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*


          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*

        “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*


            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*


            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*


      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.


    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*


      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.


        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*


      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


  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*


        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.”


      “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*

    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*


    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.