open thread – July 10, 2015

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

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

{ 1,473 comments… read them below }

  1. LoveWins*

    This may be considered too political and controversial for the Friday Open Thread but I really am curious as to how this fits in the workplace.

    So as most of you know, the Supreme Court of the United States legalized same-sex marriage across the whole country a couple weeks ago. Since then, there are plenty who say it conflicts with their religious beliefs and are opposed to it. What gets my attention is the wave of stories of government workers refusing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing their religious beliefs. Some have even quit over it, which is fine, that’s their right to give up their livelihoods for their beliefs.

    But the ones who stay in their positions and simply refuse. Can they do that, even with the defense of religion? Obviously, you can’t discriminate in the workplace because of religion, but they’re refusing to do their jobs, hell even refusing to follow the new law.

    I work for the government. Though I’m in a position where I don’t have much interaction with the public and don’t have the opportunity to find something to object to in order to refuse to help them, but I think if I stopped doing my job for any reason, I’d be fired.

    So thoughts on this?

    1. Adam*

      I’m no expert on the law, but I think if you work for the government and provide any sort of service to same-sex couples I don’t think you’d ever be able to refuse on the grounds of your religion. How big a deal it turns into is going to depend on the workplace and the makeup of the staff as well as the member of the public seeking service and their motivation and willingness to speak out about it. Odds are said person isn’t the only one in the office at the time so a same-sex couple seeking assistance can get it from a different staff member, but if they ever were the only person I don’t see how they could refuse without inviting legal action.

    2. CayceP*

      I also work in government, and we had a staffer who made noises about it being against his religion to perform same-sex marriages. Within the hour, he was told to comply or find work elsewhere. The fact that he had married thousands of already-divorced couples, couples who had openly admitted only getting married for the insurance, etc, didn’t help his case much either.

      1. Future Analyst*

        Yeah, your last sentence is what really bugs me about people who suddenly claim things are against their religion. I’m not religious, but I’ve read the Bible front to back, and there’s a hell of a lot of rules in there that people conveniently disregard.

        1. Relosa*

          Not to mention the a major point of Christianity is that Jesus died to more or etch-a-sketch our need to obey Leviticus…but you know, logic.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Yep, that last sentence is the kicker for me. Government employees aren’t charged with evaluating whether two people should get married. Their job is to determine whether they meet the legal requirements to get married, and the Supremes say same-sex couples qualify. Even if homosexuality and same-sex marriage are against your religion, issuing those people a marriage license or marrying them in court is not. Just like if divorce is against your religion, granting a qualifying couple a legal divorce is not against your religion.

        Bigots tried to use their religion as a defense when interracial marriage was legalized, too. It’s a bogus argument, and history won’t treat it very kindly.

        1. Ezri*

          The problem is that those religious people opposing SCOTUS’s decision are saying that civil marriages violate their religion, but that doesn’t make any sense to me. Just because Christian marriages are usually accompanied by a legal wedding license doesn’t mean they have to be. You can get ‘married’ in the eyes of a church and not be considered married by the government. Just like you can get married by the government and not be considered married to a church. They aren’t the same thing.

          But yeah, the situation described by the OP warrants a firing to me – not because of the person’s religious beliefs, but because they are refusing to do a required aspect of their job (and the law). The officials in question are free to resign if they feel they cannot perform that service.

          1. oldfashionedlovesong*

            This is a real sticking point for me. A common argument popping up on my Facebook feed (ugh) is that “marriages are the domain of the church and not the government”.

            Well, first of all: that’s not true of all religions. My faith, the faith of my family, regards marriage as a purely secular event. Marriages do not take place in our houses of worship, and they are not officiated (or attended!) by our religious leaders. Scriptural passages may be read aloud by family elders during our very elaborate, cultural ritual-laden wedding ceremonies, but they are more like blessings of the couple and their life together than any sacrament binding the marriage. So… does this mean our marriages don’t count in the eyes of people who consider marriage the domain of the church?

            And second of all: the fact is that in the US there are real legal and financial benefits bestowed upon married couples that may not be available to those in civil partnerships, or that civil partners have to go through long, expensive legal battles to obtain, or that are available to differing degrees depending on your state of residence. That’s why we need a single definition of marriage: equitable treatment.

            1. BRR*

              Exactly, tell them to explain to me the extra thousand I got in my refund filing as married instead of single.

      3. Artemesia*

        This whole ‘religious freedom’ thing is just a strategy of the right wing to legalize bigotry by pretending it is about religion. Heck if I have a restaurant in Charleston and don’t want to serve blacks back in 1964, should I be able to make that a religious position? That is the strategy here and it extends beyond gay issues — it is the right wing trying to make equality and civil rights somehow oppressive to fundamentalist Christians. Same deal with pharmacists who ‘object to’ birth control.

        It is grotesque and I hope the courts beat it back; no one should have a job where they refuse to serve people who need the services for discriminatory reasons.

      4. The IT Manager*

        That’s the grand flaw in the religious argument. The Bible is just as clear that premarital sex and adultery is just as much a sin as homosexuality yet I have yet to hear of anyone refusing to serve un-married heterosexual couple because it is against their religion. These people might fervently believe that they oppose same sex marriage because they are opposed to sin but it is really because they fear or hate the other.

        As for religion, the Catholic* Church/priests have always had the right refuse to marry people. People getting married in a church must meet certain requirements: at least one member must be Catholic, they must attend pre-marital counseling with the priest, they cannot be legally divorced (only an annulment of a previous Catholic approved marriage makes one unencumbered for another Catholic marriage), and I think they have to agree to raise any children that result from the marriage as Catholics. So this legal ruling changes nothing for religions. The courthouse marriage that wasn’t recognized by the Catholic Church before as a Catholic marriage still won’t be a marriage as far as the Church is concerned. So that government official should just get to issuing marriage licenses.

        * I’m Catholic so it is what I know, but I assume other religions also have the right to refuse couples that they do not approve of for some reason.

        1. LJL*

          This is exactly the argument that I used. My husband is Catholic; I”m not. We got married in my church and would not have had any rationale to sue the Catholic church for not marrying us. We could have also got married civilly at the courthouse.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Exactly, and the kicker is this: the priest can refuse to perform a Catholic wedding, but he cannot stop the couple from going to the courthouse and getting a marriage license. And he should not be able to.

          If you make marriage a legal status under the law and attach legal conditions to it, then it has to be the same for every person who can legally enter into it. Religion is a personal choice that has nothing to do with law. The people trying to claim it violates their Constitutional rights are ignoring the fact that the Constitution says you can’t legislate religious beliefs. That cuts it out of the equation right there.

        3. asteramella*

          All religious leaders (not just Catholic) have the right to refuse to marry people for any reason. Government employees do not.

    3. Kelly L.*

      My guess is that some may be able to get away with it for at least a while, if their immediate supervisors are sympathetic. Long term, I doubt it.

    4. Malissa*

      I think in this case asking for a transfer out of the licensing office would be a good religious accommodation. Given that the people who issue the licenses are usually classified as clerical workers they are the ones with the best ability to transfer to another department where they don’t have to do things that are against their beliefs.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Good luck with that, though; there might not be a place to transfer them to, which could open up a whole other can of worms for them to make claims about. I would wonder what else they’re going to object to even if you could.

        The problem with these people is that they want everything to be fair for them but they don’t give a rat’s ass if it’s fair for anybody else.

      2. Treena*

        But where does it end? Every office a clerk could work in would be serving the gay population. This opens up the possibility that they don’t have to serve them in any capacity because Religion.

    5. some1*

      From what I understand, the only to force the hand on this is for the couples to sue their county. That means taxpayer money will be used to defend a position that they will probably lose, which I think is a horrible use of resources.

      1. Anonymousterical*

        The insurance company who insures the county covers legal costs (attorneys, court fees, all of it), unless the insurance companies denies coverage. The taxpayers just help pay for insurance. IANAL but I used to be an insurance defense paralegal. :)

        1. some1*

          True, I worked for a City that was self-insured, so I forget that all govt entities aren’t

    6. fposte*

      Functionally speaking, they can do that until somebody fires them over it. Of course there are various state-level kerfuffles about legal exemptions that would protect, etc., which will work their way through the courts, but ultimately it comes down to not whether it’s illegal but whether there’s somebody with firing power who chooses to do something about it. Same as with other forms of discrimination–plenty of people do it even when it’s illegal.

    7. Jerzy*

      As a former government worker, there are, unfortunately, a lot of workers in the public realm have a “that’s not my job attitude” about ANYTHING not specifically in their job description. I think, for some, at least, the idea of being able to pick and choose what you do is an open option.

      However, if issuing marriage licenses IS explicitly part of your duties and you refuse to do it, you are being derelict in your duties, and can, and should be penalized/fired for that.

      Freedom of religion means you can practice your religion without it being infringed upon by the state, but it does not mean you get to infringe upon the rights of others.

    8. Retail Lifer*

      They’d be fired or reprimanded if they refused to issue a license to an African American couple or a Catholic couple. I don’t see how this is any different except for the fact that being gay is (not yet) a protected class.

      1. fposte*

        They should be, but in practice, that’s far from a certainty. Somebody would have to know, for one; somebody would have to make a complaint; somebody would have to act on that complaint.

    9. oldfashionedlovesong*

      I think — or rather I hope– that like so much, it would come down to interpretation. So if someone were fired over this, the firing wouldn’t be because of their religious belief, the firing would be because they refused to fulfill the essential duties of their position mandated by law, and subsequently refused to leave that position. (That someone will then probably spend the rest of their life saying the government fired them because they’re religious, but that would just not be factually correct, even if that’s what they sincerely believe or feel.)

      I think it is worth considering parallel hypotheticals: what if someone refuses to give a marriage license to an interracial couple, or an infertile heterosexual couple (since one common argument against gay marriage is that the purpose of marriage is procreation)? What should happen to that employee?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        If you would fire them for not doing their job, then the outcome should be the same. They’re not doing what you hired them to do. It doesn’t matter why they disagree with the couple’s marriage; their job is to issue licenses to people who are legally allowed to get married. The end.

    10. Mike C.*

      No they can’t, and it’s only a matter of time before a federal court finds them in contempt. Furthermore, if it’s against your religion to perform a primary function of your job, then you need to find a new one especially when that job is fulfilling the civil rights of others.

      1. Ineloquent*

        For the record, as a mormon I find it very interesting to think abouth this whole issue. My personal beliefs do not mirror my religion’s stance in this regard – I personally believe in man’s free agency and the right to make choices, which means that they need the legal freedom to do as they will and make the laws that they desire to make. Also, I’m straight so it doesn’t in any way directly affect my life. But the uproar! It’s astonishing and offensive to me! Guys, people have pointed it here already, but just because homosexual marriage is legal now does not mean that Mormons will have to allow them to happen in their temples or whatnot. Legally recognized marriage is totally different from the religious sacrament of marriage, and this ruling does not affect the latter – just because some FLDS guy says that his marraige to 5 women is valid does not mean that the government agrees. Furthermore, Article of Faith #12 is regarded as scripture and is a central tenet of our faith: We follow the law. This is the law – we must obey it. And why the crap do we have to be slinging around so much bloody hate and vitrol? What happened to love one another?

        Rant over, thanks for listening. This has been bugging me since the bishop’s son in law got up in church and started spewing bigoted crap everywhere.

    11. Kassy*

      I live in Missouri. A couple of our judges are refusing to marry anyone in light of the ruling. The AP article in our local paper says this:
      “While officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses must grant them to same-sex couples after last month’s Supreme Court decision, Missouri judges have the option to perform weddings, although codes guiding judicial conduct prohibit them from discriminating.”

      So no, I don’t think there’s much choice in the matter at this point for clerks. Ours waited a while on updated forms that didn’t say “husband” and “wife,” but they are issuing them now.

      1. Lucky*

        Only slightly related, but when I was a law clerk for a judge in a Washington superior court, the judges were allowed each to decide whether or not to perform marriages, full stop. This was before we had marriage equality here, it was simply a choice of convenience or preference of the judges — some loved to do weddings (seriously, two of them made it clear to all the law clerks that they would marry anyone, anytime – just a couple of true romantics) and some saw it as a hassle. But, I have no idea if that policy changes in 2012.

        On the other hand, our judges also performed adoption finalizations, and it was an open secret within the court that one judge would not finalize adoptions by same sex couples. Since these were scheduled in advance on a single weekly calendar, it was easy to shift those adoptions to a different judge with no inconvenience to the parties. Also, adoption hearings were the best, so stuffy conservative jerk judge (not a judge anymore btw) missed out on the only calendar that guaranteed that all parties would walk out of the courtroom smiling.

        1. fposte*

          My dad was an adoption lawyer; I grew up on tales on judges that loved adoption hearings and had chats with the kids.

          But I think the judges’ discretion to perform weddings or not isn’t going to hold up under the law if they selectively opt out based on illegal discrimination. A few diehards will likely quit officiating at weddings, period, rather than be told what to do, and I’d just as soon they did that rather than ruin somebody’s wedding day.

          1. Lucky*

            Agreed, picking and choosing which type of weddings you will do won’t fly. As for the the judge who wouldn’t do adoptions, my impression was that the other judges covered for his glassbowl-ness in order to avoid a decision forcing him to do adoptions for same sex couples and ultimately ruin a lot of happy days. Maybe not legally correct, but expedient.

        2. PontoonPirate*

          I got to watch a day’s worth of National Adoption Day proceedings once; I was even tasked with handing roses to the new forever families afterwords. Not a damn dry eye in the courtroom.

    12. Apollo Warbucks*

      The law only requires reasonable accommodation from employers so I don’t think that some one would get very far in claiming a religious exemption in these circumstances.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I agree. I always think of it like this: when I worked in retail, I had personal/ethical objections to some of the items sold. However, as a cashier I could not refuse to ring someone up because I didn’t agree with the fact that they were buying the item. (FTR, I am not equating marriage with buying a life partner, but they are both ultimately connected to property rights, so maybe it’s more apt than I meant to be.) I still had to ring up the purchase and treat the customer like I would any other. If my objections were strong enough, I would have to ask to be placed in another position or find a new job. (This is a reason that it irks me so much when pharmacists are allowed to decide that they don’t feel like filling certain prescriptions based on moral objections (as opposed to patient health/safety) – it’s not their call. And if they didn’t want to do it, they knew that going in.)

        Also, I don’t get to decide which laws I will and won’t obey based on my religion. If that were the case, couldn’t I just start a religion that didn’t “believe” in any laws that I didn’t want to follow? (I know this is a ridiculous example, but I’ve heard plenty of ridiculous arguments the other way.)

        1. fposte*

          But there are states where it *is* legal for people to refuse to sell items based on their religious beliefs–I’m thinking of pharmacists and the morning after pill there. It’s going to be a bad precedent.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I bet someone will delve into the difference between the government arena and the business arena. I think we are all aware of how government is not run like a business… at all.

          2. Pinkie Pie Chart*

            This makes me crazy in my head! I don’t think a pharmacist should be able to deny medication because they don’t want to give it to you. If it will interact poorly with something else you take, fine. But not personal preference. And religious exemptions are effectively personal preference.

    13. Katie the Fed*

      Do you know how many boneheaded things this government does that I don’t agree with? I don’t have the luxury of not doing my job because I think there’s a bad policy decision (cough…iraq…cough). If I object that strongly, I’m free to quit my job.

      I’m part of the executive branch. Our job is to execute policy, not make it.

      1. Natalie*

        This is my argument against the Hyde Amendment. Fine, no government funded abortions because they’re against your beliefs? I’ll take back the full 50% of my tax money that funds the military, then, thanks!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I saw subsidized programs for teaching people with developmental disabilities how to masturbate. (The idea being it would help them to calm down.)Even with setting religious teachings to one side, I still had lots of questions about that, but no one seemed to have answers. Taxpayer dollars.

        1. Natalie*

          This is getting sort of off-topic, but I wonder if they were actually hoping to teach them to masturbate *safely* and in a socially acceptable manner. When my step mom worked with developmentally disabled women, her clients would routinely injure themselves using unsafe objects to masturbate with. She was not able to get the Catholic organization she was working for on board with buying them some safe sex toys, which is a shame IMO. Adults are going to jerk it, whether we like it or not.

          1. fallingleaves*

            Yeah, I work in the special education field and have done a fair amount of reading on sex ed for people with disabilities. It’s important to teach safe and socially acceptable practices. In addition to not using dangerous items (I read one study that listed some very cringe-inducing items), there are appropriate times and places. It’s really not sufficient to focus only on stopping public masturbation without providing appropriate alternatives. That’s just going to cause frustration which could manifest in all sorts of problematic ways. Sex drives happen and everyone should have a safe, appropriate way to address them.

    14. Anonymous Educator*

      As a Christian who (now shamefully) used to believe fervently that being gay was a sin, I call BS on this whole “I can’t marry gay people because of my religious beliefs” line of thinking. If you follow the actual beliefs of the evangelical church, in the eyes of God, one “sin” is just as bad as another (James 2:10). And do conservative evangelical Christians refuse to marry adulterers, divorcees, hypocrites, embezzlers, rapists? No, not really. If they see a female-presenting person and a male-presenting person, they’ll marry those two regardless of what “sins” those two have committed, but not gay people? Makes no sense. It is not against even conservative theology to marry two “sinners,” never mind the separation of church and state.

      1. Chickaletta*

        As another Christian, I wonder if these people are actually reading the Bible. Actually, I know they are, but they are being told how to interpret it. I know this for a fact because I used to be the conservative/evangelical type so I know exactly how this information gets planted in their heads. But I also believe that God gave us brains and hearts with the intention that we use them. Jesus actually gave us only two commandments in the New Testament: Love God and Love each other. He never told us to judge each other or treat certain people differently, if anything He always says the opposite.

        That, plus, America was founded on the basis of separation of church and state, so I really hope that any government worker who thinks they can perform their job according to their religious beliefs gets set straight. Think about it like this: if a conservative Muslim worked at the DMV, could he refuse to grant drivers licences to women if he doesn’t think women should drive? Of course not. Conservative Christians would be in an outrage. So they shouldn’t turn around and do the same type of thing.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yes, everything you said!

          Jesus actually gave us only two commandments in the New Testament: Love God and Love each other.

          I would actually make a stronger case that he was asked what is the greatest commandment, and those were the top two (greatest and second greatest). Judging “sinners” or refusing to marry people you dislike definitely does not rank up there in the top two (or the top ten or the top anything).

          The Sheep and the Goats parable is also a good one. Did you clothe me? Did you visit me in jail? Did you feed me? None of this “Did you refuse to marry people you thought were sinning?”

        2. Charlotte Collins*

          Also, Catholic theology does allow for a separation of secular and religious behavior. You can do something to support behavior that you consider immoral if it is a condition of employment. (So, to cite the medieval example, a servant might have to bring notes to his employer’s mistress. He is supporting the employer’s adultery even if he morally disagrees and would not commit such a thing himself.)

        3. Ezri*

          “He never told us to judge each other or treat certain people differently, if anything He always says the opposite.”

          This. This is what ticks me off. I’m a Christian, and my understanding of the Bible tells me that we are all imperfect in some way. We don’t get to point at other people and say “you are going to hell, and you aren’t”, because none of us is without sin. You are supposed to worry about yourself, and treat everyone else with respect.

          There are several modern churches that have gotten the notion that the best way to prevent people from sinning is to control their communities. That’s where we get women having to cover up so men aren’t tempted, kids being forced to only hang out with Christians, and even federal laws ‘defending’ Christian beliefs. But that doesn’t fix anything, and if anything it makes things worse because it teaches people avoidance rather than self-control.

          As an aside, I think Christians need something better than Leviticus to oppose gay marriage. My Bible is fuzzier than I’d like, but I’m pretty sure those sections of the Old Testament also ban mixed-material clothing and force menstruating women to live outside the camp while they are ‘unclean’. Not to mention that the point of all those rules wasn’t strictly moral – it was to keep that tiny, insular civilization alive long enough that Jesus could be born at the chosen time.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Well, the commands about mixed materials and menstruation aren’t repeated in the New Testament. But when mentioned in the NT, it tends to be included in a list that also includes things like adultery, drunkenness, and thievery.

            Nonetheless, and in spite of all the noise, evangelical Christians aren’t a solid block of bigotry. Many of us are quietly trying to show love and respect to all, but quiet respect doesn’t usually make the news.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          But I also believe that God gave us brains and hearts with the intention that we use them. Jesus actually gave us only two commandments in the New Testament: Love God and Love each other. He never told us to judge each other or treat certain people differently, if anything He always says the opposite.

          YES YES YES YES

          Another thing they don’t get when they bring up “But murder is wrong and it’s against the law!” is that those are MORAL tenets, not religious ones. Way back before anyone had any concept of God or Christianity, people living in groups had rules. You had to in order to survive–you don’t steal food from the tribe, you don’t run around killing everybody, etc. etc. Because humans sometimes suck, of course you’re going to have some who break the rules, and then there have to be consequences. But almost every society, religious or otherwise, has some version of morality.

          1. Natalie*

            Only 2 of the ten commandments violate civil law. That’s not exactly a winning percentage.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I’m not necessarily referring to the Ten Commandments. There are a lot of things that apply. My point is that behaving in a civilized way toward fellow humans doesn’t depend on religion.

              1. Natalie*

                Oh, sure, I guess I just jumped the commandments because that’s usually what I hear referenced.

        5. Ann Furthermore*

          Think about it like this: if a conservative Muslim worked at the DMV, could he refuse to grant drivers licences to women if he doesn’t think women should drive? Of course not. Conservative Christians would be in an outrage. So they shouldn’t turn around and do the same type of thing.

          OMG. This is such an awesome way to put it. I can’t wait to use this logic on a couple of fire-breathing evangelical types I know.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This is kind of how I feel about the whole cake thing, or pizza thing—how the hell would you even know if the people you’re serving committed a “sin”? Granted, a gay couple might be a little bit more obvious, but come on. If you’re objecting to serving particular customers on the grounds that they’re sinners, then you might as well shut up shop, because I guaranteed EVERY one of your customers has sinned somehow.

        Even more stupid is “love the sinner; hate the sin.” That does not mean you treat someone who sinned like crap; it means you recognize that they sinned and pray for them. People are just using religion as an excuse for bigotry.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yes, yes, yes. If you cannot pass out marriage licenses to gay people then you cannot give them to murderers, thieves, addicts etc, either. Guess what? Most of us have stolen a candy bar when we were kids (theft). Most of us have all spoken badly about someone (murder), and most of us have to have our ice cream (addiction). (Parenthesis indicate what the action could be construed as.)

          What I want to know is why single out one or several groups of people and let the rest slide? And where do we draw the line or do we just keep excluding more and more people?

          If a job requires you to do something against your religion or your beliefs than you must quit the job. It’s pretty straightforward. If you know the job requires X when you apply for it and X is against your beliefs then why, oh why, would you put in an application for that job?

          Jesus said, above all else love each other. I am not seeing a lot of love going on in some sectors.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Agreed–and leaving religion out of it entirely, if my job asked me to do something illegal, I would probably quit also. We’ve actually discussed that on here before, I think, though I can’t recall the letter that opened the topic.

      3. asteramella*

        Not to quibble, but many of those with religious objections to same-sex marriage do not care to marry a “female-presenting person” to a “male-presenting person” if one or both of those persons are transgender. And in fact marriages between men and women have been annulled due to one partner’s transgender status, using the same reasoning: that it’s a “same-sex” wedding. Google Gwen Araujo, she was a trans woman married to a cis man whose marriage was annulled after she tried to sue for wrongful death when her husband was killed. The defense argued that she was “male” and thus their marriage was same-sex and against TX law. The court agreed.

    15. De Minimis*

      It will probably have to be done through the federal courts for some of the smaller more rural areas, similar to desegregation. In my home state they don’t seem to have any problem with continuing to waste taxpayer dollars on things that obviously unconstitutional.

      1. _ism_*

        I am very curious if there are resources enabling one to see how many same-sex marriage license have been issued in a particular locale where it wasn’t already legal in the state. Anybody?

        1. fposte*

          Possibly, but it wouldn’t be public this fast; you might have to physically go to individual counties for public records to search.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          That’s called going under the radar. I doubt too many people would be interested in having such a marriage license because they would still have to fight every inch of the way for legal protections as each situation occurred. It would be a piece of paper with nothing behind it.

        3. Turanga Leela*

          There was a bizarre situation in New Mexico a few years ago. It wasn’t clear whether the state allowed gay marriage or not (they had never authorized it, but there were no laws against it), and some local county clerks started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex counties. They effectively got marriage equality one county at a time until the state supreme court legalized it statewide.

    16. Not helpful*

      It is time to separate the legal aspect from the religious/spiritual aspect of marriage.
      First you go to a government office and fill out the paperwork and you now have a legal union of two people. This is all you need to do to be “married” in the eyes of the law.
      Then if you want/need the religious/spiritual/sacramental element you go to the pastor of your choice and have the wedding.

      1. Melissa*

        That’s already pretty much the way that it works. You do have to certify that you said some words, but it doesn’t have to be in a big religious ceremony – a justice of the peace or some other official can have you say the words in 5 minutes in front of them, sign the paperwork, then you fill out a few more papers and you’re done.

        1. TootsNYC*

          True. The only thing that combines them is that clergy members are empowered to serve as the law’s representative. They can “solemnize” the marriage and serve as the legal witness -instead of- a justice of the peace or judge.

          That’s what would change, in a true separation. The clergy would lose that power or responsibility. Interesting to think of what that might do to all the people who’ve done online things to be wedding officiants.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            I was at a friend’s wedding in London earlier this year. At one point they paused the traditional Sikh ceremony and said “we will now conduct the legally required civil ceremony”. It made me realise that this has been part of every religious marriage ceremony I’ve attended, but all the others were some version of Christian and it didn’t really stand out in the same way (the civil ceremony, at least in the UK, uses wording that’s fairly similar to standard Christian marriage ceremony wording). Combining the two into one event makes sense to me, and you can just do the civil ceremony as a stand-alone if you’re not religious, as my husband and I did at our wedding.

          2. Jen RO*

            I’m not American, and I never actually realized that a clergy member can legally marry a couple… (In my country, it goes exactly like Not helpful said.)

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              Part of this has to do with US history. In the early days, a lot of people would have had to travel quite far for any kind of official government wedding. It was a lot easier to get married by the local minister. (Or circuit preacher – this was someone who would travel around from community to community performing weddings and baptisms on a regular basis. Some towns would only see this person once or twice a year.)

        1. Mike C.*

          It’s more of an issue with how to deal with the dissolution of said union in terms of property, alimony, custody of any children, inheritance and so on. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but holy cow are you talking about a sticky legal situation.

    17. _ism_*

      I bet we’ll be seeing a lot of local courts having to update and expand these job descriptions to make it absolutely clear this is the law and this is the job. (I don’t know, maybe they already are?)

    18. pony tailed wonder*

      In the 90’s, we had a local pharmacist in our town refuse to issue Plan B to a teen girl who had been gang raped and the pharmacist thought it was God’s will that a child be born. I am through with the kind of thinking that if you serve the public you can pick and choose which public you want to deal with.

        1. pony tailed wonder*

          I wish I could. But people protested in front of that pharmacy for quite a while and the Walgreens across the street from it got a lot of transferred prescriptions. People have long memories in this town and when you drive down the street and see both businesses across the street from one another, the Walgreens parking lot is always fuller than the other.

      1. Private vs. Public*

        That is a private business, not government. Stupid business move, but that is his prerogative.

        1. Anonsie*

          There are a lot of legal regulations for those of us in healthcare professions, however, about what we are required or forbidden to do. On top of that are the professional standards, which are not the government directly but do go back to legal regulations (such as licensing). The question when these pharmacy cases come up is, if it’s not illegal to decline to fill such a prescription, should it be illegal? Does it violate the professional standards to which a pharmacist is held, and by extension their legal ability to be in the profession?

        2. Anna*

          And in some places if you are a business open to the public, whether or not you’re privately owned, you are required to serve the public without discrimination. See the bakery owners in Oregon who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. They broke the law by refusing to do business with them and suffered the consequences.

    19. Nerdling*

      In some places, county clerk is an elected position. This means they can be held in contempt, they can be sued, they can resign, but they cannot be fired, as such. They can be impeached by the legislature, but I don’t see that happening in our state.

      One county clerk in our state wants the governor to call a special session of the legislature for bills to be written regarding the issue. The governor declined due to the massive costs to taxpayers that would be involved. Regarding the $60K per DAY that taxpayers would be footing the bill for in a special session, the county clerk is quoted as saying, “What cost do you put on freedom?” As a steward of federal taxpayer money, color me unimpressed with his fiduciary sense.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        “What cost do you put on freedom?” Well, we can give people the freedom to be treated equally without spending money or we could spend and absurd amount of money to take the freedom away. So it sounds like freedom is going to end up pretty darn cheap, isn’t it?

        1. Nerdling*

          Sad thing is that I think the clerk wouldn’t be ousted by a recall vote, same as I don’t think the legislature would move to impeach. Although that may be my current lack of faith in humanity speaking.

    20. Ranting Atheist*

      A perspective on this behavior:

      I’m an Atheist. My religious beliefs are so opposed to the religious beliefs of *any other* religion that there’s just no contest. I reject religion entirely. I embrace the worst possible sin: I violate the First Commandment by saying that I believe there is no God. When my sins are compared to a Christian lesbian or gay, I don’t see how there can be any comparison. By Christian standards (and, indeed, the tenants of the vast majority of organized religions) being an atheist is far worse than being gay.

      I’m married. I got married because it gives me and my spouse certain government benefits.
      I don’t care about the social aspect of it, and lived “in sin” with my now-husband for about 10 years before marrying him. We married when it because more of a potential financial benefit for both of us than a potential financial loss. Obviously, as an Atheist, I don’t care about the religious-sacrament aspect of marriage at all (neither does my husband). My marriage has nothing to do whatsoever with religion. I’m basically an unbeliever taking mercenary financial advantage of a program the government instituted (in part) to promote a certain lifestyle and set of religious beliefs, without actually following that lifestyle (I am not having kids, and am in fact sterilized) or the associated religious beliefs about it being a sacrament.

      There are no government clerks refusing to hand out marriage licenses to (heterosexual) sterile Atheists. There’s no checkbox you’re required to fill out on the marriage forms about ability to have children, nor belief in a religion. To me, that says: either the government clerks refusing licenses to gays and lesbians are appalling ignorant of their own religion and ought to be refusing many other “objectionable” marriages, like mine. Or, those government clerks are using the fig leaf of religion to try to defend their non-religious hatred of gays and lesbians.

      In either case, the associated religions ought to be ashamed. Either they’ve profoundly failed to instill their values in these clerks so that they recognize all the “unacceptable” forms of marriage that they thing should be blocked. Or they’re being used as a shield for repulsive behavior.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I actually don’t think of marriage as a religious institution so much as a societal one.
        The idea of property and inheritances; providing support for minors; etc. Even a completely athetistic society would have a purpose for marriage.

        They might not wrap it in morality (though they might as well–I don’t think atheism rejects all morals; breaking a promise is frowned on by the atheists I know, so the idea behind having a covenant of fidelity with a spouse is not automatically religious).

        But they have a use for it.

    21. AE*

      The Religion Clause Blog covers cases relating to this issue. Whether you could be fired depends on several factors, even if it’s a government job.

      Mainly, if there are other people who could fill in without undue hardship to the unit, then the employer should accommodate the request not to do the task. Considering that after the first year or two of legalization, gay marriages would account for only about 5% of the marriage licensing, it would be a stretch to say that it would be an undue hardship on coworkers.

      If there aren’t other people who could fill in, then the way that the task and objection are communicated would come into play and the legality of firing the person would depend on the specifics and the evidence presented.

    22. Melissa*

      My thoughts are unrelated to the legality of the issue, but more from a moral/logical standpoint. I grew up Christian, and most of the most vocal on this issue are Christian. First of all, whether Christianity actually prohibits/sanctions same-sex sexual behavior is debatable – there are two vague verses thrown around that are interpreted by some in a way to say that it does, but many Christians disagree on that. I think that is reason alone to not allow people to refuse to do their jobs on the basis of “religious belief.”

      Still, let’s even say that someone has a sincerely-held religious belief that same-sex sexual behavior and marriage is a sin/wrong/whatever. First of all, there’s nothing in Christianity that prevents people from associating with others who are suspected of committing sins. Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors (usually guilty of usury, back in the day) and all kinds of sinners all the time. If one doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage, they don’t have to get married, but there’s nothing in Christianity that tells them they can’t hang out with others who get married or participate in marrying a same-sex couple or even just issuing the license in the course of their jobs.

      The other thing is that Christians service other kinds of sinners all the time. The Bible DOES explicitly say that certain sins aren’t worse than other sins (I think Catholics do have a traditional of different levels of sin, but Protestants don’t in theory, although in practice of course they do). I’ve never heard of Protestant judges refusing to marry people who have been divorced already, or a cake baker asking people if they committed fornication or adultery before they got married and refusing to marry them, or other officials refusing to marry people who have lied or stolen or coveted their neighbor’s possessions or anything else. This is the ONLY sin that people seem to be willing to refuse to do their jobs over, and I think that’s hypocritical. In that case it becomes clear that it’s not about the religious belief, but it’s about the personal/moral conviction that 1) one has the right to judge and 2) one has judged this “sin” to be worse than all others and worthy of rejecting people. But God definitely said don’t judge unless you want to be judged harshly too.

      But even beyond all of that, I don’t think that people have the right to use their religion to discriminate against other people. Your right to practice your religious beliefs should stop when it materially affects someone else.

      1. AE*

        Yup, they have a knee-jerk reaction of revulsion at the idea of having sex with someone of their sex, then try to find a justification for that reaction… then demonize anyone who doesn’t find it revolting because that would mean they might be wrong, and if they’re wrong about one thing, could they be wrong about everything?

        Black-and-white thinking is a hallmark of fundamentalism and it’s very destructive.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        A Catholic priest told a friend that she could not get married in white because no one is virgin anymore when they marry. White gowns are for virgins.

        I think it’s more like he would not be performing wedding ceremonies if he could only marry virgins, so he had to come up with something/anything to make his little point.

      3. TootsNYC*

        Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors (usually guilty of usury, back in the day) and all kinds of sinners all the time.

        One thing about this–He called them to repentance. He didn’t encourage and condone their sin.

        1. CA Admin*

          Yes, He did. But He also told us not to judge one another. He can call them to repentance, but we cannot. That’s not our job, it’s His.

            1. Steve G*

              I have to agree with TootsNYC – the story of stone/casting/not judging was about a woman who committed adultery and the story ends with Jesus saying “go and sin no more.” He wasn’t down with the sin.

      4. Steve G*

        The flaw in your argument with the “Christians service other kinds of sinners” is that most other sins are one time or temporary (perhaps ongoing) transgressions that are not visible to other people. You don’t walk around saying “I am an adulterer” as soon as you cheat on your wife, and if you did, then maybe some of those crazy Christians would indeed deny you service as well, so I don’t think it’s fair to say homosexuality is the only “sin” conservative Christians would deny service over.

    23. Kelly*

      Some states have laws protecting pharmacists from filling prescriptions that are against their religious consciences to fill like birth control and Plan B. I lived in South Dakota and Michigan, which had that rule, for several years and never had any problems getting my birth control filled. I used corporate pharmacies and their internal HR policies may have made them fill any prescription, even it conflicted with their religious views.

      I’m not a fan of the conscience/religion exemption for certain professions (pharmacists, government workers). I worked at a grocery store after college and was still a semi-vegetarian (only eating fish). I had to handle meat products even thought at the time, I didn’t consume much meat. It was my job and I had to handle meat if I wanted a paycheck. Pharmacists and government workers are also getting a paycheck. If they don’t want to hand out birth control or issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, then they should lose their jobs and someone with more open minded views can have them. I’m sure that if it came down to their conscience or paying off their mortgage/student loans, etc, paying off the student loans would win out.

      1. AE*

        The spate of new RFRA laws (and the original one) beg to differ. No matter how silly, a sincerely held belief must be accommodated unless to do so would put undue hardship on the workplace. The government has to have a very compelling interest to override that when a government policy goes against religious belief.

        1. June*

          Agree, it is interesting that those espouse ‘choice’, want to deny others the choice to follow their conscience.

    24. asteramella*

      This is a question many people are asking and one the Supreme Court may ultimately answer.

      There are limits to using the first amendment as a defense for refusing service. Google the Piggy Park decision–stating that a restaurant owner could not justify refusing service to black people with “my religion prohibits mixing of the races.”

      The next wave of legal decisions will probably deal with this issue and with state- and federal-level protections against employment and housing discrimination.

    25. Anx*

      This is a little off tangent, but I did have some empathy for private businesses being boycotted or receiving pressure from the state to provide services related to weddings and marriages they objected to only because those very states were discriminatory. I didn’t feel like a 3-person small business needed to be held to a higher standard than the state.

  2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    This week in My Boss Is A Lunatic: He and his family just returned from ten days in Italy. Upon his return we asked “So, did you learn any Italian?” And he said proudly “Yes! Como estas?”

    Later that day he asked “Hey! Is your dad better yet?” Well, it’s cancer, not the flu, so no. Not better yet. But thank you for asking.

    Boss’s wife, who is a loon in her own right, asked me “I noticed you’ve been wearing a lot of skirts lately. Is there a reason for that?” Not other than it being summer and hot and I like them, no. “Did you know in some cultures women wear skirts a lot when trying to get pregnant, in order to keep their energy flowing.” I don’t even know what to DO WITH THAT. Other than note it down for a good story one day!

    1. Thinking out loud*

      Wow. “Did you know that in some cultures, it’s totally inappropriate to ask if a woman is attempting to get pregnant?”

    2. Future Analyst*

      Wow. Just wow. I can’t quite tell who’s worse between the two. And commenting on you wearing skirts often is just weird.

      I had an assistant manager (who I’ve talked to maybe 1.5 times ever) tell me that I’m a breeder (WTF does that even mean?), and that I should have her next kid for her. I brought this on myself by mentioning that I would be out for maternity leave starting today. ??? People, ugh.

      1. LBK*

        Not sure if this makes sense in the context but “breeder” is occasionally a pejorative term used in the gay community to describe straight people.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Yes, that’s how I think of it. I had a close gay friend years ago who would use the expression “breeder” that way, which just annoyed the crap out of me. He tried over and over again to explain to me how it wasn’t really an offensive term. I disagreed and he thought I was being too touchy. But then he would get really bent out of shape whenever anyone who was not gay would use the term “queer.”

      2. VictoriaHR*

        “Breeder” typically means someone who wants children, to those who are childfree by choice or are unable to have biological children.

          1. Carrington Barr*

            Not “typically”. Occasionally, in a deprecatory way, and usually in response to a display of shitty or non-existing parenting.

            Remember, there are “breeders” and there are “parents”.

            1. Melissa*

              Depends on how hardcore the childfree person is. I’ve seen some childfree people call all people with children “breeders.”

              And regardless of the distinction, it’s still an inappropriate and pejorative term.

      3. Snargulfuss*

        Ugh, I’m having flashbacks to A Handmaid’s Tale. (I appreciate Atwood as a writer and the themes of the book, but I really hated the plot.)

    3. OfficePrincess*

      Well, at least you can still find humor in this nonsense. I’m not sure how I would have kept a straight face for either the “como estas” or the skirt thing.

    4. Carrie in Scotland*

      Oh FDCA, they are funny but I’m sorry you have such an awful boss. Continued positive thoughts for you & your family.

    5. Pineapple Incident*

      I have no response for these- very weird..

      As a totally unrelated aside, your username makes me laugh because we had a patient here a couple months ago who doctors were trying to convince to stop drinking so much diet coke. As in, it was likely the cause of his main chronic health issues. The man never drank water, only had cereal with milk for breakfast, and the only liquids he consumed for the rest of the day were diet coke in various bottle sizes, to the tune of about 5-6 liters per day. Good for you being a former diet coke addict!

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Good god. I’ve cut way way down on my habit, but even at my worst I was never anywhere near that level of consumption. I’m now down to 2 a day. One with lunch, one with dinner. And water the rest of the time. I might sneak an additional one here and there on the weekends, but for the most part, it’s 2 a day.

        1. chilledcoyote*

          In high school, my friend’s mom started having heart palpitations at one point, and when she went to the doctor about it, it turned out that it was her 2L+/day Dr. Pepper consumption. I learned early about soda, it was scary!

          1. Ruffingit*

            I’ve had a bad soda habit for years now. Just recently went off them completely, which I’ve done before at various times throughout my life. Was off them for years at some point. Anyway, I’m feeling SO MUCH BETTER just drinking water and tea.

    6. Bee*

      I had a colleague ask me once why I wore long sleeves and cardigans, and that I should show some skin. I just rolled up my sleeves and showed my eczema scarred arms. It shut her up real quick.

    7. CM*

      To be fair, “Come sta?” sounds a lot like “Como estas?”
      And some people aren’t so good with knowing what to say to others who are in a tough situation.
      The skirt thing, though, I have no defense for…

    8. Miss Kitty Fantastico*

      I’m so sorry about your dad!!

      On the TOTAL OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM, your second paragraph made me laugh out loud (for real). ….That is a thing I have never heard before…

    9. Technical Editor*

      I would read your blog titled “My Boss in a Lunatic.” Sounds like a great read every week!

    10. Jillociraptor*

      I’m so glad you can find humor in this (and share it with us). These anecdotes are hilarious and awful.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      “Oh. are you back from Italy so soon? Do you plan on going again, REAL SOON?”

      My thoughts go out to you and yours. Please take good care of you.

  3. Blue Swan*

    My department just finished receiving our annual performance reviews and morale is in the gutter. While everyone acknowledges that we have things we need to work on, the general feeling is that our boss majorly missed the mark and sandbagged many of us.

    He now wants to take us out for lunch next week and it’s pretty obvious to all that it’s a half-hearted peace offering, but everyone is so disgusted with him that no one wants to go. We’ll probably just suck it up, but is there any way to politely tell our boss that now is not a good time?

    1. Future Analyst*

      Mmm. I don’t know– is there a way for you to collectively address the reviews? That might be more useful/get to the root of the problem more than just skipping lunch. I’m not sure how to approach it, but telling him that the group felt slighted by the reviews for XYZ (valid) reasons might be the way to go. (I.e. “You expressed concerns that none of us did significant work in teapot design this year. However, at the beginning of the year you expressly told us to focus on teapot manufacturing. What can we do going forward to avoid missing the mark/clarify on your expectations?”)

    2. TootsNYC*

      “Why don’t we wait and go in three months or so, when we’ve all had a chance to improve based on your feedback in our reviews?”

      1. Vacation Sub*

        Good call!
        Been to those office lunches – we had a big office lunch at a restaurant the day after we had been told there were no pay raises that year. Year, that was a happy meal!

        Or wait – even better – an annual end of season party had been planned at an upper managements house. Five hours before the party, 8 people (of a 12 person staff) were laid off!

        1. ElCee*

          That last one is just cruel! I am generally not a vengeful person, but if I’d been laid off then encouraged/forced to go the party I would have accidentally spilled a bag of concrete into one of the toilets.

        2. Ruffingit*

          UGH. That happened to my husband’s boss. He was fired the day of the Christmas party. Such a downer for the rest of the crew because he was generally a good guy.

    3. Adam*

      This is a personal pet peeve of mine to the point where I might be kind of irrational about it. Annual performance evaluations reflect a year’s worth of work, growth, and dealing with the day-to-day tribulations of the workplace. The level of weight they hold varies from workplace to workplace but they are often tied to advancement opportunities and raises. Giving a lousy review (when none is merited) is not made up for by one lousy lunch.

      As for how to deal with it, the best I can say is approach him and ask him to put a hold on the idea and maybe discuss the impact of the reviews and see if you can get a better understanding of his reasoning and how the staff agrees or disagrees with that.

      1. Akwardly Anon*

        Good god me too. My manager has tried to placate me with goodies, and I have no appetite for it. I just want to do my work and leave at the end of the day.

      2. AMT*

        I agree with Alison’s approach to this — I’m just not a big fan of periodic formal feedback in general. Employees shouldn’t be thinking, “I hope I get a good performance review so I can get promoted!” It should be more like, “I know I’m doing well because my boss gives me regular verbal feedback, and I’m glad that my chances of advancement are based on my supervisor’s and others’ observation of my performance rather than whatever arbitrary star x/10 rating my boss decided to assign to a particular skill of mine.”

    4. LBK*

      I think I’d say something like “I feel uncomfortable going to what feels like a celebratory lunch when I’ve just been given a pretty tough review – it will be hard to really enjoy it since I don’t feel like I deserve it based on your recent feedback. Could we maybe instead set up some time to really work out a plan to get me up to where I need to be to meet your standards, and then we can celebrate together once we’re both satisfied with my work performance?”

      I think positioning it as “We’re a team and I want my recognition to match my results” instead of “You’re my dbag boss that’s trying to butter me up after shooting me down” will get better results.

      1. Pill Helmet*

        I don’t know, this feels really guilt trip-y to me. I think it’s a great idea to ask to discuss a plan to meet his standards. But doing that in the midst of turning down an peace offering (albeit a lame one that won’t really make up for anything), kind of reads as boss gave an unfair review, so instead of directly discussing that she’s upset about it, she’s going to be passive aggressive and hint by declining his gesture and making woe-is-me / you should feel bad comments in the process.

        “You just told me I wasn’t performing well, so why on Earth would I accept a reward? I just wouldn’t feel good about it, and since I clearly don’t deserve it, based on your review of my work, I won’t enjoy it either. I hope you feel bad about how you handled this now.”

        I’m sure it’s not intended that way, but its how I read it and I’d probably stay away from that tactic with the boss.

        1. LBK*

          …huh? No, that is literally the exact opposite of what I meant with this. It’s intended to be really, really direct and make it clear that you’re taking the boss’s feedback into consideration and that you want to improve. I guess it depends how genuinely you can deliver it.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      If everyone’s reviews were bad, there might be pressure on him from above to avoid inflating scores.

      1. Clever Name*

        Yeah, and sometimes when there is “no money in the budget” (I use quotes, because somehow there’s always money for executive compensation and bonuses, but I digress) for raises, managers are told that people can’t be rated above a certain level because that would trigger raises. Or managers are told that they have to rate a department or division or whatever on a bell curve, so some people end up forced lower (or higher) to meet the pre-determined curve. (Don’t even get me started on this as a commitment to mediocrity).

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Oh, I know. My company just started doing the forced bell curve rankings this year. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. The whole idea just ticks me off though.

          1. FJ*

            My company still does forced bell curve rankings. But all the companies that started it in a similar industry have now gone away from it because it isn’t working for them. They are pretty ridiculous when the whole division has to be forced rank and you work in a particularly high performing group of it. We also have very little transparency about how the numbers work, what it means to get one number or another, and how it affects future promotions. It is the worst of both worlds.

    6. Blue Swan*

      I just wanted to pop in and sincerely thank everyone for their input- I found everyone’s points to be very thought-provoking and it did inspire some self-reflection.

  4. Sunflower*

    What are your thoughts on getting a certification if you aren’t even sure you want to stay in your field? In 2 months I will be eligible to take my CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) Exam(you need x years of experience/degree to take the test) However, I’m really not sure I want to stay in this field. If a job comes up that I am really interested in- great. But I’d like to ideally make a move into project management- if not now, then soon. Likelihood of my company paying for the certification isn’t very low. I know a lot of people want to get into event planning so I’m thinking might distinguish me out from any old person who hangs a sign on their door saying ‘Beatrice Jones- Event Planner’. Also, I’ve been feeling kind of low lately and hoping to make a move to a new city and I’m wondering if this test could be an encouragement for me? Any other event planners on here would be esp helpful!

    *ps- i posted this really late a couple weeks ago so it might look familiar!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I like having options. I’ll sometimes even pay to have them.

      That’s what this certification feels like to me–something that gives you the option to expand in a certain field.

      So, is it an option that would cost you a LOT of money? If it never comes to anything, will you resent the cash you forked out?

      And I like your idea to check and see if this option actually has any power at all. A driver’s license might be a good option for a NYC resident who doesn’t own a car and never needs to drive (if they ever needed to rent a car, it would be absolutely crucial); a master’s degree for a journalist wouldn’t (completely less effective than work experience, and expensive to boot).

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      Can you take the test at any point in the future once you have your x years of experience under your belt or do you have to take it while employed in the field? Is there one deadline per year or is it a rolling deadline?
      If it’s flexible, I would wait.

      1. Sunflower*

        You need to be employed in the field within 12 months of applying for the exam. Once I apply to take the exam, I have a year after that to actually complete it. If I left my job in the next few months for a non event planning job, I personally would have until May 2016 to apply and then I guess until May 2017 to actually take the exam. The test is offered every 3 months.

    3. Boogles*

      If you’re that close, I would get the cert. You never know what will be useful in the future.

  5. Con Man Pilot*

    I’m brainstorming a list of potential full-time jobs that are part of the customer service field, jobs with a good amount of interactions with customers/clients. Bonus points if they involve event planning/assistance. Any ideas besides the standard retail, food service, strictly phone-operator, and technical support jobs? Any help is greatly appreciated!

    1. Sunflower*

      Hotels and conference centers are a good place to look. Sales and Catering depts in hotels are almost always looking for admins and coordinators. Also check out some universities. I live in Philly and UPenn always has tons of coordinator jobs working with students or alumni. I’d say 70% of them deal with event planning of some sort. If you are willing to work in non-profits, those jobs usually have a lot of client interaction and involve event planning.

    2. Lizzy May*

      I’m a bank teller and while my position isn’t part time, some are. Also my manager is the Customer Service Manager for the branch and her role is full-time and most of her job is client interaction.

    3. Dawn*

      Some companies (I’m thinking Palantir in particular because I have seen a job posting for it) will hire internal event planners that organize morale boost stuff for employees or organize conferences/showcases for clients and whatnot. I don’t know where you’re located or if you’re willing to relocate but check out a lot of the big tech companies (IBM, Oracle, etc) as well as large-ish tech startups (like Palantir, as I mentioned) and look for coordinator jobs.

    4. LBK*

      Maybe working in a financial advisor’s office? Those roles can be heavily administrative, but do often involve a lot of calling the advisors’ clients to set up meetings, following up on initiatives and setting up special events for the big clients (the office I worked with for a while would do things like take their top 5 clients out to a baseball game in our company’s box seats).

    5. MostCommonLastName*

      There are a fair number of jobs like that in tourism. Tour guides, travel agents, even people in local tourism offices dealing with public enquiries and helping people plan their trips.

    6. Sabrina*

      Banquet Coordinator type jobs at an event hall or golf club that has weddings or other type of events. Basically anywhere with event space like a museum, art gallery, zoo, etc.

    7. cuppa*

      The public library. A lot of customer assistance/interaction and the opportunity to plan and present programming.

    8. BRR*

      Nonprofits hire event planners to usually work in their fundraising offices (universities hire for other event planning services as well).

    9. S*

      I’m an administrative coordinator at an organization that offers leadership trainings and similar things like that across my state. Lots of customer service, along with event planning and travel to the various trainings.

    10. Felicia*

      I work in member services at a membership based association for a certain profession. Pretty much every profession has an association, and there are always full time jobs at associations like what you’re describing.

    11. Clever Name*

      Working for professional organizations might meet these criteria. Especially ones that offer a lot of conferences and other continuing education.

    12. Rock*

      I’m an office manager for a construction company, and it has a surprising amount of event planning in the job description, as well as being a face for walk-ins and phones, so there’s a bit of client interaction too! :) We’re in the middle of doing 6 evening events, and I’ve planned the catering and planning, and reached out to the invitees via phone and email invitations for all of them. Some of them were fairly heavy hitters.
      It’s a small office so I’m the everything-person, including reception (client facing) admin work (less client facing) and planning whatever needs to be planned.
      Honestly the event planning was a bit unexpected. XD

    13. louise*

      I just saw an opening at Lowes for a project manager/designer who helps people plan new kitchens and baths. The pay was way higher than I expected. It’s sales, ultimately, but it’s not all store based from the ad I saw. Looked really interesting. We’re in an area with loads of “old money” so I don’t know if every store has that position.

      1. Rehabilitating Mr Wiggles*

        Interesting. Does the position call for knowledge and use of CAD tools to do design layouts and visualizations? If so …. hmmm. I just got a 5% raise at my current job, so I’m not in a hurry to leave, but I often ponder what kind of low stress ‘fun’ job I might take on when I retire. And oddly enough, many people don’t know how to do 3D design …

        Thanks, I might look into this.

  6. Future Analyst*

    Office food etiquette question: Yesterday afternoon I had cookies delivered for my team, as a thank you and goodbye before I head off on maternity leave. When everyone else had left for the day, I took the remaining cookies home, since I didn’t want them to sit out all night and attract any critters (we’re in the sub-basement, and waterbugs and even rodents are not uncommon, so gross). This morning, one of my team members came to ask if I had taken the cookies home, and was disappointed and grouchy that I had, stating that she was planning on having one today. This individual had known about the cookies, but didn’t have one because she had had a donut yesterday morning (something I didn’t know until this morning). Was it inappropriate of me to have taken them home? I specifically didn’t pack anything up until everyone had left. And should I have brought them back this morning? I’ve never run into this situation before.

    1. it happens*

      You did nothing wrong (except for not sending us virtual cookies.) What would she have done if all the cookies were eaten? If she wanted a cookie to eat the next day she could have taken it wrapped up in a paper towel herself. Remember, no good deed goes unpunished;)

    2. alter_ego*

      That seems totally normal and okay to me. I bring in baked goods from time to time, and if they’re still there at the end of the day, I’ll usually stick them in their tupperware until the next day. but if I brought them home with me instead, I can’t IMAGINE anyone commenting negatively. And if they did, welp, no more baked goods, I guess.

      If your coworker had really wanted a cookie, but not that morning, she would have done what everyone in my office does when there’s cupcakes in the break room at 8 am. Grab one and wrap it in a napkin, to be eaten at whatever time is deemed appropriate.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, this is standard practice here–when people bring treats, it’s understood that you better take one if you even think you might want it, because when you come back they’re likely to be gone. If I want to get rid of something fattening, I put it on the break room table and they hoover it right up.

    3. IndianSummer*

      It was very nice of you to bring in cookies for your teammates! I think that your coworker is overreacting by being grouchy.

      There is a lot of food brought in at my workplace. Sometimes people stick it in the fridge for the next day and sometimes people take it home. I think you were ok to do either.

    4. coffeedevil*

      Firstly thanks for that sweet gesture to bring food in – that is always welcome here too! Definitely the normal thing in my office at the end of the day is to wrap leftovers and put in the fridge or a drawer, so people can bring them out again the next day. We have so many people doing diets when they don’t eat every day (5:2 etc) and people work odd patterns, so it seems a bit odd to take food straight home at the first change – when food gets to the office here, it stays here! I think the exception is a weekend or when the food looks like it is about to be spoiled, you had better make use of it or take it away.

    5. Gwen*

      I don’t think it’s wrong, but generally in my office snacks are covered/put in the fridge if they aren’t finished and taken back out the next day, so it could seem weird if someone packed the food back up and took it with them (if anyone noticed, which I doubt they would) and some people who left seeing some were still there would expect them to still be an option the following day. But it sounds like with the critters and such you have good reason not to leave food around!

    6. Amber Rose*

      You bought them, you decide on the fate of the leftovers. Food gifts are one day gifts due to shelf life. These are the unstated rules in every office I’ve ever been in.

    7. TootsNYC*

      Especially because they were a treat for your team, a present, I think it is weird for you to have taken them home. That benefits you; it feels like a Homer Simpson present.
      If one of the recipients had taken them all home, it wouldn’t feel quite so weird, especially if having bugs is a real problem for you (not so much a problem in the offices I’ve been to) and storing them was also difficult (spoilage; getting stale or soggy…).

      I would have tried to find a way to keep them in the office, or I’d have brought them back.

      1. plain_jane*

        One recipient taking them home (out of a team) seems weird to me. Why do they get to have everything that is left? In any office I’ve been in, that would be looked at askance.

        If I bring in baking, anything that is left comes home with me and my SO gets it.

    8. Sunflower*

      TBH I think it was really weird your coworker approached you about this. You did a nice gesture and she acted like you took away something work related from her (like ‘oh you threw away those reports, I was gonna use them to compile some data’). She should have taken a cookie and wrapped it up for today if she wanted it. How did she even know there would be any left today?? You were totally right here

    9. Carrie in Scotland*

      What? No, you did nothing wrong. Although left overs in my workplace are usually covered over somehow and stored in the fridge/on the kitchen work surface.

    10. Beancounter in Texas*

      Protocol in our office is that gift food is sealed in a container on the counter or in the fridge until spoiled or eaten. However, this appears to conflict to everyone else’s replies. But we’d also just write it off that you’re pregnant and hungry. :)

    11. Cambridge Comma*

      I often take my own baking back home with me and freeze it. It will be much less good the next day. And no-one gets to complain about free food.

    12. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Leftovers at our office are always taken home, generally by the person with the most moxie to bundle them up and leave (we once had someone take home SIX pizzas). I’m surprised she thought there would be anything waiting for her the next day…

    13. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      Given your critter situation, everyone but this woman is glad that you took them home and didn’t leave them out overnight!

    14. The Other Dawn*

      Nope, you didn’t do anything wrong. You bought the cookies, it’s your right to take them home at the end of the day. Maybe if you had packed them up an hour after they arrived I could see someone being a little disappointed, or if someone else bought them and you stuck a dozen of them in your purse, but you paid for them and waited until the end of the work day. Besides, everyone knows that when it comes to office food, you snooze you lose. Gotta be fast with that stuff!

    15. Ad Astra*

      If the company had paid for the food as some sort of business expense, I might think your coworker had a point. But it sounds like this was a gift that you paid for yourself, and you gave everyone a reasonable chance to take one before you packed up the leftovers. I can see how your coworker might be disappointed, but that’s more about her bad luck than your etiquette.

    16. CPA to be*

      I never understand why our company does the same thing. Brings us cookies, root beer floats, and other sugary unhealthy placating snacks, espeicially since I work for a large health care system. We sit on our butts 8 hrs a day staring at a monitor with little to no movement, and yet we are given basically junk food. I am healthy, try to eat healthy as much as I can. When I suggested they bring something healthy instead of junk, I was given a look of horror. Considering many of the office workers are obese to say the least, it would make sense to start dishing out some veggies.

      Further more, I can buy my own snacks. Trying to appease me with junk food doesnt cut it. How bout you give me the $2.50 you just spent on that crap. Id rather have the money.

      1. S*

        Or how about you take your judgment and fat-shaming out of this thread and stop trying to impose lifestyle choices on other people? If you choose to keep to a healthy diet, then don’t eat the snacks provided (as a gift for your company/team, not just you, might I add), but don’t make the choice for your coworkers.

      2. Elsajeni*

        This is an awfully weird reply to someone whose problem is “My coworker wishes I had given her MORE cookies”!

        1. CPA to be*

          Perhaps my concerns should be its own thread. I personally grow tired of the unhealthy snacks. When the initial poster said that he brought cookies, it reminded me of all the cookies and junk brought to us.

          And I’m not fat shaming anyone. Obesity is a controlable medical and psychological condition. If it makes someone “shamed” then they should do something to contol it.

          1. Amber Rose*

            Obesity is an issue that encompasses a great deal more than size. Plenty of visibly large people are perfectly healthy, while many very slender people suffer all the symptoms associated with obesity such as fatigue, shortness of breath and digestive problems.

            You are awfully judgemental for someone so poorly informed.

    17. Beezus*

      Protocol in my office is for the person who brought food to handle any leftovers at the end of the day and clean up any residual mess. Leaving food out to go stale/attract pests/be cleaned up by someone else is considered rude here. Baked goods are sometimes left for a second day if they’re still good and tightly wrapped, but the norm is to toss things, take them home, or give them away.

    18. Litwolf*

      To me, that’s no issue at all. I’ve done it plenty of times with food I bring in.

      Heck, I made a cake for our department picnic. Through the whole day, I was texting on and off with a family member who was having the day from hell. When dessert was served, I swooped in on the last piece of my own cake to wrap up and bring home to cheer up my family memeber. None of my team pitched a fit about it.

      Your coworker is being silly.

    19. Panda Bandit*

      She should have gotten a cookie when they were out and wrapped it up. Never assume that food will even be around later, especially in the case of baked goods.

    20. fposte*

      Oh, eyeroll. Yes, you were fine to take them home. However, I think it’s fine to announce at the end of the day that the cookies are being taken home/thrown out/sent to Mars and that anybody who wants to get one last shot should grab now.

    21. JB (not in Houston)*

      I really think it depends on what is usual in your office. People bring food to my office All. The. Time. Usually people will leave stuff to be eaten the next day, but we have plastic wrap for stuff that can stay out at room temperature and a refrigerator for stuff that can’t, so critters isn’t an issue. Sometimes people do leave stuff out uncovered, which irritates me because I don’t want critters.

      I will sometimes bring a small amount of stuff and take it home with me if there’s, say, one or two cookies left. Or I will find somebody to send stuff home with. But that’s a small amount of baked goods that was brought in. Usually if there’s a larger amount of stuff or something was delivered or brought in for a specific reason, there’s an expectation that stuff will be there the next day. But even here it would be weird to get huffy about the person who bought it taking the rest home. I mean, it’s a cookie.

      One of my coworkers will bring in an enormous amount of food, so much that it would take all week for us to eat it, and then take all the leftovers home at the end of the day. I am convinced that she actually wants to buy it for herself but can’t bring herself to justify it, so she buys enough to guarantee there will something leftover that she can take home. But it’s her money, so if she wants to do that, that’s her business.

    22. Sadsack*

      I agree with the others that you were right. Don’t take it personally, she was probably just grouchy about missing out on a cookie and it wasn’t directed at you. I’d forget about it if I were you.

    23. Jessie's Girl*

      That team member’s comment would have received my patented Blank Stare with the accompanying “Ok,” followed by my back whilst I walk away.

      Ridiculous comments like that don’t warrant a reply.

  7. setsuko*

    A question for you all: how many hours a day do you spend at work and how many of those involve focused and productive work? I can never decide if I am being lazy, or pushing myself too hard!

      1. Adam*

        This. My work load fluctuates greatly from season to season. Granted I could always be a little less lazy, but how much it would make a difference definitely varies.

      2. Dot Warner*

        I agree. My workload varies a lot from day to day – some days, I barely have time for lunch, and other days I’m just keeping the chair warm.

        1. cuppa*

          mine too. I actually like it because it helps me be super productive on really busy days, but the non busy days give me a bit of a break.

      3. JenGray*

        I agree- part of my job depends on others and if they have nothing for me than I have to do my other lower priority stuff. There are days where I am slammed with deadlines and stuff that has to get done that day. Other days, I am not as busy and will occasionally do other things. The schedule I have means that I work 9 hours a day except for Fridays and then get every other Friday off. There are some days where by 3pm I get distracted & bored because I am not being very productive and this only makes it worse. I think that as long as things are getting done and you are overall working you are probably fine.

      4. Anna*

        That’s the same here. Today and yesterday have been sort of not great, productivity-wise.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Well, some days I am slammed and working for 8 solid hours, some days I am twiddling my thumbs while waiting to get green lights on various projects. Not helpful, I know…

    2. IndianSummer*

      I work 8 hour days. When I have general day to day work to do, I am about 65% productive. If I have a deadline looming, I am about 90% productive. When I have no work to do, I am about 25% productive.

      1. Elysian*

        I put myself about here. I have to bill my time, so its pretty obvious when I’m not productive. On an average day I work I am at work about 9 hours (including lunch) and aim to bill/realize about 7 hours, which is kind of ambitious and I usually fall a bit short. Anything below 6 hours is a “bad” day. When I’m swamped I will usually actually work all 9+ hours (yesterday I billed 11.6 and was at the office for 11.9), but then at some point in the future I’ll be taking a hit on my billing/productivity because I’ll need to make up administrative tasks and organizational stuff.

        1. bridget*

          The billable hour really makes me feel like an unproductive jerk, most of the time :) Depending on how many days are in the month, I aim for 7 billed hours a day, which if I’m honest, typically takes me at least 10 office hours to hit. I love it when I have some Big Stressful Filing Deadline and just HAVE to bill 12 hours in a day, hour for hour, because it gives me breathing room on other days.

        2. afiendishthingy*

          I billed 5.25 hours today and this was a very productive day for me. But there are also unavoidable parts of my job I can’t bill for, like driving time – I drove 600+ miles for work last month, many conversations, and entering notes into the billing system. I usually spend eight or nine hours at work a day, the billable hours goal for my position is 4.5 a day. Sounds like nothing, but state regulations on what we can bill for make it kind of difficult. It’s crazy because I can feel like I’ve barely had a chance to breathe all day but still have bad numbers. That’s usually when every time I start to work on something somebody interrupts me with a new crisis of the day; I’m not good at switching quickly between tasks.

    3. Dawn*

      Ooo good question! I really want to read everyone’s answers to this.

      I feel really guilty sometimes about not being at least 90% productive every day… but when I don’t have a deadline and the stuff I’m working on is a “nice to have sometime soon-ish” it’s hard to get above 20-25% productive. When I have a deadline, tho, I average 90-100% productive depending on how soon the deadline is.

    4. sittingduck*

      I work 8 hour days, and it does depend on the season how much of that time I’d consider focused productive work. In the busier seasons, I would say 7.5 hours is focused and productive (30 min for lunch). Right now, our slower season, I would say I only do about 2- 4 hours of ‘focused productive’ work a day, the rest of the time is spent trying to figure out other projects to do, discussing things with co-workers, doing ‘clean-up’ or ‘downtime’ tasks that don’t ‘need’ to be done on any timescale.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I was wondering if “productive” includes clean-up and down time tasks. If it doesn’t then my answer would be different.

        I do go from task to task but some days I repeatedly get derailed by the computer gods. Then there are mundane tasks that no one in a hundred years would ever be able to figure out that I had to stop and straighten it out. These tasks also derail me. For example, a while back I spent 45 minutes trying to figure out why my desk would not lock up. It was locking before… why did it stop? Who knows. I got it fixed at any rate. I can go in some days spend 3 hours on a computer issue, spend another 2 hours researching some picky little thing and end up with just a couple hours of what I call “real work”. I don’t like getting bogged down like that and sometimes it makes the next day seem a little harder. Those are the days where I find myself stopping to chat more. I just need to look up from Intense Task so I can incubate the problem for a bit.

    5. Anony-moose*

      I rarely work for the full 7.5-8 hours I’m at my desk. I’m pretty efficient though, so I can work quickly in spurts and then relax a bit. I’m not pushing myself hard enough but I’m exceeding my goals and to be honest my morale is a bit low so I don’t want to do more!

      I struggle with feeling *punished* for being efficient because the response from my team is to load more work on me – work they should be doing and just don’t want to. My boss has said “well I transferred this to you because you’re faster/more accountable/etc” and while I appreciate her trust in me it does end up making my day to day more difficult and my coworkers a lot easier!

    6. setsuko*

      I work between 4 and 12 hours a day. Anything from 5% to 90% productive. But then I work in academia (I’m a grad student). I just never knwo when to say: that was a good days work – you can stop now!

    7. Natalie*

      We have flex time, but in general my days are between 7 and 9 hours depending on various factors. Depending on the day, I spend between 15-25% of my time being non-productive or almost non-productive, about half my time at mid-level production, and the remaining time at a high level. And for whatever it’s worth, I get consistently high marks on work volume produced so I’m not as much of a slacker as the high amount of downtime might suggest.

    8. LBK*

      I work 7.5-8 hour days and probably average about 4 hours of productivity during that. I tend to work in short, extremely focused bursts, or I’ll just bang out an entire big project in one day rather than spreading it out over a week. I have made it fairly clear to my manager that I have a lot of availability and it’s never taken advantage of, so at this point I’ve pretty much stopped feeling bad about it.

    9. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      I spend 8 hours technically at work, but 1 hour is my mandatory lunch. How much work I do is really dependent, and I can also do a lot of things that don’t look like work but are related (like one day I spent the entire 7 hours researching obscure Catholic terminology- probably a waste of that day but has been incredibly helpful now as I have more curatorial responsibilities!). It’s construction season and our entire office’s productivity has real dropped due to noise and interruptions but I would say I always spend at least 60% of my day on actual work.

    10. Pineapple Incident*

      I work 8 hour days, and since I have a front desk/admin role, I don’t always have tasks to do. By that I mean depending where I am for the day I might be busy less than 50%, which sadly happens often and is why I’m such an avid reader here. Trying to move up to something better.

      For your situation, whether you’re productive/not likely depends entirely on what your superiors glean from your work. Have you asked them for feedback or for extra tasks when you’re feeling like there isn’t a lot to do? If you’re getting into a mode where you feel like you’re pushing too hard to get things done in one day’s work, I would ask them how they feel about your productivity and give them some insight into the pressure(s), if any, that are acting on you and your work.

      1. Shan*

        +10000 I think we are the same person. I’m in a front desk/admin role, and some days (like today) I am just waiting for a project. I tend to get my bigger projects (expense reports, POs, etc.) done early on in the week. Since its Friday in the middle of summer, my motivation is very low today.

        I have been spending my free time learning more about Scrum and Project Management though.

        1. Pineapple Incident*

          Is it sad that I would kill to have actual projects? I am floating staff, so I go wherever needed, sometimes different places every day for weeks. I could be in an area for an entire week covering regular staff on vacation or out sick, and never be there again. I don’t have to be accountable for anything, which is about the only perk (although for a job I liked more where I actually had responsibility, I would LOVE to be held accountable for my work because I’m good) but it also means it’s impossible for anyone to give me projects that will take more than the day if they can’t be easily picked up by someone else :/

          1. Shan*

            It’s not sad at all! I’m not a floating staff member, so I’m in a slightly different situation, but I’ve been working with the IT department trying to get small projects from them.

            Is there any department in particular you are interested in? If so, are you able to ask your manager if you’d be able to take on a project for a department even if you aren’t going to be in that area?

    11. CrazyCatLady*

      8 hours a day at work. Some days I’m busy for the 8 hours, sometimes I have maybe 2 hours of actual focused and productive work.

    12. AnotherFed*

      8-11 hours a day, but lots of it is meetings. Meetings are maybe 10% productive but mandatory, and the hours after they end are my most productive, and usually hit 95% or so. If I have lots of small time gaps (10-20 minutes)between meetings, that’s almost useless time for anything except clearing out email because I can’t get back in the zone on complicated things for so little time.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Ugh, sounds awful, I’m lucky to only spend a few hours a month in staff/department meetings. They end around lunchtime and it takes me forever to get back into productivity mode afterwards.

    13. The IT Manager*

      I mostly have at least enough work to fill up 40 hours a week. Sometimes I have lots more work than that for month on end. I am still average no more productivity than 5 hours a day, I’d say, but it varies a lot. I have lots of meetings (which I count as productive time), but they interrupt the day and switching between activities costs time. (I have a meeting in 10 minutes so I won’t start on anything else now.) I used to be more focused. I think the stressful go, go, go job has trained me to focus on only the biggest fire that needs to be dealt with now and I find I have trouble being more forward thinking. If something is not due now, I have trouble getting motivated to do it.
      And of course sometimes we all need a break.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I don’t think I answered your question about “focused productive work.” Some days I do keep busy all day but cannot point to one big thing I did that I accomplished, and that feels like a non-productive day. Going through emails and responding (which I am pretty bad about) doesn’t usually feel like productive work but obviously ignoring email is not an option. But flipping through the emails is hard because each click to the next email is an time where my brain says you deserve a reward for doing work – even if the work was less than 5 minutes email and response.

      2. another IT manager*

        “I think the stressful go, go, go job has trained me to focus on only the biggest fire that needs to be dealt with now and I find I have trouble being more forward thinking. If something is not due now, I have trouble getting motivated to do it.”

        This. Also the endless feeling that if you get involved in something that takes a awhile to focus on, someone’s going to call just as I get into the groove.

    14. Rita*

      “I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.”

      This question made me think of this quote :)

    15. Bea W*

      My productivity fluctuates as well, depending on the number of meetings, interruptions, and priority shifts occur and at what intervals. Then some days my brain is just less functional. I’ve learned to switch tasks based on where I’m at. If I’m not in the frame of mind or have too many interruptions in my days to be very productive at one task, I put that task aside and do something else.

      It works well for me. I used to push myself to focus on the one task I thought I should be doing right then according to my priorities and on a bad day I might barely get much done AND still have all the other work waiting. Noticing when I’m not up to working on spouts and deciding to take a break from them and focus on handles for a bit means I’m not having much unproductive time at all, and I’m able to get more done even if the “break” is not a different work task but a walk outside. I can come back to my original task with new energy.

      I can do this because there’s no shortage of work I have to do. There’s no down time. I have to make downtime (doing something kind of mindless or more enjoyable) if I need a breather.

      I tried that exercise where you keep a log of your daily activities. It really helped me put in perspective feelings of slacking and not doing enough. I very quickly saw in black and white I was in fact engaged in work and accomplishing things every day, every week. I felt much better about my work habits after a couple weeks of that.

    16. Mike C.*

      Yeah, it really depends – there are emergencies that require ten hours a day, and there are times where I’m not doing much at all but then after a few hours everything I’m working on falls right into place.

    17. Chris*

      Varies widely. I am lucky to have a work environment that is very flexible as long as my work is getting done. This means I work long, productive hours during busy times and tend to leave early during slower times. Summer is a busy time in my job, so this week I’ve worked 12 hour days at a very high level of productivity. I decided to take the day off today because I am mentally exhausted. I know this means that next week, I’ll also need to be highly productive because there are things I’m pushing to next week in order to take the day off.

      During my less busy times, my productivity drops a fair bit, maybe 50%. If I have a day where I am just getting nothing done, I usually just head home.

      1. Bea W*

        I’ve found out the hard way taking that day off it just necessary. If I try to push through it my productivity just drops off a cliff, and I get less done than I would have if I’d just taken a day off to recover.

    18. Alice*

      My workload is pretty steady and non-urgent so I usually work for an hour and then take a ten (or fifteen) minute break (fiddling around on the internet). So that means on a regular 9-6 day I’m only actually working 6.5-7 hours.

      Honestly, if I tried to do NOTHING but work all day, I’d burn out after two hours or so. Then again, my work is boring.

      1. NotARobot*

        That’s how I’d prefer to work but my employer expects productivity all day every day to the point where everyone is required to take their two ten minute breaks at the same time every day so they can make sure no one is slacking. Last I looked I was a human, not a robot.

        1. Alice*

          Gah. What managers need to know is that productivity doesn’t necessarily equal working every minute of every day.

      2. Bea W*

        My work is totally not boring, and I find the same thing. I need mini-breaks through-out the day. I need to force myself to break for 5-10 minutes sometimes to give my brain a rest so I don’t burn out. This is especially true for mentally challenging tasks and definitely for the boring ones. I really don’t think most people are capable of sustaining doing nothing but work all day. There are no slackers in my office, and we all take those short breaks to keep us going. I will extend my office/working hours slightly if I’ve found I need more breaks and have looming deadlines so that I’m not losing productive time.

        For 8 productive work hours I really need 9-10 hours of office time to account for at least 3o min of lunch and at least two 10-15 min mid-morning/mid-afternoon breaks. The more mentally demanding my day is, the more downtime I need to keep my productivity steady through the day.

        I’ve also figured out (recently!) that when it comes to certain tasks I find really mentally demanding, like writing or editing/reviewing complex process documents, I’m good for about 4 hours a day before I burn out. I might squeeze out 5 hours on that type of task on a really good day, but the rest of the time I need to do something else that does not involve writing or editing documents and is relatively enjoyable.

        1. Alice*

          At least you have “mentally demanding” tasks that keep you busy … I would love to see a study linking productivity and work hours. I’m sure it’s a person-by-person basis, but I think most people are like this (us).

    19. pinky*

      6.5 hours from September-June, full on concentration for the entire 6.5 hours, 3 hours from July-August for extended school year for disabled kids, full concentration for the 3 hours. I’m a special education teacher for the students with the most needs!

    20. Rehabilitating Mr Wiggles*

      Hmmm. It depends on how you define focused and productive work.

      I work at home (although this is slowly changing, but in general as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning I’m planning my day. 5 minutes for coffee and I’m at my workstation reading email that came in overnight, and (not rarely) answering questions from some ther early-riser. I don’t tend to eat lunch, so many days I’m online and in front of my computer from 7:30am to 5:30pm (with occasional body- and feed-the-dog-breaks.

      But every day is different. Some days I may have to run over to the lab and interview someone. I’m one of the highest-ranking members of my division on-site here, so we occasionally get together for a business lunch. I attend many meetings and I take a lot of phone calls – and these can happen anytime inside or outside of business hours. Usually they are scheduled in advance, but not always. Y’all might think I’m joking, but I am expected to spend some amount of my time surfing the ‘net, reading news, and learning new stuff (sometimes via an actual class, sometimes just informally). Anything especially interesting, I’ll write it up and either publish it internally or send around via email – for instance, this was a big week for Google Deep Dream – a number of the designers and developers I work with had never heard of it, and they were shocked when they saw it. And I have my fingers in a number of different pies (ie, I serve of one of the promotion committees), which is usually a matter of a phone conference now and again, but there tend to be lots of “hey – got 5 minutes?” kinds of phone calls, not to mention that occasionally I have to pull together a presentation or demo. And there’s the entire “networking” aspect – I know a lot of people, and I have to keep up with them so that when someone asks me “who can I talk to about Z?”, I can put them in touch.

      And then there are the misc programming tasks, although those are becoming less and less now that I’m a manager.

      All that said, I still can’t do more than guess how many hours I work each day or each week. Self-serving though it might sound, I feel like they get rather more than 40 hours a week out of me.

  8. S. Jay*

    Help! I am a female with terrible handwriting. I tell people all the time that I must be missing the gene that gives people nice handwriting. It’s embarrassing and shameful and is starting to get in the way of my professional career. Specifically today when my boss brought me a sympathy card with his handwritten notes of what to write in it before he signs it and mails it out to a client . He asked that I write it so that it will be legible for the person who is to receive it; presumably because he didn’t feel comfortable enough with his own handwriting. Well, guess what? I wrote exactly what he asked me to write and it looks terrible! I’m tempted to go out and buy a new card so I can try again! It’s tearing me up inside that this will be sent out to one of our most important clients when it looks like it was written by a third grader (no offense to any third graders, or course.)

    I’ve experienced similar anguish in my adult life when filling out job applications, greeting cards, and other important documents. I don’t know what I can do to improve my handwriting and it’s become such an embarrassment in both my personal life and professional career. Any advice?

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I have terrible handwriting; for important forms I write in all printed caps. It seems to be easier for others to read and minimizes some of my usual writing tics.

    2. NJ anon*

      Not sure what being a female has to do with bad handwriting. I’m female and mine is not the greatest. For the card, could you have asked someone else to do it? I honestly think you are over stressing on this. Plenty of people have lousy handwriting and they manage to survive!

      1. Natalie*

        Given the boss anecdote, I think she’s referring to the fact that women are expected, however unfairly, to have nice handwriting.

        1. MsM*

          Which is all the more reason to pipe up and say, “Actually, mine looks like chicken scratch. Mind if I ask Bob the intern to handle, and I’ll review it before sending?”

    3. TootsNYC*

      Handwriting is practice–not genes. It’s muscle memory.

      Get one of those handwriting books for 5th graders and practice. Also, doodling same-size, evenly spaced loops across the tops of the notebook paper while you’re listening in meetings will help with some of the muscle memory.

      1. fposte*

        And slow down. I have horrible handwriting, so I can’t really take handwritten notes anymore. But I can slow down and write a card legibly if I must.

        1. Sadsack*

          Slow is definitely key. I always start slow, but impatience gets the better of me. By the end of my message, it looks like the ravings of a serial killer.

          1. S. Jay*

            It’s tough because I find that when I try to slow down to force myself to write neatly I tense up and my hand cramps and my handwriting is still terrible!

      2. Bea W*

        There are people who just physically can’t write well. They have some kind of deficit/disinfect with fine motor skills needed for writing. My brother has this issue. He also had a language learning disability, but I’ve seen in people who had no learning disability. I went to school with two kids who took written exams orally and they used tape recorders because taking hand written notes was so physically difficult. They could write legibly if they did so very slowly and deliberately, but they could not physically manage it at the speed needed for note taking or hand written in class exams. This is an actual thing.

        Practice can certainly help, but if OP has an issue with fine motor skills, it might not be enough.

        Interestingly for some people with ADHD, medication improves handwriting. I don’t know why or how but I see this over the course of the day if I’m taking a lot of notes at work.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have a math LD and I have the same issue. My writing starts neat and then deteriorates quickly. Also, it took me ages to learn things like blowing a bubble with bubble gum and whistling, that other kids picked up really fast. It wasn’t until I learned more about my LD that I found a deficit in fine motor skills can be part of the problem.

          Could also explain why I mess up at console video games so badly. Grr.

          1. Bea W*

            One of my friends with this issue had a math LD also! He was brilliant at verbal/language tasks and worked as a reporter for various small papers, but he struggled with basic arithmetic, and it was absolutely painful to watch him try to hold a pen and write something as simple as his own name. At best it looked like the efforts of a really determined pre-schooler.

        2. Anx*

          I was just wondering if ADHD could have something to do with bad handwriting as I read some of the above comments.

          I have about 5-6 different handwriting styles. I am sometimes capable of writing neatly, but it’s always a struggle and never looks ‘natural.’ My mom has fancy, beautiful, hard-to-read handwriting and my dad has silly, legible handwriting.

          I have some ADHD symptoms and notice that I always mess up on cards: I start writing in the wrong places and run out of room. I switch between cursive and print within the same word, but if I handwrite as if it were almost a meditation, I do alright.

      3. Dynamic Beige*

        Handwriting is practice–not genes. It’s muscle memory.

        When my mother was in school, they were all taught to write the same way. My Auntie has the most beautiful, clear handwriting I’ve ever seen. I think it’s partly because that’s the way she was taught and drilled and partly there must have been lessons when she later became a teacher so that the parents could read her handwriting. I only say that because one day I found my 6th grade report card and the handwriting of my male teacher was very similar in the evenness and clarity of it.

        If you want to improve your handwriting, you can. It will take time and patience and practice, but it can be done.

    4. AnonymousaurusRex*

      I think it is interesting that you point out that you are female. I too am a woman with terrible handwriting, but I make no apologies for it. If it isn’t a problem for men, why should it be something that stands in your way? I often have men ask me to write something “so it will look nice” and I just flat out refuse. I tell them it would honestly look better if they did it themselves (which is true). I think it’s just kind of sexist to assume that because I’m a lady I have pretty handwriting. I can barely read it myself. That said, I *can* make an effort to write something neatly and legibly (if not beautifully) when it’s really needed. It just takes me some time.

      1. DatSci*


        I’m actually quite proud of my terrible handwriting, I think it lends itself to the point that I have not spent hours doodling/practicing and training my muscles to memorize pretty loops, I’ve been working on substantive research instead.

        1. Beezus*

          Wow. I think you can embrace something about yourself without putting other people down. I agree with you that handwriting isn’t that big of a deal, but then it follows that learning nice penmanship in elementary school isn’t a glaring personal fault.

          1. DatSci*

            I fail to see where my post mentioned either of the transgressions you’ve pointed out. There’s no need to be defensive.

        2. TootsNYC*

          In the olden days, military officers practiced their handwriting, because it was *imperative* that the orders or information they wrote down be legible to other people. Lives, battles, depended on it.

          And having decent-enough handwriting that can be read by others *is* a productivity gain.

          And having handwriting that’s a bit more attractive that “just legible” can be the same sort of boost that “dressing a little bit nicely” has–it can be the exact same perception difference that means you’re considered for promotion because you “dress like a manager.”

          People who work on those “soft skills” aren’t being “less than substantive.”

          1. The Strand*

            Great, great point.

            People joke about doctors’ handwriting, but it is an element of professionalism that can end up being dead serious – just as with military officers of the past. If someone – a pharmacist for example, or a treating RN – reads a physician’s messy 0 as an 8, they could give a patient way too much medication.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              These days, though, it’s possible to print out all that information from a computer. Or prescriptions are sent electronically and never see the page.

              1. Melissa*

                I agree, but I still get the vast majority of my prescriptions handwritten by a doctor on a prescription pad. They only get transmitted electronically if I can tell my doctor ahead of time which pharmacy I’m visiting and they have an agreement with that pharmacy.

                1. Bea W*

                  Electronic prescriptions are a recent invention. I was still filling handwritten scripts as recently as 10 years ago. Not to mention, many chart notes are still hand written. A lot of places have gone totally electronic in my part of the country, but there are still a lot of medical providers and hospitals out there who have not transitioned. Putting electronic systems in place has a huge up front cost both in terms of purchasing equipment, software, and expertise but also training everyone on how to use them and transferring all of that information currently on paper to the electronic system.

          2. Bea W*

            When I was looking at old documents on my recent trip the handwriting on most documents, especially the important and lengthy legal documents like leases, loans, and wills was just gorgeous. I never connected it to not having modern inventions like the typewriter, but…duh! Now I understand why there was so much focus on handwriting in schools. It was an essential skill the way learning a keyboard is today.

        3. little Cindy Lou who*

          I’ll never forget a particular history teacher of mine in high school who said to me on the last day of class: “God bless you, Cindy, and with that handwriting, you better be a doctor!”

    5. Adara*

      If you want to improve your handwriting, maybe practice writing better? Get one of those penmanship books elementary students use when they’re learning to write and through the lessons. Like anything else, getting better will take effort and practice.

    6. danr*

      As a male with terrible handwriting, I print when writing in a card. I take my time and go slowly. Then I’ll carefully print my name. Actually, many people, male and female have terrible handwriting. And many people have good handwriting. My excuse is that I’m a lefty. :)=

      1. twig*

        Another woman with terrible hand-writing here. I, too, have been asked to write something (ie address greeting cards etc) so that it will “Look nicer.” When that happens, I usually tell the person that my handwriting isn’t pretty.

        I personally believe that handwriting is kind of ‘genetic’ for lack of a better word. (my whole family has iffy hand-writing — my mom used to have perfect architect printing (she’s an architectural drafter) but that has gone by the wayside in the last 25 years or so since she made the transition from hand-drafting to CAD. Now she’s got sloppy handwriting like the rest of us)

        What I do, when I need to write something NEATLY and LEGIBLY — is print in all caps, using Larger Letters where standard capitalization would go. Also — I write as slowly as time will allow — in order to focus on neatness and spacing. (I always had a hard time remembering to leave adequate spacing between words for some reason)

        Sorry for the novel, but I feel you on the *shame* of having sloppy writing. Aim for legible. No one really cares if your writing is pretty — it’s about what it says, not how it looks.

      2. Ezri*

        I’m a woman with obsessively neat handwriting, but it’s always regarded as an oddity rather than an expectation.

    7. Cambridge Comma*

      Replace the card, it’s not worth feeling bad over, and because it’s a sympathy card.
      (Find someone in your office who is overly proud of their beautiful handwriting and have them do it.)
      For the future, you could make yourself a handwriting font with your own handwriting and install it on your computer. That way you only need to get every letter nice once.
      I don’t think it will hold you back in your career (unless you are a calligrapher). I have nice handwriting, but no-one ever sees it.

      1. S. Jay*

        Thank you! I did end up buying a new card and asked one of the staff members to write it out for me. She has beautiful writing and didn’t mind at all. I also explained to my boss that I had her do it and he didn’t care at all. Now I know better for next time! Thanks for the feedback :)

        1. fposte*

          I had a colleague for a while who had the most beautiful and individual handwriting. We kept telling her it should become a font.

    8. Another HRPro*

      As a fellow person with horrible handwriting, what I do when the writing is for someone else (i.e., not just notes to myself), I treat it like drawing. If I were to ask you to draw a picture, you would take your time and carefully move the pen/pencil in a way to clearly make items. Do the same thing for your writing. It is slow and annoying, but it works.

    9. Vacation Sub*

      In today’s smartphone/texting/keyboarding world most of us don’t really get enough practice actually writing, to the point where many schools aren’t even bothering to teach cursive anymore.
      You could practice more – yes those books that elementary school kids use. Hmmm – wondering if there are adult versions of those.
      Also – do you have hand/arm/wrist problems? Arthritis since I was a pre-teen means my handwriting sucks massively and it’s really hard for me to write out stuff.

      1. fluffy*

        Yes there are adult versions. Improve your handwriting by Sassoon seems popular. Find it at a library

        1. TootsNYC*

          I’m not sure you need adult versions, to be honest. It’s the same skill. Just pick whichever grade level seems to start where your own skills leave off.

          1. Vacation Sub*

            Yes, but learning as an adult is different than as a child and there are some specific things that need to be addressed. Here is an interesting workbook from the National Adult Literacy Agency, Dublin

            Use phrases you are likely to use instead of the dull crap we give to children when learning.
            When teaching reading to adults (whether learning English or never learned) you have much better success if they are reading things written for teens/adults rather than kindergarten/elementary school kids. A matter of respect and being treated as an adult, not a child.

            1. Bea W*

              This is a great guide! Finding the right pen makes a big difference for me. If I have a pen I find difficult to hold comfortably or doesn’t write smoothly enough my handwriting looks like crap no matter what. Thanks for linking this.

      2. S. Jay*

        No joint issues that I’m aware of. I think as a kid (and probably so still today) I rushed through things and I never really took the time to learn to write neatly. I’m discouraged by it now and often wonder if it’s too late to go back and relearn how to write neatly!

    10. Retail Lifer*

      This is an odd quirk and probably applies to no one else in the universe, but I’ll share just in case. My handwriting and printing are terrible. For some reason, when I’m writing down something for myself I always tilt the paper. The top right hand corner always winds up higher. I have no idea why I do this but I always have. When I need to write something legibly, I slow down and straighten out the paper. That somehow helps me write neater.

      1. LeahS*

        Retail Lifer: ME TOO! You aren’t the only one. But then again, I can’t do anything in a straight line. I can’t draw one, I can’t even walk in one. I would fail the heck out of a field sobriety test.

        Like you, I work in retail. I occasionally will have to hand-print small signs to stick on displays. It’s so embarrassing. I am going to make a conscious effort to straighten out the paper/poster board from now on. I just realized this may be part of my problem :)

        I also substitute teach and have all but given up on the whiteboard because it’s so embarrassing. It’s a little surprising that none of my students have been accused of forging written hall passes and tardy excuses :). Fortunately, there are still many high schoolers who enjoy writing on the board, so I just solicit volunteers to write assignments, directions,

        OP: I totally feel your pain! Im glad you asked this and am going to try some of these suggestions as well!

        1. Bea W*

          I do this! My writing was neat when I was a kid but lines were always slanted. I held the paper at an angle sometimes even fully sideways. Trying to write on a straight piece was uncomfortable. I think the tilting was a natural compensation response. When I wrote on the board my sentences always slanted as well no matter how hard I’d try to keep them straight.

        1. LeahS*

          I think the tilting the paper is pretty natural, but to a lesser degree.

          Most people are still able to still write without trailing all the way up and to the right. I can’t speak for the others, but in my case I’ll unconsciously keep tilting the paper more. Plus I have a horrible time writing in a straight line as it is :)

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I thought we were taught to tip the paper. I think there is something about the awkwardness of writing as you move across the paper further away from your body. I can’t picture holding the paper straight and being able to write. I don’t think that would work out well for me.

      2. Melissa*

        My handwriting is pretty decent but I tilt the paper, too! I’ve been doing it since I was a child, and I have no idea why.

    11. Natalie*

      Practice this sentence: “Oh, you don’t want me to write that either. My handwriting is awful.”

    12. T3k*

      I feel for you. I’m also female and am notorious for having bad handwriting (it’s not messy, per se, but really tiny and hard to read to the point I’ve been asked by past professors to type up my in-class essays).

      If you can, I’d submit a typed job application (I’ve had to re-do a 4 page one once because my handwriting messed it up). As for cards, write slowly and in print.

    13. Ad Astra*

      I would be a little offended if someone assumed I had nice handwriting just because I’m a woman. Do you work in some kind of administrative assistant-type role? I’m surprised that you run into problems with your handwriting so often, since people rely so much on typing these days.

      I don’t have great handwriting either, but it gets better when I slow down. And if it’s something important, sometimes I’ll write lightly in pencil to make sure it looks as good as I can make it and then go back over it with a pen.

      1. S. Jay*

        I don’t think it was necessary expected of me because I’m a woman, it was more attributed to my role in the organization. I think I personally put the gender spin on it because growing up all my female friends had pretty handwriting and I didn’t.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It could be that the boss assumes just about anyone’s handwriting is nicer than his. I have meet people who feel this way and are quite willing to find someone else to write something that needs to be presentable.

    14. Hlyssande*

      I’ve also developed fairly bad handwriting. I think a large part of it may be that there isn’t the repetitive practice in grade school anymore.

      Both of my parents have lovely handwriting despite using computers for years (my mom was a medical transcriptionist for 20), and my mother attributes it to the long hours spent practicing when she was in grade school.

      Practice definitely makes perfect. Slowing down helps.

    15. matcha123*

      My handwriting was never great. What I’ve done over the years is to find handwriting styles I like and copy them. I also slow down when I need to write something nice, like a card, and put a bit more effort into making my letters look nice.

    16. rek*

      I would say my early parochial school cursive writing training has far more to do with my legible handwriting then my double-x chromosome. ;-) That said, I agree that printing (carefully!) may solve your problem. Also, you may want to look into a calligraphy course. I took one through my local adult education classes, and it taught me a lot about forming each letter when printing. (Obviously, you’re not usually going to be writing with a calligraphy pen-and-ink set up, but the concepts will help your “regular” printing, too.)

    17. JC*

      I also have terrible handwriting. I find that in this day and age, I can almost always get by with typing things instead of handwriting (such as forms). If I get someone who wants me to be the one to write the greeting in a card, I hold firm and insist that I don’t want to because my handwriting is terrible. I have been embarrassed about my handwriting at some occasions, but I just try to forget about it and move on.

      I’m also female, and I do think that people generally unconsciously expect women to have better handwriting than men, and ask women to write the greeting on the card more often than asking other men. Not true in our cases!

    18. AnotherFed*

      I’m female and I’ve been told I write like an angry man, but I can read it (and so can they, even if it looks angry to them), so who cares? Do you want to write prettily because that’s something you want, or because you think it’s expected of you? As long as your writing is legible and your spelling and grammar are fine, I see no cause for concern or embarrassment on your part.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Words and letters close together and probably presses down HARD on the paper.

        2. AnotherFed*

          Sharp letters, not rounded, and I do press down too hard, so depending on the pen I’m using, I either get a very thick line or obvious indents in the paper. It doesn’t help that if I’m writing something for others to see, I use all caps so that it’s easier to read.

    19. nep*

      Are children still learning to write cursive in school? I reckon it depends on the school. Seems to me ridiculous and sad not to teach people to hand write.

        1. Tau*

          Although the issue with not learning cursive, I’d think, is that it makes it much harder to *read* cursive later. I did learn cursive, but I never learned another handwriting style that was used in Germany some decades ago. Now I struggle to read any of the postcards or letters my grandmother left behind.

          1. Bea W*

            I was able to read cursive before I could write it, but I remember my sister could not read cursive at all until she learned it well enough at school. My mother always wrote in cursive, and my sister had to remind her to please print if she needed to write something down for her because she could not read cursive writing, not even my mother’s beautifully neat cursive writing. My sister otherwise found reading easy and was above grade level in that skill, but cursive English may as well have been Chinese when she looked at it.

            There has been discussions lately about not teaching cursive in school, but I think not doing so will put future generations at a disadvantage because it does impact their ability to read things that are hand written, including historical documents and things that have important personal value and contain family history like grandmother’s postcards.

            Maybe 100 years from now it won’t matter as much to most people, but we’re still in a time period where whole generations corresponded in cursive and even wrote school essays in cursive. I know I did when I was growing up. I’m not that old. Typewriters weren’t used for high school work, and computers word processing and ink-jet printers were not yet common household or in-school items. It wasn’t until the generation after my own (my children if I’d had any – so my nieces, nephews, and friends’ children) where computers started replacing handwritten documents.

    20. AT*

      Try changing styles!

      I went to a public school in England that was stuck in the 1950s and learned to write cursive with a fountain pen and inkwell. Then I found myself in a workplace in another country with these…biro…things.

      Fortunately, because of my particular profession, people just laugh it off and go “oh yeah, AT, she’s got typical doctor’s handwriting!” But I knew I had to be legible for some things, so I literally learned to write all over again in a printing style. So now, I have two “fonts”, if you will – Lucida Calligraphy (only, more old-fashioned) and Arial. If someone else needs to read it, I’ll switch to Arial; if it’s my own notebook or post-its, I can happily scrawl away and turn the page into some sort of typographical orgy.

      And vice-versa – if you’re already printing, try learning cursive. Good luck!

        1. Bea W*

          My mother was from the Baby Boomer generation and learned to write like this in the US using an inkwell. I think by the time she was in middle school or high school they had been mostly replaced by the ballpoint pens.

          I can’t remember if it was my mother or my grandmother who used to tell me stories about how boys would dip the end of girls’ pony tails in the ink wells. It may have been both!

      1. Tau*

        I had an inkwell in high school too! Not actually in school, though. It was… we had to use fountain pens up until the later years and you could either buy these little one-use plastic cartridges where the cost added up quite a bit over time and which resulted in a lot of waste, or you could buy a refillable one and an inkwell. Which I opted for.

        That said, I was very aware of the existence of biros and desperately glad when I was allowed to switch. Fountain pens are a messy business.

    21. Penguin*

      Look into cursive Italic practice books! Cursive Italic is much easier to read and write than traditional cursive.

    22. Bea W*

      Maybe your not missing a gene at all. Maybe you got the gene that makes people doctors but you just don’t know it. :)

    23. The IT Manager*

      I think it’s a lot about practice’ although, some kids are better than others from grade school. I used to have better hand writing, but I barely hand write anything any more and practically nothing in cursive because I am very much out of practice.

      I do agree with what others have said – block print in caps when you’re filling out forms. Get others to handwrite cards for you.

    24. LQ*

      I once had a teacher tell me she thought I was a guy because of my handwriting (despite my very feminine name) so I get that. But really, just say “I have really horrible handwriting, you might want to try someone else.” Especially if there are people coming to you because you are a woman and assuming that woman=neat handwriting. The majority of time you don’t really need to hand write things so I just let my apparently masculine handwriting go.

      If you really do want to make it better go slower, go neater, and practice. Over and over and over. It’s really just a matter of focus and practice.

    25. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      My handwriting wasn’t horrible, but it was pretty juvenile– like I was about 17 instead of almost 30– so a few years ago, I looked in to handwriting courses for adults. I ended up buying Write Now by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay (who have developed a highly-regarded handwriting curriculum for kids), which is a workbook that helps you learn to write in italic handwriting. After a lot of practice and getting out of old habits, it worked great– my handwriting now isn’t an exact copperplate of italic, and elements of my old style still remain, but it’s much more mature. Highly recommended– it’s available on Amazon for about $18.

      Also, I’ve found that no matter what the style I’m using, my handwriting looks terrible with a smooth and/or ballpoint pen. I need at least a bit of friction to not be all over the place. Try to find pens that are a tiny bit scratchy. My favorite are Pilot G2 .07 in black. Best pens ever. (I’m also fond of fountain pens, but those aren’t super common and can be pretty expensive, so I stick with the Pilot G2 .07’s at work and such).

    26. Chris*

      I have terrible handwriting too. While it can be annoying when filling out a card or something, I’ve decided that I don’t care. Among all the various skill building I’d like to do in my life/career, this falls no where near the top of my list.

      1. Clever Name*

        This. Seriously. I’m a woman, and I have positively atrocious handwriting. I have always had bad handwriting. Got “C”s in handwriting all through elementary school. My son also has terrible writing (so terrible that the OT volunteered some of her free time to teach him keyboarding). I’ve had coworkers tell me, “If you’d just slow down and take your time it would look better.” Sadly, slowing down and trying to write neatly makes it worse. So, I’ve decided I’ll do the best I can and not really worry about it. Neat handwriting just isn’t a requirement for my job, so I just plain don’t care.

        I mean, you can try to practice and get nicer handwriting, but only do it if you really want to.

    27. Not So NewReader*

      Wow. 83 comments. I never realized writing was such a thing.

      Maybe someone here will know about this. Recently, I met two people (who do not know each other) and they both write with a pen between their index finger and their middle finger (As opposed to index finger and thumb. What they do- the pen is held at a midpoint between the index finger and middle finger. I hope this makes sense.). Is there an advantage to this? I have never noticed anyone doing this before.
      Maybe this is something OP could try?

      1. misspiggy*

        Yes, and there are tons of adaptive pens available for people with various grip problems.

      2. Bea W*

        I have always held my pen with my middle and index fingers and thumb. I even have a callous at the top knuckle on my ring finger where the pen rests while I’m holding it. It feels weird when I try to write with the pen between my thumb and index finger only, not as steady. My sister and a friend of mine hold their pens in some completely different way where it almost looks like they are gripping it almost like like a handle. They are holding it They are the only two people I have seen hold a pen this way. Neither of them have great handwriting. My printing is neat, but my cursive style is very scrunched together. It’s neat but can be hard to read. I have a hard time writing neatly holding a pen between my index finger and my thumb. I think it comes down to fine motor skills. Holding a pen in a pincer grip requires fine motor skills, and we’re all a bit lacking in that department.

    28. Jessie's Girl*

      I also have awful handwriting (due to years of debate while in high school). You just need to take a breath and write slowly. It’s ok that it takes you longer to write if your end goal is something legible.

    29. catsAreCool*

      I had terrible handwriting until I took a class in it. To be fair, I was still a teenager at the time, but that might help if it’s something you’re worried about.

  9. Thinking out loud*

    My question is about managing when you aren’t doing the work yourself on a day to day basis. I’ve always managed projects where I was also one of the “foot soldiers,” and I feel like that helps me to understand the work the team is doing, which in turn informs my planning and helps me to brief status. I’ve recently accepted a new job where I think I’ll be doing more project management and less “actual work,” so my question to all of you is: How do you manage when you don’t do the work? I want to avoid just copying status from one place to another and be sure I’m really adding value.

    1. Future Analyst*

      I think it helps to have a very clear understanding of the process of the work, even if you’re not doing it yourself. (Before DEF happens, ABC needs to be cleared by group 1, and OPQ needs to run simultaneously as LMN; XYZ can’t go out unless RST has been approved by groups 2 and 3.) This may take a while (since it’s easier to get the process down pat when you’re the one doing the work, but make sure to really use your SMEs to build a clear picture of what’s happening.

      Also, keep a calendar, org chart, and project list handy at all times: this will help you keep the different moving parts going, and ensure that you’re not missing key parts of the project. The last thing you want to do is hit a deadline and realize that even though you have all the parts together, your key checker is out for the next two weeks, and you can’t get anything approved unless it’s been checked.

    2. Another HRPro*

      It is all about how you can add value. I oversee some very technical folks. They are great at what they do and I frankly do not have the skills to do their jobs. But I have different skills. I am able to help them do their jobs better by asking questions, brining up things they haven’t thought about, helping to prioritize work, developing their non-technical skills, etc. Think about what skills and abilities you bring to the table and apply those to leading others.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I try to always do a little bit of the work. And think about the processes as I do.

      I try to observe closely.

      I try to have an open relationship with the people below me so I can hear what’s slightly slow, fiddly, running into snags from other people. My job is to clear away obstacles for them, so I ask them about obstacles often, and react well when they bring them. As a result, I have people who bring me problems (and sometimes solutions); I don’t have to go for as many of them.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Oh–one thing where I think I add value is in identifying fiddly things and streamlining them. That takes getting to know the tools well, and looking for things taht are unnecessarily hard. Example: I just linked everyone to an InDesign dictionary on the server–nobody in my department, not even previous managers, had done this before. It’s small, but it’s forward movement.

        Also–look for the things that -only- you can do (in my case: staffing; enforcing things with other departments; negotiating with our manager), and -do them-. That earns respect and makes my team trust me, so they bring me other problems to solve.

    4. AnotherFed*

      Looking at the people who I’ve found to be great project managers supervising me, the best things are to know your people and know how far you can let them go, then give them their priorities and send them off, and be there to apply leverage or adjust cost/schedule/scope when needed. A big part of that is staying out of the way (and keeping other people out of the way) of the people who’ve got it together and can be trusted to bring up problems they need help with and not distract with what doesn’t need help.

    5. Clever Name*

      I’m a foot-soldier doing technical work, and the best PMs I’ve worked with are the driving force that moves the project forward. They set and communicate timelines and priorities. They check in with staff to monitor progress. They periodically check in with the client if they are waiting for client-furnished information, and then let the staff know what the deal is. It’s really frustrating working for a client who waits months to get you information, and then when they get it to you they demand an immediate turnaround. The PM can help mitigate this through communicating the situation to the staff, as well as occasionally “poking” the client. They help facilitate communication with the client and between teams.

  10. Random Reader*

    Happy Friday! What have been some successful wellness initiatives in your workplaces? A couple of years ago, we had a wellness committee that was unfortunately disbanded. Next week, HR has organized a wellness task force meeting to talk about new initiatives. So far I’m bringing up:
    • A wellness fund (similar to a professional development fund) that could be used to subsidize gym memberships, weight management programs, etc.
    • HR buying pedometers and exercise balls in bulk and offering them at as free or at a discounted rate
    • Healthy snacks in the cafeteria, like fruits and veggies


    1. AndersonDarling*

      I can’t speak to any that succeed, all our’s failed. We had subsidized fancy pedometers and that was interesting for about two months, then everyone fell off the waggon. We get emails for fun-runs and charity walks, but it is the same core fitness group that goes to them. We had a nutritionist come in and give a presentation on easy, healthy dinners to make during the week. I’m using one of the recipes on a regular basis, but it is hard to quantify the impact overall.

    2. Future Analyst*

      These sound great. My husband’s work organizes a volleyball league every summer (no pressure to anyone, just an open invite to people at the beginning to join), and they organize it so that they have 15ish people on each team, but only 7-8 need to show up at any given time. That way it’s not too binding for anyone, and people can do something lightly active once a week.

      1. Sunflower*

        My friend has this at her company but it’s kickball. It’s great because it’s easy and doesn’t take much skill so it encourages people who aren’t super athletic to join in.

    3. LBK*

      I haven’t done one personally but my mother and sister have pedometer challenges at their offices that have been wildly successful – you input your steps and there’s leaderboards by individual and by department/team that everyone can see. It actually gets pretty competitive because it doesn’t necessarily require being that athletic or doing a true workout to earn steps.

    4. Cambridge Comma*

      Letting people get out of work early enough that they still have the energy to exercise if they want to.

    5. TNTT*

      I think before we can answer this, you need to think hard on what you will consider a “successful” initiative. Will it be a high percentage of participation? Weight loss on behalf of your employees (boy I hope not)?

    6. Another HRPro*

      I’ve read studies that show many wellness initiatives that are about outright changing behavior aren’t effective as those that participate are those that would have done so before (gym memberships). But initiatives that nudge people who would be willing to do the healthier options but don’t due to time constraints or easy availability of poor choices. One example (I can’t remember which company) changed the layout of their cafeteria so that healthy food was easiest to get. The candy, chips, etc. was still available but you had to ask for it. They saw a huge increase in those making healthier choices.

      1. Sunflower*

        I like everything you’re saying here. The biggest issues with staying healthy all revolves around time. I went to the gym in college so much- sometimes twice a day because I was so bored. Now it’s impossible to squeeze in. Time constraints are probably the biggest leader of bad food choices as well. I like the idea of asking for the bad food. Some people might be annoyed but I think it will help more than hurt.

    7. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      The insurance company my employer is partnered with has a $200 a year subsidy for “Fitness related” expenses which covers classes and equipment. It has definitely motivated me to take advantage of that reimbursement. There are also free and fee-based fitness classes offered before, during lunch, and after work. Most are well attended and very appreciated (we are located on a college campus though, and thus have the facilities in place for that kind of offering).

      1. Brownie Queen*

        Whatever you do, please do not put the scale and blood pressure monitoring equipment in the same office as HR. They did this at a job I was at years ago and the HR lady that was at the front desk was a real gossippy cow. After a few people heard second hand comments about their weight etc. after using the equipment, no one used it again.

    8. setsuko*

      What are your goals for this scheme? Do you want people to :
      * lose weight
      * increase their physical fitness
      * improve their mental health
      * improve their work-life balance
      * take fewer days off sick
      * increase their productivity
      * reduce their medical bills (not from the US, so I don’t get how this works)

      I get that all these things are nice to have, but I think that they have very different solutions.

      Some of these might be helped along by the schemes you are suggesting. Others might be best dealt with by improving medical insurance, or might require a culture shift – encouraging employees to take vacation, stay home when they are sick etc .

      I’m pretty sure that you don’t have the authority to make those changes. I just think it would be useful to think this out, so that you are clear on what you can and can’t tackle given the resources that you have.

    9. Sunflower*

      I think the biggest problem with wellness is that people don’t have time to be healthy. It’s hard to find the time to exercise or cook food ourselves. I’m not sure who would be qualified to do this but I think if you could find someone to come in and teach how to eat healthy on a money and time budget that would be a big help. I know doing meal prep one day of the week is a huge and if you could find someone to come in and show how to do this, meals to make. Or maybe a subscription to some sort of magazine or video service that is similar?

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        This reminds me – there is also a fitness library. You can check out DVDs and books related to various aspects of fitness (from smoking cessation to managing diabetes to healthy cooking to just plain exercising). I think this is a nice option, as we have a lot of people who live in rural areas and can’t always get these materials from a local library. (I like to review cookbooks and DVDs before I make a commitment to buying them.)

    10. TootsNYC*

      I can’t say this would be successful, because I’ve never seen it done, but I’d love to have my company set aside a conference room w/ a DVD to play fitness tapes, so I could go “take a class” at 4pm, or something. So, no instructor, no machines, but something that would get me moving, and some people to do it with.
      Maybe even find something that doesn’t work up that much of a sweat (so people don’t need to change out of their work clothes) or use much space.

      At one place, a guy on staff had a meditation/relaxation session in one of the conference rooms for a little while–it was well attended.

      I know someone whose company has well-attended yoga classes on site.

      1. Stitch*

        This is what I’d like most. I go stir crazy sitting in an office all day. I do push ups and handstands in the hallway by the bathroom throughout the day. Boy, I’d LOVE a room where it wouldn’t be awkward for me to do 15 minutes of yoga or something.

        1. Stitch*

          Oh, forgot to mention. We have an on-site gym (bit, multi company building) but it requires a separate membership and it’s only worth it if I can take a full hour out for a class. I really prefer (and there are great health and productivity benefits to) doing small activities throughout the day.

    11. Ad Astra*

      It bothers me that so many “wellness initiatives” are focused on weight loss. Even in the case of overweight people, becoming a smaller person isn’t typically what improves their health — it’s the change in their habits. Everyone’s health can be improved by cutting out junk food and being more active, so why make it about weight? It’s gross.

      That said, I think the most helpful wellness initiatives focus on access. Put healthy options in your company cafeteria or vending machines. Hold clinics so employees can get flu shots at the office. Then let your employees leave at a decent hour so that can de-stress.

      1. TootsNYC*

        This is an interesting point–and it might fuel more participation if your “conference room fitness” classes were more about flexibility, joint strength, or just generally moving more.

    12. Natalie*

      If it’s not already covered by your insurance, smoking cessation. And if it is covered by your insurance, make sure people know about that.

    13. setsuko*

      Why not send out an anonymous SurveyMonkey type questionnaire to find out what people want? For example, would they prefer in-house classes (as suggested above), or gym membership subsidies.

    14. S*

      One of my old jobs offered flex hours so you could take some time during the day to go out to the gym if you wanted. We also had a stack of guest passes for a gym that was a block away in one of the drawers and you were more than welcome to take one when you wanted to.

    15. JC*

      What would success look like, exactly? I would like those things, and I would probably take advantage of the gym membership subsidy and fruit in the cafeteria. But since I eat fruit on my own and already belong to a gym, they wouldn’t necessarily make me healthier, just happier.

      On the other end of the spectrum, my employer-provided health insurance this year had a program where they gave you a serious amount of cash for going to a primary care doctor by a certain date, and some more cash if you met certain health criteria at the visit (blood pressure, cholesterol, non-obese BMI, etc). I thought it was a great idea, especially since most of the money was just for going to the doctor and not for hitting the targets, so it wasn’t as fat-shamey as some of these programs can be. But I ended up being too lazy to make the appointment, even with the money attached. So it was a great idea , but in my case it was not successful in changing my behavior.

    16. Lucky*

      Standing desks or desk platforms that adjust up and down. Expensive, but about 1/3 of my current office uses them, even those in the cubefarm.

      1. Dot Warner*

        Second this! My productivity and mood are so much better when I get to use a standing desk!

    17. Steve G*

      We did the pedometers thing at Past Co and it was awesome! You could do a team or individuals, and they have bands to win gift cards, must do 10K, 15K, 20K steps X # of days per week every week and meet a weekly total to win, and a separate prize for who had the most #s of steps.

      The one bad part was that they had a chart of steps-t0-exercise that they let people use to get credit for other exercise. Well, guess what happened. Someone jogs 4 MPH and puts it as “intense aerobics,” um, no, it may feel intense to you if you are in bad shape, but it is not intense. Same for other forms of exercise, everyone was getting all of these thousands or even tens of thousands of extra steps per day for “intense” workouts, and you have to question how intense these workouts actually were. I would assume an intense weight session is what Channing Tatum or Chris Pratt did to prep for movie roles, but you had people getting credit for “intense weight sessions” even though they could barely do 25 pushups in a shot. So if you do it, I highly recommend that only steps count.

    18. blackcat*

      I think free healthy snacks, letting people use exercise balls instead of chairs, and offering a standing desk option (there are things that attach to regular desks or even office chairs that run $200 or less) would be popular.

      I’m always pro healthy snacks.

    19. Kyrielle*

      Disclaimer: I am at a large company, some of these may not make sense for a smaller company.

      Things we have that I at least love, all of which are optional (this is critical!):
      * On site gym. (Gym memberships offered would be nice for a smaller company, for a decent gym nearby, I think.)

      * Cafeteria with healthy food options (but not purely what people think of as ‘health food’ – healthy choices within standard American fare, with a few outliers

      * Our health insurance includes Rally (werally dot com), which basically lets you pick things to do to improve your health (and take a health survey) and get points, which you can use to enter drawings for free stuff. Yeah, it’s not much, but it’s completely free to the employees and it’s actually a decent motivator.

      * Presently, they’re doing a Thrive Across America challenge with prizes for participants (you participate and log something, you are in the drawing, not ‘the biggest exerciser’ type prizes). Teams optional – you can sign up with or without a team.

      * Have a culture that accepts someone’s dedication to their fitness as important/relevant: no one bats an eye if someone leaves for an hour or two in the middle of the day to go swimming or to a yoga class, as long as they’re putting in their hours. People put together games – basketball, soccer, etc. – with teams mostly formed from employees and play after work. Etc. But I will note, I have never seen anyone shamed or negatively-commented for their fitness level either – it’s YOUR dedication to your fitness that’s important, not anyone else’s.

      That last is really tricky and can really at most be encouraged, not forced, I think – but it’s amazing, and awesome. I never thought I’d be happily jumping on fitness initiatives, but I am, and it’s because they’re not forced and there’s no criticism or ‘failure’ for not doing them or for trying and missing.

      1. TootsNYC*

        an on-site gym is awesome. But may have space/money/liability problems, which is why I like the “conference room exercises on video” idea.

    20. Charlotte Collins*

      Our internal health team is awesome. They are dedicated beyond most other people. Here are some highlights:

      We have a local company that comes in and provides group exercise classes. Employees have to pay themselves, but the cost is much lower than if they went through a gym (about $3-5/class for a multi-week class), and the convenience is great! The classes are held before and after working hours, and some are available during lunch time. The important thing is to have a range of types of classes for multiple skill levels. But yoga on a Friday afternoon can’t be beat. :)

      We also just started reimbursement up to $150 for purchasing fitness equipment, gym memberships, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares. And we’re a drop-off site for a CSA – I love getting fresh eggs, veggies, and fruit at work!

      We also have challenges and contests – a lot of them are based on educating about health and having employees track healthy behavior. Some are done as competitions (I completely failed at the Burpee challenge), but many are just done as random drawings based on turning in your (confidential) participation sheet. I like the fact that this one everyone gets a chance to win a prize.

      Also, don’t neglect mental health. I loved the free meditation classes that we done a number of years ago – I should suggest we do this again.

      Most important, the people in charge of this are really responsive. They routinely survey people to see what they want and what they thought of the programs. Also, make sure the healthy snacks are also tasty. (Sorry cafeteria – you will not tempt me with a mealy Red Delicious apple.)

    21. J*

      I wish we had a shower in our office. I bike to work and have to wash up in the bathroom sink.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I make this comment on every health survey we get. (By the way, “Yes to Blueberries” towelettes are great if you need to freshen up after exercising before going to your desk. They are fairly thick, smell great, and don’t bother sensitive skin.)

    22. brightstar*

      Natalie already mentioned this, but if you can add or advertise smoking cessation programs, those have a huge and almost immediate impact on health.

    23. Clever Name*

      In addition to what you suggested, howabout flexible schedules that allow staff the ability to exercise when they want, whether it’s in the AM, PM, lunch, or 3 PM or whatever. Encouraging a healthy work-life balance helps keep people mentally and physically healthy. On-site showers would be amazing, but is probably beyond the scope of a wellness initiative.

    24. JenGray*

      For Christmas, the boss bought everyone Fitbits and now we comes up with challenges. The last one we did the employees were divided up into teams and we “walked” to Mexico City. So if you decided to do something like buying something for someone than make sure you have ideas on how to use the item- that keeps people engaged. Also, keep in mind that some of these things will be personal to people- I like the fitbit I got but if I was going to buy one for myself it wouldn’t have been this one. My point is that not everyone will appreciate the gift in the same way.

    25. Lulubell*

      I have to say, my company is pretty good in this area. Though, how “successful” they are for the company, I have no idea. Here’s what we get, off the top of my head:
      – $250 annual reimbursement for gym membership, fitness equipment, or other similar expense
      – Regular/quarterly massage days – they bring in therapists to offer 10 minute chair massages
      – Regular on-site seminars with free lunch on health/wellness subjects – I have never been to one but they keep having them, so I imagine they are well-attended
      – Voluntary fitness challenges – a month of squats, a month of crunches, etc.
      Probably a couple of other things, I forget. I’m mostly thankful for the gym reimbursement. :)

    26. Anna*

      One of the things our HR and committee did, which was a lot of fun and a great break from the norm, was to arrange a walking scavenger hunt. So we were given a short list of things to see that you could take photos of in a 1.5 mile radius around the building where our office was. We had about two hours to complete the list and get back to the office. It only happened once before I left, but the idea was that it was something special that promoted getting out of the office and moving.

    27. Alice*

      Beware of healthy snacks. An old employer spontaneously bought a few large bags of extremely tasty nuts and dried fruit. They were gone in like two days, and everyone was bummed. Luckily we had a budget for them after that.

    28. asteramella*

      If you are in the U.S., ensure that HR knows about the EEOC wellness program rule and complies with it. (Essentially, to avoid violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, wellness programs must be truly voluntary and not penalize non-participants or disabled participants.)

    29. LibbyG*

      Another idea: see if there’s interest in having your workplace be a pick-up site for a CSA. Being able to grab your veggies on the way out the door might be a great perk.

  11. Applesauced*

    I’m 28 but I look much younger. I had a conversation about this after a meeting with a consultant earlier this week:
    Him – “So, you’re like a year or so out of school, right?”
    Me – “Uh, a few years, yeah” (Note: 5. I have FIVE YEARS of experience)
    Him – “You look so young! You could be in high school!”
    I’m short and petite and I get carded at bars and that’s fine, but it really bothers me when I get asked about my age at work. I don’t think this guy (or any of the other people who have made similar comments) mean anything by it, but to me it feels like I’m being undermined – like there’s no way I could know what I’m talking about.
    There have been question here about this before, and I follow the suggestions – I don’t wear my super long, I dress nicely (business casual – in this case, a sheath dress and summer heels/sandals), tasteful “classic” make up… What should I have done in this situation? Make a joke? Call him out? Nothing?

    1. setsuko*

      I think that saying : “Uh, a few years, yeah” isn’t going to solve the problem. This would lead me to think that you have just left school.

      Depending on how I was feeling, and how condescending the client was, I would have said something between: a) “I’ve been working here for five years actually” delivered with a smile and b) “No. I’m 28.” delivered with a glare and followed by a comment about work.

      1. Future Analyst*

        Saying “I’ve been at the company for 5 years, and I helped to bring in the Chocolate Teapots account 3 years ago” may help. It confirms that you’re not that young, and highlights that actually know what you’re doing.

        (Also, sorry people are jerks!)

        1. JC*

          This happens to me, although less with age (I am 33 now). Now I am getting to an age where I actually appreciate it sometimes when someone tells me I look young! But of course, like you, I feel undermined when someone says it to me in a professional setting. In fact, just last month I gave a keynote speech at a conference, and someone came up to me afterwards just to tell me I look like I’m in high school! Um, thanks for seeking me out to tell me that instead of something related to the content of my talk.

          I do recognize that people don’t mean harm by it, and I don’t feel like being the one to make a stand to change their behavior for the future. So I usually just smile it off and ignore it. Unfortunately, when you make a big deal about a comment like that, I think people tend to overreact in a “geez, I was giving you a complement” type of way. I hate doing that and giving advice like that, because if no one tells people (and it’s usually dudes) to stop doing that, they’ll go on doing it obliviously forever.

          I think the advice to tell someone who says that your professional achievements (“I’ve been at the company for 5 years, and I helped to bring in the Chocolate Teapots account 3 years ago” is spot on, though. It highlights that you are a serious professional even if you look young.

      2. Melissa*

        I agree. I just turned 29 and I get this comment all the time; I usually smile and say “Actually, I’m 29!” or “No, I’m actually about 7 years out of college now.”

    2. Dasha*

      Ohh, I’m a little older than you but I have this problem as well. Recently my coworkers threw me a birthday party and when I told them how old I was they were all genuinely shocked. Also, we had a new person start and they asked if this was my first job out of college *sigh* I have ten years of experience… Any way what I’m trying to say is I can soooo relate to you.

      I think your best bet is to be direct next time. Maybe give your co-worker a warm smile and say, “Actually, I’m 28 and I’ve been out of school for a few years now and I really enjoy doing X work and I’ve gained a lot of experience in X through the years.” Also, adding some sort of lame anti-aging joke- like oh it must be all those antioxidants I eat may help lighten the mood. :)

      1. Vacation Sub*

        Turning 50 in a few days. Had to pull out my driver’s license the other day to prove that I was NOT 35. It’s fun to be hit on my people who could be me kid..

      2. Clever Name*

        Oh, and devil’s advocate here. Why does a direct statement need to be accompanied by a warm smile? Can’t she just say, “Actually I’m 28.”? I mean, you don’t have to intentionally say it in a rude manner, but why should she answer a rude question in a manner designed to preserve the feelings of the rude question-asker?

        1. Melissa*

          Well, she doesn’t have to. But this someone that you presumably need to interact with on a daily basis, or at least regularly for work. Sometimes adding some fake warmth/kindness smooths this kind of thing over to keep relations amiable, even if the other person is being rude.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          “I’ll take that as a compliment, actually I am 28 years old.”

          Age is a very hard thing to guess at. The older I get the worse I am at guessing. You could tell yourself that you are talking to an old person, that is why they can’t figure out how old you are! However, when the person apologizes to you, you can sympathetically say, “I have a tough time guessing how old people are, too.” This allows you to use your sympathy as a way to get the idea out there that “hey, it is hard to guess how old some people are” and get them thinking about that. I no longer guess ages, I am very bad at it.

    3. Amber Rose*

      I always get this, and i’m about your age. And around August I get a lot of “so, heading back to school soon eh?” type comments.

      The two routes I’ve taken are probably both awful advice though. The first is a detailed, boring detailing of how long it took to get a degree and how I’m happy to be a full time employee of Teapots Engineering. The second is something like a joke about how I keep my degree on my wall to remind me I graduated 4 years ago so I don’t feel tempted to sign up for classes.

      Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to discourage the “you hardly look older than 15!” comments. :/

      1. hermit crab*

        I have to admit, one of the great, unforeseen benefits of being in grad school is that when people ask me where I go to school I can actually answer. Previously I’d just be stammering an awkward response in an unsuccessful attempt to convey the fact that I am an adult without further embarrassing anyone. I think this grad school thing will carry me for a couple years too — “Oh, I finished up my masters last summer, so I’m back to working full-time at Company X. I’ve been there for seven years now!” seems like a fairly graceful response.

        Pro tip: Unless you are in a situation where you know that everyone is a student, don’t ask people “where” they go to school! It’s like assuming someone is a parent and jumping straight to asking her what her kid’s name is.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        “you hardly look older than 15!”

        “Please come back again and tell me that in ten years.”

        “Yeah, a few people have told me that, but I assure you I have been out of engineering school for 4 years.”

        “All those preservatives I ate growing up are really paying off for me.”

    4. Dawn*

      I think in those situations I’d say something like “Well thank God those awkward years are way behind me!” and leave it at that. Some people, dudes in particular, probably have zero idea how limiting being perceived as looking super duper young as a woman can be (isn’t that the most double edged sword ever? Women spend thousands to look young as they age, but yet looking *too* young puts you at a disadvantage.)

      I think brush it off unless someone keeps making a big point of it, in which case bring out the big guns.

    5. Amelia*

      Oh god I get this. I usually just (politely) call people out at this point. I met with a guy in a networking capacity one time and he said, “So you’re looking for your first real job?” Uh no, I have almost 4 years of marketing experience, buddy.

    6. Gandalf the Nude*

      As a member of the “You look, like, 12!” club, I feel your pain. I just do my best to be really competent at my job so that if someone thinks I’m fresh out of school, they’ll at least be impressed with how good I am even with so little experience (in their mind). It’s frustrating, but there’s only so much we can do, besides accept it and not let it bother us. And to comments like “You could be in high school!”, I respond with some variation of, “I get that a lot” and redirect back to the work topic.

      1. hermit crab*

        At least “you could be in high school!” is better than someone straight-out asking you which area high school you go to. This happened to me a couple years ago. I am 29.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          I don’t usually get people assuming anymore. Most folks will carefully ask around it these days, I assume because I don’t present like a high schooler (the BRF probably helps, too, now that I think of it). At 25, though, I was hired on to a design role for a theater production featuring high schoolers and folks there assumed I was also a student. But I’ll give them that one, given the context.

          1. Sparkly Librarian*

            Ha! At 25, I volunteered to help at a high school concert where my 40-ish girlfriend was on staff. I asked a teacher where I should put the boxes I was carrying in from the car, and got “You can’t use this door; go up the stairs and around to the side.” in response. Without thinking anything was amiss (other than “Oof! Stairs!” and “I don’t know my way around; is this what she meant?”), I did so. Once I’d arrived with the boxes, my girlfriend asked what had taken so long and I told her about the detour. She went over to the stage door to see what was wrong with that entrance — turns out that teacher had assumed I was a student! (In a crowd where I had just been wondering how these toddlers were already in high school; surely they were the size of middle schoolers I’d grown up with.)

    7. Christy*

      One thing I say in more casual environments is “Don’t you know to never comment on a lady’s age?”

    8. Olive*

      As someone who went through a decade of that, the best way I found to address it in a work setting was to respond to the initial comment with something like, “*small laugh* Well, I’ve been out of school long enough that I’ll take that as a compliment, thanks!” [quickly move conversation back to business] Basically something to convey: I’m older than I look, but I’m good natured about it and not offended or feeling insecure due to what you just said. Generally that shuts it down and everyone’s dignity is preserved.

      I know it shouldn’t be “a compliment” when someone says you look young, it is ageist, but when we’re talking about business situations where the goal is to keep the atmosphere comfortable and professional – I’ve just found that defusing it that way worked for me.

      1. Sarah*

        I really like this one. I’m not very confrontational, but I also want people to get the message that I have experience. My answer is usually just to state my years of experience and correct them in a friendly way – but this is better.

        If this is happening with people you don’t work closely with or have just met, and not with people who have had several interactions, you can assume you are doing the right things to present yourself in a professional manner.

        Also – to ALL OTHER PEOPLE – stop doing this. It is not a compliment in a professional environment.

    9. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m pushing 40 and have gotten this a lot—sometimes even from people my age (or younger!), and it’s annoying, but there’s not much helpful I’ve been able to do about it. I wish you the best of luck!

      1. Steve G*

        Ha! I am 34 and worked with someone 3 years older than me who used to act like we had this big generation divide. He did look older. He was able to keep up the façade that he was much older, I don’t know how he did it, how do you remove references to your age from all conversations – like, when were discussing what people did for spreadsheets before Excel (which was at least when we were in HS, if not middle school) and I was like “I was in school then,” and he just sat there nodding his head, like he knew was everyone was talking about, like he used to actually make spreadsheets in Lotus and print it on one of those 80s printers with the green ink and reams of paper with holes punched on the side (like I used in grade school, not work!). When we were talking about where we were on 9/11, I said I was still in college. He was too (grad school though) because he couldn’t admit that though, he was just like “I wasn’t in the city that day.”

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yup. Can totally relate.

          Yes, when you make those 80s references, I get them all. I lived through that. When you talk about high school being a long time ago, I can relate. It was a long time ago for me, too.

          So when I interact with co-workers I know for a fact are younger than I am, I still insist on not playing the “Oh, you youngsters…” card, because even if it’s true… that card is patronizing and obnoxious, and it doesn’t increase productivity in the workplace.

          1. Steve G*

            I concur, I’d hate to ever come across as condescending because of age, and it detracts from any possible mentoring that could go on. I had a coworker who was 18 years older than me and was respectful in this regard, and he ended up being my go-to person for “how did you do this before” type questions. We had a lot of cool conversations, and he had a perspective that my parent’s generation was too old to give. He was never like “oh you wouldn’t remember this,” he would say “remember when xyz happened?” and many times I did, but I was a teenager or kid or in college then so I knew what he was talking about, but didn’t have the adult perspective of the trend/old software/etc.

    10. Ms. FS*

      This happens to me too, constantly, and I’m 33. I’ve been told that I look like I’m 12! I have a 6 year old and hips to prove it! After so many people telling me this (constantly) and even referencing that they can’t believe I’m at the Director level because I look so young, I just smile and say, yeah, I get that a lot. And then I go on to the subject at hand. I’ve bitched about this to my friends, and all my older lady friends just tell me to be thankful that I look so young still because I’ll appreciate it later. So at this point I just grin and bear it and consider it a complement. NOW, if the person continues to treat me as if I’m incompetent or stupid, THEN I would call it out. But prior to that, I just let it lie.

    11. Retail Lifer*

      I get that, too. I’m close to 40 but (apparently) I might look 10 years younger. I’ve been in my field a long time (since I was 17) and I know what I’m talking about. No one mistakes me for a recent grad , but they certainly don’t give me the credit they should until I let them know I’ve been doing this for 20 years. Depending on the person and the circumstance, I’ll make a joke or I’ll flat out call them out on trying to undermine me because of how old they preceive me to be. It depends on their tone and intent.

      1. ali*

        yes, this is me exactly. I’ve got 22 years experience building websites, which is basically from the beginning of them, and I did start when I was 16. But because I look like I’m in my 20’s, and most of my coworkers are late 20s or early 30s, I often get brushed off when I have more experience than most people in the room combined. Drives me crazy.

    12. nep*

      If you’re competent and know what you’re doing at work, that’s enough, no? Your performance speaks for itself, I would think. If you ever find it’s absolutely necessary for business to point out how much experience you’ve got, best just to state something matter-of-factly with no defensiveness whatsoever.

      1. fposte*

        I’m seconding this. Maybe not literally–I think “Nope, I’m not” or “Really” (not a question) are fine as a response to “I thought you were in high school.” But I wouldn’t spend time with amusing deflections, because they’re on the defensive side, and this is a dumb thing to say to somebody that doesn’t need defending against.

    13. AnotherFed*

      I’ve been getting this for years. It used to really annoy me, as I was a team lead (so what if I was also the youngest one by years?), but at this point I’m numb. I used to use replies similar to what other people have listed, but I think I was probably sounding defensive because I do a lot better now with just an amused “No.”

    14. Six For One*

      I also look very young for my age despite using all the tricks to look older (including forgoing contact lenses for glasses!). Often times people think I’m in my early to mid twenties when I’m actually 35.

      In the situation you described I would say something along the lines of “No. I look very young for my age. I’m actually rounding the bend to 30! I blame good genes.” or I might say “Actually, I’m 27.” if the person is being kind of rude.

      Personally, I feel it’s important that people know my general age since it is often equated with experience. I make an effort to bring it up or make references to growing up in the 80s… At my last job my boss recommended me for her position when she left and the owner told her I didn’t have enough experience. Turns out, he thought it was my first job because in his mind, I was in my early 20’s and had my daughter when I was in high school!

    15. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I’m 41 and look 27, although there was one woman who sits in the pew in front of me at church that keeps asking what high school I go to. I choose to think of it as a compliment at my age.

      Depending on your comfort level, you could always try this line “wow, if you were they guy guessing ages at the fair, you’d be out of a job pretty quick.” I’ve had some success with it. Delivery is important though.

      1. EmilyG*

        Thanks for this line! I’m almost forty and have still been having problems with this.

        I’m about to leave my current job and one of my coworkers asked me the other day if he could ask me a personal question now that I’m going. I mentally rolled my eyes, and he said “How old are you? Because you could be anywhere from 25 to 35.” I was 35 before I started this job.

        I find as I get older that saying “Oh, actually have a graduate degree and 15 years’ experience” comes off as arrogant and combative (maybe?) in a way that “I’ve been working here for four years” as suggested above does not. So a new line is definitely welcome.

        1. Clever Name*

          Why is it arrogant to factually state the amount of experience and education you have?

          1. EmilyG*

            I guess now that I have more experience the correction feels less like a gentle misunderstanding and more like I’m bludgeoning them over the head with it. Not that it’s my problem!

      2. Steve G*

        When I was 28 I was at my parents overnight and someone with a low car got stuck in front of it in a snow storm, because a lot of snow fell really quick and the didn’t plow.

        I helped dig her car out. The husband came back the next day to thank us, and gave my dad a bottle of wine and $10 for me “because people need it at my age.” My dad said he thought I was still in HS and would appreciate pocket money!

        1. blackcat*

          That’s when you say “Thanks! People my age do need all the help they can get with those student loans!”

      3. Nerdling*

        I like that line and have been tempted to use one like it on more than a few occasions. Just a laugh and a reminder not to quit their day job.

    16. Steve G*

      Maybe say “well this company has a problem then if its letting 12 year olds manager its million dollar per year customers,” or something equally sarcastic.

      Anyways, I hate the 30-is-the-new-20 mentality, and ageism against millennials. I had a difficult job that required lots of soft skills and lots of responsibility when I was 22 and 1/2, yes it is young, but it is not a baby, despite what the media leads us to believe.

      I was watching Charles Payne on Fox News yesterday and they were talking about 22yo Ariana Grande’s “I hate America” thing. He turns to a early 30s cohost and says something like “what is your generation’s take on this?” I was so confused. This is what age labels do. Someone who is 30 is definitely a millennial, but definitely a 90s kid, not a 2010s kid listening to and identifying with Ariana Grande’s antics. That is some of the stupidity that comes out of age labels.

      1. Melissa*

        Yeah, that always baffles me. I’m 29 and technically a millennial but a lot of these screeds talk about growing up with social media and being glued to texting since childhood and I’m like bzuh? Facebook came out when I was in college and I didn’t start texting until I was a junior in college – and on a flip phone.

    17. JenGray*

      It’s going to happen no matter what you do. Take it from someone who people always think is younger than I am. I think you just need to be prepared to make a little bit of a joke out of it- like I have been out of school for 5 years but try to laugh a little. Most people will feel embarrassed enough about making the mistake but some people are jerks. At my old job my boss used to call me the “baby of the (employee) group” (we had 14 employees) but I was in fact older than half the staff. It was just related to the fact that I looked so young- she stopped after a conversation one day with her & my coworker where I said how old I was and how old the rest of the staff was. I don’t think she meant any harm- she would always follow up when I would reminder her how old I was with “you will like that when you are older”- but it was still annoying.

    18. DatSci*

      I got this from people sometimes too when I was in my 20s. I’d just tell them (completely deadpan) “That’s such a nice compliment, actually I’m 47.” When they exclaimed I must be joking because I didn’t look 47, I told them “You’re right, I’m 48, I like pretending I’m younger.” ;)

    19. catsAreCool*

      Act like they’re paying you a compliment. Oh, you’re so sweet to say that! Actually, I’ve been here for several years.”

      If you act like you think this is a compliment, you’ll seem more mature.

  12. Mockingjay*

    Meeting Minutes update!

    After the minutes debacle 2 weeks ago between my illustrious colleague and the Admin Assistant, our Team Lead is making a case to have the Technical Writers dedicated to engineering documents. Finally, we will be able to do the work for which we were hired! The only minutes we will have to produce are for specified technical reviews, which directly pertain to the work we do, and we’re cool with supporting those.

    She collected metrics on how much time we spend on note taking and minutes preparation, as well as the number of meetings we have covered (68 for me in the past year). Bless our fancy task tracking system. We also have the support of the technical team leads. One lead is especially furious; he had deliverables due that my colleague had been working on, and they were late to the customer.

    She is also researching the purchase of recording equipment for the Admin staff to use. I pointed out that the phone system has a recording feature; most meetings include a dial in, so perhaps we can enable this feature. We are checking with IT.

    In the meantime, the Admin Assistant still has not completed the minutes. She sent my coworker emails telling him to prepare the minutes, then she would “incorporate her notes into them.” (As you may recall, she played with her phone in lieu of taking notes.) Colleague is disgusted.

    Team Lead will be making our case to the Project Lead soon. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    1. Helen of What*

      I love how your team lead handled this! May I ask which task tracking system you use?

      I’m also curious how the Admin’s manager isn’t frustrated with her yet.

      1. Mockingjay*

        We have a full suite of IBM Rational Collaborative Life Cycle Management (CLM) products and tools. It is my Nirvana developmental and informational management system. I LOVE this system. It’s very expensive, but sooo cool. (Yes, I am a geek, and proud of it.)

        One of the core components has a Work Item Task feature, with descriptions, owners, due dates, etc. The task item includes a Time Tracking tab, which records hours just like a weekly timesheet. The overview page of the task displays the total hours expended, so you can see at a glance that Percival spent 6 hours total to edit the software installation guide.

        All tasks can linked to artifacts and deliverables in the system. It can sort, link, export reports, display on dashboards. We use tasks to manage everything.

        Not all of the teams are using tasks as heavily as we do, but we keep producing tangible metrics to show the boss, so he’s pushing the others to record more. We have also realized we need to do some in-house training so people are more comfortable using it.

    2. Pineapple Incident*

      I almost missed this in the thread! So happy you have your org’s support to stop this fairly stupid upending of your workflow. Congrats! It’s nice when you are finally told you don’t have to complete certain activities, especially when all the while you were trying to tell people “this is actually notmyjob, kthanksbye.”

    3. JenGray*

      I am glad everything worked out. I am still amazed how this was not a part of the admin asst.’s job in the first place! I have been an admin for 10 years and taking notes has always been a part of my job. And playing on your phone during a meeting is not acceptable in any meeting no matter your role @ the meeting.

  13. NJ anon*

    Am starting my nonprofit. When should I tell my boss (also nonprofit)? I don’t have enough funding to quit my day job yet-that could take 6 months or so. Do I tell her now or wait until I have a better idea of when that will be. Conflict of interest?

      1. NJ anon*

        Both social services but not the same. Think domestic violence prevention vs. eliminating hunger.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Do you have a secondary employment policy that requires you to disclose other work? If you are in any way competing with your employer for funding, donors, resources, etc. then you do have a conflict and ethically need to disclose regardless of the policy.

      1. fposte*

        That’s the part that concerns me–the funding/donors competition. I don’t know if it’s really possible to do this without risking either the appearance of conflict or actual conflict.

      2. BRR*

        The donor thing is what immediately jumped out to me. If anything even hints at utilizing current knowledge for your own fundraising you need to act.

        1. NJ anon*

          I think so too but I am just not sure how to approach her about it. My current organization is primarily government grant funded and does very little fundraising. I feel it’s unfair to say I am going to leave at some point without knowing exactly when that will be .

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s so tough to start a successful nonprofit and get enough funding to pay yourself and staff that you could probably just tell your boss you’re starting this on the side without any mention that you plan to leave to do it full-time eventually; she’s likely to assume that that time will be a very, very long way off, if at all. And then if that changes at some point, you’d bring it up then.

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              Yes. If someone told me they we’re doing this, I’d assume a 95% chance it won’t happen and not worry about it (not to demonstrate a lacking faith in you personally!). I would also be careful about any overlapping stakeholders (United Way, local government). I would not want my key people representing a different agency with those groups. So maybe it depends in part on what your role is now.

    2. Jerzy*

      My goal is to work for a nonprofit, so if you need a partner in this venture who has project management/communications/ government experience, let me know. I’d love to talk to you about it.

  14. GigglyPuff*

    Just figured out how to accurately use Access 2013 Update query to fill in a field of filenames in one table from the master list of filenames to the main master table. I feel like an IT superhero, and oh, did I mention it is over 36, 000 fields to update. :D

    1. Ama*

      Man, back when I used Access all the time every time a wrote a query that actually worked the way it was supposed to I felt like a genius (and it was probably nothing as complicated as what you just did — it definitely wasn’t as big a database). Congratulations!

    2. Anony-moose*

      Don’t you love those moments!

      I figured out how to run a macro in my crazy excel document and I was SO excited. Technology for the win.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Gah, I had to use Access for a form at Exjob. I hated it! I remember how pumped I was when I figured out how to make a field accept more characters. All by myself. :) Okay, with Google’s help.

      Yay for you!!

    4. GigglyPuff*

      Thanks everyone! It really does make you feel like a genius. Excel macros are the bomb, started using those this year too.

      Now I get to move the 36,000 folders (folders not files!) from one server to another. It’s been a few minutes now, and Windows is still just “preparing to move”, and it’s almost up to 100GB.
      If this goes smoothly I’m definitely cracking up the champagne tonight. The end of an almost four year project. Luckily I’ve only been doing the last 8 months, but I like to say it’s what drove the previous person who had my job crazy enough to just not show up for work one day. But not me! Hehe ;)

  15. Amelia*

    I had the weirdest interview last week. It was for a Communications Coordinator position and as a first interview I had to give a presentation about improving their website and their communications efforts in the organization to SEVEN people in management. Again, this was a first interview. There was no phone screen. I got a reject email from them a week later. A part of me wants to believe it was a legitimate interview, but the other part of me feels like I was doing a free consulting session. Anyone ever done anything like this before?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Wow, that’s crappy. Let’s hope that all the candidates were rejected and the recruiter was told to think about why they wasted everyone’s time. And there will be another round of interviews in a few weeks when a real system is put in place.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      Thatz not okay. How the hell are you supposed to know what needs improving? And that’s AT BEST a last-round interview assignment.

      I’m sorry.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        It is a technique of some web developers/programmers to do what is called a “tear down” of a site, usually by screen capturing it and using that as a sample of the process of how they work on their website. To the point that some of them will send a link of said tear down to someone in the company of the website that has been torn down in the hope that this VIP will decide that the dev is brilliant and should be hired to enact these changes. There are also some web devs who will sell you a set number of hours where they will give their opinion on how your site can be improved — it’s then your choice to take that information and get a quote from them or anyone else you choose.

        So, this could have been a legitimate test to see how the candidates thought on their feet, their knowledge of trends using the company’s website which would give an idea of how they would react if a client asked them something similar. Or, it could have been a great big fishing expedition. However, to tie up the time of 7 people to interview who knows how many candidates the same way, that’s an awfully expensive fishing trip to get “free” consulting.

    3. Ad Astra*

      I once had a hiring manager seek me out on social media, interview me by phone, and then ask me to email her a bunch of feedback about their website — what worked, what didn’t, what I might do to improve. After a week or so, she responded to let me know she was behind on things but would be showing my feedback to the bosses or whoever. I followed up once or twice after that but never heard from her again. Weird.

    4. MsM*

      Ick. I’ve been part of group interviews where we asked people what they thought about the website, but it was much more informal and we were checking whether they’d taken the time to look at it. I don’t blame you for being skeptical on this one.

  16. HeyNonnyNonny*

    Just hoping for some good vibes: I’m having my first annual review next week and I’m going to push for more PTO. The kicker is that I’m at about half of industry and area standards (thanks to everyone who weighed in when I was asking around a few weeks ago), and I’m worried it’ll be too much of a stretch to get to where I really should be. Wish me luck!

    1. AE*

      The worst that could happen is they say “no” and then you’d be exactly where you are now!

  17. Gareth Keenan Investigates*

    I’d appreciate input on finding the right workplace. I know there have been some AAM posts on culture and fit but I’m not sure how to assess those things in this particular situation. I have an upcoming interview (fingers crossed it goes well!) with my current org at another location. My current colleagues don’t know I’m looking/interviewing. I’ve worked with several people from the other location and have found them to be respectful, professional, and hardworking. (You can’t really say that about most people at my current workplace.) Because my interviewers will know exactly where I’m coming from and who I’m working with, how do I ask questions that don’t make it obvious that I’m fleeing my current position? My current position is my third in just over two years, I know that looks bad but I really had no choice but to leave my last job and in my desperation, I didn’t take time to properly assess culture and fit. Suggestions for how to do so, delicately, so that I don’t keep repeating the same mistakes? I have a legitimate reason for leaving (funding cuts) so I don’t have to go into any detail on why I’m looking…but I’d like to get a feel for office culture without making it obvious that my current workplace is a bit of a mess.

    Also, just to really pick your brains, my interviewers know that I’m seven months pregnant (as noted I’ve worked with them before and at this point it’s pretty obvious). Do I still not address that until any sort of offer is extended or should I be honest about how that might impact my timeline in starting a new job?

    1. LBK*

      I’d phrase those questions as being about what works for you as an employee, e.g. “I find that working under a manager with very clear, high standards helps me be a productive employee. Can you speak a little to what the culture is around accountability in your department?” The unspoken implication may still be that your current department sucks in that regard, but without having to directly throw anyone under the bus.

    2. Chickaletta*

      I had a bad experience with a nasty coworker a few years ago and whenever I get asked questions about a conflict that stands out to me, or what type of people I don’t get along with, I’m always reminded of that one horrible person. But, I don’t want the people I’m interviewing with to think that I’m the difficult person, so I find that I have to think through my responses ahead of time so that they come across right. Usually, unless I’m pressed for it, I just don’t even mention that situation and use other examples instead. I try to always focus on the positive and talk about what I have done instead of talking about other people.

      As for questions I ask, in my last group interview I asked what was their favorite thing about working there and what was the one thing they would change. Only one person answered the second part, which to me was a red flag: why didn’t they want to talk in front of each other about what they would change? Even in the best workplaces, everyone has something they would do differently. And all seven people are perfectly happily content? No way. I don’t know if it was a personnel issue or they didn’t like the management or they were all about to bail ship or what, but something was up. Sometimes the things that don’t get said are just as telling as the things that are. Pay attention not just to what they say but what they don’t say. How do they interact with each other? Are they comfortable around each other? Does one person answer every question? Do they glance at each other before answering your questions? Are people afraid to speak up?

      Also, if anyone says “we’re like one big family!”, run. Run fast, run far.

      1. Helen of What*

        Aw, but I’ve seen the “family” comment said at places with a good culture. I wouldn’t completely rule it out :P

    3. Beancounter in Texas*

      In order to know whether you’ll fit, you need to know yourself and what helps you work at optimum performance.

      For me, I keep a running “Ideal Job Ad for Craigslist” that I update occasionally. I write it like a job posting for an employer – I’m looking for a full-time beancounting job with a small to medium sized company, where I can wear jeans everyday (and yet we’re still professional) with a healthy dose of autonomy to problem solve (i.e. no micromanaging). I also list desired benefits in order of highest priority. I haven’t actually posted it anywhere, but this is my compass.

      From there, you can pinpoint what topics you need to cover to assess whether you’ll be happy there. How does management prefer to be updated about my work? At what frequency? How do employees receive feedback? What is the dress code? Would you describe the office as fast paced or more moderately paced? I think if you just focus on their office environment, you don’t have to explain anything about your current office environment.

      As for birth and the timing of your start date, I’d wait until an offer is made. They know into what situation they’re getting. Don’t place doubts in their minds about your start date due to your pregnancy – it’s probably going to cross their minds anyway. But if you vocalize it, you may reinforce the doubt by placing it in the forefront of their minds. Good luck!

      1. Gareth Keenan Investigates*

        Thanks for the suggestions! I’m hopeful but trying to be realistic…

    4. FJ*

      I don’t know if I have any great suggestions for you, but I’m thinking about the same thing.
      I have been in informal discussions with a company that I’ve worked with before to come join them… and I liked the people and they are smart/intelligent and have a product I’m interested in… but our working relationship was terrible. We could work through design meetings, but then they never delivered… communicating about schedules was always a mess. If I ever have an interview, I’m not sure how to ask if that was a function about the corporate relationship or just the method of their workplace.

      I do like the “What’s one thing you love and one thing you would change” question… I think I’ll use that.

      I think maybe I will ask about examples… “How does the working culture deal with conflicts in project priority?”

      I don’t know if wording like “I’ve only seen your organization from the outside… how is it on the inside?” is too much of a leading question for them to answer “Oh, it’s great!” when it’s really not great.


  18. Dasha*

    Does anyone have any advice on how to ask your boss to work remotely a few days a week? I’m hoping for 1 to 2 days from home.

    – The person before me worked in the office before his wife got a job in another state and then worked 100% remotely for two years before moving on.
    – I’ve only been at this job six months.
    – My boss works remotely 2 to 3 weeks out of the month- which kind of makes things hard because I’m very independent in this role so I don’t get a ton of interaction with him.
    – I occasionally have gotten his permission to work a few days from home during bad weather or days I’ve had medical appointments.

    The reason I want to work from home a few days a week is because my poor dog is having health issues :( she needs medicine and to be let out more frequently. I obviously don’t want to go all personal and tell my boss about my dog’s medical stuff but that’s reason why- I don’t mind coming in the office.

    Is six months too soon to ask for something like this? I think that’s my main concern.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I think six months *might* be too soon, especially since your own boss isn’t around very much — it takes a high level of trust for an employer to say yes to work-from-home arrangements, and at six months you may not have that yet. But you know your boss better than we do — if, say, he’s already referring to you as his right hand or has otherwise given indication that he’s really happy with your work, I think it might be okay to try.

    2. LBK*

      I think it’s fine to ask after 6 months since it seems like your office has a very big existing remote work policy. If this were going to be wildly out of the norm I’d wait at least a year, but it sounds like it’s not unusual for people to have pretty heavy work-from-home schedules. A couple days a week shouldn’t be an issue.

    3. Chris*

      I would ask. When talking to your boss, I would probably approach it as a trial period. Like maybe X days/week for one or two months, then you two agree to sit down and talk honestly about how it is going. This shows that you are taking it seriously and are willing to listen to feedback if boss has concerns.

      Also, I am sorry about your dog.

    4. Wee*

      I’m planning on asking my boss the same thing. We have someone that works remotely 2 days a week now and the boss travels a lot. I’m just not sure how to word the request. Are you planning on mentioning the dog? My reason is I work better in quiet surroundings. Not sure that is a legitimate reason. Good luck! Hope you get what you want.

    5. JenGray*

      I agree with the other commenters that it wouldn’t hurt to ask. It is possible that 6 months is too short of a time to get this privilege. I think that you also might need to explain the desire especially if someone needs to be in the office & it falls to you. Also, think about whether you want this to be a permanent arrangement or temporary one while you care for your dog. If you do end up telling your boss about your dog- it might sound like it is a temporary arrangement. Or perhaps your boss would approve a temporary arrangement. Lots of possibilities if you just ask.

      1. Windchime*

        I think it depends on the office. Most of my team has a work at home day (some people have two), and we recently made a couple of new hires. They were only on the team for a matter of weeks before they also started having a work at home day. It’s perfectly OK on our team to ask for one or two days to work at home as soon as you are oriented and have a good sense of what your responsibilities are.

  19. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    Ugh. I am so worried about the changes in overtime laws. I have several managers (and people with social worker exemption) making under $50,000 (which is on-par for our field and location). We really discourage people from working more than 40 hours in a week (and really, their jobs can be done in 40), but this means that they will lose their flex time because we truly cannot afford to pay overtime without taking services away from our clients.

    Right now, we are super flexible with scheduling. If you want to work late a few days this week, and then leave every day next week at 3pm because your parents are visiting, great! If you had a big project to finish last week, and then you want to go to yoga and come in three hours late on Monday, that’s fine. All of this will be gone. I don’t know how many people over the years have told me that the flexibility is one of their favorite parts of their job, and a big reason they stay. People can live their lives because they are not tied to the clock. They get very generous vacation time, but often use flex to to avoid taking vacation hours for little stuff so they can take full weeks a few times a year. People who do not take long vacations are grumpier, less productive, and not at their best.

    Also, there are times when an emergency or deadline comes up and it just has to be handled. Because staff have so much flexibility, there is a lot of goodwill about working a few extra hours when needed – especially when they know they can swap that time out when they want to.

    I really understand (and support!) increasing the threshold in cases where people are working tons and tons of hours for next to nothing. That sucks, and lots of companies are abusing workers under exemption laws. We’re not one of them, and it’s going to decrease quality of life for my staff, make work-life balance harder, and create logistical headaches.

    1. NJ anon*

      We will have this situation as well. Fortunately it will only affect one staff member as she is currently exempt but makes less than $50k.

    2. Sabrina*

      I think that if it’s the same week, they can still flex out the time. I’ve left early/came in late and made up the time the same week without incurring OT. I do it to avoid using PTO.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Yeah – it’s more often in a different week. That’s what I’m worried about.

    3. fposte*

      Yeah, there’s always some collateral damage with something like this.

      I haven’t parsed the details yet, but if there’s no governmental/educational exception, that’s going to be an issue here too; we have a lot of part-time exempt employees, and none of them would make enough to stay exempt. Argh.

      1. BRR*

        I feel like being part-time inherently means a position should be classified as non-exempt (also I know you’re not the one setting the policies, well at least I think you aren’t).

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Not if their salary is over the threshold. I have a part-time staffer right now who is exempt. She supervises people and asked to move to part-time to manage child care costs. It works for both of us. She get a super flexible schedule, and I get a happy employee. It’s not that common, though, since a lot of part-time people aren’t making more than the current threshold.

        2. fposte*

          I get what you mean–I’ve also thought that if exempt means “no specific hours” then part-time exempt seems ripe for exploitation. But that’s what we’ve got, and it’s going to be a pain to change it.

        3. Clever Name*

          I used to be part time hourly (my choice), and I was classified as non-exempt, but honestly, I probably should have been exempt due to my hourly rate and my position (very autonomous, decide how much and when to work, and even what to work on, to some extent). I think my small employer did it that way to make things more consistent/easier for themselves.

          1. Anna*

            That sounds more like it would have been appropriate at a contract worker, not necessarily exempt.

    4. BRR*

      Well the good news is you have plenty of time to start preparing. Even if something is signed it will likely be help up in court. I would check into all the details of flex time first to be sure. Can you add to their PTO to compensate?

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I am hoping we will have enough time to plan. Increasing PTO is not a bad idea – it would solve half the problem, but would still leave me without available staff for emergencies or big projects that have to be completed within the week.

      2. Natalie*

        I’m not actually sure it can be held up in court in that way. It’s not a law, it’s an executive action.

        1. fposte*

          It’s also a DOL proposal now. There might be an employment lawyer who actually knows how this works, but my impression is that if it gets published as a final rule (which I suspect is a huge “if”) it’s binding.

          1. BRR*

            From what I read in the NYT (I trust them to do their due diligence because I’m certainly not going to look into it more right now), the president has the power to do this but there will likely be legal challenges and during that time courts will likely keep it from going into effect.

            1. Natalie*

              I don’t think that’s how Department of Labor rules work, though. This rule would be binding once issued, and as far as I can tell if a business even has standing to sue (which they might not), it wouldn’t keep the rule from going to into effect.

              1. Natalie*

                From a bit of googling, it looks like people have occasionally filed suit to stop these agency rules, but the rules aren’t generally stayed during the process. In order to be overturned, the rules have to be ridiculously capricious or outside of the agencies jurisdiction, and that doesn’t seem to happen that often.

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t know how much change will happen as a result of the public comment period, but it looks like that’s the time that really matters.

                  Interesting that it hasn’t really been talked about at my workplace.

    5. Retail Lifer*

      I work in a mall and I can tell you that almost 100% of us on salary in this building make under $50,000. I usually don’t work many hours over 40, but lots of stores in the mall have managers who do this regularly. With brick and mortar retail already being less than profitable and most of these stores relying on their salaried staff to work extra hours and save on payroll, I think we’re going to see more stores leave. I’m curious as to how my job will fare as well, because overtime is absolutely forbidden (we’re not profitable either) but it’s my job to cover shifts when no one else can or work extra when something’s going on. Not sure how we would handle that since I have to be here but they won’t pay me extra. My position has already been eliminated at some other sites and I think they’ll somehow use this as an excuse to eliminate it here, too.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        You know the saying about stuff rolling down hill? Companies will just become less tolerant (if that is possible) of part time hourly employees who call in sick or who are late.

    6. sophiabrooks*

      I am worried, too. I currently make $40,000 (which is quite decent for what I do and our cost of living) and I have so much freedom now– weeks where I have to be here from 7 am – 7 pm for a weeklong conference I am in charge of are balanced out by other weeks of coming in late or leaving early. I know my university will never approve overtime, but I don’t know how it will work on those conference days- I am the only person in my department other than the education director, so there is no one else to do those things. And I really don’t want to lose my flexibility!

      1. Observer*

        From what you describe, they won’t have any choice, unless they decide to shorten the conference or have it go over a weekend.

    7. inkstainedpages*

      I hadn’t heard about this new proposal – I just looked it up and wow, this is crazy! This will affect all the staff at my museum, including me. In my career (director of a small museum) and area, I expect I will never make more than $50,000. As someone who is underpaid right now even for the area, I appreciate the intention of the change in the law, but wow, this would change a lot for my organization. Like you mentioned, this change will punish companies that are not abusing the current exemption law along with those that are.

      1. Natalie*

        I think it’s worth noting that the intention is not to punish anyone, just to bring the OT threshold back in line with inflation. It literally hasn’t been adjusted since 1975.

        (And while we’re at it, DOL should peg the damn thing to inflation. I have no clue why they didn’t do that in the first place.)

        1. asteramella*

          It won’t be tied to inflation as proposed, but it will be pegged at the 40th percentile of exempt salaries nationwide, changing annually.

    8. AVP*

      I’m also nervous about this, although my employers is one of those abusing the current law so I don’t feel very badly for them. We have one person who works a ton of hours but is significantly under the salary threshold, and she’s either looking at a 15k salary bump or huge overtime payouts. We just need to figure out which is more affordable….

      The reason I’m dreading this is because while I’m super happy for her and she seriously deserves more money, I am the one who’s going to have to explain this to the CEO and find the cash.

    9. asteramella*

      It will likely take at least a year for the rule to finalized. DOL was late coming out with the proposed rule. I’d be surprised if it’s finalized before 2017.

  20. Christy*

    I think my office building gives me headaches. I just moved to a new building. I’m working from home today to see if I’m the problem, and so far no headaches. The possibility exists I could move to a third building in the area (we’re a government organization in the DC area) but it would be a pain since I just moved with my new job this very week.

    Anyone else experience this? It’s an old building. Both the old and new offices have had fluorescent lighting, so I don’t think it’s that part of it.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I have fragrance allergies and there are some places I just can’t go unless I really have to. Everything from hand-lotion to the air freshener in the bathroom can give me a day-long headache. Most of the time, there’s no immediate solution because you can’t just remove the smell (or even identify the source). It might be something in the building itself or some environmental something that people are bringing in. Allergy medicine does help me, though.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I sometimes get office migraines, but mine are from lighting and computer screens. I bought dorky yellow computer glasses, which seem to help. You can get a pair for 10-20 bucks. Maybe worth a shot.

      1. Fawn*

        If it is the computer screen, OP might want to give the f.lux extension a shot. It changes the colour temperature of the monitor, and I’ve found it helpful for reducing eye strain and computer-related migraines.

        1. Christy*

          Not in a million years would an extension be approved. Have I never mentioned that IE is the only approved browser? At least we’re up to IE11 now.

              1. Natalie*


                Couple of other things to try – if you have fluorescent lights, see if you can have gel filters installed. They change the quality, color, and intensity of the light. You also might find one of those screen cover dealies helpful.

          1. Beezus*

            I feel ya. Ours is IE8. I went rogue and upgraded to IE11. because I need something more current for a vendor portal that I have to access. (I also have Chrome for personal browsing. I am a rebel.) Some of our internal web-based things don’t work on IE11. IT’s response is that I’m using an unsupported browser, and they can’t help me do anything but change my browser back to IE8. I can remotely access another machine that still has IE8, so I’m working around it.

            1. Christy*

              Wow, we totally can’t go rogue. We had IE6 for the longest time and that was a rough, tough time.

            2. Stranger than fiction*

              You may want to mention that IE8 /windows xp since no longer supported by Microsoft makes your company vulnerable security wise since there’s no longet updates available to address security comcerns. It’s scary companies are still using it despite all the media coverage and warnings to upgrade for two years prior to the official end of support

              1. AnotherFed*

                Welcome to the government… we don’t get a choice on the IT, but it’s certainly making the news for how bad the IT security is.

          2. Anonicorn*

            You might look for monitor privacy screens. As implied, they’re intended for privacy but some of the ones I’ve seen tint the screen a bit even while you’re sitting in front of it.

    3. Gareth Keenan Investigates*

      Last year I started getting horrible tension headaches. They always hit around the same time of day and only if I was at the office (and they got way worse every time we had a staff meeting). I had no idea what was causing them and tried every practical remedy I could think of. When our office moved buildings and the headaches continued I figured I could probably exclude most environmental factors. I did talk to a doctor who felt pretty sure that they were tension headaches, for some reason I hadn’t even considered that. I can keep them at bay now with regular chiropractic and massage but they come back if I’m not on top of it. Any chance it could be something like that?

    4. Kelly L.*

      I had this at one old workplace, an office that always smelled of mold. Could there be an environmental issue of that kind?

      1. Jane*


        I had horrible migraines almost daily due to working in an old moldy building. I moved to a new office, and my migraines stopped almost completely.

      2. Christy*

        I’m afraid that’s what it is. I have a hard time smelling in general so I’ll have to pay attention for it.

      3. Ama*

        Also check if there are any plants that might produce pollen or any air fresheners nearby. I discovered I am apparently allergic to those plug-in air fresheners. I was using them all over my house for years, but I have bad sinuses anyway, so I didn’t make the connection until I moved a desk directly next to one and noticed I was getting regular migraines on the side of my head closest to the plug in that eased as soon as I moved elsewhere in my apartment.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Are you sure it’s the building, and not one specific coworker’s perfume, or the cleaning supplies?

      1. Christy*

        The first day it happened, I was literally the only person in the office–lots of telework. But I’ll think about the cleaning supplies–this building has a different cleaning contractor.

        1. Ezri*

          My migraines can get triggered by smells, sometimes. It doesn’t even have to be a strong or unusual smell – the most common one at home is fresh cat litter. No idea why.

            1. Marcela*

              Chemicals as “everything”? It drives me crazy that people don’t seem to remember anything from whatever the name of the science class in high school is: EVERYTHING is a chemical!

              1. Bangs not Fringe*

                How about:
                The over use of artificial fragrances in products like the cat litter that Ezri mentioned can have a profound impact on those of us with migraines. The same goes for household cleaning products and personal care products (makeup, hair and skincare, etc.) among many other things.

                My comment of “chemicals” was sarcasm. But the fact of the matter is, there’s a bunch of unnecessary junk in products and if you know (as Ezri alludes to) that they are making you feel unwell, you should find out why and make a change as a conscious consumer. There’s no reason to continue to feel unwell. Headaches suck.

    6. Bangs not Fringe*

      My work is a headache haven. This is what I looked at to find the culprit(s).

      Check the refresh rate of the screen you’re using at work. If you’re in government (like me) chances are the monitor was cheap, bought in bulk, and has a low refresh rate which can definitely contribute to headaches. Is your computer screen the same in this building as in the old? If not, this may explain the change. When my old monitor died, it was replaced by a big fancy new one! Unfortunately, big fancy new one wasn’t so fancy and has one of the lowest refresh rates out there.

      Also you can check whether the fluorescent lights have magnetic or electronic ballasts (apparently you can check this using the camera on a cell phone… not sure how effective this method is). Magnetic ballast fluorescent lighting is also associated with headaches. If it’s actually a “new” (new construction, remodeled) building, the likelihood of having outdated magnetic ballasts is reduced. Not all fluorescent lighting is created equal.

      Then like everyone has mentioned… scents and mold.

      Good luck!

    7. Hlyssande*

      When we moved to our office three years ago, I had a horrible time with the new lights. They gave me absolutely terrible, blinding headaches. Fortunately I’ve gotten used to them over time, so hopefully you will as well if the lighting is contributing to your issue.

      It still bothers me sometimes, but only when I already have headaches or feel crappy.

  21. New Admin*

    I will be starting an academic administrative job with a Big 10 University next week in a STEM department. I worked in the private sector (Fortune 250) for the last 30 years. What are the major differences in culture that I should be aware of between the corporate and academic worlds? My work in the private sector was accounting/IT systems, my new role will be a combination of accounting and HR. During my interview the professionalism of the department, training and work life balance was stressed, which I welcome.

    1. fposte*

      Since most of the Big 10 are public universities, what might be more significant, if you’re applying to one of those, is changing to work for the state. A lot of the culture is set by the individual department or unit, too, and it sounds like you may have found a solid one.

      And football and spirit tend to be big deals. You can probably get by without engaging–I do–but there will quite likely be colleagues wearing school colors on the relevant days.

      1. ali*

        yeah, in academia, especially Big 10, sports are important. I’d follow enough just so I could participate in conversations because it really is what everyone is talking about. It’s a good way to be included in group gatherings.

        also, expect your IT department to be slow. My last academia job, I was the ONLY IT person in my department. It took 3 months to get a computer for me because of having to jump through hoops with the school’s IT department. I had hacked into a leftover iMac in order to do the rest of my job for those 3 months.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      Ooh, no advice but I’ll be tracking the responses to this one. I’m in a similar boat, but moving from a non-profit to a huge university.

    3. Ama*

      My last boss in academic administration made a similar move and her biggest frustrations were the slow pace at which everything moved (especially when classes were not in session) and that systems infrastructure is just way behind where the private sector is (*especially accounting/HR,* so I hope for your sake your new employer is at least a little more organized on this front than my old one).

    4. pony tailed wonder*

      This is a small potatoes comment but start looking for the school colors when you are out shopping for work clothes. We have to wear ours one day a week and for when we have people coming on for special events.

    5. Academic*

      Get in as much training as you can on the law for your state! It will govern (literally) everything from buying pencils to hiring & firing. Be sure to get training in the evaluation system ASAP. Often you have to do any progressive discipline well before the evaluation deadline for the year, e.g., 90 days’ performance plan, with follow up time.

      The main cultural issue in academia is tension between professors/scholars vs. professionals vs. nonexempt staff. Professors are not usually locals. Nonexempt staff usually are. Professionals could be either. Nonexempt staff may be longtimers with a lot of experience who resent being treated like nobodies because they don’t have letters after their names. They may indeed know quite a bit, and it would be a good plan to butter up at least the secretaries. Professors may resent “uppity” underlings and some tenured faculty may be presumptuous and demanding. They may also be deficient in IT skills (even in a STEM department!) and need hand-holding more than the secretaries when it comes to filling out forms, learning new software, etc.

    6. A.*

      Particularly in STEM: personalities will be weird. possibly very weird. social skills may be lacking and you may need to recalibrate your expectations for people’s social adeptness. Also just because someone works in academic science does not mean they will understand how to use a computer to do basic things. I knew people who literally helped invent the modern computer who were flummoxed by email.

      Work-life balance may be there or…it may be not. Especially non-tenured academics trying to climb the ladder will be working all the time trying to keep ahead of the publishing rat race. And a flexible schedule is supposed to be one of the perks of academia, even when ‘flexible’ ends up meaning ’18 hour days or gtfo’. They should understand that staff members are not held to the same expectations, but don’t freak out if you get emails 24/7. It doesn’t necessarily mean your immediate response is expected.

      I agree with the other poster who mentioned there can be tension between out of state academics and in-state support staff…particularly if the state is in the midwest and the transplants are from the coasts.

      If you aren’t already a sports person paying superficial attention to the school’s athletics is very useful conversational grease.

      1. Academic*

        … and those socially inept people with no lives sometimes cross boundaries with young college students with no self-esteem.

        Be prepared for sexual harassment, religious discrimination, or almost any other unthinkable thing that you haven’t thought of! The concept of “mobbing,” or group bullying, came from its frequent occurrence in academia.

    7. ModernHypatia*

      1) Academic calendar has ebbs and flows. Everyone is likely to be very busy from about 2 weeks before classes start in the fall until about a month after, and then again the last 3-4 weeks of the semester. During breaks, people may not be on campus. (Or some key person may not be.) Ask people about what the norms are at your school, and when to push about bigger projects, and when to expect there won’t be progress for a bit.

      2) A lot of academia can feel very siloed, and both staff and faculty can sometimes feel very isolated. At some schools, there are ways to meet other people in similar roles in other areas. In others, it’s discouraged, or it went badly 15 years ago and no one’s tried since. Before you try to change those patterns, try and get a sense of why they’re like that, and whether the people who are the reason for it are still around.

      3) If any of the work you’re doing involves direct student contact (student workers, grad students hired by a lab, whatever) keep in mind that they will have a lot of the same issues interns do, and that Alison talks about a lot of the things that may come up. They may be brilliant at their field, but they may not have much experience with professional behavior, how to deal with situations that might cause HR or other problems, etc. Some clear handbooks/guidance (especially for safety/harassment/etc. issues) help a lot.

  22. BRR*

    As I have babbled on about for months now, I am on a PIP (I will stop talking about it soon I promise). I think I have a fairly good shot of succeeding at it and my manager would be graded on A on the AAM grading scale overall and specifically with this (as in wants me to succeed and is not being an ass.

    But I know most people don’t succeed once put on a PIP. I have a couple interviews coming up, should I take a job that pays less and would be venturing into an unknown work environment just to be safe?

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Is that a conversation you could have with your manager? Do you have that kind of relationship? I have definitly had people succeed on a PIP, and others where I was doing the PIP as a matter of process knowing that they could/would not comply. If they had asked if they should be looking, I would be honest.

      1. Sunflower*

        I agree with this. You say your manager as been A at this so chances are she’ll be upfront about your actual chances of succeeding at the company. Good luck

      2. BRR*

        Unfortunately I don’t feel comfortable asking. Partially because it’s a 90 day PIP and I’m currently in week two so I might have an offer far before a decision is made (a big big big part of the PIP is consistency over the 90 days). I think I have presented a lot of improvement but also I think that she’s not sure if I’m quite there yet so she wouldn’t be able to give me a firm answer. The bigger part is my manager goes into major CYA mode about termination and I don’t think she would give me an answer about this.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Ugh. I don’t know – but I do think you are right that you may not want to ask in the second day of a 90-day PIP. I might decide based on how hard it would be to find a job if you were let go. Are you in a role where you could easily find something else (retail?) or are you in a small field with few opportunities? How financially disastrous would it be for you to be let go?

          1. BRR*

            These are great points to consider. Thank you for weighing in. I think I will continue to work my ass off, job hunt, and if I get something just weight the offer. Some of the positions I am applying for are quite appealing.

    2. Another HRPro*

      If you have a good relationship with your manager, you may want to talk about with him/her. Ask how you are doing, let them know that you have some concerns about job stability and you want their advice. Obviously a manager will not be able to tell you that you will definitely keep your job, but a good manager will tell you that you should be thinking of other options if it is likely you will lose your job.

    3. fposte*

      I agree with talking to the manager–you don’t need to go so far as to say “Should I take this other job?” if you’re not comfortable with that, but you can certainly ask what kind of future she thinks you could have where you are. It sounds like things are going better for you if you think you’re succeeding at your PIP, and that is excellent! I can’t remember how long you’ve been at this position, but I believe you had a short-term before that ended in termination. If the current job isn’t that long a position either, there’s value in sticking it out there longer, since it would be good to mitigate the effects of the short-time job.

      I’m also not sure that you can count an unknown job as safe; it may present just as many obstacles for you. Are you thinking “safe” as in “not influenced by my period of lower performance”? That’s true, but I don’t think it translates to “safe”–they’re also not invested in you, and you don’t know whether their workplaces would be harder or easier to deal with. I still think it could be fine to take another job, but I wouldn’t count a new job as safe just because they don’t know my history. I guess what I’m saying I’d rate “fresh start” pretty low on the scoring in its own right; I wouldn’t move just for that without having other reasons.

      1. BRR*

        Good memory! Also thank you for your encouragement. I have been here for two years now. I’m also thinking down the road needing a reference from this job. If I can pass the PIP and stick it out maybe I can get a good reference.

        By safe, I only mean not being on a PIP. I think the first advice given to anybody on a PIP is to start looking.I have interviews with places that I would have applied to otherwise and places where I’m doing it just in case. The fresh start advice is very helpful for the just in case places!

    4. Academic*

      Do you feel you won’t succeed? Is it a huge strain to have risen as far as you have in the past two weeks? If you think you’re a mismatch for the job, then looking for a better fit is a good idea. If your PIP is due to inexperience or just not being aware of your performance issues, you may do well and have a great next year.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      This is tough. Since you are in week 2 AND you feel that your boss is in your corner, then I think hold out for a job that pays close to what you have now.

      Did you find a specific job or are you asking in general terms? If you have a specific job that you are asking about, then I’d say, if you can find that in two weeks you can probably find something with better pay in a little more time.

      If you are asking in general terms, then I believe that you should only go to a lower pay if you have to do that. It’s not sounding like you have to do that, yet. As we know this stuff can change, but so far it sounds like you have a chance here.

      I could not be further removed from your situation, sitting here across the internet. If a little voice inside you is saying RUN, that might be happening for a reason and I should not interfere with that little voice.

      1. BRR*

        Thanks for the advice. It’s nice to get an outside thought. I am in the interview process for two. One good and one unknown. Plus many other applications. Just wanted to be prepared.

  23. Cruciatus*

    Got an interview for a place I’ve been trying to get into for 10 years (a state university position)! I only spent an hour putting the cover letter together using relevant bits from other cover letters (an hour is good for me. I could spend ALL DAY on a cover letter and still be worried about it). But I sent it in and told myself it was worth a try to apply again, but not worth it to spend hours doing it, and, bam, they called for an interview. But it’s not until the 20th. Ugh! Such a long wait. Next week will take forever. The only thing that sucks though is that it isn’t 4 weeks ago. I work at a college that starts the last week of July so, even if I get the job, I still have to do all the prep leading into the new semester (and it’s more this year than recent years). And if I get it, I’d hate to leave in a weird time like this but…normal part of doing business, right!? Oh, my fingers are so very crossed…

    1. Lying Bosses*

      Good luck! I feel the same way. I’m also in higher ed and job hunting, even though there’s a big project coming up at the very beginning of the semester. It’s definitely a part of doing business that can’t be avoided.

    2. Malissa*

      Well from what I hear college hiring times might actually be worse than government hiring times. Good luck!

    3. cuppa*

      Congratulations and good luck! And I feel you on spending forever on your application materials – I spent three hours on one a couple of weeks ago and I’m still nervous about it.

    4. Cruciatus*

      Holy moly…when it rains, it pours! Just received a phone call from another university I’ve been trying to get into for years! So that’s 3 interviews in the span of a month and zero since last August. Woo! I may just get to leave my employer yet!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Choices are a good thing! Congratulations for all this good news. May you end up with the best of the lot.

  24. Akwardly Anon*

    Recap: I posted last week I had to have an akward conversation with my manager about a promotion someone else on the team just got that I was supposed to have gotten as well.

    It was akward all right, but I think more so for my manager than for myself. My manager has apparently developed an acute case of amnesia about any and all conversations we’ve had about moving me to the next level, including this last round of performance review where she claimed she asked for the promotion, and when denied instead negotiated some extra bonus money as a consolation prize and said she’d try again mid-year. She has completely forgotten that she approached me first (she said back then) with her plan to restructure the group and gave me first pick of which direction I wanted to go, which group I wanted to lead.

    She is now claiming that I am not working at that level and have more work to do to get there, while defending her decision to give my co-worker the bump saying she came in at that level and is doing work at that level. She gave examples, which I responded to with examples of the same exact work that I had done or was currently doing and then some. She told me how would I know what my co-worker was doing? I wouldn’t know everything. So I asked, and I got one example of something which my co-worker had actually NOT done, but that someone else had done on her project, and reminded her that I, in fact, had done and was still doing that work on my project *by myself*. The thing is we all know what other people are working on in this team. There is no secret work that anyone here is doing that other people do not know about. We openly discuss workload and assignments in our team meetings! We are a small interdependant team. Everyone knows everyone else’s business. We all review each other’s deliverables.

    If my the level at which my co-worker is performing is the standard by which she’s determining who deserves to be promoted, then I should have had the title a long time ago. She was adimant that my co-worker came in at that level where I did not. I disagreed, and said I could show that as well along with the documentation she had asked me to put together for mid-year review. I was also told in one instance that I couldn’t use my co-worker as the example. So I used the role descriptions as the guide. At some point I was told there was no standard, and then later in the coversation that I wasn’t there and had more things to work on. So, now there is a standard for getting to this level? It made my head spin.

    None of it made sense to me. It left my head reeling. We have another sit-down face-to-face meeting to discuss this next week. I think my approach at that time will be to come prepared with strong evidence of my accomplishments that merit the promotion I was promised 6 months ago, and the promotion that my manager started working with me on over 18 months ago. I would really welcome any advice or lessons learned from people who’ve had to go through this.

    To add insult to injury, when my boss needed numbers to help make her business case for bringing on more resources and converting people from being contractors to perm, she came to me for that. I kind of feel like I’ve been smacked in the figurative balls with my own work. This would not have been possible without being able to convert the promoted co-worker into a full-time position.

    The thing is, had my co-worker been converted to the position at which she currently held and to which it was my understanding they were all being converted, this would not have blown up like this. I don’t necessarily care that I’m probably the lowest paid person on the team. It’s not about money. It is about equity in recognition and looking out for my own career. Employees have to be held to the same standards when it comes to promotions and rewards, otherwise the title/role structure/hierarchy set by the company becomes totally meaningless, and there is no incentive to grow. That is where I am at now – completely demotivated to accept additional responsibilities, or even continue with the ones I’ve been given with the goal of growing in my roll, and completely demotivated about putting in the effort to complete the time intensive mid-year and annual review process, because I have been shown that none of it matters. My company already has a rep for not rewarding people with raises and promotions, and review process already seemed pretty futile to me and took away from valuable time on project work. Now this? Seems like the quickest way to lose your best people.

    *I wrote this earlier in the morning. I’very since looked at my performance reviews and my boss essentially wrote my entire defense for giving me the promotion. She even explicitly writes that I have the experience and qualifications.

    1. Another HRPro*

      I’m very sorry. It is possible that your boss supports your promotion but was “overruled” by someone else. In any case, you need to understand specifically what you need to demonstrate that you are ready for advancement. Is it knowledge, education, behavior, skills? And what specifically. For example, if you get feedback on communication skills, ask what specifically should you focus on. Written communication, verbal, non-verbal?

      1. Lying Bosses*

        “It is possible that your boss supports your promotion but was “overruled” by someone else.”

        This. Although why not just tell you that? Not in those exact words, obviously. But I’d much rather hear the truth than some bull about my work not being good enough, when you told me differently not too long ago.

        1. Bea W*

          She told me at annual review time that she was in fact overruled by the people with the purse strings further up the chain over the promotion and she still supported my taking on more and developing more skills whether or not she was given the budget to promote and she would try again at mid-year. I was handed more work/responsibility to stay on that track.

          That makes the response I’m getting now all the more perplexing, claiming I don’t have the experience or skills and have not been working at that level like the co-worker who has not been given all the additional responsibilities (not even with her promotion!)

          Honestly, I think co-worker negotiated it as part of coming on perm vs contract and possibly being personal friends with the boss gave her an extra advantage, and now my manager feels the need to defend the outcome and protect herself by re-writing the narrative.

          I’m not going to spend any more energy than that trying to figure it out. That’s not going to help get me the promotion I was previously told I was qualified for and deserved.

    2. Malissa*

      Bring all of that written proof with you. And as hard as it’s going to be. Leave the coworker out of it. If she offers anything to get you to the next step, write it down and email it back to her to make sure you are on the same page.
      But most of all, look for another job. I’m guessing the promotion might not be happening because you are way too valuable where you are now. If you get promoted your bass may not be able to use your skills as easily for her benefit.

      1. Sadsack*

        Yes, in the next conversation, do not mention the coworker. Focus only on your work and the documentation. Good luck!

    3. Academic*

      Live & learn. This time around, document, document, document. Take notes during meetings and use one of those bound blank books for that purpose.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Sounds like she is one of those bosses that you have to repeat things back to for verification.
        I am sorry this is happening to you.

    4. Fleur*

      I would take advantage of the effort you’re putting in documenting your accomplishments and direct it towards polishing your resume and going job hunting. Unless jobs in your field are exceedingly hard to get, you should not restrict your efforts are getting a raise or promotion solely to your current company.

      Most people I know get pay raises by changing jobs, and those pay raises almost always exceed the normal pace of promotions at a company. If your bosses won’t pay you what you’re worth even with the extensive evidence you’ve given them, it’s time to move on.

      1. Akwardly Anon*

        Turns out I don’t really have to document anything. Having read back through my performance reviews, it seems my manager has already done all that work for me, and in pretty explicit detail. I felt like maybe I was the crazy, and if I decided to press the issue I would have to spend a lot of effort on putting together the documentation to defend myself. I feel relieved if only for the fact that I have evidence that it’s not all in my head.

        It does mean that my manager has not been straight with me somewhere along the line, and I don’t feel like I can trust what she says. The hard part will be deciding what I want to do with myself now that I have a manager I can’t trust and who has really shown me tremendous disrespect outside of the whole non-promotion thing. That’s not an easy decision in this case. There are still a lot of pros to trying to stick it out and see if my manager and I can get past this, a lot of cons, but also a lot of pros. Not easy. Either way, you’re right, the best place to put my efforts is updating my resume and making it kickass.

    5. catsAreCool*

      I can’t tell if your boss is the problem, or if the higher ups are the problem, but this is pretty awful.

      I can think of 2 options.
      1. Look for a job somewhere else.
      2. Put on your best humble, eager to improve attitude and talk to the boss about what you need to do to get to the next level. It sounds like you’ve already done that, though. Sometimes the way someone does something can make the difference. If you do the “humble mentee” kind of thing, your boss may feel like mentoring you and helping you get to where you need to be.

      But it seems like the boss isn’t being straight with you. I understand when management says “We were going to do X but now we have decided to go with Y because of Z”. I hate it when management says “No, we were always going to do Y.” when they clearly said they were going to do X. Sometimes I can guess why they want to do Y; sometimes it even makes more sense. I’m OK with people changing their minds. I’m not OK with people lying to me.

  25. Anon for this*

    I remember someone else posting something in an open thread a couple of weeks ago about, when you’re in a bad working environment, making things better by telling yourself, “I choose to be doing this instead of going freelance,” just to feel a little less powerless over the situation.

    I would love any other suggestions for how not to let uncertainty and angst spill over from the office into your life at home. I feel like I’m doing everything I can to get out of my current bad situation — exploring other options within the company, looking for outside opportunities too. But at my level of seniority those are few and far between. I find myself having dreams about work and waking up in a cold sweat. I hate that I can’t even get a good night’s sleep without work invading that!

    I try to keep telling myself that I’m doing everything I can to make my situation better, and I’ve tried the “I’m doing this because it’s better than freelancing” pep talk too. It’s not really working. I’m an anxious person in general — I like a lot of certainty in my life and the lack thereof with my current situation is what’s causing me so much stress — and I would be grateful for any other tips fellow commenters have.

    1. NJ anon*

      I’m in the same boat. I have decided to start a nonprofit. I am determined to get enough funding so I can quit and run the NP.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I’ve been through periods where I was really, really frustrated about being underpaid (and therefore unappreciated, undervalued, misunderstood, etc.), but hesitant to leave because I have a ton of flexibility and I need that for health reasons (and I don’t like the idea of getting into ADA accommodations when I can just avoid the whole topic). So I tell myself, “they are offering x for this position. I can choose at any time to accept or not accept that. It’s just a number. Right, I’m choosing to accept it because the logistics are working for me.” So I try to focus on the fact that it’s MY choice to do the work for $x, vs. their choice not to pay me more than $x.

      Also: therapist. Anxiety that is spilling into all parts of your life is tough, but not hopeless.

    3. Malissa*

      I use, “Doing this prevents me from being homeless.” Or “It’s harder to find a job if I’m unemployed” Even “This is only temporary”
      But it sounds like you need to find a way to leave work at work. I do not talk about work after I leave for the day. I also have found that doing something for my self that I really enjoy helps the disconnect. For me that’s getting into my pool and swimming and walking laps with the radio playing. Find your happy place and go there every night.

    4. Sunflower*

      I have nightmares about work a lot. I am really trying to get them to stop. Leave work at work. Just totally forget it even exists until you have to be there. I just started listening to podcasts during my commute home and it’s really helped me disconnect from work and transition to my out or work personality. If you’re job hunting at night, try to spend the last hour or two before bed doing something else. Preferably something you can really throw yourself into.

      As far as not being able to sleep, are you drinking more caffeine than usual? I am and it’s really messing with my ability to sleep (although I’ve never been a good sleeper). I try to only have one or two cups of tea now and don’t drink anything with caffeine past 3pm so try to reduce that if you can/need to.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Podcasts really help me when I’m obsessing about something mentally. They fill up my brain while they’re running, and they give me something else interesting to talk about and think about.

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I have also zero commute now (5 to 8 minutes), burning used to have 35 minutes and enjoyed using that as the boundary between home and work. Now I’m home just about instantly, and have to really make an effort to disconnect and unwind.

    5. NDQ*

      I work a day job that pays well for this area, but I have to struggle every day to walk through the front doors. I have been looking/applying for other positions yet at this level they don’t open up all that often.

      Several years ago, I figured I needed a Plan B, so I opened an investment account (money market) and put in $25. Then I kept adding to it as much as I could every month. I became obsessed with saving in every area of my life so that I could dump more into that account every month. I now have enough money to buy a small multi-family building (a four or six plex) and while not many are listed for sale, it’s great knowing that I’m ready to buy. I will live in one unit and the others will pay for the entire mortgage.

      I’m still working at at terrible place, but my Plan B is what gets me in the door and through the day.


    6. Not So NewReader*

      Positive mental imaginary? Picture yourself as having found that new job. What does that look like? You smile while driving to work. Maybe you bought a new car. Your coworkers greet you with “good morning”, you say it back and actually mean it.
      I do believe we go toward the mental images in our heads. If you are replaying the images of evil boss or nasty coworker you are losing precious moments that you