center employees, and one of the most popular articles in our knowledge base is one I wrote called “how to respond when you don’t know the answer.” It gives a bunch of responses agents can use when they get a question they’ve never been asked before, need to escalate or research in order to get an answer, etc.

        When you have a quiet moment, maybe jot down some ways of saying, “I don’t know but I will do some research and find out” that feel natural to you and then just rely on your script and, as Xarcady advises, take good notes on each call so you can follow up when you do have the answers.

        And remember that each person who asks a question is an individual, not part of an angry mob. Try to bring a fresh supply of friendliness, energy, etc., to each interaction. It’ll go a long ways toward making it a pleasant interaction for the caller, even if ultimately they have to wait for an answer.

    3. Jennifer

      And yup, I have to answer the phones all by my lonesome for the afternoon. On a big deadline panic day. Shoot me now. No, seriously, kill me now.

  58. Gene

    Getting into the groove with my new workload since coworker died. Still not much down time, but it’s not as overwhelming as is was initially.

    And I’ve been approved for a conference in South Carolina middle of May! Even though it will be a busy week, it will be a break.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      That’s good to hear! I’ve been in a similar boat– new job rather than an emergency like yours– and feeling more confident in the groove is SO nice.

      South Carolina in May will require light clothing and bug spray. Enjoy! I hope it’s somewhere particularly nice and/or interesting, like Charleston or Beaufort. Or at least somewhere with a beach.

      1. Gene

        Sadly, it’s in Greenville, so no beach and I’ll leave my dive gear at home.

        Looking forward to some SC-style BBQ!

        1. Mockingjay

          Greenville is nestled in beautiful, rolling hills. Enjoy!

          And yes, SC BBQ is the BEST! (Guess where I live?)

  59. jstarr

    Does anyone else find themselves crashing into the “Class Ceiling” from time to time? I grew up in a working class family and there are things that some of my coworkers do and say that are so foreign to me that I feel like I’m humiliating myself. I had to be reassured that it was okay to fight for a higher salary for the work I do because negotiations = fired growing up. Anyone else have this issue?

    1. YandO

      I was born and raise din another country. Moving to the US did a number o n my self-esteem, confidence, and general life expectations.

      It’s been over a decade and I am still struggling with it. You are not alone. It’s hard to work through the things we learn growing up.

    2. matcha123

      I do. My family is pretty poor, but quite educated. I grew up in an upper-middle class city, went to good public schools and a very good public university. In my peer group are those that assume I had the same up bringing as them and will put down things that I have sympathy for: eating fast or processed food/candy; visiting certain stores; watching certain TV shows, etc.

      I tend to keep quiet, let others do the talking and wait for the conversation to move on.

    3. CollegeAdmin

      I feel like Alison did an “ask the readers” post about this – if I find it, I’ll reply to this comment with a link.

    4. OriginalEmma

      Same here. I felt REALLY out of place in college and I 100% believe it impacted my relationships with two boyfriends who were upper middle class. To the point that I felt so uncomfortable in their houses because they were so nice, whereas mine literally had 1/2-inch electrical wiring hanging out of the wall, among other shabbiness.

      I have two working class parents. As an example, we had maybe 3 family vacations growing up (e.g., going down the shore to stay in a beach house for a week). So besides the envy of growing up with middle class kids who did go on annual vacations, it’s odd for me as an adult to feel entitled to (and plan for) annual vacations like other adults.

      1. the gold digger

        Do you think it’s weird that so many of your co-workers take spring break off? I assume mine are at Disneyland with their kids.

        When I was a kid, spring break meant nothing more than we did not go to school that week. In my world now, people take ski vacations with their entire families and go to Disneyworld and do things my parents would never have been able to afford. We went camping or to my grandparents’. I still think that spending thousands of dollars on a family vacation is just a crazy thing to do.

        1. ThursdaysGeek

          Yeah, I had no idea that people traveled for spring break! Vacations were travelling somewhere to visit family, sleeping in or next to the car, and eating sandwiches that we’d made ahead of time and packed back into the bread bag. They were not something that happened very often.

        2. Windchime

          Spring break marked the beginning of the time of year when we were allowed to play outside barefooted. That’s about all it meant; going barefooted and not having to go to school.

          I can only remember taking one vacation with my family when I was growing up. And I was pretty much OK with that.

        3. catsAreCool

          Travelling for spring break seems odd to me, too. I have tended to think of growing up in a lower middle income home (at least I think it was; we sure didn’t have much extra money) as an advantage in a way because it means that I appreciate what I can afford now, and I tend to be cautious about spending.

          My parents are both college-educated, though, and they helped with early education, especially math, grammar, and encouraging reading. That was a huge advantage.

    5. C Average

      Yep. No advice, just solidarity. I grew up out in the sticks with parents who were middle-class for that community but would be much lower-middle class where I live now. Then I married up. I feel out of my depth a lot. I try to be kind and authentic and to work it into conversation early that I have country roots. People seem more forgiving of some of my quirks (corny sense of humor, unflappable optimism, inability to read or appreciate certain kinds of edgy humor, purple-voter politics) when they know where I come from.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I’d kill to have this problem. No, really. I grew up middle class in a farming town, with a mum who at least exposed us to some of the finer things, but I’ve spent my entire adult life being pretty much poor.

        I.
        HATE.
        IT.

        Everyone in my family lives in a nicer house than I do. Every time I take one step forward, I slide back two steps because playing catch-up all the time is expensive. My income potential is limited, and of course the only thing I’m even slightly good at *koffmediocrekoff* is writing, which pays NOTHING.

        I’m no Hyacinth Bucket–I really don’t care about all the trappings, so much as I’d love to have a house that works, and clothes that didn’t fall apart so quickly, etc. And I wish people would stop asking me when I’m going to write a bestseller. Sigh. You and I both know there are no guarantees there. :P

        I can relate to the original question as well, because when I got this job, I came into a world of tech where WebEx, remote access, and even the hardware were totally unfamiliar to me. I didn’t even know how to use the headset that came with my phone. I spent my first week thinking, “Oh my God, this building is too nice for me to be in,” and feeling like an imposter. In my other jobs, those things were reserved for management. Receptionists and admins had no reason to attend webinars, and even Exjob had a phone system that dated from the 1980s for the first three years I worked there. (When they finally updated it, everyone whined for ages, but I did the dance of joy.) Now I’m more used to it, but for the first few months, I really felt like any minute someone would come up to me and say, “I’m sorry, Miss West, but you don’t belong in this part of the ship.”

        1. C Average

          I have been there. I have SO been there. It’s part of the reason I am so very acutely aware that almost everything about my existence is unfair in my favor.

          I remember being so poor I didn’t have my own computer, and somehow managing to get a freelance gig with a state agency through a personal connection. I completed the whole assignment on library computers, sometimes going to multiple branches in the same day because each location limited patrons to an hour.

          I remember selling plasma for race fees when I was seriously into running and just getting by as a Starbucks barista. (It was always a bit of a balancing act, because the weight cutoff was 110 pounds, and the more I ran, the more often I was ineligible to sell! I sometimes arrived with a full water-bottle in each pocket to make weight.)

          When I first got hired on at my current company, it was for a $28k/year hourly job, and I thought, “I can live like a KING on this,” because it was twice what I’d ever made before. I had just the experience you describe with the technology and the feeling of not belonging.

          I remember when I got promoted and became salaried for the first time in my life. My now-husband, an Ivy League-educated Ph.D engineer who’s had the most linear and drama-free career path imaginable, congratulated me and sheepishly confessed that he’d always been a little embarrassed to be dating someone who was an hourly worker, and that I could collect my grown-up card now. (He meant it kindly. Really, he did.)

          Sometimes I still look around my house and think about all that I have and feel like I’m in that Talking Heads song: “This is not my beautiful life. How did I get here?”

          I hope life becomes unfair in your favor, too. I really, really enjoy your contributions here, and relate to quite a few of them.

          1. Elizabeth West

            Thanks; I hope so too. (Extra points if I end up in London forever!)

            My coworker asked me the other day, “So when are you moving away to England?” I was all, “Ha, in my dreams probably,” but I really felt like crying.

          2. SevenSixOne

            “When I first got hired on at my current company, it was for a $28k/year hourly job, and I thought, “I can live like a KING on this,” because it was twice what I’d ever made before.”

            THIS EXACTLY. I have serious cognitive disconnect when I hear people say that a good baseline for salary is “your age x $2,000” or act like a job that pays “only” $40K a year is beneath them somehow. I was thrilled to crack my age x $1,000 this year. A salary of $40K would mean my money problems are OVER.

          3. catsAreCool

            “embarrassed to be dating someone who was an hourly worker” I’m glad he meant that kindly. I’d have felt insulted. I was an hourly worker when I was in college, and as far as I was concerned, it was honest work, and it could be tough work.

        2. ThursdaysGeek

          I’m sorry. I’ll quit bugging you. It was more that from the hints you’ve dropped, that it sounds like what you’ve already written sounds like it would be fun to read. And maybe someday I’ll be able to monetarily contribute to your success. (That could be a whole ‘nother discussion, since I don’t think success is equal to money or things anyway.)

          1. Elizabeth West

            Believe me, I would LOVE it if you could! I still do NOT want to self-pub anything. It still has such a bad reputation, and I can’t afford it, and it lacks the one thing you can get from traditional pubbing (that sounds like I’m drinking, not writing!), according to a recent convention panel host–legitimacy. I want that legitimacy.

            I’m beginning to understand writers who drink, however. >:P

    6. Jaune Desprez

      I was in a situation something like this once. I went to work for a big-name private foundation and found myself completely at sea in the culture. All the senior people had gone to the same Swiss boarding schools, were on a first-name basis with one or more ambassadors, and spoke perfect French. Everyone else at my level was 15 years younger than me and planning on putting in about two years at Fancy Foundation before swanning off to work for the U.N. Come to think of it, they all spoke perfect French too.

      They ostracized me in the kindest and politest possible way. In spite of an amazing salary and solid gold benefits, I left in less than a year.

    7. CheeryO

      Definitely read the post that CollegeAdmin posted. There are some great comments there. And I totally feel for you. I was the first in my family to go to college. My parents are very smart, but they are total blue collar, salt-of-the-earth types who both grew up very poor. I definitely feel out of place at work sometimes. I felt that way in college too, to a lesser extent. I hope it gets better as the years go by.

    8. The Cosmic Avenger

      My parents were the first in their respective families to have a white collar kind of job, so I kind of sympathize, but I also think it has its positive side, too.

      For instance, I find that I’m giving a lot of financial advice to coworkers, about how to save, and that I save a lot more than they do. Many of them never learned to be frugal, or that debt is a dangerous, addictive tool to be used with caution.

      I also have a different perspective on the needs of our clients and users. Even though I do web work, I’ve suggested audio podcasts for users who commute, and I’ve advised our outreach people that our big challenge isn’t reaching more online users, but reaching those who don’t have online access, because those who have internet access can find us pretty easily. (We turn up in the top five or ten for most searches involving what we do.)

    9. Anx

      I do.

      I have a strange relationship with class. I grew up in an upper middle class town that became a rich person’s town as a grew up. My family owned a business so our finances fluctuated a lot. Although but of my parents have had professional jobs, that was decades ago and neither was able to return to professional work since our business folded in the aughts.

      I currently am broke or poor. I am not poor, poor because I could theoretically move in my parent if I needed to and have the trappings of middle class life (my furniture is hand-me-downs). But my broke phase is lasting years and years so it’s not quite broke any more. I haven’t had a dental cleaning in almost a decade, my diet has changed drastically, and I definitely have completely changed my outlook on life and money. I have a very hard buying anything for ‘want’ reasons.

      My class experience if very different from yours, but it definitely affects the way I think about work. This website has introduced me to so many concepts, like getting put on a work improvement plan (as opposed to be fired without any discussion). Paid vacation?! Apparently that is a common benefit. People not losing their jobs because they got pregnant or sick. Sick days vs personal days.

    10. Not So NewReader

      This has been a great read. Thank you for putting yourselves out there for the rest of us to learn and contemplate.
      My father was a depression kid. He had been working since age 7. He was absolutely bent on the idea that I would not work and go to school. I feel this was a huge setback for me in many ways. My father had no idea what it took to keep up with school needs nor did he understand the concept of peer pressure. (Depression kids did not have peer pressure according to him because no one had anything- so it did not matter.)
      My parents never talked about their jobs, so I did not learn much there. Matter of fact, reading here is the most I have ever learned about the work environment. Both of my parents had desk jobs. Some how the little they said about their jobs lead me to think that a desk job was a life of sheer misery. I struck out on a different path that did not serve me well. I carried a lot of misconceptions or assumptions that did not pan out well, either.
      You know… if you stick to something long enough eventually you burn through a lot of that stuff. Not with out tears, but also there are moments of joy/triumph.
      Most definitely, there are times when I know I am out of place with a group of people. For example, I don’t drink because it makes me feel crappy really fast. So I could not order a decent bottle of wine if my life depended on it. That’s not the worse part. The worst part is that I don’t care! There are some things that I have grown not to care about and learning about wine is one of them.
      But yes, there are definitely times when I know, “these peeps are not my peeps”. I have a dear family member that grew up like me. He calls it an impoverished mind set. I guess it is taught and you deliberately have to over come it. He makes a comfy living and he orders those wines. He thinks he’s rich. Well, he is. I feel I am rich in other ways and, well, …I am. Interestingly he thinks I am rich in different ways also.

      OP, the things your coworkers talk about are an aspect of life, not the sum total of life. Because they have exposure to aspects of life that you have not had, does not mean you are at a disadvantage. It just means they are talking about things you have not seen. And you know what? You could tell them plenty about things they have not seen. At some point the tables will turn, because tables always turn. And that will be your chance at feeling like you are on firm ground and they are telling you (perhaps indirectly) that they are not sure how to navigate a particular situation/problem. Just bide your time and know that your opportunity will come up. Because that is how these things go.
      For the moment, soak up their stories. Put it under the heading of “learning about what goes on in the world.” Then put their stories in the storage room of you memories. Their stories will be handy in years to come. I can’t explain that, except to say that very few our experiences in life are totally wasted. And…. deep dark secret… the only one who is seeing you as humiliated is YOU. Very few, if any, people see us as humiliated, when we feel humiliated. Smile softly, nod, say very little and you will probably come off as “the person in the group with wisdom”.

  60. Jules

    How does one asks a coworker nicely to back off? We have assigned work and randomly one day, this person does the analysis for my work and I am at loss as to how to address that.

    I appreciate her help but not for her to take over. She did it before and we talked about it. Now it happened again. I don’t get into her business I don’t understand why she thinks it’s ok to randomly do mine.

        1. ThatGirl

          I would try to head it off at the pass then – maybe say to her – “Hey overeager beaver, the next time you are about to pick up a task assigned to me, please let me know before you get started.”

          If she informed you ahead of time, you could easily say to her that you were about to start that task and her help wasn’t needed.

    1. Sadsack

      Did you ask her why she picked up your work? Seems like the place to start — nice and inquisitive though, not adversarial.

      1. Jules

        Yeah, I will try that after checking in with my boss to confirm no one asked her to pick up my work. The last time she took the whole thing and dropped me off the discussion completely. I talked to her and made sure the team knew that it was not acceptable. She is an older lady so I didn’t want to offend her but we are peers. I have more experience doing this then she does. Sometimes it feels like she needs to prove herself but again… why? We are literally peers.

        1. fposte

          And if your boss didn’t ask her to do it, you can wave her off if she tries it again. “Thanks, but Boss and I are good with it as is.” And you can always get up and go to the bathroom or something if she doesn’t walk away.

  61. Brett

    My week was going great, until a fan failed on my workstation. Super noisy, and cannot be fixed until Monday.

    On the bright side, one of my side assignments is social media management, and this week we had the weather channel, abc, nbc, and cbs all contact our office for permission to use our content :) (As well as three of the four local news stations). That picked us up a couple hundred more twitter followers to push us over 5k and pushed us over 100k vine loops. So, at least that is going well.

  62. some1

    I’m an admin at a small office of a F100 company. They hired a counterpart of my position for an office in another state last month. She came to my office last month for a week of training, and I’m one of two admins in my region who are instructed to train her on tasks as they come up by phone and screen-sharing. I’m responsible for her training but I’m not her supervisor.

    From the beginning, she has been very unreceptive to being trained as a whole. When I show her something new that has steps A, B, C, D and E, when we complete Step C she will tell me she will finish the task later (?). She interrupts me to tell how to do something like where to save a doc before I have the chance to explain that we save it in a certain folder for a reason. When I explain company style for how we word something in correspondence, she scoffed and said, “Who does that anymore?” (Um, I just told you we do.)

    Our boss hasn’t asked me how training her is going. I know she can learn the job and succeed at it, but it really gets on my nerves to have pushback from her literally every time I try to teach her something.

    Thoughts? Suggestions?

    1. Sadsack

      Maybe you could say, “I know that some of our processes may be different than what you have done in other jobs/at other companies, but we have these processes for a reason and really need everyone to follow them.”

        1. Sadsack

          I guess all you can do is finish training her and see how she does at the job itself. Maybe you should bring this up to your manager and ask for some direction.

    2. Nanc

      Ouch. Touch one. I would be matter of fact and just state that you have been assigned to train her in the standard procedure and suggest that once she’s trained, she could speak with her supervisor about doing things a different way. I think you’re in for a period of being firm and shutting down her interruptions by reminding her of your assignment. Who assigned you to train her? Can you give them an update along the lines of Philomena has learned A, B and C but is still working on D and E? Or can you ask for coaching on how to train her when she keeps throwing up the roadblocks?

      Here’s hoping it gets better!

      1. some1

        Our boss assigned me and she knows that. It’s getting her to realize that our procedures are specific for a reason, and not only am I not interested in whether that makes sense to *her *, I almost feel like she’s being rude because I’m trying to help her and she keeps pushing back.

        1. Natalie

          She’s being a little rude, but she can’t push back if you don’t engage with her. Comments like “who does it that way anymore?” don’t actually require a response at all.

          Her attitude towards your policies and processes is someone else’s problem. You’re not responsible for getting her buy-in or even making sure she conforms to the system. All you have to do is show her and provide her with whatever documentation you have.

    3. Jaune Desprez

      “I’ve been assigned to train you on our standard procedures, but I can’t document that you’ve been trained if we don’t complete all the steps. If you have reservations about the way we do things, shall we schedule a meeting with Boss to discuss your concerns?”

      1. some1

        Sorry, that part was unclear. When I have told her, actually, no we’re not done yet, she is willing to complete the task with me, my point is that she keeps trying to hijack the training. Instead of asking, “Is this the last step?” she decides for herself that it must be and she tells me we are done.

    4. Not So NewReader

      “I know she can learn the job and succeed at it, but it really gets on my nerves to have pushback from her literally every time I try to teach her something.”

      Uh, no, she can’t learn the job. This is the disconnect here. She is showing you that she cannot do the job. In her case the reason she cannot do the job is because she is unwilling to learn the standards of the job and/or unwilling to keep with the standards for the job.

      While you may think she has the ability to do the job, she is routinely refusing to use that ability. That means she can’t do the job. Time to talk to the boss before you sink more of your labor ($$$) into this training project.

  63. Anonynon

    In general, is the job market still good for employers? I didn’t think it had swung into being favorable for job hunters yet, but my work posted some positions and we haven’t gotten as many applicants as I expected. What’s the word AAM community?

    1. TheExchequer

      I would say I have seen some improvement in job postings, both in terms of quantity an dquality (payment)

    2. cuppa

      I am just seeing this start to happen in my neck of the woods. We used to regularly have over 100 applicants for each position we posted, and now, that is happening in maybe 20% of jobs. Seeing less candidates and a higher percentage appropriately qualified for positions. I’m thinking the change for us was really just in the last six months or so.

  64. Jill of All Trades

    For anyone who made the jump: how did you move from an individual contributor role to management? Did you get there through internal promotion or by changing jobs to a different company? Was there something you leveraged, like a degree or a class, or mentoring?

    1. Not So NewReader

      I know my degree eased the way. But I needed to add in other things: willingness to learn, willingness to take on the unfamiliar, working at troubleshooting problems, finding ways to show that I had a bigger picture understanding,and ability to deal with “personalities”. The thing that clinched it was finding an advocate. I found someone that was willing to speak up and say, “hey, I think I have someone you should consider.” I had five promotions inside of eight months.

      My best advice is gather up as many different advantages as you can find. Do not rely on just one thing.

  65. Jubilance

    Great news to share – I got an award at the big department meeting yesterday! It was a great and welcome surprise :-)

    My company held a big round of layoffs almost a month ago, and I’d been struggling with a bit of survivors guilt and also worrying that people thought I didn’t deserve to stay. I’m one of the few in my dept who doesn’t have teapot sales experience, which is a good thing because I challenge and think differently. I was recognized for joining the team, quickly getting up to speed, and creating a process test that we’ve implemented in the field. If the results are promising, this test process will be rolled out to the entire company in October. When I was given the award, my VP also noted that I did a ton of project management and data analysis while also planning my wedding :-) After the stress of the layoffs, it’s nice to feel appreciated. And it’s also nice that my name was spelled correctly – when I won an award in another department, they spelled my name wrong :-/

  66. Bend & Snap

    I’ve had a tough year at work being in the middle of a divorce and having a health-challenged child, which means I’ve had a VERY flexible schedule and been working at home a ton.

    My performance review was solidly average.

    I’m FINALLY feeling like things are looking up–my baby is doing really well AND I just closed on a beautiful new condo 15 minutes from my office (instead of an hour and a half).

    I’m really hoping these developments will have a positive impact on my working life and make it easier to be more visible and do a good job as I wade into single motherhood.

    1. Not So NewReader

      You are very strategic and deliberate in how you handle things- this will NEVER fail you. And it will get you where you want to be! Well done!

  67. Aussie Teacher

    I last posted in the Open Thread on Mar 20th about the job I applied for in early March – my first job application in 5 years (since being a SAHM). Well despite being confident that I would get an interview based on my previous experience, the weeks ticked by and after I politely nudged them on the final day of term, I eventually got a rejection email this week (first week of the school holidays – the position was commencing at the start of the next term):

    Further to your application for the position of XXX Teacher, I am writing to advise that your application was unsuccessful.  We appreciated your interest in working at SCHOOL, and should another position arise within this field we would encourage a further application from you.

    I had already decided to ask for feedback, so this is what I wrote back:

    Thank you for your email – I appreciate you taking the time to let me know the result of my application. While I’m sorry to see this opportunity go, I will definitely keep an eye out for future positions, as I’ve heard from other SCHOOL staff about what a great place it is to work! Please don’t feel obligated to answer this question, but if there was anything you noticed in my application materials that I could work on to make myself a stronger candidate in the future, I’d be so grateful to hear any feedback.

    And I got a reply with some feedback!

    Thank you for your email. In regards to the format of your application your cover letter and resume are clear and concise. On this occasion I understand the selection panel were looking for a particular SUBJECT skill set that would complement the current SUBJECT team. 
    Should another position arise at SCHOOL we would encourage you to apply again.

    I’m so encouraged, especially since it was my first job application in nearly 5 years. I took Alison’s advice to thank anyone who actually does give you feedback, and replied with this:

    Thank you very much for taking the time to give me feedback – I really appreciate it! It’s reassuring to hear that the selection panel were looking for a different skill set rather than something lacking in my application materials. I wish you and the SUBJECT Department all the best with your new hire. Thanks again for getting back to me so promptly.

    So…. bummed that I didn’t get the job or even a chance to interview, but really happy that my revamped cover letter and resume are being approved of, and that I followed Alison’s advice to ask for feedback in a way that got results!

    1. AndersonDarling

      “your application was unsuccessful” That is the strangest rejection I have heard!
      I’m glad the feedback helped. It’s good to know the employer was just looking for something different and it wasn’t anything personal.

    2. Not So NewReader

      I would be quietly optimistic here. Of course, keep looking at other opportunities but it sounds like you are on the right path.

  68. My Heart is Breaking Over Maybe Having to Leave My Job

    Hi All… bear with me this is long, but I’m quite conflicted about what’s going on so that’s why I have to lay it all out.

    I’ve been an external contractor at my company for a little over 2 years now. I do not have the right personality to be external – had I known it would have permanently been external (was offered with the assurances that it would ‘probably’ become internal within 6 months) I don’t think I would have accepted it. My company is weird in that 60% of the people who ‘work’ for my company are external – but they violate just about every co-employment law in the book and I don’t FEEL like a contractor in a day-to-day sense because my immediate manager doesn’t treat me as such, and most of my team is also external. But sometimes, I really do feel like a second class citizen, and it really does suck. I liken it to being ‘friends with benefits’ with a company; they want you to commit everything to them, but not commit back to you. At what point do you know, that ‘He’s Just Not That Into You?’

    I love my job. I really do. I love my manager, my team, my work, everything about it. But, my company is also going through a reorganization process, and they’ve lost the funding for my position as of the end of Q2. My boss says he and his boss are working hard, and they’re fairly certain they’ve found a way to extend me through the rest of the year, and is still working on trying to get me internal – but it’s not ultimately their call call really, they have to convince the people above them. We have a lot of things coming up with teapot regulation in our office in the next few years, and he can’t really FUNCTION without me, so he needs me; If I were to walk out the door today, he would be essentially paralyzed. At what point is it me running on a treadmill to a carrot though? I mean, I really feel like every time it gets within grasping distance, they have to pull it away.

    So, I’ve started interviewing elsewhere. They really can’t blame me, right? I am one of two finalists for an INTERNAL position elsewhere, and am fairly certain I’m the front runner based on the conversations had with who my direct manager would be. I should be getting an answer early next week, and frankly the job is PERFECT and I know I’d love doing it, and it lines up well with where I want my career to go (I have abt 7 years experience, so still fairly early in my career). Regardless of whether it’s this job, I know I will continue interviewing and I have very marketable skills so I’m not worried about finding something great – there are quite a few irons in the fire, this is just the best fit, and furthest progressed role at this point (I’ve already turned another offer down last month for a poor fit).

    But, whenever I think about actually leaving, it really breaks my heart. I love my manager, we have a great working relationship – and I’ve become very passionate about what I do! My husband believes that there is a chance that me getting an offer and being willing to leave (the other role would be equally fantastic) may be just the catalyst that my manager and his manager need to finally twist some screws on the powers that be above them to get me an internal role – basically calling the company’s bluff. I know if I get the offer I will leave, but it’s just a heartbreaking thought to have to do.

    Does anyone have any advice on this? Not sure if there really is advice to offer without going into proprietary details but… I am just at a loss right now and honestly very very sad.

    1. C Average

      Take the other job if it’s offered.

      My company also makes extensive use of perma-temp contractors, and your friends-with-benefits metaphor is spot-on. It’s a sucky way to treat people, and I wish we didn’t do it. (I understand WHY we do it, but that doesn’t make it OK.)

      If they liked it, they should’ve put a ring on it.

      1. edj3

        *snort* Yes, they should have put a ring on it. And thanks, now I have that song in my head.

      2. Dawn

        “If they liked it, they should’ve put a ring on it.”
        Ayyyyyyuuuuupppppp!!!!!!

        Also, “Actions speak louder than words” plus “When someone tells you what they think of you, it’s in your best interest to listen.” Your current company has paid you lip service for two years and is violating federal labor laws while doing so. Go for the new job!!!!

        1. My Heart is Breaking Over Maybe Having to Leave My Job

          Thanks. I think I’ll take it, but the point my husband is making is that it might need to be at the point where I’m ready to walk away – and actually ready – before they can do anything about it. The company is a well-known brand and they can get away with the perma-temp because so many people are brand-loyalists. Like, working here is their DREAM job.

          Well it’s not mine, I’m not branded, I just like what I do. So, I know if I get the other offer I’ll give my notice, but just my husband’s point is that it might take giving my notice for anything to happen. But at that point it may be too late – I don’t know that I’d accept a counter offer.

          But technically I DO have to get the other offer first :)

          1. Windchime

            I think you’re smart to not consider the counter-offer (should they make one). I wish you the best of luck for the new job; I hope it works out for you. I worked at my last workplace for 22 years (in various roles) and it was so hard to leave, but it was obvious that things would never, ever change. Four years later, they are still doing surveys and re-doing the org chart and forming committees, and it still sucks.

    2. Ann Furthermore

      I agree with C Average — take the other job if it’s offered. Your current employer has had plenty of time to make your position permanent, and they haven’t. Even if they make noise about making you permanent after giving notice, I would still take the other job.

      A good friend of mine worked at my company for about 6 years, and accomplished quite a bit. She was more than qualified for a management role, based on what she’d done in her current role, and her previous experience. She approached her (awful) boss about what her next move would be, career-wise, and was basically told that there was nowhere for her to go and that she was pretty much at a dead end. So she started looking elsewhere, and it only took her about 5 weeks to secure a job offer from another company.

      When she gave notice, they were up in arms about how terrible it would be to lose her, and gave her a counter offer which included a huge raise and a promotion. She turned it down, because she’d already made a commitment to another company. In her exit interview with the CFO, he said he was surprised that she’d turned down the counter offer. She said she’d turned it down first because she’d already committed to the new company, and also, because she was disgusted that it took giving notice for her (awful) boss to realize what she was worth and then scramble to keep her — after telling her that there was no way she’d ever advance any further.

      Her boss was perfectly content to keep her where she was, with no interest in helping her grow or advance her career, until all of a sudden she would look bad for losing a good employee. Screw that.

      1. Not So NewReader

        This is it right here, OP.

        I am not surprised you have a wonderful boss. She knows that is the only mechanism she has for retaining people- to be that awesome boss. She probably is an awesome person. But she also knows that not too much is going on for you. And this is her plan to retain you, because there is no other plan.

  69. Aussie Teacher

    Now that the only part-time job in my field in my area in the last 9 months has come and gone, I’m considering sending my resume to the Head of [my subject] Department at schools near where I live, and letting them know I’m interested in part-time work, in case they have an opening. I’m not sure if it’s worth a shot or if it will come off as a bit tone deaf (I’m in the private system so the big schools will ALWAYS advertise positions, even if they have a preferred candidate in mind, so presumably I’d see their listings anyway).

    I assume my cover letter would need to be pretty kick-ass, but I’m struggling a bit with tailoring my cover letter when there isn’t a specific job listing – for when you are just applying to a company you’d like to work at. I’ve tried searching the archives but no luck so far. Do I just pretend there is a job listing for a [my subject] teacher and tell them why I’d excel at it and why I’d love to work for their school?

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      I’d definently send a letter and cv to introduce yourself, as for the content of the letter I’d focus more on why the school appeals to you and why you’d like to work there as well as what skills you have that would make you an asset to the school.

    2. Ismis

      A bit late, but would you consider doing relief work? Maybe mention that as well… Of course it depends on if you have kids/can work with little to no notice etc…

  70. TheExchequer

    I had my first interview yesterday!

    They were looking for someone with construction experience. Nothing in my resume even hints at construction experience. So confused.

    For the “Why are you looking to leave?” question I said, “Well, it’s partially to be closer to home and partially because my company has had consistent issues with paying my commission time.” The interviewer winced. “Oooh, that’s not good.” So, it’s kind of nice to know that someone else agrees that this is not acceptable behavior.

    I’ve made a list of the 5 things I want in my next job:
    – A better commute (though, for the right price or job, I would consider bending this)
    – A boss who is reasonable, fair, and who respects me (this is not negotiable)
    – Coworkers who I am at least civil with if not friendly (I have no interest in a dog eat dog environment; it’s just not for me)
    – A fair amount of pay paid on time (and I’ve done my research and even for the role I was originally hired in, I’m being underpaid)
    – A role with places to grown in and a path to grow “up” in (things to learn, a path to become manager, etc)

    If you’re also looking for a job, what are things you’re looking for?

    1. S

      Benefits. Vacation/sick time, sure, as long as it’s in line with the industry norms, but I’m a big stickler on medical benefits. My parents have been under-insured for years (but they never skimped on my insurance costs when I was a kid) and seeing the uncertainty of not having “good enough” coverage for things like routine check-ups (especially when you have chronic health conditions) has left me a little battle-scarred.

    2. Steve G

      I think you should keep the reasons-for-leaving after on a more positive note and only mention things that make you look better in the employer’s mind:

      ex. “I know xyz computer program and want to expand my knowledge of it, but current job only has me doing basic things in it.”
      or
      “I now coordinate projects but want more official direct responsibility for projects and financial responsibility and my current company won’t offer that because there is already a Project Manager in place”

  71. LisaLee

    Warning: this will be long, due mostly to my level of annoyance with this ridiculousness.

    So I’m having a totally bizarre situation at work and I hope somebody has an idea for me. Basically, I have a Terrible Coworker and a Terrible Boss (both have issues with time management, getting stuff done, being courteous, and Terrible Boss also can’t manage anybody, as we shall see) and they’re having a war with each other and have put me in the middle of it.

    I sit by Terrible Coworker, as we work on the same projects. When he doesn’t get his work done or done well, which is often, I have to do it. I do probably 1/4-1/3 of his tasks, because my work is impacted if he slacks off. Terrible Boss has noticed Coworker constantly texting/slacking/etc but refuses to actually do anything about it. He’ll say something like “Gee, we really need to finish those forms” instead of “Those forms needed to be done two days ago, why haven’t you completed them?” which does not get the message across to Coworker. Boss then comes and complains to me (loudly, with lots of personal judgements about Coworker that frankly make me uncomfortable). I think that Boss has noticed I do a lot of Coworker’s job, and thinks that by complaining to me about Coworker he’s being supportive, but really I just want him to DO SOMETHING about it! Sometimes he lets me go a few minutes early and makes Coworker stay, but doesn’t tell him why. I don’t really like this passive-aggressive tactic, honestly, and I don’t like being part of Coworker’s “punishment.” These punishments-without-explanation seem to be increasing in number.

    Terrible Boss himself is about a million years old and does not understand any of the parts of our job dealing with computers, which is a lot of our job, and he says he does not care to learn. He has a habit of wandering around the office trying to “help out” and really just annoying everybody and screwing things up that we then have to fix (we have two other bosses on the same level, which I think is why Terrible Boss remains un-fired, but due to what I and Coworker do, we work mostly with him). Terrible Coworker is especially annoyed because Boss keeps following him around, and he doesn’t get that this is due to his constant inability to complete tasks. So he complains to me VERY LOUDLY, often while Boss is in earshot. Yesterday, Boss was literally 10 feet away and Coworker leaned over to my desk and shouted, “He’s so f*cking ANNOYING! Why can’t he just go away! UGH!” I have no idea if Boss heard or not, as nothing was said, but it was definitely an uncomfortable moment. Coworker seems to be making a habit of saying increasingly unprofessional things about Boss to me while Boss is within earshot, or just walking away while Boss is talking to him and leaving me to listen to Boss’s instructions for him. Again, super passive-aggressive and I don’t appreciate being involved.

    Is there something I can do to help resolve this situation? So far, I’ve been responding to their complaints about each other with noncommittal “Yes, I see how that is annoying” but I’m at a loss about what to say to Coworker about his loud, unprofessional complaints (seriously, does he think Boss can’t hear? WTF?) or to Boss about his complaining to me without actually saying anything to Coworker, or to either of them about the fact that they’re both awful and terrible at their jobs. Complicating this is my organization’s culture, which is very hierarchical, and I don’t think Boss would take it well if I came straight out and said something like, “I agree with your complaints about Coworker, but I wish you would tell him directly so that I don’t have to do his job anymore.”

    1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

      Could you get away with “Why are you telling me this?”

      Not in a confrontational, “I don’t care” tone, but in a genuinely-perplexed, “I do not understand why this information is being conveyed to me” tone. Maybe by asking Co-Worker and/or Boss to articulate why they have taken to talking to *you* about their problems with “*each other*, it might help them realize that they need to talk directly to each other about all of this.

      Alternatively, if you’re not comfortable with that approach (and I concede, it’s very direct), maybe switch from your current “Yes, I see” (which is probably just making the person feel affirmed, which will make them want to talk to you more) to a “Gee, that sounds like something you should discuss directly with Other Person.”

      1. LisaLee

        Hm, I might try “Maybe you should address that with Coworker” with Boss. I don’t think it will work with Coworker because he can’t really criticize what Boss is doing (aforementioned hierarchical structure + he has no credibility anymore) and because, well, all of his complaints are totally valid and things other people in the office complain about too. My issue with him is less being complained to and more the “Let me shout this complaint so I know Boss will hear me call him an idiot!” tactic. I’m still not sure how to deal with that, since it’s something mostly used by five-year-olds and Coworker is a grown-ass man. I’ve tried “You know he can hear you, right?” but I fear that makes me sound complicit in the shouty-ness and it doesn’t seem to have worked so far.

        1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

          I know I already recommended this up-thread, but maybe just “Really?” with a raised eyebrow in response to shouty co-worker?

          Alternatively, if you have an otherwise-okay relationship with the guy, you could maybe have a quick, direct conversation with him along the lines of “Hey, I get that you have complaints about Boss, and I’m not saying your complaints are unfounded, but it makes me extremely uncomfortable when you shout those complaints to me in hearing distance of Boss, so I’d really appreciate it if you would stop doing that going forward, and please note that I won’t be responding to any shouted complaints anymore.”

          Also, I don’t know if this is comforting at all, but to my eye, if you’re just sitting there quietly while this idiot is shouting complaints at you, I certainly wouldn’t consider you to be complicit in his wackiness.

          1. LisaLee

            That is comforting, actually! Part of my worry here is that Boss has a habit of transferring his anger at one person onto everyone in contact with that person, and although he seems to like me I’m always a bit concerned that someday he will start thinking that I agree with Coworker’s behavior.

            I really like your “Really?” suggestion. I don’t have the best relationship with him (I have to nag him to do work I need him to do, he definitely resents this, but unfortunately it seems to be the only tactic that works) but if “Really?” doesn’t work I’ll definitely try having a conversation with him.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger

              I like PurpleMonkeyDishwasher’s suggestions, that’s very much what I usually suggest for things like this. (I also love the nickname! We often use it as code for misinterpretations, and it’s particularly appropriate here where two people are trying to communicate AT one another by putting a third person in between!)

              I call this method “playing therapist”, and it comes in really handy. You ask them why they feel that way or what they intend to do about it, and you hope you can lead them to the answer. Although with Terrible Coworker, I’d be very tempted to say “First, take it up with [Boss], don’t shout it at me. Second, I’m too busy doing your work to talk, so please don’t come to me unless it’s about the WENUS reports.”

                1. Apollo Warbucks

                  Don’t for get the AENUS report too. I’m sure chandlers boss had seen such a bad ARNUS in a long time

                2. The Cosmic Avenger

                  Yes, Chandler cared a little too much about the WENUS, if I remember it correctly.

    2. Steve G

      No fun. Well, it definitely doesn’t help that the boss is a million and doesn’t know anything about computers. You are brining back unpleasant memories of past past past job where the new boss of our Dept that was 80% focused on analytics in Excel didn’t know one thing about Excel!!!!! So we’d get delegated the weirded combos of tasks (one person would get 2 huge template-building projects in one hour), someone else would be sent 2 quick data-pull requests and given a week to do it, etc.) The worst part was that the culture at that company was to NEVER question anything and not talk much. When HR asked how the new manager was, you said “great” or you were soon out. It was a weird place. You could get fired for questioning stuff, but you could be a bad fit for the job like this manager, and keep your job.

      1. LisaLee

        Yeah…honestly he COULD learn, he just outright refuses to. Last week I needed him to log in to our system and basically just check a box on a form and he said, “I don’t know how to do that! I’m old, you know!” Literally all he had to do was login and click a button, and I had to fight to get him to do it.

        1. Steve G

          Argh. I hate when people try to pull the I’m too old card when it doesn’t apply. My deceased grandaunt born in 1920 (God rest her soul) was one of the first people to get the internet, well before me! Yes, computers are not germaine to old old people, but they aren’t to a lot of people. Even my 88yo grandma used computers at work. I doubt this guy is older than her. Stop using age as an excuse and learn something!

    3. Not So NewReader

      Have you been job hunting?
      Can you transfer to another department?
      Can you move away from lazy coworker?

      Tell your coworker no shouting at you, not ever. Never. No exceptions.

      Tell your coworker that you do not have time to discuss the boss anymore. You are way too busy. Mean it. Stick to it.
      Tell the boss that you do not have time to discuss the coworker anymore, you are way too busy. Mean it. Stick to it.
      You are being forced into an enabler role here. As long as you are there they do not have to deal with each other. If they argue around you, tell them to take it to a private office somewhere.
      They are both doing the same thing. They are feeding their own anger and refusing to solve th situation. I am thinking you are the only adult in the room.

      Totally agree about age as a crutch. The man who repairs my computer is 82.If I call him he at my front door at 8 am. He lives an hour away from me. Yes, 82 years old, 8 am, 1 hour drive. Your boss’ age is actually his lame excuse. In all likelihood your boss is probably around my age. It’s his thinking/ his mind that is antiquated.

  72. AnonymousFriday

    Yesterday, in a standard one-on-one meeting with my manager, she said that she is getting feedback that I am difficult to work with. She’s been very supportive of me and a real champion and her comment was given as something that may hold me back in reaching my potential. When I asked for an example, she said I have a tendency to take over meetings when they start to meander. I know she is absolutely right. I am not a very patient person in general and I have a very hard time when I feel like time is being wasted so I am already actively working on this. She didn’t give any other examples and I didn’t press but now I’m really struggling with what the issue(s) are. I like all my co-workers and I feel like I regularly volunteer to help. I don’t gossip, which is an issue in the office (although I have raised issues a couple of times when it was having a direct impact on my work). The one thing I think it could be is that I do ask our administrative staff for help. I’m not actually very comfortable doing this but when I don’t I get feedback from my boss that I need to delegate more. I also am not one to stand and chat for long periods of time about non-work things, which is also out of character with much of the office. The other thing that I worry about is that sometimes I feel a little like a “teacher’s pet”. Our director can be pretty hard on staff and I sometimes feel like she praises me when she’s pushing them to improve. Anyway, any advice on how I might seem less difficult to work with when I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong (or thoughts on what I might be doing wrong) are appreciated.

    1. some1

      I would go back and ask for specifics. “Jane, I appreciate the feedback. You mentioned not taking control of meetings which I think will help. Is there anythig else you’d like to see me doing that makes me easier to work with?”

      1. C Average

        This. Vague feedback sucks. It just makes you paranoid about everything you’re doing (“is this the thing people are complaining about?”) and everyone you’re working with (“is this the person who complained to my boss about me?”). You can’t improve what hasn’t been identified clearly.

      2. Ann Furthermore

        Vague feedback absolutely is the worst. I would press your boss for more details, because like you said, it could be that it’s not that you’re actually difficult to work with, it could be your work style (not being chatty/gossipy, etc). Tell your boss you’ve been thinking about what she said, and you really do want to address it, but you need some specifics.

        As for taking over meetings, you have my sympathies there. I hate meetings in general, and meetings that get off track and waste time are even worse. When the discussion veers offtrack, you might try saying, “Is this something that can be discussed offline?” or something similar, to gently prompt whoever is running the meeting to try and steer things back to the original discussion.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny

      OK, just to note: I wish more people would take charge of wandering meetings! To me, that’s a good thing!

      1. AnonymousFriday

        Me, too. My problem is a don’t readily distinguish between doing it in a meeting I called and one conducted by my boss’s boss’s boss. :(

    3. Christy

      I’ve gotten feedback that I’m too curt. My boss told me to make people feel like they’re being heard before offering a quick response. Maybe that would help?

    4. Not So NewReader

      It sounds like more of you have bad PR. It might be a good investment of your time to stop and chat with people. Not for long and not all the time. But let people get to know you a little more.

      As far as taking control over meetings maybe instead of actually doing that, you could request that agendas be set so meetings can be more efficient. In other words, shift your focus from saying something IN the meeting to saying something outside of the meeting.

      I don’t think I would worry about the teacher’s pet thing. Let the boss handle that.

      If you have a coworker that you trust, maybe you could ask her for some tips about what other people might be concerned about. I would only do this if I really trusted the coworker.

  73. Lalaith

    I have a couple of resume questions. Firstly, my company (let’s call it The Teapot Shop) was acquired several months ago by another already-established company (Teapots Unlimited). I found a post where Alison recommended writing a company merger on a resume as “Teapots Unlimited (formerly The Teapot Shop)” but it seems a little odd to me, because while my job was formerly at The Teapot Shop, Teapots Unlimited was never called The Teapot Shop, it already existed and just bought us out. Is that still the right way to write it?

    Secondly, my job title at the Teapot Shop was one that made it clear that I produced teapots. While my role has grown over the time I’ve been with