my team is the target of contempt, the second shift uses my desk, and more

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

1. My team is the target of contempt from other departments

I’m working my first job out of college. I’ve been here for nearly a year doing various marketing tasks. My job is alright, but I love my department coworkers. My problem is other departments.

Our department rarely sees clients and we don’t have many strict deadlines to meet. That being the case, we usually leave on time every day ― and other departments openly hate us for that. Every time we try to have a conversation with other departments, they say things like “I wish OUR department had time to have fun like YOURS does,” implying we don’t do anything. Other frequently heard phrases are “oh, you’re leaving at 6? Must be nice,” and “looks like the marketing and design department aren’t doing anything again,” when they walk past and see me reading an article (which is part of my job, but no amount of explaining this seems to make the passive aggressive comments stop).

I would go to HR about this, but they are a part of the problem! I’ve heard them openly gossip within ear shot about our department. I’ve even had people refer to our department as the “dumb” department. I graduated with top honors, so you can imagine how much this irritates me.

I’ve tried being nice and explaining my job and department, but no one cares to listen. They’re satisfied with being bitter with us. However, it is really bringing morale down. I’ve been searching for another job (a subject to talk about on another occasion), but how would you suggest dealing with this while I am still employed under the same roof as gossiping and passive aggressive coworkers?

Yeah, that’s obnoxious. There’s also probably not much you can do about it, beyond what you’ve already tried.

I wouldn’t go to HR about this, even if they weren’t part of the problem; that’s not really their thing to handle. The real solution is for your manager to (a) talk to the perpetrators about it and ask them to cut it out, (b) enlist the help of other managers in stamping it out when they hear it, and (c) most importantly, think about what it means that her department is perceived this way and find ways to make your team’s work more visible — because as annoying as the comments are, it’s a bigger problem if your colleagues don’t value what your department does. (And if HR is calling it the “dumb” department, there is a pretty serious issue.) And if she doesn’t do C, A and B won’t matter very much.

That’s stuff that’s on your manager to handle though, and there’s not much you can do about it on your end, so it will probably help your quality of life significantly if you can find ways not to care. Look at it as a case study in why perception matters, resolve to get a sense of how any team you join in the future is seen by the rest of the organization as part of your due diligence before taking a job, and know that you’re on your way out.

2. How can I take notes and contribute to a meeting at the same time?

I work in a technical individual contributor role where I am responsible for all technical contribution and most of the project management for a long-time vendor. While other engineers and supply chain managers are invited, I’m often the only person from our company who actually attends weekly teleconferences with the vendor. I’ve tried several times without success to reschedule for a more convenient time for those colleagues. My manager has received feedback that my meeting minutes are not detailed or clear enough for the non-attendees and asked me to improve the quality of my meeting minutes.

I have a VERY hard time running the meeting and making the sole technical contribution from our side while simultaneously typing up minutes. When I do the minutes in real time, it results in long pauses in the discussion while I mentally summarize and consolidate the important information and type it out. When we get into a detailed technical discussion I often miss capturing important points because I’m mentally engaged in the discussion, not in typing. If I focus on typing I lose my train of thought and don’t communicate everything to the vendor. I’ve fallen back on taking copious notes by hand and typing up minutes after the meeting, but am so slammed with work that sometimes I don’t get a chance to go back and finish the minutes and email them out for several days.

My manager’s sole suggestion is to improve my typing skills so that I can talk and type simultaneously, and to let the vendor team members talk among themselves while I capture details. Do you have any suggestions on how to take effective meeting minutes while also running and contributing to the meeting?

You might not be able to; for most people, those two things are mutually exclusive. So what about a different solution? Can someone else at the meeting take minutes? Can you bring an admin with you from your office to take the minutes?

Explain it to your boss this way: “I can either take detailed notes or be fully engaged in the conversation; I can’t do both without one of them suffering. Because of that, I’d like to bring Fergus along to take minutes so that I can focus on the technical information the group needs from me.”

3. The second shift uses my desk and leaves crumbs on it

I work for a manufacturing plant and my desk is in the QA lab. Sometimes people on second shift will eat their lunch at my desk and leave crumbs on my desk for me the next day. They also like to move my items around on my desk, like move my stapler or use my scissors, phone, and other items I have on my desk. What do you suggest I do?

Is it a person who’s assigned to sit at your desk during their shift? If so, it’s not really your desk and they’re borrowing it — it belongs to both of you. That would mean that it’s reasonable for them to move things around and use the scissors or phone. But if they’re not assigned to sit there and are just using it because they need somewhere to eat lunch, you could say something like, “Hey, I know you need a spot to eat lunch during your shift, but I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t move items around on my desk, since it sometimes makes it hard for me to re-locate them.”

In either case, the crumbs are gross and you can ask them to cut that out. If it’s a shared desk, say this: “Hey, I know it’s a pain to have to share a desk, but I’ve been finding crumbs on it when I come in in the morning. Could you try to clean it up a bit before you leave at the end of your shift?” If they’re not actually working at your desk and just plopping down there to eat, you can ask them to eat somewhere else or simply to clean up when they’re done, whichever your workplace set-up makes more practical.

4. Cover letters that are all about what the candidate wants in an employer

I’m a career counselor in a government program (I’m so sorry!) and I have a novel situation. A client submitted a cover letter stating (in detail) what she wants in an employer then listing her abilities. Her letter starts out, “I thought I would not waste your time or mine by submitting the same old cover letter by stating my qualifications of why I think I am the best applicant for the job. I thought I would take a different approach and instead tell you what I’m looking for in an employer.”

She then goes on for about a third of the page about what she is looking for. She then says that “an administrative support position requires you to be a multi-tasker” and goes on to a bulleted list of her personal qualities with a couple examples (which I think would make a fine cover letter in paragraph format).

I have no idea what to tell her. So far, I’ve just stuck with correcting grammar and spelling. Is this something employers would want to read? A long bit about what the potential candidate wants rather than what they can give at the beginning?

No. Employers aren’t too interested at this stage about what she’s looking for in an employer — they’re figuring out whether or not she’s what they’re looking for in an employee. There will be time to explore what she’s looking for later in the process, if they ask her to interview — but the point of the cover letter is to get her in the door, and the way she’s approaching it won’t do that. At this stage, she needs to focus on demonstrating that she would excel at the role they’re hiring for.

Also, let her know that employers who ask for cover letters don’t consider them a waste of time, and it will sound arrogant and out of touch to state otherwise.

5. My pay was docked after I took a vacation day to volunteer

I took a day of vacation to volunteer for a friend’s event, and after the event was over, the friend gave me a cash gift, thanking me for the help. My employer found out about the money I received and decided to dock my pay for the day instead of giving me the paid vacation day. My employer stated that I was not to take another job during vacation time. Is this ok?

What?! No. That wasn’t a second job; it was volunteer work, followed by a gift.

If you’re exempt, your employer can’t dock your pay like this. If you’re non-exempt, they can, although it would still be ridiculous and crappy for them to do it in these circumstances.

I would go back to your boss and say this: “I understand the rule about second jobs. This was not a second job; it was a volunteer event. I should be able to use my vacation time to volunteer, even if I end up being thanked with a gift for it, and I’d like to ask that you reinstate that vacation day.”

{ 281 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia

    Re the cover letter. If I received one like this while hiring, first we would pass it around the committee and laugh at it, then we would deposit the application in the round file. One thing you really don’t want when hiring is someone who will be a high maintenance PITA if you can avoid it. And a high sense of entitlement for an entry level hire is the definition of high maintenance PITA.

    1. some1

      Where are you getting entry level from? Being an admin doesn’t necessarily mean entry level.

      1. Artemesia

        I assumed because the OP is a career counselor in a government program that she was working with relatively inexperienced people, but perhaps not. In my experience those programs work with the long term unemployed. The approach the client suggests is also so naive that that suggests someone without much recent work experience.

        1. some1

          I agree that it’s a naive approach, but I think it really varies on your location. I was required to go to one of those programs as a condition of unemployment when I was laid off at the end of 2011. I had 14 years of literally continuous employment when I was laid off, and 10 years in professional jobs. And I was actually notified within a month of signing up for unemployment that I had to go to the workforce center, at which point I hadn’t received any unemployment payments yet (the company that laid me off gave me a severance and I couldn’t receive any unemployment payments until the severance was exhausted.)

        2. OP4

          I work with people of all levels of experience and education. :-) I don’t think you would want to hire anyone who sounds like a PITA no matter how senior the position.

    2. Graciosa

      Another vote for the circular file for this kind of cover letter.

      OP, you can tell the client that you obtained an expert opinion (Alison’s) and ran this past a few hiring managers and everyone agreed that this is a very bad approach that is likely to eliminate her chance for a job instead of enhancing it.

      1. Artemesia

        And the thing is, having a clear idea of what you are looking for in a workplace and letting that inform the questions you ask can actually make you come across as experienced and savy — it is all in the attitude. Wrong first foot, but basis of reasonable questions in the interview process.

      2. OP4

        This is why I’m so glad Alison chose to answer my letter! :-) Thank you very much for the feedback!

    3. Beancounter in Texas

      When I was hiring once for an accounts payable position, I received a cover letter where the applicant specified to me that he was only willing to telecommute from home and he could only work six hours a day, from 2pm to 8pm, along with one other limitation that made it sound like he wanted to be a contractor more than an employee. His resume wasn’t that impressive, so it was an easy decision.

      1. Kira

        Wow, that’s a very, um, frank cover letter. Even if he knows he won’t accept a job without those conditions, it’s defeating the purpose of the cover letter as Alison laid it out–to get accepted for an interview. The cover letter is not the right place or format to be negotiating the terms, and it doesn’t have to be a thorough discussion of what you’re thinking about. It’s a marketing document that has a very specific aim.

  2. Jillociraptor

    OP #2, I facilitated two team meetings each week and took notes for 2+ years, so it definitely can be done. My usual approach was to type exhaustive notes during the meeting, and then prune them immediately after. I eventually reached the point where the information could somehow go directly in my ears and out my fingers without thinking (and in fact it always freaked my colleagues out when I could make one point verbally while typing another into the chat function of our presentation software). I find this way easier than writing things down.

    That doesn’t really solve your issue of not having enough time to fix up the notes (though I will say that this typically took me less than 10 minutes for 90 minute calls), so a priorities conversation with your manager is still probably in order. But if it turns out that she still demands you do this, just know that it is a skill that can come with a little time and practice!

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger

      Well, it’s a skill that exists, but I’m not sure I agree with you that it’s a skill everyone can achieve, or at least achieve in a reasonable amount of time. I’m also pretty good at taking notes while participating in a meeting, but I’ve always been good at note-taking and other writing tasks. Not everyone is, though – as a teacher, I see many students who have to work hard and focus just on writing to put ideas down on paper. Over the years, they improve and develop strategies for themselves, but it doesn’t come as easily as it does to some of their classmates.

      Maybe with a few more months’ practice, the OP could get good at this – or maybe it would take her several years of really focused work (practicing taking notes on conversations with her family at dinner every night, maybe?). If it’s the latter, is that really worth her time?

      1. _ism_

        It’s hard! You have a special talent.

        I type 107 wpm and was once hired to take graduate-level technical class notes once for a deaf student. I was practically transcribing the lectures.

        The lectures went in my ears and out my fingers, as he read along on-screen next to me. Even his gently pointing out my typos would throw off my whole game, and I feared I’d miss important points. He got to keep my notes – typos and all – and since English wasn’t his first language he’d often email me for clarification on certain lecture points; which unfortunately I could not and wasn’t qualified to help with. The lecturing instructors didn’t always speak in complete or easy to follow sentences, of course. Oy!

    2. Mike C.

      This may be true for you, but not everyone. There’s a reason why a common accommodation for those with learning disabilities includes having someone take notes for you during a class lecture.

    3. MK

      I agree with everyone that it’s not something that can easily be learned with a little time and practice, maybe not even with a lot of time and plenty of practice. And it really depends how demanding the meeting is; if the OP only has to answer question about things she knows about, that’s one thing, but if it’s problem-solving, there is no way to stay focused on that and keep minutes.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        So true, theres a reason that court stenographers require years of training and commonly take several times to pass the test – they usually have to take the test more times than a lawyer trying to pass the bar exam

    4. Treena

      I also think there’s a difference between facilitating/recording a team meeting, and facilitating, recording, AND being the sole representation of your team during a meeting. Other people can’t chime in when you need a minute to type/write, because it’s just you, which is what it sounds like the OP is having trouble with.

      1. misspiggy

        I do that frequently, but I put a lot of work into practising touch typing when I was younger, and I get paid good money for my skills, which took years to develoo. If the OP’s manager is seeing such skills as an essential part of the job, she’d better be paying well for them. Or she could take the much more reasonable approach of appreciating it when people do happen to have that skill mix, and taking steps to work around when they don’t. However much the OP would like to be able to do what’s being asked, if she can’t do it now she’s unlikely to be able to pick it up in a short time. Unless she was recruited for that particular skillset, her manager should be politely but assertively asked to back off.

        1. Artemesia

          I touch type like a champ but I don’t think I could do what the OP is being asked to do, because it is not about typing, it is about focus. to be actively leading and engaged in a meeting requires a lot of mental focus which would be hard for me to mix with taking detailed notes.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            Yes, exactly. I do a great job touch typing, but ask me to take detailed meeting notes in a conference discussing a complicated legal issue and also expecting me to facilitate the meeting and chime in with my complex legal stuff (that’s the technical term), and I don’t see how I could do that. Maybe with months and months of training, but I don’t think it’s in me, at least not to do it well.

            1. Elysian

              I agree. On top of all that, I usually use my own notes during meetings to help me refine and crystallize points I want to make – I’ll jot down notes to myself about issues I’m considering or different ways to solve the problem to see if they make sense before I suggest them to the group. There’s no way I could do my own critical thinking process while simultaneously transcribing a meeting – one (or probably both) would suffer.

            2. Mabel

              I’m the same, and you couldn’t pay me enough to do what the OP’s boss wants. I’m surprised that the boss thinks asking someone to do this is reasonable.

            3. Jessa

              Honestly in that case I’d do it on a dictation recorder and type it up later, using the recorder counter to make side notes for clarification. But 95% of the meeting I’d be dealing with on tape. And I do know how to use a stenotype machine, but that doesn’t work if you’re expected to an active major participant in the actual meeting. I know it’s kind of dated, but I’ve not seen a digital recorder that has a counter on it. They may make such now, but it’s been many years since I had to deal with minutes of meetings.

          2. Elsajeni

            Exactly — I’m also a good touch typist, but if you ask me to write and talk at the same time, I guarantee that within two minutes I’ll either type what I’m saying or say what I’m typing. I can’t manage two simultaneous streams of verbal information.

          3. Kyrielle

            Yes. I *could* attend a meeting and take notes at speed; I have. I can let the information flow in my ears and out my fingers.

            I *cannot* do it while *trying to come up with answers to questions, feedback, etc.*. That is, I can do work-flow, listen, and type; but I can’t also do creative thinking at the same time. It sounds like that is also part of what OP has to do, especially since the other technical resources aren’t attending.

            Actually, as has often been noticed in “pay full attention to the conversation” type contexts, *listening* and formulating responses at the same time is incredibly tricky and most people don’t do it well; they tune out what they should be listening to as they formulate their response. That suggests to me that this would be tricky for most people….

    5. Liane

      Yes, as others have said, this is not a talent that everyone has, or a skill everyone can learn easily.
      I can edit transcriptions (reading them while listening & pausing just long enough to fix any errors) but I cannot transcribe. And only one person is talking.
      It is worse where there are several people talking, even if they never talk over each other, and you have to contribute as well. When I playtest roleplaying games* over Skype, during discussion portions, my group leader often has to ask us to please wait a couple minutes so he can catch on typing the feedback notes.
      But this is more casual and in a workplace meeting, you just can’t tell people every 10 minutes, “Hey, Fergus, hold off on the Morrow Project update a minute, I gotta finish typing what I covered about Technicalese 1.0 release.

      *which is much more like a work project than you’re thinking (deadlines, reports) although it can be fun

    6. Anonathon

      One of my first jobs involved taking minutes at Board meetings. I’d usually take notes on my laptop AND record the meeting, so that I could check back for anything that I missed. That said, I wasn’t participating in the meetings beyond answering basic questions. If I were, I’d probably have only recorded and create the minutes later. There’s no way that you can do all of the above.

      Minutes and notes are a little different though. I’ve been the designated note-taker for meetings where I was had to participate actively and I basically decided that only a handful of things merited note-inclusion: big changes, votes and/or decisions, and future action items. If people want more detail than that, they can come to the darn meeting. And if you’re only focusing on three things, you can even take a few minutes at the end of the meeting to recap with the group and make sure that you got everything.

      1. Charlotte Lucas

        It does sound like the OP is actually being expected to do three different things: 1) Facilitate the meeting; 2) Take minutes; and 3) Represent her department/area. Doing all three means not doing any of them well. Asking to bring someone extra along to do the minutes sounds like the best solution – either admin staff or someone who might be newer and interested in learning more (seems like a great training opportunity to me). However, I know that in my company you have to be pretty high up to get admin staff for stuff like that (basically, non-management exempt staff does most of their own admin work) and we don’t have the departmental resources (read: people) to bring extra staff to meetings. However, we have people who have to try to do all three things. They often just record the meeting and do their detailed notes later. Not optimal, but often the best, cheapest solution.

        1. Chinook

          I agree that the OP needs to bring someone in to take notes while both chairing a meeting and represent her own group but I disagree about bringing in someone newer to do it. If it is someone newer, they could get caught up in the discussion forget to take notes and/or not know what needs to be recorded which leads to unnecessarily long notes. This is one of the times that an Admin Assistant is needed. She can then concentrate n what is being said and there is a good chance they know how to take proper notes (i.e. when to include details and when a summary is all that is needed). The OP would still control the notes, though, by having final approval of them before they sent out to anyone (or at least that is how have been trained).

        2. TootsNYC

          Yeah, I really don’t think facilitators should be taking notes. They’re just completely diametrical ways of interacting.

    7. PM Steph

      To #2 – Taking notes at meetings. For whatever reason, this really resonated with me! I am a senior project manager, and regularly responsible for facilitating, contributing, and capturing notes. I also HEAR YOU on having time to get the notes out after a meeting – I’m often swamped and the notes are 2 days late. I personally wouldn’t have a lot of luck establishing a separate note-taker (admins not available to project-type meetings, delegating to the people involved has had mixed results, in my org – it’s viewed as a PM responsibility, etc.), so maybe some of the tools that I use will help you.

      First, get an agenda – either electronically or on paper – and space out the sections to take notes under each of the sections. If there’s no agenda (ARGHHHHHH – kill someone ), then mentally create one based on your past meetings, or based on #2. You can divide your paper into the topic areas that are important, and as you hear something that fits in one of those categories, put it there. You also could jot down questions/topics that you expect to be asked and answered during the mtg (I do this while I’m waiting for people to show up….arghhh) and fill in the blanks later.

      Second, understand what is important to the people reading your notes. Do they want to know client concerns? Do they want to know decisions, action items, options, etc.? I have this feeling that you’re trying to capture everything vs. what is important, and the quality of your notes may be suffering for it. I think that if you get a handle on what’s important to the audience, it may help you frame your notes and make this a less stressful situation for you.

      Third, focus mentally and in your notes on key outcomes, points, decisions, or action items. Don’t worry about jotting everything down. Maybe it also makes sense to spend 15 minutes after the meeting reviewing the meeting in your head, and recording the key points and use those (as well as anything that you jotted down) as your notes vs. trying to take them during the mtg.

      Third, create natural pauses in the conversation by “interrupting” to ask a question about delivery dates, ownership of the action item, for more clarity, etc. This will give you time to record a note.

      Fourth, I generally take handwritten notes although I am a fast and accurate typer. I found that I understand (and remember) my shorthand better than I understand what I half-typed. Immediately after the meeting, I go through the notes and highlight anything that is an action item or very important/note-worthy. I also found that I remember the details better right after the meeting. I will then type up the highlighted items.

      Fifth, I have also sent out stream-of-conscious meeting notes (basically, where I capture the meeting notes live and don’t edit them) and then go back later to publish an edited copy. You could do this if your organization is flexible and if the information is important to get out in a time-sensitive manner.

      Sixth, grab control of the meeting at the end, and summarize what you’ve captured for important decisions and action items. This will give the team the opportunity to let you know that you missed something important and/or realize that they didn’t define it very well. While they’re talking amongst themselves, you can clean up/clear up your notes.

      Wow. I clearly have some FEELINGS on this topic. 

      1. TootsNYC

        Love this, love this!

        I hope you noticed that you’d only be able to truly do this if you were taking notes *BY HAND*. Even in the computer age, most people will do better taking notes by hand.

        Then, if you don’t want to retype, just scan them in and email them as an attachment.

      2. Chinook

        I agree – action items and who they are assigned too plus a deadline are necessary for good notes. A great note taker will speak up during the meeting to clarify these before allowing the meeting to move on. A great set of notes will also have a small section summarizing all action items so it is easy to know what needs to be covered at the next meeting. But, if you are new at note taking, this is your goal to work towards and should be also noted by the chair.

      3. zora

        I love all your feelings and this is a great run-down on meeting note taking! I still don’t think the OP Should have to do all of these things and her manager is being unreasonable (i wrote more below) but still, this is a really great list of ways to get better meeting notes! I feel like every office should have a training on this for all their staff. This is one of those underappreciated skills.

      4. Farm girl

        Completely sympathize, having spent 2+ yrs doing agenda, minutes, sharing screen, facilitating discussion, making sure late-comers acknowldged, AND generating content as subject-matter expert–boy, oh, boy, do I feel your pain. Would add to PM Steph’s great suggestions: record the meetings and prepopulate your minutes document with anything you can–are there discussion points that you know ahead-of-time will be addressed? Have you got the voting section ready to go? Numbers set up for action items? Sum up the discussion before going on, if you can do it quickly. Be sure to capture the decisions and the to-do’s. Your boss needs to provide you with some guidance on what to include (and question really how detailed those notes need to be). There’s a difference between minutes and transcripts; I think your boss needs to be more specific here.

    8. nofelix

      It might also be difficult for the OP to type and talk because of the technical nature of her job. The ability to perform intuitive actions (e.g. touch typing) is interrupted by anything that engages the focused mind, such as stress or technical problems. A bit like driving, another intuitive action – you can have fairly in-depth conversations at the wheel (intuitive action), but trying to do mental arithmetic at the same time will be very hard (focused action). And you’d likely have to stop talking when approaching a tricky section of road (which is what the OP describes “when we get into a detailed technical discussion”).

      My guess is that when you type during meetings your brain is multi-tasking by switching focus between the tasks as necessary, and running the other on autopilot. If something is stopping the OPs autopilot from working then no amount of practice will help.

      1. TootsNYC

        And consider whether taking notes by hand (as described in that great game plan by PM Steph) might actually be faster. I -know- it would be for me!

    9. Ama

      For me it depends — if it’s a conference call type meeting, where I’m “running” it by making sure everyone gets on the line and that we hit all the items on the agenda, note taking is pretty easy. If it’s a meeting where “running” means presenting slides and/or contributing more to the discussion than just moving everyone to the next item at time, there’s no way I get minutes done without having someone else take notes.

    10. zora

      Rawr, OP#2’s manager s*cks if she doesn’t already know that the problem is having one person, not ‘better typing skills!’

      The vast majority of people cannot run a meeting, as in facilitate, guide discussion, pose followup questions, AND type detailed notes at the same time. This is making me ragey. This is why good meeting facilitators always assign someone else to taking notes.

      I see what Jillociraptor is saying, but this isn’t just a team meeting, this is a complex meeting with vendors guiding the project. I hope OP can push back on the manager and get her to understand that running and notetaking should always always always be done by two separate people. And if she really cares about her department getting the necessary info from these meetings, she will allocate the appropriate amount of resources.

    11. Kira

      I was wondering if OP needs to take more thorough notes than I’m used to? It’s very easy for me to take notes while contributing to meetings, but I’m not recording everything that gets mentioned or discussed. I just record decisions and next steps. For example: “Change color of logo, see Felicia’s example” or “Cancel soda distribution program on 6/7”

  3. Gene

    #2 A digital voice recorder can fix the problem of missing things and allow you to be concentrating on the technical aspects of the conversation. Finding the time to revise and extend your notes is another problem.

    Have you tried asking your manager which is more important to her, the quality of the meeting or the quality of the notes?

    1. Vicki

      I second this notion. Ask the attendees if it’s OK for you to record the meeting.

      I also agree with the idea of bringing along someone who can take notes. I take near-verbatim notes, but I can’t talk and write at the same time, which means my notes never include anything I myself said. My notes, therefore, only capture what everyone else says. If I were the technical contributor, my notes would be flawed!

      You cannot do both. You cannot “learn” to do both. Your manager needs to supply a note-taker / note summarizer * and let you do your real job – that of being the technical contributor with the vendors.

      (Even if you record the meeting, is your time really best spent transcribing those notes?)

    2. Me too

      Was going to post the same thing – just record it and relax during the meeting, then type up your notes afterwards. Unless you can take someone along to make notes.

      1. misspiggy

        Yes – but don’t spend hours on the typing up. A concise summary is what the OP should be aiming for, given that she is not employed as a minutes secretary. If anyone wants a blow by blow account of who said exactly what, they can prioritise the time to attend the meeting.

        1. baseballfan

          This is what I am thinking. I’d be more than a little peeved if someone who didn’t make the time to attend the meeting complained about the notes that I was nice enough to send out to non-attendees. The fact that the OP is getting grief from people who really should be there themselves if it’s that important, bothers me more than a little.

      2. TootsNYC

        I would actually say, record it AND take notes–but general, topic notes, not detailed ones.

    3. glaciers melting in the dead of night

      #2: Oh I just love this! Even when you attempt to accommodate them, your colleagues won’t show up to the meetings. And then they complain that the notes aren’t adequate! Perhaps I’m old and cynical, but it sounds to me like your colleagues simply don’t want to engage.

      But I could be wrong. In any event, I too would suggest digital recording. For instance, there’s a thing called a “Livescribe” pen that I believe captures and digitizes both audio and whatever you write, which could facilitate getting all of your notes together and organized and delivered in a timely manner.

      If you just want to record digital audio, there are a number of free apps for iOS and Android. If you want to go with a dedicated digital recorder, TASCAM sells several varieties that are relatively inexpensive and seem to be nice. TASCAM also offers a free iOS recording app – I’ve got a few of these, and the TASCAM is the one I tend to use.

    4. BritCred

      Depending on how good you can get one to be I was wondering about this option or even a voice typing application so you have a full transcript of the meeting. It just depends on the training aspects and whether it could handle multiple voices.

    5. OP#2

      One colleague does have the enviable ability to capture and type minutes in real time while running his meeting, and the other has a project manager who runs meetings and takes notes while others make the technical contribution.

      Detailing an admin to take minutes is not an option (I already checked). I will see if some kind of sound recording is possible but will be surprised if the suggestion makes it past the legal department. We have a new hire in my department but he seems to have a very cavalier attitude toward meeting attendance.

      My manager made me feel like this is a skill I that I should have at this stage in my career and I’m sort of freaking out over the fact that my brain just doesn’t want to work that way. He rarely sends out meeting minutes and when he does, it’s a few bullet points in an email. I was recently promoted and don’t want a negative mark on my next performance review due to something that is so unrelated to my actual work.

      1. plain_jane

        For your weekly call, is there an action sheet that the vendor sends around before the call with the agenda of what is being discussed? (If not, can you make that their job going forward?) When I need to provide notes and contribute to the call I find it easier when I’m working off of a document like that. Have you talked to the vendor about receiving _their_ notes from the meeting, and then just updating them for your side?

        I’m not surprised the new hire has a cavalier attitude towards meeting attendance since that is how the rest of your office seems to work with this vendor.

        1. themmases

          This is a really good idea. When I used to run meetings and take minutes at them, I was lucky enough to usually have a coworker who would do the same thing and we’d reconcile our notes. However, we’d also often make a short agenda and it’s great for organizing your minutes.

          If the vendor doesn’t provide an agenda, maybe OP should make one or at least make an outline of what they expect to discuss for themselves. Provide lots of space to write between the items and then only record the action or decision taken and any problems.

          A lot of times the term “minutes” can be misleading as well. I know for some meeting types it’s appropriate, but I’ve personally never run or attended a meeting where people literally wanted a blow by blow recap. Attendance, decisions and problems with each topic, and who contributed what if it’s not obvious are all most people want to read, IME.

          1. the gold digger

            Me, too. I always have an agenda and I take notes, but my notes are not detailed – they include the action items by agenda item. If someone wants the blow by blow, he can attend and take his own notes. I am focusing on what needs to happen to move the project forward, not transcribing conversation.

          2. TootsNYC

            Another idea–is there a colleague you can recruit to trade duties with? You take notes at hers; she takes notes at yours?

      2. PontoonPirate

        If your manager is implying this should be a milestone skill for you at this point in your career, then, as your superior, surely he is also proficient? I’d ask him to kindly demonstrate. :)

        Kidding aside, no. It’s not a universal skill. I communicate for a living, but I guarantee nobody wants me taking notes at any meeting, ever, where important work is being discussed. If you absolutely cannot get out of it, I second the idea about recording the meeting if you can. But do ask first about whether he wants your meeting input or your notes more. I’ve actually had a measure of success in making my case for things like this by deploying “The Kindly Brontosaurus” pose (google that and see what Slate has to say), but YMMV.

        1. KJR

          That was quite interesting! I wonder if it really works. I can just picture trying this on my husband and him asking if I had to go to the bathroom.

          1. ElCee

            The Kindly Brontosaurus! It absolutely works. Of course it’s more effective on people you don’t already live with. :)

      3. Nea

        I think there’s a lot of hope in the fact that your boss sends out just a few bullet points in an email and calls that notes. If that’s all he wants, then you can stop focusing on recording all the details and instead take a moment to repeat and record the main action points — I’ve been in lots of meetings where people literally repeat them out loud to ensure agreement. “I’m hearing that you want the Teapot design department to come up with a longer spout for the fall collection.” Or “We just agreed that our next set of actions is the color department to deliver 5 samples on Tuesday to you, then you have 2 business days to get back to us.” Or “Your question is, can we move into the herbal tisane market? Waukeen would know. Let me capture that.”

        Then all you need scribble is a quick reminder (“ask W: herbals?”). Nothing to summarize, fast to type up & send out.

        If that fails — well, in 10 years of note taking, no one has ever objected when I have my head bent over my keyboard/notebook and say “Slow down” or “Wait” as someone talks during a meeting. You don’t *have* to write one thing and say another.

        1. Graciosa

          This is closer to the business version of proper meeting notes under Robert’s Rules of Order. Formal meeting minutes are more along the lines of “Jane motioned to authorize purchase of a new spout curver to be installed on teapot line 3 and Sam seconded. Motion passed.” For project meetings, it can be even more minimal – “The decision was made to proceed to phase 4 using spec 121 with the addition of copper plating.” The OP’s law department should be fine with these types of notes.

          Actually, if the attitude of the legal department to recordings is really as described, there may be an opportunity to enlist their help in dealing with people who want more detailed notes. The OP could approach them and say that she understood only decisions made or actions taken should be recorded and emailed out in the meeting minutes, but there are individuals who want A, B, and C included; is that the best practice? Assuming that she gets guidance to keep them more minimal, she can tell her boss she she is following their guidance and that anyone complaining should get the same message. I agree that individuals who want more detail can show up (or send a delegate).

          While this may help solve the immediate problem, I would encourage the OP to think hard about what skills are really important to develop to be effective in meetings. The focus here seems to be on making obsessively detailed notes, which is really not one of the most important skills for effective meeting participation – or reporting out about a meeting.

          I do occasionally have to provide notes when I attend meetings as a delegate for my boss. The real key is understanding what is actually important to report to your audience, and whether it should be reported in a written form. For certain management meetings, a lot of topics will be covered and I tend to focus on making the notes scannable – bold header describing the topic followed by a very short summary statement or a couple bullets for big items. If he – or any of my peers – want to know more, they can ask.

          Some really interesting information that he needs to know NEVER goes into the notes. I speak to him in person if I want him to know that Sue and Wakeen almost came to blows with Chris over the suggestion to have quality add a new inspection post to the handle line, causing CJ to actually walk out of the room. This one is an obvious example, but the interactions may be more subtle and just as important. If you’re focused too much on taking copious notes, you’re missing what is going on the meeting.

          Finally, think about addressing people who complain about the meeting minutes directly if possible. Ask about what they’re looking for and listen. Figure out whether or not you can give it to them without compromising your ability to participate in the meeting. If you can’t, say so, and see if they have any other suggestions (for example, can they send a delegate from their own team to act as note taker, even if only for the person complaining). You may have to deliver the tactful message that they may not get the detail they want if they don’t show up.

          Dealing with these types of issues directly is another important skill to develop – probably more important than learning shorthand.

          Good luck.

          1. Charlotte Lucas

            Also, does this meeting have a set agenda? (Not everyone is as good about this where I work as I’d wish. Technically, all our “formal” meetings are supposed to, but some departments seem to prefer a confused melee rather than an organized meeting…) I’ve found that having an agenda with specific items really makes a difference in terms of taking notes – and helps keep meetings on track!

      4. folklorist

        I use a livescribe smart pen when recording interviews. It records and uploads meeting notes you take, and can turn your handwriting into type. You can also easily bookmark important places in the conversation so you can go back if you missed something! It’s a handy gadget.

      5. Purple Jello

        Do you really need minutes, or just notes? I usually start with a meeting agenda, then type/write reminder notes under each section during the the meeting, then do a quick summary of what was discussed right after the meeting while it’s fresh in my memory, including a highlight of who agreed to do what. I’ll also send the notes to all attendees and ask for immediate corrections and comments before final distribution (such as to non-attendees).

      6. TootsNYC

        Look at his example. He thinks a few bullet points is enough–go there.

        I really don’t think a facilitator should take notes. I think you could take notes if you’re the subject expert–but it’s really not efficient for facilitators to do so

        You might also build in pauses specifically FOR you to write down stuff for those who missed the meeting. Say, “OK, what part of this do we want to capture for Paul and Fergus?” And “So this is our plan then–we’ll shorten the spout on the teapot, and we’ll keep our eye on how strongly the handles are attached but not change them yet. Right?” And write it down.

      7. Meg Murry

        In addition to all the other good advice you’ve received here OP, I want to add one more detail – block off your calendar for an hour after the meeting, and finish your notes then. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in back to back to back meetings and tasks – your first priority after the meeting is to get the notes finished and sent out. The longer you sit on it, the less details you will remember. I’m willing to bet the others that take notes during the meeting go back and refine them after the meeting. I’ve found that to make a GOOD set of notes, I need almost as long as the meeting itself, and for really thorough meeting minutes (with what people said almost verbatim) I need almost twice as long as the meeting itself.

        I also agree that bullet points are key. Number one takeaway from the meeting: Questions that were asked and answers that effect current action items. Number 2 takeaway: action items, who is doing them and by when. Number 3: any other big announcements (hey, we just bought our competitor! Your account manager quit and this is his replacement, etc). Anything else is more on a “nice to know” level.

        How do you prepare for these meetings? If you make anything written up, you can have that ready to go before the meeting so you can just insert it in later.

        Can you attend your colleague’s meetings to see how they run them? Do you need a tighter agenda (are you the one setting the agenda?)?

        And I agree with everyone else that if they want the detailed nuances of the meetings, they need to make themselves available for said meetings and not expect you to fill in every detail. If they have specific questions, have them submit to you in writing via email so you can copy and paste the question into your notes and then just fill in the answers.

      8. Ask a Manager Post author

        If your boss’s own meeting minutes are a few bullet points in an email, is it possible that you have a different idea about what he wants than what he actually does? Maybe he just wants a few key takeways, not actual transcriptions.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever

          That’s a good point. Given how many similar minutes your boss may receive throughout the day, concise bullet points may be preferable to longer, detailed notes.

          One way to find out – ask him to provide you with an example, either from his own email or that of a colleague, that he wishes your minutes were more like. Pattern your output to look like the expectation, and you can reverse-engineer your facilitation and note-taking skills to achieve that outcome.

          Hopefully, he understand how difficult this skill really is and can give you a concrete vision of the nail he wants you to hit.

      9. super anon

        I can generally type as fast as people speak (I average around 115-120 wpm depending on the day, although my speed has gone down a little bit since getting fake nails), but I’ve never been able to type that quickly and have to focus on other tasks at the same time. If i’m passively absorbing information, like taking notes in class in university, I can shut down the thinking part of my brain and just type. If I have to do any kind of thinking, such as writing something, my speed goes down. I still type faster than most people (in university I could bang out a paper in a few hours if I really put my mind to it), but it’s definitely slower than when I’m just typing words people say.

        I would be very impressed to meet someone who can engage in a technical discussion and type quickly enough to capture the meeting adequately at the same time.

    6. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

      Re: #1 — OP is in Marketing? Get used to it. You’ll get crapped on by other departments (directly or indirectly) for your entire career.

      It’s kind of like when you are in school, and studying a social science, and the engineering students derisively refer to your coursework as a cakewalk because they heard you watched a movie in class.

      I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people in my industry (tech) snottily refer to “marketing chicks” with an eyeroll. There’s zero respect for what Marketing does. It sucks.

      My advice is to develop a tough skin, take pride in what you do, and know that you earn your paycheck just as much as anybody else does. This has nothing to do with you or your team, but with other peoples’ prejudices.

      1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

        DAMMIT that was supposed to be its own reply, not nested under #2. I hate when I do that.

      2. PontoonPirate

        I turned down a job in a marketing department at a large, lucrative company once because my prospective manager (herself a woman) told me, “The sales team really rely on the marketing girls to put together good employee appreciation activities.” Nope and nope (and nope).

        1. Sans

          I’ve been in Marketing my whole life, as a copywriter, and I’ve never had this kind of stuff happen, thankfully. I have had situations where people don’t know we exist, and think the salespeople are writing, designing and printing their own material. But once they find out there is an actual dept doing that, they seem to value it. (who knows??)

          The only disrespect I’ve seen is within the dept itself. Some writers write about products that require licenses and CE. The products I write about do not. I know there is at least one writer who doesn’t think of us as “real writers”. People always seem to need a reason to feel superior.

          1. Soharaz

            My marketing manager referred to us as ‘The Glitter Girls… (adding sparkle and value along the way)’ I understood the intent, but it was not entirely appreciated.

      3. Hermoine Granger

        Totally agree. A lot of people that don’t have knowledge of or experience with marketing, graphic design, market research, social media, etc tend not to understand those areas. As a result, because they’re creative or more in the background some people underestimate the skill required and fail to understand how the work is done.

        I remember working on editing photos and creating graphics for a company’s digital properties and the owner of the company walked by and commented that it must be nice to spend all day coloring on the computer. Meanwhile, these content pieces engaged prospective clients and generated online leads.

        I developed a pretty thick skin during my time of putting together competitive market research reports and presentations for Sales to present to clients. My department was undervalued within the company but without us Sales would have nothing but pricing to pitch to clients as they also didn’t work on developing the creative work.

        It sucks but such is life.

        1. Hermoine Granger

          ETA: The thing that made the market research position bearable was that most of my department’s managers were generally fair about recognizing and pushing back on nonsense from other departments.

      4. Ad Astra

        There are so many engineers and technical types that can’t write their way out of a wet paper bag. I don’t take this kind of guff from people who aren’t good communicators, because their skill set isn’t inherently better than mine. It’s just different.

        Now, someone with degree in engineering or whatever who can write just as well as I can is truly smarter than me. But none of those people have criticized me for having an “easy” job or major, and I doubt that’s a coincidence.

        1. neverjaunty

          Yes, this. I once had a creative writing course that happened to be full of engineers. Totally killed the idea that they are inherently smarter or doing a harder skillset.

        2. Tau

          I have a PhD in maths and I am never ever ever saying to anyone that writing is easy or worthless. Actually writing up my thesis was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – the research was a cakewalk in comparison! I stand in awe of humanities-style good writers. :)

    7. Koko

      I’m actually bristling on OP’s behalf. Her coworkers can’t be bothered to attend the meeting and then complain that the notes are inadequate, so she has to attend the meeting TWICE now? Once as an attendee, and then replay the recording and transcribe it for them? Can’t her coworkers’ manager(s) make clear to them that this meeting is important to attend and make sure at least one stinking other person attends who can take notes for the other deadbeats?

    8. Jipsy's Mom

      Eh, be sure you want to take this approach, because such recordings would be discoverable evidence if you have a problem on a project. My company was recording these types of project teleconferences for a while, and then realized it could be hugely risky. You’re bantering about ideas, potential problem solutions, etc. Someone making an off-the-cuff remark that wouldn’t be captured in formal minutes is captured by recordings, and potentially that could be used as an admission of liability later on.

    9. 2horseygirls

      Everyone has their phones with them, and most smartphones have a voice memo function. I turn mine on at the beginning of the meeting, and while I do take notes of key points during the meeting, I then listen to the meeting again after typing up my notes to get details I may have missed. I also put a symbol in my written notes, like a *, to indicate to myself that debate got hot and heavy and there was no way to write it all down that quickly.

      My very-special-boss once commented that our state required dual-notice of recording conversations hahahaha. When I replied that in March 2014, the state Supreme Court ruled against two-party consent for recording, I don’t think Boss was prepared for me to quote recent state Supreme Court rulings. Since then, federal one-party consent law is in effect, and since I am a party to the conversation being recorded, it is legal.

      But really, it’s meeting minutes that maybe two people are going to ever read. Anyone who gets in a twist over the meeting being recorded should probably reflect on their own behavior before their next meeting. My recordings have a shelf-life of a week at the most until I type up the minutes, and they are deleted.

  4. BadPlanning

    On OP #3, if you don’t overlap with the other shift, is there a way to make you desk less inviting? Maybe leave something bulky where you’d plop the sandwich (books, binders, etc) or on the chair? Add more personal family photos?

    And/Or, can you make another area in the lab more inviting? Any extra tables and chairs sitting around that could be left for break time — which are more appealing that someone’s desk? Maybe this wouldn’t work in the lab, depending on rules/regulations.

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      But it’s not their desk, and it should be able to be used by anyone who needs it. The last couple of places I’ve worked had a clear desk policy which meant everything needed to be put away before leaving for the day, so being passive aggressive and deliberately leaving an obstruction wouldn’t be any good anyway. The only problem I see is the crumbs in the desk which the op can ask to be cleaned up by their coworker who is making the mess.

      1. Cam

        The OP wasn’t really clear about whether it was their desk or a general use desk. It does make a difference.

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          It doesn’t make much difference the desk is not the employees it belongs to the company.

          1. BRR

            It does belong to the company but not respecting an employee’s space if they are the only person assigned to the desk is a poor practice.

            1. OfficePrincess

              Agreed. “My” desk does belong to the company, but there’s quite a bit of information at it that isn’t really anyone’s business. I tidy up at the end of the day and lock truly confidential things in drawers, but Susie doesn’t need to know that I have one of John’s TPS reports set aside for review on my desk etc.

            2. Apollo Warbucks

              Yes the people using the OPs desk should show some respect by not leaving a mess, but my point is leaving stuff all over the desk to stop it being used isn’t a sensible solution to the OPs problem.

            3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

              This really varies by office. While people here have their own desk, we often put interns, etc. at their desk when they aren’t here because we are sometimes short on space. It would not be reasonable for someone to expect that their desk appear untouched when they arrive in the morning (although crumbs aren’t okay).

          2. Raine

            Well, I have desk in a cubicle and it’s definitely the company’s, but in the office it would be a terrible faux pas that could conceivably get someone fired to just plop down at someone else’s desk and eat at it or use or take their folders or other supplies or move their posters or photos around.

          3. Allison

            Of course it belongs to the company, but most people accept the idea that a person’s dedicated workspace is “theirs” and there are boundaries. I don’t own “my” desk at work, but if I came in after working from home for a day and found crumbs on my desk and my belongings and office supplies moved around, I’d be a little miffed. And if they went into the drawers and ate from my snack stash, there’d be be hell to pay.

            If you use someone else’s workspace for any reason, you really should try to leave no trace.

        2. Brock

          As a person who’s worked the evening shift for 20+ years, I loathe day-shift people who think they are the only Real Employees. If the evening-shift person/people are on equal terms – either actually assigned to the same desk, or equally hotdesking (even if some people have habitual desks) – then the only valid complaint is the crumbs.

          1. LCL

            Brock said it all. I don’t work shifts anymore, but the rest of my group does. Part of my job is advocating for second shift.

            Coincidentally, I am going to a meeting today about second shift being locked out of a shared workspace. The justification was ‘that workspace, which we never use, doesn’t meet our standards because your junk is in there. So we cleaned it up and threw away everything, without telling you, and put our own lock on it, without telling you.’ Should be a lovely meeting.

              1. Cathy

                Oh me too! Update please. Video would be nice, but we’ll settle for audio clips LOL

        3. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          At my old job, we had a *lot* of road warriors and very few open cubicles. I would commonly come in from an off-site meeting to find two people sharing my desk (which means things had been pushed aside to make space).

          It made for a few interesting starts to conference calls as people were packing up around me, but it was understandable why people were using the space (which was soooo much better than a single person booking a conference room for the day to work).

      2. Liane

        This is a desk in a **QA Lab** so crumbs should be a Very Big Deal because labs have to be clean, yes even the office/cube area in the lab. It’s a contamination issue, as well as the bug-attracter/grossness issue it would be in any shared office space.

        1. beachlover

          Exactly! That is the first thing I thought! Aside from leaving a mess in another’s work area, any eating is a QC lab is not acceptable.

        2. lawsuited

          Unless this desk is in a lab (which I doubt because employees wouldn’t be eating in the lab in the first place), I don’t get the big deal about a few crumbs. Can’t the concerned employee just brush them away? Some crumbs and a moved stapler reads like a non-problem to me.

          1. Bio-Pharma

            Seems like a non-problem to you, but not to the OP. Therefore, the OP needs to psychologically develop it into a non-problem to himself, or utilize one of the suggested strategies to make change.

          2. TootsNYC

            As I mentioned below, I supervise a team that has daytime and nighttime shifts.

            Crumbs are a big deal to me. Nobody should have to do that sort of cleaning just to be able to use their desk. If you make that kind of a mess, you should clean it up. Because kindergarten.

            Setting the stapler on the right instead of the left–that’s not a complaint that I can get emotionally exercised about. Sure, sure, kindergarten=”leave it as you found it,” but people probably don’t remember how it was.

            1. Brock

              If the day-shifter and the evening-shifter are there on equal terms, then why on earth should the dayshift person get to be the default setting, and the evening shift person be the one expected to leave it as he or she found it? Why shouldn’t the dayshifter be careful to leave the desk as the day-shifter found it?

    2. TootsNYC

      I place evening-shift workers at the desks of full-timers on the day shift. I would say, loop me in, especially on the crumbs–yes, even right away. Because “be neat” comes across better from a neutral authority.

      Re: moving the stapler: I will say that I kind of roll my eyes at the guy on my team who gets mad because the night-shift person doesn’t switch the mouse back to the other side of his keyboard. This happens 2x a month, and I feel like it’s just not that hard to switch it back! The night shift people are doing our department’s work, and the fact that they were AT his desk means he WASN’T! We had a crunch time, and he got to go home on time. I think moving his stapler back is a pretty small price to pay for having someone else do his job for him.
      It’s not only “his” desk. It’s my desk, as the head of the department, and his expressing annoyance at the fact that his stapler is on the left instead of the right doesn’t meet a lot of sympathy from me. I -do ask- people to be sure to put things back where they found them (we even took a picture of his desk on my phone so we can compare at the end of the night, because they won’t remember), but I don’t do it with a lot of “fellow feeling.” I just do it because it shuts him up.
      I get being annoyed when your wastebasket isn’t in its regular spot, but–eh, just move it back.

  5. Cambridge Comma

    #1, I also work in a team that everryone treats with contempt, I think mostly because they don’t understand how involved the process of making a book is. A couple of things we are trying:
    – Whiteboards with all the open projects on the wall, so people can see we have a lot of work.
    – I use an e-mail signature with the steps in the proces (over 30) and when I write to internal customers, I mark the point they are at. They start to realise that it’s more complicated than they think.
    – Quantifying my word, e.g. I have resolved 12,000 issues in your manuscript.
    – Considering where our reputation might be deserved (we have a few colleagues who don’t meet customer deadlines, for example.
    – Supporting one another in the team to reduce the amount you care about the rest of the organization.

    1. BRR

      I haven’t had my coffee yet but am I understanding this correctly that you will have an email signature with 30 steps listed in it?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        I had the same thought, but Cambridge Comma, do you mean you use the signature function as a kind of macro, to plop in this commonly-used information when appropriate, then put your name underneath?

        1. AndersonDarling

          That is a darn-tootin good idea! Enter the project steps into custom signatures, then choose the one related to the email discussion. Signatures have just become brilliantly dynamic!

          1. Purple Jello

            Yep, I also use “signatures” that way, with multiple versions, dependent upon the message. Saves alot of retyping and remembering specific wording.

          2. super anon

            I did this at my old job where I had to send out a ton of emails answering student inquiries that would often have the same answer. I had about 15 different email templates saved under signatures to pull out when they were needed. When you have to answer 100+ emails a day, being able to quickly insert a template email via the signature and then quickly personalize it is a lifesaver.

          3. Pill Helmet

            If you have outlook, this can also be done with Quick Parts, which lets you save text you use over and over again and simply insert it into an email. You don’t even have to open an email template, which are great for emails you send to the same people all the time (because you can save the to and subject fields), but not so great when you’re replying to someone with a question.

    2. Beancounter in Texas

      I like all of these ideas, especially quantifying work. So what is one of the issues was a misspelling? It’s still work to catch it and correct it, even it if was “easy.”

      1. the gold digger

        Yes, because spellcheck does not catch when you misspell your husband’s name as “Christ” in the manuscript, although it is a telling misspelling, as his mother certainly thinks he is. (If only her name were Mary.)

            1. Malissa

              Awesome! I would totally buy that book. (And have it shipped to you, because I’ll NEED it signed.)

    3. Ama

      Yes, this – so many people think producing a newsletter (or any kind of creative collateral) is “dragging and dropping a bunch of text into a template” and that’s it. I don’t get treated with contempt at my current job, but none of my coworkers understand the timelines involved in publishing our org’s paper newsletter — I say I need a piece back by the end of June, they ask “When’s the newsletter coming out?” and then I say “end of July, but I have to have the piece by June to get the editing done and communicate with the printer.” Yeah, guess which “deadline” actually sticks in their head.

      *Sigh* Can you tell what I’ve spent the last three days doing?

    4. Kira

      I like these techniques of making your work more visible. I kept hearing from our biggest department how “it’s not like your job, we can’t just schedule a lunch break, if a client shows up we have to help them.” They didn’t mean it as a criticism, but it’s clear they don’t really know how my job works. I’ve got a big calendar behind my desk now with all my grant deadlines, and I started showing them my schedules for reporting, printing, social media posts, etc.

  6. neverjaunty

    OP #1, the reason your explanations don’t work for these people is that they don’t actually care if you’re really working hard or doing something useful. They’re expressing their own frustration about their jobs (wishing they could go home earlier) and bonding with other departments by ganging up on you.

    There’s not a lot you can do, though I guess you could call it out? A horrified stare and “Wow.” before turning away, shaking your head, is a good way to communicate that the other person said something horrible. I guess a slightly nicer response might be to say “I’m sorry you’re upset about working long hours, but that’s really something you should take up with your management, not us.”

    1. Treena

      Yes, commenting just to sympathize. I just left a job where the bigger department was really, really jealous of our 2 person department because we were “never there.” Never mind that our job is to work out in the community, and any office time is administrative or planning work, so if we weren’t there for a week or two, it’s because we were absolutely slammed with being out and about. But they just took it as “they don’t have to work.”

      Seconding neverjaunty because it was really all about how they hated their working conditions (shiftwork, limited PTO flexibility), manager, etc.

      1. TootsNYC

        Yeah, in publishing, the ad sales team is seldom in the office. And edit folks sometimes think they aren’t doing anything. But if you see an ad-sales account exec in the office two days in a row, they’re on their way out the door. Either because they’re about to quit, or because they’re going to get fired for not selling.

    2. MsM

      Or “Yes, it is nice. I’m so grateful to have a manager who values work/life balance.” Because really, do you want to be justifying yourself to someone or working for a company who doesn’t think that’s important?

    3. Cleopatra Jones

      Although, I agree with neverjaunty the bitchy part of me would want to say, ‘that’s because we work smart and not hard’ then walk away.
      You could say that but I don’t think it would go over very well in eliminating the animosity towards your department.

      1. neverjaunty

        Oh, personally would have a LOT less pleasant things to say, but I am assuming the OP wants to hear something productive. ;)

    4. Ad Astra

      This is a good point. If marketing continues to work only 40-45ish hours a week while everyone else continues working 60, that resentment will remain because it’s not really about marketing at all.

      I’m probably guilty in the past of making snide remarks about the ad department goofing around and leaving early while editorial toils until midnight, but it was more a complaint about my own job than a complaint about the ad department.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule

        I’m guilty of snide/jealous remarks about the Sales department that gets to take team building days and go do non-work activities like bowling & baseball games & scavenger hunts (and post about them on the company’s facebook page) while my department could never do such a thing because of the nature of our work.

        It really is less about the Sales people and more unhappiness that recognition for the people in my position means that we got a leftover, melty ice cream sandwich from the News department and we can never leave early because the last thing in our day is a newscast but we’re certainly asked to come in early & stay late because of breaking news.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule

          I should add, my issue has nothing to do with the Sales people themselves who are all lovely people for the most part. It’s a crappy structural inequity.

    5. Sans

      Another thing – “you get to leave at 6?” Six pm isn’t especially early. When are they coming in? Any place that thinks 6 pm is early is not a place I want to get anywhere near.

      1. the gold digger

        I was counseled for leaving at 6 from my job in corporate finance. Official hours were 8 to 6. I usually got to work at 7:15 and usually did not leave until well after 7.

        The one time I walked out on time (ha), I did not miss a deadline. I did not leave my boss or the director hanging. I did not inconvenience anyone else. I merely walked out at 6.

        I worked at that place for one year and one day (wanted to make sure I would not have to re-pay my move package). I will never again work in a sweatshop like that.

      2. Delyssia

        My official hours are 9-6, with an hour for lunch. I’m guessing that for this company leaving at 6 = leaving on time, and if other departments are working late routinely, leaving on time = leaving early.

      3. Allison

        Right, where I’ve worked the “normal” leaving time is 5-5:30, earlier if you get in early. There was a point in my life where I was working a new job, didn’t have much going on in my life, and worked until 6PM most nights, but I was one of the last people to leave.

      4. MashaKasha

        Second this. Having entire departments habitually working crazy long hours is a sign of poor management. Not something I would brag about.

      5. zora

        Yeah, when I was on a campaign, the political people would always come by field to say ‘goodnight’ when they were heading out at 7, and when we were really tired we started whining at them ‘must be nice to go home when it’s still light out!’ because we were there until 10:30 or later. Until one of them gently pointed out, “we do get here at 6 or 7am” and we didn’t have to come in till 9:30. We all looked at each other realizing we were being mean to them just because we were stressed and tired and it had nothing to do with them at all. We apologized and reminded each other to keep our mouths shut from then on.

    6. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      My old job had 1/2 day Fridays and I had a coworker that would leave at Noon on the dot. People used to say snotty things and complain. I used to point out that she would come in early, or spend time on Saturday mornings working, and *never* missed a deadline, but all people saw was “she takes advantage of this perk and I don’t.”

      At first I tried explaining it to people, but eventually I realized exactly what “neverjaunty” said, they didn’t really care how she was accomplishing this, they just wanted to complain.

  7. AnnieNonymous

    #1 is a problem with the other departments, not the OP’s. They have to put in overtime every single day, as a norm? (Even if they’re exempt, it’s a problem if the “set” end time is 6 but there’s still more work to be done.) They don’t get a free five minutes here and there to send a text message or browse facebook? It sounds to me like those departments have been understaffed for a long time, while the marketing team is benefiting from being comprised of recent grads who are able to define their own roles as the team continues to grow. It’s like the company introduced a new department but didn’t bother making adjustments to the current ones to ensure that everyone’s up to speed.

    The OP seems to enjoy her job now, but I’d warn her to look out for signs that her team is starting to operate like the others. Once the marketing department gets more established and starts getting as many projects as the other employees, the marketers might find themselves growing resentful too.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      That was pretty much my thought, that, for most departments, this company seems to overwork and understaff, and then allow morale to erode until it’s completely gone. I wouldn’t keep my hopes up that the Marketing Department will remain unaffected by the poor management elsewhere, I’d be desperately looking to jump ship.

      Well, first I’d see if my manager was interested in taking the problem up the ladder, see what the managers above her said, but if everyone else seems to think it’s OK to passive-aggressively snipe at coworkers, then I wouldn’t hold my breath.

      1. RVA Cat

        There’s also the fact that marketing exists to grow the business – and if they’re getting new customers but not adding staff for departments who have to actually service those customers, you have a vicious cycle of resentment (and mismanagement).

        1. Koko

          Yes, I’ve seen many companies and organizations who continue hiring marketers and fundraisers even during hiring/salary freezes, because there’s usually a pretty clear business case that can demonstrate that every marketer or fundraiser you add almost immediately begins to pay for their own salary in increased sales/donations. While it makes sense logically, people who are languishing without raises can get annoyed when they see that yet another new marketer has been hired…and then they don’t even “appear” to be working that hard to boot!

  8. Mmmmmm...... fudge

    1. Is everyone else also about your age? If so, I wonder if it’s because they don’t trust people your age…

    4. Don’t be sorry! :-) Seriously, though, at least you didn’t double-type a word in their cover letter without deleting it (like I once did). Maybe “the the” doesn’t sound right.

    1. OP4

      Thanks! I do my best. :-) I also make sure clients know they maintain agency in their job search and should proof read documents before sending them out (and turn off track changes).

  9. Buu

    On #5 WTF surely that cash was mainly intended to cover expenses…your job sound like cheapskates. Did they give you the day back as holiday?

    1. AndersonDarling

      I’m assuming the gift was $10 not $150. It’s common to give volunteers swag or a small giftcard. It shows their work is appreciated, keeps them engaged, and hopefully they will come back and volunteer again.

      Is there really a policy in the employee handbook saying employees may not earn extra money while on vacation? What if I help a friend clean out their garage and they give me a Starbucks gift card as a thank you? Is that considered a “job?” What if I take vacation for my birthday and I receive gifts? I guess that must be my one-day-a-year job.
      Ridiculous.

    2. The Strand

      Oh, good point. They had better have also given you the day back to use elsewhere.

      But do update your resume.

    3. Adam

      Seriously. This employer seems petty in just about the most obnoxious way I could imagine.

    4. JJ

      They have not given the vacation day back so far, although I have asked. The cash was a substantial amount, but the event was a multi-million dollar, high profile event which closed parts of downtown San Francisco. My employer was completely aware of what I was doing that day well ahead of time, so she was aware that it was not a second job.

      The sad part is that we do not get paid enough to cover the cost of living in our area, we do not get cost of living raises, and most of us are just barely getting by. My employers consider themselves philanthropic, and donate mega bucks and time to their family-run charity organization. I have to say I am ashamed of them for docking me and have lost all respect. Morale here is quite low at the moment. Time to find another job!

      1. zora

        :o( That is so lame JJ! I’m sorry your employer is being such a jerk. It’s hard enough to live here, I can’t believe they would be this petty. Good luck getting out of there!

  10. V.V.

    ” They say things like ‘I wish OUR department had time to have fun like YOURS does…’ [and] ‘oh, you’re leaving at 6? Must be nice,’ and ‘looks like the marketing and design department aren’t doing anything again,’ ”

    I would say “I know, isn’t it great?” to the first two and exclaim “… and I am STILL getting paid!” to the last.

    If they got nastier and pushed the issue, I would ask why they were bothering me for… if they have a problem they can sort it with management. Mine or theirs. Let them go piss up that tree for a bit and see what happens. Most managers I know don’t like being whined at that way, and I have never heard the arguement “But it’s not fair SHE gets to leave early,” fly.

    Same if these people are being legitimately overworked, maybe management can do something about it… but I probably can’t.

    Seriously, if they don’t like their job… unless I am their manager, it is not my problem.

    And neither is it OP1’s.

  11. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    #1 made me laugh. There’s a very long standing “thing” between my division, the first floor of our building, and another division of the company + corporate on the second floor.

    What did your mother tell you? “They’re just jealous!”

    We’re The Party Floor (according to them). We run from 7am to 8pm, flex schedules, with most everybody doing a 40 hour week, so a fairly constant ingress and egress from the building. We have a lot of division lunches (love our FOOD) and a lot of young people (which means baby showers and wedding showers relatively frequently. We laugh a lot.

    We’re also smart, work hard, work efficiently and turn good numbers.

    The Others (as we call them) are individually nice people (for the most part) and people individually get along, but there’s a ton of jealousy in the undercurrent.

    As a manager I mostly feel: bite me, I don’t care. :p

    I’m responsible to keep my eyes on my own paper and I don’t care about inter company relations until it affects what I’m responsible for.

    So, to the OP I’d ask, is it affecting your work? Is a lack of respect from your Others impacting project progress, etc? I’m all over dealing with that if it occurs.

    If not, then, they’re just jealous. And your mother told you to ignore people like that.

    1. I Am Now A Llama

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would love to work for you :)

        1. Kyrielle

          I keep wanting to reference the Llama Llama books here, but I need an editing department to make it work, darnit. (Llama llama adds a comma!)

          1. ThursdaysGeek

            The one-L Lama is a priest
            The two-L Llama is a beast
            And I will bet a silk pajama
            There isn’t any three-L Lllama!*

            *Although, if that last line is said right, it does sound like a description of a large fire.

            1. zora

              I love this Ogden Nash poem! ;o) I also have it memorized. (it may or may not be the only poem i have memorized, I’m not sure what that says about me)

    2. Ad Astra

      This reminds me a little of the blood feud between Leslie Knope’s Parks & Rec department and Tammy 2’s public library.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Ha yes it is!

        And even funnier, there is another division of the company, in another location, that we mutually think are a bunch of pain in the ass dips**ts.

        Honestly, it’s mostly like branches of a family grousing about each other. I don’t think anyone has truly ill will, unlike the evil Tammy 2.

  12. Just me

    Op #1: I joined a marketing team after a transition from one VP to another. Within a few months, I was actually embarrassed by the level of praise I received for simply doing my job. The previous VP didn’t listen to her internal customers, leaving people frustrated and annoyed. The new VP was pretty awesome, pushing us to work hard to fill voids that had been missing. As a result, people started to have a huge amount of respect for the team. The old VP and one director did a huge amount of damage through their leadership. When they left, suddenly the remaining marketing team players were loved and respected.

    Take a hard look at the value your team is providing to the organization. There may be a huge disconnect.

    Your coworkers may just suck, or their teams could be poorly ran. Just don’t discount the possibility that your team could be the problem.

    Of course, the nature of marketing is always different than other gigs. when done right, we are in the field with clients, on social media, and networking. The fun stuff has to be done in conjunction with other tasks that aren’t as fun. Those tasks should lead to results for the organization as a whole. If they aren’t, there is a problem.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Eh, I see where you’re going, but this is a person fresh out of college, first job, less than a year. I don’t think she needs to be that reflective other than making sure that she has a good reputation personally with those that matter.

      Marketing people further up the food chain should be responsible for reflecting on the function of the dept as a whole and as it relates to the other depts. I think if the OP gets a chance to run the reputation issue by her manager when that comes up, a conversation could be illuminating.

      1. Just me

        I totally agree with you regarding responsibility for any repairs, but understanding the problem could help her in her career.

        It’s a bad situation to be in. When marketing is out of sync with the organization it is usually not effective.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          See, now I want to go off on a marketing thing because, I SO agree with you, although not necessarily in relation to what I’d answer the OP.

          Marketing, within my division, it’s been Job #1 for me to make sure it is tightly, tightly integrated with everything we do. This is very important to us, and we do not have the Sales V Marketing divide that you see in so many orgs.

          I could talk all day long about how important that is, although, one of the things I tell my marketing people is that the other folks in our division are never really going to understand what it is we do and how intricate it is so don’t expect a level of understanding until they actually do this job.

          We do a lot of rotating of new people through depts within the division. Started that a few years ago and it’s definitely helped with understanding and cooperation.

          1. Koko

            I would join you on that rant. The “Doers” never think to invite the Marketers to any of their meetings, share any notes with them, or loops us in to what they’re up to. Then when they complete the project they suddenly don’t understand why it’s not getting any sales/views/clicks/whatever, and they come to Marketing asking us to make it go viral for $0. They never budgeted anything for marketing their finished project so we can’t do any ad buys or commission any creative, they never thought about how to talk about their project to anyone but internal stakeholders, and they never gave marketing any heads-up that they were working on the project. We’re left scrambling to figure out what this project’s actual selling points are to the intended external audience and looking for nickels in the couch cushions to put the campaign together, and they go on seeing themselves as the most important contributors in the organization while we make near-miracles happen to actually get their project out into the world.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              ha ha ha, omg I am so laughing out loud.

              I am both sales AND marketing (intentionally, that’s one way that we keep this going the right direction) and I very literally have that argument and finger pointing at myself in my own brain.

              I really do.

              1. Koko

                That’s great :)

                In my past life before I was a marketer, I was in academia. I left in part because of how frustrating it was that so much of academia didn’t see the value in interfacing with the non-academic world. They had so much knowledge that could be so much benefit to the world but thought it was beneath them to communicate it in a way the world could understand. “Pop science” was a slur.

                So I left and managed to get myself right into a career where I’m an internal service provider to people who have a variation on the exact same problem. The more things change, the more things stay the same!

                1. 2horseygirls

                  Oh my stars – that is just a special level of sainthood for marketers.

                  Actual conversation with a department chair (who fortunately is a dear friend as well):

                  DC: The webpage for Department is never updated! Why is that cost c^@p [aka Gainful Employment information required by the federal government] the first thing you see on the page? The web team doesn’t do anything, ever! (—-> said directly to the web goddess who single-handedly manages the entire 3000+ page website!) — I had to create my own Department Facebook page. Marketing never does anything.
                  2HG: I need you to stop trash-talking the web team. You met with them last summer to discuss your needs, and promised to get to them videos and CDs of ____. Have you done that?
                  DC: No, I’m too busy.
                  2HG: If you haven’t given them the information, what are they supposed to put on the webpage?
                  DC: …………………….. (crickets……….)
                  DC: And the photos on the marketing sheet are ridiculous! The _______ isn’t even used in this country! Anyone in Field who looks at this is going to think our program is a joke!
                  2HG: The marketing department is not the Subject Matter Experts – you are. Have you explained that the photos show incorrect ____, and that it would benefit everyone if you approved the stock photography before the marketing sheet went to print?
                  DC: No.
                  2HG: Well, then, stop complaining until you start communicating.

                  Geesh!

                2. Sue Wilson

                  Pop science should be a slur. The way newspaper articles twist conclusions of important studies into “This Thing Was Proven” when the paper at most found a correlation, and the paper itself can’t even be looked at for yourself because it’s behind a paywall is criminal.

                3. Koko

                  2HG, oh my, that sounds familiar :)

                  Sue – It doesn’t have to be that way, though! Pop science tends to be low quality because the people who are the most knowledgeable have abandoned it as beneath them. The only people left writing it are the people who aren’t expert or trained enough to really know what they’re writing!

                4. Nikki

                  This makes me so sad, because it feels true. Grant writer here, so basically marketing/sales? My program people were looking over a grant that I had submitted (with their hurried approval) and it was harsh. “I wouldn’t fund this! It doesn’t even describe what we do! You didn’t mention [three programs I had never heard of]!”

                  And I constantly get pointed comments, “We do great work but we don’t do a good job telling others about it.”

                  So, there’s room for growth and we’re improving the grants, but it hurt.

        2. hbc

          I agree that a little understanding could go a long way. Even looking at the facts as given, the group that does 40 hours a week *is* the slacker group compared to the group that does 45-50. No one should be arguing for them to stick around past 6:00 just because others are stuck there, but there is good reason for some envy.

          Then you add in the less obvious stuff. At my last company, you’d have marketing saying things like “This product has to have X, Y, and Z features, cost $A, and come out by September,” and refuse to budge on any of them, despite the project plan being complete fantasy. They were the *cause* of our tight deadlines and late hours, so yeah, there was bound to be some resentment.

          1. Kat M

            “Slacker” is a relative term though. Some people work late hours because they slack off, while others work less hours because they’re good with their time.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            Okay but you wouldn’t be snarky to a brand new college grad in their first job of less than a year over that, would you?

            That’s a management level issue. The snarkers should be ignored by the OP. I don’t care what level of legitimate or not legitimate complaints they have, they are being rude and jealous.

            1. hbc

              Oh, yeah, they’re handling it terribly. Though OP seems to be interpreting the statements in the worst way possible. “Must be nice to leave at 6” might mean that…it would be nice to be able to leave at 6:00.

              Understanding where people come from, even jealous whiners, helps you manage your interactions with them. I bet acknowledging that they have a point (“Yeah, we’re lucky not to have the schedule you do in your department, that sucks”) would stop a lot of the comments. I’ve also been known to offer up “Is there anything I can do to help out?” Complainers don’t want solutions, and anyone who genuinely needs help will stop thinking of you in the same way.

              Though to be honest, I’d be doing that along with planning a few retorts for their more common snarks. “Yes, I’m reading ‘Boringly-Titled Article’ for fun. Then I’m going to alphabetize the fridge during my break.”

          3. Colette

            I wouldn’t say working 40 hours a week makes them the “slacker” group. Even if everyone has exactly equivalent workloads (which is unlikely), they could be working more effectively, which would make the people working 50 hours the slackers.

          4. neverjaunty

            The “slacker” group? See, this is part of a pervasive problem – even by comparison, elevating hours worked as the measure of productivity and comparing different groups purely by seat time. This is how we get those posts about how a manager gets upset when somebody leaves at 5 even though they came in early, or being punished for finishing their work efficiently instead of screwing around all day and then “burning the midnight oil” to get their work finished.

            1. zora

              I agree. Why are they ‘slackers’ if they are coming into the office and working for 40 hours a week?? It is the kind of mentality that they are slackers automatically just because someone else works more hours that is leading to work-hour creep and allowing employers to convince workers we have to work 50+ hours just to ‘deserve’ our pathetic paychecks.

      2. Graciosa

        I completely agree that this is a management issue. Part of a manager’s job is making sure that the department is perceived as performing effectively. It’s great when actually performing is enough to accomplish this, but sometimes it does require a little bit more.

        Candidly, this is a part of my job I have to work at. I’m not naturally inclined to brag, but it’s easier when it’s about making sure my team gets credit for the great work they’re doing.

        I’m a little nervous about how the conversation with the manager may go if the OP has one. I absolutely think this is the right thing to do, but I would start softly and be prepared to stop.

        Good managers want to know this stuff so they can address it – but with a problem this pervasive, I’m concerned that the manager doesn’t want to have to deal with it and may be resistant to hearing something that might make them feel guilty for choosing not to address it. The OP should be alert for signs of this – as a junior employee, OP is not obligated to burn any bridges prodding a manager on this kind of issue.

  13. I just work here

    We get a lot of comments about our department being the misfit toys. It’s a mostly young group, not including me, and we are a bit of an odd combination. I’ve had VPs talk about hiring in all staff meetings and *specifically* mention they don’t want anyone from this department. Yet… We’re the department that sales talks about the most, we’re the ones the camera crews cover (three times this year for news programs, and one documentary), we’re the ones that are thanked profusely by our clients. So, whatever. We’re good at what we do and that’s what matters.

    1. Pete

      The VP’s need to be called out on that, for the health of the company (long-term).

      Something like: “That department is constantly delivering top results, bringing in sales and media attention. Like it or not, there’s talent there that will quickly land roles at our competition if they find out you’re going out of your way to stunt their career growth.”

    2. Rae

      Just in this I can see where resentment would come from….that within your company you’re “not appreciated” yet you’re the ones who get news coverage. It seems really strange to me, and that you either should function as a company when it comes to the media (eg, all or nothing) or make sure to heavily thank and mention other departments whilst this attention is drawn to you. It seems that its felt up to the VP’s which is particularly disturbing. That said, it could also be true that you are not in a department that allows for upward mobility, only lateral change to a department thats upwardly mobile.

      1. I just work here

        We do make a point in meetings to say that without everyone’s hard work (usually with a brief department call out – ‘Without sales making sure clients know unbreakable teapots are a thing, without customer service explaining how to use unbreakable teapots, without purchasing making sure we have unbreakable parts, etc. etc.,) we couldn’t do what we do. I make sure to hit it especially hard at any event that includes spouses and/or friends. And we never NEVER take sole credit when something goes really right. Sharing credit is an art form here, and it is genuinely meant. It’s not a lack of appreciation on our end that leads to their comments.

        However, our CEO has noticed the disconnect and recently brought it up to me as something he’s working on getting changed. So, it’s good to know that at least it’s on someone’s radar.

  14. TheLazyB

    So I am almost certainly over sensitive here, but, #3. I don’t have a desk. Our office is full and no new starters get desks. There is a system where desks are supposed to be flagged when they’re free so we know when they’re free, but it doesn’t always happen.

    Maybe there isn’t anywhere else to sit but other people’s desks. If so, I really do think that unless there’s a specific issue where moving scissors/stapler etc is an issue you just need to deal with it. I never deliberately move people’s stuff around, but sometimes I have to use their scissors/sellotape/whatever, because I already have to carry round all my work and my laptop, my shoes (I wear trainers to work and change when I arrive), my ergonomic keyboard, my tissues, my notepad and pens… it’s a bit exhausting and adding stationary on that list to carry round, well it’s not going to happen – my locker isn’t actually big enough.

    None of this might apply, but you never know, the people from my work who it DOES apply to might read this and stop being passive-aggressive about moving flags from people’s desks – seeing as you’re not allowed to reserve desks for people. Grrr.

  15. Rose

    #1: Oh man, am I in a similar situation right now. I am the only person at my organization with my job, which on its face is extremely similar to another position that several people have, but with a few extra responsibilities. My manager never really explained my job to anyone, and so people see me at my desk every once in awhile (which other people with the similar position don’t do), and think that I must be slacking off if I’m at a desk. This “Lucinda doesn’t do anything because she does things differently” opinion has become widespread enough that people will find any reason to believe it, despite recognition from taking on extra projects and me returning all requests asked of me without more than a day or two’s turnaround.

    I’m going with the “what I do is nobody’s business” attitude in my head, and trying to keep my head down and let my work speak for itself, but it bothers me that nobody is trying to dispel this notion (despite privately reassuring me that I’m doing a great job). I previously tried to explain my job myself, but I always got the sense that people thought I was trying to brag or insinuate that my job was better than everyone else’s.

  16. Boo

    I must admit I don’t have a huge amount of sympathy for OP3. When I was a receptionist, I shared a desk with the night guard who left pubic hair on the desk until I complained about it. Not that I’m saying anything less is acceptable! But stuff on a shared desk space being moved and a few crumbs left behind sound like a minor irritant that it’s not really worth kicking off over.

    1. UKAnon

      Firstly, ewww.

      Secondly, just how?

      Thirdly, actually, I don’t think I want to know. Just ewwww again.

      1. Boo

        I don’t want to know how or why either even now, and that was back in 2002. Seriously though, it wasn’t even one or two. There was a fine dusting of pubes all over the desk and on the keyboard when I got in. He couldn’t have been looking at porn since my computer didn’t have internet access.

        I don’t think we used a particularly reputable security company though. I remember one was fired for accessing porn on one of the computers elsewhere in the building, one was fired for turning up to work drunk and one was fired for having sex with another employee in one of the offices. I hated having to desk share/wait for them to turn up to relieve me not knowing what state they’d be in.

        1. UKAnon

          Ok, well my best guess is CDs, but I’m really not going to think that much about it anymore.

          I am going to now go and quietly try not to be OCD about my own desk (I’m at home, so this is very important) You have my everlasting and undying sympathy… I think I would have quit on the first day. I just can’t.

        2. Hermoine Granger

          How did you know they were pubic hairs?

          I’m guessing that a “dusting” wouldn’t just shake loose on the desk. (Pubes don’t seem to just randomly shed and most people’s pelvic area would be lower than the desktop when sitting.) Was this person shaving / plucking their pubes and deposting them on the desk?

          Was it a one time thing or an ongoing issue? Did it stop? If yes, how?

          You probably don’t have answers to these questions but it just boggles the mind…The things I’ve read on here.

          1. Boo

            You know the phrase “short and curlies”? And this guard was bald. They were just very definitely pubic hairs. I have no idea what he was doing. It happened several times. At first I didn’t say anything because I was only 19 and well, wtf? Then I complained to my boss, she spoke to his boss, and it stopped.

            1. Kyrielle

              …I was going to suggest beard hairs, which on some guys can be similar if it’s short, but I’m guessing he also didn’t have a beard.

              Eww. I just don’t want to know. I just don’t.

            2. zora

              GAAHHH this is so gross I just can’t even. But I will just say that one doesn’t need to be watching porn to engage in activities. But I feel bad even bringing that up! GAH EW EW EW! i am so sorry!

            3. Hermoine Granger

              Eww, that’s so nasty. It wasn’t a mistake (obviously) but to do it repeatedly strikes me as a very weird way of being hostile towards someone. Just eww.

    2. Sadsack

      It sucks that that happened to you, but I really don’t think it’s fair to say that OP’s issue with crumbs is a non-issue because your issue trumps his. I think it is pretty rude to leave crumbs on someone’s desk. Just mentioning it to the other person might be enough to stop it.

      1. neverjaunty

        This. I really do not get “well I had it worse so suck it up, Buttercup” comments. Cleaning crumbs off a desk other people are going to be using is just common courtesy.

        1. Boo

          If you read my entire comment, I specifically made a point of saying that my experience of something worse happened to me didn’t mean another lesser issue was ok. I just don’t think a few crumbs are worth kicking off over.

          1. Sadsack

            Not sure what “kicking off over” means, but OP should certainly say something to her desk sharer if she doesn’t want the desk she uses left with food on it.

            1. Boo

              Ah, I thought OP had already mentioned it to the crumber, my bad. But beyond that I don’t think that crumbs are worth getting aggravated about. Of course it’s inconsiderate of the crumber, but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t personally think it’s that big of a deal. YMMV of course.

  17. Pete

    #5 – I’ve found somethime breaking out the big guns early, and intentionally, can help make a point (if done right).

    Something like this:

    “Listen, I know you don’t like the idea if us working second jobs, and I understand that policy. However, the event I helped with was obviously volunteer, and I feel that it’s highly inappropriate for you to retroactively dock my pay this way. I want to make it clear how much of a violation I feel this is – First off, in the future, I will not discuss my plans for time off with you. I do not feel I can trust you tio respect my privacy anymore. Secondly, my pay need to be reinstated. This is a serious matter and I don’t want it to become contentious, but I don’t want you to underestimate how much you violated my trust and respect. Refusing to pay me for my vacation time is highly unethical, and if you can’t honor the company’s policy on vacation time, I’m going to have to contact the department of Labor to resolve this.”

    The key message is: “I’d like to resolve this amicably, but this is too serious a matter to simply file a complaint and wait. Either fix the problem, or I have to go over your head to get it fixed.” And here’s why it’s important to break out the big guns early – it reinforces the statement that what they did was not only wrong – it was *grossly* over the line.

    Your immediate reaction helps frame the seriousness of the dispute. If your tone in the initial discussion sounds like you have a minor issue with your paycheck, then it will be handled with all the informality of a minor paycheck quibble. If instead your manager worries that he might get an uncomfotable call from the general counsel about why he’s docking pay – he’s going to act differently.

    1. Colette

      It depends on whether the employee is exempt. If not, I don’t think the department of labor will help in most U.S. states, as she didn’t work that time.

      1. Robles

        One flag for #5: Employers can choose to give non-exempt people paid vacation days, and if they do, they can’t retroactively say that an approved paid vacation day is now not paid. You can’t retract benefits retroactively.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yeah, it would depend on what the company’s own policies did or didn’t say, and maybe on the state. Definitely not the case across the board.

    2. LBK

      I think that’s way, way too adversarial for a first step, especially because the company may not even realize this isn’t legal (assuming the OP is exempt). I think the OP has a much better chance of success and is less likely to damage her reputation if she doesn’t go in guns blazing.

      1. The Strand

        We’re talking about a nut here, though. Someone who docked her pay without speaking to her first, over a volunteer event. No warning. Just docking her pay. The company could get into serious trouble here, and it’s clear that this boss does not respect her (his?) boundaries.

        As Robles said, you can’t retract benefits retroactively because of what you “think” they’re doing during their time, and because you “think” that this is the correct way to resolve the problem.

        1. Lola

          I agree that #5’s boss sounds like a nut. However, wouldn’t it also be expected of such a nut to fire the employee on the spot, in retaliation for complaining to the board or even threatening to do so?

          1. The Strand

            That would make it possible for them to file a grievance, not only within the company, but possibly at the state level. A lawsuit at the state level, or even a private lawsuit, would not be fun to deal with.

            What you’ve described is definitely a risk, though. I think a good path to take is to be firm without being needlessly antagonistic in terms of language and tone.

  18. grasshopper

    OP #3, how about leaving a package of wipes on the desk. I don’t share my desk and I’ve found that I’m much more likely to clean up if there are wipes right in front of me rather than having to go and search for paper towels and water.

    1. TootsNYC

      Definitely be sure it’s easy for people to clean up.

      Also, suggest that the department maybe get a big tray or something, that people can use as a “placemat” or “table” when they’re eating anywhere in the department?

  19. Jubilance

    #2 – I used to be in a similar position, where I was a technical IC but also expected to serve as a project manager as well. It grinds my gears that a lot of companies have this expectation of their technical folks to be both a technical lead AND the PM on the same project – you’re spread too thin. I like Alison’s suggestion of having someone else take the minutes so that you can focus on the technical things. I’d also be worried that my company didn’t see the need to have engineers and PMs in your meetings with the vendor.

    1. Witty Nickname

      One of the best things my department (Marketing) ever did was to establish a project management team (if I do say so myself – I’m one of the founding PMs on the team). Now, our marketing leads can worry about creating their marketing plans and content and decision making, etc., and I worry about all of the things that we have to remember to do (reviews that need to be done, deadlines, other teams that need to be in the loop, taking notes during meetings, scheduling meetings, getting on the launch calendar, etc). It also helped us establish some consistency in our process (rather than each marketing lead doing their own thing) and has helped us hugely improve our reputation with other teams (to tie it back to #1 as well – a change in our leadership around the same time was also hugely helpful with that).

  20. Allison

    1) That would make me hopping mad! I put in my 40 hours a week, and rarely go over that, but I go in early so I can leave early. If someone gave me a hard time for leaving at 4:30 instead of, I dunno, 7, I’d be mad.

    And it’s true that my job isn’t a demanding one. It’s true that I’m not constantly rushing around to this and that meeting, super stressed and busy round the clock. It’s true that I don’t need to stay late to finish big projects or attend late afternoon debriefs, I don’t even need to check my e-mail and make work calls once I’m home for the night. If my coworkers feel compelled to plug back in after dinner, that’s their issue.

    Whether someone’s truly envious of my super chill job, or they think I’m not working as hard as I should be, they have two options: they can take it up with my manager, or (and this is the preferable option) they can make like Elsa and let it go. Being a jerk about it to me really isn’t an option.

  21. Ad Astra

    #1: I can’t count how many times someone has given me the side eye or mentioned to my manager that I was using social media or looking at my phone at work when I was actively doing part of my job. I manage/monitor social media, occasionally take photos, videos, or screen shots, and at the time was in charge of updating/monitoring our website on every platform, including mobile. Sorry my job looks more fun than others, I guess.

    But you’re marketers. You should be able to raise your department’s profile around the office. Does your company have an intranet or a blog or some other way you could keep the company apprised of what you’re up to? Is there a way to recognize your employees’ achievements the same way other departments recognize their employees’ achievements?

    Is there anything marketing could do to help the other departments? Without knowing your company, it’s hard to give examples, but maybe producing a style guide, or creating branded templates for the reports other departments work on, or maybe a standard PowerPoint design?

    1. Sharon

      +1
      That’s a really good suggestion: internal marketing. It would benefit all of the departments in the company and maybe even pull together more of a cohesive team spirit if done well.

    2. Cath in Canada

      I was going to suggest the same thing. My department’s problem isn’t quite the same, but people do seem to think that we’re asking them to fill in various forms and adhere to processes just because we find it fun. I recently started a monthly feature in our internal newsletter, called “Why do I have to?” (e.g. “Why do I have to fill in cover sheets for all my grant applications?”), explaining why we have various forms, how we use the information gathered for the good of the organisation, etc. I hope it’s going to increase buy-in and help people realise what we do and why – how much goes on behind the scenes that they don’t see. (The illustration that goes with the column is an iceberg!). The OP could maybe try something similar – all the unseen steps behind a new email campaign, or something like that.

  22. Nom d' Pixel

    I had a similar situation at a previous job as OP#3. It was always the same person, and he left a mess every time he ate there. It was gross, and I repeatedly asked him to clean up after himself or find some place else to eat (you know, like at one of the tables in the cafeteria). One day I came in and found fast food wrappers all over my desk. I was done asking him nicely, so instead of cleaning it up myself as I had been, I walked into the lab and dumped everything in his work area. He never used my desk again.

  23. Ad Astra

    With the teleconference, is it not feasible to record these calls? I thought that feature was built into many online teleconference/webinar type software. If the participants are just calling in on a regular phone, would a voice recorder work? Then the OP could either email the audio to colleagues who missed out or, if she’s really nice, she could play the recording back for herself and take notes from that.

    I can understand that not everyone will be able to make a scheduled meeting, but I’m surprised OP’s boss is putting so much of the onus on her when (imo) it should be the colleagues’ responsibilities to find out what they missed. If the notes aren’t good enough, reach out to the right person with specific questions, or find a way to be in that meeting.

  24. Rae

    OP 1
    I think perhaps you should ask that you be given numbers or metrics or deadlines to meet. I work for a place that has many different departments and when the company began measuring numbers a lot of the “them vs us” went away. Teapot marketing has goals and stretch goals just as Teapot finance does. The problem with teapot Finance is that they have clients, hard numbers and many things in their face. When Teapot Finance dept realized how Teapot marketing got their info they were more respectful. Not only that but Teapot Marketing also acknowledged that Teapot Finance faced many issues and worked to create media for clients around Teapot finance issues. So instead of Teapot Finance sending a blast email that wouldn’t be read, they sent a Teapot Marketing video. This change made Teapot Vendors less cranky as they gained information about paying for their Teapots. Less cranky vendors=easier calls for Teapot Finance=less stressed Teapot Finance department.

    While Teapot Marketing “still has it easier” as far as hours, they acknowledge this by being extra kind to their co-workers. They go out of their way to build personal relationships. Clients are hard, unpredictable critters and it’s inevitable that things could go well until 4:55 when one calls and has a 3 hour issue. It’s exhausting, and frustrating and not always a sign of bad management. Believe me, tossing someone a note and a starburst can be meaningful.

  25. KT

    Being in marketing/public relations/communications makes it tough–other departments don’t really “get” what we do, and a lot of our metrics that show what we do are on the softer side when compared to say, an increase in dollars.

    The best thing is for your manager to start showing what you do on a more regular basis–flagging when you get great media coverage, when your social channels grow, etc

  26. K

    #5 I’m not clear on whether the issue is the second job or the fact that it was on a vacation day. If your employee agreement allows second jobs in general, then I don’t see how the employer could regulate when you work this second job if it doesn’t affect your first job, which in this case it clearly didn’t since they let you take a vacation day.

      1. K

        I’m saying that even if it was I don’t see how the first employer could regulate it.

    1. JJ

      Our employee handbook says we are not to take a second job during a leave of absence. It also states that a leave of absence is more than two days. It says nothing about what we can or cannot do during paid vacation time.

  27. MsM

    #4: I’m not sure to what extent you actually do get to coach clients, but I would remind her that that most cover letters follow a similar format for a reason: that’s what works. She wants to stand out based on her ability to communicate clearly and concisely, not waste space laying out a gimmick that isn’t showing off who she is and what she can do to her best advantage.

    As you and Alison have said, I’d also remind her to consider her audience and their ultimate goal. They’re not looking to help her specifically in her search for her dream job. They’re looking for the right applicant for the position they’ve advertised. Whether those two goals intersect is something that gets sorted out at the interview stage, and a company that really values fit is going to want to take their time in assessing that. Besides, she should be doing some initial research into the company anyway, so sending a letter that suggests she hasn’t done that homework and already decided there’s enough of a match to give it a shot isn’t the best strategy.

  28. Interviewer

    Is there a company policy in the handbook on moonlighting? Does it specify docking pay? Several employers want to avoid a conflict with their employees in multiple jobs in the same industry – not everyone, but you can see how that might be an issue. However, in your situation, I’d really press hard for clarification on volunteer work, especially where there was zero expectation of a gift. Really, really crappy to discourage community service in any form.

    If you’re non-exempt, the DOL is not going to care one bit about your vacation pay, just that you were correctly paid for your hours worked.

    I’m aware of employers that ask for jury pay to be turned over, or confirming amounts received, so they can deduct it from paychecks for days spent at the courthouse.

    1. TootsNYC

      Yeah, I don’t quite get how legally they can take money away from you because of a 2nd job anyway. They can fire you for taking a 2nd job, because they don’t want to work with people who have split loyalties. But how do they take money away from you?

      And absolutely, I would shut off the information train to that manager. “I want a vacation day,” and no reasons. “How was your day off?” gets “Fine, thanks.” and nothing more.

  29. Aknownymous

    #1 – I think this inter-department jealousy exists in most places to some degree. It has existed in every job I’ve ever had, for various reasons (except for my current one, because I work for myself).

    In my last job, I had a lot of deadlines and high-urgency requests that would come out of nowhere on a regular basis, and required me to drop everything, work at super-humans speeds with 100% accuracy unless I wanted to be personally responsible for losing the company tens of thousands of dollars and possibly a big client, too. If the request came in 15 minutes before we officially closed for the day, then I’d have to stay until I was done. It was just the nature of the job.

    But, during the day when I had down periods and perhaps read an article or two, or went to Starbucks for a pick-me-up, people would comment on it in a negative way. I think they do because what they see on the surface is different from what they have, and from the outside it looks better. That breeds jealousy. You could respond factually, or with a “what do you mean?”, but I’ve personally just chosen to let those comments slide off my back. People who have different jobs can’t compare them to each other, it’s just pointless. I think the only thing that matters is that your manager knows your work and is satisfied. The peanut gallery never will be.

    1. Dasha

      I was trying to think of what to say to #1 and you hit the nail on the head- it’s a different job with different responsibilities and it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

    2. Sharon

      Very true. It’s also this: any body who does their job really well makes it look easy. Because you make it look easy, people assume there’s nothing to it. In my opinion, this fact should be pointed out whenever petty jealousies pop up because we should all celebrate those people who do their jobs really well. Some companies call them rock stars and such. In my opinion, the people who routinely run around with their hair on fire screaming are the ones who probably don’t do their jobs quite as well and should perhaps be given a close look from management. (Unfortunately, in most places, it’s the other way around.)

  30. The Strand

    #5 – I’m, like, y’know. Speechless.

    OP, after drawing your boundaries with this boss for now, update your resume. Someone who would dock your pay based on something they “heard”? Without speaking to you first?

    Does your company even have anything on the books regarding “moonlighting”?

    You took a vacation day. Someone who is a lawyer or HR rep should be able to weigh in on this, but I believe we can do whatever we like on a day earmarked for vacation. If you want to spend the day writing the Great American novel for pay, or volunteer for a soup kitchen, or teach a one day workshop — assuming there is nothing on the books regarding moonlighting that you signed off on, that is not your boss’ business.

    1. JJ

      As I said above, the employee handbook says we are not to take a second job during a leave of absence. And a leave of absence is considered more than two weeks (I erroneously stated two days before), and (I’m actually reading it right now) it is for personal leave, bereavement or pregnancy.

      1. The Strand

        Wow, as I’m sure many of us suspected. Your persnickety supervisor doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

        I would at minimum ask HR for “clarification” (showing them the specific section of the handbook) and confirm that you need to receive your vacation day back or your docked pay. Then definitely draw some boundaries with your boss.

        So sorry you have to deal with such a pill.

  31. John R

    #1: I probably wouldn’t be as nice as you! You could try turning the tables with something like “Gee, there’s the department that can’t ever get their work done on time so always has to work late” or “there’s the department that’s really inefficient so they’re always in crisis mode”, etc.

  32. T swizzle

    #1 is this a thing in a lot of workplaces? My last job the marketing team always got sh*t on, does anyone else have experience with this? I am curious what the thought behind it is and if anyone else has experienced it.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Let’s put it this way:

      It is more common than not for marketing to be disconnected from other processes in the company and vice versa, causing resentments. Marketing works forward while most of the rest of the company works on the here and now. I think the divide is naturally occurring and it takes committed management to have that not happen.

    2. Cath in Canada

      In my one and only marketing job the sales and marketing teams were pretty tight with each other (we often worked conferences and trade shows together, and the reps appreciated all the other support we gave them), but a lot of other departments – I’m looking at you, R&D and QC – had a bit of a negative attitude towards marketing.

  33. Dr. Johnny Fever

    Regarding #2, I think that the suggestions about note-taking, facilitating, and bringing in an admin are treating symptoms to a larger problem.

    OP #2 states that she asked for the vendor meeting to be rescheduled to accommodate her colleagues, yet they don’t attend. Her manager shouldn’t be concerned about improving her note-taking ability, but instead should be concerned as to /why/ the others aren’t attending and participating. No single tech contributor has every answer, no matter how entrenched. The furor over the note-taking just masks the lack of participation from the team.

    OP#2, I would encourage you to have this talk when you approach your leader – “I can focus on one or the other, and I can bring Fergus to take notes, but the root cause is that my teammates are using me as a proxy while they should really be leading those detailed discussions with the vendor. How can we address that?” Then wait and see for a reaction how receptive your leader is. It might take a bit of time to sink in, but stick to your guns. You can A or B, and maybe C, but really, those are all stop-gap measures.

    And speak up soon! Eventually there will be a mistake and your butt will be on the line for it as the documentor, NOT the engineer who SHOULD have been there to give the spec.

  34. Hermoine Granger

    #4 – It’s been mentioned numerous times that the process should be an opportunity for both sides to assess for fit. I thought part of writing customized cover letters is explaining why you’re interested in the particular company / position for which you are applying. The job seeker’s approach sounds weird and off-putting but is the issue going on and on about what you want or just mentioning what you’re looking for at all? Would it work if part of explaining your interest is sharing what you’re looking for in a company / position and how the opportunity aligns with those wants / aspirations?

    I admittedly don’t get cover letters; they’re something that I struggle to understand.

  35. Responding to 4

    What I want from an employer: Pay me fairly, don’t be an asshole, affordable benefits, 30-60 minute lunch off premises, 9-5 but flex-time would be fantastic. As long as you aren’t doing something completely awful, we can probably work well together.

  36. Annie O'Nymous

    Regarding OP #3. You have my sympathy. That’s just rude. It reminds me of our lunch room at work, where people left dishes in the sink for months (yes, months) before someone finally just threw them out.

    I have a related question. I have a shared desk with an employee who has long hair. When I take over the desk in the afternoon, there is a large amount of dandruff on the backrest part of the chair. (The chair is black so it’s really easy to see). This really grosses me out. Other than brushing it off, is there really anything I can do? Thanks.

  37. Stranger than fiction

    #1, is it the Sales dept thats giving this grief? Ive found it common for sales to bash marketing especially if they’re having a hard time making their goals. It becomes marketings fault fornlousy campaigns or whatever

  38. Jady

    #2 – Record the meeting. Bring a laptop or phone or something. Participate as normal, then after the meeting write up the minutes while reviewing the recording.

  39. SaraV

    OP #3> At my PT job, not only do I share my desk with the other person that also does my job, but with a lot of other people. Basically, there are two computers/desks for about a dozen people to use.

    What it comes down to is principles vs preferences. Preferences are office supplies being moved around on the desk. Different people have different preferences, or a different dominant hand. It takes all of 15-20 seconds for me to arrange the desk the way I want.

    Principles would be something like:
    1) A singular type office supply (Stapler, scissors, staple remover, tape dispenser) being removed from my usual desk and not being returned.
    2) Garbage/leftover food/significant amount of crumbs on the desk. We have a supervisor notorious for leaving food stuffs/garbage everywhere. It drives all of us batty. (I’m thinking it was she who left the knife with jelly on it on my desk that one time. Ew.)
    Or
    3) What I walked into this morning…your chair is missing. I was told they had a meeting in that particular room yesterday, so my chair was on the other side of the room. No one bothered to return it the 15 ft to where it originated.

    TL;DR – I would probably say something about the food/crumbs, but deal with the office supplies being moved on your desk.

  40. mel

    1

    There are so many people who keep their head down at work and leave on time. Do they gather outside of the sandwich shop, waiting to pounce on the shift workers too? “Oh yup, 5 o’clock! Here comes lazypants!”

  41. MAB

    #3

    I have a similar situation with stuff being moved around and sometimes crumbs on my desk (also in QA interestingly enough). We have a very small crew and I don’t share a desk, but I have no issues with people using my space when I am not here. I have yet to figure out who is eating at my desk, but the last time it started happening consistenly I put a polite sticky note on my monitor asking for things to be as clean as when they leave. It works 90% of the time.

    Though it did take me throwing a minor fit to get people to stop removing all my pens from my desk. Also buying pens that will set off the metal detector if they get within 5 feet helped too.

  42. Krystal

    #1: Marketing is perceived that way at my place of employment, too. Here’s why: because they expect everyone else to do the bulk of the work for them while taking all the credit. It may not be like that at your place of employment, but hear me out. For reference, I work at a law firm.

    As an example, we hosted a volunteer event for MLK Day. No one from Marketing decided to grace us with their presence, but you can bet that they were calling me at 9:05 am the next day demanding a writeup and pictures. As another example, they sent us a press release RIDDLED with errors (both grammatical and factual), and I had to spend a good chunk of an afternoon fixing it. So yeah, they all left on time that day, but I sure did not.

    1. Colette

      The volunteer event – were they asking for pictures and a write up so they could claim to have done it, or because it’s something the firm does? That doesn’t sound outrageous to me.

      1. Krystal

        It was outrageous for them to ask me for those pieces instead of sending a representative. Not a single one of them volunteered to help out, but they had no issues bugging me for event photographs, a writeup, and quotes from our clients and partner organization. (I declined and gave them contact information for all.)

        I’m an attorney who was running a volunteer legal clinic. Taking pictures and drafting articles for marketing purposes is incredibly outside of my job duties, and it was wholly inappropriate for them to request such from me. There was a volunteer photographer at the event, but instead of contacting her directly, they wanted me to take on that task for them, too.

        1. Colette

          Why did your firm want to do the volunteer event? I’m guessing it’s because you want to be able to advertise your community involvement, and marketing is the group that was responsible for doing that, even though it’s not their core job (which is presumably marketing your firm’s legal services). They might consider pulling that together their involvement.

          It’s possible they could have been more proactive about it, or that management needs to be clear about who they expect to do what, but in most companies, there will be groups who aren’t able to volunteer at every event (or choose not to) – that doesn’t mean they aren’t still responsible for doing their job.

          1. Krystal

            Without going too far down the rabbit hole of explaining my job (and doxxing myself), we host that particular event because we acquired a firm who had a tradition of MLK Day service, and they asked us to continue their tradition once they became a part of our firm. The arrangement had less than nothing to do with our Marketing team.

            I’m confused by what you mean when you say “they might consider pulling that together their involvement”. They had no involvement in arranging this event, and they tried to push the post-event work off on me because none of them bothered to help out. We’re a large firm, and this was a massive community event … they have no excuse for failing to send a representative to ensure that their work was completed.

            You are also ignoring the second half of my first comment, where I gave another example of Marketing’s ineptitude with regards to editing and fact-checking their pieces. The MLK Day situation wasn’t a one-off scenario, but a pattern of them not participating in events outside of 9-5 or even during the workday and then expecting others to do the legwork.

    2. Kita

      I’m with you, Krystal. That sounds like a clear case of an event that had great marketing potential. Assuming they knew about it ahead of time, marketing should have the role of preparing the write up and then firming it up afterwards, making sure good pictures are taken, and whatever other components they need to do an awesome job. Not as volunteers at the event, but as an employee who’s being paid to cover the event.

  43. Kristine

    #1 – Ask your colleagues if they need help with something the minute you hear more whining. Chances are, they are the ones not really doing anything at work, thus having time to complain. If they are indeed busy, take on work that you think appropriate and have time to handle, and do it well. You ARE looking for another job, are you not? Maybe your next job is theirs – or perhaps you just want to outshine them so that they start grousing about how you “make us look bad.” This is what I did. People like that will never stop complaining, but you have choices as to what to make them complain about.

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