open thread – April 24, 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 :)

{ 1,233 comments… read them below }

  1. Frustrated*

    I’m really at a loss of how to proceed at work. I’ve been in my role for 5 months, and though I had a glowing review just two weeks ago, my manager is continuously cutting me out of meetings and communications with our subordinates. He also undermines me in front of our staff at any chance he gets. I’m the supervisor, and according to the structure of the division, I should be dealing with all issues related to time and attendance, performance improvement, and disciplinary actions, and only looping him in when there’s a major issue.
    Additionally, yesterday, he arranged a new setup with another coordinator—we used to email the coordinator directly to address any issue with data that came in, and she would address it with the supervisor in each division. As of yesterday, the arrangement is now such that we email the supervisors directly, but my manager told me he would like to review any emails I send before they go to the supervisors, even though I’ve been successfully emailing necessary items to the coordinator previously.
    I feel as though things are moving in the wrong direction—rather than taking on more responsibility and learning more, I’m being removed from fields. And it would be understandable if I heard back that I was not performing as expected, or was making simple mistakes, but this manager told me just two weeks ago that I “exceed” expectations in most areas of the review.
    Do I accept that he’s not willing to cede control of any area of our scope of work, and look for another position? Do I ask (again) what I could be doing differently, even though he’s repeatedly telling me I’m doing really well? Do I go along with how he wants things for the sake of continuity in employment, and hang in there for at least another year, even though that would mean that I’m essentially reduced to a data entry clerk (instead of the assistant database and division manager that this role was presented as)?

    1. Sadsack*

      Did you ask him why he wants you to run your emails by him first? You may need to ask in each specific situation if he is telling you that you are great in general, but then he undermines you anyway.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yep, I’d ask directly about the instances where you are being undermined instead of just generally asking how you are doing. Point out that x,y, and z have changed and you aren’t able to do your job effectively because of it.

      2. AB Normal*

        Yes, what Sadsack said. If you are asking “what I could be doing differently?” in a generic manner, it doesn’t sound like you’ll get the feedback you need.

        Clearly, something is going on with your boss (your fault or not), and the best thing to do to figure out what it is and how to fix things up is to ask for some time, sit down with him/her, and ask specific questions about why responsibilities are being taken from you, if there are specific concerns regarding how you are writing emails, and so on. Good luck!

    2. Retail Lifer*

      I’m running into something fairly similar. In my case, our upper management is tempermental, judgmental, and just generally awful. They’ve flipped out on my boss for a number of stupid reasons, including some things that I have said or done that aren’t wrong but they still just didn’t like for one reason or another. On order to cover her own butt and keep tempers from flaring, she has been reduced to micromanaging many of my tasks and making me go through her before talking to certain people.

      Your boss also might have his own performance issues that were brough up in his own review and this is how he thinks he should handle them.

      Sorry that I can’t offer any suggestions on what to do now, but figuring out where this is coming from might help.

    3. Somewhere Over the Rainbow*

      Noooo. I would not accept this behavior. Your supervisor’s actions are undermining you and they are so controlling in nature. Can you call a meeting with him and say that since you are receiving positive feedback on your performance, you are confused about why certain aspects of your job seem to have been taken over or are being monitored by your manager?
      Maybe your manager’s performance is being monitored or is being questioned and that is his way of trying to address concerns about his own performance? I would absolutely nip this in the bud — the longer it goes on, the more difficult it will become to address. It doesn’t sound like you would have a problem looking for a new job if it comes to that… if your boss is not receptive to how his behavior is making you feel, I would start looking elsewhere or even consider speaking to another member of upper management about your job duties.

      1. Artemesia*

        Yes to looking for another job. And yes to dealing with this now not later.

        You need to carefully identify the activities you feel you should be doing as part of your role and be able to describe this to your boss and note that the current procedures undermine effectiveness in this role. And you need to bluntly ask him if there are things you are doing in carrying out these tasks that need to change. The running emails by him first — is there something specific about the way you are supervising that needs to change? Otherwise this undermines your effectiveness.

        And be prepared to hear that you are not doing the job envisioned and are not trusted to do it. It would be very weird to take your role like this if you were doing ‘fine’ — so either he is a squirrel or you are not doing as well as you think — or perhaps there is a mismatch in styles.

        But this needs clarification. (and you need to be looking as this pattern does not bode well.)

    4. MaryMary*

      I’d spend a week or so addressing specific situations with your supervisor. “My understanding was that I should reach out to other supervisors directly on data issues, is there a reason you want to you want to review the email before I do?” “I hear that you met with my team last Monday. Could you make sure I’m invited to meetings like that in the future?” “I talked to Wakeen about his attendence problems this morning, and he said that you’d already spoken to him. At a minimum, I think we need to coordinate on these kind of conversations, and honestly, it’s something I’d expect to manage myself unless a serious issue arose.” If there’s no change after a couple of weeks, bring up your concerns as a pattern of behavior. I’d even point out that your supervisor is performing a majority of your responsibilities. If he’s still not recpetive to your feedback or doesn’t think there’s a problem, I’d start looking for another position.

    5. Koko*

      Is it possible that the email review is temporary, because you’re following a new procedure and he is just being (perhaps overly) cautious to make sure it get implemented smoothly? Maybe the coordinator who used to middle-man these emails rewrote them or formatted them in a particular way to make it easier/more digestible for the supervisors, and now that you’re emailing the supervisors directly you don’t have the coordinator doing that cleanup and boss just wants to be sure that doesn’t cause any issues during the transition period.

      Undermining you in front of staff is something you should also address directly from a company-perspective. Explain to your supervisor that it confuses the staff and causes them to not be sure who to listen to or who has authority when he contradicts your orders or challenges you in front of your staff, and that you’d prefer if he bring any disagreements to you privately so that you can get on the same page and then you can communicate the change to your own staff as something you and boss both agree on, rather than boss communicating changes to your staff as a contradiction to what you both told them. So you’re making clear that you’re not upset that he’s changing your orders, perse – you’re upset that he’s cutting you out of the process of changing the orders, and you’d be happy to fall in line with the change as long as your staff perceive that you’re part of the change and not being circumvented.

      1. The Strand*

        Great advice. As non-defensively as possible, you want to reiterate that the staff are confused when this occurs.

    6. Kyrielle*

      To be fair, I have worked for a boss who did this to a supervisor-type role who is one of the most competent, capable people we’ve ever had…and who managed to supervise in spite of it, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that route.

      In that case, the issue was – and the rest of us knew it – that the boss in question was a control freak. He hadn’t wanted to have his area of control re-structured so he had someone in a role similar to your ‘supervisor’ role (I won’t use our title), but he was told his team was too large and he needed it and given two open positions. Neither of whom was allowed to do what their roles called for, really; they had to carve out niches for themselves that still left him controlling everything he had, mostly.

      And the one who worked more toward a supervisor role (the other just acted as an individual contributor and kept his title) got undercut in front of us every time he didn’t read the boss’s mind, or they had a difference of opinion. I don’t know if they ever had discussions of it in private but I do know it came out in the open team meeting when people talked about what they were working on and the boss thought priorities were wrong.

      I wouldn’t advocate hanging around in a role like that without trying to address it, but I will say that those of us watching from underneath were VERY aware of what was actually happening, and I suspect that other peers at their level were also.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      My first question is do you want the job? (not snark, I promise.) This matters because it ties into how much effort you want to spend on this.

      I going to go with “yes, I want the job.” You have been at this job for five months. I am not so sure a lot of companies would want you disciplining their employees so early on. He may want you to learn more about the culture and the policies first.

      I think the real problem areas are: cutting you out of meetings and communications; reviewing your emails and undermining you in front of your own staff. I think if I were in your shoes I would be saying to myself, “Why am I even HERE?!” And this is where you need to go with your conversation with your boss. Only say it by using examples.

      Here we go:
      “Boss, I am not sure if I am filling my role here properly. I am missing important meetings, I am not sure you are satisfied with my efforts and it has progressed to the point where my emails need to be double checked. I feel that I am not filling the role that I was hired and I am being paid to do. You gave me a strong, positive review a few weeks ago so I am confused and I wondered if something has changed since then.” (For each talking point have an example ready if you need to use it.)

      Be prepared to be told that you are expecting too much too fast. It could be that he wants you to slow down and “be a student” for a while. He could expect you to just spend the first year absorbing all that you need to know.

      I am not sure how he is undermining you, but it could boil down to he wants you to check in with him more often rather than just announcing things or making decisions with your staff. Do you see any type of a pattern with the situations where he is undermining you? Are you announcing things prematurely, or without giving him notice? Any new job I have ever had I have ended up asking the boss how much leeway I had, “At what points do you want me to check in with you?’
      Find out why the deal with the emails ask him if there is something you are missing that you should be doing.

      When he tells you that you are doing well, then ask if it is normal to have emails reviewed or not to be included in meetings or whatever fits the immediate conversation appropriately. Since you know his habit is to tell you that you are doing well, have a follow up question prepared. “If I am doing well with my emails, then is this normal to need my emails reviewed?”

      The other thing you can do to help yourself along is to work into conversations parallel work that you have done at other jobs. The boss may have no idea what the extend of your experience is OR you may have told him and he forgot. In a conversational tone at random times where it makes sense remind him, “Oh yes, I am familiar with X and I have done that before.” Extra points for saying something that shows familiarity specific to X.

      I am not totally convinced your boss is a dingbat. He still could be getting to know you. Or he may feel you are over eager and not getting the details. But you are the one in the situation. It could be that he is saying in front of your people, “You stupid idiot, you screwed this up, AGAIN!” If this type of thing is going on, take everything I have written here and throw it away. In a situation like that, I would request an immediate meeting in private NOW. And then I would discuss how calling me a stupid idiot only undermines my ability to lead a group of people that are basically under his watch. It’s self-defeating for him, at best. Then I would add, “I do not speak to you that way because I do not expect to be spoken to that way!”

  2. Pizza Lover*

    Boy do I need this today!

    I am a part-time office coordinator in a very small department. My responsibilities are both administrative and managerial, and since we are so small I do a good amount of work that both of the other FT employees in the office do. One of my boss’s responsibilities is to conduct investigations. Recently I have been sitting in on most of them for training purposes, as she wants at least two people doing an investigation at once (most of the time I just take notes, but I give input from time to time). However, being the lead is not at all expected of someone in my role.

    There have been lots of investigations on top of everything else that we need to do, so we hired a new full-time employee (my boss is also out a lot, so these things tend to get backed up). I should point out now that I applied for this exact job, but was passed over for the position. I’ve gotten over this, but recently it has been clear that the new hire is not a good fit for the job. She does not work well with my boss, despite having good intentions. As a result, my boss stopped trusting her with certain things, investigations being one of them.

    So a couple of weeks ago, my boss told me to lead an investigation. The reasoning she gave was because the interviewee was a little emotionally unstable and my background is in that sort of stuff, so I did not balk at leading (needless to say, our new hire felt very slighted, which I do not blame her for). While I did not mind the opportunity, the circumstances were crappy. My skills were basically being used because she does not trust this lady; mind you, she hired her for the position and passed me over. So afterwards I sat down with my boss and asked politely that unless it is just me and her alone and she is observing me doing these investigations, she should allow this woman to do her job. (What I didn’t say was that her bad hire is not my fault and she should work to train this lady instead of pimp me). She wasn’t exactly happy, but she seemed to understand where I was coming from and told me that it was up to me.

    But yesterday she told me again to run an investigation. Her reasoning had nothing to do with the psychological mindset of the individual. I feel like I need to address this before it gets out of hand but my concern is coming off like I am not a team player or like I am not willing to take on other responsibilities. However, I really feel like I’m being taken advantage of (not that I wasn’t before, but this takes the cake to me since I actually had applied to this position). It is not about the money because I don’t expect compensation for extra things I’m doing. I just don’t know how best to address this to my boss, especially since she can do whatever she wants despite the crappy way that I feel. It also doesn’t help that there are other things that have been difficult for me to push back on so my original job description has become wildly out of sync with what I actually do. I feel like if the higher ups found out that I was running these things (as opposed to just observing and inputting now and then), they would flip their s#!t, I mean I’m not even FT! Half of me thinks that I need to address this again because God knows what she’ll try to make me do next, but the other half says that maybe I should take the experience and suck it up. Thoughts?

      1. Pizza Lover*

        I didn’t receive any feedback. I work in higher ed and the hiring process is as confidential as it can be. There is a search committee that screens people first and then the hiring manager (my boss in this case) interviews the finalists and makes a decision. So I was not even considered for the position originally.

    1. BRR*

      Is it possible new hire is going to be let go and your boss wants to see how you handle investigations?

      1. Pizza Lover*

        It is indeed possible, since we technically operate on yearly appointments and the fiscal year ends in June. However, my boss will be out of the office for a month or so around the time that the year ends, so she won’t be around to make any decisions like that.

        1. Kelly*

          As someone who also works in higher ed, what is the probationary period for new hires and is your institution facing any significant budget cuts for the next fiscal year? I work for a public institution that has already announced layoffs, although the budget cuts have been proposed but no discussion has started yet in the legislature. Right now, they’re still arguing about the other proposal – the transition to a public authority model that seems to be dead or on life support. I’d be surprised if there was a budget in place by end of July at the rate they are going.

          1. Pizza Lover*

            I have no idea what the process is, to tell you the truth. Since I’m PT it’s totally different for me. My boss made it seem like she couldn’t do anything until the fiscal year was up (June). So if it the new hire was that bad, she technically just would not receive another reappointment letter. And we’re definitely always broke, but I don’t know about any budget cuts specifically.

    2. fposte*

      I think it’s conversation time, but I’d also decide what you want and to ask for it, since, why not. “As you know, this is work I’m very interested in doing, and I’m pleased that you’re trusting me with it. However, I’m concerned about the mismatch of tasks with position given that my job is actually responsible for X, Y, and Z, and it’s hard for me to get those done as well as taking responsibility for investigations. Is it possible to find somebody else to help with those tasks and reconsider my position so it better matches the investigation responsibilities?”

      1. Pizza Lover*

        I like this suggestion a lot, thank you! The difficulty for me is keeping it clear to her that I am indeed interested and I want the exposure, but not at the expense of my basic human instinct to not want to be used in this way.

      2. Colleen*

        Wow, fposte. You are my hero(ine)! You have internalized the “Alison voice” that I wish I had. More reading, and perhaps I will.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      Ugh, that does sounds frustrating. Did she offer any reason why you were not selected for the full-time position? If not, I think the first step is to talk to her about what happened there.

      1. Pizza Lover*

        She didn’t, unfortunately. I have assumptions (like reverse age discrimination, since I am young, although that shouldn’t matter), but that’s all they are. I have thought about asking her, but I end up telling myself that there’s hardly any point to that because she’s not going to just fire the woman and give me her spot (even if she wanted to, our organization does not make it that easy). What sucks is that after venting about this woman, she told me a couple of weeks ago that she should’ve just hired me. At this point I’ve been job hunting and have mostly checked out mentally, so that little admission did not move me much. It was just kind of sad, actually, and makes it clear to me that I probably really need to address this situation again because she is in fact using me.

        1. Franticcat*

          Did she ever know that you applied for the position? You said that the process did not forward your resume on to her so you weren’t even considered. Maybe she doesn’t know you wanted the role?

          1. Pizza Lover*

            I told her that I was applying! So that’s definitely one of the sucky parts about all of this.

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          I would still have a conversation about it. It can’t hurt, and you might get some useful feedback. I get how you feel though…that completely blows.

        3. DaBlonde*

          I feel for you, Pizza Lover. I had the exact situation where I applied for an internal position, they hired someone else and when the new hire was found to be lacking I was asked to pick up her slack.
          Luckily my boss and I had an amazing relationship so I was able to tell him that I didn’t feel it was fair to ask me to do the work for the position I didn’t get.
          He bribed me with a new computer system with dual monitors and we compromised on me helping the new hire do her work.

    4. The Strand*

      What were the requirements for the job, or the “nice to haves”? I’m going to guess you got edged out because the folks in HR were to-the-letter about tossing people who didn’t have the “nice to haves” or certain requirements. For example, if you are still in the process of getting your degree. Schools tend to prefer people with more education on paper.

      Is this a public school? If it is, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for them to get rid of the new hire, unless she doesn’t work out. If they try to just take her work away and make her redundant, so that she gets annoyed and quits, they’ll probably hand it to you. Fposte’s got some good advice here. If you are still in school, or looking for a full time job, ramping up your responsibilities may help you move into a better position.

      Depending on how that conversation goes, I would think about whether I want to move into something more like the new hire role, if they can evolve your position, or whether I want to take my experiences elsewhere. I don’t recommend staying too long at a job where you feel that you are being taken advantage of, by doing more sophisticated work for less pay, unless you have a very strong reason for doing so – you have free time to work on homework or access to equipment or special perks.

      1. Pizza Lover*

        I’m a recent grad (last semester) but I’ve been in this role since last May. The person who hired me left and my current boss came on, and she is the one who significantly expanded my role. It has actually given me a wealth of knowledge which I am grateful for, but that has mostly been as a result of picking up after her, not because I was actually put here to do these things. I am actually job hunting, because despite my increased responsibilities there is no growth here.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      UGH. Are you doing everything according to standards/ethically? By that I mean do you have the qualifications to do what they are asking of you?

      My friend worked in a school. Like you, she was part time. And like you, she picked up more and more work. Finally, she was doing work that she lacked the quals to do. This went on for a while.
      Someone found out that my friend did not have the quals, and the crap hit the fan in the most spectacular manner possible. It involved newspaper headlines and auditoriums full of people. It went on for months.

      Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Make sure you are in compliance with laws and regs for your environment. I am saying this because your story sounds sooo very familiar to me. (I know that you are not the same person because my friend’s story happened years ago.) Like you, my friend was picking up the boss’ slack and she did not mind the work itself. Please take care of you. It has been years since my friend had her problem and she still starts to shake a little when she talks about it.

  3. Sunflower*

    We all know it’s easier to get a job if you have one already. It’s also easier to get a job in a city if you already live there. So if you’re in a spot like me, where you’ve been out of school for 4 years, work in a popular field (marketing/event planning) and want to move to a big city, is it better to a. quit your job and move or b. keep the job and apply long distance? (money isn’t a giant issue as if I moved, I have some savings and could waitress to pay bills until I found a new job)

    1. That Lady*

      You can try applying long distance, and set a time frame for this “phase.” After that phase, you can move and then apply as a local. Sounds like you have nothing to lose by trying. Good luck!

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I would also start with trying to get in touch with a third-party headhunter in your target city (assuming you can find one — in my industry outside recruiters have been decimated of late in favor of in-house recruiting departments). If you can find a good one and explain to this person that you are looking to move, you can then bypass the phase where someone is looking at your resume and rejects it before they even have a chance to find out whether you’re serious about moving or what your timeframe is, because the headhunter can sell the hiring manager on you.

        1. Sunflower*

          I will piggy back off my question. What is the difference between a headhunter and recruiter and how do you find them?

          1. Lanya*

            I could be wrong about the difference, but I believe you typically hire a headhunter to help you find a job, whereas a recruiter finds you.

          2. SanguineAspect*

            My understanding is “headhunters” specialize in “big game” (upper level management, CEOs, CTO, VPs, etc.) and that “recruiters” deal with all levels of an organization. But I could be completely wrong; I’ve wondered about the difference in the past too.

            1. Artemesia*

              IN my experience headhunters work for organizations and are proactive in seeking out applicants — they don’t work for job seekers and generally don’t care if they live or die, so to speak. A headhunter is unlikely to be interested in a junior level person wanting to move; organizations rarely pay headhunters for junior level hires. I have been ‘hunted’ a few times and it was always for high level positions they were specifically tasked to fill. They asked me when I indicated I was not interested for names of others who might be good candidates but they don’t generally function for applicants.

    2. CrazyCatLady*

      I moved across the country and what worked for me was just deciding to move and picking a date. I started applying to jobs, a few months before (with “Relocating to X on April 24, 2015” under my address in my resume and a little bit about it in my cover letter.) I started getting responses probably around 4 weeks before my move date, and was able to actually secure a job about one week before I relocated. If you really want to move and have an emergency savings to fall back on (keeping in mind that it could take longer than you expect to find a job), I’d say go for it! For what it’s worth, I made sure to pay off any outstanding debt before doing this, and saved up about 1 year’s worth of expenses.

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      I’m in a similar position and am applying for jobs whilst still in my current workplace. I’m saying my timeline is ‘during the summer’, baring in mind that in the UK, notice periods are usually 4 weeks/1 month long. I have the added ‘fun’ of trying to sell my flat simultaneously….
      Good luck!

    4. The Strand*

      I’d keep the job, apply long distance, and use message boards to get the lay of the land, and then make a long trip to the city you have in mind to get more of a feel for the environment. Especially if it’s a field that might be more competitive – i.e. marketing/event planning in LA might be more competitive and glamorous than in the Twin Cities. But the mundane stuff is important too – see what public transportation, traffic, apartments are like.

      Depending on where you are, it can be a huge culture shock to be in that larger environment, or to enter a new region. A coworker told me once that he thought Dallas is a lot like Los Angeles. They’re not, except for sprawl. Going from a town like, say, Poteet to Dallas, is less weird than travelling from Poteet to Los Angeles or Philadelphia.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Seconding this suggestion. It would be good to have an idea what the market is like for your field in that area. That said, I used to work in event planning in a major city that’s known as a destination for lots of events, and when we hired for my team, there were plenty of local candidates, so I honestly think if you’re trying to go to an area where there’s likely to be a lot of competition, and its feasible for you, you’re probably better off just picking a date to move job or no job since your luck will probably be a lot better once you get there.

    5. Serin*

      Is there any way you could quit your job, but continue to do work for your company on a consulting basis? Just to be able to say you’re currently employed?

      Or — can you find networking opportunities in your target city and attend them even before you move?

  4. BRR*

    How do people handle forced eavesdropping in the office? Specifically when you can help. I’m talking about when people nearby aren’t talking in hushed voices and you can’t not hear them and you can answer their question.

    1. Adam*

      I think this is going to be something that varies from person to person. Have you tried the formal “I was just walking by and couldn’t help overhearing your conversation about ___. Have you considered trying___?”

      If you work in an obviously open environment where it’s really easy to overhear people, I’d hope most reasonable people would make a point to take their conversations somewhere private if they didn’t want to be heard.

    2. CrazyCatLady*

      My solution is possibly annoying to others, but if I hear people talking openly about and trying to figure something out that I know how to do, I usually just say, “I couldn’t help but overhear you were talking about X. I can help you with that if you need!” and then go from there.

    3. Future Analyst*

      I stay out of it, despite how frustrating it can be. I’ve just been in too many situations in which the people who are complaining don’t actually want help, they’re complaining for the sake of doing so. For the most part, (in my experience) individuals who want to fix a problem will ask around to find the person(s) who can help, and address it with them. Unless you are certain that these individuals truly just don’t know that you can help, I’d leave it be.

    4. Sadsack*

      “Hey, guys, I couldn’t help overhearing. I think I know the answer to your question, if you’d like to hear it.”

    5. Jodi*

      I’m in the same boat! I recently started a job where we are all in cubes (I previously had my own office) and I’m finding it hard at times to navigate “cubicle-best-practices.”

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      If it’s something work related that I know how to help with, I’ll say, “Hey, I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. I’ve run into that same problem, and here’s how I fixed it,” or something along those lines.

      If the conversation is of a personal nature, I won’t offer my advice, but I will say, “Hey, you may not realize it, but I can hear what you guys are saying, which means other people probably can too. You might want to duck into a conference room or empty office.” If they choose to continue talking out in the open, that’s on them.

      1. Dana*

        I only reply when it’s work-related, and it has to specifically pertain to me for me to feel comfortable doing it, but I approach hopefully looking sheepish and say “Sorry to interrupt, but…”

      2. Jodi*

        I like “I couldn’t help overhearing…” because that’s literally what the situation is.

    7. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      It depends on who is talking. If I know the people and like them, I will get up and tell them I couldn’t help but overhear and confirm what I heard to help them with the problem.

      If it is someone I don’t like, or who doesn’t respect me, I put on my earbuds and tune them out.

      I am fully aware that this could be considered petty. I’m OK with it. I’m happy to help those who will appreciate it.

      1. Karowen*

        This is what I do to. It’s not because I don’t want to help the people I don’t know/like, it’s because I don’t know how they’ll take it when I butt in on their conversation. Whereas when I can hear my co-worker talking to her boss about something related to what I do I feel no compunctions about telling them where to find it because I’m friends with both of them.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I tend to agree. OP, you could make the offer once per person. Then after that is up to them who they seek out to ask a question. When you get done answering you can tell each person, “I don’t mind helping, I kind of enjoy questions like that. Feel free any time.” That puts the ball in their court.

      3. 2horseygirls*

        I’m in the same position. Coming up on 11 months in my new division, and it’s clear that I am still not welcome. The other 2 admins + secretary will ask each other if they have this form or that, but not ask me, sitting 10 feet away.

        In the beginning, I volunteered an answer or offered a form that I had. Now, like Dr. Fever said (AWESOME handle BTW!), if I’m not asked directly, I continue on with my work. It’s far from the ideal working conditions (quite miserable, actually) but as my dean so charming put it in a 45 minute meeting with 6 administrative professionals about when to go get the freaking mail (?!?!), we’re not expected to be friends but we are expected to be professionals.


    8. afiendishthingy*

      I work in a room of 12 half-cubes and have a really hard time not responding to questions people aren’t asking me! I’ve apologized for it before and coworkers have responded with “No, it’s helpful”. For the sake of my own productivity, though, I often wear headphones so I don’t feel compelled to participate in everyone’s conversations.

    9. Chinook*

      re: forced eavesropping when you can help.

      As an AA-type person, this happens a lot. Since I work in good environment, I often speak up if I have an immediate answer to a question they are asking or if I know that what they are assuming as fact is wrong (i.e. I often know the status of field work before my coworkers because of what I do in our database), especially if I know it will end up on my desk anyway. Otherwise, I note the question for future reference, do what needs to be done to find the answer in the meantime and look like a rockstar when they come to me with the question and have an immediate answer.

      Otherwise, I do what I learned to do living in Japan (with a culture where they literally have paper walls) – you don’t acknowledge what you heard unless someone indicates that they expect you to interact. I learned that this is why every single one of my coworkers would announce “tadaima” every time they entered the office – they were letting everyone know that they are there and can be acknowledged.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I really, really love this idea of being able to be formally “not there” when you’re physically there. It might work wonders on my lunch getting interrupted!

        1. Chinook*

          “I really, really love this idea of being able to be formally “not there” when you’re physically there. It might work wonders on my lunch getting interrupted!”

          For that, I always respond “I am not right here right now. What you see is only a hologram. Feel free to leave a message and Chinook will track you down when she returns.”

      2. Violet Rose*

        Ohhhh, that adds a whole ‘nother layer to my cultural understanding. I knew “tadaima” and it’s use at home, but not how it could convey that particular nuance!

    10. nep*

      Unless super high stakes / life or death, if remarks are not meant for me I would not respond at all.

    11. Snoskred*

      I had a team leader who used to get all kinds of peeved when I answered the questions people were asking her.

      The unfortunate truth was, she was just making up the answers off the top of her head instead of speaking to the client, whereas I knew the answers from experience and/or having actually spoken to the client. 9 times out of 10, her answer was wrong, and what she’d asked a staff member to do always came back to bite them in the rear later on.

      It got to a point where I personally took staff members aside and said “If X asks you to do something, MAKE SURE you note Team Leader advised me to do X in your call log.”

      So my first inclination when I hear someone asking a question I know the answer to now is to keep my mouth firmly shut. I help people as much as I can when they ask *me* a question, but if they are choosing to ask someone else, I stay well out of it. :)

  5. Adam*

    What do hiring managers usually think about certificate programs from brick and mortar universities? I have a bachelors degree already, but it’s become apparent that I’m going to need some continued education if I want to break out of the type of roles I’ve been pigeonholed into. A masters is out of the question for a number of reasons (mostly financial) as is a second degree, but the same university I got my undergrad degree in (which is the biggest university in my state in case that affects things in any way) offers a number of continuing education programs which include certifications in the material.

    Does your average hiring manager give much if any weight these type of programs? I need to expand my knowledge and skill set to increase my competitiveness for better positions, and my current job is REALLY limited in what in can reasonably offer in that regard (it took them nearly five years to give me a chance to learn adobe). So I have to go find it for myself which is not a problem. I just want to make sure whatever avenue I pursue actually has value to it.

    1. Spiky Plant*

      I like seeing them on there, assuming that they are indeed associated with a college. There are some programs that are crap, but I will assume that if, say, you have a Program Management cert from a real college, that you at least have some tools and baseline knowledge. It wouldn’t get you picked over someone with actual pm experience, but I could see it being a tiebreaker, or being something that gets you a step further in the process.

      1. Adam*

        Thank you. My alma mater is a big part of the my local area’s professional image, so credibility wouldn’t be an issue in terms of name recognition. I was just curious about the honest applicability such programs offer. Definitely don’t want to shell out even more money for education if it isn’t going to invest in me.

    2. Dan*

      In tech, at the end of the day, it’s demonstrated experience that matters. I don’t keep up with cert programs, but if the program is known to give you real experience of some sort, then go for it.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I care about certificates not at all. In fact, in some cases they’re so not important for the work the person wants to do that I wonder if it signals a lack of understanding of what matters for the field. That said, there are some fields where they do carry some weight — so the thing to know is whether they matter for your field. This is one where you really want field-specific advice.

      1. Artemesia*

        Agree and if you can focus on the specific skills the certificate prepared you for in the cover letter that helps. Credential seeking is often a sign of a clueless applicant; I know so many people who thought that expensive masters degree would be a ‘ticket’ to an easy ride into a job and were shocked that it just made them look like naive inexperienced applicants. But if you want a job that requires a set of specific technical skills, then a certificate linked to those specific skills can make you competitive.

      2. Fawn*

        (To Alison, or anyone)

        Does it make a difference at all if the certificate is a post-graduate credential? I know in Canada, we have a lot of post-grad certificates offered by colleges and universities as a way to further refine skills from a diploma or degree program. They almost universally require a diploma or degree and can be competitive for admission. Often, they count towards credit hours for professional org membership.

        (This thread is making me nervous…I just enrolled in a certificate program starting in the fall in Social Service Management with the intention of further refining my MA , and I’m really hoping I wasn’t misguided in doing so!)

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Yes – to me, at least – a post-graduate certificate is TOTALLY different than a certificate you get for participating in one or two classes (that sometimes don’t even have grades attached to them). Our local (state, well-respected) university has several graduate certificates. It’s basically like 1/2 a master’s degree. You can do the certificate, and then later you can take the other have of the classes and finish your masters, if you want to. While it’s not the same as a masters, it is legitimate education, and you’re in all the same classes with the people who plan to finish the whole degree.

        2. E.R*

          I’m in Canada, and I have a post-graduate certificate (graduated in 2007) in a different field that definitely helped me in my career, and kind of still does. I’m actually pivoting my career a bit and enrolled in another post-graduate certificate (part-time, after work, etc) to help me do that better, since my first experience was good. Every certificate program’s value is different, of course, but one of the other benefits is the network you will get from the program.

    4. KimmieSue*

      It would be helpful to have a little more information about the industry you work in (or wish too) and the types of certification your consideration? In my world, engineering, software & IT, some certifications are absolutely awesome. Here are some that come to mind:
      1) Buyer or Planner earning APICS certification
      2) Mechanical Engineer going for a Project Management certification
      3) HR Generalist passing their SPHR
      4) Engineer or technician adding some business management classes (very good)
      In software, staying on top of new development languages or methodologies (for example: Agile) are key.
      In my opinion, the continued training and education to stay current is very important. Where an employee took the classes (private, public, etc) is far less important than the achievement itself.

      1. Brett*

        I think they are referring to certificates of studies, which is an academic course of study similar to completing a minor for a master’s degree. Instead of a degree (because you are not completing degree requirements), you are award a certificate of studies at the end of the sequence.

        The examples you gave all sound like professional certification from an accreditation agency/organization.

    5. Adam*

      Thank you all for the responses so far. In my current city one of the bigger fields is Tech which I have been learning towards. I know that’s incredibly broad but I’m just not sure yet which area it would be best for me to go after specifically. I’m just not sure of the feasibility of this as I’m definitely not in a position to do free/dirt cheap internships and at 30 am a little out of the demographic since there’s plenty of fresher faced college students to go around right now.

      Currently I work in Customer Service, which I hate even though I’m good at it, since the work is incredibly boring and repetitive and is not highly valued around me. I know plenty will say they value customer service skills, but as a primary skill set they pay in my area is mediocre at best and never merits much attention from those higher up who might be interested in helping me further my career life. So that’s why I’m exploring other options.

      1. The Strand*

        Hmm. Take a look at usability and user experience design – it’s something you can build on from what you do right now as a customer service representative. It’s also a very well paying career and there aren’t enough folks around to fill the slots. My friend is older than you are, went back to school at 35, and got one of these master’s degrees, and got paid for the required interning. Don’t sweat your age. There are a ton of nontraditional-aged students, especially in grad programs. 30 is really not that old.

        Also check out coding bootcamps, which don’t provide certification per se – but guess what, in tech, people don’t always care. I know someone who didn’t even finish high school who is in his forties, and a senior developer at a major tech company in California.

        Something else to consider is reading about becoming a sysadmin (great references on Reddit: It’s going to depend on your interests.

        I suggest you might want to test out and see if any of the specific items sound intriguing to you. Then do some informational interviewing with people whose jobs sound good to you.

        1. Adam*

          Thank you very much for the suggestions. They’re definitely worth considering.

          Regarding the masters while my university does offer that program as an option, it would cost at least another $35K, and that’s a public university, and after finally paying off my undergrad degree I am just emotionally done with owing other people money. So I’ll be looking at other options first.

          And, fortunately, I know 30 is really only old to someone just out of high school. Really I was more affirming that that particular stage of life has passed by now. Working for minimum wage (or less) is just not acceptable anymore, so if I make a move it has to feel like it’s worth it.

          1. Windchime*

            Just so you know….I have no college or university degree. At all. But when I was in my mid to late 30’s, I took most of a 2 year certification at my local community college and studied programming. I didn’t finish because I was one class short when I got a job offer, so I took it and didn’t go back to school. I think I was 39 when I got my first programming job, and I”m still at it 15 years later.

            So if it’s something you want to do and think you might be good at it, I would encourage you to give programming a try by taking a MOOC or something. It’s something you’ll either love or hate; there isn’t a lot of middle ground. And I gotta tell you, my standard of living is a LOT better now.

            1. Adam*

              Thank you very much for the story. I’m happy it worked out so well for you and that’s very encouraging!

        2. Artemesia*

          I know people who have gone from desperate low paid jobs in food service to good steady with benefits jobs with actual companies as a result of coding bootcamp trading. I am sure this won’t last forever but right now a turn in Devbootcamp or similar is likely to help you get a job in web design or some such.

          1. Adam*

            I will definitely keep this in mind. I’m not afraid to learn work and get out of my comfort zone, but it HAS to be both demonstrably applicable and cost-effective. I love education, and while my bachelors wasn’t the most door-opening experience career-wise it was still a valuable journey. But now it needs to be more serious and within my means.

        3. notfunny.*

          It might be a good idea to try out some different things in tech – maybe take a MOOC or a course at a community college nearby if you want in-person. I think that seeing what might be the right fit for your work and going in to whatever career change with some concrete information might be helpful – also you could try informational interviews too?

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        If the Customer Support you’re doing is in tech, start looking into troubleshooting fields, like NOC work, or prevention, like SRE.

        CS is often a great place to get tools development skills. You have great insight into which tasks need automation and everyone loves it when you give them a tool that makes their jobs easier.

        When I hire for NOCs or Jr System Engineers, a CS rep who’s either built tools or got some unix troubleshooting under their belt has a clear advantage.

        Look into Python and bash scripting if that’s the route you want.

        1. Erin*

          I also used to hire for those kind of roles and I agree! Willingness to work nights is also key.

      3. Liza*

        “Tech” is incredibly broad. Do you want to get into desktop support, systems administration, software development, network design and maintenance, or something else?

        If you want to get into desktop support (my own field) from a customer service background, I would recommend looking for a job on a helpdesk. Most corporations have internal helpdesks for their employees’ computer problems. Your customer service experience will help you get that job, and the tech skills you develop while working at the helpdesk will help you move into desktop support down the road.

    6. Brett*

      In my field, certificates are almost a red flag. A big factor in this is that there is a ton of money out there for grad school in our discipline, so money is not as big an issue as it is for other areas. (As for time, we also have well respected mostly online masters degrees from top ten programs; but those will be unfunded so you could have a time _and_ money crunch.) Meanwhile, certificates have become kind of a “tack on a credential to show I know how to use the software”. Too many certificate programs for my field only give technical skills without any of the background fundamentals that allow you to solve deep programs.

    7. The Strand*

      If your hiring manager is at a university or in a specialized field, he or she may see them as the cash cow that they often are. They’re not necessarily rigorous. In my field, I would look at at someone with a certificate and think, “Why didn’t they take an extra year and just get the master’s?” Honestly, if you have the money to afford a certification from your alma mater, then you could probably afford a solid master’s degree. Mine cost about $5k a year. If you want to move from your city or state, the master’s degree will be more meaningful than a certification that can’t be easily quantified.

      And since you’re mentioning learning Adobe, you could always get a membership from for a lot less per year.

      Certifications are only as good as the reputation of the school and program they come from. Even if the certification comes from Harvard extension it’s not going to have the same clear value among employers, that a master’s does (as long as that master’s is from a school that is regionally accredited and has a reputation for quality).

      1. Artemesia*

        Sure but masters degrees are notorious cash cows for universities. Even big name places admit almost anyone and there is little financial aid (except loans). A masters degree is a way to generate revenue and most of them don’t provide very useful training.

        I am a firm believer that one should only go for a masters in two circumstances:
        1. you are on your way to a PhD and plan an academic career (and that is a treacherous road that requires a lot of thought and choice of a top school.)
        2. you have been working awhile and a particular type of masters will advance you in place or offer new opportunities you can’t aspire to without it.

        A masters before work is rarely cost effective. It can help reset the clock if you have been unemployed and need to cover your tracks on that.

        1. Adam*

          This was my concern. I’ve heard WAY too many stories about how masters degrees, even in things you’d might think would be more easily employable, are not panning out for a lot of people. My local university charges $729 per credit hour and with most advanced degrees requiring somewhere around 50 credits that is way too much money for me to get loans for when it’s by no means a sure thing.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes so true. Masters without any work experience are often seen as “expensive hires” from what I hear in my area

  6. Cath in Canada*


    After reading your post on how to make one-on-one meetings more effective, I forwarded it to my manager and suggested that we implement some of your advice. He agreed, so I’ve been creating an agenda before each meeting, and we make time to discuss what went well each week and what could have gone better. He’s mentioned that he really likes the new format, and he’s thinking of asking his other reports to switch over too.

    Well, here’s a little snippet from the performance review I got yesterday:

    “She is also methodically documenting and summarizing her weekly accomplishments, which she is submitting, along with an agenda, to her supervisor for review and discussion. This strategy has been very well received and has made the meetings more effective”.

    And, in the section on self-directed professional development:

    “She often translates newly acquired knowledge [from her reading] into practice, e.g. introducing a weekly review of “what went well” and “what could be done better”.”

    I was also praised for my professionalism, especially how I handled a recent conflict with a colleague, which I achieved by thinking “what would Alison do?” and deciding to, y’know, talk directly to said colleague.

    Thank you for all you do! And please keep the ducking letters coming.

    1. Adam*

      Sometimes I wish Alison had a singular post of “The 10 Commandments of the Workplace” or something that I could forward around the office. I’d like her wisdom to spread…like wildfire.

  7. That Lady*

    Federal employee here. Does anybody know if I’m allowed to get bumped to my “full performance” promotion level after 6 months instead of a full year? I’m doing the work of someone much higher than my pay grade.

    1. Ash (the other one)*

      You can request a desk audit. Be aware though that they could actually find you are doing work at a lower grade…

    2. The IT Manager*

      Yes. I fairly certain what you’re asking about happened to a co-worker. After only 6 months her boss went to bat for her, and it was approved. She was doing an awesome job. She took a demotion to change agencies and duty locations so she was bumped back to where she was before the job change Her boss was clear that this wan’t guaranteed to happen, but it worked out for her.

      1. GovHRO*

        The answer is generally no–you’ll need a year of “time in grade” and a “year of specialized experience at the next lower grade level”. There are some exceptions. For example certain type of veteran don’t need to meet time in grade requirements and certain occupational series/grades (usually lower graded positions) don’t require a year of of specialized experience.
        So the answer is generally no.

  8. Ann Furthermore*

    I’ve been working with a software developer on and off for about a month trying to figure out why a program wasn’t working. We FINALLY got it working this week. I’m so relieved…it was the one outstanding thing that I needed to get working to get this project across the finish line.

  9. Thinking out loud*

    Please help me settle a disagreement. A coworker is in the early stages of her third pregnancy and has just announced her news to our management. (She took a few months off from work after the birth of each of her children.) She has an upcoming interview for a job within our company, but we work for an extremely large company, and I find it extremely unlikely that our management will share the news of her pregnancy with this other group. She was planning to tell the hiring manager in her interview (because they “aren’t allowed to use that in their hiring decision”). I told her she absolutely should not mention it. Is she right, or am I?

    1. ThatClerk*

      Ack – I’m in a similar situation but not so far along! I’m assuming she’s not showing, but one would think that it would come up when they discuss her upcoming time off – our organization does share planned time off information with other departments when it comes to transfers. I wouldn’t mention it if I were her!

    2. Sadsack*

      I’d say don’t mention it. It is not their business yet. Even if they aren’t supposed to use the info, they may. I know someone personally who said he would not hire a pregnant woman because she’d be leaving soon after being trained, even though he’d never admit it to anyone else ever for the obvious reason of getting in trouble or sued.

    3. Beezus*

      I wouldn’t mention it until the offer phase. They aren’t legally allowed to use it in their hiring decision, so it’s not relevant, so there’s no point in bringing it up until the hiring decision is made.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Definitely wait until offer phase. It shouldn’t matter, ideally, but it could cause a subconscious bias.

    4. Juli G.*

      I don’t either of you are right or wrong. It’s a personal choice.

      I would choose to disclose a pregnancy for an internal move personally because I work in HR and the HR senior managers have very good track records with promoting while pregnant.

      I also had a friend who disclosed it to an internal hiring manager because he has a great track record for being very flexible with parents, even though it’s a male dominated profession.

      But with my first pregnancy before I moved to HR, I kept my mouth shut at internal interviews because those hiring managers did not have a track record.

      Personal choice – some women like to know if hiring managers use pregnancy against you as well.

    5. August*

      One of my work friend was in this situation and she just told in the interview that she was pregnant. She got the job. If she wants to wait till she gets an offer, she can wait as well. Either ways, I don’t think it makes a big difference. One good thing about being in a very large company is that absence of one person for a few months will not have a big impact. It is reasonably easy to find coverage especially for something like maternity leave as people know in advance when they will be gone.

    6. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

      I say wait until there is an offer. Although, I do understand why she wants to share. It feels dishonest not to, even though I don’t think it is. But framed differently, when people have a big vacation planned, and they are interviewing for jobs, the advice is almost always, “Wait until there is an offer to mention anything.”

      I didn’t have the “luxury” of waiting as I was 5 days past my due date when I interviewed for my job (I actually went into labor that night)… there was no hiding it at that point. I looked like I swallowed a watermelon.

    7. Amanda*

      She gets to decide for herself what works best for her. You can offer advice, if she asks for it, but just telling her what to do is a bit much.

      1. Thinking out loud*

        Well, yes, I suppose I should have said, “I told her that I strongly recommend that she doesn’t say anything.” I’m not in any position of authority over her and really wasn’t telling her what to do. I’m just looking for some other opinions on what she should do.

    8. Beancounter in Texas*

      She should mention it, but not necessarily in the first meeting. Once it is evident that the job will progress further than a single chat, it is appropriate to mention the pregnancy.

  10. Hilary*

    I share an office with one other person. We’ve been coworkers for less than a year. She is a work gift giver and I am not. She got me cupcakes for my birthday and a present for Christmas. Will I seem like a total jerk if I don’t get her anything for her birthday?

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      Hm… I think she might feel slighted since it’s obviously more of a big deal for her. Could you get her something like a cupcake or coffee or something? I think it’s a nice gesture if it wouldn’t be a financial hardship, and if she’s not your superior.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      I’m going to say outright, yes. You’d probably seem like a jerk. Especially if after you received the cupcakes and present that you didn’t say anything like “Thank you but you really don’t need to do things like this. I dont…(fill in the blank).”

      Is a card too much? Even a e-card could go a long way.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*


        Maybe get her a pastry or coffee this time, but make sure that the next time she gives you a gift, you’re clear in saying ‘thank you…but I’d rather we didn’t exchange gifts in the future.’

    3. Jenna*

      You might look like a jerk, only because she had done nice things for you (and it wouldn’t be difficult to get her a cupcake or whatever). However, if you don’t get her anything, it may stop her from giving you gifts in the future. Personally, I would just do something small to maintain a polite relationship with the person I have to share an office with.

    4. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      As a gift-giver myself, I want to disagree with the commentors above. Gift givers give gifts because we like making people happy and/or want to buy friendship and favor (I’m just being honest). I absolutely don’t require or expect others to make a reciprocal effort, and in fact often prefer that they don’t (I tend to feel bad about getting rid of stuff I don’t want, so it’s just clutter). Don’t feel obligated to give us gifters anything but a polite thank-you. And then do whatever you want with the gift.

      1. BRR*

        I mildly disagree. I’m a gift giver, and an awesome one at that. For a coworkers birthday somebody arranged for us to take her out and pay for her (it was voluntary). I didn’t receive the same treatment on my birthday. It kind of peeves me so the coworker might be mad.

        However for gifts especially if they’re small I have given I usually don’t expect something back. In the name of workplace politics I would get something but say how you’re not really gift giver and want it to stop but do it nicer than what I typed.

        1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow*

          Hmmm… I guess I would only participate in something if your heart was really in it and not because you are expecting the same treatment on your birthday? I don’t think it matters if the gift is big or small… you don’t have to participate if you don’t want to.

      2. Partly Cloudy*

        I’m so happy to read this. I’m more like Hilary and was dismayed to see all the “yeah, you’re a jerk” responses. ;)

        I think things like respecting each others space and work environment preferences (music vs. silence, etc.) and good communication are far more important than keeping count of gifts. It’s totally okay to simply get along with an office mate, you don’t have to be friends.

      3. limenotapple*

        I’m in this boat too. I love doing things for other people. I don’t necessarily want anything that costs money in return, but it would be nice to be acknowledged at least on my own birthday. A fun little note or something. I like the cupcake idea. or if she has a favorite candy bar or beverage or something that just says you care.

      4. Artemesia*

        People who give without reciprocity are creating an uncomfortable situation for the giftee. The non-giver is making it clear that they don’t want that kind of relationship so the giver seems aggressively clueless if they continue. It isn’t making someone else happy to put them constantly in your debt when they don’t want that kind of relationship. In a social circle it would seem grasping and pushy — it feels that way at work as well.

      5. Revanche*

        I tend to agree – people just don’t know me well enough to give me gifts I would appreciate (I keep to myself) but I love doing little things for my staff so they have an acknowledgment of their day. I’d appreciate a thank you, that’s it.

    5. JB (not in Houston)*

      She might think that. But she might be someone who just likes giving people stuff. On the other hand, if you wouldn’t mind her to stop giving you stuff, then definitely don’t give stuff in return.

      I think the important thing, etiquette-wise, is to thank her, and not in a casual off-hand “thanks” while you are doing something else kind of way.

      You might seem like a jerk to her if she thinks that this is something coworkers should do. But on the other hand, she’d be kind of a jerk if she gives you gifts with the expectation that you have to give gifts in return. You shouldn’t force people into that kind of relationship with you. So if you don’t want to, don’t. She will figure out that you don’t give gifts in return, and she can decide what she wants to do with that information. However, only you know if she’s the kind of person who will be punitive about it, and if it will cause a problem in your work that you don’t want to deal with.

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      You should probably give her something, since she’s gone out of her way to get gifts for you. A gift card to her favorite lunch spot would be perfect, and it’s an easy thing to pick up.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I didn’t mean it that way. It’s what I would do in the same situation. It would be nice to make the co-workers cupcakes or take the time to go shop for something, but some people just don’t have time to do that. Right now I have a daughter who plays soccer, takes swimming lessons, is working on her science fair project, plus there’s dinner to take care of during the week, grocery shopping, laundry, and all the rest of it. I also do quite a bit of volunteer work at her school.

          So in this situation, even though I’d like to spend some time going shopping and picking out a gift, it just wouldn’t happen. But if I’m at the grocery store and see a Red Robin gift card and remember that’s her favorite place to have lunch, or if she loves music and I see an iTunes gift card, it’s an easy thing to pick up that is also a thoughtful gift.

    7. Lanya*

      If you get her a card, it’s probably enough.

      I’m also not into giving gifts. As a rule, I don’t give presents on Christmas (to anyone, even family), and I make it very known that I don’t want presents, either. That way, people have a heads-up that I will not be reciprocating if they decide to get me something, and should hopefully not be disappointed. The only time I do presents at work , for political reasons, is if there is a Secret Santa…I don’t want to be the odd man out when everyone else is participating.

    8. Chriama*

      I would say it depends on how you’ve received the gifts from her. If you’ve explicitly told her not to get you gifts and she insists on doing it anyway, then you don’t need to let her actions become an obligation for you. But if you accept them without comment, or with a perfunctory “you shouldn’t have” that doesn’t make it clear that you don’t want her to be giving you gifts, then you’ve agreed to the implicit social expectation of reciprocity.

    9. Shortie*

      My opinion may be unpopular, but I would not reciprocate. I really, really, really, really hate it when people give gifts at work, and reciprocating just to be nice (which I used to do) seems to always touch off this neverending cycle of unnecessary gift-giving. I have a couple of gift-giver co-workers, and they have finally stopped with the gifts after years of my not reciprocating (yay!). It has not affected our relationships since they are the types who weren’t doing it for reciprocation anyway, and we are still good work friends. It just took them a very long time to actually believe me when I say that I prefer not to receive gifts.

      Hopefully they are not writing in the comments about what a jerk I am. :-)

    10. Kat*

      It’s not cool when gift givers are pushing gifts on you and then pressure you into doing something back. And, as someone said above they do it to buy favors. That’s crap.

      Just refuse future gifts.

      And to all of the random gift givers, you think it’s a nice gesture, but it puts pressure on people to reciprocate. Save it for your friends outside of work.

      1. Dana*

        I agree that gift-giving has no place at work. Friends are a different story because hopefully you’re close enough to them that you can have serious talks about who actually wants gifts, who wants to give them, and who would rather stay out of it entirely without damaging the relationship. Work is too risky. I would feel that I could not be properly honest with someone either way.

      2. anonymous daisy*

        Refusing a gift might be considered rude.

        Maybe just do random acts of kindness instead if you feel like it. When you are getting a soda, maybe once in a blue moon offer to treat her to one or something like that.

    11. Buggy Crispino*

      In the words of Sheldon Cooper, “Oh, Penny. I know you think you are being generous, but the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift. You’ve given me an obligation.”

    12. INTP*

      You might look like a bit of a jerk, but if you get her a gift this year you set a precedent. I’d probably not do a gift and hope that nipped it in the bud.

  11. hermit crab*

    It’s my birthday! I’m celebrating by coming to the rescue on an important project. It’s gonna be a good day. :)

  12. TotesMaGoats*

    So, my interview yesterday went great! It was long and it figures that I had a horrible cold which made for a sore throat. But I do think I rocked it.

    I do want your thoughts on how to handle future instances of the situation I’m about to describe. Had a big event on Monday and it was awesome. I’d sent my AVP a debrief with detailed numbers on Tuesday morning. Our VP then emails us asking for said details to present to exec cabinet/president and how he’s so proud of how the event went. Before I can email my AVP about forwarding my prepared email to VP, my AVP sends a MUCH edited version of my email to him. The problem is that the email contents are attributed to me but I don’t want that attribution because it looks like I’ve done a half-assed job of putting together a debrief. I’d contemplating playing dumb and sending my email instead but then another AVP chimed in that she would put together some numbers once survey results were in and send it the next day. Which she did. So the moment kind of passed.

    I assume my VP can look at the email my boss sent and determine that it was majorly edited. But what’s worse is that the information it contained is not really what he needed for that presentation to execs. I can make myself look stupid all by my self. I don’t need my boss to help me. So, because I’m entirely sure this will happen int he future, what should I do? Play dumb? Email faster? Let it go?

    1. ZSD*

      Congrats on the good interview! Sending you good vibes for the results.
      As to your main question, I agree that this is a tricky situation. If it comes up again, what if you sent a quick follow-up email saying, “Hi VP, I’m also happy to provide more details if you need them”?

    2. Shortie*

      I would ask the AVP for feedback on the debrief. You know, mention that you noticed it was shortened and would like to improve your next one, so could the AVP provide her thoughts behind the edits? It may be that your AVP had a good reason for the changes, such as “the VP told me she prefers brevity” or “that specific detail wasn’t necessary unless the VP asked”. Once you know the reasoning, and depending on your relationship, you can either discuss your different perspective or you can adjust future debriefs.

      1. Revanche*

        I was going to say some version of “get your info directly to the VP” but then Shortie makes a good point. Do you know why the AVP made the edits or why you’re certain it’ll happen again. If not, it’d be worth checking just in case. My bosses who were worth anything would often tell me that the intended recipient of such and such memo wanted way more or less of whatever information I was going to provide, but it was only helpful because the edits were explained. We often disagreed on writing style and content but I was fine with conforming if I knew that it was catering to a preference that would allow us to communicate better.

    3. erd*

      I would cc the VP when you email your AVP the results…but that might actually not be the best idea if your AVP/organization is very hierarchical.

  13. aNoN*

    Hi Everyone,
    I have a problem. I am naturally a people pleaser and am starting to realize that I need constant validation that I am doing a good job. I feel insecure about my work mostly because my boss is very hands off and our one on ones are rare because our our schedules. I find myself needing to go up to him to tell him about random things I am doing because I am afraid he will think I am not doing enough. Our team is very high performing. I am the youngest and most inexperienced of the team. I joined just over a year ago and got a good review and have high hopes for myself here but I am constantly questioning myself. I get so frustrated when I make mistakes I feel I should have caught. This role has helped me develop in many ways but I still do not feel like I belong or like I deserve to be here. The constant exposure to higher management makes me nervous and I still cannot fully understand the business. I would like to eventually work in the field to help me understand the business more but those options are limited at the moment.

    Help! How can I overcome my insecurity? My team is nice and I get praised when I do a good job and when I mess something up I get called out as well and correct the issue. Even then, I don’t feel good enough. I have yet to pass a section of the CPA after three attempts and am starting to lose hope that this was the right field for me to choose.

    1. Kai*

      1) Start a folder where you keep any complimentary emails, nice feedback, etc. Then go back and look at it when you start feeling down on yourself.

      2) Do some research on impostor syndrome–it might help you to know that this is really common and you’re not alone!

      FWIW, I tend to be the exact same way. It’s a little better now that I’ve been in my job for several years, and my colleagues are all really supportive, but I know exactly what you mean. Don’t force unrealistic expectations on yourself–if you’re the newest person there, and have been there just about a year, of course you don’t understand everything about the business yet. It will get easier.

    2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      aNoN – remember that the expert in anything was once a beginner.

      You belong. You deserve it. They hired YOU. Don’t doubt your sense of belonging.

      I’ve been there. Breathe. Relax your self-standards – Try reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown to learn more about her first-hand journey and advice.

      Embrace the praise. Find someone you trust and ask questions, perhaps ask for mentorship to shore up the weaker points. Talk to your manager about what you are doing to improve. Set measurable goals so you can see how you are “levelling up”

      One day, you’ll realize that the insecurity is less, the confidence is greater, and you can continue to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses then adapt as necessary.

      And throughout your career – lather, rinse, repeat.

    3. Dasha*

      Don’t give up hope! I heard the CPA exam is really hard. Take a break, start studying again and then try again. :)

      1. cuppa*

        I’ve also heard that repeatedly not-passing the CPA exam is pretty common, so this is a really good opportunity to build coping skills that you can apply to other challenges in life. Keeping at it and finally passing all three sections will do wonders for your confidence. Don’t give up!

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      Don’t sweat it on the CPA exam. I passed 3 sections my first time, and it took me another 3 tries to pass the business law section. I had a terrible time studying for it because I found the subject matter incredibly dull and I couldn’t retain anything.

      Cue the snark about an accountant finding something boring…ha ha ha.

      1. Malissa*

        I had to take auditing 3 times. Before and after the unified code. I found studying when my husband was 1400 miles away was the best way to do it.

    5. BRR*

      I’m the same way, I have even asked for more positive feedback when I started because I wasn’t sure I was doing things right.

      There’s a quote from futurama that isn’t universal but is sometimes applicable, “when you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”

    6. Malissa*

      The CPA exams are a morale killer for sure. My fairly inexpensive suggestion on those is to use the Wiley Books–fairly cheap on Amazon and a website called another71. The outlines and podcasts from the site is the reason I passed the auditing section. When you go through the questions in the book write out any questions and answers you got wrong, in full sentence form. Such as, “A material loss should be presented separately as a component of income from continuing operations when it is Unusual in nature and infrequent in occurrence.”
      Get through the exams, your confidence will come back. As for the mistakes, that’s just part of learning.

    7. Afiendishthingy*

      I’m in a really similar situation! It’s really stressful at times, but when I get hung up on mistakes I try to remember that making mistakes is the best way to learn, as long as I recognize them, fix them if possible, and take steps to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. It’s growing pains. It’ll pass.

      1. Sarahnova*

        I try my best to live by an old boss’s mantra – “If I’m not making mistakes, I’m playing it too safe and not learning”.

        Mistakes are growth. What matters is how you deal with them.

        1. aNoN*

          Everyone, thank you for your support! The CPA studying experience has been so difficult. I am currently waiting on an exam score and am scheduled to take another section on May 30. You have no idea how much it means to me to have words of encouragement from all of you! I like the idea of storing away positive emails for a rainy day. There are some days where I feel so overwhelmed with myself that I need to sit and breathe. Again, thanks!

  14. Anna*

    Hi All,

    I’d love your opinion on something that i’m contemplating! My friend works for a huge ad agency and they have a few openings for my position open. I’d really like to work there, but plan on going to grad school in August. However, this place is also known for working with employee’s and they allow ‘part-time’ work schedules. Should I still apply? My graduate degree is spot on for what their agency is trying to do, so I think I’d be a very natural fit.

    The email she sent me doesn’t specify if these options are full-time or not. I don’t want them to feel like I’m wasting their time. Should I still apply? And if I do happen to land an interview, when in the process should I bring up that I will need to be part time later?

    1. Adam*

      Would it be possible to ask for more information from your friend on the scheduling expectations before you apply? If she’s a good friend and can vouch for your work she might be able to address your availability concerns for you.

    2. Yoshi*

      Assuming that the school and the job are in the same city, I’d apply, and consider whether the position and the work experience might be a higher priority than the graduate degree. I’m not saying don’t go for the degree, but maybe look into part time degree options if your program allows that, or consider deferring the start date of your grad program for a year if you can get the job. My graduate program is surprisingly flexible about these things, and its not hard to move from full time to a part time academic schedule (i.e. taking two classes a semester instead of four). After all, grad school programs, especially terminal masters programs, are for getting jobs, and if you can do both at the same time- even better!

      And if you apply and don’t get the job, the no harm done! Go rock that masters degree and come out an even better candidate on the other side.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      Apply and and ask about the options for changing your schedule of you know theyre flexible and your graduate degree is a good fit for them it can’t hurt to ask.

  15. Beebs*

    Update on asking for salary increase after only a few months.

    I had posted asking for advice on how to handle salary discussion after only 6 months. I was in the position that I could barely afford basic necessities and would need to start job searching soon, but wanted to let my employer know without it seeming like an ultimatum. An opportunity to open discussion about my pay came up after my deductions increased without warning, it was shocking and I asked my boss if there were options to explore. I know that salary and raises are not about financial need, but value to the company, and being a small non-profit I understood the limitations of salary increases. The timing happened to be convenient as I was about to receive increased responsibility so there was added justification.

    I did receive a reasonable increase, however it is still not a great salary given the cost of living in my city. But it is enough to allow me to stay in this position for a while longer and not mar my resume with job hopping. I also have an interview lined up for a part time job. Not ideal, but for now I am pleased with the outcome.

    I was lucky that something happened to help me open the dialogue. I still need to work on being more assertive and
    advocating for myself in the future. Thanks to those who provided feedback!

  16. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    What do you think is the role of the boss in a situation with outside suppliers?

    My company is very small and my boss is the CEO/everything, the only superior to us. Occasionally we have disputes with suppliers that usually rest on things like they insist we drop projects to work on their stuff only, ignore our requests for information or help, and so on. When we ask for backup from our boss (“can you please get them to stop harassing us on this when we have ten other projects”), he tells us “They’re really busy too, just do whatever they say.”

    Because my boss is so horrid at everything else I tend to think this may not be a 100% awesome way to do business. Do you think a manager should be backing up his people or should we be doing this ourselves? It’s hard when we email and call for days with no response on time-sensitive stuff only to lose sales because of crucial information!

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Your manager is not doing his job. He should be helping you prioritize your work, not telling you to make everyone happy all the time. If there’s too much work for the current staff to keep up with, he should be hiring more people to help you, not just telling you to magically figure out a way to get everything done.

    2. Revanche*

      Oh my goodness your boss is terrible. I never use my boss in routine stuff but he’s the mallet I pull out when someone is non-responsive. I only use that mallet with outside suppliers, generally, but it’s there to be used. Suppliers work for you, dammit, and when someone harasses me in the way that you describe, that’s grounds for getting rid of them. And I have, too. Unfortunately, your boss stinks and I assume that means if you were to try to give them the boot, he’d refuse to back you on that as well?
      Unless he’s terrible when asked to handle stuff but will let you handle it on your own. That might be a solution.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      There are different ways to back up employees. One way is to authorize them to settle a situation for themselves. Another way is to intervene directly.

      I would document what is happening and how often it is happening. It could be that you should get new suppliers. It could be the boss has no idea how often this happens and how long it takes to respond to their requests. You could also document how much you are losing in sales because of these suppliers. However, if your boss is not paying the suppliers in a timely manner this kind of throws a monkey-wrench into the works.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I think that’s like asking how long the grieving process takes! It will vary depending on your exact situation, how quickly you generally recover, what your support system is like, and whether or not you’ll be going back to the environment causing the burnout!

    2. Adam*

      I worked in a retail store for a year and a half before I got my current job. It took nearly four years before I’d even consider setting foot again in this particular chain in any location.

      In real time I think burnout recovery depends on a number of things: how much time you’re able to take off between jobs, the excitement about your new job, etc. If you’re staying in the same place that’s causing you the burnout and the place of employment is the culprit and not something you have much direct control over, I think burnout doesn’t begin to wane until you leave.

    3. Ash (the other one)*

      And just like grieving, it can still pop up now and then even when you’re “over it”

    4. limenotapple*

      I think it depends on why you were burnt out and how long you were burnt out. I am not sure I ever really recovered from burnout relating to having to work multiple jobs to survive. I still am very protective of my free time and resent being too busy.

      I think it varies by person but can take longer if you are in the same or similar place as you were when the burnout happened, even if some of the elements that caused the burnout are no longer there. I think you get over it faster if you can change to something totally different, in environment or type of job. It sucks though. Sorry if you are going through it now.

    5. Jake*

      I recovered within weeks of getting a new job. However, the amount it now takes me to get burnt out is way way way less than before.

    6. Rat Racer*

      I thought you were asking how long it takes to get back to your normal productivity mode after you’ve gone through a work crunch and are dealing with the exhaustion that comes in its wake. I deal with that all the time. In fact, it can sometimes be a self-perpetuating cycle of CRUNCH!! => Exhaustion/low productivity => work builds up => CRUNCH!!

      I hate that cycle. It’s so poisonous.

      For me, my energy ebbs and flows, and there are just going to be some days where I stare blankly at my screen and can’t get my brain into motion. One thing that I do try to do when I feel like I can’t get myself going is to use the time for mindless, non-urgent back-burner stuff (like filling out my expense reports, archiving my email, backing up my hard drive, etc.) Sometimes, the little endorphin boost I get for having accomplished something, even a small something, is enough to get me out of my rut.

      In general though, the length of my burnout is proportional to the amount of time I was previously crunching multiplied by any other stress in my personal life divided by how much other burning fires still need to be extinguished. I’ll confess – sometimes I have entire weeks where I feel unproductive – but I try to be kind to myself, get enough sleep, resist the urge to stay up late and catch up on the TV I missed while I was crunching…

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        I feel like this is every WEEK for me! Do lots of stuff Monday through Wednesday, totally exhausted and unmotivated by Thursday. Hate it!

  17. illini02*

    So this has come up in a few different threads over the last couple of weeks. But I’m really curious. When do people find it appropriate to interfere with a hiring process by contacting a hiring manager about “potential issues”. I’m not saying honestly responding to a question about a candidate or a reference call. I mean going out of your way to contact the organization because of things you know about someone interviewing there I know yesterday there were people saying there was nothing wrong with someone contacting an organization where she “knew people” although they weren’t the hiring manager. There was another not long ago referring to someone who didn’t work there but was contacted by an applicants sister.

    Personally, while I have NO problem honestly answering a question if asked, I think its a bit much to go out of my way to try to give extra information if its not a company I work for AND if I don’t really know anything about the applicants work history, just people they are associated with or if I know them personally. However, it seems I’m in the minority on that.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As people were saying yesterday, it’s 100% dependent on the relationship that you have with the organization they’re applying to and how confident you are about the issues in question. If you’re close to the employer and you’re sure about your assessment of the person, of course you say something.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t think you’re in the minority on that, actually. I think what complicated the issue was that it wasn’t exactly that yesterday–it was an organization where the OP knew people, so there was the concern that it might reflect badly on her if she didn’t say anything. I’m in agreement with Alison and others (again, I didn’t see them as a minority, but I didn’t count) who said that’s still not a case to make it worth mentioning anything since the knowledge is neither sure nor deeply problematic.

      However, I do think I’d probably share my thoughts more often than you would. I think you and I weight hiring and applicant cases differently, so I wouldn’t be troubled by an applicant who performed poorly for me losing a job because I told a good friend about her performance, or by a friend whose work I know to be amazing bumping out another applicant because I told a prospective hirer that.

    3. Chriama*

      I think it depends on your relationship with the organization, the seriousness of those issues, the ease of uncovering those issues in a typical background check, and the overall impact if that person is hired. I know there have been a couple controversial ones in the past (someone being part of a hate group and working with a vulnerable population that included the people disliked by the hate group; a volunteer having an inappropriate relationship with a student and applying to another school after being barred from their current one).

      My guidelines are:
      – if the info could be found in a simple google search or by a half-way decent reference checker, stay out of it
      – if you don’t know anyone in the organization well enough to owe them the professional courtesy of a head’s up (or for them to attribute serious weight to anything you say), don’t say anything
      However, the above 2 guidelines are contingent on this third one:
      – if this person working in that role/organization could *seriously* harm a vulnerable population (e.g. medical patients, kids/teenagers), *you need to speak up*.

      1. illini02*

        I’d say I mostly agree with you. However, I think where I differ is that some people feel the need to bring up more “personal” things than professional. Its like I feel like many people say that if they knew someone socially, and they were a jerk, they’d have no problem going out of their way to tell an organization that. So while I would have no problem doing it about their professional issues that I know about first hand (I worked with Jim and he was constantly late and got fired because of it), I would have a problem with doing it just based on how people are in a social situation. And of course if there employment could seriously harm a population, I would have no problem with that.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          A lot of people yesterday agreed with you though, so I’m curious about why you’re casting yourself in the minority on this. (I am admittedly extra curious because I’ve seen you do that with some amount of frequency, and I’m curious about why!)

        2. Chriama*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t volunteer any information about personal issues unless it was someone I knew *really* well – like a family member. If someone’s a jerk and it doesn’t come out in the interview or the reference check, the employer should be capable of disciplining them and/or enforcing a certain standard of behaviour.

        3. Beezus*

          I replied over there to you an hour or so ago, and just finally made it over here. I think the social stuff vs. the work-related stuff might have come from a comment I made where I was trying to explain the nuances between a true friend vs. someone I socialize with out of necessity but might call a friend for brevity’s sake, in response to someone chastising the OP for treating someone she called “friend” the way the OP described.

          To clarify my position, because I did really muddy the waters there…terrible social behavior would lead me to hold someone at arms’ length and consider them less of a friend, but I would limit any commentary to potential employers to professional behavior. My example person happened to exhibit both.

  18. AdminAnon*

    I recently hit the three year mark at my first post-college job and I am ready to look for something new. For a while, I loved my job and was convinced that I would be here long term, but there are some challenges and organizational issues which have come up in the last couple of years which I don’t anticipate being resolved any time soon. So naturally, the next step is to start applying for other jobs. However, my boyfriend and I are long distance and we have discussed me moving to be with him in 6 months or a year. So I’m not sure how to proceed–do I search in my current area, understanding that whatever I find (if anything) would be a short term position? Do I search in his area, despite the fact that finding a job would change our timeline? Do I just sit tight at my current position and hope that I can find a job there in six months? All of this is complicated by my premature sense of guilt at the mere thought of leaving my job. It’s a great organization and we are doing really cool things, but the time has come for me to move on…I just can’t fathom telling my boss that. And then there’s the fact that my roommate and I have to decide next month whether or not to renew our lease. I’m not really sure what I’m asking here, but you all have wonderful suggestions so I thought I would throw it out there and see what you come up with. Thanks everyone! :)

    1. Judy*

      I personally would search in his area, if you are planning on moving anyway. It may take 6 months to find a job.

    2. Bethy*

      I think if you can stick it out at your current job for a couple more months, you could start looking in the new city a few months before you plan to move. You can use that time to polish your resume, add skills, etc. so you don’t feel like you’re wasting time, but that would help stick to the relationship timeline. I personally wouldn’t leave for a short-term job in the same town, knowing I would be moving soon–it’s probably easier to tell your boss you’re leaving to move to a new city than just to a new job.

      Can you do a shorter term lease? I know that can be more expensive, but it would make it easier to move whenever the job comes up.

      1. Jader*

        Three months before we bought our house our lease came due for renewal. They usually only do one year leases but because we were excellent renters (mostly just paid our rent on time, every time) they made an exception and let us renew month to month for the same price. Never hurts to ask.

    3. Jenna*

      Would you and your boyfriend be open to moving in together sooner rather than later?
      If not, I would consider staying in your current position if you can stand to, because more time at that position will look better on your resume than 3 years there plus 6 months elsewhere. When you get close to your moving date, you can add the date you are relocating and the area you are moving to the top of your resume, under your contact information. You should not feel guilty about leaving because people do it all the time and 3-4 years is great for your first post-college job.

    4. BRR*

      Is there a chance of you moving sooner?

      I’m with Bethy, stick it out for a little longer than look in new city. Job hunting takes a while, you should concentrate on new city. It’s too much effort to find something for a couple months and the job hop or hole in your resume isnt worth it.

    5. Pizza Lover*

      If you’re absolutely sure that you’ll move, job hunt for the new city when the time comes. If there aren’t any major issues going on at your current job and you actually like being there for the most part, stick it out ! :-)

  19. Dr. Johnny Fever*

    I have a teammate who joined us recently who is not a fit to the team. He is an employee, and he treats our vendors as 2nd class, he complains that we don’t interact with him, and he complains that we don’t make decisions as a team. He has complained to my boss.

    From my standpoint: He comes in a hal hour after daily standup and refuses to come in earlier. The vendors don’t appreciate how he treats them. He’s often away from our area, hanging with his old team. He doesn’t consider a decision to be a “team” decision unless it supports his suggestion. If he feels rejected, he shuts down. As a bright spot, he is great at training our new employees (although he tells them weird cultural things about our dept that aren’t true).

    My co-manager and I have been dealing with this for several months, trying to foster the team atmosphere, reinforce expectations, and ask for feedback regularly. We switched to his favorite candy in room stash and we ask him for input when he is quiet. We’ve made direct requests: come in by x:00 for this meeting, work in the room and not in his own area, become engaged, but he won’t do it.

    Complicating the issue: our manager thinks this gentleman walks on water. We thinks he walks on other peoples’ backs like a crab.

    Any suggestions on how to improve the situation and continue to self-manage, or any other direction to take from here?

    1. fposte*

      Can you clarify who he reports to? It sounds like you’re his manager but then it sounds like the manager above you really is the report. Do you have firing authority over him?

      I would ease up on the catering to him and start giving him sterner feedback about his deficits, indicating that they’re obstacles to his progression here. But if you don’t have the authority to do this, I’d document what work impact there is with Bob’s and ask for guidance on how to deal with the workload or repair the problems.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Fair point. My co-manager and I are not HR managers, but work managers. Bob reports to us in terms of getting his work done, but is a peer in HR structure. All three of us share the same people leader.

        We’ve been giving feedback to him – I should also mention we’ve been giving feedback to the rest of the team as they complain to give time for adjustment and provide their own direct feedback. Since he treats them as 2nd class, they are timid.

        We haven’t been documenting, per se, but we have specific examples. Our leader believes that team dynamic = results, so he’ll support us. At this point, I think the last step is to remove Bob, but I don’t know if that’s possible.

    2. brightstar*

      How much of this is a personality conflict? Was he desirous of being transferred to your team or was it against his wishes? It seems like there’s a bit of remorse if he’s spending so much time in the old area he worked in. Is this affecting his work or anyone else’s?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I would document a week or two of behaviors and then go to my boss and say, “how do you want me to handle this?” Definitely quit with the niceties.

  20. Nervous Accountant*

    The honest to god truth and I hate feeling like this but it gets lonely at work. It’s worse when my boss is away Bc everyone talks and takes extended breaks (the break area is close to my desk so I’m within full earshot of any talking and laughing so it can be distracting and bothersome. Doesn’t happen when my boss isn’t in the office).

    I feel like I have no friends left here. No one is outwardly hostile (aside from 1 incident) and I haven’t come across any issues wrt work itself….I had one friend but she doesn’t seem to want to talk to me anymore either …If I go into details here or say how I really feel I’m afraid I will sound very immature or not serious about my job. I want to keep my head down and work hard. I wish I wouldn’t lose focus. Is there a fast way to forget about this?

    I’m no stranger to self reflection, I’m always listening to criticism to improve on myself and I ACT ON IT. I read the annoying behaviors thread and I really did examine my own behavior and Unless it’s a bitch eating crackers thing…..I don’t see that I do anything that others aren’t doing. I don’t intrude on conversations I help whenever asked, I offered to help and was snidely turned away, I sit by myself, I don’t take extra food, I don’t eat loudly, I don’t take personal calls (maybe once in a week and I clock out)….If I “be myself” I’m not liked. If Im conscious and neurotic about everything I do and say…..:I’m still not liked.

    Fwiw quitting or looking for s new job isn’t an option for me not now or ever really Bc I do like working here and I like most of my coworkers for the most part.

    1. Vanishing Girl*

      I hope someone has good advice here, because I could use it too! I have one work friend, but we don’t see each other as much as we’re in different departments now. I really liked my old environment where I got to know a lot of coworkers well and being here is just… different. I thought a year after I started I’d feel more at home, but some days it feels very lonely.

      So I can at least share some commiseration.

    2. limenotapple*

      I am so sorry. It sucks being lonely. I feel the same way in a lot of situations.

      Is it possible that they like you more than you realize? I am only suggesting this because so often in my life, this was the case. I was convinced that no one wanted to be my friend, which made me even less likely to blend in, when it wasn’t the case.
      I have tried my whole life to act normal when I don’t feel normal…I know I’m weird. One thing that helped me a lot is group therapy I found through a one-on-one therapist and that helped me really understand group dynamics better. It helped a lot for my workplace. It was just a group that mainly focused on communication and whatnot.
      I’m not there with you so it is hard to tell. I guess the other option that I have taken before is to work with my own thoughts so I could care a lot less about it, and just form the mindset that I am there to do a job. It takes a lot of self-talk and changing my negative thoughts every time I have one.
      I wish I could help more…it sounds like you are really having some feelings about this. Is it something that you’ve found a lot in your life or just this place?

    3. Pizza Lover*

      So sorry to hear this. I can’t say that I have any amazing advice and I wish I did, because we’re at work so often and we need that to be a welcoming place for us. But is there any way that you can focus on your family and friends outside of work? It sounds like you’ve done as much as you can do aside from straight pestering the people that you work with.

    4. Dawn*

      Do you reach out and try to connect with people? Do you smile and say hello when you see them? Say good morning, go out of your way to say good night? Do you ask how people are doing or make small talk? I am, by nature, pretty darned introspective and shy, so I have to FORCE myself to do this with other people- and until I start doing this, I feel like no one likes me and no one notices me. But what I’ve come to realize is that the vast, vast, vast majority of people are just as shy and intimidated by talking to people as I am! I started a new job 5 weeks ago and have really noticed that by making an effort to warm up to people they have warmed up to me. Some of them are naturally more chatty or open or whatever which is to be expected because everyone has different personalities, but so far everyone here that I’ve talked to has warmed up to me and is now saying hello and being more friendly.

    5. Malissa*

      Honestly I found that having a good group of friends outside of work helps. I’ve got a couple of groups of friends that connect on facebook that keep me sane. At work I’m usually in a position that gets a cold reception anyway. Nobody ever wants to be friends with the person who is tasked with auditing and finding mistakes.

    6. RidingNerdy*

      I don’t have friends at work. I have colleagues and coworkers, but not anyone I’d consider a friend (but, I’m also an executive, so not a lot of potential friends, anyway). I participate in office chit-chat about life but am otherwise pretty focused on work when I’m at work.

      I’m sorry that you feel lonely, but is it really necessary to have friends at work? Remain professional in your interactions – offering help when it appears needed, performing highly on work given to you, enhancing your skills during downtime, etc – and those who need to notice that behavior should notice it.

      Forget about the office cliques – they aren’t worth the heartache.

    7. Random Reader*

      Are you me? I’m in this situation right now. I’ve found that having things to look forward to outside of work really helps when work is a pain.

    8. 20something*

      I feel your pain. I’ve been at my job for over a year now and I’m still not really accepted into the clique. The thing is I don’t want to be part of the clique (don’t like the people in it), but it’s still lonely at work. I got so fed up and unhappy I went to a counseling session.

      I don’t know how much this would help, but this is a basic psychology diagram: The idea goes that each factor (thoughts, feelings, behavior, body) if stimulated will affect other factors. So, for instance, if you are feeling sad sitting behind your desk, you can get up, go for a walk, and the change in behavior can affect your feelings and thoughts. You’ll have to find something that will help alleviate your loneliness and sadness.

    9. Dana*

      I can commiserate for sure. I have almost been here for a year and I feel so lonely sometimes. It wouldn’t bother me if everyone were just the show-up-do-job-go-home type, but when a bunch of my peers are openly talking about game night or going out during lunch to buy the goodies for their get together at so-and-so’s new house, it can be so depressing. It would be different if it was clear that people other than co-workers were going, but it always seems like just co-workers hanging out, and even inviting old co-workers which really makes me feel like crap. I’ve tried to convince myself that it doesn’t matter to me because I don’t enjoy some of the activities (drinking) but some days I just want to cry. Then I feel like a loser for wanting so desperately to be included when in reality if invited, I don’t know if I’d go!

      I’m sorry you feel this way. It really sucks.

    10. LQ*

      Focus on making friends outside of work. And then, yes, stop and take breaks during the day to email them. Read a news article, check facebook, whatever. Really focus on keeping your relationships with people work and professional. That’s not to say don’t smile and laugh and be friendly. But don’t aim to cultivate those into friendships.

      Even if it seems like a lot of effort put an effort into having x number of social activities post work. You’ll have a social thing to look forward to each day. Join meetups, join clubs, take a community ed class in something (even the tiny little 50 person town I grew up in had community ed classes, heck I taught one when I was like 14, you can teach them too, not just take them), find an online forum full of Nervous Accountant’s People. They are out there. Find them out there.

      Don’t find them at work. Don’t look for them or expect them at work.

    11. Dasha*

      This is me right now! I work in a really small office and no one is really buddy-buddy here. Do you have someone you can call on your lunch break or text? Emailing too! I love sending an email or two during the day to a friend and having a reply to look forward to.

    12. Afiendishthingy*

      I think you’ve said before you’re not eligible for benefits as a temporary employee so therapy isn’t an option for you. A friend of mine swears by co-counseling which is sort of like group therapy but isn’t led by a therapist? Not sure if it’s free but I don’t think it costs much. Google “co-counseling international” for details. I think probably at this point your insecurities are holding you back.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      Change your focus, change your life. I spent so many years wondering how I came across to other people. I never gained any ground. For whatever reason, I changed. I started spending more time being concerned about others than me and that WORKED.

      The thing to understand here is that everyone else is lost in their own stuff, too. In order to break through that barrier, show an interest in them and their concerns/interests.
      Make it your goal to learn everyone’s name and one thing about them. Sue has a dog that she is crazy about. Bob has his first grandchild. Mary just bought a house. Write this stuff down if you have to, keep it out of sight. Once in a while ask about the dog/grandkid/house. Take an equal interest in everyone- spread yourself out.

      My theory is that we have a finite amount of brain space. You can either use that space to track your every move and measure it on some invisible success scale OR you can learn something about the person next to you. We cannot do both, we have to pick one. I suggest doing the latter. The problem with introspection is that it’s endless and it’s exhausting. And that is not the worst part. The worst part is that it does not bring great results. No one comes up to us and says, “I see you do a lot of introspection and you have really examined your heart and soul.”

      I’d bet my last chocolate donut that people think you do not like them. Hmm. Do you like them? I have caught myself doing this one. I think that Jane does not like me. My mind goes around and around. Then I realize that I, either, do not like Jane myself or I have not even figured out my opinion of Jane. Next I realize that I have wasted huge blocks of time on Jane and I did not even like Jane (or I had no opinion of her). ugh.

      Punch line: We are being paid to get along with those that we work with. Decide to build enough of a relationship (not even going as far as friendship) that you can chat with most people around you. Use that as you goal. Start by learning/knowing their names and one thing about them. You don’t have to have a particular at-work friend. It’s nice when it happens. But if you can find several people that will smile and chat with you then you will find that the intensity of what you are feeling now will drop back some.

  21. AmyNYC*

    This is just venting, but one of the partners are my company says things that are just so awkward and awful that I need to share:

    “Carmen can leave early because she has kids, but I expect the rest of you to stay as long as I stay”

    He brought his new baby grandson to show off around the office, everyone appropriately ooo’d and awww’d and then he said to me (a childless 28 year old woman) “So Amy, now you’ve had your fill and won’t need to have your own baby for a long time!”

    Stressing that we MUST take an hour lunch break but 5 minutes later says “No one has ever been successful working only 40 hours a week”

    At an all staff meeting, someone mentioned being sick over the weekend – “That’s why you’re the best employee – he’s sick on his own time and recovered by Monday!”

    1. Answering Anon*

      Yeah, my boss is the same way. He doesn’t like people to miss work, at all. He thinks if people aren’t here and working then the firm is losing a lot of money – which may be true. He hates it the most when people are out because they have to take care of stuff for their kids. I just go along with it because if I’m not with him, I’m against him (in his head). I am also your age and I do wonder what my boss’s reaction would be if I were ever to be pregnant because I am almost positive it wouldn’t go well.

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      He’s obviously never been around women who often want to have a baby of their own after being around someone else’s baby.

      Does he even hear the words coming out of his mouth?

    3. Alison with one L*

      I don’t understand where this “full time means more than 40hours” thing came from. If I knew that I would be supported in working only 40 hours if I could finish all of my work, I would probably be much more efficient and proactive. At this point, I know that I will be expected to be at the office outside by 7:30 – 4:00 schedule. I have taken a luxurious 1-hour lunch ONCE (outside of organized team outings). I usually work straight through lunch, and I usually don’t eat until well past 1:30.

    4. Dana*

      We are not “childless”, we are “childfree”. Less implies we are lacking something. :)

      1. Clara*

        Some of us ARE lacking something. Something we dearly, desperately want that eludes us. Something we are trying so hard to have. You may be child-free, and good for you, but I am childless and it hurts like hell.

        Please don’t presume to tell others how they should identify.

  22. Cruciatus*

    Well, I hope I made the right decision. I took my state’s civil service exam for administrative assistant 1 positions last month and this past weekend I received a notice from a local town’s housing authority that I was referred to them for an interview. But it’s in another town than where I live and further than I’d like to commute. And housing authority….that does not sound like a place where I’d do well. It’s the same amount of money I make now (which is not a lot). Though it was for fewer hours… And yes, there were probably government benefits if I did receive the position. But my gut said “pass” on this one. Everyone else can’t believe I wouldn’t try for it. I do want out of my current workplace, but not for a more stressful one, further away. Especially if, at least at first, I wouldn’t be getting any more pay (and I don’t know how often pay is increased at the local government level anyway). I’ve also applied to non-government jobs I’m way more excited about (though I haven’t heard back from them yet). I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that more positions will come up in the 2 years that my exam scores are posted. I felt good about my decision until my friends all expressed a bit of surprise that I wouldn’t at least interview!

    1. Retail Lifer*

      If you already know the commute is going to bother you, don’t do it. Even though you’d technically be making the same, you’d be coming out behind because of the extra gas money. A longer commute might be worth it for a better opportunity, but you already know this might not be the right fit. I’d trust your gut on this one.

    2. CheeryO*

      There is something to be said for getting in somewhere, anywhere when it comes to the government, since it can be easier to transfer around once you’re in. There’s also something to be said for accepting any and all interviews, if only to practice, since government interviews can be weirdly rigid. But I think you made the right decision, based solely on the commute. I think it’s reasonable to assume that you’ll get more bites, too, since it’s only been a month!

      (I’ve been in your shoes, too. I turned down a couple different positions in my agency before the right one came up, and everyone thought I was nuts. Luckily, it worked out for me! I hope it does for you, too.)

      1. Cruciatus*

        I sure hope it works out! I just got a rejection email from one of those non-government jobs I was excited about. D’oh! Thank you both for saying that not taking that one interview (and I have to remember it was just an interview, not actually a job offer), isn’t the worst thing in the world… There’s gotta be something out there that’s a better fit for me. I wish it would come around sooner…but I just have to have hope it’s around the bend somewhere.

    3. Brett*

      It is always worthwhile to research the recent pay history of that local government. Things can change abruptly (my employer gave merit raises every year for 18 years, then stopped indefinitely the year I was hired). In general though, recent trends for that specific government are going to be indicative of future trends.
      One other thing to look at is the development of that city itself. If it has a contracting tax base, expect raises to become rare or even go away in the future. If it has an expanding tax base (e.g. rapidly growing city), then raises will be regular and possibly generous for a while.

      The department can matter too. Honestly, housing authority is normally not going to be at the top of the list for raises, on top of having a lot of negative contacts with the public.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      One thing I have learned over the years is to always trust my gut about jobs. The two times I let my head overrule my gut, I ended up with jobs I hated from day one.

  23. Anon for this*

    If you have an office, and you hold a meeting in that office, the etiquette is to close the door, right? So the people in the cubes near you don’t have to listen to your meeting? That’s, like, the point of having an office with a door?

    1. A Jane*

      I hate when there’s a meeting in someone’s office with too many people. As a result, it’s too stuffy and you need to keep the door open to allow for air. Like, if there’s more than 3 people, go to a conference room!

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Sometimes you can’t find a conference room, though. The situation at my company is ridiculous. If you don’t schedule your meeting at least a week out, you’ll have a hard time finding an open conference room. If there’s an empty office you can use, that’s better than huddling up in a cubicle or meeting in the cafeteria, which are the only other options.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      YES, please! My cube is right next door to an exec office and a conference room, and it can get surprisingly loud!

    3. Learning & Growing*

      Yes! I think anytime two or more people are gathered somewhere and having a detailed discussion, they should be in a conference room or in someone’s office.

    4. ZSD*

      Huh. I guess this must depend on the office. In my office, it’s normal to keep your door open unless you’re discussing something particularly sensitive. I guess if I expected the meeting to be unusually loud for some reason, I’d close my door.

      1. Olive Hornby*

        Yes, I think this is a cultural thing – if the door is closed, I assume something secret is going on and am even more distracted!

        1. Anon for this*


          I have no idea what the culture here is. I always close the door when I hold meetings (to keep it quieter in the cube farm), and the woman with the office across from me rarely has meetings in her office. I wouldn’t know about what other people do – I don’t notice when I’m passing by.

          1. Anon for this*

            Oh, also: We work in a HIPAA environment, so nobody would be surprised by a closed-door meeting. Closed door, to me, indicates that I shouldn’t stop by – whether it’s because a meeting is going on or the person is declaring quiet work time.

        2. skyline*

          I close my doors for all meetings, so no one can read anything into whether the door is open and closed. It could be a routine 1:1, it could be a special thank you, it could be apologizing for being cranky earlier in the day, it could be me having a serious coaching conversation.

      2. Jake*


        A closed door in any office I’ve been in means somebody is either getting their yearly review or is being severely reprimanded/fired.

        1. Windchime*

          Oh, wow. It can mean that here, but it can also mean: There is a 1:1 meeting going on, the occupant is signaling that they are heads-down working and wish to not be interrupted, the occupant is on a phone call that is loud or that they don’t want overheard, or (as was the case today) we were calling our boss to sing Happy Birthday to him on his work-at-home day and we didn’t want to disturb the office.

    5. it happens*

      Yes. That is exactly the point. Close the door and let everyone else keep doing their work without being distracted by your conversation. (Also applies to very loud speakerphone calls, not that I’d know anything about that.)

    6. Anie*

      My boss drives me crazy with this. Every other managers will close their door, but mine doesn’t. I tried closing it once and no one in the meeting said anything about it, but my boss seems to prefer it open. Sometimes we’re really loud, too. (Hey, if a boring meeting delves into jokes for 5 minutes, I’m not going to protest.) I just would find it more respectful to the cube farm outside her office if her door was shut during meetings. Of course, she’s also a loud, personal phone conversation talker and never shuts her door for that either sooo…

    7. LQ*

      I agree that this is a cultural thing. The only time doors get closed there’s a Serious Conversation happening. Most meetings in offices are open door and often if someone else pops a head in to see if the person is free the quick question might get answered, or the person would be told when to try again, or that person might get pulled into the conversation depending on what it is. The point of the door here is for those Serious Conversations. (Performance issues, problems, etc.) If you just want to review the latest documents for something, it would be strange to close the door.

  24. Beancounter in Texas*

    Friday Fun! What’s the best advice you’ve received that you’ve applied to your career?

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Not advice, really, but I was taught a harsh lesson at an early age that I never forgot.

      When I went to college my parents told me they expected me to find a job to earn spending money. I was living in the dorms, and they were hiring people to work in the cafeteria/dining hall. So I got a job there: serving food, washing dishes, and so on. I hated it. Haaaaated it. With a passion. Washing people’s nasty dishes completely grossed me out, and because I was very shy and insecure, I was quite self-conscious when I was on server duty in my lovely hairnet.

      Anyway….I did not do a very good job. I half-assed it when I was there, called in sick (or whatever) way too often, and I’m ashamed to say there were even a few times when I just flat didn’t show up (my only excuse was that I was 18, clueless, and stupid). The semester ended, and I headed home for the break. When I got back to school, I called up my boss in the cafeteria to ask her what my schedule for the new semester would be. She told me not to bother coming in, because I’d been unreliable, hadn’t done that great a job when I’d bothered to show up, and that there were plenty of other people who wanted that job more than I did and were willing to work much harder than I did.

      Ouch. That was quite the rude shock and wake-up call. It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Well, I totally had it coming. Great lesson though…I learned that when you have a job, you work hard at it, even if you hate it. And also that if you don’t do your job to the best of your ability, there’s someone else out there who will be happy for the chance to do it for you and earn some money.

      1. GTA*

        My small liberal arts college required all freshmen doing work-study to work in dining services. It was a smart arrangement because it ensured the big work force needed, and socially, it made a huge difference in how students treated all the cafeteria workers, because if you hadn’t worked there, you knew someone who did!

    2. Dawn*

      Write it down. Write it ALL down. Write down what you think people said. Write down what you said in response. Email them to confirm what you think they said. Write down what you did every day. Write down your project milestones. Write down the projects you worked on, write down your contributions to said project, write down particular struggles you overcame and how you overcame them.

      Basically when it comes to your career ALWAYS be thinking of the future. Be thinking of a week from now when you’re going to need to refer to what Wakeen said in the meeting you had today. Be thinking of a month from now when you’re going to need to remind Wakeen that you emailed his team right after the meeting to tell them what needed to be done. Be thinking of a year from now when the project you’re all on is finished and you want to be able to point to exactly the pain points that you helped overcome when you’re making an argument to get a raise. Be thinking of three years from now when you’re interviewing for a new job and need to point to your accomplishments.

      I wish that someone had stapled that to my forehead when I’d graduated college, because it took me a LONG time to learn!

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Thanks – I need to remember this. I also need to remember to write it all down in an organized fashion, in a place where I can access it easily.

    3. Alison with one L*

      Learn your audience! Learn everything you can about them.

      This applies to hiring – we learn a lot here at AAM about what hiring managers think, prefer, and expect. THAT is knowing your audience.

      This applies to presentations – this is probably the best skill to learn for presentations. You need to know what they already know, you need to know what they will need to know, you need to know what they will ask questions about.

      This applies to interacting with your boss – if your boss is going to be upset by an email you need to send to a large audience, give her a headsup. If you boss prefers calls over emails, use that to your advantage. Learn your manager and life will become much easier.

      Really, this applies everywhere. It’s hard to learn, but it’s invaluable.

    4. Jake*

      Nobody bats a thousand.

      Failure is going to happen on a near constant basis, figure out how to accept it and learn from it or get out of this business now.

      I reacted poorly to a relatively minor failure in large part due to imposter syndrome when I was told this. I was worked up over something that wouldn’t have even registered on my boss’s radar to talk to me about if I hadn’t beaten myself up so much about it.

      I still struggle mightily with this, but I try to remember that conversation when I start feeling like I suck at my job.

    5. Colleen*

      Faith, family, work. Put the first two in any order you want, but work should always come third.

    6. anon attorney*

      Not advice, but a learning experience. When I was in my early teens I had a weekend job in a deli. For some reason I thought that if I did the work tasks it didn’t matter if I was pleasant to my coworkers, and since I didn’t like most of them, I made no effort whatsoever. I was fired because I was ‘not fitting in’. I’m grateful to the boss for teaching me the importance of cordial working relationships ( and my mom for sympathising while still making it a teachable moment).

    7. Roman Holiday*

      Ask for want you want and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Even if it feels pushy or awkward to say that you deserve a raise or a promotion, or you want to change your workflow, keep telling yourself that no one is going to hand you a career advancement on a silver platter. Assuming you have a functional workplace, (based on the stories here, this may be a big assumption) no one will think badly of you for thinking of your own career.

  25. CrazyCatLady*

    I’m very self-motivated and high-performing but work in an environment where almost everyone else is not that way. While it seems to be very much appreciated that I AM high performing, there doesn’t seem to be any expectation or desire for others to become that way. As a result, it’s kind of demoralizing, depressing and demotivating to me. How do you keep your motivation and desire to be a strong performer up when no one around you is motivated at all?

    1. Learning & Growing*

      I try to stay focused on where I’m headed. I’ve seen star performers get promoted while others languish in their laziness. When it comes to *your* life and career, it’s not going to matter whether those around you are motivated. You’ll easily outshine them and, as a result, move to a higher level, whether it’s at this job or another one.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        Thanks for the response. Another thing I should have mentioned is that it’s a very small family company without any room for growth. I know I’ll have to look for another job eventually, but I need to stay here for at least one more year in the meantime.

        1. Learning & Growing*

          I worked in a small company with a star performer. There wasn’t much room for him to move up, but he got a lot of perks–extra vacation time, a work-from-home arrangements, etc.–because he was consistently great. If your only real concern is others’ lack of motivation, my suggestion is for you to continue to kick butt and move on after a year with stellar references.

        2. KathyGeiss*

          This situation sucks. Could you identify things you could focus on that will help you land that next gig in a year. For instance, think about what successes you’ll want to be able to highlight in an interview or cover letter and find ways to tackle those tasks in your current role. That flips the focus from “working for people who don’t value performance” to “working to set myself up for success and it happens to benefit my current employer”

          1. CrazyCatLady*

            Thanks – yeah, that’s basically what I try to do. Some days it works out better than others. :)

    2. Snoskred*

      Oh CrazyCatLady, I do feel for you. :(

      The best manager I ever worked for inspired everyone around her to be like you. I’ve never pushed myself so hard in a job before. When she left, everyone who was hired after she left was just downright terrible at their jobs, and by that time I was in a role that meant I had to constantly fix their screwups.

      I had high expectations for myself and for my fellow senior operators, and all their screwups just pushed us to be better at our jobs. :) So the only thing I can say is to expect more of yourself than anyone else does and keep pushing yourself, purely to please yourself. :)

    3. OriginalYup*

      It sounds like you’re awesome, so keep doing that. :) I read something once that stuck with me, how working with low performers and complainers is like running a marathon — you need to visualize the goal and picture yourself getting there as your tick off the miles, in order to tune out the surrounding negativity and distractions.

      Keep doing great work because you believe in doing great work. Set performance and learning goals for yourself, and then reward yourself when you meet them (a decadent latte, a day off, a walk outside — whatever works). Keep reading career sites like AAM to keep your head in the right space. Maybe try to go to conferences or other work events outside your own office, so you can meet and interact with other awesome people. Update your resume periodically with all your achievements and accomplishments, so you can look it and think “Wow, I’m rocking this job!”

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It helps to have a few tools to draw on because if one does not work on a particular day then another one might. I have told myself these things:

      1) “I am learning new skills or having experiences that will look great on my resume.”

      2)”Work, just like life, is what I make it. I can either see things as unfair and a PITA or I can see things as opportunities to grow me. I have a choice. ”

      3)”My coworker refuses to do anything extra. This means probably ten years from now my coworker will still be here refusing to do anything extra. Do I want this to happen to me?”

      4) “Skills build on each other. Refusal to handle what is in front of us, stops our building process. I cannot grow more skills by refusing to do my best with what is in front of me.”

      5) “Don’t look for fairness at work or in life. The only fairness I will probably find is what I give to other people.” Add-on: “I do not see the fairness others give me because I need to put my glasses on.”

      Keep in mind that you will have to move on from this job at some point. It’s a slippery slope and gradually you will just want to be with people who have a work ethic closer to yours.

  26. Learning & Growing*

    I gossiped about my boss to a coworker, who ended up telling her boss about it. Her boss then told my boss, and then my boss called me into her office and asked if the rumors were true. I told her they were and respectfully explained why I didn’t feel like I could talk to her about the problems I’d been having with her management style. She was upset, essentially saying she had lost respect and trust for me. I apologized for her having to find out my feelings in that way and she accepted it, but I know things will be different now.

    Because we’re a small team of just four, I feel the tension will be all-too-evident now. I’m applying for jobs, but I don’t want to jump into anything just to escape this situation. I don’t want to be forever labeled the black sheep here, either. Any thoughts on how I should proceed?

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      These things do happen unfortunately and hopefully you learned your lesson. I would just focus on being as positive and helpful as possible and stop gossiping. Go above and beyond in your position and make yourself as valuable as possible.

    2. cuppa*

      As someone else who learned the hard way, do your best to not dwell on it. It can be moved on from, but it will take some time. Do your best to be accepting of the consequences (lack of trust for a bit) and show that you can do your best to be trustworthy. Good luck.

    3. some1*

      I’m not judging because I know I have done this, too, but I think it might help if you give a better apology. Instead of, “I’m sorry you found out I think you suck”, I think it would help if you stated that you realize there was no excuse for you to gossip about your boss and you are sorry for being disrespectful.

      You can do this and still have issues with how she manages.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      Even though you’ve apologized to her, I would schedule some time with her to do so again — something initiated by you, not by her. You probably only need about 10 or 15 minutes of her time. Say something like, “I just wanted to apologize again for what happened. I really was out of line and handled things very badly. I know it will take some time, but I hope we can eventually put this behind us and move forward.”

      I understand the urge to look for a new job, but I would advise against that. Things will be challenging and difficult for awhile, but if you can handle it well and get through it, it’s an opportunity to really learn a lot about how to deal with difficult people and situations. That is always a valuable skill to have.

      And if you do have problems with your boss again like the one that prompted you to gossip with your co-worker, deal with it head-on and talk to your boss. You can disagree with someone and still do it in a respectful manner. That will show her that you’re trying to learn from your earlier mistakes.

      1. Learning & Growing*

        Thanks, everyone! I really appreciate the advice.

        I actually did initiate a conversation with her after the first confrontation. I acknowledged my mistake and apologized. She was (understandably) stoic, but that’s when she said she accepted my apology.

        I agree that running away from this isn’t the best idea. It’s still early in my career (I’m 28), and I’m trying to look at this as a life lesson.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Good for you for doing that. One of the hardest things to do (no matter what your age) is to be objective about something that’s happened, and take responsibility for your part in/of it. But it really is valuable if you can be honest with yourself (sometimes brutally honest) and try to take something from it that you can use going forward.

          I had a Very Bad Boss a few years ago. We got off on the wrong foot, and our personalities clashed right from the start. He really was a colossal jerk, but I behaved pretty badly a few times too. I have often wondered if I had handled some things better, or not let my temper get the better of me and shot my mouth off a few times, if things would have worked out differently.

          I moved to another department, and he and I ended up working together as peers on a big project. I was very apprehensive about this, but my boss told me to suck it up and deal with it. I was pleasantly surprised when we ended up working together pretty well. At one point, he even offered me a hesitant, roundabout apology for what had transpired between us in the past. The lesson I learned from that was that working for someone (as their direct report) and working with someone (as their peer) can be 2 totally different experiences. There is a director here that I’ve worked with quite a few times, and I really like him and think he’s a very nice guy. But people I know in his organization really don’t like him at all. They know a side of him that I don’t, but that has nothing to do with my working relationship with him, so I just file away the things I hear as “interesting information” and disregard it.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This is a great example of the amazing things you can see if you stick with a situation. Stories very seldom pan out the way we think they are going to, there is usually a little twist or an unforeseen that changes the direction of the story.

            OP, other people have done worse things to bosses, honest. It feels awful but give it time and that awful feeling will dissipate somewhat. Do your best every day. Keep your actions transparent. If you want to move on then do so, do not stay just to prove a point. Sometimes a person can feel crappy about a job and put it on the boss’ shoulders when the real problem is that it’s just a crappy job and it has very little to do with the boss. Maybe this is your real lesson here.

    5. Snoskred*

      Learning & Growing – This is a good time to learn about having a vault and using it.

      I never say something about someone behind their back that I have not already said to their face. :)

  27. Vanishing Girl*

    How do you know when to apply for a promotion? There is a job opening right now for a new position that would be my direct supervisor and head up a new group for our company. I want to apply, but I’m also afraid to do so. I’ve only been in my current role for 7-8 months, but I want to do something with more variety and responsibility. But I have a good dose of impostor syndrome and it’s getting in the way.

    What made you decide to apply for a promotion, if someone didn’t suggest it to you?

    1. Vanishing Girl*

      I should note that I am pretty well qualified for the position, but I don’t have everything they want. Roles in this department will change once the new person comes in, and I’m really hoping I could do something one step above what I’m doing now but not the supervisory role. I’ve volunteered for new projects in my current role, but since we are in limbo I’m told to just wait. I am afraid that I’ll still be in my current job if I don’t go for this new thing, and I don’t know that’s a good enough reason to apply for it.

      1. LCL*

        Where I work (large company) people will apply for jobs they have no interest in, or have no interest in at that time. It is considered completely acceptable. They do it because this is the best way to get interview practice.

        And consider this-an article I read recently, but am too busy to look up, said one big reason for women not progressing in their careers as fast as men is women won’t apply for promotion unless they think they meet all requirements, where a man will apply if he thinks he meets any. Speaking in generalities, of course.

        1. Vanishing Girl*

          Interesting: I never thought about this as interview practice! That would really help. I am also at a large company, so maybe it could be seen this way here.

          I have read something similar, which is part of the reason I feel that maybe I should apply. Perhaps it’s me getting in my own way when other people are applying that meet even fewer qualifications than I do.

    2. BRR*

      Would you apply for this position if you weren’t in your current one? I’m wondering if you’re hoping to get a leg up because you’ve proved yourself even if you are missing some qualifications, 7-8 months is just a little short of whe id say go for it.

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        I would be thinking about it, but would be even less confident than I am now. I have the subject training they are asking for, but not as much management or this particular industry experience. If I was in my old job, I’d figure: give it a shot! But I am more familiar with what/who would work best for this role, and I don’t know that it’s me.

        I also feel it’s a little soon, but part of me is anxious that THIS IS IT. I think I already know I don’t actually want the position but I’m afraid nothing else will happen. I don’t know why I think like this.

        1. fposte*

          Two questions: do you think it would hurt you any to apply? And is there anyone at the company who might be able to give you more insight into the trajectory possibilities?

          1. Vanishing Girl*

            I don’t know that it would hurt me to apply unless others saw it as I was trying to do things too soon and maybe thought too much of myself. But I don’t think there is an obvious penalty for applying, but rather an unspoken penalty that might hurt chances later.

            I’ve talked to the hiring manager (2 levels above me), and they were cagey about what possibilities there are. From what I can understand, they want to see what kinds of applicants they get before they talk about how our roles will change. I think we are waiting for a person to come in and make decisions. It’s entirely possible they don’t know what will happen. I don’t know who else I could ask. It’s for a totally new position and department here, so everything is rather vague.

            I’m realizing it would be helpful to look at our peer corporations and see what positions they have like this that would fit me: are they at that level, or is there something in between that would fit better?

        2. BRR*

          If you don’t want it because of what the job entails I wouldn’t apply, it’s awkward to turn down an internal promotion you applied for. What you’ll need to figure out is if you don’t want it because you wouldn’t like it or you’re worried about being turned down.

          I also want to add that this isn’t it. It can be dangerous to jump the gun trying to get to bigger and better things.

          1. Vanishing Girl*

            Thanks! It helps to talk it through here and get some feedback from y’all. I need to write on a post-it: don’t jump the gun! I think my mind runs like this when I’m bored with my job, and that’s definitely true right now.

            Through answering the questions here, I think I may just not want it as I don’t want to jump into management here right away. I am also definitely scared of being turned down, but maybe even more scared of getting an interview. That’s a pretty good clue.

            1. BRR*

              Talking it through usually is a huge help for me. I have a lot of similar thoughts as you do, I can be bored and think about the future. I’ve realized though that I really need to focus on rocking my current position and duties even if I’m bored.

              What I think is if you’re interested (and would accept the position) and have been receiving a lot of praise from higher ups (due to the shortish amount of time you’ve been there) you should apply. But this isn’t your one chance and definitely don’t be scared of getting an interview or being turned down. Not getting a job isn’t personal. Hiring somebody is just looking for a specific set of skills to fill a position and not everybody has what an employer is looking for.

              1. Vanishing Girl*

                Thanks! I am trying to rock in my current position, but am not really sure how to show that in my current position. Our systems and processes are pretty well organized and that’s generally where my mind goes when I try to improve things. I also have a lot of down time at work right now, which doesn’t work for my active imagination. But I am going to try and rethink what I could do to really be a superstar in this role.

                We are a low-feedback kind of place. My supervisor and their boss have told me overall I am doing well, but I don’t get regular praise for specific things. My current work is rather subjective, so I don’t even know what praise I’d expect from them. My previous places of employment included more praise and had more tangible projects.

                I’ve got a lot of things to consider this weekend. I am glad I asked this question here.

    3. OOF*

      This very much depends on your management’s perspective on these things. In our shop,if someone who was hired 7-8 months ago thought they were ready for a promotion, that would be frowned upon. Can you talk to your manager and share that you saw the post, find it interesting, but also understand that you are still learning and want to be respectful of expectations about amount of time in your current position?

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        That is a great way to phrase it. I spoke with the hiring manager (2 levels up from me), and they were reticent to talk about how our roles will evolve, but I expressed my interest to try new things and use the skills I have that aren’t in use in my current role. It seems like they are waiting to see what the new person does before talking about our positions.

        I don’t want to alienate anyone and give the impression I’m one of the people who thinks they’re overqualified. I just have different skills that I know can be of use in the upcoming changes that I’m not using right now. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to use them, and that’s frightening. Maybe I can talk to my manager: they have lots of experience in this industry and may have some insight into what they’re expecting.

  28. Interflips*

    I just wanted to say I couldn’t agree more with Allison’s post on behaviors at work. I work for a pretty relaxed company where the standard dress attire is basically jeans and a t-shirt. However, I would expect anyone coming in from an interview to look a bit more polished. Well yesterday, I actually saw someone come in leggings and flip flops looking like they just got out of bed for an interview! Needless to say, the interview lasted less than 20 minutes.
    But I’m just baffled as to what they were thinking, particularly as their position is of a more serious nature and requiring a lot of client interaction.

    1. Vanishing Girl*

      Oh my word! That’s hideous. I don’t know how anyone thinks that is ok.

      Were their toenails painted? ;)

  29. Retail Lifer*

    I’m getting the same feedback on my resume again and again but I don’t know how to fix it and still be honest. I’m always hearing that my resume is task-focused and not accomplishment-focused. However, aside from meeting all kinds of sales goals in my current job and being on a list of top performers a couple of jobs ago, I honestly haven’t accomplished anything meaningful at any of my jobs. As my name suggests, I’m a retail manager. Retail in general hasn’t been doing well for years, so I can’t claim I’ve hit many sales numbers, I’m as high up as I want to go so I have no promotions to list, and I tend to take jobs at chain stores where your role, responsibilities and tasks are well-defined and there just aren’t many opportunities to do anything else. And given the fact that raises are few and far between (and I’m completely sick of this industry and have wanted to get out for years haven’t been able to), I’m not super eager to take on anything else that might look good on paper but will ultimately probably be a waste of my time. I’m really trying to escape from the retail death trap, and the feedback I’m getting has been loud, clear, and consistent that I need to include more accomplishments on my resume. Any ideas as to how to spin this?

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      In the past, AAM has suggested that you ask yourself what someone who was a mediocre performer (not awful enough to get fired, but not great) would look like and then ask yourself what you do differently from them?

      1. Retail Lifer*

        Off the top of my head I can only think of showing up on time. LOL. But I will give this some thought. Thank you!

        1. fposte*

          What is it that you do to meet those sales goals? Do you know how many people don’t meet their goals?

          1. Retail Lifer*

            I do! I’m the only person who hasn’t been fired or forced out of this position in years! (Which is what makes it such a horrible environment to work in and why I want to get out!)

            1. fposte*

              Okay, then frame your success! “Increased sales to meet goals for the first time in xx years.” And then use the “whys” as achievement statements.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      I don’t have resume advice, but my friend was a retail manager for years. She made the switch by getting a recruiting job at a recruiting firm. She didn’t like it but she was a good employee, and after a year she was able to transfer to the HR department.

      1. Mz. Puppie*

        Cosign. Recruiting firms are very interested in people with sales experience, if you think that is a direction you might want to go.

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Do the people you manage like you? Can you talk about how you make your stores better via getting better work out of your team, or being the manager that resolves issues to employee’s satisfaction? Do you pinch-hit for your staff when things get busy? (I’m thinking of things that I really valued in my managers when I was working in service.)

      1. Retail Lifer*

        My employees like me or tolerate me, which has helped keep turnover low (a miracle in this industry). I have a really small staff but we had zero turnover last year. I can put that on a resume!

    4. puddin*

      Accomplishments can be coaching employees to improve their performance (Which you have told AAM about). Also, what have you done that leveraged or implemented a corp mandate. So when corp has you do something like a new time tracking system, a huge re-merch, facility improvements…those all count as accomplishments. For example: Implemented and trained staff of 14 on new [Name of system] time tracking system. As a result we saw improved compliance and less tracking errors from staff. Planned and executed store re-merchandising and new fixture delivery to meet new corporate brand standards in 14 days resulting in an increase in foot traffic of 23% (use store traffic numbers if you have them, but chain-wide numbers are good too). Oversaw installation of improved store signage and flooring, coming in 12% under allotted budget for the project.

      I don’t know if any of this applies, you say that you have a lot of the ‘same ole same ole’ in your roles. But thought I would shoot this out there in case it jogged some things loose for ya.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        There are constant policy changes and computer system changes that I have to train everyone on. And then re-train in a minute when it changes again. I hadn’t even thought about adding that. I’ll have to figure out how to frame it, but that’s a huge help!

        The other stuff would be a stretch at this job but I could probably use something similar for previous jobs. Thank you!

    5. JMegan*

      I have no advice, just tagging in so I can follow the thread. Good luck in getting your resume in order, and hopefully in getting yourself a new job!

  30. Soon to Be*

    I’ve been looking forward to getting people’s thoughts on this all week!

    So within the next few months I’m going to be changing my legal name, including my last name, as part of an adult adoption process — basically, I’m being adopted by my long-time stepdad, because I’m finally an adult and my asshat of a birth father doesn’t get to say no anymore. This is exciting and happy!! But I’m wondering how much is appropriate to share around the office. My TMI calibration is a bit wonky; I tend to draw “personal info” and “appropriate to share” info a bit different than most people around me do.

    So, I’m anticipating questions arising when I change my surname — oh, are you getting married? Divorced? Which of course I’m not. But since adult adoption isn’t quite as widely known as child adoption, is it likely to come off as oversharing if I do say that my stepfather is adopting me and therefore I’m now going to be known by his last name?

    1. Soon to Be*

      To clarify, I’m specifically anticipating questions at work, since I’ll have to update my work email and my info with HR and so on and so forth. Outside of work, the people I’ll be telling mostly already know the situation.

      1. Lionness*

        I don’t think you need to give details. When your co-workers ask if you got married (or divorced) you can just say no, and that you decided to change your name. If they inquire further (some will, as this isn’t a common occurrence outside of marriage/divorce for adults) you can just say it is something you’ve wanted to do for some time. If you want to tell them you are taking your step father’s last name, you can. If you want to get into details, you can. But you are not obligated to do so and reall – it is no one’s business.

      2. cuppa*

        I don’t think you need to give out too many details. I know someone at work that just sent out an announcement that said, “My last name is no longer Beauchamp; it is now Fraser. My new work e-mail will be effective May 1.”
        Sure people looked at it, and maybe thought about it, but I don’t think many people asked her about it. On the other hand, one girl got married and just showed up in everyone’s mailbox with a different e-mail. EVERYONE asked about that. I will say that I work in a place where you definitely get announcements about marriages, so it was evident from the first person’s email that she didn’t want to announce the reasons why her name was changing.
        And congratulations!

      3. LillianMcGee*

        Congrats! I agree with Lionness, share as much as you are comfortable. I don’t think it would be TMI to mention that it’s an adult adoption or talk about why it’s important to you. Your name is the most public part of you, so if you want to share why it is what it is then go ahead!

      4. puddin*

        “I have always wanted to share my step-father’s name since he is the one who raised me.” ??

        1. Artemesia*

          I would do this. It is odd for an adult to just change their name for no reason and evokes curiosity. People will assume divorce or marriage if it is a woman and that leads to more TMI discussion than you want. But this statement is clear and graceful and not weird.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          If I worked with you, I would love hearing this. It’s good news. And it’s nice to see people happy about stuff.

    2. Sunflower*

      I think it’s fine to just say ‘I’m changing my name- I’ve been meaning to do it for a while but I’ve just finally gotten around to it’. Usually that stops the questions.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I think if you bring up the adoption, people are mostly going to ask why you went that route rather than JUST changing your name – so if you’re up for explaining it, go for it. Otherwise you could just frame it that you’ve decided to legally take your stepdad’s name (and leave out the adult adoption part).

      2. Jamie*

        I think it’s fine to just say ‘I’m changing my name- I’ve been meaning to do it for a while but I’ve just finally gotten around to it’. Usually that stops the questions.

        This. One of my son’s did it when he turned 18. No acrimony, he just didn’t see he should go through life with his dad’s name when he liked my maiden name better…he’s not a slave to tradition. :) Besides the running around to the bank and the DMV it was no big deal anywhere. He just bluntly tells people he likes it better so he did it because he could.

    3. Kelly White*

      When my husband and his ex wife divorced, she changed both her first and last names.

      A global email was sent out that basically said, as of this date Firstname Lastname will be changing her name to NewFirst NewLast.

      Very simple. No explanation needed.

      1. RiffRaff*

        I’ve never heard of someone changing their first name as well as last in that situation. Not judging, just intrigued.

    4. Shortie*

      Soon to Be, if I were in your specific situation, I think I would say something like “My name has changed from X to Y. My stepfather raised me, and I am finally taking his last name.” This sort of strikes the balance between TMI (which would be the whole adoption story) and unnecessary withholding of info.

      Of course, it is anyone’s right to withhold details and simply say their name has changed–and this would be preferable in certain situations–but in this particular situation, you don’t mind people knowing why, and striking the balance will head off questions.

      1. Shortie*

        (The following does not apply to SoonToBe’s situation; I’m simply fascinated by the topic of openness versus privacy at work.)

        I am a huge advocate of a little more openness at work. It is always people’s right to be private–and should remain so–but I’ve occasionally seen people cling to privacy in ways that really ended up hurting them, usually in regard to health or family issues. It may not be fair, but many colleagues assume performance problems or laziness if someone is missing work a lot or coming to work distracted (for example). Depending on the environment, being a little more open can go a long way toward keeping work relationships good. Not necessary to share all the details, but sharing enough so that people understand the new behavior they are seeing can be helpful and reduce stress for the individual who is already going through something difficult.

        1. Clever Name*

          Yeah, I’m pretty much an open book at work. The people I talk to most at work generally know the broad outlines of how things are going with my life outside of work. I don’t broadcast personal details, but if it makes sense to mention something, I do.

    5. The IT Manager*

      A slightly more informative non-answer is to be vague about adult adoption, but mention it’s a family name.

      “No. (not divorced or married) I’m changing it to honor a family member.”

  31. Chelsea B.*

    Hey everyone – I got a new job! I’m super excited, gave my notice a week ago, and starting soon. I’m feeling a bit nervous though, as I have worked at OldJob for 4 years, and haven’t worked at any other corporate environment. Do you have any tips on how to make myself more comfortable, and tips on things to avoid in my first week? It is a major bump in pay, and focusing on the technology side of the job which I am super interested in. Thanks!

    1. Dawn*

      First day- bring your lunch and any snacks, because you don’t know if you’ll get taken out for lunch or if the whole day will be orientation meetings or what. Be prepared, don’t be hungry! Also try and scope out where the bathrooms are, office supplies, breakrooms, snack machines, etc etc if they’re not immediately obvious. Oh and bring a pen and a notebook so you’re ready to take notes from the get-go and don’t have to wait for anyone to bring you/show you where the office supplies are.

      First week- smile and say hello to every single person that you can reasonably say hello to. Be friendly, make stupid small talk with people in the break room, compliment someone’s scarf or whatever, basically be the super amazingly awesomely nice and outgoing cruise ship director version of yourself. It’ll feel really weird but it’s not forever, it’s just until you get to know everyone. WRITE DOWN THE NAMES AND IDENTIFYING DETAILS of everyone you meet right after you meet them. You will probably be meeting a TON of people and will forget names if you don’t do this.

      First month- at the end of 3 weeks or so I’d say it’s fine to bring in a few personalized items for your desk, like a plant or a picture or whatever. Make it seem a little more homey, and a little more “yours”- I think this has a bigger effect on other people than we realize, because it makes your space seem much more personal and it makes it seem like you’re happily settling in.

      1. Chelsea B.*

        Thank you! These are some really great suggestions. I’ll definitely do these! Bringing my own snacks is big, and not something I necessarily would have thought of, and the same with a notebook for the first day.

        1. Dawn*

          Another thought I had- definitely soak up how people dress in the first week or so and then dress to match that. So if you see women wearing suitjackets and low-key jewelry, match that; or if everyone seems really laid back in how they dress, go for laid back but in a snappy fashion. Matching the “tone” of a new office is important so you don’t seem out of sync with everyone else!

          1. Curious Em*

            To Dawn and everyone else who replied on this topic, I want to express my thanks too for sharing your advice. Since your comments on Friday, I was offered and accepted a job that will be starting soon. As I prepare for my first day, I’m really glad to have these tips in mind.

    2. RidingNerdy*

      My first week, people seemed to want to confess to my new employer’s rough spots. Listen, smile and nod, but take it with a grain of salt. Be objective, give people a fair chance and don’t let others’ thoughts cloud your perception.

      I always like to start my first week by getting in good habits – sort your email into appropriate categories at the end of the day, make a running to-do list from day one, etc. Begin as you mean to go on.

      1. Helen of What*

        Oh, yes. I’m all about setting up my email the way I like it, with labels and folders. My boyfriend’s inbox makes me sad, and makes it hard to believe he notices anything I send him.

        If you’re not familiar with the neighborhood, I’d also take a chance to walk around during lunch or after work sometime in the first week. Always good to know what’s nearby!

    3. LQ*

      I’m personally a very introverted, not…enthusiastic, not friendly person, YMMV on this…

      But my first week I work really hard to be as friendly, personable, outgoing, and polite as possible. It solidifies this image of me into their brains and then as I slowly ease back into the actual version of me they don’t think wow she’s unfriendly, brusque, abrasive, etc. It creates good relationships and makes my job so much easier. Even if it means for the first week or so I’m so exhausted when I get home I have to go directly to bed.

    4. Artemesia*

      I’ve said this before here but I think it is important to be strategic about the image you want to have in the new environment. How would you like to be described in 6 months? What characteristics make you look like a winner in the new environment.

      If it is ‘hard working’ than what are some things you can do the first two weeks that send that message. That might mean staying late now and then or demonstrating quick turn around on something difficult. Maybe it is to excel at a particular function. e.g. I was hired to deal partly with difficult clients no one else wanted to deal with much; I scheduled open door meetings with such clients during my first two weeks so that everyone saw me doing this and it firmly reinforced the image that I was ‘good at this job.’

      If being a team player and ‘friendly’ is important (and it so often is) then paying attention to being pleasant and friendly even if you are an introvert is important.

      Be mindful that what you are doing sets a tone just as what you are wearing does.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      This is going to sound silly- but I have found it helpful. Each night, after you get home, review some of the basics you learned during the day. Your first day that review might be envisioning where the bathroom is in relationship to your work area. Your third day might be remembering the name of your boss’ boss. Try to picture his face, so you will recognize him the next time. Your twentieth day might entail picturing where you found some obscure manual to look something up.
      It is amazing how much these reviews help. Don’t knock yourself out- just take 15 minutes or so each night, this really helps to keep things fresh in your head. I find that I go home exhausted when I start a new job and that is because of getting oriented to so. many. new. things and people.

      1. Snoskred*

        Not So New Reader makes a great point and I just want to add this – re going home exhausted.

        Do not make any set in stone plans after work for the first week. Maybe the first two weeks.

        Allow yourself the evenings on those days to rest and indulge yourself in “me” time. Even if that me time means going to the gym or a walk around the block or taking yourself to the local heated pool and swimming some laps. I do recommend putting some exercise on your to do list if your job is mostly sitting but make sure it is exercise you enjoy and want to do. If swimming is something you enjoy but rarely do, try to fit that in VS a form of exercise you are not a huge fan of.

        Also, if you can, plan your evening meals for that week, and if you have time the weekend before, make a couple of meals you can keep in the fridge and reheat. Plus organise snacks and lunch for those 5 days ahead over the weekend, have them all packed and ready to go, and try to make sure they are snacks and lunch which you can put in your own insulated cooler bag with a frozen bottle of water or block of ice.

        Hope it goes well! ;)

  32. Gene*

    A friend has asked me to review her resume. She worked in the environmental field I’m in for 20 years, then moved to health care (long story, she should have just bought a convertible) and now is going to be looking in the field again.

    We’re both wondering about how to show the recent non-related schooling and work. Should the resume just talk about her related environmental work with the health care stuff in the cover letter, or have it all in the resume? Between the training and jobs, she’s been away from environmental work for almost 5 years.

    Environmental job 1 – blah blah blah

    Environmental job 2 – blah blah blah


    Health care job one – blah blah blah

    Health care job 2 – blah blah blah

    Environmental job 1 – blah blah blah

    Environmental job 2 – blah blah blah

    1. Lionness*

      I think she needs to go with option 2 otherwise they are going to wonder what she has been doing the past 5 years. Some hiring manager scan resumes before cover letters and seeing a five year gap may get them to never review the cover letter.

    2. CheeryO*

      She could do a “Relevant Experience” header for the environmental stuff, with “Other Experience” below it for the more recent jobs.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        Exactly what I was going to recommend, beat me to it! (stupid Flash player plug-in kept crashing). Definitely do the what you’re applying for experience versus other experience when you need to show actual history, and keep it separate. People do it all the time, when I first started applying for professional jobs, I did that with the part-time job I had all through-out college to show I had some kind of job history.

        1. Shortie*

          I’m having that problem with Flash player on this page as well. Haven’t taken the time to try to troubleshoot it or search to see if others have already figured it out, but I need to soon as it’s doing it multiple times per day. I suppose I could have started on it in the time I took to reply here! :-)

          1. GigglyPuff*

            Lol, I just disabled the one Chrome has, and so far hasn’t done it again. Type about:plugins in search bar, “Details” in the top right corner, then scroll down to Adobe Flash and click “disable”

            if you are actually using Chrome :)

  33. Lionness*

    Here at Teapot Equipment we have three customer service teams. Each year, we hold team building days in which each team takes a portion of the day away from work and focuses instead on how to improve their function as a team, and think up ways to improve the way we work. This year, Team A (the early team) wants to spend the entire day doing this. Because of the coverage needed to maintain our operations, this is not an option available to Team C (although Team B could do what Team A is doing – and plans to do so). This would leave the entire department’s workload on Team C for all but 1 hour of their shift. We are very busy when everyone is working, and this amount of work for nearly an entire day would be incredibly difficult.

    When I pointed this out, it was just shrugged off by the supervisor of Team A and Team B and chocked up to being nothing more than a schedule difference and that Teams A and B shouldn’t have to give up their “free time” to have team building events so we should just accept it. But no one is suggesting they give up their free time, only that they choose a shorter event .

    I hate to use this word when discussing work issues, but it feels unjust. The entire workload of a department would be being put onto 1/3 of the regular department and because of scheduling they would never have the opportunity to spend so much time on something that is so highly valued within our company.

    I feel like the approach should be one of equal time. Team A spends X number of hours working and Y number of hours on team building. Team B and Team C do the same. But I’m hoping to get some neutral input because this issue has me pretty hot right now. Especially since the event is in two weeks so I’ve been a bit blindsided.

    1. Judy*

      Does it all have to be the same exact day? Why couldn’t Team A do their event on Monday, and Team B on Tuesday and Team C on Wednesday? That way 2/3 of the staff would be handling the day? Or on Wednesday for 3 weeks?

      1. Lionness*

        They are all on different days but Team A and Team B are joining together to have their “team building” activities together because they work the same shift.

          1. Lionness*

            I think what adds to the issue is that we are the “new” team and they have always done it this way in the past and just let the work not get done but now that there is a team that can do it, the logic is that Team C will do it.

            Beyond the issue of leaving all the work to Team C, it feels rather unjust that Teams A and B get 8 hours of team building and Team C gets, at most 3 hours because the remaining hours must be worked and are outside of the shifts of Team A and Team B.

            1. Dawn*

              Could you frame it less as “unjust” and more as “We want to ensure that everyone gets equal time for team building. Right now Teams A and B have put in for 8 hours of team building. Due to scheduling, Team C can only take 3 hours of team building. So we need to come up with a solution that means everyone gets the same amount of team building time.” This way it’s not being framed as a “Team A+B vs Team C” thing, but as a “hey y’all, everyone needs to have the same amount of team building time, how can we make this happen?”

              1. Lionness*

                That is how I’ve framed it for the work crown. The “unjust” is more my internal mindset on it.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I always think team-building should include building rapport across teams to the benefit of the entire company. This appears to be more of Team A+B against Team C, to the detriment of the overall company. And it sounds like Teams A and B don’t care. It would be nice if there is a way to make Teams A and B realize they are working for the company and with everyone in it, instead of just themselves.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I was just thinking along these lines. Team A and B are not learning how to be part of a larger team because they are failing to incorporate Team C’s needs into their plans.
        The team building exercise has failed and the company has not even had the event yet.
        It’s not team building if everyone is not included. It is a recipe for disaster as Team C is bound to have issues with this.

        I don’t know…. I have had bosses that would say “How come A is clinging to B so much, can’t each team go on their own? Do they really have to hold each other’s hands?”
        And I am curious, Team C work at night? Night shift is famous for getting the short end of the deal. And it fosters resentment that is incredible.

        Ironically, if you do have two separate shifts, the real building that needs to take place is between day shift and night shift. That is usually where the worst problems are.

  34. Into the valley of steel*

    So I’m a manager! After 30 years, I’m going to give it a try. I’m at the point where the corporate directory says I’m a manager, but I don’t have a department name, number, or any employees. I’m told these matters are being worked on, although it is coming slowly. FYI: I work for a very old, very large IT firm.

    Any advice for me as a “first-timer”?

    What should I cover in my first serious sit-down meeting with my new boss?

    What should I cover in my first serious sit-down meeting with each new employee? (I have to hire 6 people).

    Any stories I can learn from, or use to take heart if things seem dark, or “gotcha’s” I should watch out for?

    1. Labyrinthine*

      I just did this same thing 8 months ago. I was hired for my first management job. First task? Hire a team.

      My advice? Get a firm grasp on what makes a high performing team in your company, in your department. Talk this over with your manager. What your manager expects of you, etc. With your first meeting with your employees, talk to them about expectations (yours and theirs) preferred communication methods.

      Be open to learning and adapting your style as you go. Do not rush into hiring – take your time and get the team right. It is worth waiting to make sure you don’t have to replace people a few months in.

    2. BRR*

      Alison has a book. I haven’t gotten it because I’m not a manager but that would be my first stop.

    3. RidingNerdy*

      After you’ve got your team hired, schedule your weekly one-on-one and stick to that plan. It’s easy to kick that can down the road and say you’ll start doing them “one day.”

      In addition to this site, I’ve had good luck with the content produced over on

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Know where your limits of authority are.

      Teach your people what they can go ahead and do on their own vs what they need to check with you on before proceeding.

      Keep a resource list- write down where you go to find the answer to what types of questions. Your people aren’t going to care if you don’t know off the top of your head, but if you can’t find an answer that becomes concerning.

    5. DaBlonde*

      Look at all of the varied jobs for your departments and hire people with different strengths to fit those jobs.
      One of the best departments I worked with taught parenting/father involvement classes, but the manager didn’t hire only social workers and teachers. He made sure that he also had a database person, a numbers/budget person and a graphic design person.
      Check out the short book, “You Can’t Send a Duck to Eagle School” for more about this idea.

  35. Lanya*

    Hi all, I could use some advice from my fellow readers about panic attacks that I’ve been having during meetings at work.

    A few months ago, I was in my one-on-one with my supervisor and suddenly felt faint and nauseous. We had to stop our meeting, and I went home for the day. It turned out to be a 24-hour stomach bug, and I was fine…but ever since then, being in meetings has become a “trigger” of sorts for what I believe are probably panic attacks. I will be meeting with people, doesn’t matter who or where, and all of a sudden I will feel faint, nauseous, short of breath, and sweaty. I have to mentally try to talk myself down from feeling like I am going to pass out. It’s very distracting, especially when I am leading a meeting or if it’s a one-on-one. I think I’m subconsciously afraid of that original embarrassing moment happening again during a meeting, and now that I’m beginning to understand what is a trigger for me, I am starting to become nervous before any meeting begins.

    I’ve decided to see a psychologist about this, and I have an appointment for next week, but in the meantime, I wanted to ask for advice about what to do and the most professional way to handle myself in this kind of situation. Also, should I tell my coworkers what’s going on? Thanks for any advice you can offer.

    1. cuppa*

      For me, focusing on what’s happening and my anxiety about fainting and trying not to faint actually makes it worse… you have to get out of the thought cycle. I find that breathing and working to focus on something else helps immensely. Good luck — it’s more common than you think.

      1. Jillociraptor*

        Counting really works well for me for this. The more anxious I am, the more complicated I try to make the counting (counting up by ones for basic everyday anxiety, Fibonacci sequence for more serious stuff, etc.).

    2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      First-hand experience:
      – Ask for biofeedback training. It’s a form of breathing at a specific pace to override the biological system that creates the anxiety and panic. Practice this for a few minutes as needed – there are phone apps that provide pacing cues and soft music.
      – Don’t be afraid of pharmaceuticals to treat the issue. There are long-term and short-term solutions that you can use. I have both.
      – Pursue talk therapy to uncover root cause. There are many types you can try. Don’t be afraid to leave a therapy or therapist who isn’t working with you.
      – Find a relaxing hobby or other self-care.
      – Look into meditation – try Ram Dass, The Journey of Awakening, where he describes several styles of meditation.

      Good luck!

      1. nona*

        Seconding all of this. Biofeedback is less well-known than other types of therapy but it was incredibly helpful for me. No more panic attacks!

    3. blackcat*

      I’d also check in with your regular doctor. I had a similar problem once that I thought was in my head… I was mostly right–it was in my inner ear! I visited a therapist first, who told me to take myself to an MD… who told me to take myself to an ear, nose and throat specialist. Problem has since been resolved.

      I’d suggest excusing yourself momentarily for a meeting to compose yourself (if you feel able to walk). You can advice coworkers that you’ve been having dizzy spells and that you’re waiting on some appointments to get it sorted out.

      1. Lanya*

        I’ll have to try sipping water. I found an app as recommended above by Dr. Fever, and it has some breathing exercises that seem like they might also help.

        I tried taking notes to distract myself the last time it happened, and it didn’t work very well. But that day I was having a really big one where I felt like I was hyperventilating and had to get up and excuse myself from the meeting for a minute.

    4. april ludgate*

      I have a very similar problem in meetings and I’ve found a few coping mechanisms that work for me. If I can, I bring water with me because, for whatever reason, sipping water helps me calm down and refocus. If I can’t bring water, or if it’s a longer meeting and I don’t want to risk having to use the bathroom, I chew gum (quietly, really I don’t even chew it consistently, I just keep it in my mouth in case I start feeling panicky). Those two big ones, but lately I’ve been asking myself what’s the worst thing that could happen, trying to pinpoint why I feel panicked. If I pass out or throw up what would really happen? Yes, it would be embarrassing, but being humiliated would really be the only consequence. My mind-voice is kind of harsh when it says that, but it helps.

      Just last week I was in a large meeting and I started feeling lightheaded and panicky and I stopped and thought to myself, “So what? If you pass out, at least you’re in a room full of people, some of whom have first aid training.” Thinking about it that way helped. Especially since it’s such a recurring feeling for me it’s sort of like, well I haven’t passed out/puked in a meeting yet, chances are my body’s not going to go through with it today either. The voice inside my head is very snarky, but I always take a moment after words to say to myself, “See? You made it. That wasn’t so bad. You’ll do even better at next month’s meeting.”

      1. Maiasaura*

        I once spent a summer doing research in a rural area of a developing country. My research partner was a former Peace Corps member. We were in a place that is notorious for intestinal ailments, and I was terrified of getting food poisoning. When I told my partner how worried I was, she shrugged and said “Pooping your pants is never actually as bad as you think it’s going to be.” Hah! Fortunately I never had to find out, but I think she was onto something about anticipation being worse than the actual bad thing sometimes.

    5. Lanya*

      Thank you all for your input. This is very helpful, and it’s nice to know I ‘m not the only one!

      Have any of you told your coworkers what is going on and if so, did it help or make the situation worse? I think I would like to tell my supervisor about it, but I don’t want it to become a “thing”. You know what I mean?

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I’ve been there!

        After I was diagnosed (which happened after my first panic attack hit me during a work meeting), I (rather sheepishly) told my immediate boss and a few co-workers what was going on, and that I was working to get it under control. A couple of them immediately shared that they had experienced the same thing. It’s a lot more common than you’d think (especially in that office – a few of us had our first ever panic attacks while working there, and mine all but went away within a year of leaving the job).

        What worked for me was reading a couple of books about what causes panic attacks, what’s going on biologically, and what you can do to help control the symptoms. For example: if you feel like you’re going to faint, remind yourself that people faint when they have low blood pressure, and that panic attacks actually increase your blood pressure. It might feel similar, but you are NOT going to faint. Also, some of the symptoms are due to not enough CO2 in the bloodstream, e.g. if you’re hyperventilating; you can counteract this by holding your breath for a few seconds after inhaling. This allows more CO2 to accumulate in your lungs and get into your bloodstream. Once you start to recognise the very earliest symptoms of a panic attack, you can start doing this breathing pattern and it will help. (There’s a chance that this is psychosomatic rather than an actual physiological response, but hey, whatever works!)

        Good luck!

      2. shirley cakes*

        I have panic/anxiety issues that are directly related to driving a car. I do not have a drivers license because of this. It is very rare that I have to travel or be asked to drive somewhere for work but the request has come up on occasion.

        I’ve had both positive and negative experiences by letting people know at work. Be aware that once you tell your supervisor, whether you want them to or not there is a likelihood that others, especially higher level management, will be told.

        Most people are supportive when I tell them and more often then not are just curious and want to help and understand. There will be those that will judge you and will make a “thing” out of it. I have found that it’s easier in the long run if I am the one to define it by calling it a panic disorder or anxiety disorder. People are more likely to continue to use my terms if I say them – rather than them whispering that I’m “scared” or using other terms I don’t particularly appreciate.

      3. april ludgate*

        I found out one of my coworkers also has meeting anxiety, so talking with her about it really helped. Just sitting there knowing that I wasn’t the only one feeling anxious was reassuring. If your supervisor seems like the type of person who would be understanding, you could casually mention it. It might be more important to mention it if you think other people are noticing the change in your behavior during meetings, just to give your supervisor a head’s up so they know that it’s something you’re acknowledging and working on. You could even lay out how you want it addressed (or if you want it ignored). For me, it helps me relax when other people know that I’m not fidgeting out of boredom or disinterest, but at the same time if anyone asked if I was okay I would be really embarrassed. Figure out how you want to handle it, it’s definitely a YMMV thing.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      If you are using fake sugar at all- stop. These synthetic sweeteners can really cause problems for some people.
      I would also recommend seeing a good chiropractor, if it is an ear problem you might get relief from an adjustment. No, it won’t hurt. The adjustment could be done on a 6 month old baby and the kid would be okay with it.
      Do your breathing exercises in calm moments. It makes them easier to do if you have a panic attack. And I think it helps a tiny bit to prevent panic attacks, but that is just me.

  36. Meg Murry*

    Hope this counts as work related since it relates to how someone comes off as professional (or unprofessional, in this case).

    Is there a polite way to tell a younger woman who you don’t have much of a relationship with that she has a habit of slightly uptalking and would seem much more (IMO) professional if she learned to adjust her speech patterns and sounded less young? This young woman has a position in a non-profit in our community where she is supposed to talk to business leaders and small business owners and lead or facilitate the conversation. She has an impressive title and resume, but the fact that she is (and looks) young doesn’t give her much gravitas, and the speech patterns really don’t help. Its only slightly uptalking (a rising inflection in the sentence, but not all the way to “was that a statement or a question”) but it also sounds a little “valley girl” with the “likes” deleted – as in, it sounds to me as if she once had a problem with superfluous “likes” and managed to cut that out, but the rest of the sentence pattern is still in that format.

    I don’t know this woman well at all – she is more of a friend of a friend that I’ve interacted with a few times, and she has a business relationship with my husband so I have been at dinners she has facilitated. She is super enthusiastic and has big goals and big plans, but I think this could hold her back a little, as it makes her sound more like a college student than business professional.

    FWIW, I’ve heard her speak at a couple of events now, and also on a radio show, and I noticed this speech pattern several times – although it also gets worse when she’s had a few drinks. On one hand, it’s the kind of thing I hope someone close to me would point out to me if they had a concrete resource I could use to stop the speech pattern – but on the other hand, I don’t know how I would take that feedback from an acquaintance, so I’m leaning toward saying nothing and hoping she notices it if she listens to the podcast/radio show she was on.

    1. Spiky Plant*

      Yeah, I’m with Not Today Satan. If she’s got an impressive title and is getting on radio shows and podcasts and whatnot, I think she’s probably doing fine for herself, and this particular bit of advice sounds 1) like something she probably already knows about, and 2) something that verges enough on being a sexist idea that you risk it being taken very differently than you intended. Like, not that you’d mean it as sexist, but there’s definitely a possibility that, since “neutral” in business is cis white male, that that’s why you hear her voice as unprofessional; because it deviates from the norm in a feminine direction.

      Which, like, obviously isn’t your fault (any more than society is the fault of any one person), but I think it’s worth considering as a possibility not only in your own assumptions, but also as something that she quite possibly knows about and has made a conscious decision about.

      1. Kelly L.*

        And I don’t think the science is even definite on this. I remember there was one study that showed that women with vocal fry–which is a different affectation, but of a similar nature–actually were respected more. It’s just one study, but it does make one wonder. My theory is that it sounds “wealthy” to people, but who knows.

        And if she decides she doesn’t like it, she’ll gradually tweak it as she goes along. It’s recorded, so I think she probably has heard a bit of her own voice and knows what it sounds like.

        1. Helen of What*

          I recently heard that the opposition to vocal fry is a generational one, just as opposition to “like” is generational. Younger folks aren’t bothered by vocal fry or “like” as much as older people. Slight upspeak is probably hardly noticed at all.

          People who do a lot of talking for work know what they sound like. She doesn’t need it pointed out to her.

    2. LillianMcGee*

      I also would not say anything but I SO sympathize! Is the sexy-baby-voice something some women learn to do, or is it natural?? I found it most prevalent in college, leading me to believe that most women grow out of it, but I still hear it from time to time walking down the street and it is so grating!

      1. Spiky Plant*

        I’m sure it’s both. There are definitely cultures that indoctrinate that kind of speech in women from birth (I’m given to understand that Japan in particular has a very strong social and cultural idea that this is how women should talk), and then there are some people that just have a young-sounding voice, which really shouldn’t be a problem. And then there are some people who really do super baby-talk stuff that makes everyone want to pull their hair out!

      2. JMegan*

        Ugh, I’m working so hard on this with my daughter. She’s not quite seven, and I don’t know where she gets it, but she definitely uses a baby voice, particularly when she’s asking for things. She’s a bit young for me to tell her “people won’t respect you at work if you talk like that,” but I definitely interrupt and say “no baby talk, please use your big-girl voice” whenever I hear her doing it. Hopefully the message will sink in at some point, and not get lost in the void of parental nagging.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I went through this with both my kids (one boy, one girl) when they were each about seven. Like you, I just kept repeating, “No baby talk; use your big girl/boy voice” until the habit went away.

    3. Pizza Lover*

      The only thing I can suggest that is different from everyone else is that you could always tell someone you’re both pretty close with, and maybe they can be the one to mention it to her. But I agree that it’s not really your call.

    4. Meg Murry*

      Thanks for all the advice and letting me vent – because really that’s all I can do. I agree its not my call, but it is frustrating to me because I believe in the mission of her non-profit and I think it is not helping her cause of getting taken seriously.

      One thing I meant to say that I left out was that she has an impressive sounding title, but it is for a tiny (4 people, only 2 full time) non-profit – and I suspect the other titles on her resume are similar – so she is trying to play the part of someone with a lot of experience and a high position, but in reality she doesn’t have the experience, and I don’t know that she’s ever had anyone to mentor her on this kind of thing.

      I hope if I ever lapse into these speech patterns someone tells me. Taking a speech class where I was videotaped definitely helped me with other vocal tics, as much as I hated watching myself.

    5. Cath in Canada*

      I’ve said this to a grad student after her first group presentation. After saying that it was a great presentation overall (which it really was), I said something like “I’ve noticed that you do something that I used to do, too, and I’m going to pass on the advice that I was given, because it’s been really helpful”. I then gave her an example of the uptalk, compared to normal speech? And said that it’s something a lot of younger people, and women particularly, tend to do – it’s almost like checking for reassurance as you go along that you’re saying the right thing and that everyone agrees with you. I said it can make you seem less sure of yourself. She thanked me, and there was no uptalk in her next presentation.

      I think the key is to not make a big deal about it. I just said it casually (and with no-one else around) as we were walking back to the office from the presentation venue.

    6. super anon*

      i recently listened to a very interesting this american life episode on vocal fry, and how it’s becoming the new thing to hate on young woman for including in their speech, taking the place of the ubiquitous “valley girl accent”. they had a linguist on that had done research on the subject after hearing a reporter on npr speaking with a lot of vocal fry, which she found very unprofessional, unauthoritative, and not at all how a npr host should speak. she did a preliminary study and found that those under 40 found nothing wrong with the way the host spoke, and in fact found the tone very authoritative. it was those over 40 who had a problem with the way the host spoke. the linguist went on to say that she had found the same thing before with like, and uptalk, and that her advice to everyone (including herself) was to just get over it.

      anyway i type all of this to say that’s it’s very likely that this woman’s peers don’t find a problem with her tone at all, and if that she’s making enough headway to get on podcasts and radio interviews herself, she’s doing well for herself regardless of how she speaks, and you should leave it alone.

      oh, and if anyone is interested in that particular TAL segement, it’s act 2 of episode 545. it’s up on the tal website to stream. :)

  37. esra*

    Fellow Canadians:

    I’ve only been on EI once, and not for very long, so I’m not totally sure what to do about an upcoming job issue.

    I’m going to need to have surgery soon (consulting with the surgeon in coming weeks to find out details), and am currently covering a mat leave contract. I’m going to pitch work from home during my recovery, but if the company is not on board with that, how does that work? Are you fired for not doing your job? Is it technically considered quitting?

    Has anyone ever dealt with something like this before? I’ve been employed full-time for most of the past eight years, so I’ve been paying into EI, CPP all that.

    1. Beebs*

      This would likely fall under short term disability. If you do not have access to those benefits, you could possibly take a leave and claim EI. You would not be fired/quit/etc. and you return to work when you are able to.

    2. Chriama*

      Does your work have any short-term disability benefits? If so, at least part of your pay should be covered. If not, there are 2 issues:
      1) being paid for the time off
      2) having a job to come back tp
      If your company won’t let you work from home but is willing to give you the time off unpaid, you might be able to get EI or some other benefits.
      If your company isn’t willing to give you the time off at all, you’re definitely eligible for EI.

    3. fposte*

      Not a Canadian, but an esra fan–good luck on the surgery and hope you get a speedy recovery and a great outcome.

      1. esra*

        Aaw, thanks! I think the surgery will go well, but it definitely requires some work-from-sofa in the weeks following.

    4. KarenT*

      My understanding is that yes you can use ei if you’re off for surgery as long as you’re not being paid. Phone Service Canada for details. They were very helpful in providing me info on my claim.

      Do you have healthcare benefits? If so you’re likely eligible for short term disability (company will continue to pay you but at a reduced rate).

      I’m not sure if they could fire you, but I suspect not. Either way any reasonable company wouldn’t, unless you knew you couldn’t complete the remainder of your contract.

      Are you in Ontario? If you do find yourself out of work (very unlikely bases on your original post :) ) and cannot afford any medications you need you may be eligible for the Trillium drug plan.

      Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

    5. jhhj*

      Be careful about “pitching in from home” which might not be legal while you’re on EI (and money you get will be taken out of your EI benefits). But one of the options on the ROE is medical leave, and you can receive sickness leave until you go back to work.

      What province are you in? Provinces can have slightly different rules.

  38. Anony-moose*

    I work in a department of three people. One director (my boss Circe) and two direct reports (Sansa) and myself. I started with this team in October. Both Sansa and I have the same title and very similar responsibilities.

    Sansa started grad school this year and was working 40 hours/4 days per week (10 hour days give or take). Just recently she went down to .8 FTE and only 3 days a week (so 10+ hours per day). I’m 40 hours per week, 5 days per week.

    The problem is Sansa isn’t actually working the full days she is supposed to, and while I could care less about hours worked and when she’s here, it’s really starting to affect my work. She is also rushing through projects so as not to have to put in extra time. There’s now a trend where I have to take significant initiative to start projects, and end up doing about 80 percent of the work. She is also producing work with mistakes and I have been put in difficult situations where our CEO wants to know why I screwed up say, budget numbers, when I had nothing to do with the final documents that were presented.

    Even though I’ve been here less than a year it’s clear Sansa is a high performer and gets shit done, so I’m not sure where all the mistakes, leaving work early, and being unwilling to collaborate is coming from. We also have a good working relationship and get along well so I don’t feel she’s trying to avoid working with me or has issue with me.

    So how do I go to our boss and share that Sansa’s work is really impacting my ability to do MY work without sounding whiny? I don’t want to say “Sansa is leaving work an hour early every day and I have to pick up her work for her” but that is how it feels.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      She is also producing work with mistakes and I have been put in difficult situations where our CEO wants to know why I screwed up say, budget numbers, when I had nothing to do with the final documents that were presented.

      Can you just tell your boss, “Sorry, that part of the project wasn’t on my plate. You’ll have to ask Sansa about those numbers”? Pointing out her responsibilities in the moment might help.

      1. Anony-moose*

        You’re totally right about this and I have no issue doing it. It’s a bit of an odd cultural thing here, though – people point fingers and says “I didn’t do it! someone else made the mistake” and I want to try to figure out a way to say “hey team, this set up isn’t working for me” without it seeming like I’m just blaming Sansa.

        With this particular issue I was less upset about the mistake (we all make mistakes!) and more upset that she left early without double checking her work but told me it was complete. Does that make sense?

        1. E*

          If you can manage a genuinely confused expression while stating that the mistake wasn’t in your part of the project, it won’t come across as pointing fingers, just that you are concerned about the project being correct as a whole.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      It sounds like grad school and work responsibilities aren’t meshing. Rather than the two of you having similar/overlapping responsibilities, is there a different way do divide the work so that you’re not as dependent on her output?

      1. Anony-moose*

        I think this needs to happen. I totally get the difficulties of balancing school/work/life and think overall she’s doing a stellar job. But I’ll be going to my boss in the next few weeks to share just how much of Sansa’s workload I’m having to pick up and I will recommend that we need to divide the work differently.

        The big problem it’s all the ‘other duties as assigned’. Since Sansa is only in the office 3 days a week (and leaves early) I’m the one that gets the ad hoc projects, the urgent emails, and the impromptu emails. It really means I only have two days a week to do my job!

        I am hoping we might be able to hire an associate and/or a grant writer. Even someone 10 hours a week could help me out, but again I’m just not sure how to make the case without sounding whiny. I think what I am running into is a confidence issue on my end!

        1. The IT Manager*

          Not that this helps you per se, but it sounds like Sansa requested to go part-time for her own reasons and you company agreed to keep a higher performer on, but it really is a job that takes 40 hours a week.

          1. Anony-moose*

            I think you’re right. She was totally up front about needing to cut back her hours and we were thrilled that she got approval for it, but it’s leaving us in a bit of a lurch. I’m also thinking about how to make the case for a part-time associate in our department to help alleviate the workload even if she WAS working 40 hours a week!

            1. The IT Manager*

              I think that’s the way to go. There was no down-time before and the loss of that effort is having an impact on your departments ability to get everything done correctly.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Have you talked to Sansa at all about this? Does she seem completely overwhelmed with both work and school, and maybe she actually needs to go down to .5 or .6 and you need to hire a half-time temp? Or is it the kind of position where you could get an intern for the summer (that would actually be of use to you, not just one more thing for you to handle).

          I do agree that having a clear division of Arya’s projects vs Sansa’s projects would help. Can your boss take on some of the impromptu emails or is she(he?) the one sending them?

          1. Anony-moose*

            I haven’t talked to her explicitly to say “hey, you’re leaving me in a lurch here” but I have started dialogue about what I need help with, and how we can work around her schedule. The conversation is slowly beginning!

            The problem is that while we have different areas of focus, our skill-sets and day to day work is really the same. So my boss is for the most part the one just saying “Get it done” and, in absence of Sansa being here “Arya, I need you to do this!”

            I did bring up with her that a) I needed her to be aware of how much extra work I was picking up and that b) Sansa wasn’t really willing to take the initiative on any last-minute projects. She heard me and said she saw the same thing (and I started to see some changes) but that was before Sansa went down to part time.

            Last week she asked about a process that was supposed to be put in place. I told her “We had agreed Sansa would take that on,” and she responded “But she’s only 3 days a week now.” I said on the spot “I can’t take on any more projects like this one without impacting my ability to do my work so we’ll need to revisit this as a team. If you want me to take over this part of teapot productions I’ll have significantly less time to write and proof teapot manuals.”

            1. Meg Murry*

              This sounds like a good time for the reverse of a to-do list – a “what I did today” list and a “what isn’t getting done that was one the to-do list”.

              I started this when I got overwhelmed with being the go-to point person for everything (and I wasn’t in a position where interruptions were supposed to be a major part of the job, but they were becoming the only thing I ever got done, and it really helped to show my boss how much extra I was winding up doing.

              Is Sansa taking classes this summer too, or is she nearing the end of the semester and will be back to 100% Or at least holding up her 80%?

              Last, I really don’t think >10 a day is actually sustainable or efficient – unless Sansa is putting in a lot of time at home, 32 hours a week smashed into 3 days is not nearly as effective as a person working 32 hours a week over 4 or 5 days.

              1. Anony-moose*

                Love the to-do list idea. I am a neurotic list maker and use Trello so I can easily add a “didn’t get done today” list and track it. I’ve also been tracking how much time I spend on projects so I can say “hey, I’m only spending 20% per week writing and it should be 80%.

                I agree that 10 hours/day isn’t sustainable and I was pretty surprised it was approved. It also makes it hard having an integral member of our team gone 2 days a week.

    3. fposte*

      “Can we meet to talk about scheduling and workflow now that Sansa’s working the grad school schedule? It’s caused some changes and I’d like some guidance/I’d like Sansa and I to have some guidance in dealing with them.”

      1. Anony-moose*

        Thank you!

        The good thing is I have a great relationship with my boss (have worked for her now in 3 different positions at 2 companies) and our CEO likes me too and is starting to see how much value I add.

        The bad news is that I have worked with my boss for so long she knows I’ll never let work slip through the cracks so I think there’s a subconscious undercurrent of “welll if Sansa can’t take care of this Arya will!” and we don’t discuss the ramifications of this nearly enough!

    4. Kelly White*

      My guess is that no-one really thought through how to divvy up the work or off load anything- that the two of you are still expected to do 80 hours of work, in 70 hours.

      Since you are physically there 40 hours, 5 days, I can see how more will get pushed to you. Do you know if Sansa’s workload has actually been reduced (in a practical way- were projects/responsibilities shifted to other people, besides you?) Or is it just that her schedule was adjusted, and now the expectation is that you do 50 hours of work.

      That might be the discussion to have with your boss- to clarify how much of Sansa’s old work you are supposed to be covering, and what.

      1. Anony-moose*

        I think you are right. We’re in an organization that has a “get shit done” mentality so the assumption is we’d al just figure it out.

        I feel like I’ve gotten a lot out of this thread and can have an informed conversation with my boss. I was getting a bit cranky and frustrated before. Thank you to all who chimed in – it’s helped me clear my mind and identify what is really the problem. That’s why I love this community!

  39. Technical Writer*

    I have to write a number of quick reference guides for my companies sales people who are in the field all the time. Are there any technical writers out there who have any tips on making usable QRGs for viewing on tablets?

    1. A. D. Kay*

      I need a bit more info. What are you documenting–Equipment or software? What writing tools do you use? For example, if you are using FrameMaker, you can publish to EPUB format, and that output should be viewable on tablets.

      1. Technical Writer*

        I’m documenting software. Currently using word and powerpoint but hoping to get adobe in design.
        This is something that my job has morphed into so I dont have a ton of experience with technical writing. But I need to develop some succinct guides for following particular software processes in the field. It may also be given to some customers using the same software.

        I am not sure exactly how to go about making mobile documentation. I’ve been creating downloadable PDFs for employees to access on the computer that have greater information. I’m not sure if I should stick with a PDF or if there is something that would be better for mobile viewing. Also, in terms of design, are there things to consider like colors and contrast in order to keep the files clear and readable?

        I hope that’s a bit more clear. If not, I can try to elaborate again.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Not a technical writer, but when I google “quick reference” guide and look at the images, I see a lot of items that would look good on a single sheet of paper but would involve a lot of scrolling back and forth on a tablet to see all at once. What size screen do most of them have, tablet-wise? If I open up a pdf on my tablet with a normal font size and then zoom so I can read it, I can fit 1/2 to 1/4 a page on the screen at any one time – so keep that in mind. Can you ask to borrow a tablet for a few days so you can look at some of what you have created in the past and see if it does or doesn’t work as is?

        2. Catherine in Canada*

          Tech writer here – I haven’t done any tech doc work for mobile devices but one of my books is being converted by Createspace to the Kindle format. When I was talking to the rep at Createspace (they called me and offered a freebie) he said that acceptable formats for Kindle included html.

          Does MSWord save to html? Seems to me it does. That might work.

          As for formatting:
          First of all, the QSGs I create are in a tri-fold format on A4, so fairly narrow columns with information flow from the bottom of one to the top of the next. Seems to me that something like that would work well on a mobile device. Better to scroll than a pdf that you have to zoom and track around on.
          Second, QSGs do need to be very succinct. It can take a long time to settle on the right balance of enough info but not too much. And depend on your audience. I use a lot of numbered and bulleted lists -they can capture a lot of information in a compact way. (Seems to me that hyperlinks between all your headings might be a good idea too.
          Third, readability. Serif fonts are more readable in smaller sizes, and black on white is the easiest to read. Stick with one font, vary the size and style for headings, notes and etc. Use colour in the headings, borders and possibly as background colour in text boxes.

          That’s all I got. Have fun!

            1. Ultraviolet*

              I always wondered whether you were two people or one person who typed her name in differently sometimes!

  40. Ali*

    I am in NYC for a job interview! I started using my sister’s address on my resume when applying to jobs here. Got a response on Monday asking me to meet this week! So here I am! I’m meeting with a headhunter who posted the job, but it’s still a step!

    For what it’s worth I am writing this from a coffee shop, not the building I’m going to for my interview. Haha. Still need good vibes though!

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Good luck, Ali. I’ve been following your comments, and you are due for some good in your work life. Sending ~~~~~good vibes~~~~~ that this is it!

  41. Anon Embarrassed*

    Work crushes:
    A person that I thought I had a friendly working relationship with told me that he has a big crush on me. I’m a married woman and don’t really know how to respond. What is he trying to achieve from telling me this?
    I don’t want to lead him on, so I guess I’ll have to stick to necessary business only. It’s too bad, I liked having a friend like him.

    1. Someone Else*

      This happened to me… Be very careful about the amount of time you spend with him now, what could have been previously veiwed as harmless co-worker lunches to him, could start to feel like dates. Other co-workers might also pick up on his new vibe toward you and might gossip. It’s best to pull away, and only interact on a professional level, and shut him out of even the friend zone so he can deal with is feelings.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Also, if you haven’t already, make sure to gently but firmly say, “I am married and not interested. I hope we can continue to work together.” or some other clear rejection.

    2. Dasha*

      Maybe something like (with some adjusting), “Bob, I’ve really enjoyed our friendly working relationship and interactions over the past few (months, years, whatever) and I’ve been processing what you’ve said about having a crush on me. I really hope that I didn’t do anything to give you the wrong impression and if I did, I apologize. I just wanted to clear the air because I know we need to have a professional relationship (and only a professional relationship) to continue to work together successfully.”

    3. iseeshiny*

      Is it too late to laugh it off? Like, “Aw, that’s so sweet! Keep dreaming! So about those chocolate teapots?”

      1. Anon Embarrassed*

        Looking back on things now, I see how that was the tactic that I had been using with flirty statements, etc., and obviously that didn’t work well. I think that’s why he finally said something outright.
        I guess that’s why I am curious as to what he means and what he wants to achieve by telling me this. We are friendly, but not outwardly enough so that others would pick up on something being there (well, at least as far as I know.) He’s known for being a friendly, popular guy, and it’s not like we have lunch all the time or spend hours at each other’s desks chatting all day. Days can go by that we don’t even talk to each other. (This works to my advantage, since it won’t look like there’s a really abrupt turn of events.)
        I think right now, I’m just going to stick to business only, and if he brings something up again, ask him what his intentions are and make mine clear. This just really caught me off guard and I can’t help feeling like I unintentionally led this guy on.

        1. fposte*

          He means anything from “Flirting is fun! Let’s keep doing it!” to “Flirting is fun! Any chance of something else?”

          I don’t see any need to ask him his intentions, because they don’t matter. “Your comment threw me off; I think it’s a sign that we’ve gone beyond a workplace conversation even though I didn’t realize it, so I’m going to stick to professional communications from now on.” And then quit flirting.

          1. Chriama*

            I like your text better than mine. Call him out for what he said and also make it clear that any friendliness you may have had in the past is no longer an option.

        2. Chriama*

          I have to say I strongly disagree with that approach. Your experience has clearly shown you it doesn’t accomplish anything, and what’s the purpose in laughing it off? Because it’s awkward and/or rude? He made it that way when he explicitly told his *married* *coworker* that he has a “serious crush” on her. Clearly shutting him down isn’t rude, and it’s just shifting the awkwardness back on him where it belongs.

          Also, I posted below but I feel really strongly about this so I’m going to repeat myself here. Since he made a point of telling you this, you need to respond to his statement. Just trying to pull away isn’t going to solve anything. And quite frankly, it doesn’t matter what his intentions are — and it especially doesn’t matter what he says his intentions are. That was an inappropriate statement, and you need to let him know clearly that you thought it was inappropriate and that you’re only interested in maintaining a professional relationship here. Throughout your comments I hear so much unconscious, ingrained sexism here — worried that you led him on somehow, wanting to know what his intentions were, trying to get him to back off without actually saying it — why is it your fault that he was inappropriate, and why is it your job to make sure his feelings don’t get hurt? Is there something about being a woman that makes it inherently your fault if men are so attracted to you that they cross professional and social boundaries? Let him take responsibility for his own actions!

          1. iseeshiny*

            Well *I,* iseeshiny, could laugh it off because I’m not a people pleaser and have a minor case of rbf, so when I laugh at someone and say “Keep dreaming” it is really means “Never gonna happen, sad puppy!” Because I have very firm and evident boundaries and have managed to shake off a lot of the social conditioning to never let any man around me feel bad ever for anything and trying to manage others’ feelings for them, there is zero chance that any sane person will hear it as “Maybe if you keep dreaming and are persistent enough I WILL become yours!” Laughing it off has worked for me in the past – I make it clear I’m not and will never take it seriously, and he can pretend it was all in good fun, and the status quo which has been working for me up until now can be maintained.

            Further comments from Anon Embarrassed make it evident that that approach will not work for them, so your advice is definitely better in this instance. Just so everyone knows, I agree it is 100% okay not to feel like this should be laughed off. If things need to get weird for a while in order for him to go back to acceptable social interactions, it is okay and cool and not your fault if they get weird – that’s on Crush Guy for feeling the need to unload his feelings on you.

            1. Chriama*

              Fair enough, I understand why that would work for you. When someone’s posting here though, I err on the side of giving permission to be not ‘nice’ rather than a suggestion that could reinforce the idea that being ‘nice’ is a woman’s role.

        3. I'm a Little Teapot*

          There’s no such thing as unintentionally leading someone on. If you weren’t deliberately attempting to manipulate his feelings, you weren’t leading him on.

    4. Chriama*

      Whether you ‘led him on’ or not, as long as he knows you’re married then he has to know this is inappropriate. Relationships between coworkers are already a tricky issue in the workplace. Relationships between coworkers who are married, but not to each other, is just drama waiting to happen. You need to nip this in the bud ASAP.

      “Bob, I know we’ve had a friendly working relationship, but we are coworkers and I’m married. This is incredibly inappropriate and I need to know if you can maintain a professional relationship with me or if this is going to be a problem.”

      And then you need to pull away from him completely and become business only. I would err on the side of being unfriendly as long as you’re not obstructing his work.

      Also, while I definitely don’t want to blame you for his actions, the way you’ve phrased some things here make me think you may not know how to set appropriate boundaries in general. Whether this is because you’re naturally friendly or just worried about seeming rude, it’s worth looking at how you interact with other people and seeing if there’s anything you want to change.

      1. Anon Embarrassed*

        You make a lot of valid points, and I really appreciate your input. I do want to look at my interactions with people and make changes, not only in this area, but in other areas as well. I am a naturally friendly person, but I also struggle with people thinking I’m rude (as well as people-pleasing and other unhealthy behaviors). I’m glad you put it into the perspective for me that this is inappropriate and I need to put a stop to it.

        1. Chriama*

          I’m glad I could help! I definitely got the vibe from you that you’re a people pleaser, and I was worried about striking a balance between telling you that it’s ok to be blunt without making it sound like you’re wrong if you choose to maintain a friendly persona. I think sometimes the counter to sexism is to tell women that they should be more like men, and that’s not fair.

          1. Anon Embarrassed*

            That is exactly what I struggle with — striking a balance between curbing unhealthy behaviors (people pleasing, setting boundaries) while still keeping behaviors that I feel like are a part of me that I don’t necessarily want to stop (being friendly) . And I mean this more as a whole, not just necessarily in this specific situation. I’m getting there, but it is a challenge. Thanks again!

    5. Lady Bug*

      I had a similar situation. I worked in an office of 6 or 7 people mixed men and women and we all had a flirty/jokey banter, and no one took it seriously, or so I thought. One day, just me and a coworker were in the office and he kept asking me why we weren’t more than friends (we were both married). I tried laughing it off and saying because I’m married, but he kept pushing the issue. I finally told him to drop it and go back to his cubicle because he was out of line. Our relationship totally changed and I wouldn’t even joke with him in a non-busy way. I felt a little bad, but ultimately it was his fault for not backing off. Best of luck.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Good advice. Anon E., first and foremost there is no need to be embarrassed. You did not create this situation. Secondly, he told you because he hopes to spark a “romance” with you. There is no other reason for saying that. Do what you got to do to show that your no means NO and not “ask again later”.

  42. Secret Code Name for Today*

    Does anyone have any tips for dealing with depression while you’re at work? I’ve been really down lately and any tips to stay on track at work would be much appreciated. I just feel like my emotions are all over the place and I don’t want my work or co-workers to suffer because of it.

    1. jenna maroney*

      Captain Awkward had a piece about it that will come up if you google “captain awkward depression work.” It’s a little more focused on “keeping your job” than “doing it well,” but as she points out, some aspects of “looking good” are also genuinely helpful in a work environment.

      Depression sucks. I’ve been through it a couple times myself, and I’m sorry you have to deal with it. I hope you’re able to both do what you need and be compassionate with yourself about how hard that can be.

    2. afiendishthingy*

      Are you in treatment for it? I’ve definitely been where you are but unfortunately beyond caring for the depression I don’t really have tips for how to keep it from affecting your productivity and work relationships. Be patient with yourself, do what you can to get yourself feeling better. I hope you feel better soon.

    3. Anony-moose*

      1) Big hugs. Dealing with depression is so difficult and work can make it harder.

      I know that when I’m going through a few weeks/months where I’m more depressed than usual, work seems to take ALL my energy and I have a hard time producing high quality work.

      I think acknowledging that you are depressed is a big first step. It is OKAY to not be okay for a while. Focus on figuring out how to get your work done so that you aren’t stressed or letting down your team. For me this can be lots of to-do lists and even setting a timer for 20 minutes or so just to Get Shit Done.

      And then take care of yourself when you AREN’T working. I’ll schedule a massage for right after work, or take myself to a movie. Or binge watch Drop Dead Diva. Basically, I’ll baby myself for a few days and not kick myself too much about how I should be working harder, better, or smarter. It’s ok to need self care and to take sometime to get your emotions back on track.

      If you aren’t seeing a therapist I highly recommend it. I go to therapy weekly and also try to go to yoga/meditation a few times a week as well. It really helps.

    4. Mostly Cloudy*

      I have to second Captain Awkward’s post. I think the section about documenting is extremely helpful, not only to keep the lines open with management, but also to prove to yourself stuff is getting done. I keep a private list of things I’ve accomplished like:

      -Did first third of document x –> will do second third tomorrow
      -Changed printer toner
      -Cleaned up sent mail folder
      -Helped a-hole customer without strangling them

      It will help you see that you ARE functioning. It may not be at full capacity, but shit is still getting done. Time management is key. Break things up into small tasks and start them early so you’re not overwhelmed each day. And if you have a day where you truly just can’t get anything done you’ll have some slack in your schedule, ideally. Don’t let things snowball.

      Try to knock out the hardest thing right away. Then you can point to that task all day and think, “Hey I did that! Today is already a success!”

      And therapy and medication can be very helpful if you have those options. Don’t be afraid to seek help or take a mental health day off. You’ll get through this! (And you’re not alone. I’m off to pick up my first dose of meds.)

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Make sure you are getting vitamins and minerals in to you. I am not sure I have been clinically depressed, but things have been bleak sometimes. I worked with veggies and protein drinks to help buoy me up. If you don’t feel like eating much maybe you could work with a shake or drink that is fortified. Lack of food only makes matters worse. If we are going through some rough stuff the stress alone can cause our bodies to lose vitamins and minerals at an unusually high clip.

  43. jenna maroney*

    Just venting here – twice now my boss has put up a product for sale (not preorder) when he has been told it’s not done. One of those is whatever, those people will have a weirdly long wait, but another was a digital product that had several errors that hadn’t been caught as well as other areas of improvement. I hate being told that our goal is high-quality output (which should inspire and motivate us to love our jobs), but seeing in practice that that’s not really going on. At least be consistent!

    Can’t wait for my background check to clear so I can give notice that I am getting off this ride.

  44. Christian Troy*

    I’m in the final stages of interviewing for a great opportunity so naturally the hiring manager reached out to my references. The hiring manager ended up emailing me after talking with one of them because she said the reference said I had a problem with another supervisor but couldn’t tell her anything about it. I was horrified because it sounded factually inaccurate and incredibly negative. I explained to the hiring manager what happened that my reference was referring to and how I would have handled it different based on feedback he gave me.

    Following Alison’s advice about how to handle a bad reference, I contacted my reference to see what was going on. He has a different version of events, saying the hiring manager asked directly what I could improve upon and how I dealt with conflict. He claims he explained that I was put in an unfair situation by another supervisor and he thought I could have handled it better, but didn’t remember all the details.

    I don’t know what to think of this situation. My reference and I had a rough patch years ago, but we completed other successful projects since then and he’s never indicated he was uncomfortable with serving as a reference (I gave him multiple outs). I want to believe he’s telling me the truth, but then why is the hiring manager relaying a different set of events that sound negative and inaccurate?

    1. J.B.*

      You probably don’t want to offer him as a reference in the future. You called and asked, and hopefully you can move on from it.

      1. Christian Troy*

        My reference is my thesis advisor and I did the majority of research for him the last few years. If I don’t include him, I don’t have anyone else to use.

    2. Steve G*

      So he doesn’t remember the details of the event, and he admits it was a difficult situation for you, but he is still bringing it up, knowing it can hurt your chances to get the job and earn a livelihood? Even though it was something that was obviously so not important that he can’t even remember the details? I am livid!

      1. Christian Troy*

        He doesn’t think he did anything wrong because he said the hiring manager asked if I ever had a work conflict and how I resolved it, and what my areas of improvement are. He claims he’s “being honest when asked a direct question.”

        I’m mad at myself because when I worked for him, he gave me presents and then got mad that I wasn’t happy enough to receive them or some crap. He used to rub my back a lot, which I didn’t like either but didn’t want to say it made me uncomfortable because he did it to other employees. I tried to save face by being extra nice/perk/whatever since he felt slighted or whatever, but for all intents and purposes he was my advisor and my boss. I should have probably quit when all of it started or something. But I don’t know what to do. It’s been really upsetting because I’ve been applying and interviewing for jobs a long time and he doesn’t get it, at all. I know I probably should stop using him as a reference but I’m sure it’s going to look really bad.

        1. Chriama*

          Oh man, I’m full of righteous feminist anger today over some of these comments! I think there are 2 possibilities going on here:

          1) your boss has some issues with emotional boundaries and professional norms. He’s telling the truth about how he responded to the reference checker, but the way he said it caused her to interpret it the way she did. As someone who lacks professionalism I don’t know if he’s really a great reference.
          2) your boss has issues with emotional boundaries and professional norms resents the fact that you tried to set boundaries with him and/or that you’ve escaped his grasp, and is taking delight in screwing you over. Someone that manipulative is also not a great reference.

          A good reference should want you to end up in a job that suits your skills, and would make sure to speak to your strengths andbe clear about what your areas of improvement are – not “she handled it badly, but I don’t remember how and I’m not sure how she should improve that”.

          I’m really sorry to hear you’re going through this. If it’s at all possible that your boss is ‘A’ rather than ‘B’, could you maybe try talking to him about what you’d like him to say to reference checkers? Would he agree to that>

          1. Christian Troy*

            When all of this first started, my friend was waving all the red flags that this guy knows what professional boundaries are but chooses to ignore them and see how much he can get away with. I don’t want to push communication with him any further as he already seemed pretty defensive with the, “I am not going to lie when asked a direction question.” I just feel totally screwed professionally right now.

            1. Chriama*

              Oh man, he’s B. So the question is how you communicate to reference checkers that your previous boss is a lying, manipulative douchebag? The only thing I can think of is maybe thinking of some of the things he might try to say to reference checkers and try and preemptively mention them during the interview process? Like, if he’s going to use that vague story about how you had a conflict with someone, you use it first and mention (as an aside) how you struggled to get feedback from your boss and how it was a learning experience for you. If you can subtly hint that your boss is not a reliable narrator and come across as personable and aware of your own weaknesses, his opinion will be less likely to sway them.

              Also, are there *any* other references you could use? Lab mates? Undergrad professors? People you’ve worked with in a volunteer capacity?

              Other than that, networking is the best option. Let everyone you know, and everyone they know, about the kind of job you’re looking for. Reach out to old colleagues and professors. Go for informational interviews with alumni from your school.

              This really sucks and I’m so sorry :(

            2. J.B.*

              I’m sorry, it’s a really rough situation. I do think you need to stop offering him as a reference. Check Alison’s archives for advice about how to handle a bad reference. The good news is that once you get a professional job no one will care what your thesis advisor says. Except maybe another academic, and there is a possibility that person would know of his reputation.

              In this case I would also dig further. Is there anyone sympathetic in the department you could talk to? If not, maybe even university HR would have some advice on how to handle it. Or even the department head. If he did that to you he has likely done it to others.

        2. april ludgate*

          As someone who works in a college that has all employees go through harassment training, his behavior is 100% not okay. He should not be touching any of the students he oversees and he should know better. This could be a much bigger problem and you should seriously, seriously, consider reaching out to your school’s HR department about what you experienced to stop this from happening to more students. If one of the students I supervise told me that, I would be required to report it. That behavior is a huge red flag, especially from a professor.

    3. Meg Murry*

      Does this mean you are out of the running, or just that the hiring manager has a concern? Is there someone else you could offer up as an additional reference, and maybe explain something like “Thesis Advisor is one of those people who thinks he needs to be brutally honest about everything, and that everyone has room to improve always. However, I also worked with Bob Smith, and he is willing to speak to you as a reference as well.”

      Who was the other supervisor you had a conflict with? Was there anyone else you worked with at the time who could speak better to how you handled it? Or any chance you could talk to the Hiring Manager about what happened, and how you learned from the experience, and what you now do to make sure that doesn’t happen again – especially if it was a situation that happened a few years ago?

      I think if the Hiring Manager contacted you to get your side of the story, you still have a chance – after all, if the reference was really really terrible I would guess they would just have dropped you and sent the “thanks but no thanks” letter.

      In future, if there is any mention of reference checking and they ask for 3 references, could you provide 4, and tell them that your advisor might give you a lukewarm reference because that’s just what he does to everyone but you didn’t want to leave off your most recent supervisor?

  45. Sunflower*

    At my company the direct of dept A, Sarah, is a little neurotic and has been at the company for about 10 years. She has an assistant, Cassie, who was hired about 6 months ago. Cassie was referred by a woman in my department, Nicole, so they are friends and that is how I know about this situation. As far as work goes, everything is fine and Cassie and Sarah work well together. Sarah has a very sensitive nose and has always had issues with her assistant’s smells. Sarah has an office and Cassie sits outside about 10 ft away. In the past, Sarah has asked her assistants to not use certain perfumes, shampoo’s/conditioners, and deodorants. I would say half the office knows about Sarah’s sensitive nose and almost everyone thinks it’s crazy. Cassie has asked several people in her department if her scent is too strong or bothering them and everyone has said no. I’ve casually talked to Cassie a couple times and never noticed any scent coming from her whatsoever. She’s ‘clean looking’ and neatly put together so it’s not an appearance thing. Cassie has done several things like offered to move her desk farther away and was told that’s not an option. Cassie told Sarah that her shampoo and deodorant has always worked for her and she wouldn’t feel comfortable changing it. Sarah is not happy about this and last week came in with a bottle of detergent and demanded Cassie start washing her clothes in this. This caused Cassie to start crying citing that she feels like something is wrong with her and she feels like she’s being told she’s dirty. Nicole asked me what I think Cassie should do. I personally think it’s everything else Sarah does that would drive me out of Cassie’s job but she seems to not mind that part of work. Sarah’s boss is our company president(we are small and don’t have an HR dept). Thoughts on what Cassie should do?

    1. Xarcady*

      Has Sarah commented on Cassie’s shampoo and deodorant? or just the detergent? Because I’m not clear on why Sarah brought in detergent when Cassie’s been defending her use of other products. Nor do I understand why Cassie sees this as implying that Cassie is dirty–it’s clear it is about the scent of the product, not Cassie’s overall cleanliness.

      Asking other people does no good. It’s Sarah’s nose that needs to be consulted.

      Many people do have a sensitivity to various scents. Seriously, Sarah needs to make this clear during the hiring process–that employees in this position need to use unscented products, or products from the “approved” list.

      As for what Cassie should do? I think she needs to accept the fact that she either has to reduce her use of scented products drastically, or get another job.

      Cassie doesn’t have to use the detergent that Sarah brought in, but she should either find an unscented detergent she likes, or plan on washing her clothes in the detergent that she prefers, and then re-washing the clothes again, with no detergent at all, to get the scent out. Most brands of deodorant have unscented versions, so Cassie should be able find one that she can still use. Shampoo is a bit harder–and it starts to get expensive trying out various brands to find one that is both scent-free and that works for your own hair. Sarah might offer to bring in trial sizes for Cassie to experiment with, or in some other way subsidize the cost of finding a good, scent-free shampoo that works for Cassie.

    2. Student*

      Tell Cassie that no one is calling her dirty. Her boss is telling her that she’s using unacceptable levels of perfume. She’s smelly, not dirty. There’s a big difference.

      If Sarah can tell when the assistant does or does not use perfumed soaps, then there’s something to it and you ought to stop doubting her on this issue. Some people have a more sensitive sense of smell than you do, just like some people can hear better and some people can see better. Apparently Sarah can smell things much better than normal. She’s also the boss, so her assistant is going to have to either comply or face possible termination.

      Tell Cassie that most detergents/deodorants/shampoos have a no-scent or low-scent variety. Look for the words “hypoallergenic” and/or “clean” or “fresh”. She can probably keep her favorite “brand”, but will need to switch to a lower-perfume version of that brand. Then ask the boss for feedback about whether the perfume level is acceptable after the change.

      Or, tell Cassie that if she loves her perfumed stuff, she ought to start looking for a new job, because this is not going to work out. Some people really love that stuff, but I don’t know a lot of people who’d be willing to lose a job because they really want to smell like lilac watermelons. She can still smell like lilac watermelons on the weekends, or after work. It might also help her to shower the night before work instead of right before work, or buy a dehumidifier for the boss’s office – moisture helps spread smells.

      1. Ihmmy*

        This! I get massive headaches from scented products and sometimes people don’t seem to notice that they’ve doused themselves in scents. Many others in our office don’t notice or aren’t bothered by scents. Thankfully there’s at least one other “scent-sitive” person in the office who gets it (she reacts more severely than I do)

        However, Sarah’s approach is clearly not working. Has she explained why those scents don’t work for her? that she gets a headache or nauseous or something similar? Rather than demanding x product get used, perhaps it would be good to find out which product is the actual culprit first, and then Cassie can find a way to limit or stop her use of that product.

      2. Sunflower*

        Cassie isn’t wearing perfume though. By scent, I meant her natural scent that she has from only using soap and deodorant. I don’t remember what brand Cassie uses exactly but it’s some regular drug store brand like Pantene or Dove and not something with strong scents.

        1. GigglyPuff*

          But to some people those things do have strong smells. If I walk by someone and can smell their shampoo, even Pantene, it’s too much. Same thing with deodorant, I can’t stand to use women’s deodorant because the flowery smell lingers, and when you sweat, it gets worse and amplifies (at least with ones I’ve tried), which is why I use men’s, it seems to more stop the sweating than masking sweat with another scent.

          But anyway, in my opinion both people have handled it wrong. Cassie may have overacted, but it’s possible this might be a sensitive issue, i.e. have had past problems growing up with hygiene. Sarah should definitely example the reasoning and let her know what products do what (if she can). A good solution might be, both of them sitting down with a third person, like a mediation session, someone who is calm but can take control when needed and figure out a good solution for everyone.

        2. Sunshine Brite*

          Yeah, that’s not a natural scent. I have pretty sensitive skin vs scent and I can’t use things like Tide because it’s too harsh and I find the smell too harsh too and can tell when others near me use that. I use those regular brands and the smells can get overwhelming/clashing easily even when they’re both “powder fresh” or “classic clean” or whatever they call normal nowadays.

          Sarah might want to get a doctor’s note for it and Cassie should probably find/be transferred to a different position since they clearly can’t be near each other if Cassie continues to use her products.

      3. Meg Murry*

        “clean” and “fresh” products are most definitely scented, and some of the scents I find most offensive. Especially ones that are supposed to smell like “fresh linens” or “fresh laundry” smell terrible to me, and dryer sheets are one of the things that give me the biggest headaches.

        Over the years I have transitioned our family to fragrance-free (which isn’t necessarily the same thing as unscented) laundry detergent and no fabric softener at all, and fragrance free hand soaps, lotions and deodorant. I haven’t found a completely fragrance free shampoo and conditioner combo yet, but as of right now I’ve found one that at least doesn’t make me want to vomit in the shower or give me a headache after all day wear.

        No one is telling Carrie she is smelly. Sarah is (very undiplomatically) telling her that she is using products that have a scent that Sarah can’t handle, and I think other commenters are right that she is maybe trying to offer up a solution without telling Carrie to go buy all new products. But Sarah is handling this badly, and I agree with others that Sarah should have addressed this up front in the interviews. I wonder if it could possibly be the laundry detergent though – if Carrie interviewed in a suit that had been dry-cleaned or otherwise hanging in her closet for a while, that may not have smelled as strongly as freshly washed laundry. Or any chance Carrie uses something like reed diffusers or plug-in air fresheners at home so her coat has a lingering scent?

        Its not about if her scent is too strong. Its about if she has one at all, even if it is one that other people technically find pleasant or neutral. Which Sarah is not handling well, but Carrie shouldn’t take it personally

        1. fposte*

          Everybody has a scent, though, whether they purchase intentionally scented products or not. There’s no such thing as a scent-free human. So you can’t really make it about somebody’s having any scent at all, because we all do. If that’s the hill Sarah’s going to die on, she needs to make telecommuting work either for her or Cassie.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This. Where is Sarah going to work that she will not have any scents around her?

            I am not unsympathetic. Fragrances bother me, also. But there are not many places out there that are totally fragrance-free. Has Sarah been to a doctor for this?

      4. afiendishthingy*

        This is a WHOLE lot to ask someone to change about their personal routine. Not wearing heavy perfumes is one thing but I don’t really think dictating what shampoo, deodorant, and detergent your reports can use, or what time they shower, falls under the umbrella of “reasonable accommodations” to a disability – and that’s assuming Sarah actually has a medical need to not be around people who use scented shampoo, and doesn’t just have a heightened sense of smell.

    3. Dawn*

      “almost everyone thinks it’s crazy”

      It’s not crazy. It sucks. It sucks SO MUCH because you can breeze through life forgetting that you are allergic to stuff and then you do something innocuous like use 409 to clean something and put yourself down with a migraine the rest of the day. Or someone gets on the elevator with you who’s bathed in Axe instead of water that morning and BAM, migraine. Or someone walks by wearing whatever perfume sets you off and BAM! It’s like having a sadistic Emeril in your head.

      I agree with others here that Cassie needs to accept that if she’s working for Sarah, she can’t wear anything scented or wash her clothes in scented detergent. It sucks, sure, it’s annoying, sure, but it needs to happen in order for Sarah to be able to perform her job duties.

      1. Windchime*

        Yes, this. I went to a bridal shower a couple of months ago. For a few moments, I stood next to an older lady who was literally drenched in some strong, “floral” scented perfume. It kicked off a terrible asthma attack that ended, 6 weeks later, with full-fledged bronchitis.

        I’m not always sensitive to scents but when I am, it’s just so awful. Walking through the perfume gauntlet at Macy’s is impossible during those times, because I literally cannot breathe.

    4. Chriama*

      The thing is, I feel like both sides are being a little uncompromising. Sarah’s insistence that Cassie change her products without entertaining less invasive ideas like letting Cassie move her desk is rude. On the other hand, if Cassie wants to keep the job she might need to just bow to Sarah’s whims. At the very least, I’m sure she could try using another shampoo or deodorant rather than just refusing, since that puts her at an impasse with the boss. Overall though, I don’t understand why Cassie thinks she’s being told she’s ‘dirty’. Sarah has made it clear that her opposition is to the scents in the products Cassie is using. Why would she assume that Sarah’s comments are a passive-agressive attempt to let her know that she has BO?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree here.
        But I can understand Cassie feeling like she has been told she is dirty. It’s a very personal comment to bring someone a bottle of laundry detergent (detergent? really?) and tell them to use it. And Sarah seems to have no idea how that could impact Cassie.
        Now she is telling her what to wash with, what shampoo to use and what deodorant to buy. Couldn’t she have informed Cassie on the interview that all this would be part of the job?

    5. Olive Hornby*

      Has anyone told Cassie that this isn’t personal, and that Sarah always has an issue with her assistants’ scents? Simply knowing that this is about Sarah, not about her, might help a lot if she’s feeling attacked and defensive.

      Reading between the lines, though, I suspect the detergent was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, and that it’s the “everything else that Sarah does” that’s really weighing on Cassie…

      1. afiendishthingy*

        “Reading between the lines, though, I suspect the detergent was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, and that it’s the “everything else that Sarah does” that’s really weighing on Cassie…”

        I’m inclined to agree. Sarah is being an ass about how she’s approaching this issue, which makes me think she’s probably a pretty controlling and unpleasant person in other ways.

    6. Xarcady*

      When you think about it, there are so many scented products these days. On a typical day, a person might have on scented: deodorant, body lotion, hand lotion, talcum powder or the like, shampoo, conditioner, detergent, fabric softener, and hand soap (a lot of the liquid soaps have scents that linger much longer than bar soaps). That’s not counting things made only to smell good, like perfume, after shave, etc. That’s a lot of scents. And many laundry detergents reek of scent, moreso than any other product I know. I can identify Tide users from several feet away sometimes.

      And Cassie moving her desk probably won’t solve the problem, because as Sarah’s assistant, surely Cassie has to be in close proximity to Sarah several times a day?

      I don’t use scented products because I don’t like scented products, not because I’m sensitive to the scents. I can identify detergent and fabric softener smells, and various popular scented hand lotions when I’m standing a few feet away from a person using those products. And I don’t have a particularly sensitive nose. If someone does have a sensitivity to scents, it can be a problem. I know of one or two scent-free workplaces or departments because of this sensitivity.

      It might work better if Cassie could ask Sarah for a list of products/scents that she shouldn’t use–that way it is less like Sarah saying, “Here, you must use this!” and more a way of weeding out known offenders from the start.

      1. Catherine in Canada*

        And don’t forget that demon product; dryer sheets! Walking past a house with a running dryer can knock me down for the day…

    7. april ludgate*

      Honestly, I feel for Sarah on this one. I can be really sensitive to smells and it’s awful, especially when no one will believe you. My mom has this awful perfume that she won’t change and I’ve been stuck in the car with the smell and it’s nauseating and headache inducing and generally terrible. Maybe Sarah could have been more polite, but it’s not a ridiculous request. It’s even possible that she bought the detergent so that Cassie wouldn’t have to spend her own money on it. Some people are hypersensitive. It’s like how teachers working with young or special education students shouldn’t use anything with a strong scent because younger kids and people with sensory processing problems can get really overwhelmed by olfactory stimulation and just because something smells good to you, it doesn’t mean it smells okay, or even tolerable, to everyone else. Maybe Cassie could change when she showers if she really wants to use those products. If you shower an hour before work you’ll have a much stronger scent than if you’re a night shower-er, which could help.

      1. anonymous daisy*

        My mother would wake me up in the morning by spraying on her perfume while she was in my bedroom. You can bet I was up and out of that room within seconds. And when she switched to Charlie, I was up and in the bathroom vomiting within seconds. The Charlie didn’t last long after those kind of mornings.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Cassie, of course, has the right to refuse to rearrange her whole life just to keep a job. She could quit the job.

        I can’t picture this lady finding an employee she could work with.

    8. More Cake Please*

      Most people are so doused in scent that you don’t really notice until you drop your own cloud of perfume, so I’m not surprised no one else notices. I feel for Cassie though. The choice of shampoo, detergent and deodorant is highly personal and there may be a very specific reason she uses what she does. For example, what if a certain ingredient (not scent) causes an issue for Cassie and therefore, she must use the brand that also happens to smell more? What if she simply can’t afford scent-free products? And even if that’s not the case, I just don’t think one person should force the world to change. I say this as someone who has gone scent free and noticed a huge difference in my health.

      Sarah is rude and it’s that type of behavior which leads people who aren’t sensitive to smells to think we’re crazy. I know it sucks when a smell is bothering you, but that’s no excuse to drive someone to tears. There are options to accommodate Sarah that don’t involve harassing Cassie. If I were Cassie I’d pick one thing to change (probably detergent since that’s easiest) and go scent-free there. I find All Free and Clear works nicely and isn’t too expensive. If Sarah is still having issues, I think Sarah needs to start giving as well. Get an air purifier or at least a desk fan and blow the scent away. Let Cassie move her desk, or have Sarah switch offices with someone else. If they can work different schedules (say one 7:30 – 4:30 and one 9 – 6 with different lunch hours) that would minimize the exposure time. And if Sarah can pinpoint clearly which product is the issue and suggest alternatives, that would be great. I’d be pissed trialing numerous shampoos with no guarantee something will be acceptable.

      1. Lady Bug*

        As someone who suffers from eczema, I’d be pretty annoyed if someone told me what products I can use. It’s taken many years to figure out what works for me (Dove deodorant awesome, Secret major rashes). I can only use “free” detergents, even looking at Tide mskes me break out in an itchy red rash, but I use sulfate free Tea Tree shampoo and conditioner, and oddly enough Bath & Body works shea body butter is the the most effective rash prevention I’ve found, and I can’t find it unscented. I try to stick to more “natural” smells like coconut or vanilla, but I’m sure even those can cause issues.

        I think in these situations finding a solution that suits both people, like moving desks is the best solution. It doesn’t make any sense to decide whose issue is worthy of accommodation.

        not that this necessarily applies here, since it doesn’t appear Cassie has any medical conditions.

    9. IndieGir*

      I’m coming in late to the party, but I have to defend Cassie here. Granted, her reaction hasn’t been great, but someone should have told her about this before she was hired. Sarah’s sensitivity unusual enough that it should have been mentioned before Cassie was hired so Cassie had the opportunity not to take a job where very intrusive, personal demands would be made. Because let’s face it, asking someone to change their shampoo, deodorant, and detergent is VERY intrusive. A lot of people (women in particular) are very attached to their shampoos and may have hair that doesn’t cooperate easily with another brand, and their brand doesn’t have an unscented version.

      Also, while I’m sympathetic to the scent-sensitive, many folks (like me) are highly allergic. I have very dry skin, and only a few brands really help me without also making me break out. I’d be hard pressed to change my hand-cream or face-cream without suffering myself.

      So, someone should have notified Cassie before an offer was made, if her employment really is contingent on this.

      1. Dana*


        Just because I didn’t know where else to throw this in, how is laundry detergent the “solution” if the problem is referring to shampoo and deodorant? The way my clothes smell is not going to negate the way my bodyand hair smell.

      2. Sunshine Brite*

        Definitely! My hair is very finicky and switching shampoos isn’t easy. Everyone knew about this before Cassie came around and just dismissed it as a non-issue when it’s clearly a big issue

      3. Lindsay J*

        Exactly. I would not be changing my personal care products because somebody else was sensitive to the smells.

        Perfume is one thing, because that is something I could easily leave off (and is honestly something I don’t usually wear to begin with). And it does bother me when people exist in a cloud of Axe or Scented Body Mist or whatever.

        However, asking someone to change their deodorant or shampoo or laundry detergent, or to stop using reed diffusers or plugins in their own home because the scent lingers on their clothing is going way too far. My obligations to work stop when I leave work. I’m not changing my personal care routine or my household products because someone at work can’t handle it.

        It’s taken me a long time to find a shampoo and conditioner that works for my hair. I know plenty of people who obsess over their skin-care routine and spend years tweaking it to find the perfect combination of products. I use a certain laundry detergent because others cause me to break out. Same with soaps.

        Frankly, when your needs are outside the norm, it is up to you to figure out what you need to do to deal with the rest of the world, not the other way around. And being so sensitive to scents that you cannot handle the smell of someone’s soap or laundry detergent is outside the norm. I get that it’s something you can’t just “get over” and I’m not saying that. But in this case if she knows that this is an issue with her assistants or anyone she works close to this needs to be made clear during the hiring process. Or she needs to have an office that is far enough away from everyone else that this is a non-issue. Or she needs to work from home or have a virtual assistant vs an actual one.

        Something that is not requiring someone to change their personal products that they use on their own time.

        Besides, what does Sarah do out in the rest of the world. If you ride public transportation to work you can’t go up to every person on the bus regularly and ask them to change their personal care products. What about her doctor or dentist? Hair stylist? Woman she has to stand in line for a long time behind at the grocery store? Other departments in the office she has to sit with during meeting, etc?

        Like I said, I get that it is an issue. I don’t have scent triggered migraines, but if I do get a migraine I become hyper-sensitive to smells and a strong scent can make the difference between just being miserable, and being in the restroom vomiting. I’m not saying Sarah should just get over it. But there has to be a medium ground between Sarah suffering every day and Cassie having to change all her products.

        FWIW I feel the same way about making schools peanut free due to peanut allergies.

      4. afiendishthingy*

        “Because let’s face it, asking someone to change their shampoo, deodorant, and detergent is VERY intrusive.”

        It really is – I’m surprised how many people here don’t see it that way! I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of someone who is that sensitive to the scent of other people’s shampoos, etc… There were a few women at my call center job years ago who would go out for a cigarette break and then douse themselves in perfume and I’d be trapped in the chair next to them, and that did make me feel a bit sick. But the way Sarah’s going about this just makes me think she has major control issues, and I don’t think most people would respond well to her demands.

    10. Jamie*

      What does sensitive nose mean? She has a hyper sensitive sense of smell and the normal scents annoy her, or she gets physically sick from them. Huge difference.

      If she gets physically sick from being in the proximity of someone using scented personal care/laundry stuff only then they should be addressing this in the hiring process, because that’s a critical issue. Sarah should do what she needs to do in order to limit exposure and that includes discussing and coming to an agreement before hiring someone.

      I get that this sensitivity is a real thing – mine is super limited but Estee Lauder perfume and hot tar give me an instance migraine. Since neither of those things come up often I’m lucky – but if I had the same reaction to someone using Tide you bet I’d be screening for that with a workplace accommodation.

      Tbh I think someone asking another to change very personal products is a big deal and if necessary one needs to ask nicely and explain why it’s medically necessary and not a whim.

      I am trying to think of how accommodating I’d be and I can say – I’d give up perfume and scented lotions easily. Detergent and fabric softener? Is the company paying for the more expensive unscented versions? Because I’m not going to be required to wash my laundry separately from my family’s and freak out if I accidentally put on a shirt washed in the wrong load. So they’d have to pay for enough to replace laundry stuff for the whole family. Shampoo and deodorant? I don’t know if there is a decent scent free deodorant – I’d try – but hair products no way. It’s so hard to find hair products that work just right and I’m not going to go sub-par on that.

      And how far does it extend? I love those Downy expression beads for my linen – would I have to forgo that for my sheets? Does that smell linger?

      Tbh I think if one is so sensitive that they are rendered physically sick from basic detergent, shampoo on another person they aren’t close to all day long then they need to figure out how to manage/accommodate that. Because you can’t screen out the people on the elevator, or everyone in the hall…not all accommodations are reasonable to impose on others.

      1. Samantha*

        Completely agree. It’s a lot to ask and Cassie should have been made aware of the issue during the interview process so she could decide if she was willing to make these changes before accepting the job.

      2. anonymous daisy*

        The Downy scent does linger. I have bad reactions to scents and it is tough to have clothes washed in laundry detergent that has scent added. They even have commercials that say that the scent lingers on the clothes – I forgot the brand but one advertises as smelling clean a week after you wash it. JMO, I am washing my clothes so they don’t smell so this concept of washing your clothes in order to ensure they DO smell is bizarre.

        JMO – everyone has different triggers. Sarah has made this known to the office before Cassie came on board so she is not picking on Cassie personally – it is just about the scent issue. It is a health issue for me since scents trigger my migraines, and I am reading into the situation that it is the same for Sarah. Cassie is being an ass about this. It isn’t that hard to get unscented forms of your favorite products. And as someone mentioned upthread, deodorants are the worst. Feminine products for that time of the month are also culprits.

          1. anonymous daisy*

            No – just pointing out that that random things can smell and set of scent triggers. Sarah probably knows which brands to avoid though for her own self.

        1. Jamie*

          I fail to see how she’s being an ass – and even if the office knew it wasn’t made clear to Cassie upon hire or she wouldn’t be surprised.

          For people who want things unscented it would be bizarre to have scents a week later, but that’s what I use because I like the light floral smell for my bedding so I pay extra for that to linger (and that is a lot spendier than normal fabric softener.)

          IMO if someone is so scent sensitive that another person’s feminine hygiene products can trigger them then that’s something the person with the issue needs to deal with in their own accommodations. It’s reasonable to ask – even require – someone to avoid strong scents like perfume, some lotions and it can be reasonable to ask for people to use unscented laundry stuff (if the company is willing to pay for the additional cost*) but feminine products and making sure people aren’t using scented fabric softener on their bedding? That’s asking people to make lifestyle changes that are incredibly intrusive.

          *I doubt most of the off-brand laundry detergent/fabric softener all have scent free versions and it’s not okay to add one cent to someone’s personal budget, much less the several dollars a week (more?) to go name brand scent free. And I can tell you absolutely there is no scent free versions of my hair products and that’s not something people can easily swap out without consequences.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Jamie, I so agree with you.

        The deodorant I use is unscented, it took me years to find it and I will not be switching. Likewise with my bodywash/shampoo, it’s organic but not fragrance-free. My detergent is fragrance-free and I would not change that, either. Even though I do all this stuff, I would not be able to work for this lady.
        I think that this boss is way too invasive in regard to Cassie’s life and personal choices. If a boss told me I had to shower at night to accommodate her, that would be over the line for me.

        After reading along here for a while, I have starting wondering if any of these conversations/events would happen if either one of the parties involved was a man. I am thinking no, probably not. What’s up with that?

    11. Sunshine*

      I honestly feel for Cassie, I had a really mean boss who asked me not to wear the lotion I wore, I obliged. There were a bunch of things that made her terrible and mean (not the request to stop wearing lotion) but in my case and this case, I think it is interesting that most of the time it is people are telling their subordinates to change their ways if a scent is overbearing. I think and assistant-director relationship is different but I never found that someone would speak up to their superior if their superior was wearing an offensive scent.

    12. Sutemi*

      Has Sarah considered getting an air filter if she is that sensitive? I am pretty sensitive to scents and 3rd hand tobacco and find that an air filter makes my environment much more tolerable when there are scents around. In the past I brought one that I purchased myself into a shared office. I explained that it was because I wanted to eat at my desk without leaving lingering odors but actually it was because an office mate’s coat had tobacco residue from her smoke breaks which was enough to give me a migraine. The air filter solved my problems and no one else had to change their habits.

  46. Lisa*

    I am up for a new job! It originally had a salary range of 80 – 105k and I had told the recruiter that I was only looking at roles at the top of their range. Weeks go by and no word until last night. I had assumed they decided I was too expensive even if they did like me. But no, they actually said they were being super picky and the hiring manager specifically asked for me to be reached out to first! And they upped the salary range to 97 – 111k!

    Since I never gave a number, but only said top of range – I might get a number closer to the new top! So excited, but I don’t want to drool over money and take it only based on money, buts its soo tempting to finally be paid what men in my industry are paid for with less experience than me. I can’t help but feel like this will help me in the long run to fix my salary history, which has held me back for so many years with low-ball offers at only 2k more than my current salary. I am so sick of being told a range of 90k – 110k, and then only offered 75k based on my current salary history. I know its no ones business what my salary is, but I’ve had recruiters cancel interviews if I don’t tell and I can’t lie. If I take this job, I won’t have to lie anymore and will finally take me seriously when it comes to paying market value.

    1. Steve G*

      You go! Also, I appreciate your including #s. It is interesting to get details to put the comments people put up here into context, it reminds me of the open thread about “how much money do you make and what is your job” that was about 2 years ago. It was very interesting to see the range of salaries/job titles/and education/city combinations, they were all over the place…..

  47. Olive Hornby*

    I was recently promoted (yay!) and was involved in hiring and training my replacement. I’m still working for the same manager, and it’s become clear that she is getting frustrated with the new hire, who is enthusiastic but young (and perhaps somewhat immature) and is having trouble with organization and prioritizing tasks, among other things. Meanwhile, others colleagues have told me that they find this new person loud and irritating, and I heard a manager in a different department say offhandedly that the new person must not be very busy with the amount of socializing that goes on. I’ve mostly been very encouraging of this person, and I worry I’ve inadvertently given the impression that this unprofessional behavior is acceptable. I feel compelled to say something, especially about the chattiness/socializing (since that’s not something our manager would necessarily witness.) But I don’t want to take him to coffee and unfurl a laundry list of his faults, either. Has anyone else been in a similar situation? Is there a delicate way to handle this that won’t make the new hire feel ambushed or hurt our working relationship?