open thread – May 29, 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 :)

{ 1,522 comments… read them below }

  1. Christy

    Can we please discuss the Ask Amy question from today? Here’s the question:

    DEAR AMY: I recently started working for a new company in a pretty heavily male-dominated field. On certain e-mails sent to large groups of co-workers, I’ve noticed that my colleagues address the e-mail to “Gentlemen.”

    There are clearly at least two females cc’d on most of these e-mails.

    I feel as though the e-mails are not addressed to me with this greeting; I believe that it is old-fashioned and offensive. Do you have thoughts on how to address this without ruffling feathers or coming off the wrong way? — No Gentleman

    I totally want the AAM take on this question. How do you respond to this?

    1. Katie the Fed

      I would probably reply in a lighthearted tone – “Does this include me even though I’m a lady?”

      1. Retail Lifer

        I would be so tempted to reply with “Was I accidentally copied on this seeing as how I’m a lady?”

      1. HeyNonnyNonny

        Yes! Just start all your emails addressed only to “Ladies.” Wait for someone to point it out. Raise eyebrow saucily at the irony.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              Ha. Yes, go forth and do this, and then report back to us, that we might laugh. :-)

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Basically, I don’t think there’s a good way to fix this, and I don’t think it’s the hill to die on.

      It’s almost certain that the sender knows that some recipients are female, but is trying to find a form of address to include everyone. Their choice was poor, but there really aren’t many good choices when addressing a somewhat random group of people. There are certainly better choices, ones that wouldn’t leave anyone feeling excluded, but I can’t think of any that I’d love to use or even like.

      1. Not Today Satan

        How is addressing a mixed-sex group as “gentleman” “trying to find a form of address to include everyone”?

        And there are plenty of terms you can use: “Hi colleagues/team/everyone/all” etc.

                1. Mallory Janis Ian

                  My boss gets emails from a colleague in Malaysia, and one form of address I’d never seen before is, he refers to my boss as “your goodself”. As in, “we very much look forward to a visit by your goodself in August”; “if your goodself finds the accommodations acceptable, we will book them on your behalf.” Not applicable here, but “good gentlepersons” just reminded me of it.

          1. Artemesia

            y’all actually suffices. It is the south’s one great contribution to American culture – a way to gracefully embrace everyone without sexism and without calling them ‘you guys.’

        1. Natalie

          Or our lawyers’ style, which is “Ladies and Gentlemen” on everything. I’m fairly sure they’ve done it one things addressed to one person.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger

          It’s probably trying and failing, but I think they were trying. And the ones you chose sound more informal to me, I was trying to think of something closer in tone to “Gentlemen”, and the only thing could come up with is “Dear colleagues”, which is probably what I would have used if I were ever that formal. But addressing it isn’t likely to change much, IMO.

          1. Retail Lifer

            This would bring out the femi-nazi in me and I’d bring it up every time it happened.

            I would take UKAnon’s idea and reply all with “Ladies.”

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            But seriously,where do you get the idea that they’re trying to be inclusive? What would not trying to be inclusive look like?

            Anyway, this is not that complicated. “Ladies and gentlemen.” Done.

            1. afiendishthingy

              “Hello WASP guys named Joe”?

              No, I’m with you. It’s weird and really simple to change and I really would reply with “I’m not a gentleman, think you cc’ed me by mistake” because I bet they don’t really realize what they were doing and will change once it is – but I think they deserve a little snark.

          3. Artemesia

            NO one who begins missives with ‘Gentlemen’ is trying and failing to be inclusive.

      2. Arjay

        “Hi, everyone,”

        If NASCAR can figure out that “Drivers, start your engines” is more appropriate and inclusive, these guys ought to be able to figure it out too.

        1. Gandalf the Nude

          +1!

          Most of what I’ve heard about NASCAR is that the organization (if not the fan base) really is making an effort to be more inclusive.

          1. Mike C.

            Motorsports is really, really primed for direct competition between men and women. The engineering, design, strategy and pit wall is an obvious place, but even as far as drivers are concerned, once you meet a certain level of general fitness (aka can run a marathon or similar) the philological differences between men and women really don’t matter once you get in the car.

            /Now maybe NASCAR can work on making the racing more interesting… ;)

            1. Gene

              SCCA Autocross has direct competition in the Open classes, yet still have the Ladies classes. The main reason is marketing, but I’ve been looking at results from the Nationals for years and the women still don’t post the same times that the men do, frequently even in the same car (eliminating the equipment variable).

              I think there’s a Psych paper in this if anyone has the guts to do it and face the backlash that would ensue.

            2. JMW

              I would disagree with this a little bit. Most of motor racing has an endurance component to it, and the G forces in most of motor racing require strength and stamina to a degree that men, in general, have a physiological advantage. The physical training drivers do in most of motorsports is quite intense.

              I agree with you on the NASCAR part, though, and I will be greatly relieved when all of motor racing does away with pit girls, which has started to happen recently (yea, Monaco!) Apparently the F1 track here in the US is contractually obligated to supply pit girls (thank you, Bernie Ecclestone). They will be hearing from me. Think they should be replaced by go karters of both genders who would salivate at the opportunity to hold a grid pole next to an F1 car.

              1. Melissa

                I think that’s why Mike C said “once you reach a certain level of fitness.”

      3. Jennifer

        “Everybody.”
        “Team.”
        “Y’all.”
        “Gang”
        “Ladies and gentlemen.”

        I could think of five just now. It’s not that hard, though.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.

          I’ve used “Dear Justice League” and “Hello Super Friends!” from time to time.

          1. Connie-Lynne

            Our company’s legal team has their conference room labeled “Hall of Justice.”

        2. Connie-Lynne

          When I was a team lead (I am a lady) and my team (3/6 ladies) would get email addressed this way, first offenders got a polite private email with a list of alternatives like the above.

          Second offenders got a (still private) email asking if they specifically meant to address only the junior members of the team, or would they accept answers from the women as well?

          1. ITPuffNStuff

            this is excellent. criticize in private, praise in public. you sound like a great lead to work for.

            1. Connie-Lynne

              Thanks. We had a lot of cross-cultural issues going on where I was pretty sure that people using “Gentlemen” or “Gents” were non-native English speakers using what they were sure was formal, but appropriate, business language.

              Most people responded with thanks.

              It was definitely rarely if ever repeated by anyone but native English speakers, so I didn’t feel bad about the snarky second followup.

      4. JB (not in Houston)

        I usually agree with you, but today I disagree. I agree there’s probably not a good way to fix this, but I don’t agree that the sender almost certainly used “gentlemen” because he was trying to find a form of address to include everyone. I cannot come up with any explanation under which the word “gentlemen” could in anyway be construed to be gender neutral. “Guys” has arguably become gender neutral in at least some parts of the country, but not “gentlemen.” There are other choices that might be awkward, or overly-formal or overly-casual, but would at least be inclusive and therefore are better options.

        To me this sounds like someone who thinks that using this kind of address ought to be non-offensive because they “didn’t mean it to be offensive,” and ipso facto it isn’t.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          I agree with almost everything you said, but I still think that this exclusionary term was used by someone privileged who has never been excluded by a majority, and so did not see the term as excluding the women because, as you said, that is simply not how they meant it. In fact, I’d bet that excluding people didn’t cross the author’s mind even momentarily when picking that term. Although I’m a white male, I am a member of enough other marginalized/minority groups that I am sensitive to that sort of thing, but I have seen many other white males to whom the idea of being left out because of a demographic attribute literally just never occurs.

          1. Mabel

            Regarding

            In fact, I’d bet that excluding people didn’t cross the author’s mind even momentarily when picking that term.

            I don’t want to start a whole thing on this, but that’s a big part of what sexism (and racism) is – having the privilege to be oblivious. I’m only mentioning it because you said you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, and this is an area where you could learn more.

            1. JB (not in Houston)

              Exactly. If the fact that he was excluding some didn’t cross his mind, that’s still a problem.

          2. Nashira

            I think it’s doing a service to teach members of privileged majorities to stop excluding people due to deliciousness. They’re not terrible people for not knowing, after all. But they need to be taught, so that minority members stop getting told we don’t belong.

            This is an issue I feel strongly about, as a woman who’s going into IT and who hangs out with gamers.

            1. JMW

              That was too funny! I’ve read that sentence three times and laughed out loud each time!

            2. Monodon monoceros

              Oh no, I’m in a serious meeting and just happened to read this…I should have known better than to read AAM during this meeting! Must leave the room for a minute…

        2. ITPuffNStuff

          i wouldn’t completely write off the sender’s intentions, whether good or ill, as unimportant.

          if corrected, and the sender’s reply is “i’m so sorry; i didn’t mean to exclude anyone. it won’t happen again.”, that is likely to produce a very different set of feelings than “i know; i deliberately excluded women, and i don’t care how they feel”.

          people make mistakes. labeling a fallible human being as “offensive” will immediately put them on the defensive, and that posture is usually completely avoidable. the problem can be easily addressed without making the sender feel like A Bad Person.

      5. LBK

        I think even “guys” would be better since that has (for better or worse) become generally accepted as a gender neutral group term. But I’ve never heard gentlemen used in that way.

        1. Jill 2

          There was a whole argument about this word on a thread here recently, so I don’t think “guys” will get a pass.

          1. Anx

            Same.

            This is a very tough one for me to shake in my speech. I grew up in the NYC metro area and in certain contexts it registers as completely gender neutral in my brain. But I can understand how it can be misgendering.

            1. Melissa

              I’m a woman and I use “guys” as a gender-neutral term, too – I grew up in the NYC metro area (until I was about 12 years old) so I think that might have something to do with it. I’ve been trying to eliminate and when writing, I typically tend to use “y’all” (I spent the other half of my childhood in Atlanta, lol) or “everyone.” But when speaking, it’s difficult to remember not to use “guys!”

    3. Joey

      I wouldn’t reply via email, Id make an underhanded joke about it the next time you see the offender.

    4. lawsuited

      So many people use “guys” as a universal term to solve this problem, that I now refer to my male peers at work as “gurls”. As in, “Hey gurl, are we going to Starbucks are what?” because of

        1. Kas

          As a heads-up: I’m a woman, and I feel excluded by “dudes” as a term of address

          1. Connie-Lynne

            I’ll tolerate “guys” especially if it is part of “you guys” but oh hell no for “dude.”

            1. Kas

              Based on my lived experience, I am not a dude, and I do not feel included in a group referred to as “dudes”.

      1. Lionness

        Did you know that the term “guys” didn’t actually originally refer to men but was in reference to Guy Fawkes’ effigy?

    5. Diddly

      This used to happen in a formal way at my old workplace. Letters were always addressed ‘Dear Sirs’ about 80% of the office were female… Quite easy to stick in /Madams there.

      1. Dr. Ruthless

        I was recently hiring, and anyone who addressed their cover letter “Dear Sirs” got their application immediately and unceremoniously thrown in the garbage.

        1. ITPuffNStuff

          is it conceivable you missed out on the benefit of some good candidates, and those candidates likewise missed out on the benefit of a reminder about gender presumption?

    6. BananaPants

      Bear in mind that there may be language and cultural issues at play before flying off the handle.

      I work in a male-dominated company/field and am often included on group emails that are addressed to “Gentlemen” or “Dear Sirs”. Virtually all of the time these emails are sent by non-native English speakers who may not be aware of gender-based naming conventions and have never spoken to me personally or on the phone (i.e. they probably have no clue that I’m female). It’s mildly annoying, but understandable – if I can’t tell based on name if the sender is male or female, it’s likely that they can’t tell from reading my name that I’m female, either.

      If someone based in my office in the U.S., who personally knows everyone on the distribution list, sends out a group email addressed to “Gentlemen”, he’s likely to have a brief chat with his manager about using more inclusive means of address.

      1. Beezus

        Yup, I’ve worked with non-native English speakers, and on more than one occasion have received emails addressed to Mr. Beezus Lastname, even though my real first name is clearly feminine to anyone familiar with common Western names. I just shrug it off – they don’t know, and there have been times when I’ve made gender assumptions based on names and have been off, too. (I can’t shake the habit of subconsciously assuming that most names ending in -y and -ie sounds are feminine.)

      2. JB (not in Houston)

        Nothing in the letter suggested that the people doing this were non-native speakers. And also, nothing in the OP’s letter suggested she was “flying off the handle.” Quite the opposite, actually.

      3. Connie-Lynne

        This is why my first mail is a suggestion of alternatives, and all the corrective mails, even the snarky ones, are private.

      4. No Longer Passing By

        Part of the problem is that in some languages, the addition of even 1 make necessitates the usage of male pronouns. For example, group of 99 females = usage of female pronouns. Add 1 male to that group, bringing the total to 100 persons including that 1 male = male pronouns in referring to the group. So I can see non-native English speakers having this problem.

        However, the OP didn’t say that’s what’s going on. Plus she didn’t identify industry but I’m going to guess something that’s historically both male-dominated and formal due to the opener used. OP, why don’t you use your industry or position or project name. For example, Counselors, or Medical Personnel, or Chocolate Cover Team. Perhaps if you use an alternate greeting, others will follow?

    7. Solid B

      I use “All” for addressing emails.
      I would address the issue by asking the person if you were meant to be included on the original and (if necessary) state that it was not clear from the original email.

      1. Charlotte Lucas

        How about just “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon”? Otherwise, I like “Everyone” or “All Concerned.”

    8. That Marketing Chick

      I think you’re getting your panties in a bunch over nothing. I’m sure that nothing is meant by it, and it has no bearing on anything. I would file this under “get a REAL problem”. If that’s the worst thing that’s bugging you, you’ve got a great job!

      1. De (Germany)

        Gosh, I hate this line of reasoning.

        Yes, it has a bearing on things. One of the hundred of little things you see when working in a male-dominated environment (as I have for all my life) that says “you are different”.

        Also, who says this that this is the worst thing that’s bugging that person?

        1. Tyrannosaurus Regina

          Agreed. I also find any mention of “panties in a bunch” pretty condescending. :(

          Little things add up, and I don’t think it helps anyone to be dismissive about these issues. It’s like someone standing on your foot and lecturing you that at least your leg isn’t being chewed off by shrews when you ask them to move.

        2. ITPuffNStuff

          to be honest, it’s hard hearing the term “male dominated” thrown around a lot, too. as a male, i feel as though i’m being convicted of something every time i hear that term. it makes me (and all men) sound like angry, violent, aggressive people who shout down (dominate) and control anyone who doesn’t agree with and/or pander to their wishes. i’ve never seen an actual work environment like that, and would not remain in such an office if i did.

          i don’t know whether any of that is what’s intended by the term, and i don’t (and can’t) know how it feels to work as a female in an environment where most of the other employees and/or management are male. i feel great sympathy for anyone who feels overwhelmed and/or underrepresented, especially if the reason is something they cannot control such as race or gender. i just thought i would share that, despite whatever society claims we should be, men are vulnerable too, and “male-dominated” is one of those terms that hurts to hear.

          1. h

            I’m late to this, so I don’t know if you’ll even see it, but a “male dominated” workplace, for example, isn’t about anger or violence or aggression! I’m pretty sure it’s just saying that the majority of people working there are men.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Yeah, echoing this. The term literally just means “mainly staffed by men.” It’s just a factual observation about the composition of the staff; it doesn’t say anything beyond that. It doesn’t mean the men are dominating others in any sense other than being more numerous.

              1. ITPuffNStuff

                thank you for replying, miss green. i appreciate the clarification and i can see how i projected my own experiences (and the anxieties that go with them) onto that term. i guess we all bring our own histories into the present, and how we interpret things reveals more about ourselves than it does about the objects we interpret.

          2. Anx

            I don’t want to discount the hurt you feel at hearing the term, but it’s possible you’re approaching this from a defensive standpoint that is interfering with your ability to listen to these discussions more objectively.

            I’m a woman, so I can’t say I know what it’s like to bristle at the phrase, but I do belong to other dominant, privileged groups. I know that in my experience, there has been an almost reflexive defensiveness to being lumped in with dominant groups. But really, nobody was indicting me for my being part of those groups or even benefiting from them, but rather were trying to explain how they felt as being part of the other group.

            Also, “male-dominated” usually refers mostly to the men:non-men ratio of people. Those numbers can also affect the culture so that it feels more male. And it’s rare that that dominance is to clearly oppressive or aggressive. In my experience, it plays out much more subtly, yet pervasively. Like when trying to serve a special group that is mostly men is being seen as providing services to a genderless group, but doing so for a group that’s mostly women is seen as serving special interests. Or being interrupted as I’m finishing a thought. Or worrying that every misstep is indicative that I haven’t earned my spot in a table, when it’s quite normal for competent people to make mistakes. I’ve had some incredibly kind, supportive male coworkers that still have made me doubt myself and my ability to fit in with the little things that kept adding up. I doubt they ever meant to undercut me, but they have unwittingly.

            1. ITPuffNStuff

              thank you for taking the time to respond Anx.

              i wonder, if we men can be incredibly kind and supportive, but still undercut you, is the bar even reachable? i guess what i’m asking is, have you ever known a man who didn’t undercut you? if not, it’s conceivable the standard of behavior that would avoid making you feel undercut is actually an (unreachable) standard of perfection.

              i wrestle with the idea of someone else’s actions making me feel something or not feel something. certainly, feelings are triggered by our experiences, and that includes other people’s choices. still, i find more often than not, my feelings are strongly indicative of my own insecurities, and weakly indicative of the other person’s actions.

              this is where open, non-judgmental communication is so critical. if something i’m doing is triggering someone else’s insecurities, i need to know that, but i need to be told in a way that doesn’t attack me or make me a villain. i’m a good guy who genuinely cares about others’ feelings, but i’m not a mind reader and i’m never going to satisfy a standard of perfection. also, while i think we are all responsible to try not to trigger each others’ insecurities, there is also room for us as individuals to take ownership and responsibility for our own feelings. if something leaves me feeling insecure, i may ask others to accommodate me, but i still need to deal with those insecurities and try to reduce and/or build up resistance to them. otherwise i’m not making any personal growth, and just carrying those insecurities into every new situation.

              1. Melissa

                I’m not Anx, but some thoughts:

                1. Yes, of course the bar is reachable – it involves people thinking about how their actions affect others. I’m a woman and my two PhD advisors were both men who did not undercut me while being kind and supportive. I’ve worked with lots of men who don’t undercut me. There’s a difference.

                2. I hear this argument a lot – “people can’t make you feel a certain way, only you can make you feel a certain way” – but I reject that argument as patently false. Humans are social animals. Of course other people’s actions affect the way that we feel about ourselves, insecurities notwithstanding. I know that my writing is excellent, but (for example) getting rejected from a scientific journal still makes me feel bad at least initially. If a person point-blank says to you “Your works sucks,” are you not supposed to have a reaction to that? It’s really not much different if people subtly imply (intentionally or not) that your work is subpar or that you don’t fit into a group because of your gender.

                3. Imagine that someone unintentionally steps on your toe at 7 am on your way to work. Then someone else steps on it at 9 am as you walk through the door. Then again at 10 am. And then again, and again, every hour. By the time someone steps on your toe at 5 pm, even if it was unintentional, you might be so fed up with getting your toe smashed that you inadvertently blow up at the person – even if they are a different person, who has no idea why you are mad!

                Sometimes, that’s what it’s like being in a marginalized/minority group in the workplace (including a woman in a male-dominated place). Sure, this may have been YOUR first faux-pas, but for the woman in question, this might be her 100th time dealing with gender-related slights that week, and she might be a bit upset and tired of dealing with this and might not handle it in the best way. In a perfect world she’d handle every breach with perfection and poise – but just like you don’t want to be held to a standard of perfection, don’t hold her to a standard of perfection in dealing with the faux-pas, either.

                As for the rest…well, I always feel a certain type of way when people say that we need to take responsibility for our own feelings. My counter for that is that I feel that people need to take responsibility for how their remarks and behaviors make others feel, because – again – humans are social creatures, and it’s only natural and normal that we react to the ways in which others treat us. That has nothing to do with insecurities. (Besides, being treated as lesser-than because of my gender is not an insecurity that I need to deal with; it’s a societal problem.)

                1. ITPuffNStuff

                  Hi Melissa,

                  Thank you very much for taking the time to respond.

                  I thought your toe-stepping analogy illustrated the point perfectly; I clearly got a picture of “okay, at some point folks, I’m just being treated like my toes don’t even matter, whether the stepping is intentional or not”.

                  I sense a sort of “it’s this or that / one way or the other” about your point of view. I get something along the lines of “either other people are responsible for their choices — or — I am responsible for my feelings” (with your argument supporting the former).

                  I feel like this is more complex than an either/or proposition. “And” feels more correct to me than “or”:
                  “other people are responsible for their choices –and– I am responsible for my feelings”.

                  I lean this way because I believe everyone brings their own perceptions, –and– everyone is affected emotionally by others’ actions. Are there situations in which it’s completely one way or the other? Yes, but I think they’re the exception. Most situations involve some components of both.

                  Anx pointed out a perfect example in her reply above:
                  “I don’t want to discount the hurt you feel at hearing the term, but it’s possible you’re approaching this from a defensive standpoint that is interfering with your ability to listen to these discussions more objectively.”

                  She pointed out that I was overlaying additional meaning onto the term “male dominated”, and she was right. 100% of that meaning came from my own insecurities. I have to be responsible for those feelings of insecurity; it would not be fair to Anx (or to De [Germany] — the poster to whom I responded above) to consider them insensitive simply because I internally added some meaning they did not intend.

                  In any case, I feel like there’s room for both responsibility for our actions (including how they affect others) and owning our feelings. This is the sort of problem that can be easily sorted out with a non-judging conversation:
                  “ITPuffNStuff, it hurts my toes when you step on them. Did you know you were doing that?”
                  “Argh, I’m sorry, I evidently wasn’t paying enough attention to where your toes were. I will be more careful in the future.”
                  “Thank you.”

                  This is the point where, if you were still really upset about having your toes stepped on, considering me insensitive would be counter-productive. I’ve apologized and agreed to be more careful going forward; at that point, only your own processing of those feelings will help you feel better.

                  Unfortunately all of my statements above are deliberately vague and broad generalities. I don’t know any of the specific situations you have in mind when responding, and the specifics in any given situation would likely sway my thoughts/feelings in one direction or another. If you are still interested in this conversation, and if you don’t mind sharing, could you illustrate some example situations in which you felt your toes had been stepped on by a man, and how the man perceived the situation when you spoke to him about it?

        1. OhNo

          Agreed. If someone is bothered enough by it to write into an advice column for help, then it IS a “real” problem.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Whoa. First of all, it does matter, for the reasons other have already said. Second, we talk about loads of things here that could fall under the “not a life-threatening problem but still annoying and/or interesting to talk about,” and plenty of us find it interesting and valuable. If I’m only allowed to cover really serious issues here, I’d rather close up shop, because that sounds boring to me.

        (All that said, I think this one falls pretty squarely in the “real workplace issue” category. I just want to make the the point that even if it didn’t, this is comment that’s far outside the spirit of the site.)

    9. AllyR

      I’m the only girl in my team. My boss with sometimes do “Gents and AllyR” and I find that annoys me more than just “Gents”. I don’t know why, but its like I’m somehow separate to them. If he occasionally just writes “Gents” and I’m cc’ed, it doesn’t bother me at all.

      I use “All” mostly for group emails. Sometimes “Gents” if it is all gents, Sometimes just ‘Hey”.

      Each to their own.

      1. ITPuffNStuff

        i used to begin emails quoting Cheap Trick with “Hello There Ladies and Gentlemen”, but my boss didn’t find my sense of humor amusing and/or professional. now i’ve reverted to the simpler (but more boring) “Hello All”.

        1. simonthegrey

          I don’t send many workplace emails that are official; when I send out emails to my students it’s simply “all students,” but sometimes, with peer coworkers, it’s “my peeps” as in short for “my people.”

      2. No Longer Passing By

        Your boss seems tone-deaf and obnoxious, at least in this regard. I hope that he is better in other aspects

    10. ITPuffNStuff

      obviously the sender was inconsiderate, but i would characterize this as an understandable and easily fixed mistake rather than the somewhat more judgment-laden “offensive”. “offensive” implies the sender acted maliciously and is A Bad Person, when more than likely he was just a bit careless. i feel like applying the label “offensive” is bringing the contextual experience of past sexism into the present situation, and i don’t feel it’s fair to attach that weight.

      sexism is a real and prevalent problem, something virtually everyone is guilty of perpetrating (against themselves, against others of their own gender, and against the opposite gender) and virtually everyone has been victimized by at different points in their lives. attaching value judgments to the offender usually isn’t an effective approach to resolving the problem (or, as much as i hate to quote theology, let he [or she] who is without sexism throw the first stone).

      i think other readers’ suggestions to reply with something like “… and ladies?” points out the oversight without judging the offender. we all make mistakes, and equal gender representation comes through practice and repetition at correcting those mistakes, not through attacks and bitter conflicts.

      1. Samantha

        I realize I’m in the minority, but I would let it go. Sometimes people say things we wish they wouldn’t, but unless it’s deliberately meant to hurt, like addressing someone with the n-word, I don’t think it matters in the long run. I always think about something my grandma says,”Will it matter in a day? A week? A month? A year?”

        1. Melissa

          Well, of course it matters. Intent isn’t magic. Consistently addressing a group with an exclusionary term like “gents” sends the (perhaps unintentional) message that women are the Other, or that they don’t matter, or aren’t part of the group. Sure, the message might be unintentional, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

          Think about it this way – if you accidentally stepped on someone’s toe, doesn’t it still hurt? And wouldn’t you still apologize, even if you did it unintentionally? It’s the same thing – a person might inadvertently do something that harms someone else, but just because they “didn’t mean it” doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have consequences for the other person.

  2. Katie the Fed

    I’ve started a new position, and one of my employees is a serious chronic complainer/whiner. She won’t complain to me much because I shut that down in a hot second, especially if it’s just whining. i’ll turn it back around on her and ask what steps she’s taking to address it (example – she feels she should have been promoted by now and it’s just not faaaaair that other people have been and she’s still stuck in a lower grade. So I’ll ask her what feedback past supervisors have given her, and what she’s done to address that, and it becomes “well…I don’t know….” and she slinks off. So she’s stopped complaining to me).

    The problem though is she also complains constantly to anyone in earshot – mainly her coworkers. So they’re annoyed with her but they just sit there and get annoyed. I don’t usually get involved in interpersonal issues unless I’m asked do – but since they’ve mentioned it to me (like “yeah, Sansa mentioned she’s upset abut her lack of promotion – I’ve probably heard about it 75 times today”) should I get involved? What I’d really like to say is “Stop whining. Now. Everyone is sick of hearing about it. Either take action on the things that bother you or learn to live with them, but we’re all sick of hearing about it.” But she’s SUPER touchy and I feel like being that blunt will only exacerbate the complaining/negativity.

    UGH. Help. Also – my whine. I was really good with my last team. I worked with them for years and I was really good at dealing with them because I knew them well and how to communicate with them. Now I have a whole new crop of people and it’s HARRRD, dammit.

    1. Christy

      Well, how would you handle this if she were doing something else obnoxious in the office? Would you address it?

      And I think it’s probably a bad idea to avoid addressing something just because someone is touchy.

      Could you talk to her about exactly what would be required for a promotion, and include “stop whining”?

      1. Katie the Fed

        So part of the issue is that I have limited control over promotions. I can make a recommendation, but they’re handled by a panel who reviews an employee’s personnel file. And since she’s new to me – these are issues that have to do with her previous manager. And promotions are a bit of a crapshoot right now – they’ve slowed down a lot in general with the fiscal constraints. So she is legitimately annoyed and right to be frustrated. But at some point you have to STFU already because you’re driving everyone nuts.

        1. Gene

          You need to tell her that. Probably soften it a bit, or not, depending on what you think might work best.

          Since she’s a Drama Llama, maybe just be direct, blunt, and cruel; if you’re lucky she’ll get so offended that she’ll quit on the spot.

        2. Christy

          Could you say “To even recommend you for a promotion, I’d need to see x, y, and no more whining. And they’ll still consider your past performance issues when debating.”?

          And I think, honestly, that if she’s looking for a promotion, she should be looking to another office. That’s what my agency has going on–all promotions are internal hires from other departments. That’s just how it’s working for us. We all know that whining isn’t going to help.

          1. Katie the Fed

            Yeah, I think I’ll have to be more blunt. Of course then she’ll just be complaining about me :)

            One of the things that’s giving me pause is I know women unfairly get feedback on their personalities a lot, and I really don’t want do that, because this seems somewhat of a personality thing. I definitely won’t use the word “whining” – it feels gendered, doesn’t it?

            1. afiendishthingy

              it does feel gendered, and infantilizing. I’d just stick with negative attitude and then define that as including repeated complaints to coworkers to the point of affecting morale and productivity (if true.)

              I know what you mean about being a bit cautious of giving negative feedback about women’s personalities – although this is a behavior, not just her personality. Would it be acceptable from a man? No. I worry about the “abrasive” thing with female employees with “strong personalities”, but I also have a few women I can hold up mentally as “assertive” and not abrasive, and men who are definitely abrasive and not just assertive, and vice versa, so I try to think of specific behaviors that define those traits.

              1. Tyrannosaurus Regina

                I think afiendishthingy is correct to focus on her behavior (and maybe specific phrases?) as negativity rather than “whining.” Less debatable, and even somehow less personal.

                Like, I’m sensitive as heck and if I was being a whiny jerk I’d respond much, much better to being called out for contributing to a negative environment than if someone called what I was doing “whining”—even if it totally was.

            2. Mpls

              Use “complaining” instead? As in, complaining without a constructive element or a solution is corrosive to workplace morale.

            3. Beezus

              You mentioned that she’s quick to talk excessively about problems, but often hasn’t even considered solutions to the problems. I would focus on that and stay away from the W word, it feels like the main thing.

            4. OhNo

              You could address it as not so much WHAT she’s saying, but WHO she’s saying it to. I’m assuming that her coworkers don’t have any more control over her promotions than you do, so that might be the key point to address.

              Something like:
              “Louise, I understand your frustration about not getting a promotion, and I know you know that things are tough financially for the department right now and a promotion might be a long time coming. But FOR NOW, I need you to stop discussing your lack of promotion with your coworkers. It’s causing frustration on the team, and your poor attitude is negatively affecting others. If you’d like to focus on earning a promotion moving forward, I’d be more than happy to work with you to make that happen as soon as possible, but I would need to see some changes to your behavior in this area first.”

    2. Graciosa

      If you were anyone else, I’d be writing about coaching your team how to handle this when they mention it, and not to be afraid of managing her just because she’s super touchy, and really, who cares if she leaves –

      But you’re Katie the Fed, and you already knew this, so just sympathy.

      At times like these, I try to remind myself that “This is why we get paid the big bucks for managing” in spite of the fact that the bucks aren’t really big enough to cover some of this stuff –

      So *lots* of sympathy.

      1. Stephen King's Constant Reader

        Lol, yes this.

        But also, is it affecting people’s work or is it just annoying behavior? It may be hard to police her just for being irritating, but if you could tie it into the fact that people just aren’t able to concentrate when she’s around, etc., maybe that will sink in for her.

        1. Spiky Plant

          I think it’s totally OK to acknowledge that even if it’s not impacting the work DIRECTLY, if people are super irritated with her, she’s going to drive far better employees than her out of the office. The environment where one works is a real factor in retention, and the best have options. So if people are complaining, I think it’s totally OK to approach it as “You’re causing this office to be a more negative space for everyone, and you’re working counter to your own goal of promotion when you do that. You’ve said your piece, I’ve told you what you need to do to get promoted, and I’ve told you the realities of what promotions here involve. Now I’m adding that if I continue hearing that other people are sick of hearing you complain, I can’t possibly recommend you for promotion in the future.” If that’s the reality, then it’s fair to say it straight up to her.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yep — tie it directly to her desire for a promotion. “It would be really hard for me to recommend you for a promotion while you’re so frequently complaining to the team and being so distracting to others. But I’d love to help you get into a position where I could really advocate for you, and one thing we look for in promotions in leadership and professionalism. Let’s talk about how to show those qualities in a situation where you’re frustrated and not getting something that’s important to you.” Etc.

            Of course, if her work isn’t of a caliber where you’d recommend her for a promotion if she fixed this issue, don’t say any of that. In that case, I’d go with KathyGeiss’s excellent wording below. In fact, I might just go with Kathy’s anyway.

        2. afiendishthingy

          I have a peer who behaves this way and it totally affects my work, makes me more anxious, makes me reluctant to approach her for legitimate work questions, etc. I guess I – and Katie’s employees – need to get better at manning up and shutting her down. (My problem is I have previously opened the door to some venting, but she takes it too far, so I gotta make it clear that I can’t hear it from her anymore.) I think it’s also totally reasonable at this point to tell her she is harming not only herself but her coworkers and the whole department with this behavior.

      2. Katie the Fed

        Eh – I know how to handle when she’s doing it to me, but not when she’s annoying my team. But thank you :)

        I also fear this is becoming a Bitch Eating Crackers scenario, because I just find her REALLY grating.

        1. Lionness

          I know what you mean, Katie the Fed. I have one of them, too and she wont. stop. eating. the. damn. crackers.

      3. That Marketing Chick

        +1 and know that you’re AWESOME (all of us here know that!), and you’ll figure it out. But I think for the betterment of your team as a whole…you need to address it.

    3. KathyGeiss

      This is going to be an awkward and uncomfortable conversation but I think it’s an important one. I’d be clear with her on what behaviour your witnessing, the impact it’s having on the team and the change you need to see.

      “Sansa, it’s become clear to me that you’re unhappy about several things. I am willing to work with you to identify solutions and approaches to your concerns. But, currently you’re negatively impacting the team with your consistent complaining. I need you to resist bringing these topics up with people who are uninvolved. If you have a problem, please bring it to me with thoughts on solutions. If I continue to hear about your complaints, we’re going to need to have a larger discussion about your fit in this role and on the team.”

      Maybe leave out the last sentence for the first convo but be super clear that it needs to stop while reminding her that when/if she actually wants to do something, you’re available.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Ooh I like that! thank you! That’s the wording I couldn’t quite come up with because I am so out of patience with her.

      2. Not So NewReader

        I think this is the road to try next.

        There is nothing wrong with saying, “Sansa, you are probably not aware how often I hear complaints about your dissatisfaction with your job. You need to be aware that what you say does, indeed, get repeated. And it gets repeated OFTEN. You need to remember that we are all in the same boat working under the same constraints. Part of what you are being compensated for is to work with what we have here.” State what improvements you expect and what will happen if there is no improvement. “If I continue to hear complaints about your upsets we will have to have another sit-down discussion on this matter.”

        I would be sorely tempted to point out problem solvers are the ones who get promoted. The people who simply go around pointing out problems are not as likely to be promoted. Conversely, you could do a parallel thing by using specific examples: “People who have been promoted have shown they can do x, y and z comfortably. Furthermore they have indicated an interest in a, b and c. And they have gotten up to speed on d and e. On the basis of the number of complaints you have I can see where the higher ups would decide that you were not ready to take on new areas. You have shown a lot of discomfort with most of these tasks.”

        In order to motivate myself for this conversation, I would keep reminding myself that my group needs me to do this. It sucks for a moment but there is a long term benefit. One person like this can bring down a whole group.

        1. MaryMary

          I agree with Not So New Reader. I’d address the whining with regards to how people are beginning to perceive Sansa, and how it will impact her reputation in the workplace. If she wants to be promoted, she should want to be thought of as Sansa the Rockstar, not Sansa the Whiner.

      3. afiendishthingy

        ” I need you to resist bringing these topics up WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE UNINVOLVED. If you have a problem, please bring it to me with THOUGHTS ON SOLUTIONS.” Bingo!!!

    4. AnonArch

      Considering you’ve received complaints (though maybe not formal ones) and it seems to be upsetting the workflow of your team, you probably do need to speak with her. That being said, touchy people who go on the defensive when confronted are super difficult to deal with. My usual approach is a lunch or coffee break with just the two of you where she can feel like you’re being understanding and nurturing (sigh) and that’s why you’re being honest (and hopefully the rest of the team will understand that it’s a meeting and not favoritism). Also, advice in this situation is probably super helpful. I’ve been in her position with GS grade issues and I ended up moving up through the ranks as a contracter much quicker. I didn’t complain about it all the time because that’s not really anyone’s problem, but maybe you can talk to her about the highs and lows of government work and maybe offer some advice? Sorry you have a complainer on your hands – I’m definitely more like you with the whole “shut up and deal with it” kind of attitude when it’s not something you are any of your team are in any position to fix. It’s just not appropriate behavior. I’m going to follow this thread all day to see what others have to say. I’m curious!

    5. Malissa

      I’d tell her, “One of the things you could do to start working toward a promotion is to have a more positive attitude in the office.”
      When she replies, “What do you mean by that?”
      Say, ‘Well you could try asking people about X rather than mention the fact you haven’t got a promotion yet. Take an interest and be positive.”

    6. The Cosmic Avenger

      Interesting. I’m going to disagree with most of the other comments and say that (depending on the workplace), this doesn’t rise to the level of a manager’s problem. I think the co-workers need to shut her down or ignore her, depending on their personal communication styles and their relationship with that co-worker. I guess the best case for intervening is if HER productivity is low or dropping, you can ask her to not stand around in other peoples’ cubes chatting as much, but if I were in your place, I would feel like it was overstepping to try to restrict the content of her conversations.

    7. A Minion

      Perhaps you could institute a “No Gossip” policy. I know some people wouldn’t consider that gossiping, but if you think about it, it really is when it’s concerning things like promotions or raises or workload, etc. She’s complaining to people who aren’t in a position to change her situation and the things she’s complaining about are ways in which she feels she’s been wronged by management, so it could be considered gossiping when you look at it in that context. There are offices that have that policy in place and it seems to work well. In fact, I believe it’s been referenced here before, though I’m not sure where that thread is.
      The long and short of it is this: if you’re complaining to someone about an issue that they have no power to impact and that doesn’t involve them personally, you’re gossiping and it needs to stop.
      It may seem harsh, but it’s effective.

      1. afiendishthingy

        I don’t think instituting a blanket policy to fix one person’s behavior is the best solution. Whiny McBitchnmoan needs to change, not the whole department.

      2. Graciosa

        You need to be really careful even appearing to be trying to prevent employees from discussing working conditions with each other (labor law issue). You can address the complaining in other ways, but this area is one where you need to be sensitive (and get expert advice from HR or legal counsel).

    8. brightstar

      One possibility is that she is unaware of how often she’s complaining about the lack of promotion. People often are blind to how often they mention things. And since the job and the people are new to you, I think this makes it a little more difficult.

      That said, it definitely sounds like it’s impacting your team. I would go with the approach of coaching your team on how to respond and if it continues, then addressing it. And actively working with her on improving certain things to get promoted may help.

      1. Katie the Fed

        This is true. I’ve been called out on complaining in the past and was surprised – I didn’t realize how vocal I was being.

        Thanks for the advice – I’ll mention to the team how they might try dealing.

    9. Thinking out loud

      “Sansa, I’ve been thinking about the fact that you said you wanted a promotion since we talked about it last, and I’d like to talk about the steps we should take to get you ready for it.” Then I’d discuss concrete things that you think she can do. Some of my managers don’t understand the details of what I do and would need to give general things like “Begin providing useful metrics for your work” and would have to ask me for details on how I would implement that. I think that’s fine (or maybe even better, as it gets her involved with the planning). I’d ask her to document it and e-mail it to you, and then I’d say, “And listen, I know it’s frustrating how long it takes to get a promotion around here, but I want you to know that I think we can get you there and that I’ll be supporting you all the way. It has been mentioned to me that you’ve discussed this with a number of coworkers, and I’d prefer that you discuss your concerns about this promotion with me in the future rather than discussing it with other folks. Are you okay with that?”

      1. Aww man, not another Sansa chapter!

        It is so appropriate that you chose to call this employee Sansa

        1. Katie the Fed

          Not accidental! She’s a perpetual victim – it’s not just this promotion thing – it’s everything.

    10. Louise

      I had this conversation with an employee this week. Her complaints had become a performance issue. We talked about the behaviors, underlying issues, the impact of the behavior on others, and expectations going forward.

      I think it was important to the process to acknowledge the content/context of the complaints. Sansa is upset about not getting a promotion. She may not understand that longevity in her position is not the deciding factor in promotions or that opportunities are in short supply. Your expectations for her might include a hard limit regarding complaints, but also some steps for developing her promotion potential.

    11. Artemesia

      If you are her supervisor I’d have a CTJ meeting with her about attitude in the workplace and how aversive it is to have a co-worker constantly whining. And use the word. Let her know that this is a whine free zone and that if she has a specific problem she needs to address is clearly once to the person in a position to do something about it. If her problem is promotions then she needs to talk to whomever has that authority about what she needs to accomplish to be considered for promotion. (probably stop whining is one of those things.)

    12. Revanche

      I had this exact problem with one of my reports. A legacy who thought she should have been promoted already but in actuality was both unqualified and had a serious attitude problem, she wasn’t ever going to be promoted until she displayed the maturity level befitting a senior manager. So I had to tell her that: I’m here to mentor if you actually want this promotion but either way, the (whinging) constant dwelling on negativity has to stop as it’s unprofessional and demonstrates a lack of judgement that would not be tolerated in someone with as much responsibility over people as the much coveted role. It took a few firm conversations but at least it was clear that the grievance was not going to be resolved to her satisfaction until she changed her actions.

      On the gendered thing, I understand what you mean but I mentally characterized the actions the exact same way when I encountered it in her twin problem staffer who was male. Whining is whining, sometimes…

  3. Ladidadida

    Is it worth listing ‘other languages spoken’ on a resume if the job doesn’t specifically require that language? (Especially if the job is located in an area where that language isn’t that commonly spoken?)

    1. Future Analyst

      I wouldn’t. Unless you truly believe it’s going to up your chances of being hired, it may just look like you’re throwing anything and everything on your resume, with no regard for what the company is actually looking for.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Yeah, me too. It’s interesting! And it could be useful in ways you don’t anticipate–for example, Spanish isn’t required or needed to do my job, but my boss is fluent in it and likes having others to chat with in that language. Plus, there’s a growing body of research of the benefits of being bilingual, such as “that bilingual people are more efficient at higher-level brain functions such as ignoring other irrelevant information.” (I’ll post the link for that quote separately).

    2. Lily in NYC

      I say definitely. You never know when it might come in handy or if one of your interviewers also speaks that language which could create a bonding moment. And I don’t see a downside where it would hurt. It’s a skill just like any other.

    3. Anna

      I do. Just mostly as “This is a skill I also have.” Even if you’re in an area where the language isn’t commonly spoken, I think it’s worthwhile to list it. It’s an actual skill that you have and you’re never sure when it will pop up as being needed.

      1. OfficePrincess

        I agree. I’m in an area where Spanish is very common and we get a lot of bilingual applicants. It’s a skill that comes in handy on the job, definitely. But we also get an inordinately high number of customers who speak Russian and other Eastern European languages that are very rarely spoken around here. We’d never request it in a job description since so little of the applicant pool speaks those languages, but if someone came along with even a small amount of proficiency in Russian, we’d be very excited.

        1. Turanga Leela

          I was going to say this. If you’re fluent in Haitian Creole, you suddenly allow your organization to take on Haitian clients, even if they’re a small group and the organization has never worked with them before. It’s a huge asset. Just make sure you’d be able and willing to use your language skills in the course of your job.

    4. S.

      Yes! I’m starting a new job in two weeks, and I think a big reason why I got it was that I speak some Spanish. Language skills weren’t mentioned in the ad, but it turns out Spanish speaking clients are not uncommon, which I wouldn’t have guessed based on the area where the job is located.

    5. Lucy

      I would include it, since it’s a nice conversation starter if nothing else. Caveat: only include it if it’s in a native/working fluency capacity – I’ve seen a lot of people list “fluent in Spanish” when in reality they took it in high school 10+ years ago.

      1. Spiky Plant

        This! If you could actually write something in that language, read something in that language, or speak to a random person that popped into the office speaking that language, definitely put it. If you’re not that strong, it’s not as important (though you might still include it and say “intermediate” or something else that’s not a lie).

      2. Jill 2

        Here’s something weird — what if you ARE technically native to a language, but have lost spoken proficiency? My mother tongue is not English and I spoke it until I was about 5. With socialization into American schools, I just lost touch with it. My mom only ever speaks to me in the language, so I understand it perfectly. But if you ask me to speak, I get self-conscious and can’t. I believe if I was dropped in my native country for a couple of months with no help, it would come back to me, but languages aren’t my strong suit. I just happened to be raised in it and know it, but can’t speak it.

        Is that not enough fluency to list?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          I use the term “proficient”– I’m not fluent in French, but I’m pretty good at it. If you put me in the middle of France and gave me a few cocktails, my skills would be back to college-level (when I minored in French) in about 36 hours. So my resume says I’m “proficient in French”. No one’s ever really cared, though it occasionally comes in handy for odd reasons.

    6. Lionness

      I actually would. Especially if it is a second (or third, or fourth…) language because I think it speaks to a level of dedication and particular skillset that is required to learn and be fluent in additional languages

    7. AMD

      Yes, you never know!

      Have you read the Shopaholic series? At one point, she lies on a resume and says she speaks Finnish, to make herself look more accomplished… Only to find out the company has been searching desperately for someone to work with their clients from Helsinki….

      1. Ladidadida

        Haha, I haven’t read it but now I want to look them up just to find out how that job turned out…

        1. land of oaks

          In the movie version she does a great job of faking Finnish. Isla Fisher is pretty dang funny.

    8. CTE 08-8F NAV

      The only downside I can think of is something that’s come up a couple of times here on AAM: someone is applying for a call-center job, they say they speak (for example) Spanish in addition to English, and they find themselves working the (grossly under-staffed, grueling) Bilingual English / Spanish line.

      1. Charlotte Lucas

        I’d mention it, because it could be on someone’s “nice to have” list of employee skills. Where I work, we deal with overseas military member benefits, and we do hire people (at a premium) who speak languages that aren’t common in the area but are where the US has bases. It could open up doors for you – doors you never knew existed!

        Or it can just give you something interesting to talk about with your interviewer. (There’s actually an additional benefit at my company – occasionally we need someone to translate something written in a language we don’t normally hire for. Someone who does the translation can get paid at a higher rate than usual for that day, if they’re normally a lower paygrade.)

      2. Anonsie

        Yeah I would tread carefully with this for certain jobs where something like that is possible.

      3. afiendishthingy

        Not sure if this is the case at all call centers, but I got paid a dollar more an hour when I worked at one because I spoke Spanish. The spanish call volume wasn’t too high – maybe 10% of my total calls, if that – only real downside was getting some really crappy shifts because they needed at least one bilingual person on at say, 6 am (whereas they needed few enough English speakers at that time that those shifts went to people who actually liked starting work before dawn. No judgment, I’m just not one of them!)

    9. Jen RO

      This question is super-weird for an European – in a professional/corporate job, a resume that *doesn’t* mention at least one foreign language will most likely get ignored.

        1. Jen RO

          I think the UK is the exception here – if you’re lucky enough to speak English as a first language, you’re fine. If you’re not… you’d better learn it if you want to get into the corporate world.

    10. Karowen

      I have French listed on my resume because it was my minor in college – The number of people who were randomly excited about that in my last round of interviews was weirdly high, and they had absolutely no mention of needing to speak any second language in the application process. I feel like it’s one of those things that certainly can’t hurt, and may help. Just be prepared to identify what sort of working proficiency you have in it.

    11. Nom d' Pixel

      I would. I work for an international corporation, and English is the official company language (nice for us, but sucks for a lot of other employees). Even though other languages aren’t required for us lucky English speakers, we do run into communication problems, and having someone who can help break down language barriers always helps. Plus, it shows an openness about other cultures, which is always a plus in a global company.

    12. Future Analyst

      The comments here are so interesting– I never thought to list my native language (it’s obscure and useful only in the country I’m from) on my resume, mostly because I didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that I’m not originally from the US. Probably different for more universally useful languages, like Spanish.

  4. ACA

    Can I just say that if I never hear my coworker on the phone cooing “HI BABY! HI BABY GIRL! IT’S GRANDMA! YOU’RE SO PRETTY! HI!” ever again, it will still be too soon? Unfortunately, her granddaughter’s only six months old, so it looks like I’m going to be suffering on a daily basis for a long time to come.

    1. Lily in NYC

      Ugh. The guy who sits behind me fights multiple times a day over the phone with his boyfriend. I’m so glad I don’t understand the language they speak.

      1. Ann Furthermore

        I worked with a contractor once who would fight with his wife all the time. They would have these raging arguments, and he would end them by saying things like, “I f-ing hate you!” and slamming down the phone. Nice. I always wanted to ask him why he and his wife were still married. It was pretty obvious that they hated each other.

        1. TL -

          “pretty obvious that they hated each other” made me laugh.

          They were advertising it for all to hear, or at least he was.

        2. Amanda

          I once had a boss at a small family owned business who would loudly scream at his wife with his office door open. I was his legal assistant, and so I sat around 10 feet away from him with only the (open) door separating our work spaces. It was awful, and everyone heard it, and no one could call him on it. Really, really terrible.

          1. brightstar

            My first job out of college was at a similar environment, it was so bad myself and the one other employee would have to leave the office and stand outside.

        3. Bea W

          Reminds me of my dinners with my grandparents.

          I came with my father to visit one day, and as we were walking in the door my grandfather blurts out “Your mother is an asshole!” It took me a couple seconds to figure out he wasn’t talking to me about my mother.

          No one was sure why they stayed married. My grandfather had divorced previously after 10 years married (no children). So there was precedent for it.

        4. Elizabeth West

          Some people enjoy the drama and they’ll play it out over many years. Fight and make up, fight and make up.

          That doesn’t mean you should have to listen to it at work, however!

      2. CTE 08-8F NAV

        When I was maybe 10yo, my parents took me to the circus, which was happening in some kind of arena complex.

        About halfway through, I excused myself to find the little boy’s room, and I’m in the outer hallway of the facility, which is filled with vendors and misc people – and there is a couple who are faced off at each other, about 30ft apart, and they are ***SCREAMING*** at each other in Spanish; I had never seen two people anywhere, in reality or television or the movies, who were as angry as these two. I thought I was going to see blood spill. I was disturbed enough that I ran away. I found a bathroom, returned to my seat.

        … and 10 minutes later, guess who I see? It’s that couple. They were part of the trapeze act. They were I dunno 75ft up on a pole, all smiles, hugging each other, waving at the crowd. This was a long time ago, I forget who did what, but I DO remember that part of the act involved one of them somersaulting off of the trapeze and being caught in mid-air by their partner.

        They must have had a very complex and interesting relationship.

        1. Kas

          Perhaps that was their way of clearing out any niggling tensions so they could focus on the performance ;)

      3. DaBlonde

        My coworker calls his fiance every morning and repeatedly asks her, “How are you?” “Are you annoyed, you sound annoyed.” for a solid 15 minutes every morning.
        Seriously co-dependent and annoying.

        1. afiendishthingy

          omg. In your place I’d be very tempted to shout “I don’t know if she is but I’m pretty annoyed!”

    2. Anna

      Too bad you can’t say something like, “You tell your granddaughter she’s pretty a lot. Do you also talk to her about her other abilities? Like how well she eats mushy peas? I think it’s important to instill in young girls that their worth isn’t solely in their looks.”

      1. ACA

        I wish! But mostly I wish I could say, “Your office is more than 50 feet down the hall, but you are so loud that the rest of us can hear your side of every single phone call you make, so please either shut your door or develop an inside voice.”

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Could you just say in a friendly tone, “Hey Jane, would you mind closing your door when you’re on the phone with your granddaughter? It tends to get loud.”

          1. ACA

            She outranks me by multiple levels, unfortunately, and she wouldn’t take kindly to it.

    3. infj

      Do you work with my mother in law? If she never tells my kid he’s SO CUTE again, it will be too soon. If it’s any consolation, the kid’s parents are probably equally annoyed.

    4. Anoners

      People using baby voices while talking to significant others in the office is the worst! I just can’t fathom being so lovey dovey on the phone when everyyyoneee can hear you. You are not Kim Kardashian, please do not talk like you’re six years old.

    5. Dawn

      Ha ha ha man loud phone conversation havers are the worst! I used to work with a very high strung, slightly odd guy who would be on the receiving end of berating phone calls from his wife at least twice a day, and half the time he’d give it back as good as he was getting it. Loudly. In the middle of the office.

      There was also one time when he called up the police to talk about how the cars in the street outside would go by faster than he thought was safe because there was a crosswalk there and then got mad because the cops were basically like “They’re going the speed limit and we can’t do anything unless you have a complaint about a particular car.”

      1. Steve G

        OMG that sounds like the male version of Mrs. Bucket from Keeping up Appearances! I remember one episode she was calling the Chinese embassy to complain about how people kept calling her house thinking it was a Chinese restaurant

    6. Jennifer

      Gag me.
      I bet this’ll be me in a few years when my coworker’s kid finally gets around to birthin’ babies, though.

    7. MaryMary

      Our CEO’s grandson figured out how to FaceTime grandpa on his mother’s ipad when he was abou 18 months. Our CEO stops whatever he is doing to babble with his grandson, even if he was in the middle of a meeting or a phone call. Sometimes whoever is in the interrupted meeting is encouraged to talk to the grandson too.

  5. Gene

    We are having a discussion around the office about mixed orientation documents. When one is stapling a document that contains both portrait and landscape pages, which way do the landscape pages go, top to left or top to right? I have the feeling this is like the Oxford Comma war.

      1. fposte

        I had no idea I had a preference, and yet top to right seems utterly inconceivable to me.

      2. LBK

        Yep. Top to right seems weird to me – you’d have all the prior pages closer to you, possibly hanging off the table depending how close you need the document to you in order to read it.

    1. Delyssia

      I do top to left. Though it’s totally one of my pet peeves when clients provide multiple forms that have to be returned together, but they’re in a mix of orientations. Ugh!

    2. Lillie Lane

      You didn’t ask this, but just wanted to put it out there….I am firmly in the “staple placed at a 45 degree angle in the corner” camp.

          1. LBK

            Unless you have cats that think the over roll is a fun toy to unravel all over your bathroom.

          2. Cath in Canada

            I like the 45 degree staple placement, but I like my toilet paper to come from under the roll. The latter is purely because my mum and sister hate it that way and I was never allowed to do it my own way growing up. Now I have my own house and I will hang my paper how I want, thankyouverymuch.

            (My mum still changes it when she stays with us)

            1. Gene

              To amuse myself, I frequently change the way it’s hung in bathrooms I use, public or private.

        1. Kas

          Absolutely. Also, if you staple parallel to an edge, the paper will eventually tear around the staple.

      1. Talvi

        45 degree angle AND right close to the corner. Why oh why do people feel the need to put the staple 2-3cm (or more!) in from the corner?

    3. Brett

      Top to the left, but that is because most of my landscape documents are maps. If you staple top to the right there is a good chance you are obscuring metadata whereas top to the left almost never does.

    4. Ann O'Nemity

      Top of landscape pages to the inside.

      This preference goes back to my days of having mixed orientation documents bound, but I do it the same way when stapling.

    5. Aunt Vixen

      I was going to say I think the reader’s preference is strongly correlated to whether the reader is right- or left-handed, but that may have to do more with clipboards than stapled documents, and now I’m not so sure. :-) Me personally, I feel like the top and the left are the beginnings of pages, so if the top can’t go on the top, it goes on the left – but that’s exactly the opposite of how I want things on a clipboard, because I’m going to keep the clip in my left hand so I can write with my right hand, which means the top of the landscape page would have to be on the right side in portrait orientation.

      Augh. Can’t we just stop printing things out and read everything on a screen? Adobe will handle that nicely for you.

      1. TheExchequer

        The minute Adobe easily lets me make notes on a page, I’ll be happy to stop printing things out.

      2. to

        Top to the left is “correct” but as a leftie my natural inclination is top to the right! I have to fight it every time.

    6. Ann Furthermore

      I would say top to the left. This was drilled into my by a former, very nutty, manager who had extremely precise requirements about stuff like this. Anything with a landscape that was going into a binder was to be inserted into said binder with the heading facing to the left. And God help you if something got in there flipped the wrong way. Or if you didn’t tap your stack of pages 3 times on the long side, then twice on the short side, before using the hole punch.

      1. Aunt Vixen

        Back in the law firm days we had one partner who insisted on bigger holes than were (a) found in three-hole paper, (b) punched by any standard-issue hole punch, or (c) drilled by the big ol’ drill they had down in the copy shop (for times when someone decided the thousand or more pages you just copied should have been on three-hole after the copying was done). And fair enough: pages in a full three-inch binder are much easier to turn when the hole is bigger. But god. We had a special hole punch just for documents we were going to bring to him.

    7. Retail Lifer

      Top left, according to the orientation of the first page. Anything drives me unnecessarily crazy.

      I feel like this is more like the toilet paper over/under debate than the Oxford Comma debate. Gotta be over!

    8. jhhj

      I am going to be an iconoclast and say top to right. That’s how I imagined it immediately. But I’m pretty sure this is a hill that not only am I uninterested in dying on, it’s one I don’t even feel like climbing.

      But this assumes that the bottom left corner has no information in it — first priority is not to obscure information, and second is to be consistent in the document, so all of them need to go the same way, and if this obscures information lay out those pages again.

  6. Future Analyst

    Reading through the comments from this morning’s post, I’m now wondering about my own plans for maternity leave. I’ve posted before about how I am unhappy in my current position—my manager is a micromanager and unable to let anyone in our division to their work without constant (and sometimes wholly unnecessary) input from him, and my job itself has shown to be very different than what was presented during the interview process. As such, I’ve been actively applying for positions, and have managed to get two interviews in the past two weeks. However, given that I’m 8 months pregnant, I’m skeptical that anyone will hire me this late, since it would necessitate working for only 4-6 weeks, then being out for 3 months. I was planning on continuing to apply for jobs while on maternity leave (which is completely unpaid, and healthcare is not covered either). Since I’ve been working on getting a new job for the past month or so, is it still crappy to apply for work while on mat leave, and likely not returning?

    1. Christy

      I would say it’s not like they’re paying you at all, so you’re totally in the right to keep looking for work.

      1. AnonArch

        Agreed. I think it’s more of an issue when they’re paying out benefits to an employee who then up and leaves after using them.

    2. JC

      I think your situation is different than the one from this morning because you don’t have a concrete end date in mind right now. From what you currently know, you very well may come back to the office for awhile after maternity leave. And I assume you’ll quit your current job once you are hired at another one, vs. leaving them hanging until you’re supposed to come back, since you’re not getting benefits from them anyway.

    3. BananaPants

      If they’re not paying you for anything while on leave and you have to foot the bill for healthcare coverage, then IMO you’re free to apply for other jobs while on leave.

    4. to

      You earned your mat leave during the year+ you worked before going out. You don’t have to earn it again after.

      This goes for everyone! Unless the employer had gone above and beyond the requirements of the law and their own policies with the explicit understanding that you will return for a certain minimum after, you don’t owe them any extra for following the law!

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I’m not caught up on the comments from this morning’ post, but I think that neither you nor the original OP is doing anything wrong. You don’t have to plan your pregnancy around your job transitions, and you don’t have to plan your job transitions around your pregnancy. Your employer could lose you at any point; losing you during maternity leave is no different than losing you six months ago or two years from now. Losing valued employees is s a cost of doing business. So is working around maternity leave (and, for generous employers, paying for maternity leave).

      It gets stickier, I think, if you know you’re not coming back after maternity leave but are collecting your salary/health benefits. But I still come down on the side of the employee in that case; that’s a benefit that your employer offers, presumably because they believe it will help them attract and retain strong workers. The fact that it didn’t work to retain you doesn’t mean you’re beholden to them (unless you have a contract that requires repayment or something like that). It’s all a byproduct of our effed-up approach to maternity care in the US, anyway, and call me a feminist radical (which I am) but I’m down with employers bearing some of the brunt of that, just as employees do.

      1. to

        Completely agreed. Doing the legal minimum required is not a retention policy; having a stronger maternity leave policy than legally required *is* a retention policy but a retention policy is *not* a guarantee.

    6. Cristina in England

      Unpaid leave and you don’t even get healthcare while you’re out for what is a clearly health-related reason??? Oh hell no. Get out and have a clean conscience. You’re doing NOTHING wrong.

    7. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

      What makes leaving from mat leave without returning a somewhat crappy thing to do is the fact that your employer is paying you/your benefits/etc. while you’re on leave – basically, they’re paying you (partially through maintaining your benefits, or completely if you’re lucky, with continuing salary) during a time when you’re non-productive in exchange for your promised return, so entering into that bargain knowing you intend to renege on your end of the deal if at all possible is just bad faith.

      In your case, they’re not paying you anything at all on your leave, so there’s no bargain. You’re free to leave in that circumstance without guilt, in my book.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Why are you asserting that they are paying her in exchange for her promised return? If that’s not specified, it’s just as reasonable to assert that they are offering a benefit in exchange for her previous good work.

        1. Future Analyst

          I agree with your thought that it’s a benefit for previous work performed– I’ve never heard of a company offering maternity benefits without a caveat that you must be there for x months/years before you can use said benefit. I always thought that individuals earned mat leave by putting in a good year (+) of work, not that they were preemptively using a benefit that they would then have to “pay back.”

        2. fposte

          The term “mat leave” is not usually a US one, though, so Purple Monkey Dishwasher may be from Canada (or 190 other countries).

  7. Nervous Accountant

    This is a rough one.
    I just got the worst email from my boss blasting me for my performance because of a client’s complaints.

    I admit I dropped the ball on the client, but the email was just so so so painful to read (that I’m the one who gets the most complaints from clients for not responding and my performance sucks).

    But I’m a little bothered by the email. What makes it worse is that it’s my day off so I have no idea if I should email her back or wait until I see her on Monday (IF I can even come back in on Monday).

    There have been times when clients cancelled, but a good number I would say had nothing to do with me–yet I still had to take the heat for it bc my name was attached. Even when I explained the situation to my boss and she says its fine, and even when the client says it has nothing to do with me personally, it comes up again like today’s email.

    I feel like no matter how well I do, my reputation is cemented since it was already bad when I was first hired. (apparently my last manager hated me and as a result the upper management couldn’t wait to get rid of me….even though I proved I wasn’t as bad as they said). When they made me the offer, she said she and upper mgmt were happy with my work.

    I have stuff going on in my personal life that sometimes makes it hard to concentrate this last month or so, but I know that’s not an excuse. Im on thin ice, and I’m scared I won’t make it at all. I feel like if I lose my job that’s going to affect the personal stuff and I’m afraid I’ll lose it if that happens.

    1. Anna

      I’m sorry. That completely sucks. Would it be possible to email her back and ask if you can sit down with her on Monday to talk? It’s not like you don’t know your performance has been suffering so maybe sitting down with your manager to discuss what you can do to get back on track and develop a plan to check in X weeks later to evaluate how things have been going.

      PS Emailing you something like that is crappy for the exact reasons you described. You can’t address it with her head-on, you don’t know if you should respond, and it’s not the sort of news that should be delivered via email.

    2. Arjay

      I’m sorry that you’re going through this. And for what it’s worth, that type of negative feedback should have been communicated to you face-to-face, not via email. I hope things work out for you, both personally and professionally.

    3. AdAgencyChick

      No advice, just commiseration. I’m with you.

      It was crappy of your boss to send you negative feedback on your day off. Unless the problem is so bad that it requires immediate damage control that she can’t take care of (and if I were your manager, it’d have to be REALLY bad to ask an employee to cancel time off to work on something), there was no reason for her not to have saved the email in her drafts folder or…you know…waited until Monday to have the conversation in person.

      1. Nervous Accountant

        Well she didn’t know it was my day off or didn’t remember. My manager-whom I work closely with–responded and reminded her. He said he would take care of it.

        It’s just weird cz a few weeks ago I was being asked to handle client emergencies so…idk.

        1. fposte

          In most workplaces those wouldn’t be mutually exclusive, though. Wanting an employee to improve in some areas isn’t the same thing as considering them incapable of handling a client emergency.

          I don’t know what your boss said, but is it possible that felt like a “blast” but was feedback about stuff you should improve on? If so, that doesn’t mean you suck and you’re doomed; that’s a pretty standard part of the process for a new hire, even if she’d been there as a temp before.

        2. AdAgencyChick

          Wait…your boss and your manager aren’t the same person? Who controls your reviews? If it’s your boss, and your manager likes your work, you may need to have a talk with your manager so that she knows to talk you up to the people who make the decisions.

    4. fposte

      I’m sorry, NA. Bad feedback is always tough. I think you might consider responding today if you think it will help you put it aside for a few days. “Thank you for the information; I’m sorry to hear about the complaints and am keen to work to minimize them. Let’s talk about this when I’m back in the office next week.”

      I know you’re having a tough time at home too, but I think you’ll be better off if you can meet this head on and find ways to minimize slippage and dropped balls. Whatever structures you can create–checklists, task lists, calendars, to-dos–the better; leave as little as possible to the stressed mind. That makes you look better as well as work better, so it can help defray concerns whether they’re based on perceived or actual problems.

      1. Future Analyst

        Agreed with this– I think it would be helpful to walk into a meeting with your boss with a plan for how you will address the concerns. If it’s a matter of responding more promptly to clients, set up time daily (or weekly, whichever is necessary) to respond to calls/emails, etc. Try to come up with some sort of solution to every issue she outlined, and ask for feedback and/or additional ideas of how to improve. Walking into a meeting like that with a desire to improve and a formalized plan to do so will be helpful for you both.

    5. HeyNonnyNonny

      Ah, that sucks, it sounds like, as with lots of customer-facing jobs, you ended up as the scapegoat. I agree with Anna’s advice to ask your boss to talk about it Monday. Try not to let it hang over your weekend. :/

    6. LVL

      First of all, I’m sorry to hear you are in such a tough position. In my opinion, I would write back and ask to set up a meeting with your boss next week to discuss the issue and specific, concrete things you can do to improve your performance. The best way to deal with situations like this is with honesty and to show your boss that you _want_ to change and that you recognize the issues. Can you tell your boss that you have personal issues going on? He or she may be a little bit more understanding. Perhaps you can ask what your colleagues do if they are frequently cancelled upon? How they deal with it and how they uphold the integrity of their appointments? I think this weekend, take some time to take care of yourself and think proactively about how your meeting will realistically go. Write down what your work-related problem,s are and a way that you can work to solve or fix each on of them. This shows a clear, concerted effort to improve your performance. Also think about going through the archives on AAM and finding letters from people who are in similar experiences and apply Alison’s advice to your own situation.

      In the end, take this as a learning experience and have faith that you will come out on top of this. In tough situations like this one are when the best lessons are usually learned. Hold your head high, and use this as a way to improve your performance and build your character and resilience.

    7. Katie the Fed

      Well, I think it was kind of terrible for your boss to do this over email. These are conversations that need to be had, no matter how uncomfortable. Because tone and nuance don’t convey well in email.

      So – can you talk to your direct manager for now and ask what you should do, since he said he’d take care of it?

      I think maybe sit on it for a few days, and then a response like:

      “Thank you for the feedback. Obviously it was tough to read but do realize I could have done some aspects of Project Apple better. I’m planning on taking action (describe – working with your manager to figure out how to do something differently, etc) to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

    8. Snoskred

      I once received a written warning via my home email address, so I totally get how upsetting this must have been for you.. I’m so sorry this happened to you. :(

    9. Not So NewReader

      Please consider your boss’ way of doing things. Does she ordinarily let clients yank her around emotionally? Is she usually a hot-head then it blows over?

      What about your manager? Is he more level headed? It sounds like he might have your back?

      I have to say this. Having my own version of a tense work place PLUS at home stuff going on I had to figure out a way to calm myself. One of the things I landed on was asking myself, “What is the worst that is going to happen here?” Of course, the answer is I get fired for some trumped up reason. I thought about that. I concluded that being fired was just a moment it was not something that went on and on for days/weeks/months. It’s a moment, then it is over. Whereas, the job, if I stayed working at it, WOULD be something that went on and on for days/weeks/months. Reality is that sometimes staying in a toxic workplace is WORSE than being fired. Firing is finite. I concluded that I wasn’t actually afraid of losing my job but, rather, I was afraid of keeping it.
      Once I correctly identified my fear, my backbone got a little stronger. (It sometimes works that way, once you correctly identify what you are afraid of you suddenly find yourself pulling together.)
      Own the parts you flubbed up and apologize. Stand up for yourself when you are falsely accused. And keep telling yourself, “I deserve better than this. I can and I will find a better job than this”.
      Your situation sucks, I am so sorry.

      1. Nervous Accountant

        No she’s actually very very sweet and nice. I’ve never seen her upset and none of her emails have been like this but I have heard of her sending scathing emails to others who are high producers and well liked as well so idk. Our company is very focused on customer service.

        My manager or team leader is great. He’s very nice (well everyone is) and is always there to help and I love working with him.

        Despite my posts here j really do love my job and love being here. The worst thing to happen will be to get fired and going through the job search all over again and dealing with a new environment.

        I always tell myself that I’ve been in many many worse jobs, always taken out of desperation (for $$ or to get away from home).

  8. Vanilla

    I’ve been in marketing and PR for nearly 10 years. I’ve been working in healthcare for the last five. I’m thinking about going into medical or pharmaceutical sales and was wondering if anyone here has done this successfully.

    I’ve been told by several people that I would be fantastic at sales. Plus, I love the idea of not having a cap on my income. a lot of the marketing/pr jobs in my area don’t seem to make more than $60k a year, unless you’re c-level.

    1. Joey

      Way easier to get in if have med/pharma sales or are an RN.otherwise you’re at a disadvantage.

      And just so you know there aren’t many jobs in pharma/med sales that are uncapped anymore. And the ones above 70k are highly competitive. My wife got in through a small business and took about 8 years (3 jobs) before she was able to compete at the best companies with the best salaries (meaning above 100k). Everything leading up was products that were for some reason really tough to sell or came with a lot of non sales work like service/admin/reporting/helping other product lines. Weirdly the “the apples/iphone’s” of the med/pharma world go to the best and most experienced sales folks.

      1. Vanilla

        This is great info to know. What about other sales jobs/other industries? Do you have any insight you could share.

        1. Joey

          A good entry point that I’ve seen is business development in home healthcare and durable medical equipment businesses. These are usually not very we’l l paying but not competitive either. My wife got in doing a sales/service for medical equiment. She was basically selling medical equiment to hospitals and maintaining the stock of those items in the hospitals. From there she went to sales of surgical equipment which included teaching surgical staff proper use, and finally now she just does the deals for hospital systems to buy and others do the implementation.

    2. Rachael

      I recently spoke with a pharma salesperson, and they did say that it was tough to get in if you do not have previous pharma experience it was tough, but he had been able to do it (he had experience in magazine sales). I did an information interview with him, and sent him my resume which he sent to his boss. Nothing happened with it, but I would recommend that route. Good luck!

    3. Anomanom

      I used to work in a niche industry whose salespeople were heavily recruited into pharma sales jobs. Totally and completely unrelated to health care – payroll and hr outsourcing services. I was told they targeted them though because they were one of the few groups who still knew how to cold call on businesses and could build relationships with long term clients (CPAs were a huge source of leads for us). They used to snag our people who were a few years in, and offer them substantially more money. Always sad for us to see them go, but happy for them for the opportunity.

      I think it would be key to emphasize the things you do that would align with those concerns. It also heavily depends on the market you are in.

  9. infj

    When do you tell a potential employer that you are under a non-compete agreement? I took my agreement to an attorney and he said that it’s too broad to be enforced but because we’re in Pennsylvania a judge (if it came to that) would modify it to make it reasonable/enforceable (rather than tossing the whole thing). My instinct is to wait until I get an offer and then proceed from there.

    From my understanding, my employer has never tried to enforce a non-compete even when someone left and went to a direct competitor. But I certainly don’t want any surprises as I’m (hopefully soon) starting a new job.

    1. Jessa

      Can you find out from the lawyer what parameters WOULD be enforceable? I mean get an idea as to whether it would mess you up with the new job at all before bringing it up? then you can at least discuss it on the “this is where the issue is,” axis instead of “I have no clue.” Also I think I’d not say anything til the offer stage, simply because A: it might not be an issue, and B: I think any employer is going to err on the side of taking you out of the running so as to not deal. So C: until/unless it becomes an actual issue, I’d leave it be. Because you also do not want (if you’re in a niche industry,) for people to talk about you amongst themselves and take you off everyone’s “hire this person” list due to a possibly irrelevant document.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        I don’t know about in that state, but my guess is that the attorney could only speculate on that. The attorney could say “here are limitations that have been upheld, and here are limitations that have found to be unreasonable, so at least this much but not that much.” These kinds of things are often fact- and industry-specific. But it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

    2. puddin

      Deal with it if it becomes an issue. But know that the new employer may be very very nervous about the non-compete regardless of how sloppily it is written. You can be suspended (so to speak) until it is resolved or even fired if they get scared enough. They may ask you if it is common practice in the industry/position – of course be honest with your answer. Many times the non-compete can be worked around…For example, you are in a non-compete that states you cannot contact old clients within one year of leaving Old Company. Then for the next year, you train and prospect new clients. Or you can get very technical about it and prospect that same company, just with other people in other depts that may want to use your products and services.

      I was able to avoid either of the above scenarios by getting an ‘official’ lawyer statement to the Old Company telling them that they were in the wrong and specifically addressing why they were wrong and how it would not hold up in court. They agreed to dismiss the non-compete. But I only sent it after Old Company notified the New Company. It cost me about $200 in attorney fees.

      Been there, done that, lived to tell the tale.

      Use an attorney to make your final decision on what to do, this is just my slice of experience.

      Good luck with everything!

      1. infj

        I was imagining doing something like an official lawyer statement. I think it would be a good strategy. But I, too, would want to wait to see what happened. I think that I would actually get a good reference out of CurrentJob in the future but sending something like that would definitely sour the relationship.

    3. little Cindy Lou who

      I’m under a 2 year non-compete from my previous employer. When I got the verbal offer from my now current employer, I gave a copy to them for review and ran the position responsibilities by my previous one. The old place deemed it a non-conflict and the new one had their lawyers tailor the language in my offer letter a bit. Mine also had broad language but this arrangement made the process from verbal to written offer rather smooth, considering.

  10. Nobody Here By That Name

    My DREAM job was just posted again. Previously it was posted for just a couple of days and then the listing was taken down. Now, about a month later, it’s been posted again and I was able to submit my resume and cover letter for it. Please please please let everything go well and let this work out for me.

      1. Nobody Here By That Name

        I have but you make a good point. I’ll reread them just to remind myself. Thank you.

    1. Diddly

      GOOD LUCK. Have a similar situation at the moment :)

      (In case you believe in astrology it’s Mercury Retrograde right now so stuff coming back from the past is more fortuitous than ‘new’ stuff, also communications and travel will be all over the place…)

    2. Elizabeth West

      PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESE

      There ya go. The universe tends to listen to me when I ask for other people. It never listens when I ask for myself! :P

      1. QualityControlFreak

        Tell me what you want Elizabeth, and I’ll ask for you. Because you are awesome.

  11. Ali

    I finally got good news the other day! I got an offer for a part-time pharmacy tech position…I’m just waiting for my background check to clear after I took the drug test yesterday. I actually got the offer e-mail when I was in NYC to interview for a full-time position!

    I do have to wait a couple weeks to hear how the NYC interview went, as I was among the first batch the hiring manager was talking to. She did seem impressed that I traveled from PA, though, and she said she would’ve been willing to have a phone call if she knew. But she accepted my answer of wanting to show I was serious about relocating to the area. I know not to read into anything…but any edge I can get is awesome.

    Woohoo!

    1. Lady Bug

      After my boss fired a coworker he received a letter from the coworker saying he understood why he was fired and that Jesus still loved my boss. It was in boss’ home mailbox, not addressed, no stamp. Boss was creeped out.

    1. Lily in NYC

      A woman I worked with punched a hole in a wall after she got fired. Another one wrote a half crazy/half awesome manifesto email on her way out. I hope you get more dramatic responses than mine; these are pretty tame.

      1. puddin

        I imagine my exit interview will be an Alan Shore-esque monologue of wit, evaluation, and persuasive commentary. This would be my manifesto. But in reality I will probably just slink away leaving the broken pieces where they lay.

        I have a little bit of admiration for the gusto it takes to actually follow through with such an email – as kooky as it may be.

        1. MaryMary

          When morale was really low at OldJob, I had a standing $50 offer to anyone who would quit Jerry Maguire style – manifesto, yelling for the entire office to hear on the way out, etc. Bonus $50 if they convinced anyone else to follow them, a la Renee Zellweger’s character. No one ever took me up on it, though.

          1. Spiky Plant

            I worked somewhere where it was actually a bit common for someone to peace out with no notice, leaving an all-staff email behind them that, while mostly polite, had some very specific digs at specific people. And then the President would reply to those digs, again on all-staff. It was a bit of a shitshow. But always entertaining!

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I once fired someone who punched the wall of my office as he was walking out. No hole was created but it was unnerving. Like to the point that I was on edge walking out to my car that evening. (For the record, he had been clearly and repeatedly warned and given clear benchmarks to meet in order to keep his job, which he had not met, and the firing was not a surprise.)

    2. Joey

      Returning and keying the car he thought belonged to his manager- it wasn’t.

      Filing bogus EEOC complaints. Happened twice to me. Both were dead wood that wasn’t dealt with by the previous manager. Damn that was expensive, but definitly cheaper than having them here.

      1. Susan

        Similar to the keying, someone scratched the f-word in giant letters onto the hood of a random person’s car.

    3. Nervous Accountant

      Private or public? Privately I texted my “boss” begging for another chance (quotes bc I was there thru a temp agency). Public ally I cried.

          1. saro

            But wouldn’t it be funny if it was her? Before I read AAM, I used to get into stand-offs with the police as a result of my work performance! :)

        1. Natalie

          That’s actually all I know, related to that particular firing. The entire thing was kept very hushed, both in our office and in the small town where they lived. (Former co-worker had been a volunteer firefighter and thus knew most of the cops involved.)

    4. part of the machine

      wow. I have a few, but this one was a gem.

      employee quits, and yells at boss in boss’s office. employee that busts in on several people having lunch in someone’s office and tells them that she quit, and leaves in a huff. then boss busts into the same office, and tells everyone that she is the boss, she fired employee, and can fire anyone if she wants. talk about toxic.

    5. Joie de Vivre

      Worst reaction I’ve had was a very large angry man who tried to punch me in the face.
      He’d been on a PIP for his random temper outbursts – with colleagues, customers, managers, pretty much everybody he came in contact with – so I had been expecting an unpleasant reaction but I didn’t think he’d try to hit me.
      Fortunately, I saw it coming and ducked and had security in the termination meeting so they took it from there.

      1. BenAdminGeek

        We recently interviewed someone who had told HR that he’d been fired from his last 3 jobs for anger issues. Then got all defensive and upset that we’d brought it up as topic during his interview. We decided to pass on him as a candidate…

          1. Big Tom

            It makes me so happy to see (what I hope is) a “Help!” reference in your name.

    6. stellanor

      I have a coworker who is Really Not Good at her job. She’s way slower than everybody else, she doesn’t understand parts of her work, and no matter how many times people explain those parts to her she does not pick it up. Or even improve. Apparently her manager has told her to ask for help when she needs it, because she asks for people’s help all the time… but she doesn’t want them to help her understand X or Y, she wants them to do it for her. (Inevitably what she needs help with is a part of her job that is very hard, or is tedious and time-consuming. So, crap nobody wants to do.)

      If you push back she CCs her manager and your manager on a big old whine about how she can’t do it by herself and she’ll just have to figure something out. If something goes wrong while you’re helping her with something she will place the entirety of the blame on you, even if it went wrong because of something she did, because you should have helped.

      I got raked over the coals in my last review for not following her around picking up her messes, because apparently my boss wants results more than she wants this person to learn to deal with her crap. So I know I have to make sure her incompetence does not impact her projects. What I don’t know is how to deal with my incredible burning frustration that this idiot still has a job even though other members of my team have to do 90% of it for her.

    7. Lillie Lane

      Great question! A fellow summer student employee (we worked in agricultural research at a university) was let go because she would never show up on time. We even picked her up *at her house* much of the time on the way to our field site. Right after this, someone drove a car into the soybean field and completely destroyed the research plots, messing up the investigator’s study. However, we knew it must have been the employee and not some random vandalism because you wouldn’t possibly know about the plots unless you worked on the study.

      1. OriginalEmma

        Wow. That’s incredible. I hope there were cameras in the field that you could ID the car and by extension, its driver and press charges for vandalism!

      2. potato battery

        Ohhhh…as a researcher myself this is painful to think about. I would be SO PISSED if months of work were destroyed like that.

    8. Lucy

      Guy comes out of HR manager’s office and starts knocking stuff off desks as he stalks up to his former manager and tells her to go f herself – HR manager forcibly grabs him and starts dragging him towards the elevator as the guy is screaming “good luck on this sinking ship!” Guy gets shoved into an elevator and everybody is just kind of sitting there, stunned.

      This was at 8:30 in the morning, btw.

    9. fposte

      A small adjacent one: I was cc:ed on a furious dramatic rambling email because I had spoken pleasantly with the employee and she apparently believed I would be totally on her side. (She was wrong.)

    10. nona

      A tl;dr flounce email. I’m not sure if it was a layoff or a firing.

      This guy had apparently been watching everyone else’s work – outside of his department! – and compiling a list of things he thought were errors. Lol. It’s still in my “best of” folder, actually.

    11. Malissa

      At one job we had a lady who would just not leave. She sat at her desk until the police were called and she was arrested for trespassing.

      1. tango

        Ok, that made me laugh. As if refusing to leave means she still has a job. Kind of like we’re not broken up if I refuse to leave your house after you tell me we’re over.

    12. Gene

      Two

      1) Low level lab person (think technical dishwasher) got fired for many reasons and started calling everyone in Public Works at home to lobby to get his job back. He even called the Mayor.

      2) Coworker in the next office literally peed her pants when she was let go. Stood there with it running down her legs, puddling (autotext tried to change that to piddling :-) ) around her feet. After she squelched out we had to call Facilities for an emergency carpet cleaning.

      1. tango

        Ok, was that involuntary peeing from shame/anger/strong emotion or do you think it was intentional? I mean we had the guy poop in the potted plant at a job interview, I would not put it past someone to pee on the floor on purpose if let go as a major F You.

        1. Gene

          I honestly don’t think it was planned, though I wouldn’t put that past her. That’s the office I will be moving into since the coworker who had it after her is the one who died.

          Memories!

        1. fposte

          They’re all kind of sad, really, even if they do make interesting stories. People do all kinds of stuff when they feel like they’re falling off a cliff. I just read the Jon Ronson book about shame, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, and there’s a lot in there about how primal the fear of shame and reaction to feeling it is, and I think a lot of firings end up in this category.

          1. Turanga Leela

            Yeah. I’m taking comfort in the fact that I know lots of people who have been fired, and after the initial shock, they’ve all been fine. It feels devastating at the time, but you don’t get to see the aftermath when people have recovered. (And I’ve been avoiding the Jon Ronson book because public shaming is high on my personal list of fears, and the excerpts I’ve seen have bothered me a lot.)

            1. fposte

              Because of the examples he talks about, I’m guessing? He’s quite sympathetic to the shame recipients–in fact, one chapter is matching one up with a business that counteracts a big-shaming web moment.

          2. GOG11

            Yeah. An older gentleman who was let go from my current employer committed suicide shortly after. He was pretty close to retirement I think. He was one of many to be let go in that round of layoffs :(

            1. I'm a Little Teapot

              God, that’s awful. I understand his reaction; I’ve considered suicide after being fired myself, more than once. :( It really feels like you’ll never get another job, you’re a worthless person, and your life is over. I think our system of hiring really hinders people from moving on after their screwups (or their having a terrible boss), with all the emphasis on resumes and references rather than skills testing. People often talk about how people with felony convictions shouldn’t be punished for the rest of their lives, but what about people who’ve been fired?

      2. Elder Dog

        I know of someone who peed into the engine intake of an annoying co-worker’s sports car, but that was a general expression of annoyance, not over a firing. The co-worker had the car into the shop six or seven times over the following couple months because it “smelled like something died in there”.

    13. some1

      Literally during a round of layoffs (people were called into HR one by one and everyone knew what was going on) someone (not yours truly some1) spread poo all over the wall in the ladies room.

      1. TL -

        ..I don’t understand being angry and going for bodily excretions as the expression of it. That has never occurred to me when I’m angry – what is the thought process there?

    14. Spondee

      We had a woman drunk dialing half the office for several days after being fired. She’d dial someone’s extension and start crying about how she thought she’d work with our company for the rest of her career, and her manager was a snake, and what was she supposed to do now?

      It was so pathetic that people were afraid to hang up on her, and it was an open office, so we all knew when someone had her on the phone. Eventually, our admin got worried enough that she called someone to go check on her – I forget if she called the local police or the woman’s emergency contact, but the calls stopped soon after.

      1. Jen RO

        On the same note: Got fired for sexual harassment and generally being crap at his job. Called the manager a year later to ask if there are any jobs available.

    15. Not So NewReader

      Can’t be too specific so just a general idea. Employee was not doing well with the job. He knew this. Finally, it reached a point where he had to be fired. Boss brought him in the office and told him. Employee seemed to take it okay and left. Came back in with a weapon. Held Boss in the office for several hours because NO ONE NOTICED.
      They chatted this entire time. Employee had several serious life issues going on and the boss was empathetic. FINALLY the police arrived and the boss opted not to press charges. I guess Employee agreed to get help. He did not get his job back, though.

      1. Elizabeth West

        It’s really really good that the boss managed to not escalate the situation. I’ve been in a weird situation where I knew if I did anything I’d be in trouble. It’s extremely difficult to stay calm under those circumstances.

        I hope the employee is better now.

        1. Not So NewReader

          It is difficult to stay calm. Boss got lucky because the employee wanted to talk with someone. He really did not want to hurt anyone. You must have handled your situation well, too, because you are still here. Thank goodness! Brrrr… these types of stories send a chill up my spine.

    16. MaryMary

      This is not really a firing story, but I think you all may appreciate it. Upon finding out her office BFF was quitting (voluntarily, BFF found a better job – more money and a promotion), one of my coworkers dramatically packed up her desk and talked loudly about how all the good people were being pushed out, and she wasn’t going to stay here and be overworked and underappreciated until she got pushed out. She then stomped out of the building and left for the day.

      Yeah, she still works here.

    17. Anonforthis

      She threatened to bomb the workplace. I wasn’t her coworker but I had mutual friends on facebook and she tagged everyone she knew and went crazy threatening to bomb everyone, that she had unlimited access to weapons, and that she wouldn’t be their servant anymore. She got over the loudspeaker and told all the customers to get out since there was a bomb. She also knocked over the water machine, screamed at customers, and tried to steal a car (it was a car dealership). I worked in the prosecutor’s office and got her case file on my desk for data entry as an added bonus.

      Now she’s done with probation and the head of a non-profit for children with illnesses. Turns out her young daughter had an illness that will be with her the rest of her life and mom kind of went crazy in reaction to it. I understand it now but at the time everyone was all o.O at the situation. She was the kind of girl who always got in fights in school so we weren’t that surprised but it was over the top, even for her. Now she’s so chill it’s almost scarier.

    18. Cath in Canada

      There was a story from my grad school lab about a Chinese scientist who brought his own Chinese government funding with him, and would work silently at his bench in the corner, interacting with no-one. One day some guys showed up from the Chinese embassy in black suits, sunglasses, and radio headsets and escorted him silently out of the building. No-one ever saw him again.

      This was a few years before my time, but people were still speculating about it!

    19. Elder Dog

      Burnt the place down. After it was nearly rebuilt, burnt it down again. Couldn’t prove it in court.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Just because they wanted to move her because of excessive absences. Wow. I can see that she did not realize it would get so far out of hand, but I don’t think that lessens the fact that she thought this was okay to do.

    20. CTE 08-8F NAV

      The worst I ever personally witnessed, I only saw the aftermath: it was an older fellow, not far shy of retirement, and the manager set aside Friday afternoon to let this person know that he was being let go. I guess the manager thought it was going to go smoothly – but it did not (from what I knew of this manager, I can’t say I’m surprised) – and so this person had to be ‘removed’ from the building by security, and I was one of the people who got tapped to pack up his office stuff on Monday.

      It was extremely sad, bordering on depressing, because this person had been with the company for over 25 years, had numerous awards and stuff, and for whatever reason, he wasn’t allowed to retire pleasantly with fond memories of working for the company. I’m sure this “incident” at the end will haunt his retirement years.

      1. Steve G

        IDK how these things work in other companies, but it would have been nice if they discussed the possibility of early retirement with him and gave him a lump sum of cash to retire…..that is really a long time to be at one place and be asked to leave like that. Being laid off during a huge restructure/takeover at a company I was at for “only” 5 years is still giving me serious anxiety 5 months later…I keep thinking about all of the good things I did there, and why I am not there but people who did less than me still are, and it is a hard loop to get out of once your mind goes there………..

    21. Beezus

      Someone Mr. Beezus fired wrote a two-page letter blasting him and faxed it…to the manager of another company who, alongside my husband’s company, provided services to the same big client. I have no idea what he was trying to accomplish.

      The gist of the letter was that Mr. Beezus is a mean, mean man who holds people accountable for doing their jobs and has actually raised his voice and yelled at someone for being grossly insubordinate. The person who received the letter shared it with the client (the client wanted the man fired to begin with for other reasons, wasn’t aware of the insubordination issues, and was even happier to see him gone).

      The cherry is that, for some reason, the guy still lists Mr. Beezus as a job reference.

        1. Beezus

          I guess it’s still his most recent job, and Mr. Beezus was his only boss, so he’s putting his contact info down on applications that require contact info for previous bosses, but yeah, it’s kinda surprising still.

    22. INTP

      Mine is pretty boring compared to most of these, but she replied all to an email to the entire BUILDING (including 8 floors of companies other than ours) to say “Hey, I turned my keys in” instead of to our receptionist.

    23. lawsuited

      When I worked at a jewellery store in university, a co-worker was fired and responded by grabbing a ring as she was leaving the store and trying to run away with it in her 4 inch heels. She was apprehended by mall security almost immediately. It was truly bizarre.

    24. Felicia

      I was a student worker at the time, and my boss was firing a fellow student worker who never did what he was asked to do by the time he was told to do it and couldn’t grasp fairly simple processes after three months, that all 9 other student workers grasped n the first week. He threw a stapler at my manager’s face, who luckily moved out of the way quick enough. I was sitting just outside the manager’s office and he threw a book across the room as he left. I was a little terrified, so I imagine it was w orse for my manager. It did look like she was about to cry after that and I offered to contact security for her.

    25. AsAnonymousAsHumanlyPossible

      A high level employee at a place I used to work (think VP reporting directly to CEO kind of deal) was fired personally by the CEO, got into a screaming match with said CEO that lasted an hour, and then had what, at the time, looked like an episode related to VP’s extremely high blood pressure (which brought the yelling portion of the day to an end and led to the storming out in a huff as soon as he could breathe again portion of the day), but that we later found out (through a co-worker who knew VP socially) was actually a minor heart attack.

    26. Revanche

      1. X dumped water on all the computers in the back room and then logged back into the system to undo the day’s work later that night because my bosses were idiots about system security.

      2. Y stormed out in a rage making threats about how he’d “get you back for this!” and a week later threw a party inviting all the coworkers so he could bitch about how unfair the firing was, bragging about the things he did that got him fired as if they were heroic deeds.

      I’m pretty happy that I didn’t see those people again.

    27. Jane

      There’s a really spectacular one from Yosemite National Park. A kid on a trail crew knew he wasn’t going to be asked back the following summer so he decided to manufacture an emergency that he could be the hero of on the hopes that he would then be able to keep his job. He lit the stables in Yosemite Valley on fire so that he could save the horses. Instead he passed out from the smoke, killed several horses, and burned down several buildings including the Search and Rescue cache. He survived. To top it all off, they needed the equipment in the search and rescue cache that week and ended up having to get a whole bunch of rope sent up from the LA area in order to rescue climber with a broken leg off of one of the big walls.

    28. Florida

      A few years ago, there was an engineering firm in town that fired someone. A few days later, he walked into the office and started shooting at people. He killed at least one person.

      This year in another situation, a pastor was firing a janitor. At the termination meeting, the janitor pulled out a gun and fired it. The pastor returned fire with his own gun. No one was killed in that one. I guess the janitor went home that night and told his wife, “I got fired today at work, so I fired right back.”

      I probably don’t need to mention that both of these events happened in Florida.

    29. Crazy Diamond

      A dining room manager was fired, came back the next night and dropped his pants in the dining room in the middle of dinner. He was told that if he left right away, the police would not be called.

  12. Hellanon

    Just a drive-by to say thanks to AAM and all of you here – this week I was offered (and accepted! yay!) a fulltime/exempt position at my college. I fully credit all the great advice on negotiating & managing up I’m been absorbing from you all the last few months – the college has been shedding rather than adding fulltime faculty in recent years, and while hard work was certainly part of it, *smart* work was, I think, what made the difference… so again, thanks!

  13. Bekx

    I need some advice about motivation.

    So, I like my job a lot. The work is good, and I enjoy going to work.

    But I’m not good at working without deadlines. If you give me a project and say it needs to be done tomorrow, I will do it with flying colors. If you give me a project and tell me “Oh, whenever you have time” I will procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate. I’ve tried to give myself fake deadlines and it just….doesn’t work. I’ve been like this my entire life.

    Any advice? I’m struggling with this now, and my boss is starting to pressure me about the projects I’ve been letting slide.

    1. Dawn

      If you’re being pressured then it sounds like someone, somewhere, has a deadline for that project. I would start by pushing a little harder when you’re told “Oh, whenever”- Ok so is that OK whenever as long as it’s by next month, OK whenever as long as it’s in this fiscal quarter, or OK whenever as in if it never gets done at all no one will care?

      For the record I, too, am like this as well and I still struggle with it!

    2. GOG11

      Do you feel comfortable bringing this up to your manager? If so, maybe you could frame it as giving you additional context to prioritize rather than an issue with you/a performance quirk (though I think it’s a completely legit strategy to allow the pressure of a deadline push you to do your best). If you get quite a few projects/tasks with vague or unknown deadlines, it can be challenging to know how to prioritize.

    3. Woo!

      I’m just like this. Don’t have an answer though. And I don’t think that you can ask for deadlines, because then your boss or whoever will wonder why you can’t just take initiative yourself.

    4. Delyssia

      I empathize. I am totally a deadline-driven person. The one thing that helps me accomplish non-deadline things in my current job is that *most* of my job is deadline-based, so when I have downtime, that could be my only chance for weeks to work on some of those “when you get to it” tasks. Of course, it still takes me longer to do them than it would if there were a hard deadline…

      Have you tried making the fake deadlines a little more real by setting up times to review progress with your boss?

      1. Bekx

        See, I didn’t include this…but during downtime I do find myself slacking a little bit. Maybe checking my phone a bit more….AAM….I know, I know, it’s so bad!!

    5. Anna

      I get explicit. I tell people I work better with a deadline, so even if they have an arbitrary one just give it to me. Seriously, it works for me because I procrastinate. And not that I want to excuse behavior you’d like to change, but sometimes that’s part of your process. If you’re getting the work done, it’s not poorly done, and it gets to the person within their reasonable expectation of when it should be done, you’re actually doing all right.

    6. Joie de Vivre

      I’m the same way.
      I reply to any ‘whenever you have time’ requests with “I should be able to get this to you by X date. Does that work?”. Makes my deadlines real because I’ve set an expectation with the requestor.

      1. TFS

        I do exactly this (with pretty much exactly the same wording) and it’s seriously the only way I would ever get those projects done.

      2. afiendishthingy

        Yeah, telling somebody else the deadline I think is reasonable is the only way I keep myself accountable. It’s so hard.

      3. Bea W

        I work better with deadlines also and doubly so because I have so many things on my plate that if someone tells me “whenever you have time” that project is likely to just not see the light of day unless it is super awesome exciting and I just can’t help myself. Because of that it has become necessary to nail down some kind of time frame for every request, including the “urgent but no deadline” ones. You can’t tell me it’s “urgent”. I need to know how urgent it is to be able to prioritize it among all of my other deadlines. Is it EOB urgent? Tomorrow? Next week? Is it really a month from now? (some people exaggerate the urgency or mistake importance for urgency.)

        I have had to resort to telling reluctant timeline setters the way this works. If there’s no real deadline, make one up. Surely you need this thing done at some point, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking someone to do it. If I do it early, awesome! If I find I can’t do it in that amount of time, we can always revisit. It’s not set in stone, and no one is inconveniencing me by making up deadlines. Some people are reluctant to set any timeline because they know I am so busy. I tell them because I am so busy it is best to give me some kind of timeline for the request or it will just not get done. There is never a time where I’m lacking for things to do. I never get to no-deadline stuff at bottom of my to-do list.

        I also have a number of ongoing tasks which do not have hard deadlines, but are necessary and really important to do. Leaving them for very long means I’m likely putting out some fire months down the road. This year I started setting aside one day a week to work on these tasks, which were previously getting shoved to the back burner due to not having deadlines and piling up. It has made a HUGE difference for me. I am getting these things done, and no longer stress over them piling up. They are not taking away from the other work with even urgent deadlines the way they could when left to accumulate to critical mass. I have been consistent about sticking with this.

        My manager has asked a few times if I could spare that one day here or there or let these things go a month, and my answer after starting this has been emphatically “No!”. A month of accumulation is too much to be able to do in one day. I can’t squeeze 4 days worth of work into 1 or 2 days. That accumulation also has an impact on my co-workers. They get backlogged waiting on my backlog. Questions go unanswered. Issues go unresolved. I have also found that we’ve had a habit of putting these things aside and putting them aside again saying “Oh there’s no deadline, it can wait.”, but it really can’t wait. The longer it goes, the more work piles up until someone says OMG!!!!! We have to get all of this done NOW!!! Why is there so much backlog???!” Then I have to drop everything for a week to catch up, and that pushes out other deadlines or means I’m working long hours. This is pretty tedious stuff too. Having to to tedious things for days on end just make it that much harder to slog through it. It just was not working for me.

        My co-workers who end up impacted by allowing this stuff to get backlogged really like it too. It makes their jobs easier. It’s really win-win. One of my co-workers on another project has started to do the same at least part of one day a week. She finally making it through her backlog being able to tackle it a little at a time on a regular basis.

    7. lawsuited

      There are obviously deadlines for your projects because your boss is asking for previous projects that are now “past due”. Your boss is probably trying to be nice by saying “whenever you have time” but still has an internal expectation of when it should be done , whether that’s 2 weeks or 3 months or whatever. You need to push back to get a sense of what the expectation is, and make that your deadline (because if that’s when your boss expects it, that is the deadline). When your boss gives you a project and says “get it done whenever”, ask “is X days/weeks/months okay?” and read the reaction. Even if it’s a deadline you suggest, if you agree to it with your boss, you’ll respect it much more than a deadline you make up in the abstract.

    8. OriginalYup

      Would it to publicly commit to a deadline? Like if you’re given a project, ask for deadline and the response is “whenever,” and then you reply with an email saying, “Great, I’ll have it to you by Friday / June 30 / end of the quarter.”

    9. Bekx

      Thanks guys! Talking to my manager about a firm date is awesome advice. She and I are really close, so I feel comfortable talking to her about it. I think she just knows that I have super fast turnaround for most things, so her way of telling me to not worry about getting it done today, means that I procrastinate.

      1. afiendishthingy

        Also, can you break tasks down further and set deadlines for those mini-tasks? I’m a horrible procrastinator and the stricter the deadlines and more discrete the tasks the better I am.

    10. IndianSummer

      Everyone is giving you super advice. I have the same problem as you, and right now I feel like I have absolutely zero work to do. I maybe have two back burner projects I should work on, but I have no motivation to do them.

    11. UncoolCat (formerly Manda)

      I don’t really have any advice, but I can empathize anyway. I’m a procrastinator. I have poor time management skills. I’m not proud of that fact, but I think it’s a personality flaw that I doubt I’ll ever fully change. The best I can do is try to make improvements. I’ve often found that when I’m at work, I can focus on work. When I’m at home and I have things I need to do (laundry/cleaning/whatever else), it’s hard to just stay focused and get things done. I procrastinate. I get distracted. These are typically things that need to get done, but not by any specific time. I work better under pressure sometimes, but then I don’t handle stress well. I suck at estimating how much time I’ll need to do a certain task. I could never telecommute because I would definitely be less productive at home.

    12. Not So NewReader

      There is a theory that says, “If you want something bigger/better in life you MUST do what is in front of you NOW. You will not be given bigger/better if you do not finish the real tasks that are currently in front of you.”

      Oh my. I find this to be so true. It’s the person who completes their work that gets the perks, the desirable tasks that everyone wants. It’s the person who seems to be on top of their work load that gets the extra work where they learn more and more about the job. Annnd they sometimes get to work with people that they would not have otherwise worked with and they get benefits from that exposure.

      Sometimes things come up in life or on the job that either we are ready for, or we are not ready for. If we are not ready then the ship sails without us. Opportunity lost and the loss could have been prevented.

      1. Bea W

        Not in my job at the moment. It’s the nature of the beast. We have a backlog of crappy tasks, and that’s what you’ll be working on if you find yourself idle. :/

        But this is totally true. That downtime allows you to seek out better and more interesting tasks and pick up different work you might not otherwise do because someone else really needs the help and you are the one available. Or you might think of something you could improve and show off your skills which will lead to other work being assigned to you. “Wakeen did such a terrific job coming up with a new handle cataloging system, other departments are asking if they can set up a similar system.” (Wakeen gets farmed out to other departments and learns new and interesting things about the other parts of the teapot process.)

    13. Former Usher

      Thanks for posting this question! I’m finding myself in a similar situation with a few hard deadlines which I enthusiastically meet or beat, and lots of “no hurry, just when you get a chance” requests. I’ll be copying and pasting this thread for future reference.

  14. sprinkles!

    If your manager recommended an external position to you, would you apply?

    Ive been applying for internal positions for about a year – lots of interviews but nothing resulting in a job offer. I’ve been looking externally as well but of course I’ve never mentioned this to my manager or anyone else I work with. My current position has changed a lot in the past year and as a result of business needs changing, I have very little work to do. I’ve been assured by upper management that I will eventually have work to do and they are not eliminating my position, but I do best when I’m really busy.

    My manager approached me about an external position last week. Her close friend works for a company that is looking for someone with my skills set and she wants to recommend me. Thoughts?

    1. Not So NewReader

      I’d go check it out at any rate.
      If you still feel uneasy about it, ask your boss why she is doing this random act of kindness. Listen to her explanation. It might become apparent to you that this is real/solid and you should go for it.

      My uncle was a manager in a fairly well-known company for his area. He used to say the way to retain people is to show them where else they can go to find work. He felt that what happens is people get to really seriously thinking this move through and in most cases decide not to make the move. He did this because he wanted employees, not hostages. People who feel trapped are very unhappy people. My uncle’s department had very low turn over and it the pay was not that fantastic. They wanted to work for my uncle.

      Currently, my boss shows me job openings every so often. Yeah, it makes me more picky about where I apply. It makes me think about what I am doing.

  15. Dress Code Violator

    In “Alison’s Advice Is Always Right” news, please, managers, if there is a problem with some of your employees, a mass email to all employees chastising them will not solve the problem. It only makes good employees paranoid and it makes everyone wonder who the email is really about. Just talk to the employees!

    Related, clients and customers, please don’t refuse to give the names of the people you’re complaining about. You’re just dooming the rest of us to mass shame-mails. No one wants that.

    1. Jessa

      Oh, and to add – please do not make some restrictive annoying rule for every single person in a 100 person department, rather than tell Jo that their clothing choices are inappropriate.

      Can you tell I really hate places that punish everyone when one person is being a pain?

    2. Jake

      +1

      All it does is demoralize the people not Causing the problem because it is clear that either management is not aware of the scope of the problem, so they assume it is everybody, or they don’t have the management skills necessary to actually deal with the problem.

    3. Camellia

      And invariably, the person to whom the chastisement really applies never for a moment imagines it could be about them! And therefore they continue doing what-ever-it-is.

      1. Florida

        Yes! This is the worst part of those emails. The perpetrator never suspects that he’s the problem.

    4. AllyR

      Yes – our project director sent an email around this week stating our working hours and how people have been seen leaving early/slacking off/using the internet. Totally diminished how hard we have all been working. Yes I’m sure some people take advantage but speak to them privately!! I don’t see him work 70 hours a week, or working night shifts!

  16. Brett

    Friday already. Been working all week on National Day of Civic Hacking (our city is doing it early) and not had a chance to read much of anything here.
    It will be the last day of a 2 year run for me as a Code for America Brigade captain. Going to be weird suddenly having so much free time.

    1. S

      !!! My former workplace is a huge fan of Code for America, Civic Hacking, etc. So cool to have someone on the comments who’s involved.

  17. matcha123

    There’s someone new in my office who I could kind of call a temp. A coworker suddenly quit two weeks ago and we are trying to get the “temp” accustomed to our work.

    I’m trying to find the best balancing act for helping her to understand the workplace and just as important, how to get along with our team. The person that left was very competent, but she would often take time off… calling out sick an hour before work, leaving an hour or two early saying she was ill, heavy sighing when getting annoying tasks. None of these really affected me, but they contributed to a bad impression of her by other coworkers and caused a lot of stress for them.

    Now, I know people on this site are more of the “if you have pto, you should be able to take it whenever you like” mode of thought, and while I agree to an extent, this isn’t the US and as much as we could possibly cut out of work early or come in late or do whatever as long as the work is done in the US, that doesn’t fly here.

    The new person is American, like me, and I’m very sure that my coworkers want me to guide her. If you were in her position would you want to hear, “Don’t sigh because it pisses Tanaka-san off,” or, “Your penmanship is horrible, write better,” “Make your personality the opposite of June’s, “etc. Again, this isn’t the US and many styles that would fly in America would not fly here…

    1. GOG11

      Unless the person who is coming in has asked for tips, I think giving her a bunch of non-work-related stuff would come off as odd. Just because Former Coworker sighed a lot or wrote illegibly doesn’t mean that New Coworker will. Additionally, if it isn’t linked directly to the job, it can seem oddly controlling to want to dictate these types of behaviors (again, especially if she hasn’t asked for that sort of information).

      If there are specific, work-culture items that are in play there that wouldn’t be in most American work places AND you have reason to believe that this person is unaware of these dynamics (first job outside of America), I think a heads up about certain behaviors would be helpful. Anything beyond that, though, and I don’t think it’s necessary or that there’s a good chance it will be well received.

      1. Jessa

        Given the “Tanaka-san,” in the original question, in this case it might be a good idea for an assimilated American coworker to sit down with NewWorker and give them a cultural heads up. I’m going to take a fairly safe guess and say this is happening in Japan where the culture is very different to America about what is acceptable at work. If nothing else, go to the US State Dept site, or Emily Post’s business Etiquette, and find one of those “tips for US businesspersons going to Japan,” and have them read it. Bad first impressions last a LONG time, and in some cultures are nigh impossible to overcome. There are a huge number of sites for people doing business in foreign countries, it’d be a kindness to make sure NewWorker is familiar with them before they kill their reputation abroad.

        1. HeyNonnyNonny

          Yes, I’ve prepared briefers for execs traveling abroad. There is a lot of info out there, and a lot of cultural nuances that you really wouldn’t be able to intuit on your own.

      2. AnonArch

        I had someone training me before whose guidance was legitimately focused on what not be (like 2 specific people who were currently in the office and the person I replaced) as opposed to the things I should be doing to go along with office culture. I had a really negative view of the staff and even though nothing really happened while I was there, I kept expecting the toxic workplace ball to drop at any moment. It’s better to just be positive in your training and honest without tearing others down (even if they don’t work there anymore).

      3. matcha123

        I’ve given her a lot of work related information and she’s great at asking questions. At the same time, there are things that she might think are perfectly acceptable to do, say, looking at her phone outside of lunchtime, that would rub people the wrong way. Now, she hasn’t done anything like that, but if she did, no one would say anything to her.
        You might think they are in the wrong for not speaking up, but the culture is not confrontational in that way. What’s important here, as much as doing your job well, is observing the behavior of others and modeling your behavior after the “right” model…

        1. TL -

          You can ask her how comfortable she feels with assimilating into the culture and mention that there were a few tricky things that took you a while to pick up and you’d be happy to share with her if she wanted. Point out positive examples for her to follow, tell her specific behaviors to avoid, and don’t use workers in the office as negative examples.

        2. Beezus

          It’s odd to me, that you’re comfortable with being proactively direct with her about things she shouldn’t do, that she hasn’t done yet. I understand that the culture there is non-confrontational and most of the office seems to be that way, but you sound like you’re comfortable with being direct, so could you speak with her afterward if you see her doing something she shouldn’t, or if you hear something from one of your less-direct colleagues?

          1. matcha123

            I am quite bad at being direct. And I can never tell when I should jump in in a way that doesn’t sound rude and doesn’t seem like I’m biding my time waiting for her to slip up.

    2. Anna

      I don’t understand. Is the temp doing the sighing and taking time off or was that the person the temp is replacing? I don’t think it’s a good idea to approach a new person with a list of things the old person used to do that would bug people. It will make the temp feel like they have to walk on eggshells constantly. If he or she does ever sigh, they’ll spend the rest of the day paranoid they’ve irritated someone. Better to just let the temp get comfortable and if there are behaviors specific to the temp, you should address them. I would also say not to approach anyone with the “don’t sigh so much, it’s annoying” approach. Deep sighs are indicative of something else, like an overall bad attitude about tasks they don’t want to do and that’s actually what needs to be addressed.

      1. matcha123

        This person is taking over for the person who left suddenly. The person that left would sigh a lot. This person, the temp, was pulled from a different office while they work on getting someone in permanently. However, this is an incredibly busy time of year for us. This year especially.

        Personally, I sigh deeply because I often hold my breath and don’t notice it.
        I think my coworkers want her to feel welcomed, but there are a lot of things they are particular about.

          1. matcha123

            Well, they’ll still work with us. However, it will be from their original office. There were projects we had to work on before she came, but this is the first time she’ll be working on the same team in the same office.

            Since she’ll be here during our busiest and most stressful time, I want to give her a big heads up on the things she can avoid. Which will make my coworkers live her and in turn boost the whole group dynamic.

    3. Arjay

      It would be great if you could help her learn some of the unspoken norms. That said, I think your examples could be phrased less confrontationally. “Try to avoid sighing audibly as Tanaka-san sees that as disrepectful.” “We use a lot of handwritten documents here, and it’s important to management that they are neat and visually pleasing, as well as accurate.” Or whatever works best – I’d just soften the language of “it pisses him off” and “horrible” penmanship.

      1. matcha123

        That’s doable. I’ve been trying to keep things as neutral as possible, explaining how seemingly innocent actions could be interpreted differently.
        And, it’s not that sighing is off-limits, it’s more of a trigger due to the actions of another employee. I feel like I should explain the back story, and I’m wondering if it comes off as too gossipy.
        As a totally made up example: “Please go to the bathroom to blow your nose,” vs. “Tanaka-san has a thing about people blowing their noses. Jake who used to sit at your desk would blow his nose, nibble at the boogers and then go around touching things. He got everyone sick. While I’m sure you won’t do that, if you could excuse yourself when you need to blow your nose, oh, and wash your hands, that’d be great… At least for now. “

        1. Natalie

          I think you should split the difference – it’s worth knowing that Tanaka-san, specifically, hates it when people blow their nose around him, but the new employee doesn’t need to know all the gory details of the last person who didn’t and why Tanaka-san hated them. That’s the part that sounds gossipy.

    4. INTP

      I would want the brutally honest tips. I think some that you posted could be phrased more diplomatically (i.e. instead of “Make your personality the opposite of June’s,” “In this company they really value X, Y, and Z personality traits and seem to penalize A, B, and C. I know it’s silly, but you may want to try to adjust how you come across.”) It doesn’t all have to be phrased like it’s critical of her or other coworkers (like June’s personality is bad or Tanaka-san is a petty sigh-hater). Just “Okay, here are some things I have learned as a fellow American are appreciated/hated in this culture.” But even if you aren’t good at phrasing things diplomatically, I’d rather hear the brutal undiplomatic advice than none at all.

  18. nona

    I was going to complain about my job* BUT I might get out soon! I had an interview on Tuesday!!

    *my phone tried to autocomplete that phrase with: life, future, hair

    thx

  19. part of the machine

    When you work is less than stellar staff, how do you handle the having to apologize for their mistakes part?

    I work at a large office, and I am the outward facing/client facing role. I do not get to do everything related to the client’s file as quickly or as accurately as I want due to how my office is organized (I have to send stuff to other folks to carry the ball and carry out tasks, and I cannot change this).

    I find myself in the position where sometimes a client is angry that something didn’t get done, and they turn to me, because I am the outward facing/client facing role. I often investigate and find out that person y or z didn’t do their part correctly, which means that I have to do it myself or fix it or send a nasty email asking that it be done NOW. And then I have to save face. This often means that I feel the obligation to either apologize (and suck it up, take one for the team, not call out the specific person who dropped the ball/made the error) or not apologize and explain our office structure and who dropped the ball, and what is being done to fix it.

    What’s the best way to handle those types of interactions?

    P.S. This irks me so that I am looking to leave, but I can’t quite yet. I am not senior enough to challenge/change the structure. But this is clearly one of the worst parts of my job, and I hate it, because it makes me feel like I need to follow up on everything (not possible), create arbitrary deadlines to get stuff done (so that I can be sure that it’s getting done, because staff can’t manage their workload appropriately), and/or ????

    1. Kara Ayako

      I once managed a team that was like this, and my rule was that you NEVER bad mouth specific people. You, as the client-facing person, are ultimately responsible for that client’s experience, and if they didn’t have a good experience, you own it and apologize. Surely you can understand why they’re upset, and a little empathy will go a long way here. But something like “oh, I know, I’m just as frustrated as you are; this was so-and-so’s responsibility and she really dropped the ball and there was nothing I could do about it and isn’t she terrible?” will reflect poorly both on your company and on you.

      I understand that it’s not your fault, but it’s your job.

      This is definitely something you should talk to your manager about.

      1. part of the machine

        Thank you.

        Yeah, I know that you are right. It just really tough when you feel like you are doing this often, and you put out a stellar work product, but your colleagues/staff don’t and you’re often (at least monthly) apologizing for their mistakes.

        I kinda did a version of both this week. I explained where the ball got dropped, and fixed the error immediately (which meant having to drop everything and deal with it– 2 hours of my time). I also pointed out the issue to the person who dropped the ball and had them deal with it right now as well. I didn’t specifically call the person out with the client, but I did say that “position” didn’t do their part which is why it happened.

        I have had positions where this part of the job didn’t bother me. I trusted my colleagues. They worked hard to produce good work, and I would not mind occasionally (maybe 1X quarterly or less) apologize for an error that they made. It just gets more personally frustrating to me when it happens more often.

        1. TL -

          Sometimes I just say there’s a glitch in the system that we’re still working out, or something along those lines – you can still do it and apologize but you’re not blaming a person or position, e.g., I’m so sorry about this! We’re still trying to work out a smooth system for processing orders and clearly this is an area we need to work on.

          1. part of the machine

            the thing is that I find it hard to say that if we actually aren’t working on it. I talked with my boss and got a very small change. But the boss doesn’t see these issues as continual problems, and more like the price of the high volume that our office handles.

      2. AVP

        Agreed. The key thing to remember here is that you’re not apologizing for personally screwing something up – you’re apologizing on behalf of your company as a representative. If it’s the type of company where someone will complain about the OP on Yelp or submit a complaint to OP’s manager, manager should understand that and look into the problems, not just hold them against the OP.

        1. part of the machine

          the manager gets it, but the client often doesnt– which is what makes it difficult.

    2. Jennifer

      I do it myself and apologize like it was my fault, and don’t say it was someone else. Why? Because if you are public facing, you’re the one who’s going to get the blame for it anyway, and always saying “it wasn’t me!” makes people think you’re a liar.

      1. part of the machine

        thanks.

        I have had positions where this part of the job didn’t bother me. I trusted my colleagues. They worked hard to produce good work, and I would not mind occasionally (maybe 1X quarterly or less) apologize for an error that they made. It just gets more personally frustrating to me when it happens more often.

        1. Jennifer

          I sympathize entirely, and I have a lot of the same issues myself. I feel like it ends up being my job to fix everyone’s typos because people were either lazy or couldn’t see or whatever.

    3. Anna

      I have to do a version of this myself. I think the best thing you can do is apologize, let the client know you’re looking in to why this happened, assure them it will be taken care of, and find out if there’s something you can do to remedy the specific situation with the client.

      1. part of the machine

        Thanks. I did a version of this when this came up. I kinda fixed it first, before calling, because time was of the essence, and I wanted to make sure that the issue was fixed before apologizing. I focused on the fix, more than the apology– which was a little easier for me.

    4. Kyrielle

      As a client/customer, I don’t want to hear my point of contact blaming someone else. It’s *not my problem*. And I will think less of them for it – and I will think they’re more interested in dodging blame than seeing that my issue gets fixed.

      As someone who sometimes was in that sort of position at work, I went with something along the lines of, “I’m really sorry – I thought that was being done. I will find out what happened, get it moving again, and call you back (or email again, depending on initial contact) to let you know.”

      But the person to let know that others are causing issues is either the person who caused the issue, or your boss. Not the client. If you fix everything by hand and hated them, or if you had to send it to a team that never does anything on time, it’s not the client’s problem.

      1. part of the machine

        accountability is a huge problem at my work place. and I’ve been in this situation several times before– which is why it is frustrating. But thanks for your response.

    5. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!

      If you are able to set deadlines for the other departments, I would definitely set them at least 24-48 hrs prior to your meeting time with the client. Then (if you haven’t already) create a checklist for yourself to go over prior to your meeting with the client. This way you know what you have, if it’s quality work or needs to be tweaked, or if something is missing. This is all a CYA move that will make your life a lot easier. Good luck!

      1. part of the machine

        yeah. I don’t like making arbitrary deadlines, but I am thinking that I will need to start making deadlines on this so that the work gets done with priority/signficance– cause clearly my expectations are not the same.

    6. Gandalf the Nude

      Well, if something needs to be done by X date or time, then the deadline isn’t arbitrary. Is it possible that, like Bekx upthread, these folks aren’t clear on when stuff is absolutely due and can’t prioritize appropriately? If so, that’s an easy fix.

      Either way, I agree with others that taking the heat *from the client* is part of being the client-facing role. However, you should be letting your manager know so that the correct person is being held accountable internally. If things aren’t getting done correctly/on time/whatever, then it doesn’t matter who the client blames, they’re not going to be happy, and that is something management should be addressing by fixing the actual problem.

      If management’s not holding the correct people accountable, though, and there aren’t any viable workarounds, you’re definitely right to be searching for something else.

      1. part of the machine

        thanks. I appreciate your thoughts. See above. And yes, accountability is a big problem in my work place– which is why I am looking to leave. These issues have been “addressed” to my manager before and it has not improved.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Is your manager aware they have not improved? Or is he aware of how bad the situation is?

          1. part of the machine

            the manager is aware, but doesn’t see it as something that it is critical/etc.

    7. my two cents

      i’ve been in a similar role for the last 8 years – having to coordinate across sales and development teams to support customer inquiries and issues, and i’m the only customer-facing one of the lot.
      1. frame expectations accordingly. yes, your coworker should get that task done very quickly. however, start building in a small buffer when you’re communicating to the customer.
      2. acknowledge when the customer is still waiting. ping them before they ping you. even though you aren’t directly responsible for getting every aspect of their file done, you’re the coordinator.
      3. follow up on everything. should you have to be the babysitter for your colleagues? nope. but you’ll do yourself a HUGE favor by following up on your requests. my rule of thumb is: if it takes more than 1 prod (plus the original emailed request), you copy their manager.
      4. don’t bother calling out co-workers to customers. it doesn’t matter…they don’t know jim mcterriblecoworker, and it doesn’t help the customer to a resolution. it’ll just come across as catty gossip. the customer just needs what they need when they need it. IFF you feel you need to apologize or air some dirty laundry about something getting mucked up, DO NOT EMAIL THIS. keep it to phone only.
      5. start documenting what tasks seem to be getting messed up, or who’s routinely not finishing their docs/tasks/etc. i bet you’ll see a pattern pretty quick, and you should discuss these blockers with your manager.

      1. part of the machine

        thanks. Some of your suggestions are things that I can incorporate and some are not. But I’ll see what I can do. Accountability is a big problem at my work place. I’ve brought up some of these issues with my manager before, and it has not been resolved, so I don’t think that this is going to get better– which has a whole separate level of frustration.

        1. my two cents

          when taking info back to your manager, try giving as much detail for the incident as possible. try not to turn it into a ‘joe and sue are the worst and they never get their stuff done!’ rant session, but pointing out where some faltering points are might be useful.

    8. Anomanom

      There is an art to sympathizing and apologizing to the client on behalf of the company, while at the same time not taking responsibility for the error. It’s been a while, and I am out of practice, but I will think on the phrasing I used regularly. Really though, they don’t care who screwed up, they just want to know you found it, the company is embarrased it happened, you will jump through hoops to get it fixed and ensure a step is added to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Even if you know it probably will at some point (been there).

      1. part of the machine

        yep. working on finding a response that makes me not feel like a wimp/doormat/complete nincompoop.

        1. Anomanom

          I liked to use “we” a lot. As in, we are so sorry this occurred, lets see what we need to do to get this fixed and deal to the root cause. We will make sure to keep you updated. I find that using we makes the apologizing on behalf of others more palatable than I. And I like to think that subconsciously it reminds them that it’s not all you, you are just the face (or voice).

          1. Lady H

            This is what I do and what I was going to suggest! For exactly the situation that part of the machine describes, I never give the impression that it’s just me doing the work. At times I have my coworker, boss or a contractor working on a project, and can’t double check their work. (My boss and I are the only ones who interact with clients, so I occasionally email things on to clients that I didn’t work on at all but have no reason to check for errors since it was approved to send by my boss.)

            Sometimes I feel ridiculous saying “we did this” and “we did that” when it was just me working on a project, but it makes it easier to apologize for mistakes that someone else made if I can refer to how “we” are sorry/going to prevent the mistake from happening again.

            I picked up the habit from my boss, even though I didn’t even realize I was doing it but now find it useful. I’m still not sure exactly why she does it, but I think it makes you look good when you accept praise, too.

    9. MaryMary

      I was in a role like this. We called it Bitch/Bastard in the Middle, because the team always thought the client’s expectations were ridiculous, or that they were being overly sensitive or focusing on the one wrong thing when 99 things were correct. The client would get mad about project timing and cost, and then really livid if there were errors in the finished product.

      Part of your job is taking responsibility for the team. Try focusing on the solution, and less on the “I’m sorry” (you still have to be sorry – it really annoys clients if they don’t think you realize the seriousness of the problem). And see what you can do to prevent the errors. You say you have a less than stellar team. How do you make them stellar? Would documentation help? Better processes? A checklist or peer review? Are there performance issues that need to be closely managed? Are you understaffed?

      1. part of the machine

        I like the name, because that’s how it feels!

        I am not in charge of the team, just part of the team. I don’t know if I can lateral manage, but I have a feeling that I’ll get a lot of “stay in your own lane” from my coworkers.

        1. MaryMary

          Is part of your job to advocate for the client? Or at least to make sure they stay your client? I’d approach it that way, to whoever does the manage the team. “Boss, several of our teapots have gone out with crooked spouts or broken handles lately, and I’m hearing a lot of noise from clients. How can we reduce the number of errors in our product?”

          1. part of the machine

            unfortunately no. we are somewhat customer service oriented (that carries some weight), but it’s not a driving force in the work. this does help me with figuring out how to continue to frame the issue in a way that will appeal more to my boss.

      2. Jennifer

        I call it being the buttmonkey, myself.

        I basically feel like I have to be as submissive and apologetic as possible–but then again, I’m a clerical worker and that’s the job.

        1. part of the machine

          That’s another good name for it too.

          I get that being submissive and apologetic is sometimes the right thing to do, and I certainly am when I screw up. But if it’s someone else’s mistake and it’s more often, it gets harder for me to do that :(

    10. Elder Dog

      I’m so sorry that happened/didn’t happen. I’ll get it fixed right away/I’ll find out what happened and find a way to hopefully keep it from happening again.

      1. part of the machine

        these were a lot of the words that I used– thank you for suggesting them. I fixed a large part of it before I called/talked with the client, so that I could focus the brunt of my call on forward action. And that helped too.

    11. CTE 08-8F NAV

      Perhaps a more positive way to look at it is that you’re the Captain of a ship. Being responsible for the actions of your crew is part of the job. Although admittedly, adopting the “Captain” role also requires that you have some of the Captain’s Authority to make things happen the way you want them to happen.

      I’ll just quietly mention that this kind of thing is also one of the downsides of going into business with one’s spouse.

      1. part of the machine

        this is an interesting metaphor to apply. Yeah, it feels a lot like captain without the authority to captain– which is just frustrating.

        I can only imagine that it’s more complicated with more personal relationships– thank you for the suggestion of how to look at it.

    12. Not So NewReader

      If the nature or the frequency of the complaints could mean the company will have bigger problems later, perhaps that is something that would persuade the boss.

      “Boss, I had three calls today where someone plugged our “gadget” into the wall and sparks flew out of outlet. I wanted you to be aware I am getting the call frequently.”

      OR

      “Boss, Customer Smith received our package and items A, B and C were missing. This is the second time this has happened to Smith.”

      Maybe if you just documented the complaints over a week and then sat with the boss to show her the patterns in the complaints.

      I do think that being specific is best, because the boss isn’t getting it. If you see something that looks like it could become a legal problem, that might help you get the boss to pay attention.

  20. Ann

    Cover letter, schmutter letter! The online application process is so time consuming that the thought of drafting a cover letter wears me out! I know Allison says it’s a must, but if the recruiter only takes 10 seconds to glance at my resume, why would I think that they would bother reading my cover letter?

    1. Dasha

      Nothing to add except sometimes I feel like these online applications were just as tedious as applying to college lol.

      1. Jessa

        Yes. An application system should not take more than maybe 20 minutes, anything after that is insanity (unless it’s some government job or some kind of security check, but that should be an exception, and I think at least in the US there’s a single system so you can go in, do the thing and then just attach it to whatever jobs, however many times you want.)

    2. Spiky Plant

      I typically spend more time looking at cover letters than resumes. Resumes are designed to be easily scan-able to get the info you need (a broad overview of past experience, at least at first stage). Cover letters take more time to get the info you’re looking for out of them. So, people who don’t care about that info are likely to skip it, people who do care about that info are probably spending more time reading the CL than the resume.

    3. RR

      As someone who worked for an organization with a dreadful online application process, I can sympathize, but also stress that yes, a good cover letter is still worthwhile. The recruiter may or may not read it, but I, as the hiring manager, do. The last person I hired at ExJob moved to the top of the list in large part due to her excellent cover letter.

      1. Ann

        thanks… that restores my faith a bit. Though sometimes the online process has questionnaires and I always feel that if I answer no to anything it means an automatic reject. So frustrating!

    4. Apollo Warbucks

      You’re doing yourself a disservice, I’ve written some awesome cover letters that have got me interviews for some really great jobs that I would not of got based on my CV.

      1. Ann

        Good to hear Apollo! I chinned up and wrote a cover letter today but after answering No in their questionnaire about having x number of years experience in so-and-so I feel deflected and waiting for the automated Thanks, but no thanks email.

    5. DatSci

      This is one of the two topics on which I disagree with AAM. Maybe in certain fields/positions cover letters are important. I work in data science and have never once needed a cover letter. I do quite a bit of hiring as well, and to be honest I don’t even read them. You either have the necessary experience for the job or you don’t. No miracles performed in a cover letter will make the difference between qualified to interview and not. However, keep in mind that this is a specialized field, there aren’t likely to be hundreds of qualified applicants applying like in the cases AAM mentions where she relies on great cover letters to set candidates apart.
      So if you’re in a writing field or a highly competitive one definitely write the cover letter. If not, it is not as important as its made out to be here.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        There are absolutely a few fields where cover letters don’t matter much, and it sounds like yours might be one of them. But please, please, please don’t use that experience to discourage others from writing them; my mailbox is full of letters from people saying that their job search totally turned around when they started writing cover letters the way I talk about here. It’s possibly the single biggest impact this site has had on people’s lives, based on my mail, and I get growly when I see comments that might steer people away from that!

        1. DatSci

          Of course, I hadn’t meant to incite growliness. I just meant to add a diverse perspective on this question in particular. The original commenter who posted here did not indicate which field they are in, if it had been one of the fields I mentioned (writing, or a highly competitive field) I did advise to go ahead and write a cover letter. The only purpose of my comment is to provide additional information from a different perspective, that there are plenty of cases where cover letters do not matter.

    6. Anx

      I think what’s frustrating is not knowing whether or not a cover letter is going to accepted or expected for the job.

      So often, you can’t skip sections until you start filling them out. Or you can’t review the application until you start one. If you don’t want to be left scrambling to write a cover letter, you have to risk writing one pointlessly. I know that theoretically you should be able to whip up a cover letter quickly if you’re applying to a job with a lot of writing, but I think it’s always easier to do that sort of work when you’re already in a position or when it’s not just about you.

      The thing I dislike the most about it, is that the cover letter usually gets me more excited. I visualize myself in the role and start thinking about my life with that company. And I’m trying to temper that sort of thing.

      1. No Longer Passing By

        This. I recruit for my company and I don’t necessarily look at the years that a person has in the legal industry. Instead, I focus on the types of skills and characteristics that the applicant has and if it’s reasonably transferable to the position. So I may have a yes or maybe pile that I’m considering and that cover letter really can push someone up by demonstrating how the candidate views themselves in the role and using those skills.

        I’ve also had cover letters take candidates out of the 5 star yes pile and put in the reject pile. Why? Poor grammar. Spelling mistakes. Something written indicated poor judgment or anger towards their present or former employer or they detailed a list of things that they hate or they described working in an environment that directly was the opposite of my company.

        I haven’t done online dating but I imagine that it’s similar to a dating profile. That person wrote a summary about themselves and their likes and dislikes. You kind of have to believe it. And if their self summary turns you off, why proceed?

    7. Connie-Lynne

      As a hiring manager, I would often read cover letters in our online system, especially if the resume was on the brink. A good cover letter would push me over into phone screening them; a bad cover letter would put me the other direction.

  21. Gvhftr Kijl

    Sigh…
    I currently have a (relatively new) manager who seems to be overly focused on ‘what’ she should be doing rather than ‘why’ it’s been done. Like, she knows we should have regular team meetings, but she doesn’t seem to have any idea what the point of those meetings should be – no agenda, no objectives, no decisions made etc, often just feels like an hour of rambling.

    1. GOG11

      AAM has a couple of good posts on managing up, which might have some helpful tips. Just search “managing up” and the articles pop up.

    2. YWD

      Is she new to management or just new to managing your team? If she’s new to management she may not have received any training / guidance in how to be a manager. I know I didn’t and it took me a while to figure out what I was doing and I made mistakes along the way (still do at times).

      In either case if she seems open to feedback I’d be honest with her and give suggestions for what you feel would improve the team meetings. I periodically ask my team if they want to make any changes to how we meet and they’ve suggested things that we’ve incorporated.

    3. Bea W

      OMG GAAAAAAAAAAAHHH make it stop!!!!!!!!

      We have people who do puzzlingly inefficient and unnecessary things and when asked why, they say “this is the way we’ve always done it.” Sometimes they are even reluctant to stop doing it when told they don’t have to do it that way, and in fact a year ago there was actually a team decision to change the process so yes, they can in fact stop wasting their time on it or in reality they are just doing it wrong. It’s even worse when people hold meetings for the sake of holding meetings. It wastes everyone’s time.

  22. SaraV

    Ugh.

    I found what appears to be great FT job opening at a large company that happens to have an office in this town. Started the application process, started writing a cover letter…and then I read something on the online application that made me stop. Basically, it said if there was a 13 month discrepency in my job dates in the past 7 years, they won’t hire you. I was out of work for 17 months until two years ago.

    I can address this in my cover letter, but will they even see it if the application system tosses it out with that discrepency?

    I was so hopeful yesterday while getting my cover letter written, and it just felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath me.

    1. fposte

      Did they use the word “discrepancy” itself? I wouldn’t assume that meant a gap, but it’s a weird word to use.

      And if they did mean a gap, what a stupid and random condition. I’d apply anyway but definitely move on mentally.

      1. Kelly L.

        Yeah, I wouldn’t think that meant a gap either. I would think that meant “don’t be wrong by more than a year on the dates you worked there.”

      2. SaraV

        Exact quote: “Please ensure the accuracy of your dates as any discrepencies of 13 months or more will result in us not being able to move forward with you as a hire.”

        Hmmm. It doesn’t sound as bad now that I’m re-reading it. I think it just put me in a panic mode since I do have this largish gap.

        P.S. – I didn’t realize I applied to this same position back in 2013 until I was using my jump drive and found an old cover letter that was B.A. (Before AAM)

        I had a physical wincing action when I read it. Oy.

        1. fposte

          That doesn’t sound like they’re worried about a gap at all. I think you’re good.

          I also think you’re probably at a level of diligence that it didn’t occur to you just how fictional people’s resumes can be, and that that’s what they’re talking about.

        2. AdAgencyChick

          Yeah, that just sounds like “don’t lie about your dates of employment to cover up gaps on your resume,” not “gaps are bad,” to me.

            1. AnotherFed

              Maybe they wanted room to not auto-fail people who typo’d the last digit of a year?

              1. Bea W

                That’s my thinking, 12 months would make sense for the typical year typo that happens particularly when people are entering January dates, or for old jobs way back when the memory gets a bit fuzzy. I do find myself not being able to always remember easily if I started a job in 2000 or 2001, 2009 or 2010. Luckily I haven’t had to write a resume from scratch and can refer to an old copy, but I can totally see people accidentally entering a year off -/+.

              2. Anx

                It does sound weird!

                I wonder if perhaps they also want to be gentler on situations where it can be difficult to pin down exact start and end dates. I know I have positions that I’ve worked off and on, or gone full-time to part-time to barely-any-time. Or perhaps you’re still on the books for a few weeks or months but you haven’t actually been on the schedule.

        3. CTE 08-8F NAV

          Yeah, that just sounds like “please try to get your dates more or less right”. In some ways it’s a good thing – back in 2002, you left Job A in August and started Job B in October? Or was it July and November? It’s like they’re saying “we’ll give you a little leeway, but at least get the year right, okay?” At least that’s how it reads to me.

          1. Bea W

            This too. I can’t always remember which month I started or ended a previous job, especially if was a long time ago.

        4. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher

          I don’t read it as not wanting to see a gap, I read it as them not wanting you to LIE about a gap (like, say, you “accidently” wrote “August 2012-Present” underneath your most recent job on your resume when you really worked there from August 2012 to December 2013, or something).

        5. Bea W

          Is it in the instructions or is there a message that pops up when you enter or submit the job history data? It sounds like a badly worded validation message. If it’s a message that displays when you enter data. The intent is likely to catch data entry errors and omissions, not automatically disqualify people who have a gap.

          Seems like they are basically saying “Make sure you’re didn’t goof up and accidentally bork your application. Also, don’t lie…or at least make it believable enough that you can play it off as a mistake.”

    2. AnonArch

      Personally, I would try anyway. I’ve had some luck in the past. Hopefully it will let you apply!

      Also, I sincerely despise that hiring rule. :/

    3. Ann

      I hate that for you! I’ve come to really dislike the job application process – we put so much time and effort and some algorithm decides the fate of our application. I think the only thing to do these days is to have some sort of “in” or contact at the company to get by the automated process.

  23. Lucy

    Sorry in advance for the rant….

    Our IT guy has absolutely no idea how to behave in an office setting and nobody is doing anything about it. Total over-sharer (this morning I got to hear all about the stomach issues his latest medication is causing), brings his fiancee in for lunch all the time (they eat in the break room and then she hangs out for, like, an hour), and thinks “casual Friday” means SWEATPANTS. He’s younger (this is his first job out of college) and I’m in a completely different department and not senior enough to say anything to his boss, but it’s a small office and good god all of these little things combined just make my eyes twitch.

    1. Stephen King's Constant Reader

      Uh wow, sweatpants? I have no advice but I’m sympathizing with you.

    2. Sara

      At my last job, there was an intern who thought sweatpants were a good choice pretty much any day of the week. He looked ridiculous amongst the rest of the staff (and other interns!) who were wearing, you know, nice, work-appropriate clothing. But at least that guy had the excuse that he was 19…

    3. No Longer Passing By

      Lucy, it’s possible that management isn’t aware of these issues, even in a smallish office. I had employees tell me that their coworker was wearing pants that were too tight, which made them uncomfortable because he then proceeded to stand right next to their faces as he assisted with their computers. Until they had mentioned it, I hadn’t noticed. At. All. So that led me to observe and then counsel on 2 points (1) appropriate fit of clothing and (2) personal space norms.

      But hey, I also am the one responsible for conducting those unpleasant discussions about personal hygiene and appropriate usage of the bathroom so ymmv

  24. Dasha

    I could use some advice for my sister actually and this is kind of a long story…

    Many, many years ago when she was in high school she was in a bad accident that required some reconstructive cosmetic surgery. She ended up looking different from the way she looked before but if you didn’t know her you would never know that something happened to her other than a few small scars left over that she is able to hide with make up.

    Well now, she would like to go in and have a revision but all this is incredibly hard for her because it was very traumatic for her and probably especially traumatic to have to deal with in high school and even to do this day she is self conscious about her appearance (even though I swear you can’t tell unless you knew her before).

    She recently took a new job about six months ago and she really wants to have this surgery (she can now afford it with new job) but is afraid to talk to her boss. My advice was to tell her boss that she was having surgery she would be out X day through X day and could work from home for a week before returning. I told her maybe she would feel more comfortable approaching boss after having been there for a year?

    She’s all freaked out that people at work will judge her and terrified to talk to her boss.

    Basically, all I hear is that she wants to have this done but doesn’t know what to do about work or how to tell her boss?

    Wouldn’t the surgery line without much detail suffice above? I could use an outside perspective because maybe I’m overly protective of her and I haven’t told her to just suck it up and do it. :-/

    Sorry if this is kind of a work related question and kind of a personal question rolled into one.

    1. stellanor

      “I need to schedule a surgery, would it work if I was out day X through X and then worked from home the following week?”

      “Oh no what surgery!”

      “It’s kind of personal, actually. Does day X through X work?”

    2. Graciosa

      The surgery line is fine.

      As a manager, I try to be open to hearing whatever people want to tell me – without pushing for more that isn’t any of my business.

      However, I am not in a position to promise that every other person on the planet is going to react the same way, so perhaps it will help her if you rehearse some responses with her so she will feel comfortable pushing back if anyone (boss or co-workers) asks inappropriate questions.

      “It isn’t something I want to discuss at work, but I am very satisfied with the treatment plan and confident that I’m going to be fine.”
      “I really don’t feel comfortable discussing details of my medical situation at work, but thank you for your concern.”
      “Why do you need to know?”

      This are in order starting with a response for people who are asking out of genuine concern if she wants to reply with warmth, moving down to a response for busybodies who don’t understand boundaries.

      1. Blue_eyes

        Great responses. If the manager is really pushy she could even say “It’s just a follow up for an old injury.” No need to specify exactly what it entails.

      2. Not So NewReader

        This is good. People want to know, “are you alright?” Tell your sis to prepare a sentence or two that says, “I am fine and I will be fine afterward, also.”
        She is more apt to be asked if she is well-liked. People do care. I think it’s fine not to disclose details but just assure people, “I will be fine, thanks for the concern.”

    3. land of oaks

      Anyone who judges her is a jerk! And the vast majority of people won’t judge her.

      Honestly, I know she’s upset about this because it’s traumatic and her perspective is so tied up with that. But if 99% of bosses/coworkers hear that someone is out for surgery, the last thing they are going to assume is that it is cosmetic surgery, whether reconstructive or not. There are 5 million kinds of surgery, knee surgery, skin cancer surgery, etc, that is where most people’s heads are going to go first, if they think about it at all.

      I really hope she can take a deep breath. Tell work that she needs to have surgery, with no additional information. And try to convince herself to believe that no one is even assuming she is having cosmetic surgery, much less judging her for having it.

      And even if she comes back with bandages/healing happening around her face, there are still SO MANY genuine medical reasons to have a procedure on that area of your body, I think most people will not automatically be all “omg, she had a face lift bc she is such a crazy Kardashian chick.” They will assume she had a medical procedure, and after about 5 seconds they will stop thinking about it at all and start thinking about themselves again, because people are so self-absorbed. ;)

    4. CTE 08-8F NAV

      One thing that stands out to me as a red flag to me is that some people have / develop psychological issues over plastic surgery. I realize that this is not why you wrote in here. But – has your sister ever talked to a counselor or therapist about her surgery, and how she feels the need for a “revision”?

      1. QualityControlFreak

        Good point. I had the head trauma/reconstructive surgery thing last spring. No one at work seems to be able to see the difference, but I do. I look different, and it’s weird. But you know, I’ll get used to it. Voluntary surgery is Not Happening.

        OP’s sister may have completely valid reasons for wanting the surgery, but it’s certainly something to think through carefully. But yes, just schedule it with work like any other surgery. No one needs to know the details – I mean, if you were scheduling a colonoscopy no one would really want to know the details, would they?

    5. JMW

      Her larger concern may be that she will come back looking different, and people will not know how to react. If I were in her position, I would let my boss know that I had had prior surgeries due to an accident and that an additional corrective surgery was now necessary (defer any further questions, with “I would prefer not to talk about the details.”). This should waylay any judgment (which shouldn’t happen, but it may) without being too specific.

  25. chewbecca

    This week at work has been challenging, so this is probably the Bitch Eating Crackers to top off my week, but we have an interview here who was sent paperwork to fill out, but did not do so. I gave him said paperwork and he’s been working on it for the past 20 minutes (it’s a front and back application and an EEO form).

    Meanwhile, while he’s taking his sweet sweet time, I have to go to the bathroom so, so bad. We’re short staffed right now, so I have nobody to cover for me and I’m just sitting here, trying not to do the potty dance in my chair and mentally willing him to hurry up.

    I know this isn’t pooping in a plant level poor interviewee behavior, but my bladder will be so, so happy when’s done.

    1. GOG11

      I’m very sorry about your situation, but your post has made me realize how many terms I’ve added to my life from AAM. Bitch eating crackers for one, and now “pooping in a plant” level behavior. I really hope you’ve gotten to use the facilities by the time you read this!

      1. chewbecca

        I did, finally!

        I realized that if someone new read my post they’d be fairly confused by all the inside references. I used ‘bitch eating crackers’ the other day with my fiance and got a funny look.

    2. OfficePrincess

      I can see where this is just the cherry on top of a long week, but failing to fill out a simple form he was given in advance wouldn’t give me much hope for the candidate to work out.

      1. Jessa

        Exactly. Unless the form had some weird question (in which case I’d put a sticky note to ask about that question, and do the rest,) being able to count on someone to do a two page form without being reminded, is kind of job duties 101. I’d take a serious extra look at this person’s potential work habits.

      2. chewbecca

        I’m always a little leery when interviewees come in without their paperwork. We send it out to all of our candidates when the interview is scheduled.

        It also always makes me take a second look at them as a whole. This one was not dirty or messy, but had an air of unkemptness about him. And he was wearing those headphone things that you wear around your neck, which I thought was unprofessional.

        1. No Longer Passing By

          I’m late so maybe you won’t respond but what paperwork do you send to interviewees? This is fascinating to me and perhaps I need to change my workflow.

          Yay, I now have a question for next week’s open thread.

    3. Persephone Mulberry

      Man, unless you’re afraid he’s going to snoop through your desk or something, I’d just say, “I’m going to step out for a minute while you finish that – be right back!” If he gets done and has to wait an extra 90 seconds, well, he should have done the paperwork ahead of time.

      1. Jessie's Girl

        Exactly. I think he was taking his sweet time because chewbacca was sitting there staring at him. She should have just gone when she needed to go.

    4. UncoolCat (formerly Manda)

      Sorry, off topic, but I just laughed pretty hard at your name. My brother was joking around once that when he has kids he wants to call his daughter Chewbacca and his wife was like, “We are not calling our daughter Chewbacca!!!!” So my mom suggested Chewbecca and we were pissing ourselves laughing….And now I realize that was a poor figure of speech, given the issue in your post. :S

  26. Stephen King's Constant Reader

    Just looking for some encouragement today. I had two great interviews for a truly awesome role at a forward-thinking company in the past month so I’ve been playing the waiting game, but it’s been crazy hard. The “nope nope nope” has been utterly failing for me and I’m checking my phone every five seconds like a madwoman. Boss is gone for a month so thankfully things are quieter here in the office without her foolishness, but while on the outside I’m like “Yeah, things are totally fine,” inside I’m like “CALL ME ARRHGHGHHHHH!!!”

    Anyone else dealing with this right now? I feel like it doubly sucks because I really vibed with them and I actually know the hiring manager there pretty well (we’ve worked together before), so I feel like there’s a strong sense I may be offered the position; hence the reason why my brain is refuting the “nope nope nope” method.

    1. Diddly

      I’m just at the waiting to hear back from applications stage, so all I can offer is congrats on getting to the interview stage!
      Alison usually says you should just forget about the jobs afterwards either act like you haven’t got them or the interview never happened… Not entirely sure how you do that, but I find writing out how I’m feeling – why I’m anxious, what the consequences of getting/not getting either job or whatever your fears are, makes me feel a little more in control/better. Also cake and coffee are good :)

    2. Call me maybe?

      I’m still at the application stage too, but I’m having similar thoughts. I feel like I’ve crafted a better cover letter/resume than in the past, but still haven’t heard anything back yet. Grr…

    3. Benedicta

      I’ve been interviewing for an awesome position for 10 weeks now. I’m in the top two. He spoke to my references over a week ago. Tuesday he emailed that he was having trouble scheduling “all” (which he already told me is just me and one other) the candidate’s references and would try to work it out by the end of the week. Well. Hello, Friday afternoon. He’s always contacted me by email, so every message from my husband, coupon, spam, whatever that comes through makes me want to scream.

      So, yeah, I get you.

    4. Steve G

      I thought I was going to get a (dream) job 6 weeks ago, and then nothing happened. And the next week I got rejections from a bunch of jobs that look perfect for me (on paper). I was seriously PO’d and took a few days off from the job hunt because I was so PO’d at the whole process.

      It seriously felt like a breakup. To use a dating analogy, it felt like I had been dumped, and then went to a pickup bar, and everyone said “nope, too ugly.” And I’m standing there saying “no I’m not!” That’s what it felt like. I also obsessively checked my phone for days.

      Hopefully you have better luck!

  27. Skye

    I (tentatively) have a job! Just waiting on the background check to finish before I stop qualifying the job offer.

  28. HigherEd Admin

    I have an internal interview on Tuesday that I’m looking forward to. It’s in a different department on campus, and would allow me to focus 100% on the skills I’m actually looking to develop, rather than 50% on those skills and 50% on stuff no one else wants to do.

    The position is a lateral move. I had originally interviewed for what would be a promotion, but they hired someone within the department (a great sign that there’s room to grow in the role, I think!) and asked if I would consider the lower role. I’m interested, but wary about moving into a role that makes the same (or less) than what I make now. Is there a smooth way to address the lateral aspect of the role and inquire about pay/promotion opportunities without sounding like a jerk?

    1. TL -

      Can you just ask about growth and trajectory of the job – where they expect their employees to go after they’ve held the job for however many years is reasonable for the field? I think that would indicate you’re looking forward in your career still while giving them a chance to tell you what you want to know.

  29. BRR

    How have people dealt with being disciplined at work? As I have mentioned before I’m on a pre-PIP thing and have three weeks left. Meanwhile I am going insane. I’m exhausted from working so hard (my bar has been raised above what it would have been at before) and mentally I’m a mess. I’m already seeing a therapist and on medication.

    My boss has said she will be taking into account the entire 60 day time period and I know that I will annoy her by asking specifically if I am doing good enough. I think there is also a CYA element that she doesn’t want to say anything too specific. She is providing guidance and feedback. From what I am gathering, she is hoping I can pull through but I can’t tell if I am meeting expectations.

    I am also currently job hunting.

    1. Ali

      This was me when I was on a PIP at my last job. I…did not handle at well. I got cranky on shift, cried and was miserable constantly outside of work (even though I had a friend who was all “Oh Ali I don’t think you have a bad attitude.”–God bless him.). I tried therapy as well to get my act together and figure out what was at the root of my problems. I also got exhausted from trying to meet my boss’s expectations, especially when he was telling me he “will not tolerate” any more mistakes and was quick to e-mail if I missed so much as a comma in my work.

      My boss was hoping I’d pull through the PIP too, but I had no sympathy for him when he said he hated doing this to me. At least his job was secure and he wouldn’t face any punishment for bad management.

    2. Jessa

      I think that’s a little unfair on the part of the boss, if you have 60 days, you should at least have a couple of interim reviews. How do you know you’re doing the right thing, and if you have no chance to fix it? It really doesn’t make sense to me to supposedly be giving someone a chance to fix things, but not let them know til the end of the process if they’re doing it right.

      1. BRR

        We meet weekly. I write reports so there are always edits made to my work as well as my peers’ work. I just don’t know if I am in the acceptable level of edits or not.

    3. fposte

      I’m sorry, BRR. I know it’s been a tough time, and I hope something better comes soon.

      There’s only three weeks left, and you know asking if you’re doing well enough is going to annoy your manager. I’d stick it out without asking; it’s not like you could do more if the answer was no or slack off if it was yes anyway.

      1. BRR

        Thank you for your continued support.

        Spot on advice as always. It’s also not helped that my boss has a sick parent. It’s like a magnet on a compass. She might be happy with me but in a bad mood.

        1. brightstar

          You’ve had such a rough time BRR, and I’m sorry. What kind of feedback are you getting in the meetings? Has there seemed to be general improvement or is it still a more negative trend?

          Good luck with everything. When I had job difficulties in the past I coped by venting to friends over drinks, which helped a little.

          1. BRR

            I’m getting better feedback than I was previously. The sense I’m getting is she wants me to succeed, I’m not being set up to fail. It’s just have I done enough?

            1. Not So NewReader

              Is there someone who would be able to be an informal mentor to you? Sometimes a second voice saying the same thing in different words really helps.

              Or maybe you could check with your coworkers and see how it went for them when they were starting out. Get some pointers on a few things, perhaps?

    1. Folklorist

      The lady who posted it says, ” Because so many people come to our building every day, the animal shelter put in a huge condo for cats and kittens that are need homes. The employees get to take them to their desk as a way to get them used to human interaction, and they also found that employee satisfaction went through the roof. Win-win! It has been in place for almost a year and over 100 cats and kittens have been adopted.”

      (She also says she’s leaving her job and about to move, so position up for grabs!)

    2. bridget

      This seems like the best idea ever (for everyone who isn’t allergic to cats, at least :) ).

      As a customer, I LOVE it when I go into a small business and see a cat or dog napping behind the register. It makes me way more likely to actually purchase something there.

      1. Kelly L.

        Same here! Especially a bookstore–I think every bookstore needs a cat or dog. And I think my favorite was one store where I thought I heard a snorfling noise while browsing, decided I’d imagined it, and then when I got to the checkout, a Newfoundland unfolded itself from the floor and got up for pets. O HAI THAR

    3. BenAdminGeek

      I assume the card catalog must be very large to support that many felines…

      And, now I’m giggling at my desk at my own wit.

      1. Folklorist

        Well, it is a CATalog, so it fits! (I like the thought of opening one of those teeny old-school card catalog draws and pulling out reams of tiny, mewling kittens arranged by markings and type.

        “No, no! ‘Ts’ for ‘Tortie Shorthair,’ not ‘Gf’ for ‘Gray Fluffy!'”

    4. Cathy

      My favorite bead store has 2 ‘store dogs’. It’s so nice to be greeted with a wagging tail and a big doggy grin :)

  30. Frustrated and Confused

    I’ve been unemployed for about 45 days. (I voluntarily left my previous job at a big-box retailer, as I was becoming a burned out hot mess of a manager. I was begged to stay. I’ve since recharged and am eager to get back into the game in a more balanced environment.) I’ve been contacted for a number of interviews – one was about three days ago and was digital precursor to an in-person interview (state government) where I had to write out answers to questions; one was a short-notice interview at a bank, with only one day available for candidates to interview and I was out of town; and then three others between a large specialty retailer and one at a small specialty retailer.

    The first two out of those three interviewers were with two different recruiters (corporate and regional) for the same company, and the third was for the small specialty retailer. They have all STARTED OUT with, “We don’t have an opening right now, but we really want to speak with you and see what we can do.” The interviews have all lasted for over an hour, have proceeded like regular interviews, and they all end with, “Like we discussed earlier, there isn’t a position now, but we’re going to talk to So and So and see what we can do, as we really, really want you. We think you’ll be a wonderful fit.” The first company has been out of contact for about a month (I e-mailed the recruiter two weeks after our interview to reinforce my interest, and she said she was still trying to make something happen), and there are actually no openings in my state at all (so, there’s a possible hiring freeze, even though the company is seeing market growth and an increase in sales), and I interviewed at the third company yesterday.

    I’m getting a little frustrated that I’m interviewing for jobs that don’t exist. I’ve never had this happen during other job searches — every other time I’ve changed jobs, I went in for the interview, spoke about a specific available position, waited a couple days, and then got the job. And I’ve done hiring for companies before, and I’ve never, ever interviewed people for jobs that don’t exist. Am I doing something wrong? Is this normal? Is there something between the lines that I’m not seeing?

    1. Retail Lifer

      I’m in the midst of a job hunt right now. I haven’t seen this happen, but it can’t be you. There’s got to be something going on with these companies right now.

    2. Call me maybe?

      Well, I don’t know. I *am* seeing postings for “future opportunities” when I never had before, and I’ve read about this sort of thing here. But, on the surface, it seems like you impressed the people you spoke with, which in my opinion, is never a bad thing. Good Luck!

    3. Cici

      One possibility is that they plan to open new locations, and need to staff up, but can’t make the new locations public knowledge yet (public company). So it’s all seemingly theoretical even if there is an actual job, and HR can’t do anything about the timelines if there are other snags such as new delays with lease, etc.

    4. CTE 08-8F NAV

      I think that if they out-and-out say “we don’t have an opening for you now”, that you should drastically reduce your expectations for them to come through on a job. Heck, if it happens to you again, maybe you should quiz them and try to drill down on just what is going on that they’re interviewing you?

    5. Paige Turner

      I know this comment is late, but I wanted to add that I work for a national big chain store that does this- posts jobs to the website that don’t really exist. In addition to giving applicants false hopes, it also swirls up gossip and anxiety at the store because it makes it look like someone is leaving.

  31. KG

    I was recently promoted to manage a team of 6, but my new boss (an exec new to the department) insists on having weekly one on one meetings with all of my direct reports, sets reviews/goal planning meetings with my direct reports (without me included), and runs all of our team meetings. This is all very confusing to me and my direct reports. Suggestions on how to talk to my boss about this situation?

    1. Thinking out loud

      Do you have performance evaluations and goal setting meetings? If this were me, I’d try to sit down with my boss to do a goal setting meeting and include “weekly one on one meetings with direct reports,” “goal planning meeting with direct reports,” and any other tasks that you think should be your job but that he’s doing. Then I’d talk through those in the goal setting meeting and (if your new boss doesn’t bring it up as you’re talking about the goals), say, “I’ve heard that you’ve been holding meetings with my reports, too, and I wanted to make sure we’re not duplicating our efforts and confusing my direct reports. Would you rather that I invite you to the meetings so that you can continue to be involved, or are you happy with me holding them on my own?” If he indicates that he wants to have meetings with them in addition to your meetings, I’d try to figure out what he thinks he’s getting out of that – I agree that it’s probably super confusing for your people.

  32. Shell

    Had to share this bit of awesomeness!

    So I’m three months into my new job. I’ve been battling a serious case of imposter syndrome because I did get this job through connections (I was wincing at the nepotism discussion yesterday), and had no real relevant experience. On paper, any decent candidate from a hiring process would knock me out of the running. I enjoy my job, I get along with everyone, but I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop despite passing probation and all that.

    Yesterday my sales guy was talking on the phone with a customer and popped his head over the cubical wall to ask me a question. I guess the customer asked him who he was talking to, because I heard the following one-sided conversation:

    “Oh, I was talking to Shell. Have you met Shell? She’s our new purchaser, she replaced “John”. (pause) Oh, I don’t really know, John’s contract expired I think. Well, Shell here is 150% better than John, so it’s all good…(blah blah rest of conversation)”

    …ahaha. I might have boogied in my cube with my Mickey Mouse stress ball for a bit there :P

    Happy Friday everyone!

    1. Jessa

      Nice, that’s such a cool way to find out you’re doing great. And a stress-ball-boogie sounds way fun.

    2. Apollo Warbucks

      That is really awesome imposter syndrome sucks and I hope that gives you some confidence in yourself.

      I was worried about starting my new job and think its only natural to have some concerns about fitting in.

    3. jamlady

      I’m about 2 months into mine and it was a huge jump for me. I felt the same way! Then about 2 weeks ago I started getting a lot of “way better” and “talented” and “right fit” phrases thrown out to describe me and I feel like I have a huge weight lifted (one that I didn’t actually notice until it was gone). It was exciting! I’m glad to hear you’re getting the praise deserved and not feeling like an imposter anymore!

    4. bridget

      Save this comment somewhere in your “kudos” file. I try to read mine over when I am feeling pangs of imposter syndrome, to remember that people actually think I do a good job!

  33. anon for this

    Has anyone ever found themselves in a workplace emotional affair? Or known anyone that was? I’m curious if they always end badly or if the two people are able to be very clear on the boundaries and just kind of keep it to flirting and innuendos without it ever going beyond that? I understand now when people say they weren’t looking for something, it just sort of happened. I am finding myself in an ever increasing entanglement with someone I work with (although not located in the same agency or even town. Different dept of my organization; different city). We’ve both been pretty clear with each other on what our end game is with this and it’s not to leave our spouse/partner. We’re just sort of enjoying the flirting and bantering and visiting on FB.

    I’m not looking for advice on what to do – I know what should be done, but I’m not ready to do it. I’ll admit that. I know everything that’s wrong with this scenario and I know what a horrible person I am being. What I am interested in hearing about it stories of how these things progressed (or didn’t – can two adults agree to keep something like this at a certain level or do they *always* progress?).

    1. JB (not in Houston)

      I think it only matters about whether it will progress if you and your spouse/partner don’t think that having an emotional affair is a big deal. If it is a big deal, then you’ve already crossed a line (because this isn’t just flirting, this is the two of you having a conversation about whether what you’re doing is ok, which is itself a signal that this isn’t just casual, meaningless flirting). If it’s not a big deal to you or your partner, then you don’t need to stress about it, just be careful about enforcing boundaries if it looks like the other person wants more.

    2. Jake

      I’ve never seen it stay at that level, but in the cases I’ve seen, it was very clear that sex was the end game for at least one of the parties.

    3. MT

      They only time I have seen a situation like this get out of hand, was when one of the spouses finds out. That spouse forbid their husband from having any contact with the other co-worker. It went south after that. The co-worker was dumped and tried to stay in contact. it ended up that one of them quit the company.

    4. Joey

      The only time I’ve seen it not progress is when one person cuts it off.

      If the end game is not to leave your partner do you think your feelings won’t increase if you continue?

      1. GOG11

        This is a good point. If the end game isn’t to let it progress and it IS to get something that you’re currently getting out of the interactions, maybe there’s a less risky way to go about it.

    5. matcha123

      I’ve been in this position maybe two times so far.
      The first time we just ended up kind of dating before he went overseas. The other time, hmm…
      The guy was a year older, but I later found out he was married and had a kid when I ran into them at a store. I knew nothing was going to happen, but the back and forth joking at work and over Facebook was probably what helped us to get through the day. He was also struggling with depression and would message me a lot to chat about random things.

      With the first guy, we were both single. With the second guy being married and having a kid, I think we were able to keep our boundaries without going overboard. There certainly was never any touching involved with the second one. Why not just enjoy it? You don’t need to take it any further and if you do want to, you’re both adults.

    6. Anon for this

      Although I don’t flirt with intent, I do sometimes flirt with people at work but it’s never progressed for me. I think the key is that I keep it in the open with my spouse. I’ll lightheartedly refer to someone as my “work boyfriend” when talking to my spouse, and knowing that he knows keeps me honest. That said, I think your situation might be different from mine, because I probably wouldn’t start private messaging in Facebook. The flirting I do is joking in the office, meals out on weekdays, and bantering together on work outings – I wouldn’t typically use my private time with my family to continue the flirtation.

      1. anon for this

        Yes, you’re accurately reading my situation. That’s what’s happening (that last sentence was a gut-punch. I’m letting this eat into my time with my family, but just time spent thinking about the whole thing is taking me away mentally from life). My husband doesn’t have a clue about this and because the work relationship is so infrequent I don’t think he’d suspect. Thanks for your input.

    7. anon for this

      Thanks for the input, all. That’s what I was curious to hear.

      @JB – yeah, the line has been crossed. Spouse/partner would be pissed.

      @Joey – I agree. I don’t know how I won’t feel more invested in this as time goes on. This is so something that I would have never expected myself to do; be involved in, etc. I have a lot more compassion for people now that say that and mean it. When I really honestly think about it, I don’t want a divorce. He doesn’t want that. But I did mention to him that how can we keep up this pace and not want to see some more results from it? I don’t think either of us want to answer that question.

      1. Joey

        I guarantee you he wants more but doesn’t want to come off as a willing cheater. Men wanting to cheat always want more. He’s just trying to tell himself he’s not doing anything morally wrong by categorizing it as harmless flirting.

        1. anon for this

          Interesting. Yeah, this has been making me think a lot more about how easily we categorize people as bad and good. So I’m by all accounts a good person. Kept my nose clean – very traditional path of husband and kids. Never strayed; don’t fight with my husband. We’re good. Yet here I am doing this. So does this make me a bad person? I think most of the world would certainly look at it that way. I know most people would think he’s a slimebag, but I’m participating in this, too, so aren’t we both slimebags? Does this mean we both lack integrity? Generally speaking I’d say we don’t, but obviously there’s one area we do. Or does something like this overshadow everything else to the point where we’re both sufficiently shitty people??

          I know, Joey, that these existential discussions aren’t your thing so I’m not expecting a big response. :) But something about what you said made me wonder about all of that.

          1. Joey

            I don’t think so. I just think you probably haven’t like so many others haven’t done enough to maintain your relationship with your hubby. I just think youre misguided. You’re seeking out fullfilling your needs from the wrong place. He makes you feel good. But if you talk to your husband about your feelings don’t you think he can do the same?

            A guy I work with who used to cheat all the time told me he now thinks of it this way( and sorry for the crudeness)- I don’t want to lose my family and the wife who has always been there for me just to get my dick wet. Because that’s all that will happen. I’m not going to leave the wife and family I love for her and she’s not going to leave for me.

            1. anon for this

              I get that, crudeness and all.

              Misguided, perhaps. I’d actually say selfish and calculated. I’m having a total selfish meltdown over here. There’s a big part of me that likes having something that’s totally “mine” (as incredibly effed up as that sound). There is nothing in my life that is mine right now. It either belongs to my husband children. And I’m kind of sick of that. Obviously, this is the wrong way to get something that’s mine, but…….I think you’re right that we’ve probably slipped into the doldrums of life. My only act of rebellion in my life was getting a tattoo when I was 18. And even then that wasn’t that shocking to anyone. I think I’m after some kind of thrill with this, too, although the stakes are higher. The part that scares me is that right now I don’t want to give it up.

              As far as your question about can my husband give me what his guy does. Yeah, he probably could. He’s probably capable. Probably willing. But I don’t know if I want it from him right now. So again. Selfish.

              1. Joey

                You don’t want him to because it’s work. And this guys doing it without work from you. But the passion within a relationship takes a lot more work after the newness of it wears off.

                1. Joey

                  If you want something for yourself get a hobby that you own. I play golf, my wife runs. We own those separately and know not to interfere.

                2. Not So NewReader

                  anon, Joey has a good handle on this one. Yep, you are still a good person that has not changed. But something is missing from your personal life and it’s time to figure out what it is. You are saying your time is sucked up by your fam and there is no time for you. This guy will also suck up your time and there still will be no time for you. No gains, here.
                  What will you do for yourself to show yourself that you are special and what little wonderful things in life would you like that you do not have/do right now?
                  Conversely, how do you feel about your job? Bored out of your gourd? Fighting to even fake being interested in the job any more? Maybe that is the real issue.

              2. lawsuited

                It is absolutely none of my business, because this is your life and you’re absolutely entitled to do what you want with it, but your comment that nothing was yours really struck me. Because your children and your husband are yours. Right now, you all belong completely to each other. If your family fractures, it won’t be that way ever again.

                1. anon for this

                  wow, lawsuited, you’re right. That’s a really sharp change in perspective I had not considered. I’m glad you said that. thanks

                2. anon for this

                  and I think where I was going with that comment about not having anything that’s mine is this: I have lost myself. Everything I do is for someone else and nothing really for me. It always used to piss me off when I was younger (before children) and would read women’s magazines and see article after article about women not taking time for themselves and how hard it is. I used to think that was such a cop out. But now I completely get it. It’s happened to me and it sucks, man. So I was thinking of that selfishly, but I see there’s a much weightier way to look at it, too.

          2. afiendishthingy

            You don’t sound like a bad person (based on this; if you kick puppies in your spare time I might change that opinion). You sound conflicted, and I would guess probably on the road to getting hurt.

            1. nep

              …and/or deeply hurting someone else.
              I hear all you’re saying, ‘anon for this’. I think a lot of us can relate.
              I don’t think it’s useful to wonder whether you and this person fall into a category of ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
              Bottom line, it seems to me, is thinking about the end game here — where does the flirting and all (and yes — it feels good and could feel as if it’s filling a void) — where does it all lead? And do you want to go there? It’s likely not going to remain just exactly as it is. Things evolve.
              You can identify and develop other interests / activities that are just yours. Part of you probably wants to justify this relationship as fulfilling that very real need and therefore a positive thing in some way. When we’ve got something so gratifying we’re really good at rationalising.
              I wish you all the best. Do keep us posted.

    8. some1

      Like MT, I have seen spouses find out, and without snooping. Say your spouse asks to see your phone because hers is dead or she wants to see an app or get a contact that you have that she doesn’t; and you hand it over without thinking and a FB message comes through as a push notification or text and it’s Dog House, Population: You.

      1. anon for this

        That’s exactly the scenario I’ve imagined. I’d like to think I’m smart enough to cover my bases, but I have been an idiot with social media before so that’s entirely possible.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yeah, it sounds like you’re actively hiding something from your spouse that you know would be devastating to him and your marriage. You’re actively trying to cover your bases; that’s bad, and indicates it’s past the point where it’s harmless.

          Can you use it as a flag to find ways to make your relationship with your spouse more fulfilling?

          1. anon for this

            What’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around is that I have a good marriage by all accounts. We don’t fight. He’s good to me; we laugh together. He’s a good dad. We have interesting conversations about ideas and philosophies. Anniversary #13 is next week. So, I don’t think that falls into the “typical” affair demographic?? (but I could be wrong. I bet there are articles on it).

            I think the problem is within me. I’ve not been looking after myself. I have young children. I’m bored of the daily grind and unhappy with myself. But this has motivated in me some pretty powerful ways – I’ve been busting my ass on the treadmill at night. I’ve been watching what I eat. Paying better attention to how I dress. (But deep down I think a big part of all that might be to make myself more attractive for him. I’m not stupid).

            My hope is that this thing will just sort of lose its glamour and power the next time I see him. It’s probably months in between times I’d see him (and thank god for that. It would be nuclear if we were in the same town. I’d lose myself I know I would). I’d like to think it’s a crush that will eventually lose its steam, you know?

            1. Joey

              Does your husband make you feel the same way this guy does? I bet not or you wouldn’t be interested

                1. Joey

                  That’s what you need to talk to your husband about then. Wouldn’t you rather have your husband fulfilling that need than some random meaningless co worker?

                2. Joey

                  Look I’ve said it a million times here. Guys-people are not very good at reading signs or knowing your needs without talking about them. This includes spouses.

                3. Jake

                  I just want to second everything Joey has said.

                  I watched a documentary on lying last night. A section was on why women cheat. The take away was that you aren’t having your needs filled, be it sexual, emotional, etc.

                  The woman they used as an example loved her husband, but he didn’t make her feel attractive. Great father, smart funny etc. Having an affair made her feel attractive, so she did.

                  The problem is that when we have marital issues, it is our duty to work through them WITH our partner. Through couples therapy this woman found that by going on more dates and changing their lifestyle, her husband could satisfy that need.

                  You aren’t a horrible person. You are a person currently doing a horrible thing, which is true of just about everybody at one time or another. You owe it to your partner to figure out what about him is unsatisfying and work through it together.

              1. Going Anon

                Yep, I totally agree with this. My situation started as an emotional affair and led to a physical affair. I ended up telling my husband but we actually worked through it and are still married. However, I totally regret what I did. Even though we’re still married, things are different.

                I’m a firm believer in “love languages”. You may want to search using that term because there is a book that goes into detail. Also, check out the website Marriage Builders. It has the same concept, except they are called emotional needs. It sounds cheesy, but your husband isn’t meeting the emotional needs or speaking the language that makes you feel lvoed.

                Yes, it’s new and exciting and fun with this guy, but where is it going to go? If you leave your marriage, do you want to be with a guy where the relationship started off by an affair? From my experience, this can easily go down a path of a physical relationship. And then it’s just going to be worse. I know you said you won’t see him for months, but if you’re still in contact via email, texts, etc that’s going to keep the fire going.

                I suggest you cut off contact with this guy and focus on your marriage. Perhaps look into counseling. I can totally relate to your situation and it’s tough. Good luck.

                1. anon for this

                  Thanks to everyone for your input up and down this thread. I do appreciate it. Particularly, Joey, Jake, and Going Anon your comments right here really hit home and gave me a lot to think about. I hate it all and hate myself, but thanks for your direct honesty.

                2. Going Anon

                  I can’t reply to your comment directly, but please be kind to yourself. It’s good you are reaching out and asking for advice. As I mentioned, this is a difficult situation and I do wish you the best. Take care.

    9. INTP

      I feel like if you’re at the point where it could even be called an “emotional affair,” you are past the point of keeping it to flirting and innuendos. If you’ve talked about your end game and whether you plan to leave your partners, you’re WAY past flirting. Flirting and innuendos only work when the emotional attraction isn’t there and the physical attraction isn’t strong to worry about actually giving in to it.

      1. anon for this

        Good points. Hard to hear because obviously I’d rather downplay this.

        So – is this thing I’m talking about just an affair then?

        1. INTP

          It’s still an “emotional affair” if it hasn’t been physical at this point, imo. But I also think an emotional affair is a serious thing and completely different from a workplace flirtation. It calls for the same steps as ending an affair, like ending all non-work-required contact with the person. It’s not like a flirtation that you can just rein in by being slightly less flirty.

          1. anon for this

            I agree. Dammit. I seriously cannot believe I would have ever allowed myself to enter into something like this. I have a friend that I’ve heard say, “It’s easy to be monogomaus when no one is knocking at your door.” It makes me chuckle, but I understand what she’s means now. It’s heady stuff when someone finds you attractive after years being stuck in a rut of the daily grind of parenthood, etc. I’m not delusional about how serious this is. Nope’s advice below is pretty accurate. Just get ready for when the shit hits the fan.

            1. RoseTyler

              I would end it now – Future You will thank you.

              If the sum total of the emotional affair is Facebook flirtation, it sounds like a huge risk for pretty low-level “reward”. The upside is that it would be pretty easy to put a stop to it. I’d focus on improving your relationship with your husband and focusing on what it is that’s “missing” that led you to seek this out. Good luck!

            2. misspiggy

              I wonder whether you could head off that fan-hitting moment by spending some time on your own – just one or two days not in contact with husband, kids, flirting colleague or anyone else close to you. I travel a lot for work and it makes a positive difference to my marriage. Both of us get to do our own thinking in our own space while I’m away, and we appreciate each other more because of it.

              What you said about having nothing that’s yours seemed quite important. Would what you have with your affair colleague seem less attractive if you had other times or occupations that were truly yours, that you didn’t have to reach for illicitly? Does it seem that if you openly claim something as yours, your family would muscle in on it, or you would feel guilty? If you spoke up for what you need, and carved out some space for yourself, others might make way more easily than you think.

              1. anon for this

                “Does it seem that if you openly claim something as yours, your family would muscle in on it, or you would feel guilty?”

                Yes, I do feel this way. I actually travel quite a bit for work already and that time alone without anyone needing anything from me is helpful. I do get a guilt trip from him for being gone, but he knows it’s my job and I’ve communicated that to him. I don’t know a way to get my point across on that one.

                A few weekends ago I just decided I was going to get some stuff done around the house regardless of the kids. They are old enough to play outside right now and don’t need a parent hanging around. So I just tuned everyone out, did minimal duties (I fed and napped everyone, but that was about it). My husband had to step in more when they needed something, thus, he couldn’t get his to-do list done for the day. He was all bent out of shape about that and I know it’s because I finally just said, “screw it. I’m unavailable.” And perhaps I went too far the other way!

                “Would what you have with your affair colleague seem less attractive if you had other times or occupations that were truly yours, that you didn’t have to reach for illicitly?”
                That’s a good question. I honestly don’t know; will have to think about that some more.

                1. Not So NewReader

                  If either spouse is away a lot, it is very challenging. The spouse left behind can feel very alone. Even with couples working close to home, these issues can tear at a marriage.

                  Some of the answers may not be as hard as it seems. Maybe hire help- someone to mow or someone to clean. Maybe hire a sitter and declare the first Saturday of each month date night. Both of you need a break and you both need to reconnect to each other. This reconnect does not happen automatically because life is just to damn demanding. It takes planning.
                  So. many. couples are going through this. You are not alone.

                  I bet he feels that he never has time that is truly his, either. Not defending him but I am just pointing out that it sounds like the two of you are both working very hard at making a go of it.
                  A friend (who just lost his marriage) said, “We got lost because our goals and our possessions some how became more important than US.”

            3. lawsuited

              Have you heard of the concept of walls, doors and windows in marital relationships? The idea is that you and your spouse create boundaries around your relationship by having walls around your marriage so that the two of you are in the same room, but then you open windows and doors in order to let other people (friends, parents, children) communicate or interact with your marriage. Most marital problems arise because your windows, windows or doors are in the wrong place (E.g. Overbearing mother-in-law interfering in your marriage? It’s because you have a door and need a window.) In an emotional affair, you put up a wall in the wrong place – between you and your husband – and open up a door in the wrong place – between you and your co-worker. The wall you’ve put up is already impacting your marriage right now, regardless of what happens with the door.

              I don’t think you need to hate yourself. It’s hard to see how the boundaries of your relationships are changing when you’re in the middle of them. Someone close to me had an emotional affair, and this concept helped him understand how his actions were changing the mechanics of his marriage.

              1. anon for this

                I had not heard of that concept, but it resonates very loudly with me. Man, maybe I’m going to need to go to counseling on my own to get some of my own shit figured out. Then if I can’t square myself away I’ll have to see if my husband will go with me. I’ll have to look for some more resources that talk about the door, windows, and walls. You’re right – I have been feeling a little bit separate from my husband since this whole thing started. I feel more like an observer in my life when I look at my kids and husband because of the wall I’ve put up. That gives me a lot to consider, thanks.

                1. afiendishthingy

                  Yeah, it sounds to me like you’re hurting and using your coworker as a Band-Aid. Therapy is a wonderful thing, it really is.

    10. Nope.

      I’ve personally never seen it get this far and end well for everyone (or, really, anyone). But that’s just my experience with the 12 plus times I’ve seen this situation happen. Because regardless of progression, it’s gotten this far, and like you said, you know it’s wrong, so just be ready for when sh*t hits the fan.

    11. bridget

      I have seen workplace flirtings/mutual crushes fizzle out harmlessly – but if you’ve openly discussed the fact that this is an emotional affair, this seems more than that. I think the only way to ensure that it won’t cause harm (or further harm) is to cut it off. Luckily, being in different cities means that this will be easier than it would be if you were in the same office.

    12. Jem

      I was involved in something like this with guy who had a live-in girlfriend. It all came to a head when he tried to kiss me one night when we were a little drunk and I decided in the moment that I didn’t want to break up his relationship and have him hate me the next day. After that, we stayed friends but he moved. I can’t say what would have happened if he had stayed in town.

    13. CTE 08-8F NAV

      I wouldn’t call you a horrible person. This kind of thing is not infrequent, and happens to a lot of people. It reminds me a lot of homosexuality: gay people have been around for thousands of years in probably every human culture. I don’t think they’re horrible – I think it’s just something that human beings are prone to. People have been falling into emotional (and non-emotional) affairs for a long, long time.

      One thing that you have going for you in your current situation is that you are physically isolated from The Other Person. It’s when he (or you) scores a business trip to your (or his) location – then things can get prickly. Some years ago I knew a guy who was in this situation, they met up at some convention, had sex, his wife found out – and she proceeded to email the dirty details to every email address she could find, including everyone he and his paramour had ever worked with. It was a really nasty mess.

      *sigh* It makes me sad that this kind of thing happens to people, and often ends very badly. Pragmatically, I think your best move would be to just cut it off with the other person. *Don’t* tell your husband about it – I know that many people will suggest that you ‘fess up, but my observation has been that a) this rarely goes well, and b) that people who suggest that you confess aren’t speaking from personal experience.

      I realize that I’m taking a risk in comparing this to homosexuality, but I hope it’s not too difficult to see how these things are similar: they’re so common, and they’ve been around so long, that it’s obvious that they are aspects of the Human Condition. Aspects that are not well-thought of by many people. But in the same way that I can’t say someone is a bad person because they are homosexual, I can’t find it in myself to say that someone is a bad person because they found themselves in a workplace affair. I just wish the consequences of these things weren’t so harsh.

      1. anon for this

        Thanks for your thoughts on this. I appreciate your non-judgment (and everyone’s else here, too – everyone’s been cool). Paragraph 3 makes sense.

        1. CTE 08-8F NAV

          I’ve been thinking about this. A couple of observations: First, I believe that in at least a couple of places you come right out and say that you don’t want to give this up. Selfish or not, I think it is good that you are being honest with yourself.

          Second: I can’t find a citation, but someone wrote that many affairs come about because a person loses the narrative thread of their life. I think there is a lot of truth to this – I think it applies to you, for instance, in that it sounds like you seriously invested yourself in the role of ideal mom / ideal wife, and then discovered that you were bored with this role, and unhappy with how little you get from it, and – worse – not feeling much appreciation from your husband or family. If you think of your life as a book, you’re at a place where the reader (who is you, more or less) is kinda starting to snooze. And so when this other guy comes along – a guy who, btw, may be bogged down in much the same way you are – and makes you feel attractive and appreciated, it’s like a powerful drug.

          If you buy into this whole notion of “lost narrative”, two thoughts: a) you are indeed finding and following a new narrative pathway. It may be a path that is filled with lots of rocks and pain, though, and b) I’m not a therapist or psychologist, but I have to wonder – if you want to keep your husband and your family – if you should just do something like quit your job and go back to school? Or quit and become a volunteer political activist? Or just quit and tell husband and kids you need to go to Tibet for a year to find yourself? Etc. The idea being to shutdown this emotional affair by intentionally throwing a huge monkey-wrench into your life. I don’t know – but if you buy into the “lost narrative” explanation, maybe it’s better to try to consciously alter your life in a positive direction than to just sit back and let things happen to you, mostly out of your control. You may think “no way could I just pick and go to Tibet!”, but – while there is a small chance that you might maintain your affair for years (or maintain several affairs over many years) and never get caught, it’s more likely that your affair will be discovered. In short: you are currently headed towards a large disruption in your life. What kind of disruption do you want it to be?

          Whatever happens, I wish you the best.

          1. anon for this OP

            It’s really funny you came back and posted this, because this weekend I happened to see this TED talk and it blew me away. Especially about halfway through where she talks about a person running FROM themselves. Trying to escape themselves through an affair. That took my breath away it resonated with me so hard. Some of the situations she describes was like she was talking to me. It was incredible. Anyway, a lot of what you said here reminded me of her points – the narrative thing. It’s not that I’m unhappy with my husband or children. I’m unhappy with me. And you’re right – this is a massively powerful drug. Escaping into this world I’ve created in my own mind. Talking with this guy reminds me of a younger, more carefree version of myself and I like that. I want to be close to that again.

            https://www.ted.com/talks/esther_perel_rethinking_infidelity_a_talk_for_anyone_who_has_ever_loved

    14. nep

      Not telling you what to do — Only you govern that. Just reading through all this — it seems as if you’d get a hell of a lot of relief from just cutting this off and moving on. It would suck initially, sure — but in the long run it likely would bring some quiet in your mind and just mental and emotional release — all priceless. (Not to mention some real time / space to address whatever might need to be addressed between you and your spouse.)

  34. Cobalt-60

    Brand new manager here.

    What do you wish you had known when you first started managing people? Any references you would recommend (I’m reading Alison’s book at the moment)? Also, any government managers out there who have any tips specific to managing people in a federal agency, I would especially love to hear from you (calling Katie the Fed!).

    1. OfficePrincess

      I still consider myself new, but I would definitely have to recommend sitting down with either your manager or HR to get a list of policys/procedures/forms so that when a situation comes up you know roughly how the organization as a whole wants you to handle it. What can you just go with your own judgement on? What needs sign off from above? That kind of thing.

    2. Frustrated and Confused

      After about two months into my first “real” management role, one of my reports came to me and said, “You know, you’re the most positive manager we’ve ever had, and we’re not saying you should stop being that way, but you don’t have to say ‘good job’ or ‘nice work’ every time we do something. It means more if you don’t.” That was hard criticism but I took it seriously, and she was right.

      Then I transferred to a different location, and I worked for a store manager who didn’t set expectations or follow-up. There were no boundaries and no accountability. I realized how much of a difference that makes for morale. And I learned that it’s all fine and good to give positive feedback and praise your people, but they’re also seeking constructive feedback, ways to improve, and, most importantly, structure and accountability. That’s hugely important for a manager to embrace, and it’s often the hardest thing for newer managers (including me) to tackle competently. Have the courageous conversations.

      1. hildi

        I love this advice!! I could easily see myself being this way (overly positive), but not realizing how over time that loses its effect if it’s not balanced with thoughtful and constructive feedback. I’m going to read this comment a few times to cement in my brain!!

    3. Katie the Fed

      Hm, I think what makes things really hard for federal managers is that we often don’t have a lot of teeth. We can counsel people and initiate disciplinary actions, but the real shady characters know how to game the system, bounce between managers, drag out the disciplinary process, etc.

      But, all hope isn’t lost, because hopefully you have a supportive management chain who will back you up in your decisions.

      One book I found incredibly helpful was “101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees: A Manager’s Guide to Addressing Performance, Conduct, and Discipline Challenges” by Paul Falcone. There’s another one too – I’ll try to find it. Basically I rehearsed the heck out of any difficult conversations – I had friends pose as my problem employee and try to throw anything they could back at me (“But Joe comes in late all the time!” “But you just don’t like me because xxx” etc). I rehearsed until I was confident, and then I had the tough conversations.

      One thing I learned through trial and error – issues rarely resolve themselves over time. If you say something the first time you see a problem, it’ll save you from having a Very Serious Conversation later. A bit of course correction goes a long way.

      What else can I tell you…

      – Don’t change things right away. Give it a month or two to see how things are done, ask questions, get to know your people. They’re sussing you out too (I’m in the midst of that right now) so give it a little time.

      – Conduct issues are almost always easier to address than performance ones. Conduct issues are usually black and white and violation clearly laid out rules, so you can easily get HR’s backing on them. Performance issues are muddier – and so much harder to take disciplinary action on. The good thing is most poor performers also have conduct issues. Thing of it like busting mafia dons for tax fraud. Doesn’t mean you should ignore poor performance, but definitely go for the conduct issues.

      One thing I wish I’d realized when I started managing is how much they’re paying attention to you. Your moods, your preferences. It’s weird and unnerving. They’re like spiders – they’re just as afraid of you as you are of them :)

      Good luck. I’ve enjoyed it way more than I thought I would!

    4. Sandy

      -Document, document, document. Even more applicable in government than the private sector. You CAN let people go (contrary to rumour/reputation) but you will have to be able to prove that you took a concrete steps to remedy the problem.

      -Know your system. It goes hand in hand with my first point. It probably won’t be enough to say “I asked employee to do X, they refused, I put them on a PIP, they failed, can I fire them now?” Every government system is different, so study up on which division deals with what problem. Do you have to go to Employee Counselling services? What levels of approvals do you need from HR at what point? Etc etc etc.

      -Learn how to work around people. B*tch eating crackers sadly doesn’t go very far in government. You’ll need to learn how to work around certain people (whether they are your problem employee or someone else’s) in order to get things done. It’s hard, but an incredibly valuable skill.

      -You’ll benefit by learning how to motivate people in ways that DON’T involve raises or promotions. Within a federal agency, you’re unlikely to have the ability to do either one. Every employee you’ll have will be different, but some of the strategies I’ve used have involved travel (either more or less of it depending on the employee), speaking opportunities, cooler projects, etc. of course, it only works for so long…

  35. Cereal Killer

    I left my job of seven years last week for a great opportunity. They scheduled a phone exit interview- which okay is a little impersonal, but we have two different locations so these things sometimes have to happen. But all we did was review the end of my benefits. Then they pointed out a link that I can use to “share my thoughts” on my employment. I haven’t filled it out yet because my thoughts were if they really wanted to know about how I feel they would have taken the time to speak with me in person (or over the phone in this case) about it. And it just seemed like a less than satisfying end to time there. I didn’t have anything bad to say- I left after seven years to do something that I couldn’t do there…but still. Is a exit interview survey becoming commonplace? Should I bother filling it out or is it totally not worth the time?

    1. JMW

      It sounds like your tattoo will be showing when you turn up for work, so you may as well be honest in your interview about what you will look like if they hire you.

    2. BuildMeUp

      I haven’t heard of exit interview surveys before. But it’s possible that they’ve had people in the past who haven’t felt comfortable sharing their honest thoughts in an exit interview, either because they feel awkward about giving negative feedback to someone’s face, or because people are worried about negative references in the future, etc. This might be their attempt to make it easier for everyone to give them honest feedback.

      Or it could just be so they can collect responses together and see if there’s an actual problem that needs addressing. …Or they could just be lazy and planning to throw all the responses in the trash, who knows! I would say if it’s a short survey, you might as will fill it out, and you could use it as an opportunity to highlight something you really liked about working there, or a great coworker that you felt didn’t get enough recognition.

    3. HRWitch

      I’ve always used either an anonymous 3rd party survey, or an anonymous fill-in-and-mail exit interview form. In my HR experience (18+ years) the distance from the company allows the now-former employee space and privacy to be honest and forthright, without burning bridges. The surveys were actually the most used, and the most useful – filled with valid information and suggestions that could actually be translated into corporate/divisional actions. If you liked anything about your 7-year employer, please take the opportunity to tell them what that was, and where they missed the boat!

  36. IndianSummer

    I’ve read the archives and all the comments on previous threads, but let’s talk tattoos and interviews.

    I live in a liberal city. I do not care for dress pants – I’m not comfortable in them, none that I have tried on fit like I want them to, they are blah on me, etc. I have a dress and a blazer for interviews. I have a small tattoo on my ankle (approx 2″ square). It’s hot now, so I cannot wear tights to an interview. Wearing tights would probably be weirder than showing a tattoo.

    I am reading the career guide at a non-profit where I have an upcoming phone interview, and hopefully (fingers crossed!) an in-person interview will follow. Their dress code is casual dress, dependent on the department. Basically, it says to use your best judgment for the way you dress.

    Would showing my tattoo during an interview be ok? Will anyone even notice the tattoo? Does it matter?

    1. Graciosa

      This is completely a culture issue, and it’s going to be hard for anyone here to know how the interviewers at this particular firm will react.

      That said, do you really want to work there if they’re going to be that hung up on a small ankle tattoo?

      If it were gang affiliated and you were interviewing for a community outreach program in a rival gang’s territory, I could see a legitimate business problem with your tattoo, but that wasn’t in your letter. So I stand by the do you really want to work there if they care approach.

      Although in the interests of full disclosure, a well matched cover stick would take care of it without tights if you ever want to hide it.

      But interviews should include finding out if you and the company are a good fit for each other, so I tend to be in favor of being your real self.

    2. GOG11

      Could you cover it with a bandaid or two? I have a tattoo on my wrist and I cover it up with a watch or bandaids if I’m interviewing simply because I don’t want to take a chance that the interviewer would view it negatively or that it would be a poor match for the office culture (which can be difficult to gauge from the outside, though it seems signs point to it being OK). Plus, even if the office is pretty relaxed, interviews often come with a different set of rules about formality.

      1. LCL

        What GOG said. Slap a bandaid on it, the drugstore will have very large bandaids. There isn’t any easy way to know if your tattoo will be an issue.

    3. Retail Lifer

      In real life, people don’t care if you have tattoos. At work, though, it’s surprising how many places restrict them. I have a couple of visible tattoos that I hide on interviews unless I know for certain that they’re allowed. Since I work in retail it’s easy to go in and scope the place out beforehand and see what the employee look like.

    4. TheExchequer

      Most likely, if it’s on your ankle, nobody will notice it. They’ll be looking at your face, not your feet. And if they do notice it, chances are they won’t say anything about it unless they have one too. That said, if the tattoo is controversial or attention grabbing, I’d find a way to cover it up.

    5. HeyNonnyNonny

      I have a few tattoos that are all covered up by a full suit but visible in more casual clothing. While no one at any of my jobs has seemed to care, I’ve always made sure they were covered for interviews, cause you never know. Could you wear cute booties to cover the tattoo, just to be safe?

    6. Roly Poly Little Bat Faced Girl

      Would you be willing to wear some cover-up makeup for the interview?

      1. IndianSummer

        I’ve tried cover-up makeup, but it still showed through. Maybe I just don’t have the right tools? I wear very little makeup. Suggestions?

        1. Gwen Soul

          Get the type they use for costuming and stage, not cover up you would use on your face for a zit.

        2. super anon

          hey, a question i can answer!

          so, what you’ll need is a red lip product, a concealer (you should use a high quality concealer for this. drugstore will work but you’ll be fighting with it to get enough coverage), and a powder to set the concealer after you’re done.

          first you’ll cover your entire tattoo and the area just outside of it with the red lip colour, this will neutralize the black lines in the tattoo and make it easier to cover. personally, i would use a liquid lipstick red because they dry matte and are next to impossible to remove so it won’t mix with your concealer. if you use a normal lipstick you can use a translucent power to set it and then leave it for ~5 min so it’s less wet and easier to work with.

          next, cover the red with your concealer. i recommend not using the concealer you use on your face and getting matched with one that is the same colour as your leg skin so it looks less fake. to apply the concealer you’re going to want to use a brush and pat it on the tattoo area rather than using large strokes. by patting you’ll get better coverage and you don’t run the risk of the red and the concealer mixing to create a super gross colour. take the concealer outside of the tattooed area so that it will blend with your natural skintone and not look like a square box on your leg.

          finally set the entire thing with a powder foundation or a translucent powder so that it will stay. if you can still see the tattoo you can do another layer of concealer over the powered and set first layer to try to get more more coverage.

          if you want a visual, type this into youtube for a video demo explaining it: “How to Cover Tattoos, Bruises, & Birthmarks!”, or use this search on google “site:reddit.com/r/makeupaddiction covering tattoos” to get a bunch of before and afters of the process.

          good luck on the interview!

        3. land of oaks

          I don’t think you should cover it for this interview, but if you ever want to cover it in the future, look for specifically “Tattoo cover-up makeup.” You can buy it online. I have friends who have it for occasional use, and it lasts for a super long time.

    7. Persephone Mulberry

      I don’t have tattoos, but as far as body adornment in general – I have a nose stud and I’ve never taken it out for an interview. I’m with the poster above – a company that would expect me to remove it is probably not a good culture fit for me.

    8. Kai

      I think with the combination of living in a more liberal area, the fact that they have a casual dress code, and that the tat is on your ankle, you should be fine. Most people might not notice it at all.

      1. land of oaks

        This. Don’t worry about it at all. A casual dress nonprofit is going to have no problem with a small ankle tattoo, I can almost 100% guarantee it. And if they do, that is a weird place, and I’m not sure you want to work there. ;)

    9. LPBB

      I have a large Celtic band and knot tattoo around my ankle. I usually wear pants to interviews, but if I wear a skirt then I usually just wear black pantyhose. (I know that a lot of people have very strong emotions on this topic, but hose works for me for a variety of reasons.) It doesn’t completely cover the tattoo, if you know it’s there you can still see it, but it doesn’t leap out at you the way it would if all you saw was my blindingly white legs.

    10. skyline

      Given all the information you’ve shared, I vote for showing your tattoo as long as the image itself is not controversial or offensive. There is a risk that they’d hold it against you, but it doesn’t sounds like they’d be a good fit for you if that was the case. And would you want to cover it forever in the future if that was the terms under which they hired you? More practically, a small tattoo on your ankle seems pretty innocuous to me, especially in a liberal city.

      (Personally, as a hiring manager, I am very unlikely to look at someone’s ankles during an interview. I would probably only notice a tattoo if it was on their face, neck, or wrists, since that’s what I see while we’re talking.)

    11. RR

      I have a similarly-sized ankle tattoo and also work non-profit management. (I have just moved into a senior management role.) For my recent interview, and for all of my previous interviews over the last decade and a half plus, I have never covered the tattoo, and never had an issue. It’s been my experience that most people don’t even notice. Go with the dress and blazer and with confidence. Best of luck!

    12. Gene

      Wear higher top shoes?

      I’ve worn body makeup before and there’s always the risk of rubbing against something like the door frame of your car getting in or out and smearing it. Then it would become obvious that you are trying to cover up something. If you are going to cover it, I agree with the large band aid approach.

      1. IndianSummer

        I wish ankle booties or something similar would cover it, but it’s in an awkward position a little too high up.

        Side note: when people tell you that you might regret that tattoo later, it is sometimes true! Mine is not offensive, but it is silly and I wish I could get rid of it.

          1. IndianSummer

            Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve not seriously looked into removal, but I should.

    13. Renee

      I have an ankle tattoo and hate dress pants. The past few interviews I have gone to, I have simply worn dark hose and just figured they’d either like me or they wouldn’t. It hasn’t seemed like anyone cared about it. I’m currently working for a man who hates tattoos personally but has employees with visible tattoos because he recognizes that it’s not really important to how they do their jobs. I don’t want to take another job that dictates my appearance to that extent. At some point I may be desperate enough for a job to put a band-aid over it, but I feel like I’m too old to put up with the pettiness of it so maybe not. I am a lawyer, so I’ve had to deal with covering my tattoo in the past, but now that I’m in house on the admin/compliance side, I don’t think I could ever go back to an environment where it mattered.

      1. IndianSummer

        Thanks for the feedback! I think I’ve decided to let the tattoo be visible for any potential interviews. I wear a lot of skirts and dresses, so it is going to be seen at some point. I may as well be up front about it.

  37. LizB

    I’m going to miss many things about my current workplace after my contract ends, but the use of passive-aggressive “gotcha” tactics to make changes that staff won’t like is NOT one of them. It’s especially bad when my supervisors make me an instrument of these tactics, and then expect me to laugh about how awesome their strategy is with them. If Bob needs to make Change Z, fucking tell him that directly — don’t make me print up a bunch of brochures for clients about how awesome Change Z is and hope he doesn’t notice.

  38. Retail Lifer

    I have a first-round interview for a position THAT IS NOT RETAIL! Pay and benefits would be far bettter, the schedule would actually be a little worse (more nights but at least almost no weekends), and, again, NOT RETAIL.

    However, if the stars align and I make it to round two, I’m actually kind of screwed. The interviews would be the week after I get back from vacation. Due to that and some medical issues, I’m all out of time off and the distance is way too far to be able to leave work and come back. I’ll figure something out though.

    I’ve been trying to escape from retail management for a decade. Please, strangers of the internet, send some positive energy my way!

    1. HeyNonnyNonny

      Sending positive vibes– but if you get it, what will we call you in the future??

    2. CA Admin

      This is when it’s a good idea to come down with “food poisoning” for the day–it’s spontaneous and you’ll be better by your next shift and everyone’s been there, so not too much suspicion.

      (I used this excuse and many others while interviewing for non-retail jobs back when I was an Assistant Manager at a pet food store.)

    3. UncoolCat (formerly Manda)

      Here are some plus signs 4 U:
      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
      As someone who stayed in retail much longer than planned, good luck!!!!

  39. SystemsLady

    I’m not sending this in because I know the answer – just looking for a yes/no or suggestions from people who’ve had to address these types of concerns before.

    Usually we get at least a token raise every year during our anniversary month, and since the company was unusually successful last year, we weren’t given a reason to think that will change. Only rarely are we formerly notified about it and we don’t have a formal review process – both are supposedly on the way once they get “the software” to do reviews – but I did have an informal review with my manager and he had nothing but good things to say.

    Well, my anniversary month and both of its paychecks (the one we just got is technically next month’s) have now come and gone and I did not see an increase.

    I’m going to ask advice from trusted coworkers who’ve been around longer than I have on who I should talk to. That’s its own problem.

    What I want advice on from here is trying not to sound entitled to a raise when I bring it up with the right person, especially because I received a very good bonus this year. Would saying “I didn’t notice a raise this month and was wondering if that was correct” cover it? Management really should be communicating to their employees about raises and telling them if there’s going to be a change this year, regardless of what software they have or don’t have, so I don’t feel bad about asking and know it has to be addressed.

    My manager is in the process of leaving over the next month, by the way, though of course I don’t think I would mention that in the conversation.

    1. SystemsLady

      *formally, not formerly

      Though I heard that formerly they were better about this :)

    2. NacSacJack

      I would ask your outgoing manager. He or she may have forgotten to submit the paperwork. If it happens every year, itwould not be out of the ordinary to ask.

    3. Jennifer

      Having recently watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation…. yes, management needs to tell people if there’s not going to be a raise this year. Even Clark admitted it would have been relatively okay if he’d had a heads-up about a lack of bonus instead of being surprised with the Jelly of the Month Club.

    4. Bee

      I was in this exact situation a couple of years ago. I framed it as “I know raises aren’t guaranteed, but we do typically get something. Since it’s unusual and we haven’t discussed it, I just wanted to make there weren’t any performance concerns.” It turns out my boss had forgotten the paperwork and was mortified. I got apologies from her and her boss, and I was glad I didn’t leave it for too long. I felt EXTREMELY uncomfortable having to ask though, for the exact reason you do – not wanting to seem entitled. It also made me vow never to put one of my direct reports in that situation.

  40. Overthinking Anon

    I did it! I have an offer. I asked for a little more money and they’re going to get back to me today, but I think we’ll be able to agree on it. I’m so excited both for the job and to finally, finally move back to my home city. Thanks again to the posters who encouraged me to go for it.

    I’ve really wanted to own my home again for a while, and now that I’ll be in a city I want to stay in permanently, it might be time. But I’m not sure I can pull off a purchase from afar while finishing my current job, moving, starting a new one. It’s probably smarter to plan to rent for a year, right, even if I hate moving?

    1. Not Today Satan

      I would wait a year. You want to know that you want to stay at that job and in that city, and it’ll give you more time to scout out neighborhoods and all that.

      Also, congrats!

    2. OriginalEmma

      Renting is a good idea, especially if you are new to the city. You want to give yourself time to adjust and rest before taking on the task of buying a home. Besides, it will give you the chance to see what neighborhood really speaks to you before setting down roots.

    3. jamlady

      Recently in this position, I actually called up a realtors office for advice. She suggested renting for a year so I’m 6 months in one town right where I work, then I’ll be 6 months in a nearby town once my husband can get moved out here, and then we’ll buy in town 2. I’ve decided on ridiculously small and cheap places as well to save money. I’m happy with the choice!

    4. Natalie

      I’d wait. I get it, I hate moving too. But you should buy a house because it’s the right house and you want to own it, not just for the sake of owning a home in the abstract. Your current circumstances sound like they might push you to make a lot of compromises (you’re on a timetable, you’re not there to go to showings). If you compromise a lot and end up with a home that’s “just okay”, was that worth avoiding one move? Plus, you’ll get a better mortgage if you haven’t just switched jobs.

      If you can afford it, consider putting any non-critical furniture, mementos, etc, in storage for 6 months so you at least don’t have to unpack and repack them.

    5. Amanda

      In addition to the points pro-renting that others have made, especially when you are starting at a new job and moving to a different city (even if you are returning), a landlord covers the various expenses that one incurs (like, for instance, if your furnace spontaneously craps out), whereas when you buy, you’re responsible for all of that. Might be worth taking into consideration since you’ll still be getting settled for the first year.

      1. Overthinking Anon

        Thanks for all the thoughtful replies! I do know this city pretty well (the only reason I’d contemplate it) but now that I’m looking at an actual start date, it seems like too much to take on, too fast. I hadn’t thought about less favorable terms or compromises yet. And yes, I once took a job that wasn’t a good fit and a mortgage would have increased my trapped feelings of panic; I don’t want to overreact to that experience but if others are bringing it up independently, it’s legit.

  41. TheExchequer

    This week has not been a good one for me. Not only have I stopped getting interviews, my boss (we’ll call him Will) dragged me into a meeting with a coworker (we’ll call him Greg). Will basically told me I wasn’t working hard enough and implied all I do around here is answer phones and e-mails.

    Uh, excuse you? I’m also doing the work of a social media manager, which you were looking to hire full time for before you decided I could just do it!

    Then, when Greg told Will about the e-mails that have been piling up (because I assigned them to Greg! Because that’s the only way I can do my job and the three other jobs I’m currently doing!), Greg was off the hook. Ugh.

    When *I* went to tell Will about a mistake I made about an order, I was told that everyone in the office was allowed to make mistakes, but not me. Because it costs too much money when I do it.

    I just can’t even.

    Who else has tales of that one coworker who seems to get away with everything?

    1. YesThis

      *Raises hand*

      We have one guy in our office that puts in maybe 3 hours of work each week, then spends the rest of his work week watching YouTube videos and full-length movies. And he keeps getting promotions. Very demoralizing.

    2. Anie

      Did you hear about the time (I think I’ve posted it here), my office manager started publically calling me a bitch? As a joke, riiiiight. And even though I pulled out all the AAM tricks, nothing changed, no one blinked, nothing. Well, until I refused to lie over and take it and the office manager threw a tanty, which caused a huge rift in the office, and who now refuses to speak to me….

      I was talking to a co-worker about a birth control clinical trial I can across that had odd methods (I work in clinical trial publishing), and said something about how difficult it would be to have a baby unexpectedly. I was spoken to/privately warned by my boss that there were many parents in the office and I had to be careful about the topics I covered.

      Same office.

    3. Retail Lifer

      One manager here has been spoken to by HR about sexual harassment and endangering workers by being too lazy to correct unsafe situations. He almost lost his job but didn’t. He obviously feels safe now, as he frequently comes in late, leaves early, and naps in his office. We’re both on salary, but *I* get crap for being 15 minutes late once in a while.

    4. Kai

      I have a coworker who can be a real asshole to his coworkers, always has to be told at least twice to complete even the simplest of projects, and would never go to meetings unless I reminded him because he never looks at his calendar.

      But because he manages the system that the rest of the office depends on, and can be really charming when he feels like it, he gets away with his bullshit. I have complained twice about this person, once to my boss and once to our director, because I just didn’t know how to deal with it anymore.

    5. Sandy

      Crazy boss’ assistant went into the computer files that my colleague and I had created for a big project, deleted them all, then went to Crazy Boss and said “you told Sandy and colleague last week to create those files. I went looking for them and they weren’t there. Just thought you should know.”

      We only found out because we asked the IT guy to do “forensic check” on the computer history.

      1. Mimmy

        Whoa!!

        P.S. I didn’t know you could go back and figure out what happens to computer files. Interesting!

        1. Sandy

          It wasn’t especially sophisticated as a stunt. The IT guy basically went in and looked at the “action logs” (I think that’s what he called it?) for the folder. You know the things that says “last accessed: date, time. “. Apparently if you actually know something about IT (which I clearly don’t), you can find out what computer did it, etc.

          1. Bea W

            They can also often restore the delete files on top of finding out who deleted them. My co-workers and I have accidentally deleted things and called down to IT to have the files fished out of the virtual trash. *phew* If they couldn’t restore the actual file, they were usually able to get something from an earlier date from a back-up.

    6. Frustrated and Confused

      At my last job, we had one manager who was chronically late every day (30 minutes or so), would leave early, complained about having to work until 7p when the others had to work until 10p (and I had to work until 12a), talked a good talk but then crawled to her office (she was the cashier manager, so she had the office with the safe inside) instead of walking any sort of the walk, and would harp on the walkie about not having enough cashiers to meet demand, pull everyone else’s people, but would rarely ever get up there and help cover the registers herself. After seven months of her trying to fix the cashiering problem, we were still understaffed; she was completely ineffectual. She fed us bad information about what support she needed to get her numbers right, and then blamed us for not helping her enough. She expected the rest of the management team to know and support her area (e.g., how many cashiers she needed at any given time, credit card apps, lot status, sending everyone except two people from the floor up to be a cashier, etc), but she wouldn’t lift a finger to help support your area.

      I was over logistics/supply chain and was off one day; she was one of two managers in the store, and the truck wasn’t done by the time the overnight manager came in–because more than half the team called in and no one was pulled to go back and help get it done. Total disaster. She told the overnight manager that she didn’t even know there was a truck (like, there’s a schedule for that? Same truck day, same truck bay? Holy retail, Batman!) and didn’t know about the call-ins. The store manager said, “Oh, but she’s busy with the cashiers. She shouldn’t know about trucks. Also, she’s, you know… She wears scarves.” (I’m a woman too, FWIW. And I like scarves.) Our manager LOVED her and would give her every excuse possible.

      About a week after that, the store manager came to me and said, “You, Cashier Manager, and Other Manager are the only managers who are on track for promotion.” And I was like, “Uh…. Thanks for lumping me in with that ineffectual, lazy manager who can’t fix her own area and doesn’t pay attention to anything except her phone while hiding in the office. That’s great.”

      Very demoralizing.

      (P.S.: I loved the day she came back from lunch and complained that the wait at the nail salon was too long for her to get her nails done. I was dripping in sweat from helping unload an 18 pallet grocery truck with a manual pallet jack. But our manager just freaking loved her.)

      1. Retail Lifer

        There’s a lazy idiot manager in every store. For some reason, they’re always able to pull the wool over everyone else’s eyes and somehow look like a star despite being absolutely terrible. Been there, seen that so many times!

    7. AnonGovProblem

      I posted a few weeks ago about an old racist/sexist guy who’s government in an office of minoroties and how he’s had now 16 and counting complaints against him in the last few months. I sit right outside of his office and have to listen to him hiss at people and say things like “damn rice eaters” every 5 minutes. One of our coworkers is having panic attacks because he’s been going after to her a lot lately and my company has decided to throw a lawsuit against this department. Likely though, nothing will happen aside from is losing the contract.

      There’s always one. >:(

    8. TL

      Yes, he was the Owner’s boyfriend, I ended up doing half his job for him because every time I pushed back that I didn’t have time or asked him to help with something, he tell the Owner that I was slacking and having him do my job so I wasn’t doing anything. It got to the point where I purchased a literal one-way ticket out of that town and gave notice, they ended up having to hire 3 people to fill in and do my duties until they caught him up. Five years later I hear he’s still at the company as the Managing Director and mis-managed it to the point that it can barely pay the bills.

        1. Anonsie

          When I tried to come up with some examples, so many flooded to mind that I just left it at that.

          I guess a good one is I once worked somewhere we had variable shifts (different days and start times) that didn’t require all day coverage, so Lana works MTW from 5pm-10pm and Sue works MTW from 8am-12pm or whatever. A lot of students working around their class schedule. We set these in advance and if we wanted to change we had to request advance permission and schedule a date then, and doing this was really frowned upon and you always got a stern talking-to if you moved days.

          But there was this one woman who was allowed to just come and go as she pleased without even telling our boss, she would just decide to come in a different day and wouldn’t tell a single person. Our boss would come in and she wouldn’t be there and boss would just be like “Oh, she must have decided to work another day instead! No biggie.” But if you asked for a day to be moved weeks in advance she’d lecture you about responsibility.

    9. BananaPants

      Yup. Coworker has a PhD in engineering and has a side job as an adjunct at a local university. He’s spent the last 7-8 years in our group literally doing nothing but moonlighting for his adjunct job (grading, prepping lectures and problem sets, etc.) and playing fantasy sports or watching YouTube videos. On the exceedingly rare occasion he has to produce anything, he usually trolls the network drive and takes someone else’s work, then rushes for an hour to add to it.
      He gets a 6 figure salary for doing nothing. He must know where bodies are buried or something, because we can’t figure out why senior management tolerates it.

  42. Anon for this

    Oh good, I’ve been waiting for this!

    I am dealing with a health problem at the moment. It’s minor in that I can work around it without too much trouble, but it is causing me pain and it’s something that I want to fix as soon as possible so that I can get back to my full exercise routine (and, hell, doing my regular work without workarounds). My coworkers are aware of what the problem is.

    A couple of my colleagues were pushing very hard for me to attend an off-site meeting early next week that would have conflicted with one of my treatment appointments for the health issue. I pushed back and my boss was with me. However, they pressed so hard, plus my boss’s boss, with whom I don’t have a great relationship, gave me the stink eye as well, I ended up agreeing to attend the meeting.

    I get it. This is an important meeting. However, complicating the issue is that it’s quite difficult to get appointments at this treatment center. I had asked to reschedule and was told if I did, the next appointment was two weeks out. I had already given up another appointment in that two-week period at the center for work reasons (different client, different set of coworkers), so I was digging my heels in because, you know, I want to get treated. Me calling in for the meeting instead of being there face to face would not have been ideal, but I think it would work.

    Am I right to be pissed? Or should I be willing to bend because what I’m dealing with is annoying and sometimes painful, but not an imminent threat to my health? Part of me wants to apply for intermittent FMLA (not that it would help for this instance, I’ve already lost the appointment and I can’t get it back), but I’m wondering whether that would make an already rocky situation with my boss’s boss even worse.

    Sigh.

    1. Graciosa

      No one else can really make the underlying decision about this (what’s more important – meeting or treatment) for you – but no, I don’t think you’re right to be pissed about missing the appointment.

      Not because you don’t have a right to be pissed about the pressure – you do. Your co-workers and boss’ boss were way out of line.

      The reason you don’t have the right to be pissed about missing the appointment is because you had your boss’ backing for your decision and you changed it. You agreed to give up the appointment. You don’t get to be pissed about things you agreed to – especially when you had your boss’ support for not agreeing.

      Most of the letter seems to be rehashing the reasons for why you should not have caved – and I agree – but that ship has sailed. Learn the lesson and don’t repeat the mistake, but don’t displace your anger about your decision on to its advocates.

      1. Anon for this

        I would never have caved to the pressure of the coworkers alone — I have a pretty good spine for that. It was the boss’s boss’s stink eye, given that I already know he questions the strength of my work (he’s a newcomer; my boss and I have worked together much longer, and she trusts me — but of course she also can’t be feeling 100% secure with the new big-boss).

        I just hate that I’m in this situation where this is even a question! I can’t imagine, if a colleague or employee told me, “I have a health issue that requires treatment,” I wouldn’t do my utmost to find a workaround instead of pressuring her to change her mind.

    2. Retail Lifer

      Please don’t miss any more of your treatments. Get a doctor’s note stating you can’t miss them or reschedule them. Even if that’s not entirely true, my doctor is always willing to slightly exaggerate.

      I’m also dealing with some medical stuff and being given a hard time about needing time off. My boss is OK with it (I give as much notice as I can, get my shift covered if needed, and make up the time another day), but upper management is starting to give me looks. Upper management doesnt’t really like me and my position itself is in danger of being eliminated or drastically changed, so I don’t want to annoy anyone, but what choice do we have? I have yet to see any specialist who keeps hours after 5pm or works weekends.

    3. Hlyssande

      I think you’re right to be frustrated in this situation. I’m mad at your colleagues and boss’s boss on your behalf.

      You changed your decision because they pressured you hardcore and that really sucks. I know that I would probably cave in as well in the same situation, especially with the boss’s boss leaning on me for it. It doesn’t sound like there’s a good outcome for you in this either way.

      If you see the regular treatments continuing for awhile (and you’re in the US), you may be able to look into FMLA for it to allow regular appointments. An old coworker of mine had that set up for weekly treatments at the same time and her new boss had to deal with it (even though he was very displeased).

    4. Tagg

      Absolutely pursue FMLA! It’s fairly easy to get set up, and it gives you legal protections. If you say you have an appointment that falls under your FMLA protection, they /cannot/ pressure you to change it. Or if they do, they get in Big Trouble.

      My (amazing) supervisor urged me to file for FMLA when I got a written reprimand due to frequently being 5-10 minutes late in the month of February (I have depression/anxiety that I’m actively trying to get under control, and the winter months only exacerbate things). My doctor signed and gave me the ability to be late up to 30 minutes, five days a month. I’ve also got protection for any time I need to set up an appointment. I’ve not actually had to use one of those days yet, but just having that protection and knowing that I’m not going to lose my job if there’s a day that I have a flare-up does wondrous things for my peace of mind.

    5. Not So NewReader

      Others have this pretty well covered. So one thing- ease up on you. The problem here was that you did not foresee the pressure and you did not have a plan for it. Now you are older and wiser- build a plan to go up against the pressure. Assume it will happen again and have several sentences carved into your brain that you might find useful. The doctor’s note really is not a bad idea, especially if the appointments are predictable. “Anon, must keep treatment appointments. They are scheduled ever other Tuesday at 3:30 pm.”

      Sometimes we need a little extra to get our points across. I know when I did not feel great, I needed outside back up because I was not the best advocate for myself. I was too busy not feeling great.

  43. Katie the Fed

    Following up on the “intern who brought in a cot” story from the other day –

    Are there any absolutely legendary tales of bad behavior in your workplace?

    One I thought of –
    – A new hire who thought it would be funny to send the Secretary of Defense a Secretary’s Day card.

      1. Katie the Fed

        I do too, actually. But it’s the kind of thing that sounds hilarious in theory – you don’t ACTUALLY do it. I’m not sure if Secretary Rumsfeld actually received the card or it got stopped at the staff level.

        1. littlemoose

          But the new hire acquired, wrote, and sent or attempted to send such a card?! WOW.

    1. TheExchequer

      I’ve only heard this one in legend, so I can’t speak to it’s truthfulness, but apparently one former worker here walked into the office one day, grabbed their stuff, shouted to the coworker who told me this story that they were quitting and to tell the bosses, then left.

    2. GOG11

      In my first full time job out of college, the head of the Department would play Bubble Blast while talking to you…with her back to you…and her screen facing you, so you knew exactly what she was doing. She’d just rest her chin in her hand while clicking away and mumbling her side of the conversation. She was pretty close to retirement, though, so I guess that’s how she got away with it. Not legendary, but it’s probably the most overtly IDGAF behavior I’ve seen to date.

    3. OfficePrincess

      Cracking a beer on his lunch break. At a workplace that you can’t be at if you have any alcohol in your system at all. Before (attempting) to return to work operating heavy machinery.

      1. Jake

        That’s a constant issue in my industry. Automatic firing and loss of certification when it happens, but it still happens shockingly frequently.

        1. OfficePrincess

          The truly crazy part is that he was here with all of his coworkers and supervisor around. Like, dude, at least pretend to hide it.

    4. Snoskred

      I once took out an entire call centre for over two hours in the middle of a busy work day, using the high lift to get a fruit muffin out of the toaster. No computers, no phones, nothing was working.

      The bad behaviour was on the part of the person who designed the recently installed and upgraded electrical system so that the kitchen circuit took out all the other circuits in the building.

      I’ve been a bit scared of toasters since then, because the thing sparked and leaped into the air.

      On the plus side, this did not happen on a weekend or in the middle of the night – and it would have happened eventually to someone because of the bad design. Plus they discovered the emergency generator did not work, at all.

      1. Hlyssande

        You were just the unlucky one who discovered the issues, but I’m sure the company was glad you did before it caused even more trouble!

      2. Not So NewReader

        That is spectacular. You could not have fit any more electrical problems into that story. The story has every electrical problem known to mankind. I hope the people who put that system in felt repercussions.

        I am sorry this happened to you. Yes, I would be afraid of the toaster myself.

        There was an accident in the news where a few people were blown threw a concrete wall when one pulled a circuit breaker. I am (mostly) not afraid of circuit breakers but I think and I wonder each time I have to check on one.

    5. AVP

      Back in the wild 90s, there were stories of interns being sent to buy drugs on East 2nd St for their bosses, as well as one legendary film pioneer who used to have his assistants rub skin ointment directly onto his bald scalp for him (my boss was a direct witness to this, I believe it’s true).

      Also, on a work trip, someone needed to be bailed out of jail to get to a critical morning meeting on time (he had gotten into a bar fight the night before, I believe). Same person, on a different work trip, didn’t show up in the hotel lobby one day. People were calling his room, he wouldn’t answer. Cell phone was shut off. Finally they had to bribe a hotel maid to key into the room where they found him passed out. Dumped a glass of water on him, he woke up and made the meeting.

      Everyone in these stories has gotten sober by now, as far as I know. It’s rather boring around here these days.

    6. SaraV

      Bad or stupid? This one is from my IT security officer at a former job.

      Mary and Jane were co-workers that became friends. Mary and Jane had a falling out, and weren’t friends anymore. Mary figured out Jane’s password – it was something simple like Jane’s daughter’s name and DOB. So Mary would log onto Jane’s account ever so often and do who knows what.

      Fast forward an unknown amount of time. We’re having problems where anyone who is at home or off-site can’t remote into our network. Mary is at home, tries to log into Jane’s account, but can’t. She calls the helpdesk as Jane, saying she can’t log in. The helpdesk informs her of the problem, but opens a ticket all the same. When a ticket is opened, that software automatically sends an email to the user with the ticket number and a summary of the issue.

      Jane is at work on-site, and sees this email. She calls the helpdesk, explaining she never opened a ticket. The Powers That Be went back and listened to the tape of the helpdesk call, and Jane was able to identify Mary because she had a very distinct voice.

      So during Mary’s “exit interview”, it was asked if she had ever seen Jane’s paystub. (They were available online) She admits she “accidentally” saw it. Right. You had to make 4-5 very distinct clicks to see it.

      TL;DR – Don’t make your password your child’s name and DOB

    7. MaryMary

      A division of OldJob had a large call center operation, and the call center would hire temps during its busy season. The clothing many of the temps chose to wear (we were business casual) was legendary. Every year we’d eagerly await the new batch of temps and reminisce about fondly remembered past outfits. Mini skirts and booty shorts, profane t shirts, sweatpants with suggestive words bedazzled on the butt, very large ladies wearing zero undergarments…my own personal favorite was the guy who wore overalls, a plaid shirt, and work boots. He looked like he was going to drive a tractor instead of answer the phone.

      1. BenAdminGeek

        Us too! And the year they let everyone wear Halloween costumes to work was legendary. So many inappropriate Catwoman costumes, it hurt my brain.

        1. MaryMary

          My OldJob was doing ben admin…did you happen to work for a company in the northern Chicago suburbs?

          1. BenAdminGeek

            Well… there are 2 there. OldJob was the one with its main campus in the northeast (where I worked). NewJob is the one with its main campus in the northern Chicago suburbs (the big name in the industry).

            Unfortunately, I’m WFH so don’t get to see any great outfits now! I guess I could dress the cat up, but that seems problematic.

            1. MaryMary

              I think your NewJob is my OldJob. :-) I’m told they hire fewer temps these days, so there aren’t as many outfits to ogle anymore.

              1. BenAdminGeek

                My wife enjoyed guessing what department people worked in by how inappropriate their outfits were.

                1. MaryMary

                  Oh yeah. You could pretty clearly tell who was an actuary, who was a consultant, who was in ben admin, and who was CS.

    8. Bekx

      The owner of my company is notoriously late. He’s the nicest, most amazing guy though!

      I guess one person got fed up with him always being late with meetings, so he said that anyone who was not in the conference room by 11:00 sharp would be locked out. 11:00 came along, the guy locked the meeting room door and essentially locked out the president of my company! He was fired, I believe.

    9. Cath in Canada

      We share our building with another company. My team was coming back from a meeting once and all got in the elevator together, along with another colleague who runs the office coffee club and was carrying a huge box of coffee beans. A woman from the other company got in with us. Someone from my team made a comment about the size of the box of coffee beans and how good they smelled; the woman from the other company very cheerily said “smells like poo!”

      She got out at the next floor; as the doors closed, we all looked at each other and burst out laughing!

      I’m sure she was mortified as soon as she left the elevator, but her comment lives on. Any time anyone who was in that elevator makes coffee, someone else from the group will announce “smells like poo!”

    10. Jennifer

      * We had a “former model” who was in her fifties and wearing very, very short skirts, and one time a mesh top, to work, to wait on people. Not that she didn’t look good for her age, but hoo boy, would that not fly now.
      * We had one lady who I’m told was high on marijuana at work at times, which explained why she was frequently sleepy, had a lot of snacks, and after she retired, a lot of errors were found. Before I got here, she had some kind of SLEEPING curtain/pillow setup under her desk, where snoring could be heard. Also, my boss discovered that she’d fallen asleep on the toilet one day.

    11. land of oaks

      Not sure if this is “bad” or just bizarre.

      Entry-level fundraising employee, was good at his job, but a little awkward, and would drop into conversation that he was Born-Again Christian somewhat frequently, so we all knew. That’s fine, no big.

      Easter-time rolls around, he comes around the office one day, dropping by everyone’s desk and saying, “Hi, just want to come around and wish everyone a happy Easter, (blahblah rando small talk)” and hands everyone a folded letter in an envelope. After he leaves the room and we start opening these letters, they are a long, evangelizing letter, personalized to each person, about how Easter is so important to him, he wants to bring each of us to Jesus, he is available to talk about, here is why this is related to the mission of the organization, etc. He even left them on the desks of people who were not in when he went around.

      We all go to his boss, who is a super young manager, but does a great job of sitting him down and explaining that there is a difference between telling people you are a Christian and using work time to actively evangelize people and he needs to not bother other people about their religious beliefs.

      A week or so later, some of us start finding letters IN OUR DESK DRAWERS that he is going around and leaving when we are not around. And now these letters start having vague hints about how if we don’t let him bring us to Jesus we are going to burn in hell and that makes him sad, etc. So. Creepy. Finally they had to fire him, which was a shame for him, because he actually did his job well.

      1. land of oaks

        I know some others involving epic levels of managers macking on every girl on staff and trying to get everyone to go out with them, but those just make me depressed and angry so I don’t really want to go into them. :\

      2. afiendishthingy

        one of my coworkers had a report who gave her a Jehovah’s Witness pamphlet.

    12. AnotherFed

      We had a Mad Shitter for a few months – he would leave piles of poo in random places around the office, and on a couple of occasions used it as finger paint on the walls. On one occasion, he left a fairly soft pile of poo on the inside of a door that opens inwards so that it made a nasty poo smear across the carpet and on the underside of the door. They never did catch whoever it was.

      1. Windchime

        These poo posts always confuse me. Who are these people who do this kind of thing? It’s apparently pretty common because I’ve seen versions of this mentioned on AAM before. It’s just so…..strange. Like something a baby who didn’t know any better might do.

  44. Kate

    Admittedly not work related, but is anyone else having issues with ads that autoplay on the AAM comment pages and prevent you from scrolling? It comes on with the sound muted, which is appreciated, but I can’t scroll past it – it just keeps bumping me back up to where the ad is so I have to watch it. Sometimes refreshing the page will load a different ad, which solves the problem, but can we just do away with these altogether?

    Sorry if someone else already brought this up, can’t read the comments due to scrolling issues!

    1. Not Today Satan

      That happened to me recently and was really annoying. It only stopped doing that when Shockwave or Java or whatever it was crashed.

    2. YWD

      Just had that happen for the first time with a MGM Grand ad. Once it finished playing I could scroll past it.

    3. MaryMary

      Yes, but only on my desktop computer. My ipad and phone don’t have that issue.

    4. Nina

      Yes, it’s happened several times today. I tried pausing the ad and the scroll bar still kept jumping back to the ad.

    5. Cathy

      I thought it was just me! It is incredibly annoying and I can’t install any ad-blocking software to stop it.

      1. blackcat

        It’s not just this site, though–I’ve encountered some other blogs that clearly use the same “AdChoices” system as you. It’s actually what finally motivated me to install an ad-blocker.

        Since it seems to be sort of wide spread on the internet, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a hard problem to fix :(

  45. Marie

    So I’ve written in before about how I’m in a situation where my employer has been indefinitely renewing my “temp contract” for the last year and a half with promises that I will be made permanent by the next contract. I’m month-to-month right now (went from 6 month long contracts to 3 month long, etc). I’ve been looking for another job for about 7-8 months now but nothing yet. Yesterday my contract was renewed for yet another month with yet another empty promise, and I found myself wishing that they would just forget to renew it so that I can legally be terminated (I can’t afford to quit and not be eligible for EI) and be able to move on with my life. The stress of this precarious employment situation has taken a huge toll on my physical and mental health, and as I’m unable to find other work, I feel like I’m being forced to choose between my well-being and paying my bills.

    This is why my employer (big name Canadian University – if you’ve heard of any, it’s this one!) has basically ceased hiring regular staff and has been replacing all permanent positions with full-time temp staff, so they can increase their hold over their workers. Productivity and morale have plummeted in the last 2-3 years and turnover has been ridiculously high for a university which once prided itself on how their employees would stick around for decades. They are one of the biggest employers in the city and continuously ranked as one of the city’s top 15 employers. Very discouraging.

    1. Steve G

      That sounds really frustrating, I also wish they would just forget to renew it, it sounds very, very frustrating. It’s also frustrating that at work as an employee you are expected to solve problems ASAP, but “problems” like this on the employer end are allowed to sit and fester……..

  46. Lionness

    I…don’t know if I’m being overly sensitive but here goes:

    We have this new requirement in our department. It is hard for the team members and many of them are stating it is outright not possible. Unfortunately, it is a requirement coming from several management levels above me and my manager so we have to support the requirement while also trying to find ways to support the team in this new, very difficult task.

    Here is where I am frustrated. My team is not being held to the same standard as the other teams. I thought this was just a thing we had to do. I became aware yesterday that the other teams have been told it is a performance requirement and will have to be included in reviews. But not my team. My team is not newer than the other teams, they do the exact same job and perform at the same level.

    Part of me says it is nice my team isn’t being pushed as hard on this but the other side is worried. If this becomes known to the other teams it will create a divide and we are already fighting against that – I don’t need another obstacle.

    Obviously I am going to talk to my manager about this to get the why but it just seems like…I don’t know. Maybe they thought my team wasn’t as capable, as ready? I can’t think of a good reason why they wouldn’t be held to the same standard and that kind of irks me.

        1. Anie

          Then I…I don’t know. But am super sad for you. And surprised no one else has any ideas.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Please do find out the reason why very soon. It could be that your team will be doing something different so it does not matter. It could be that they do not have enough work for all teams so one team gets to skip the requirement. Or perhaps it will be on a rotational basis that one team will not need to meet the requirement for one month and yours is the first.

  47. Anie

    Tiny rant. I can’t stand the uppermost manager at my work. I’m sure he has good qualities because how else would he have the position, but he drives me nuts! It almost physically hurts me to talk to him. Here are some examples.

    Him: “So where does the name Anie come from? Is that like your middle name?”

    Me: “It’s actually the second half of Stephanie. It’s a less common nickname, but I’ve run into a few other people who’ve done the same thing.”

    Him: “Whoa. I know where it comes from, thanks. I was just asking a simple question. There is no reason to get defensive.”

    How about this one:

    Him: “Oh wow, you went to the same college my son is attending? Jeeze, tuition is so expensive! I can barely keep up paying for it. And he has an apartment in that really wealthy downtown area all by himself I pay for too. I just feel like my salary isn’t enough you know?”

    Me: “………” In my head–“I make a tenth of what you make.”

      1. jamlady

        “I don’t think anybody has called me a butthead since the 9th grade.”

        “Maybe not to your face.”

        I don’t care how old we are. That word is perfect.

        1. Sarah Nicole

          Haha, I just watched Legally Blonde a couple weeks ago! Such a perfect movie. Also I will never give up saying that word!

    1. Dasha

      It seems like maybe these are strange ways he’s trying to connect with you and have small talk? Are his conversations like this with everyone?

      1. Anie

        He is trying SO hard to connect with me, which is probably why he never shuts up about his son’s school.

        But that response, “there’s no need to get defensive,” yeah, in the 8 months we’ve worked together, he’s ended up saying to me about a dozen times. And I’m never defensive. It’s always the dumbest question that I really am not putting much thought into in the first place because it’s so low on my “I give a shit” meter. This most recent time I even got direct about it: “Hey, you know, you say you feel I’m being defensive quit often, but I feel you’re misinterpreting my expressions.” His response: “It was just a simple question. I’m just asking, but it’s fine. There’s no need to be so defensive.”

        I’m seriously on the verge of saying, “This is how I look when irritated! Next time I’m defensive, I’ll make sure to show you that expression so you can stop confusing the two.”

          1. Anie

            Honestly, I probably am. I already have a strong resting bitch face and I find him incredibly hard to deal with, so perhaps what he’s interpreting as defensiveness is actually my severe reluctance to speak to him. But still, I don’t understand where he’s getting defensive. I basically have no expression when he tries to talk to me because it’s already so hard for me to stay professional.

        1. Anonsie

          I read a series of studies recently that when women had a neutral tone of voice (vs being happy/excited or angry/tense, just middle of the road tone) in different settings, people interpreted it as her being angry or hostile significantly more often than when it was a man using a neutral tone in the same setting. I would bet real American dollars that your neutral “don’t care” voice is setting him off as you being angry because we tend to skew neutral for women as being extra sweet, not actually neutral.

    2. Retail Lifer

      I don’t think I could hold a conversation with this person and not turn into a snarky b****.

    3. Christy

      My boss complains about stuff like that, and he easily makes double what I do. Maybe don’t pay for all of your kids’ college, then, if you can’t afford it.

      He also took his promotion for the money and would be a far better analyst.

      1. BananaPants

        Like the time last year when my manager was complaining about not liking the new granite countertops he had installed in his kitchen, using the bonus that he got thanks to his team’s hard work (none of us are bonus-eligible). This in a year where I got a lower-than-average merit increase for the sole reason that I’d had a baby the year before and was out of the office for a couple of months.
        Dude, my heart BLEEDS for you and your granite countertops – want to swap for my 20 year old rose pink laminate countertops?

        1. TL -

          My brother makes between 3-4x what I do and last Christmas, after I said money was tight due to buying presents, proceeded to complain about how expensive his international vacation was (that he paid for him and his girlfriend. Though he couldn’t pay for anything for me when I went to visit. Sigh.)

    4. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

      … If you know where it comes from, why did you ask??? Hopefully you’re able to avoid him in most cases

    5. Carrie in Scotland

      Where I work is currently trying to voluntarily lose some staff.

      At the beginning of the week, an email was sent to this mail list (for things to buy/sell/advice etc) that this researcher had given back 10% of his salary for the next 5 years to try and save money and “encouraged us all to do the same”.

      Well, yeah, that’d be nice but do you know how much I actually make!?

    6. Not So NewReader

      …”There’s no reason to get defensive.”

      “Gee, you say that a lot. And I am concerned why you feel the need to say that.”

      1. Have courage and be kind - Austin, TX

        “I’m wondering why you often interpret my answers to your questions as “getting defensive”. Perhaps we have a different communication style that makes you read defensiveness when I’m simply trying to give you a direct answer to your question?”

        Perhaps you could say something like this, to see if he realizes he’s simply misinterpreting things?

  48. Happy New Employee But...

    Looking for input: I just started a new job about a month ago and I love it! Another woman started a job at the same company a few weeks before me and has latched on to me (to be clear, she is in a completely different role and function and we will likely never work together). By latched, I mean moving into a cube next to mine, constantly talking to and interrupting me, asking me to lunch every day, inviting herself to lunches I’ve arranged with others, asking to go get coffee every day, trying to make plans outside of work, etc.

    She is really nice but hasn’t worked for the last five years and isn’t the most socially aware. To make it worse, she is going through a divorce and wants to talk about it with me ALL of the time and in great detail. I went through a divorce and I know how painfully, all-encompassing it can be so I’m trying to be sensitive.

    She told me when we first met that she has already been talked to about being too personal at work. I’ve started being a little more standoff-ish, turning down invitations for coffee and lunch and told her “I can’t talk now, I’m busy.” Sometimes that works but sometimes she just keeps going and I have to repeat myself over and over. There are other little things that she does that I don’t think would be annoying if someone else did them but because it is her, they are so irritating.

    What do I do? I am still working on building relationships and I don’t want everyone to think we are a package deal (I know for a fact that she is driving everyone around us crazy). I’m thinking of talking to her next week and explaining that I need to build relationships on my team and I can only go to lunch and coffee with her a couple times a week and that I need to focus more at work. It’s hard because she sees how close our team is and the people I’m going to lunch with sit in our same bay. Her team is global and she doesn’t have anyone else in our office so I think she is lonely.

    Anybody else dealt with this and had a conversation like this that was well-received? Should I just keep going with what I’m doing and hope it will peter out without having a discussion?

    1. Retail Lifer

      Jeez…did you hire the person that just quit here? Because she sounds exactly the same (minus the divorce, but it’s been a few weeks since she left so who knows?). She’d been out of work for a while and cooped up in the house for too long before starting here and I think she had desperately missed having conversations with another adult.

      She originally drove my co-worker crazy because she sat right next to her and was the only person close enough for her to regularly talk to. Co-worker eventually engaged her in conversation for a few minutes, feigning total interest and asking questions, but then let her know she had to get back to work and had to really concentrate. That actually did work. She also accepted the occasional invite to go to lunch together but she usually found a reason to decline.

    2. MsM

      It’s not going to peter out. She’s not socially aware enough to realize that you’re trying to pull back, and even if she does pick up on it, she’ll probably cling harder. You’re just going to have to tell her that you understand she’s having a rough time and are sympathetic, but you can’t offer her more than a cordial working relationship, and you need her to respect that and give you some space.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Even getting coffee and lunch with her a couple of times a week sounds like a lot to me if you’re trying to have a distance (both with her and in terms of others’ perception).

    4. Windchime

      It won’t peter out. People like this don’t understand hints or gentle remarks.

      We have a guy that joined our team 6 months ago. He latched onto me right away; standing too close, always wanting to tell me funny stories (that weren’t funny at all), offering to buy me lunch, etc. He really started giving me the creeps so I stopped being welcoming and friendly and started being cool to him. That just upped the ante; he told a friend that he was planning to bring me a gift with a note, telling me he just wants to be my friend.

      Finally our manager had to speak with him and tell him to back off. He still tries to strike up (overly) friendly conversations with him. I respond with the least level of polite civility that is acceptable. Anything more, and he will glom onto me again.

      1. Jean

        People are socially skilled or unskilled for a gazillion different reasons such as being on the autism spectrum or having Tourette’s syndrome, social anxiety, mild or major emotional disabilities or mental illness, etc etc etc. (Side comment: the complexity and variability of the human brain and its social/emotional wiring are amazing.) But yes, it can be very difficult for to communicate or coexist with someone when you and he/she have wildly different abilities to interpret or transmit nonverbal social messages. Sometimes “different” means “annoying” not “interesting.” On some days you just want to accomplish X task without having to expend all kinds of energy and good will to communicate successfully across one of these gaps.

        I’m not trying to give you a guilt trip! I happen to be the mom of someone with Asperger’s and ADHD, but long before our child’s birth I was fascinated by other majority/minority interactions across differences of cultural fluency; socio-economic origins; sexual orientation; political or religious affiliations; national or ethnic origins; mental health or illness; physical, emotional, or cognitive abilities or disabilities, etc, etc. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have times of Just Wanting to Do XYZ without a long song and dance about whatever whatever!

  49. Emmie

    Do you ask your employees where they are headed to on vacation? I’m on the fence about this. I would *never* ask as a condition to approve the pto, or expect the to be available during the time off. One of my colleagues was recently very upset that his boss didn’t ask b/c it made him feel like his boss didn’t care. I never minded being asked, but don’t want to pry into my employees personal lives or make them feel obligated to disclose personal plans. I’ve settled for saying (much later, close to the time off) “I hope you have something fun planned” and leaving it for the employee to volunteer if they are so inclined. What do you do? What would be appropriate coming from your manager?

    1. Kara Ayako

      I think there’s a difference between prying and being friendly. I think asking someone where they’re going on vacation is about the same as asking someone if they have any fun weekend plans. It’s normal chitchat. Now, if you ask and they tell you where they’re going and you start asking for details and itineraries and how much things cost and if they’re going to propose to their girlfriend while there…yeah, that would be prying.

      While I wouldn’t be offended if my boss didn’t ask me where I was going on vacation, I would feel a little like my boss didn’t care about me as a person if he never asked me any personal questions (and I say this as a pretty private person!).

      1. Emmie

        You bring up a good comment. What kind of private questions are okay? Which ones, in your opinion, are off limits? I’m a pretty private person too, but I’ve personally loved managers that have shown an interest in my personal life.

        1. YesThis

          For me, I like when my boss asks me about things I’ve brought up myself. Example: The other day, I had to request PTO because of a leak in my apartment. When I returned to work, I was a little disappointed that my boss never asked me if everything was okay with the leak. Questions like that make me feel like my boss cares about me as a person, not just as a cog in the machine.

        2. Kara Ayako

          I think questions like the below are totally fine:
          “How’s your day going?”
          “Doing anything fun this weekend?”
          After a vacation request: “Going anywhere warm?”

          And then follow their cues. If they reply with short or dismissive answers or appear uncomfortable, leave it at that. If they want to chat, get to know them.

    2. LizB

      I think your script is great! Low-pressure, maintains workplace boundaries — I would have no problem hearing it from my boss. I wouldn’t want to be asked where I was going while the approval was still pending, in the midst of a stressful work-related conversation (e.g. “The client needs ANOTHER round of changes, so we’re all going to be pulling overtime. Say, Liz, where are you headed on your trip next weekend again?”), or in a way that made it sound like a dig at my work ethic (“Gosh, this event is turning out to be a real bear to plan. Lucky for you you’re off next week — what beach are you going to be relaxing on while we’re all slaving away?”). I don’t think your script does any of those things.

    3. OriginalYup

      Your colleague sounds a bit oversensitive on that point.

      I don’t mind at all if bosses say, “Sure, request approved. Anything fun planned?” because it’s clear the one doesn’t affect the other and they’re just being friendly, and it’s easy enough to say “Nah, just stuff” and let it drop. But I’d be weirded out if the phrasing was “where you are going?” or “what are you doing?” because it just sounds intrusive. I can’t imagine being offended by them *not* asking unless it was also in a context where they yelled “FINE, take your stupid vacation days.” and stomped off or something.

      1. Christian Troy

        Yeah I think if you leave it opened ended with, “Going anywhere good?”, people can opt to share more if they want.

      2. Emmie

        I’m naturally pretty nosy too. :) What kinds of questions do you think are good relationship builders with employees without being too personal? (Thanks, btw, for your feedback!)

        1. OriginalYup

          “How’s everything with you?”
          “Any fun plans for the weekend?”
          “Going on any fun vacations this summer?”

          I prefer to ask broad questions and see it where leads. I also find it easy to talk to bosses when they share stuff about themselves too — “I’m so excited to see the new XYZ movie, I love action films,” or “I’m going to ABC place on vacation for the first time ever” or “I can’t wait to go base jumping/sit quietly and read/practice tuba playing this weekend.”

      3. bridget

        My boss sometimes appends “anything fun planned” with “or just relaxing?” to make it clear that taking PTO to veg would also be fine.

    4. Katie the Fed

      I love to know what they’re doing, but I’m nosy. And travel is my favorite thing ever so I want to know if they’re going somewhere fun. I ask something similar – “oooh going anywhere fun?” but if they just say no I’m not going to pry.

      1. Emmie

        Do you have any common relationship building questions you use with your employees? I try things like “how’s kid #1’s move going?” and stuff like that. But, I love hearing what others do, so I can change things up a bit. (PS… I have the nosy bug, so I try to reign that in.)

        1. AVP

          I am totally nosy so I try to stick with topics that the employee has already brought up on their own volition.

        2. Katie the Fed

          I don’t go any further than “anything fun planned for the weekend?” Some people just do not want to reveal anything, and that’s totally cool. Others friend me on facebook.

    5. MaryMary

      Our PTO request application actually makes you input a reason when you request time off. I think it’s dumb. I usually put “vacation” or “personal,” although there’s enough space you could put “Hawaii!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” or “Vegas, baby!” or something more descriptive. I did include a frowny face when I took time off to get my wisdom teeth out.

    6. Sparrow

      I think what you are doing is fine. I would not be offended if my manager didn’t ask me where I’m going. We send out meetings in Outlook to our boss and co-workers so everyone is aware of when we’re out of the office. I usually just leave the Location field blank.

      I actually feel weird just outright announcing where I’m going on vacation, but I’m okay talking about if someone asks. I guess it feels like I’m bragging? For example, we’re taking a trip to Greece in a couple of weeks but in my vacation notification I just noted that I would be out of the country and wouldn’t have access to email and voice mail. The majority of the time I’m just at home so I’ll list my phone number for any urgent issues.

  50. Scorpio

    I started a sales rep position this past January after dismissed from marketing manager job last November. I was already in talks with my present employer when I was let go – someone from my new job called my old employer for verification so I was caught. My first paystub is dated Jan 1 of this year. But by early December of last year I was already “on the streets” and on social media hyping my new company and products.
    It really did behoove me to start early, unfortunately this gig has some truly bad kinks. I’m quietly updating my resume and looking at new job leads. Can I list my new role on my resume with a start date of December, even though I wasn’t paid on the books for those early marketing endeavors?

    1. Emmie

      Use the official start date that would be used for employment verification purposes. If a potential employer would get a January start date, use that. You could always talk about how you prepared for the sales job if it came up in the interview. I wonder if you should even put this on your resume since you’ve only been there for five months. I’m not sure you’ve made notable accomplishments that would counter your short tenure at the company. I would, however, list the company on an application which presumably is supposed to capture your employment history, and I wouldn’t want to mislead a potential employer.

    2. Graciosa

      No.

      There are a lot of reasons why you can’t do this, but the one you’ll care about is that you need to make sure whatever you put down will be verified in a background check. A December start date won’t be.

  51. yky

    How much vacation do you guys use in the summer?

    At your company, what is the amount that gets frowned upon?

    I took 4 days off two weeks ago and plan to take 2 days off next week… I have the days; they always just make me feel so guilty.

    1. GOG11

      I am planning to take 8ish days in row off. Our vacation time doesn’t roll over and I’m not just going to let it go for no good reason. When I told my boss my plans to take vacation, she asked me if I was going anywhere exciting. I wasn’t, but she was very positive and supportive about it. Unless you’ve opted to take your vacation at the busiest time of the year, I don’t see why they should view that negatively.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      I usually take 10 days to 2 weeks straight in the summer, and then another 3 weeks the rest of the year in single days or a couple in a row. I get 5 weeks a year, which includes sick leave, and if I don’t take it, I lose it. But no one makes us feel guilty for taking our leave. I just make sure there’s no big Teapot Redesign Launch scheduled for that time.

    3. Graciosa

      Are they trying to make you feel guilty, or is this something you’re doing to yourself?

      I have seen a lot of people working without vacation – or without using all their vacation – at both my current employer and my previous one (both Fortune 100 companies). I always took my vacation in full, and my bosses were almost universally supportive.

      I think most of the people who didn’t use their vacation did it to themselves. They were afraid of how it would be perceived, so they just avoided it in case it might be an issue. Or they bowed to peer pressure and macho posturing that turns work into some kind of endurance test. This is stupid.

      Now that I’m a manager, part of my focus is on making sure I model good behavior in taking time off. When I’m out, I’m not available except in extreme emergencies (and in the years I’ve been a manager, there’s never been one that interrupted my vacation). The biggest determiner of work-life balance is the boss’ attitude.

      I realize there are some jerks out there who really do object to employees using their vacation, but don’t ever assume your boss is one of them. Even if he or she is, fight it. Yes, you do want to take the vacation to which you are entitled. You’re looking forward to it, and the opportunity to recharge and return more productive than ever.

      But my default assumption is that you are not only allowed but expected to take the time off. That’s why it’s part of the benefit package.

      You have permission to feel guilty if you’re not providing enough notice or dropping the ball unexpectedly on a huge project (“I’ve decided to take vacation tomorrow and play WoW at home, so someone else will have to host the international customer convention in my place”) but that’s it.

      Take *all* your vacation.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        “Now that I’m a manager, part of my focus is on making sure I model good behavior in taking time off. When I’m out, I’m not available except in extreme emergencies (and in the years I’ve been a manager, there’s never been one that interrupted my vacation). The biggest determiner of work-life balance is the boss’ attitude.”

        Yes, this. And I’m gonna take my full 30-day PTO allotment every year until someone above me in the food chain tells me directly it’s not okay. Screw peer pressure (which I haven’t felt much anyway)!

    4. Retail Lifer

      Rarely in my life have I ever been able to use all of my vacation time (and at most jobs I’ve only had two weeks plus a couple of personal days). There’s always something “important” going on or wwe’re short-staffed or we’re helping out another store who’s short-staffed.

      I’ve got 6 vacation days in a row coming up and that’s a career-long record for me. The only reason I’m using up ALL of my vacation time this year is because we don’t get sick time and it’s been a sickly year for me.

    5. HigherEd Admin

      I’ve got 5 consecutive days off, then a few long weekends (half days on Thursday, full day off on Friday). I have several coworkers who are gone for 2 or 3 weeks straight, but it’s higher education and things slow down significantly in the summer.

    6. Jennifer

      I get about 3.5 weeks off all year. I take about a week or two off in December (we’re closed anyway for about a week, some years I add an extra week), and/or a week in mid-June and/or or a week in mid-September., and a few days or half days here or there otherwise. I try to time my time out of the office to be when we have the least going on. I also have a volunteer job and if I’m out I have to make up hours for it, which is a pain in the ass, so I try to avoid missing time when they’re open. Things run quarterly here, so I basically try to take vacation only during the ends of seasons. It kind of sucks because my “busy season” is from July-November and if I take vacation during say, September, I feel bad and it means a lot less work gets done because my coworkers are not so great at that particular project. Plus there’s a stupid irritating process I have to be in the office for that also runs at the end of seasons, so that limits my two week block down to about one most of the time.

      It’s not frowned upon unless more than two people are taking off at the same time, or unless there’s a specific time you are required to be there, but I have been trying to not take the same time periods off for more than 2 years in a row–like this year I worked right up until Dec. 23 so nobody can say I always hog December off, and this year I’ll probably skip taking September off, and next year I’ll need to not take June off. I think people taking regular times off at the same time every single year might “red flag” a bit and then they’d start telling me that other people with more seniority should get that time sometime.

    7. BenAdminGeek

      At OldJob I had almost 4 weeks, with a rolling extra week due to my first year on the job. I started out losing lots of days because I felt guilty, and then realized a day here or there doesn’t matter. Take the time, use it. I used a mix of 3-day weekends and then one solid vacation to truly unwind, but it’s what makes you relax that works.

      As a manager, it’s not the length of the vacation that is problematic. It’s the time I have to plan for it. 1 day off with 24-hour notification is worse than 2 weeks with a long lead time to plan and get coverage for anything that might come up.

      1. LCL

        Yup, it’s the short notice vacations that will kill your schedule, and everybody’s morale. Because when your workgroup restricts how many people can be on leave at once, you should be treating all requests as equally important.
        We did have a guy last year who used the nuclear option to get the last half of summer off including labor day- phony FMLA. I knew it was bullshit because he told me so.

        Learn your office norms, then work within those norms to use as much vacation as you want.

    8. Sparrow

      The most amount of vacation I took was when I was gone for two weeks (10 working days) to visit relatives in India. We don’t usually go on a lot of vacations, so it’s usually just a few days at a time.

      A lot of my co-workers are also from India and it’s not unusual for them to be gone for around 3 weeks at a time. Luckily, my workplace is pretty accomodating for people that need to be gone for longer periods like this.

    9. Gene

      I usually take a week or two off at some point in the summer, but also lots of 3-day weekends. I need to take some because I’m getting close to the maximum accrual allowed (I’m currently at ~340 hours on the books and can accumulate up to 384).

      The most I’ve taken at one time was 5 weeks for a trip to Australia.

    10. Treena Kravm

      I don’t have any restrictions, but my husband’s company gives him 7 week/year and they really, really don’t like you taking 2+ weeks off. We got 3 weeks for our wedding/honeymoon, and we’re getting 2 weeks for moving/vacation that can’t be moved, but other than that, 1 week at a time is the norm. But we travel pretty frequently, so it’s usually a 2-4 week-long vacations, and then the rest of the days are spread out over long weekends, shorter trips, or holidays (he doesn’t get any holidays, so he has to take a day for Christmas, thanksgiving etc.

  52. Tiffany

    So after months of applying for post-graduation jobs, I finally got one (ironically, it was one that I didn’t even apply for. Networking ftw).

    It’s at a tech startup and is very much a new position (something they’ve been thinking about adding due to company growth but hadn’t really built up an exact job description for it or actively searched for someone. Me getting it kind of happened very organically). We’re trying to figure out a good job title for what I’m doing (read: they asked me to figure something out). Now, job titles don’t mean a super lot to me personally…but I’d like to have something I can put on LinkedIn, business cards, etc. that is at least somewhat accurate. Problem is, I’m doing a lot of different things. Our programs are in the education space..specifically pre-k education and k-3. My major projects right now are:
    1. transitioning from using a spreadsheet to track sale opportunities and ongoing projects into a web-based CRM software application. Once I’ve finished the transition, I’ll largely be managing that software, but won’t actually be working with clients. I’m very much on the support side of the company.
    2. Bookkeeping (because I know QuickBooks and others do not)

    Other projects/tasks include (or will include) sales/marketing strategies, data reporting, community research (figuring out which communities are doing work in our space and would benefit from the program), general research that can help position us as experts/leaders in our field, etc.

    So I’m doing a little bit of a lot of things…does anyone have any ideas of a job title that makes sense? I’m guessing ‘wearer of many hats’ doesn’t work, lol. :)

    1. Alex

      We have a similar position at my company and their title is National Sales Project Manager. Maybe Operational Project Manager would apply more to you. Or just Project Manager. Or think about what you’d be interested in doing in the future – if you want to pursue a career as with that CRM, you could add that to you title, ex. Salesforce Project Manager. Or if you want to veer more towards a career in finance and bookkeeping, create a title more in line with that.

      I’d say Project Manager of some sort would work well.

      1. Steve G

        Project Managers usually have more experience though, and are usually managing the $$$$ surrounding the projects they are working on, not just the data/research.

        I would say “Operations Coordinator” or “Operations Specialist” or if you are dealing with more sales/customer analysis, then Sales Operations Specialist or Sales Operation Analyst

        1. Tiffany

          Operations coordinator or specialist sounds pretty good I think. Something I had thought of after I wrote this was ‘Business Support Specialist’…but I’m not sure if I like that or not. Operations kind of encompasses a lot of areas, so that probably makes more sense. Thanks!

    2. voluptuousfire

      Yep. Operations Specialist sounds like it’s a good fit.

      Or how about “She Who Runs Everything” instead? :)

  53. HigherEd Admin

    Another question: This one is about following up.

    Last week, I posted that I got called by a recruiter at a Big Company who immediately launched into a phone screen, and then told me she would have one of her coordinators email me to set up an interview for the following week.

    Well, that week has come and gone and I never heard anything. I don’t have anyone’s email, nor the recruiter’s name. Just the phone number that she used to call me, which I believe is a direct line.

    Do I call her to follow up, or file it away under “it wasn’t meant to be”?

    1. A Nommy Mouse

      You may have slipped through the cracks. If you have her number, give her a call, and leave a message if she doesn’t answer.

    2. fposte

      I’ll be interested to hear what people who work more with recruiters say. My inclination is to give one call, which will probably end up leaving a voice mail anyway, and then let it go. Just a “Hey, just wanted to check in–I haven’t heard from your coordinator about an interview. It may just be you all decided it wasn’t a fit after all, but I wanted to touch base just in case.”

      1. HigherEd Admin

        Thanks, both! I called and left a message. I’m unconvinced anything will come of it, but at least it won’t be because I didn’t follow up :)

    3. Future Analyst

      Follow up with a call, asking if she needs any additional information from you. If she’s simply forgotten about you, the reminder won’t hurt, and if she’s not interested, she doesn’t have to respond or move anything along.

      1. HigherEd Admin

        I did. I am very particular about all my inboxes having zero unread messages. (I don’t read the spam, I just look at it and delete it!)

    4. HigherEd Admin

      UPDATE: Thank goodness I called! Apparently they’ve been trying to get in touch with me all week (though, how hard could they have tried? Even if they had sent an email to the wrong address, they never called me to follow up).

      Interview scheduled for Monday — send good vibes!

      1. Steve G

        Wow! I was thinking that the recruiter just used that as a polite way to end the conversation, and I also love the “we’ve been trying sooooo hard to reach you:-))”

  54. A Nommy Mouse

    My co-worker’s been getting on my nerves. For months she’s been condescending to me, micromanaging me, talking to me like I’m a child, and insisting she thinks I’m great at my job and then turning around and doing some of my job because she “just felt it would be better” if she did it. To make it worse, she’s also a bit of an airhead – very forgetful, and has trouble with some of the technology we use.

    I’ve raised these comments with my boss before, but it’s gotten worse.

    Over the past couple of weeks she’s occasionally asked me to do little admin/clerical stuff for her, and I did it without question. I figured it would be rude to say “why can’t you do it yourself?” even when I’m genuinely curious why a simple task that really only takes a minute is being delegated to me, but whatever, she gets busy sometimes. I’m young and I know better than to act like I’m somehow above occasional admin duties.

    But yesterday took the cake. She asked me to schedule some interviews for a job we’re trying to fill. I accepted, but said I’d never done it before and may need some help to get started. I wondered why she wasn’t asking the coordinator, who usually schedules the interviews, but I didn’t think it was wise to ask. It was daunting, but I took a deep breath and went through it one step at a time. But I was short on time, which put me on edge, so when she asked why I scheduled someone for Wednesday and not today I got really flustered and hurriedly explained why I thought it was risky to try to schedule her for the very next day, and that I had no way of knowing she was a top candidate that needed to be interviewed right away – I was an anxious mess.

    I did get it all done, and apologized to my boss for my unprofessional behavior, and she seemed very interested in why my coworker had asked me to schedule the interviews and not the coordinator who usually does it. It started to dawn on me then, and continued to dawn on me on the way home, just how often she’s treated me like her assistant, asking me to do things that weren’t part of my job because she couldn’t do them on her own. My role isn’t administrative – it’s supportive in nature, but it’s a specialized, strategic role on the team. Again, I don’t mind helping others out occasionally, but it’s starting to seem like she’s been taking advantage of that.

    Today, when she came in, she thanked me for my help and acknowledged she should have asked the coordinator to do it rather than me, but she was sooooo busy it didn’t even occur to her to ask him. All she could think was “I need help, who’s helped me out before?” and I came to mind. So because I’ve helped her before, I’m now her go-to person every time she needs an extra hand with something, and I’m not sure I like that, but I’m not sure I can say “no” to her either.

    I’m not one for an ultra-bureaucratic system where people only do their assigned duties and refuse to do anything else, I get that the lines get blurred sometimes, but I do want there to be some boundaries.

    1. fposte

      Yeah, this all sounds weird. When you say you’ve raised it with your boss, what do you mean–were you talking generally, or have you specifically asked if you can say no to these? If you didn’t explicitly ask about the latter, I’d do so.

      And I think pushing back on these might be a nice little inroad into what seems to be a dominance play anyway. Feel free also to be blandly indifferent to the condescension and micromanagement–that helps starve the beast.

      1. A Nommy Mouse

        I guess I’ve never asked if I could say “no,” because I’m worried about what sort of attitude that might convey. I have, on occasion, mentioned that she’d given me a task that was next to impossible and I needed some help clarifying her expectations.

        1. fposte

          Oh, definitely straight out ask to say no! (Or at least ask if that would be okay.) If I were your boss I might think, from the way you phrased that, that you *wanted* to do tasks for her.

          And whether you realize it or not, you’ve prioritized not saying no to your co-worker over doing your work well. Time to shift the priorities back to your work.

    2. OriginalYup

      She sounds annoying. But it sounds like you haven’t actually pointed out to her directly when her requests are weird or somebody’s else job or just not convenient for you. It’s not bureaucratic to say, “Doesn’t Susan usually schedule the interviews? I’m happy to do it if she’s not available and it’s urgent, I just don’t want to mess up her system.” If she’s generally forgetful, you’re doing her a favor by getting work into the right streams instead of taking it on yourself.

      But the part where she selectively does your job is total B.S. Next time she pulls that, calmly say, “I understand you were trying to help, but it’s explicitly my job to handle X and I need you to respect that. Next time you see X waiting to be done, I need you to not do it yourself — I’ve got it handled. Thanks for understanding,” and carry on like it’s resolved. Rinse and repeat until it’s time to escalate it to your boss with a request to intervene.

      1. Steve G

        She doesn’t sound that annoying.

        Letter writer, from the limited info we have here, it doesn’t seem extremely out of place that she is delegating work to you. Coordinating interviews (or any type of events/meetings) is a very entry level office task, and you admit here that you found it daunting. You blame the woman for not telling you who the preferred candidates are, but on the other hand, you didn’t ask which she’d prefer to see first either. Your letter sends mixed messages, on the one hand you say you have a “strategic” role (which usually describes complicated/mid-level roles), but then you find scheduling interviews difficult. That is going to send mixed messages to your coworkers about what your actual role and level are….so I wouldn’t go at this with a “xyz coworker is inappropriately treating me like an assistant” slant

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Wait, no! She found the interview scheduling difficult because she’d never done it before and was given no context or info. I wouldn’t read into that at all! She’s not an admin; it’s not surprising that she didn’t come out of the gate knowing exactly how to do this admin-ish task without more context.

    3. MsM

      Sure, you can say “no,” as long as you’re polite about it (at least at first). “Sorry, Wakeen, I have [actual duties] to do. Try [administrative person] if you need help?” And if she offers to do your work instead: “No, it’s my responsibility, and I’ve got it under control. Besides, it sounds like you’ve got your hands full with your own project.”

      Or go back to your boss and say “Our conversation yesterday’s made me realize Wakeen seems to have some confusion about what my role in the department actually is. [Insert examples as needed.] I want to be helpful, but I feel like she’s starting to take advantage of that. Do you have any suggestions for how I can address this with her before it becomes a more serious problem?”

    4. AdAgencyChick

      Talk to your boss!

      Not from a place of “Jane always wants me to do her work for her, make her stop!” but rather, “I want to get clarity on what my priorities should be — I’ve been getting requests from Jane and I need to know where to put them in the queue with my XYZ assignments, or whether they should even be in my queue at all.”

      Then it’s about how to use your time most effectively for the company (and if the answer is “by acting as Jane’s assistant,” at least you’ll know that and be able to push other work off your plate to accommodate that) and not a complaint about a coworker.

      1. Mz. Puppie

        Jumping into the “Talk to your boss” pile. Tell your boss that you have come to the realization that, in your zeal to be helpful, you have now boxed yourself into a corner where you are functioning as co-worker’s assistant, and as a result your daily priorities might now be out of sync with your boss’ vision. Ask your boss to help you get a handle on what is 100% yours, what is 100% NOT yours, and what is a good idea to help out with on an occasional basis. Also ask for help in how to frame your pushback so that you’re not creating political strife when you start saying no. But you *do* need to start saying no — learning how to do that appropriately is a fundamental building block of building a successful, professional career.

        Good luck!!

    5. Not So NewReader

      This person is very manipulative. She is telling you that you do a great job then taking your work and correcting it. Is she supposed to be doing that? Find out from the boss and if no, nip this one.

      I seriously question why this woman always needs help. You seem to be on top of your own work. Does she have an incredible work load?

      Yeah, this sounds a bit like a dominance thing going on. I know this is not easy to deal with but stick to what the boss wants you to do. For example: When she asks you to do something like scheduling the interviews you can say, “I have never done that before, I have to check and see if Boss wants me to do this or work on Other Thing.”

      It’s not wrong to say no, because the company expects you to be handing x work. If you are busy doing y work, then you are of less value to the company because x is not getting done. You can ask your boss how much of her work you should take on= this is like a boundaries question. Maybe the boss will have clear limits of how much time/effort she wants you to put in on your coworker’s stuff.

      If they gave you a job description when you started go back and review that, just for your own clarification and to help you stay on track.

  55. INTP

    How about a Friday game inspired by the Princess Peach post?

    Write a short (or long if you want) AAM query from the perspective of a character in a TV series, book, movie, etc. Then we will a) guess who it is and/or b) respond with advice for them.