open thread – August 28, 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 :)

{ 1,390 comments… read them below }

  1. badger_doc*

    I posted a comment in response to Mike C about bullying in the workplace on Wednesday, and I really want to keep the thread going. It might sound strange to ask people to post their worst workplace bullying experience, but I think it will not only help other people who feel bullied, but also potentially the bullies themselves. For people who are being bullied, you are not alone and perhaps people can offer ways of getting out of or coping with the situation. For bullies, maybe you will recognize yourselves in some of these stories and stop your behavior because of the impact you can have on others. So, AAM community, what is your workplace bullying story? I’ll post mine in the comments below.

    1. badger_doc*

      Mine isn’t as bad as some of the ones I have heard about, but it has made me reflect a lot on how I interact with others. At my last job, our team interviewed someone for a new position and none of us thought he would be a good fit. His manager hired him anyway, despite our protests and he tuned out to cause all sorts of problems within the office with various people. With me, he was pretty passive aggressive. When people were around, he would make it a point to be extra drippy sweet. When we were alone in the lab and I did something he didn’t like, he became more aggressive. For example, there was one day he had the radio on in the lab so loud I couldn’t concentrate on my work. When he left, I turned the radio off. When he came back he got in my face, fists clenched, and asked what my problem was. I politely said I couldn’t work with that loud of music playing. He flipped out, went to my manager and accused me of being hostile. A couple more instances of this kind of behavior, and I was put on a PIP for not getting along with my coworker. He was pretty savvy about figuring out how to alienate me and another coworker. Luckily we both had good relationships with our bosses and they, to some degree, saw through the behavior. But he was the ultimate reason I started looking for another job.

      My mistake in the whole thing was not standing up for myself. I took the advice my parents always gave me when I was in school – just ignore him and he will get bored and go away. Instead I should have stood up for and defended myself by telling him to step back and that it is not respectful to use that tone with me. In addition, I have learned that the first person to go to management with an issue is always the victim, so I would probably approach management right away if I ever found myself in another bullying situation. I think he got away with a lot more because he played it off as me being the problem and manipulating those around him. Hopefully this can help someone else who might be in a similar situation! Stand up for yourself and do not be intimidated!

      1. Could be anyone*

        Agree about the first to management. Too often the first to complain/report is considered to be “right”.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I saw that so often in my internship/first job (I interned one summer and came back the next as a fill-in). Both times I saw outside the managing editor’s office (different person in the role).

          Whoever got to the 2nd M.E. first was the one that had him going down the hall and yelling at the other person in the dispute (sometimes between edit & art): “Why won’t you do this, you need to follow the editor’s/designer’s direction.” I would often end up in a position to hear the conversation, and -every single time- he ended up backing down and deciding that the non-complainer was the one with the right solution.

          The 1st M.E. always said, “Oh, let’s go talk,” and then he just asked questions. Then when they were all done answering his questions, the right solution had actually been proposed and acquiesced to by THEM. Then he’d say, “OK, that sounds good, let’s do that” and go back to his desk.

          That 2nd M.E. also bullied the woman who had been my supervisor there. After I left; she told me this story later.
          He called her into his office and was yelling at her–yelling–shortly after quitting time. The publisher stopped by and said, from the hallway, “Who are you yelling at?” He was clearly not approving.
          The guy says, “Oh, my wife is on the phone.” He’s flat-out lying–my friend is sitting just around the corner from the doorway and the publisher can’t see her.

          My friend said, “I wish I had stood up and walked over and said, ‘No, actually, Mike is talking to me.’ I don’t know why I didn’t.”

          That’s made me want, every time, to drag these little nastinesses out into the open. Make them visible.

      2. Nonniemoose*

        I also agree about being the first to go to management. I learned that the hard way by trying to be an adult and not bringing an incident to my manager because I thought it was over and done with.

      3. Seal*

        My parents told me the same “ignore them and they’ll go away” nonsense about bullies. It took me years of being bullied before I realized that this is absolutely the wrong strategy to take. The only thing that works with bullies is standing up to them and letting them know that you can’t be pushed around. Bullies are cowards with poor self-esteem who put others down to make themselves feel better. They are people to be pitied, not feared.

        1. Blurgle*

          That doesn’t work either, unless you are powerful enough to pose a threat. Standing up to them when you don’t can and will backfire spectacularly, making things massively worse.

          In my experience there’s little to nothing you can do about bullies except to avoid them.

          1. Blurgle*

            Oh, and they aren’t all, or mostly, pitiful cowards in my experience. Many of them are frank sociopaths.

            1. So Very Anonymous*

              Yup. Is why I’m skeptical of the “oh, you just need to stand up to them” thing (cf. also the discussion on the domestic-violence thread, parallels “oh, you just need to leave abusive partner”) — shifts the blame in funny ways to the target rather than keeping it on the bully. Like, if you’d just stood up to them, they would have stopped, but since you didn’t, it’s all on you now.

              1. Blurgle*

                It’s all specifically and deliberately designed to put the blame for not stopping abuse on the victim.
                Nobody wants to confront a bully of any kind. Much easier to blame the victims and in addition reassure ourselves that it will never happen to us, oh no, we’re too smart for that.
                Hence the stereotype of spousal abusers as ignorant poor rural men. The real targets of that stereotype, the ones really being belittled, are the victims, who must be pretty stupid and worthless to put up with it, huh? /s

                1. Anna*

                  So there’s no option? If you stand up to them it might not work, but ignoring them doesn’t work either. It’s not about blaming the victim, but in some cases the people being bullied need to take action of some sort. What would you recommend instead?

                2. Blurgle*

                  Leaving. The point is, often there IS nothing you can do to stop the bullying, and putting effort into stopping what you cannot control or change is not going to help you or anyone.

                3. Blurgle*

                  And I know that’s not always possible, as in the case of the domestic abuse victim who often has been isolated from family and friends, has lost all financial control to the point they can’t buy a tank of gas or a bus ticket, and has been browbeat into thinking he causes the abuse and it would stop if he would just find the right way to handle his partner.

                  But the fact still stands that the victim is not capable of controlling the abuser. The abuse is at the abuser’s discretion, and nothing will change that.

                4. Observer*

                  @Anna, sometimes there really is no really good option. In terms of bullying in the workplace, as often as not, you either the help of the higher ups in your office, or you need to find another job. The idea that someone should have to find a new job because of a bully is massively unfair, and any workplace that allows that to happen really has to answer for it, morally speaking.

            2. Mike C.*

              I’m really torn on this issue, because I think you are making some great points about victim blaming and power imbalances.

              On the other hand, I can think of times were I dug my heels in, got really pissed off and defended myself against a bully in the workplace and they backed down and didn’t treat me as an easy target anymore. Those successes gave me the self confidence to believe, “I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and f*** anyone who says differently”. It’s really empowering if it works out for you.

              Yet in the end, it’s never the victim’s responsibility to end the bullying or for “letting it continue”. Sometimes standing up for yourself will get you knocked down even harder than before. Other times it’s an effective solution or at least a way to reduce the harm being done.

              Honestly, I think it’s a really complicated issue that doesn’t have any easy solutions.

              1. Blurgle*

                I think there’s always the possibility that the bully isn’t targeting you specifically but because she needs a target. However, some bullies – the majority I’d warrant – do target people for specific reasons such as age, experience, race, sex, weight, religion or lack thereof, disability, or personality, and those victims aren’t going to find acting strong will help.

                Which is also why you can only go so far with parallels between workplace bullying and domestic abuse. The domestic abuser always targets her victim specifically.

                1. Natalie*

                  Ultimately I think it probably depends on the bully, and thus the person in the situation has to trust their instincts. As a bystander, it’s definitely inaccurate to say “oh, just do this, oh, just do that” because I don’t have any read on a bully. But it’s similar wrong to say “this or that never work”.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  I think they almost all need a target.

                  They need the “juice” that they get from bullying. If you weren’t an attractive target, they’d choose someone else. I firmly believe that bullies pick their victim ONLY because they can get away with picking on THAT person.

                  Sure, they pick someone who’s geeky, or weird, or on the spectrum, or fat, or a different race. But they pick them, and they continue with them, because they can get away with it.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                Sometimes bullies back down because it’s easier to bully someone who DOESN’T fight back. They just find another target. They’re like those thieves who go through parking lots looking for unlocked cars—much easier to nick stuff out of an unlocked vehicle than to break into one.

            3. Observer*

              I agree on the “pitiful” part, but cowards? Oh, yes. Sociopaths are not necessarily brave, you know.

              That doesn’t always make standing up to the bully a safe or effective response.

            4. Artemesia*

              Exactly. Doofuses seems to have gotten their memes about bullies from the Andy Griffith show where Opie punches out the big mean bully and they are friends forever. In fact bullies usually feel that they are victims and totally justified in lashing out. And they are often sociopaths who enjoy inflicting pain. A person who has no power or leverage cannot ‘stand up to them’.

              1. TootsNYC*

                I think the solution then is to figure out how you can get power or leverage. You might be able to–but you need to think about it creatively.

                And if you can’t–well, your ultimate power is to leave the job.

          2. asteramella*

            I agree.

            I also think “ignore them and they’ll go away” is terrible advice to give to women/girls being bullied by men/boys. Culturally we are already told to be passive and just wait for an episode of violence or aggression to be over, to smile and pretend it’s ok. It reinforces the instinct to freeze and do nothing when someone, especially a man, is being openly hostile or violent towards us.

            1. Blurgle*

              And that’s an interesting point, because freezing totally is an instinct that has to be trained out.

              They talk about the “fight or flight” instinct, but it’s actually the “fight, flight, and freeze” instinct, and “freeze” is the most common component of it. You don’t get rid of that instinct by being “strong” or just wanting to: you have to actually physically be trained out of it. That’s what a lot of military and first responder training is designed to do: not yo stop people from running away but yo stop them from freezing up.

              1. Blurgle*

                One time I type out a knitting pattern with a lot of yarnovers (abbreviated yo) in it and my autocorrect goes hogwild. Apologies.

          3. Matt F*

            In the perverse social universe that is high school, there are two types of bullies in my experience: the loser bully who bullies for their self-esteem and the higher status bully who does it for fun or to assert their place in the social hierarchy. Following the standard bully advice and standing up to the loser bully may actually work; they’ll just go onto another target. Doing the same thing with popular bully will result in swift and brutal retribution, as their place in the social strata is at stake. Losing face will be a disaster to them, so the conflict will only escalate until someone capitulates or is badly hurt or killed.

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                And this is why power dynamics get into it when you’re bullied at work. If the person is at your level, you might be able to stand up to them with good results. If the person is your boss or somehow above you in the hierarchy, it won’t work unless you have someone at their level who’s willing to help you.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Doing the same thing with popular bully will result in swift and brutal retribution, as their place in the social strata is at stake. Losing face will be a disaster to them, so the conflict will only escalate until someone capitulates or is badly hurt or killed.

              This is why bystanders have so much power to stop bullying. If someone who is not the target launches a counterattack, the retaliation is harder to create. If it’s just one person, the counterattack might succeed. If that bystander has three other people who say, “Yeah, that was kinda mean!” there are too many people to go after.

        2. Squirrel*

          There are times when this is appropriate. If you don’t present yourself as a target, i.e. you ignore the teasing or whatever, some bullies *will* move on. Sometimes this will make the bully more determined to get a rise out of you though. It takes a greater emotional intelligence than most children have to be able to figure out what is the correct course of action though (figuring out what kind of bully they’re dealing with). As adults, “mild” teasing/bullying (which I would characterize as the FB posting thing from yesterday, something somewhat “harmless” and not at all actual harassment) can be ignored, anything more should be stood up against and have a stop put to immediately.

          1. TootsNYC*

            They won’t move on as long as they are getting what they need–and they aren’t after -your- reaction.

            They’re after the reaction of everyone around. Or, they’re after the NONreaction of everyone else.

          2. Durant*

            In my view it was more than mild teasing in that the individual was also taking full credit on projects. That rises to a whole different level, and is a greater breach of trust.

        3. TootsNYC*

          Having been bullied–I agree that’s completely the wrong tactic.

          Bullies are picking on you because you–and others–can’t or don’t stop them. They don’t want to get a rise out of YOU. They want to get a rise out of the knowledge that they just did something mean and NO ONE STOPPED THEM!!!
          If other people know they got away with it? Even better. That’s why bystanders have such power to stop bullying. The greatest “nourishment” for a bully is the knowledge that everyone saw him get away with it.

          Blurgle is right–you have to be strong enough to pose a threat, so you need to be sure that whatever you do is going to hurt them.

        1. Merry and Bright*

          Yes!! Only someone who had never been bullied could seriously dish out this advice.

          1. WorkingMom*

            Really – the good advice is to keep friends close, enemies closer, and fight smart. Be better at playing the game than they are.

          2. Observer*

            That’s actually not true. As Squirrel points out, there are some bullies who are like that. Not all, of course, so you need to figure out which is which.

            1. afiendishthingy*

              I’m a behavior analyst and work with kids who engage in a lot of challenging behaviors. And I love to nerd out about applied behavior analysis so here you go. (Unfortunately my specialty is kids with developmental disabilities, not toxic workplaces, but I’ll do my best.)

              There are a lot of variables here, such as –
              1) function of the bullying behavior – Interventions should be function-based, meaning that you:

              a) identify the reinforcer(s) that are maintaining the behaviors (what the bully is gaining from bullying, or what bad things they’re avoiding)
              b) withhold that reinforcement when the bullying occurs
              c) deliver that reinforcer when the bully engages in other, positive behaviors (this step is very often left out when trying to change a behavior so the person just finds another inappropriate way to get what they want)

              The “ignore them and they’ll leave you alone” advice assumes the function of the bullying is attention. It probably is for lots of bullies,but NOT NECESSARILY ALL. The kid at school could be stealing someone’s lunch because he’s hungry, or he steals your favorite toy because he really wants that toy. Or they’re trying to avoid others focusing on their shortcomings by loudly pointing out the victim’s. Or maybe your boss just plain enjoys yelling, feels less stressed after, whatever. S0 ignoring these bullies won’t solve anything.

              Even if the bully is looking for attention, telling the victim to ignore the bully won’t necessarily fix the problem. For one thing, the function could be attention but not (or not only) the victim’s – could be the teacher’s (or upper management’s or other coworkers’). Also:

              2) “Ignoring” an attention-maintained reinforcer is called extinction and it’s very difficult and often impossible to implement correctly. If the bully has received attention for their behavior before, they’re not going to give up easy. If you don’t give them the reaction they’re looking for right away, they’re going to up the ante and behave more and more outrageously until you do react. And if you do react after that huge escalation, in the future they’ll just get to that escalated behavior quicker to get what they want. And even if you manage to ignore successfully, everyone around you isn’t going to, and if the bully wants their attention too then nothing’s been fixed.

              So basically it’s all totally bully and situation-specific, and “ignore them and they’ll go away” is usually not good advice.

              1. Observer*

                So basically it’s all totally bully and situation-specific, and “ignore them and they’ll go away” is usually not good advice.
                That’s true.

                I would also say that, other than figure out the specifics of YOUR situation and to get help from others IF that exists, most of the advice dished out to victims of bullies is usually not good advice. There is just enough truth to them to sound good,except that what turns out to be a good idea is so situation specific and there are so many different ways that something could play out that it really is really unrealistic to say “this is what works”.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I wonder how many adult “kids” are still angry with their parents for giving such disconnected advice.

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            My mother used to tell me to ignore the bullies because they were just jealous of me. I am still angry about the untruth in that.

            1. Anonymous for this*

              I got that, too, and even as a kid that was so obviously untrue. Riiiiiiiight, being sent into a corner with a tape player every day so that I could fail (daily!) the math basics test everyone else passed weeks ago because I got moved up a grade right after those basics were taught, that’s a sweet deal! Who wouldn’t be jealous??

              My takeaway from that was “what do I have to do to make them LESS jealous, then?” Also not a great lesson for a little girl.

          2. Lindsay J*

            I am. I’m angry at the teachers who watched the bullying happen and did nothing, too.

            I was suicidal at 11 years old because the bullying was so pervasive and the only advice or help I was ever given was “ignore them and they’ll go away”, “talk it out,” and “boys tease girls because they like them.” And I lost my locker privileges for the year and had to carry around 40lbs worth of books the one time I stood up to any of the bullying.

            I don’t know what the right solution was. I just know ignoring them didn’t stop it. Talking it out works when there is a disagreement and both sides want to find a solution – it doesn’t work when you’re being bullied for being too butch or having an overbite. And the gentle teasing that happens when a boy likes a girl and doesn’t know how to show it and the teasing that happens when people view you as subhuman are very different teasing and obvious to anyone seeing it, the victim including.

            The only thing that ultimately worked was waiting for everyone to grow up.

            1. I'm a Little Teapot*

              I always thought the “boys tease girls because they like them” explanation was bs and a horrible message too. So the girl is supposed to be fine with being treated like crap when it’s because some creeper “likes” her? In my mind that makes his behavior even worse – if he bullies girls because he likes them, he is a misogynist and likely future domestic abuser who feels he has the right to treat girls he finds attractive any way he wants, and telling a girl she should be OK with it is telling her she should be grateful for any svrap of attention from a Big Important Man, because catching a man matters regardless of her feelings about him.

            2. Anonymous for this*

              Oh, Lindsay, I’m so with your 11yo self. The only time I ever got into trouble in school (I was too withdrawn otherwise from all the teasing :( ) was when, after years of teasing, I hit another girl who had pulled down my skirt while I was sitting in the cafeteria and held a cold carton of milk against my back. What I learned from that was, anyone can do anything they want to me, with no consequences, and, if I react in any way, I’m the one to blame. Also not great lessons for a young girl.

    2. Not me*

      I wasn’t her target, since I didn’t give her enough material to work with. She tried to bully my coworker and our manager. She constantly complained about her workload, put down others’ work, shouted, threw things, hit things, and picked fights. Eventually she got herself so worked up during a conversation with our manager that she quit!

      I really regret not stepping in when she picked fights, and not asking her to stop when she beat up her desk. I hated her behavior, but I never said anything about it to her, our manager, or anyone higher up. I was pretty intimidated and I didn’t think about what could be done about it.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I also think that in the workplace, a calm and neutral-seeming bystander could seek outside help much more credibly. If your place is big enough to have a moderately competent HR department, and you go to them to say, “I’m troubled by how George is treating Alice who works for him; it feels grossly unfair. I know the term ‘bullying’ gets tossed around a lot, so I hesitate to use it, but it may not be far off the mark. At the very least, George is mean to her in an unwarranted way. I’m concerned for Alice, honestly.”

        And sometimes being the one who says to Alice, “It isn’t you–that isn’t fair. I don’t think you can do anything to stop him, but it isn’t you, and you should look for a new job,” is a pretty powerful thing for Alice.

    3. persevered!*

      I wouldn’t call it bullying but my first boss out of college was a real piece of work. I was still learning workplace norms so I was a bit unsure of myself and still learning and observing everything around me, I had internships so I knew a little but never had a 40 hour/full tiem job before. Whenever I would go to her she would give me the once over/look me up and down. I would stand in her doorway and she wouldn’t look up and I didn’t know to knock because I didn’t want to interrupt or break her concentration, I thought she would notice/acknowledge me after a few moments. Then one day she said with an attitude, can you like stop lingering in my doorway. There was also an office Christmas Party and I was a contract worker/through an agency and assumed I wouldn’t be invited. I guess my name was on a sign up sheet in an area I never had a reason to go to and Boss never “invited” or mentioned it to me. I found out because someone asked me if I was going and I said oh I don’t think I’m invited and they informed me of the sign up sheet. She was really terrible and just made me feel uncomfortable/insecure 100% of the time. She wasn’t even that high up but definitely shouldnt be supervising people. She also never introduced me to anyone on my first day. What I’ve learned is to make people feel welcome when they start a job.

        1. persevered!*

          If it’s at a prestigious university in Massachusetts then perhaps. :) She also had a few people before me, it seemed like people didn’t last long. I stuck it out for 8 months and then quit with one week notice, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

      1. MegEB*

        Ooooh I had a temp job once where I reported to the office manager, and she was an absolute pro at quietly making sure I always felt insecure in my position. She was never outright aggressive, but took passive bullying to a whole new level. And judging by another comment, you’re in the Massachusetts area, where I’m from as well – maybe they know each other!

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Back in my sandwich shop days, a new employee came in and started bullying his coworkers around when the owner wasn’t there. I can’t remember his name, but I know he was a bouncer in his other part-time job. When the owner was there, Bouncer was super professional and hard working. The rest of the time, Bouncer ordered everyone else around, made rude comments, and did little to no work. Several employees complained, myself included. The owner said he’d talk to Bouncer, but nothing changed. Until a month later, when Bouncer was arrested and never came back.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Oooh yes, my sandwich story tale wasn’t exactly bullying, but it was definitely dysfunctional.

        The owner wanted to promote one person. The three candidates were Slimy, Brownnose, and me. The way the “audition” worked was that each of us would manage a shift here and there, and the owner would decide who was doing the best at it. Well, problem number one was that when we were acting manager, the other candidates were our underlings, and one might say they had a conflict of interest. So Slimy’s tactic was to refuse to actually finish any of his prep work when it was my turn to manage, and then just up and leave with it undone. I didn’t really have the authority to discipline him for it, but did have the responsibility to fix everything he was screwing up, yay. I did discuss it with the owner, and I do think it was considered, because he wasn’t picked. But I also was not picked, because I didn’t seem “authoritative.”

        What Brownnose did, which no one fully found out until later, was stay late at work alone, sometimes till like 3 hours after we closed, and do mountains and mountains of extra prep work off the clock. This severely screwed up the owner’s perception of how much work was possible during working hours. He got the promotion, and you’re thinking “well, he worked hard for it”…but he never worked that hard again during his time there. Just long enough to subvert all the labor laws to make everybody else look bad.

        1. Lucky*

          I think I know those guys, Slimy and Brownnose. I’ve run into them in nearly every law firm I’ve worked in.

    5. KT*

      My former boss was beyond bully. She specialized in making people feel small and stupid.

      During one weekly check-in, where we reviewed my priorities and big upcoming meetings, she stopped me mid-sentence and asked me how I liked my job. Confused, I told her I liked it–she said that was surprising, because I clearly wasn’t cut out for it, and should explore work at an animal shelter or hair salon (this was a large, Fortune 500 office job).

      She kept telling me how pathetically unqualified I was. I started tearing up, and I asked her if I could step out for a minute to compose myself. She told me no, I needed to hear it, and if I was going to cry through it, so be it. At the end of her berating me for my ineptitude, I was completely ugly-girl crying (the one and only time I have ever cried at work), and she told me she was going to another meeting, and that I should get myself together and never tell anyone about this conversation.

      Miracle of miracles, she was promoted (GOD) to a position in a different department, and I had a new boss who was tough but NORMAL. I succeeded with the new boss, and never had any other issue again…I have no idea what this original boss’ problem was.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        I’m so sorry. I had the same kind of supervisor and she made me cry nearly daily. Then one day I stopped caring about what she thought, once I realized she didn’t have the power to fire me. After that, I dealt with her better, but her verbal stings never stopped.

    6. Bullied Friend*

      My friend is currently a victim of office bullying.

      John and Sally were engaged. Sally was friends with many people in the company. She was the admin for the VP. My company has a policy that you can’t work with spouses, so Sally quit. A few months later Sally and John broke up.

      My friend Jane had been friendly with Sally. Sally and John were still on friendlyish terms so Jane would see him sometimes. They started talking and had a connection and started dating.

      Sally freaked out and began spreading nasty rumors about Jane. She sent an email to Jane’s manager(!!) saying what a horrible human being Jane is for dating John. She sent emails to Jane’s department. She probably sent emails to the VP and CEO. Keep in mind she’s been away from the company for about 6 months now.

      Sally’s friends still work here, and they are mean mean mean to Jane. They blatantly ignore her if she walks by, they call her names behind her back…if I’m near her and I say hello to one of them, they’ll give me a steely smile or pretend they didn’t hear.

      It’s been YEARS and Sally still will send emails to people in the company. One time Jane and John were walking down the street and Sally (who lives in the same town) saw them and screamed out her window “You fat b*tch!”.

      I feel really badly for Jane. Maybe she broke friend code by dating someone else’s ex, but this sort of treatment is ridiculous…especially from people in HR and the admin assistant. We occasionally have drawings for free sports tickets or things, and even though Jane enters she never wins. I think the admin rigs it so she doesn’t win, because the admin is responsible for choosing the winners. The person in HR has a son who is a server. We all frequent that restaurant because it’s close to work and I’ve become friendly with him. He told me once that his mother told him to ignore Jane if she ever came in and have someone else serve her. It’s so petty.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It appears to be a number of people that need to gtfu. Why are so many people acting like Sally’s little henchmen, carrying on her vendetta? I have no idea how Jane copes with such a massive mess. I see very few adults in this story here.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            I think John probably considers himself lucky that he never followed through with marrying Sally.

            But this is completely insane behavior on the part of Sally’s work friends, and if I were the company, I’d have her email blocked and possibly have a policy that her calls would not be accepted by the business. And I don’t think that being friendly with someone at work necessarily stops you from dating their ex; it’s not like Sally and Jane were BFFs (from what I understand of the story).

        2. Ruffingit*

          Seriously! And Jane needs to get a new job. Not worth wasting her time in that crappy environment. She needs to quit working at the daycare and get a new position at Grown Up University.

    7. Kelly L.*

      Thankfully, most of my “people issues” at work in recent years have been more of the cluelessness or general-office-politics variety. Off the top of my head, though, I’m thinking of a few things from the olden days in assorted customer service jobs.

      The manager when I worked at the local pool: I was 17 at the time and I think this memory is so vivid because it was my rough introduction to utter batshittery at work. Our manager just one day, no warning, no explanation, rounded us all up and screamed for about 30 minutes about how totally unacceptable we all were, and then stomped into her office and gave us the silent treatment the rest of the day. The next day she acted like nothing happened.

      Didn’t know the term “gaslighting” at the time: was still pretty young and was working at a Hardee’s. The schedule went up on whatever day it usually went up–I think it was Saturday–and I wrote mine down. I was scheduled off on Wednesday and Thursday. I did not go to work on Wednesday and Thursday, and nobody called me either. Went in on Friday and got screamed at. Why didn’t I come in on Wednesday and Thursday? Well, because I was scheduled off. They showed me a schedule where they’d handwritten in Wed/Thu hours. It was a photocopy of the handwritten version, not the original, which they used to “prove” I was wrong somehow. I never quite got off the wrong foot after that.

      1. Malissa*

        I had that happen to me. I found the schedule had white-out on it and they put me down for being there and hour earlier. I checked my schedule daily after that. I missed out on a delivery of a washer and dryer while working that job. The company wanted to schedule delivery a week out, but I never had my schedule up in time to do that. My husband had a 9-5 job.
        We couldn’t pick the appliances up anywhere. So the delivery never could happen. I ended up not getting my wedding gift from my Mother.
        That job sucked big hairy balls and is the main reason I went back to school.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I had that happen in a retail job about ten years ago. When the manager FINALLY showed up for work, I pointed out to him that he needed to be aware that someone was tampering with the schedule after he posted it. I pointed to erasure marks for my hours. He tried to say that I needed to check the schedule daily and I said, “I can’t do that. I do not have the time to stop daily to look at the schedule. I am too busy. And I am not being paid to do that.”
        That was the end of that. Predictably, we move on to the next nitpicky thing.
        I don’t understand people who live life on that plane.

      3. Hattie McDoogal*

        When I worked in fast food the managers used to regularly change end times of shifts after the fact — I’d be scheduled for 4-9pm and I’d show up for the shift only to find out, “Oh we need someone else to close so you’re 4-11pm now.” It was usually not a problem for me (I was happy to have the extra money) but they did it to a friend of mine once and it was a huge blow-up because she was supposed to pick her mom up from the airport right after work, which as far as she knew was 9 pm. The manager knew she’d messed up but completely dug her heels in about it, and at one point was heard to utter, “This job needs to be your number one priority.” In fast food! For most of us working there it was a distant third in priorities, behind school and family obligations. Maybe tied with getting baked/going clubbing.

    8. Bye Academia*

      In my early years in grad school, there were a couple of older students who took their seniority very seriously. They tried to control everyone else’s experiments, and I didn’t get along with them very well on a personal level. It culminated in one of them yelling at me in front of our boss for having a bad attitude and saying I didn’t deserve her help anymore. I was mortified that our boss, who trusted her, would have a bad opinion of me afterwards. In the end, our boss made her apologize and we were able to have a calmer working relationship until she and the others graduated a few months later. It wasn’t until after they left that I (and other lab members) realized how much they had impacted us. I was really unhappy while they were here, but I didn’t use the word “bully” until I recognized the relief I felt when they were gone.

      Now that even more time has passed, though, I can see where they were coming from. Our boss is an excellent scientist but not the greatest manager, and I think a lot of the “rules” the older students enacted in lab were a reaction to some of his quirks. Also, I learned a huge lesson on the boundary between friends and coworkers. Grad school can be a gray area for that, and I am more mindful now that my fellow students are really colleagues and that there are some things we shouldn’t talk about (even if they bring the subject up first).

    9. Anon for this comment*

      I had a co-worker, much more senior to me constantly yell at me, I was doing the job of literally 4 people at the time and we were in a conference room with two other people having a meeting. I was standing at the podium (we were trying to adjust the screen settings for an upcoming training) and he asked me to do something and I told him that Boss #1 was transferring some of my work to Annoying Co-Worker (due to crazy workload) and he screamed at me, “ANON WHAT DO YOU EVEN DO HERE?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN CO-WORKER IS GOING TO DO THIS NOW?!” He then proceeded to slam his fists down on a table and throw a book at me (it landed at my feet).

      I think what was most disheartening is that the other two just sat there in silence (they were also way more senior than me and like one rank down from him). I was always scared to tell my boss or HR because I had witnesses and I really thought they would remain silent or deny everything then I’d look like a crazy person. What could I do?

      This job was horrible, they really did have to hire four people to replace me after I left. I was overworked, stressed, constantly yelled at for no reason for things that were way beyond my control, and my other boss, Boss #2 threw a diet coke can at me too in a fit of rage (it didn’t hit me).

      Needless to say I was pretty traumatized after leaving.

      Best thing I ever did for my health (physical, mental, and I guess now that I think of it my safety) was leaving this job.

      1. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

        WTH? Throwing things at you…I wish someone would. I’m sorry, but if someone throws something at me, if it’s a good day, I’ll just let management know and if they don’t do something immediately, I’m calling the police. If I’m having a bad day…I feel sorry for that person.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          I have yet to work a job where someone can throw something at me and I could calmly walk away. A book? A can of soda? Ass whoopin(s) will be handed out like party flyers. And to throw something at a colleague and I am in the room? Oh, I’m speaking up. No way I can sit on my hands after witnessing something like that.

      2. Mike C.*

        Ok, I keep hearing about having things thrown at you, is that grounds to call the police? It must be, right?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think we had a discussion about that a while ago, and the conclusion was “yeah, you can call but do not expect much to happen.”

      3. HM in Atlanta*

        Was this a MLM-type company? Because, I also know of a ‘diet coke can thrown in a fit of rage’ at a company that routinely worked people 18 hours a day, 7 days a week with lots of crazy behaviors that were never addressed

    10. Jerzy*

      I worked in a legislative office for three years that was of the opposite political persuasion than myself. My coworkers, chief of staff and at least one legislator felt they had the right to pick apart my every personal choice, though rarely had anything to say about my work.

      Two of my coworkers (one an intern) sexually harassed every female in the office, including myself and the chief of staff. The CoS laughed it off and wouldn’t hear any complaints from anyone else it may have made feel uncomfortable, again, including interns. She also had an affair with one of our long-term interns who was later hired on as full-time staff, which I found out when I went to the office to do some work when it was meant to be closed and walked in on them. I felt sick for days after that, because I believed if I said anything I would be the one fired.

      I was picked on for what I wore, what I ate, what I thought, how I spoke, etc. etc. etc. Needless to say, it was pretty toxic. Finally, three of the five people I worked with all got new jobs, and the people who took their places were all awesome! They were nice, and considerate, and no one made anyone feel bad. It became like a whole new job in so many ways. I still keep in touch with that second group of people, even though none of us work there any more.

      1. Mike C.*

        This is interesting to me, because I thought such a job was one of the only places that would grill you on your political beliefs and hire based on that. Also, you could have leaked the story about the CoS screwing the intern and really made a mess of the situation, they’re lucky you didn’t say a word.

    11. Beancounter in Texas*

      I was hired into my current employment under the boss’ plan to fire his current bookkeeper and have me replace her. Her tongue was so sharp from use that the temp agency that this office had used for years cut off the relationship and told The Boss that they would not place temps in our office as long as this woman worked here. She made people cry with her words.

      She made me cry with her words, a lot. Running to the bathroom and all out bawling and sobbing. The Boss’ promises of getting rid of her soon kept me here. The pinch of it all was that what she was saying was true. I’d make a newbie mistake, but she’d give me the third degree over every. single. issue. Then she’d tell The Boss about it, to demonstrate my incompetency. He’d promise her to talk to me about it, and then he’d renew the secret promise.

      In retrospect, I should have bailed. The Boss was obviously too weak of a manager to reprimand her for her treatment of other employees (temps too). In general, he has proven to be a poor manager of people. It took him 13 months, but he finally bit the bullet. She was completely blindsided, and I haven’t missed her once.

    12. SnowWhite*

      I had it where because my age, people thought I was a bit of a pushover…

      Had completed an apprenticeship – in which I managed payroll submissions (not the financial uploads), the office and front line HR (as well as train all 50 admin in our HR database for £4/$6.15 per hour.

      When I came to the end of my apprenticeship the offered me silly money ($24,580) for the role that I did; when I declined they advertised the same role for $38,407. I reapplied – the manager told me I had the role; to not apply for anything else but I would need to interview as the role had gone out to the public.

      They gave the role to a lady who had no HR experience; the reason being when I described the team environment I had built among the admin teams I said we instead of I. These were people who I had worked in the same department as and saw the impact that the approach of I vs We with HQ and satellite offices had.

    13. Not my usual name*

      I had a boss who would want you to make your own decisions, give you minimal information, get mad if you asked for assistance (“I don’t understand why you’re asking me such a stupid question, and frankly, I don’t have time to deal with it”), and then get mad at you and talk about you behind your back when you inevitably didn’t do what she wanted you to do. It was awful and breeded rampant insecurity amongst the team.
      Also, she would take really minor decisions that were perfectly reasonable, ask you to explain your reasoning behind them like you were an idiot, and then tell you to do something else. Even if you stated your case, she’d tell you to do something else and “figure it out”. Ugh.

      1. Golden Yeti*

        I saw something similar. We had a “legal issues” person, and she found out we needed to perform a certain product test. She went to the boss about it, and he said that neighbouring gov agencies don’t require that, so no we shouldn’t have to do said test. Legal person said she could submit the paperwork without the test info if he wanted, but there was a good chance it would come back as incomplete (she also gave him the full paperwork talking about why the test is needed to look over). He wrote her back a nasty email (which she showed me later) stating that he didn’t have time to read it, didn’t want to read it, and it was her job anyway, not his.

      2. Jamie*

        Hi, are you me? I’m really sure we’re the same person. What drives these managers to do it, I wonder. Do they even know? Control issues?

      3. Charlotte Collins*

        If she also would give you conflicting direction when you did ask for clarification, I worked for the same woman. Also, she would randomly get mad for staff asking for direction or not asking for direction. And there was no rhyme or reason as to the importance of the issue. She’d get mad about us asking about a major issue that we should “handle ourselves” then get mad that we didn’t ask about something minor that we had never gone to management about in the past. It was a classic double bind.

        Also, she would arrange for the whole team to go to lunch and not invite me. But it was worse than that. I wouldn’t hear anything about it, then everyone would get their stuff together and start trouping out. Then she would say, “We’re all going to lunch, do you want to come,” as they were passing my desk. (I sat in the same aisle, so it’s not like there were any logistical issues here.) Because it was important that I understood I wasn’t really part of the team but she’d throw me a bone and humiliate me at the same time.

        There’s more, but I think that these two things demonstrate a lot about her “management” style.

      4. College Career Counselor*

        I’ve had this boss, with a side order of gaslighting. It sucks, and I’m so glad not to be there any more.

      5. Spice this time*

        My current boss is the same! He gives minimal, last minute information, gets mad if I ask for assistance, talks behind my back and tells others at the office that “I can’t handle the job”!
        At a production meeting: I have had managers and engineers yell and scream at me and at each other after I asked: “Can someone here help me and let me know when to order these new parts? Since I am no way of knowing when production will be needing these parts.” I was still very new to the company and the senior employee assigned to train me, refused to train me and would tell me to just get some coffee and relax when I told him I have completed the project he assigned me and would like to start on the next task!
        I handed in my resignation (2 weeks ago) and my last day was to be 8/28. Then the boss asked me to stay for another 3 weeks until he finds a replacement! I agreed since I can use the money and I have time to look for another job! And I keep thinking WHAT HAVE I DONE! WHY DID I AGREE TO STAY!
        I really care about doing good work and I have lots of friends at the company. I will miss most of them after I leave and I know that I will never see them again. This makes me sad! :(

    14. Mike C.*

      So the owner of the last place I worked at did several things that were pretty terrible.

      1. It was never announced when people left or were fired, and most of the time their names were never spoken of again. Also, you could be fired at the drop of a hat with no warning if the owner was in a worse than usual mood. It goes without saying, this guy had an ego that was matched only by his temper and unpredictability.

      2. Hired tons and tons of H1-B visa workers for a for a biological testing lab in the shadow of a huge state college well known for their biology/related degree holders. Those lucky hires often lived in apartments owned by the owner, and were expected to work 6-7 days per week with rather long hours.

      3. When those workers started to fatigue (especially during food outbreaks), they would be threatened with firing (and deportation). Many of these employees came from the kind of places you only hear about on Amnesty International press releases or those really depressing documentaries on the BBC.

      4. Did I mention the temper? Holy crap, it will most likely be the death of him.

      5. He practiced what I call “reverse nepotism”. His family members held the higher supervisory positions, but he treated them all like garbage, at times worse than the rest of us.

      6. Every Saturday he held required meetings for the scientists, where he would openly mock and berate the presenters for being “too stupid”.

      Yeah, good times. Being in such an environment really screws with your head, and it took about a year and a half of search to get another job. Quitting without notice felt incredibly amazing.

      1. Mike C.*

        Oh, and I’m fairly sure were we dealing with bacteria strains that were beyond the bio safety rating of our laboratory facilities.

        And we had a newbie contract fairly serious E. coli poisoning – one of our testing specialties. I’m sure those two facts aren’t related at all.

      2. Artemesia*

        H1-B1 visas are a total joke. They are designed to undercut the wages of highly trained American workers. e.g. we don’t need more computer programmers, but businesses really want to hire cheap labor to depress wages. The hiring bio workers when in an area where there is a huge supply of American workers is classic.

        1. Mike C.*

          I found the strangest job positions for our lab – the craziest I found was “VP of Oil Exploration”. The abuse was rather special.

          Anytime I hear “we can’t find enough qualified candidates” I always add the phrase “at the price we’re willing to pay or the time we’re willing to train”.

        2. Squirrel*

          Yeah, you always hear about managers and other people in articles complaining about the lack of qualified, trained, skilled American workers, yet all of my friends and their friends and so on are all into computers and need jobs, but can’t get them because of said visa workers.

          1. Anna*

            It’s not the people working on those visas that are the actual problem. They’re just accepting jobs they’re offered. The problem is the companies hiring them because said companies are not willing to pay a wage to someone who knows what they and the job are worth.

            1. Mike C.*

              Yeah, and the visa holders don’t have enough rights/protections to keep themselves from being abused.

            2. Squirrel*

              I never specifically said that the workers themselves were the problem, please do not mischaracterize what I am saying or put words in my mouth. I merely said that they can’t get jobs in their field (or have a difficult time doing so) because they’re being filled by these visa workers. Yes, it is definitely not their fault, they’re doing what they can to make a living, it is the fault of the companies for being underhanded.

              1. Artemesia*

                Exactly. It is the bought and paid for politicians and the greedheads who run companies and push for this special visa rules NOT because there are not Americans who can do these jobs, but because they don’t want to pay them. And companies are making record profits and CEOs being paid record amounts. The war on workers is carefully orchestrated politically.

                1. Tonight when I chase the dragon*

                  I am honestly surprised, because I usually respect and agree with the things you write on AAM, Artemesia, but on the topic of H1B visas you are either misinformed or grossly over-generalizing.

                  There may be places that abuse the system as you describe, but I know that I am currently in the process of hiring two people who will require visas, and a) this was after putting a LOT of time and work into attempting to find candidates with the appropriate skills. I simply could not find candidates who did not require visas (and believe me, dealing with all of this visa crap is a lot of work I’d rather not have to do); and b) these people are not being hired at “bargain” rates – for these two people I’m hiring, I know this for a fact because a major effort of mine over the past three weeks has been in determining and nailing down fair – some might even say *very good* – salary numbers for the job offers. I had to do some fighting because these people are very talented and they’re going to work for me and goddammit I’m going to make sure they are compensated appropriately. But even if I hadn’t done that – their salary offers would still be in the same range as salary offers made to US Citizens with the same skills.

                  I doubt there has ever been a government program that some people haven’t tried to take unfair advantage of. But what I’ve seen of H1 visas at my job is completely at odds with the “war on workers” scenario.

      3. LadyTL*

        Geez did this guy end up owning a bakery, cause they sound exactly like the guy I worked for at a bakery/deli. Even the hiring immigrants only to work them for 10hr shifts 6 days a week with no breaks.

    15. Clever Name*

      My experience wasn’t continuous bullying or anything, but here it is:

      So I worked in a very small satellite office for a small business. My boss was the operations manager. My desk was in an open area of the office. I was using some canned air to clean out my keyboard. My boss starting going on and on teasing me for how often I used the canned air, and one of my coworkers joined in. I was instantly transported back to the 8th grade when a couple of boys teased me mercilessly. It was so bizarre, and I’m sure the expression on my face was one of incredulity. I didn’t say anything; I just stared at them in disbelief. Eventually they stopped. It was weird enough that another coworker sent a email that basically said, “WTF was that about?” To add to the bizarreness, I was not a regular user of canned air, and the last time I had used it was probably a year prior.

    16. LBK*

      I’m curious since we’re discussing this – what would people define as bullying, especially in an adult context? It’s one of those terms I hear thrown around a lot lately and I’m not sure I always see how it applies.

      1. Mike C.*

        I like this:

        Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is :

        1. Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or
        2. Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done, or
        3. Verbal abuse

        1. Kelly L.*

          Oh wow, I didn’t know sabotage counted–I suppose I have more experiences with bullying than I thought!

        2. Golden Yeti*

          I think it boils down to, if you’re genuinely afraid of crossing someone (intentionally or accidentally), chances are that person is a bully.

          I’ve seen secondhand how certain “crossers” get treated and/or maligned. It’s enough to convince me that I want to avoid crossing, or at least have developed more spine (and/or a safe distance) if I’m doing to do it.

      2. Jem*

        I think what separates bullying from general assholism is the targeting aspect. Are they doing what they do to you because it gives them pleasure to mess with/be nasty to you in particular or do they just have a bad temper/nasty personality that isn’t necessarily focused on you?

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, that’s the part that gets blurry for me in a lot of the stories. To me, bullying means targeting and most of the examples people share sound like the person is just an asshole in general rather than specifically bullying them/certain people.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              It could be just me. Someone is an asshole once. Repeated behaviors makes them a bully.

    17. Nonniemoose*

      Well, there was the time the boss at my internship for an extremely prestigious and high level international org. bad-mouthed me to another supervisee that I used the wrong highlighter color (she was actually screaming and she knew I was on the other side of the dividing “wall”). And the reason I used the “wrong” one was because we were told to mark-up the surveys that had come back to us. Well, this particular survey-taker marked all their answers with yellow highlighter! So I couldn’t use that to mark up the document. I didn’t get a chance to explain.

      Actually, everyone in the office knew she was a bad manager and they had an outside third party come in to interview people and document her behavior. I was told of this ahead of time and was asked that if they interviewed me, to be honest. I was never interviewed, though.

    18. Could be anyone*

      Retail job may years ago but I was over 30. Manager called me into his office and yelled at me about something that was being done wrong. He was right in that it was wrong but I wasn’t the one who did it and never told any one to do so and would have told them the right way to do it if I had seen it. I told him not to yell at me and I was not responsible and if he had answered some of my questions before the store opened this wouldn’t have happened. That was the end of that conversation. And I was later promoted from front line to cash office.

    19. moss*

      I wrote about the bully at my last job at the other thread. I also had a manager that had horrible anger issues due to what he felt was a demotion and loss of resources he had previously enjoyed. He would come to my office and talk to me for an hour or more every day about how horrible the place was now and how awesome it used to be. Or he would lock himself in his office and play guitar. His office door was covered with Dilbert cartoons in a passive-aggressive display of discontent. He would tell me not to trust my grand-manager (the boss over him) and how shady and incompetent she was. After a few months, one day he had a huge temper tantrum in my office and threw a chair across the room. I went to my grand-manager and the department head and they reassigned him to work with his friends in a different department.

      The tantrum wasn’t AT me but it was very upsetting to me (we were alone in my office and I think he thought I should have taken care of him emotionally more than I did). Upper management looked askance at me for being upset about it. I had disclosed a history of abuse and they thought that played into it, that I shouldn’t have been so upset or that I wouldn’t have been so upset if I didn’t have this ~stuff~ in my past.

      The culture at that institution was very much that people could act however they want if they are “brilliant” so there was a lot of screaming and abuse of lower level employees. The institution recently rescinded the practicing rights of a doctor because he was abusive to his employees and the general sense is “why him?” because it’s just so, so normal.

      1. moss*

        So that was a memorable story from my professional life. I don’t even hardly think about all the stuff I and others endured at a lower level… working in restaurants it’s expected that the chef can scream and yell and throw things all the time, managers grab you, customers can say whatever they want to you, etc.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        They are brilliant and stupid all in the same stroke.
        If anyone said that to me as an excuse, I would say I would rather “be stupid” and have actual friends than be that form of “brilliant”.

    20. Anon Accountant*

      Our secretary would have screaming meltdowns on staff in front of clients, would mess up and lie and say you told her to do it that way, and was unpleasant to work with. She would tell clients “you don’t want Jane doing your taxes. She’ll just screw them up”. Yes that’s word for word.

      You would tell her as per company policy “I’ll be at chocolate teapots” and she would lie and say you never showed up for work. She bullied people until they left (both clients and staff).

    21. schnapps*

      So, here we go. This is pretty long.

      A couple of years ago, the director position (lets call it Director of Teapot Operations and Tea Blending) I report to opened up. They tweaked the job description and hired someone other than the person who had been acting in it for about two years. Right around the same time another director position (lets call it Director of Teapot Services and Tea Steeping) in my department opened up which was a better fit for the acting director so she moved over to that position.

      The new Director of Teapot Operations had no experience in her role and turned out to be a pretty bad manager. I started off ok with her but then one day suggested that giving all the overtime to one of the Teapot Operations Coordinators while leaving the rest of us out in the cold on it wasn’t fair. I also pointed out that she had talked about equitable distribution of overtime on this project and was now going against that.

      So we move on and in a couple of days, I ask for change to my vacation. My job duties had shifted and it would work better if I took 3 days one week and 3 days the next rather than 5 days straight. She cancelled my vacation. I then asked for a day off instead, and she said no. Then she tells me to go into her office to talk about it. I go in and she hits me with, “You know, Schnapps, the problem is your tone when you’re dealing with senior staff. It’s not acceptable. I want to make sure you’re aware of that.” I apologized for any offense I’d caused, and she says, “It’s not offense. It’s just…off-putting.” (whatever that means) So I asked her who complained to her about me and she says, “It doesn’t matter, just watch it.”

      So she offers me some rescheduled vacation 6 months later which I take. And all sorts of alarm bells are going off in my head. I go back to my desk and write the incident down. This is spring. And things are chilly between us.

      Over the summer, I have an interview at another organization that happens to be on a day I’ve already booked off. So I go to the interview, and while I’m there they ask me for references. I tell them I’ll email it to them the following day, I just have to give my bosses a heads up. The next morning, I talk to the Department Head who is gracious about it, and says I can put her down as a reference any time. Then I go and talk to the Director of Teapot Operations and let her know what happened and ask if I can use her as a reference. And she yells at me, “You need to let me know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it! It’s not acceptable to come in here and ask for a reference after the fact!” I just kind of blink at her, and say, “Look, I’m sorry this is the way it happened. Now that I know your preferences, I’ll be able to work this in the way you want. And if giving me a reference is an issue, no problem on my end. Department head said she’d give me a reference any time, so I can just leave your name off the list.” She backs off a bit and says, “Oh a reference isn’t a problem. For future reference, my friend, not everyone will say nice things. But don’t worry! I’ll say nice things.” So I leave her office, don’t put her name on the reference list and write the incident down.

      A few other minor things happen – they’re all logged but the main one occurred after we had to do a manual audit of Tea Steeping. Most of this is machine counted but we had to manually check any errors identified by the machine. So I’m supposed to be doing my usual Teapot Operations duties with my work partner, but she sends me to the Teapot Services and Tea Steeping offices to do this manual audit. I’m there for about a day total and get back to my office around 2pm the next day. My coworker is livid – hangry, even. Director of Teapot Operations didn’t let her take a lunch break even though our collective agreement requires we get a one hour lunch break after 5 hours of work. Director told her that she had to be ready to process an item once the Overlord of Teapots and Teas came out of a meeting to approve the last item (note, the Overlord was in a meeting until 2pm and we knew this by talking to her exec).

      Coworker has done some of the work (what she can without final approval), and asks me to check it. So I sit at her computer to look at it and as I’m sitting there, a notification pops up that the last item is approved. I note this for coworker and she says, “Ok, finish checking that and then we’ll process that last one.”

      Director comes out (gunning for a fight), “Did you see? Overlord approved that last thing.” Coworker says, “Yes, we saw it. Schnapps is just checking this other part we have to send out with it and then we’ll process it.” Director: “What other part is that?” Coworker (sounding annoyed): “The other part we always send out to give the big bosses a heads up that this is going public.” Director: “What’s that then?” Me: “I’m just checking this note that has to go out and then we’ll process that last item.” Director (glares at me, wags her finger): “DON’T GET CHIPPY!!!”

      My other coworkers who are there give her the side-eye (because who says that? Your great aunt Mildred?) I just say, “I’m going to finish checking this, then we’ll process the last thing.” And turn back to what I was doing. Director storms off. Department Head was still down at the other office overseeing the final audit.

      A bit later, I go into Director’s office to drop off an overtime form from a couple of days previously and she corners me: “I have told you before about your tone and how you need to watch how you deliver information. You need to be crisp and to the point.” Me: “Well, there seemed to be some miscommunication between you and coworker so I was just trying to clear it up.” Director: I came out talking about this last item and you started talking about something else completely unrelated. Me: “You know, coworker spoke first so maybe she should come in here and be part of the conversation.” Director: “We are not talking about coworker, we are talking about YOU and YOUR TONE OF VOICE.”

      So at this point, I start to well up. “I was just trying to clear up what seemed to be a miscommunication.” She looks at me and grins, “I’ve said all I have to say. You can go now.” I repeat myself one final time and she says, “I’ve said all I have to say. Leave, now.”

      (after that, she didn’t talk to me for a month – literally. I counted)

      And I can’t pull it together for the rest of the day. The next day, three of us (the most senior staff) call a shop steward and have lunch with him. He has a meeting with our department head who takes this very seriously and immediately intervenes and tells the director to back off. We have a meeting with the steward, our department head and HR who are all appropriately horrified as to what happened. This is towards the end of the year.

      Director is put on a 4-month improvement program. Huge amounts of money spent on an external coach for her. After a month, its clear she’s not taking it seriously. The day before our follow-up meeting, she corners each of us asking for feedback. When I give her feedback, she treats it with sarcasm. At that point, I’m pretty much done with her and I let my department head know. Within a week of the follow-up meeting with us where we point out all the opportunities she had to make the relationships better, she goes on medical leave for two months. Director of Teapot Services and Tea Steeping steps in as our day-to-day supervisor (approval of time off, payroll, etc). Department Head assumes supervision of our more substantive work (as directed to her by Overlord anyways). And things are So. Much. Better.

      During that time one of our coworkers says to us, “we think you guys bullied Director out of her job.” Department Head intervenes and sets other coworkers in their places. She then gets the coach to do a teambuilding workshop with us (which was, surprisingly, very good).

      At the end of July, we get a note from our Department Head that she has resigned her position with the org. We have a debrief with the coach in September.

      tl;dr – We went through the union who dealt with it as a respectful workplace issue – there’s a policy on that which applies to everyone. Bully boss eventually left of her own accord. The whole thing took about 9 months to resolve, but damn, I feel so much better at work now.

    22. OriginalEmma*

      This happened when I was quitting my first ever job. I was 16. I was working part-time in a mom-and-pop pharmacy but had, prior to being hired, also applied to a music store. I ended up getting the music store job and tried to balance working the two. That wasn’t working, so I picked the music store gig over the pharmacy and called to give my resignation. The boss screamed something along the lines of “You can’t lie to people like that! You said you’d work for me and now you’re quitting! Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

      I ended up working for several years at the music store, my managers there continue to be examples to me of great management and I had tons of a fun. So..pfft, pharmacy.

    23. Kay*

      At my first job out of college, my supervisor was…unhinged, shall we say. He often displayed this by mean girl bullying tactics.

      The incident that comes most directly to mind was this: the three of us in the department (supervisor, other senior staff member, myself) were in a meeting with a contractor in order to work out the specifications of a large project they would be doing for us over the next 6 months. The project was in my area of work, and I’d be responsible for writing the ultimate outline for the contractor as well as implementing the work on our end. I asked lots of questions and provided lots of information from our POV.

      Supervisor got progressively more sullen and nasty throughout the meeting, biting off quick snarky responses to questions and glaring at everyone in turn. I was confused but we pushed through. Right after the contractor left, supervisor went to his office, slammed the door, and did not come out for 20 minutes. When he came out, it was to go into my co-worker’s office and scream at the top of his lungs and sob about how I had “sabotaged” and “undermined” him in the meeting. This took…an hour? 90 minutes? I was in an adjacent office and could hear only occasional words, mostly yelling and loud dramatic sobbing.

      Was I blameless? I was 22, and out of college for 4 months, and it was my first major project. In hindsight, probably I did get over-eager, a little too pushy, who knows. But wow, was that not the way to handle it.

      End result: silent treatment from supervisor to me for 3 weeks, then pretending the incident had never happened. I ended up leaving that job after my annual contract was not renewed for budget reasons. I found out it was not being renewed when a coworker in another department said over lunch “oh, it’s too bad you’re leaving us.” Supervisor was never going to tell me.

      He had many, many, MANY other small, weird, passive-aggressive, bizarre moments in the 2 years I worked there, but that day still stands out in my mind as one of the weirder work situations I’ve ever encountered.

    24. Anon for this*

      Things were going great for me at work until a coworker who had always hated me became a manager. As soon as she was promoted, things went south. First, I was accused of doing something horrible, and she spread the story around to all the managers throughout the company. I was later exonerated, but most people who heard the original rumor didn’t hear that it was a lie, so they continued to think I was a horrible person.

      Later, an employee from another department screamed at and threatened me for asking him to do something he didn’t want to do, and when his manager heard the commotion, he asked what was going on and the other employee said I was harassing him. Without even giving me a chance to tell my side of the story, my manager suspended me and sent me for a psychological evaluation, so then everybody regarded me as a horrible, crazy person.

      I should have seen the writing on the wall, but I thought if I kept my head down and kept doing exemplary work, I would be ok. It just kept getting worse, though, especially after the manager hired a bunch of new employees and formed a clique with them. I was supposed to train the new employees, but they took every opportunity to lodge formal complaints against me, claiming I was harassing them because I did things like ask them to correct their errors, and saying they were afraid of me because I have a reputation for being crazy.

      My file kept getting thicker with complaints and I kept getting disciplined every time someone didn’t like something I said or did, and I finally had enough, so I got another job and left. I feel stupid for sticking around as long as I did, because when that first accusation was made, I had a gut feeling that it was the beginning of the end.

    25. Buttonhole*

      I worked as a consultant at an international engineering firm. I was bullied by my director’s PA. She first found fault with my food. We had no lunch facility and eating at our desks was the norm. I never eat spicy or strong food, like some of the others, out of respect for my colleagues. But she told me regularly that my food “stank” and told me once “you are very unsocial with your food” even though I always clear up and never store food that rots in the fridge. I shared her words with colleagues who were shocked, one telling me “no you are absolutely not unsocial”. I later stopped eating near her or timed my lunch breaks with when she was away from her desk (which was adjacent to mine).

      I was criticised always in the absence of others, made to feel really inferior. Once she came over to our row of desks, told everyone “I put some cookies in the kitchen for all of you losers”. I then said “thank you, Jane”. She then replied “I wasn’t talking to you. I will send an email (?) to all the relevant losers” and then she walked away.

      She often came over to have chats to our group of consultants but she would ignore me and exclude me from the conversations. I stopped going to group lunches after she sent an email invite to everyone but didn’t make it clear that we should RSVP in person because she was booking a table . I wasn’t sure if I could go due to an interview, and on the day it became clear I was free indeed. However, when I told her that I could go on the day she told me she didn’t book a place for me because I didn’t have the “common courtesy” to let her know. The office is in a part of town where you really don’t need to book tables in advance! I felt so unwelcome I decided not to go.

      Once I stood in the kitchen doorway, stirring my tea while looking at the group of consultants who were moving office furniture, purely out of curiosity to see why they were moving stuff. Jane, the bully was supervising them, turned around and noted I was observing them. She pointed with her fingers at her eyes, then pointed her fingers towards me, and then toward hers again, as if to say “I am watching you too”. She also regularly accused me of staring at her. I do have very dark eyes and very curious about my surroundings so am naturally observing- if you come to my part of the office I will look up to see who you are, but will never stare. I later became so intimidated that I couldn’t even look at her.

      Once she passed by my back as I was reading a newspaper online for a few minutes to divert my attention. She then walked to my manager sitting in the same row, pointing at me, and said very audibly “that one is surfing the web when she is supposed to be working”. The manager sent me a reminder of the internet policy- I was just reading the news for goodness sake, there wasn’t much work to do anyway.

      I was warned that Jane is the director’s eyes and ears, telling him everything behind closed doors. She would go into his office, and sit and talk with him, and you could see they were gossiping. My colleague encouraged me to talk to Jane, as she (colleague) was aware of Jane’s bullying, as she herself was a victim when she started work at the firm. I had better ideas: I contacted a recruiter and left my “dream job” after just 10 months. I feel so stupid for not standing up for myself from the start. Work was great when she was out of the office. Never again.

    26. Mirabellaninani*

      When I started somewhere as a manager, one of my immediate challenges was some serious performance issues with a direct report. When I started to discuss this with her, she accused me of bullying her. I asked her for examples of how I’d bullied her, and she couldn’t come up with anything concrete. I continued with the capability procedures and kept a closer eye on her work, which she didn’t like at all. She continually threatened to take legal action against me.

      So basically, her accusing me of bullying was a form of bullying in itself. It felt pretty horrible, but I stuck with it, going through the formal procedures, giving her a chance to improve, getting support from HR and my manager. She resigned when she realised she couldn’t get away with her poor performance any more! That was satisfying.

      HR told me that this situation is quite common.

      1. At First Real Job*

        At least she resigned! I found out from my supervisor that this happened to her… with a direct report that still works here now. The report went crying to our director accusing our supervisor of bullying her, and everyone thought my supervisor was bullying her. It wasn’t until HR made everyone take a bullying workshop that people realized my supervisor wasn’t bullying her after all…

        1. Mirabellaninani*

          Yes, I was lucky. Sounds like that director didn’t wasn’t a great people manager.

    27. LadyTL*

      When I was working at a big box retailer, I had a touch of bullying from my department manager. She didn’t seem to like how friendly I was with the supervisors and how not friendly (but still professional) I was with my peers in my department. To be honest though there was a ton of gender issues going around (No women were ever assigned to electronics or hardware or auto and even if you didn’t apply for that area women ended up working in apparel). I was polite to my coworkers but who I spent most of my lunch or breaks talking to was the guys in electronics because I am a massive nerd and I was friendly with my supervisors because I would get my work done quickly and then ask them if they needed help with anything in the department (which they always did because retail).

      The department manager just had such a huge problem with this though. She marked me down massively on my review for “not being friends with everyone”. (That was literally what was written on the sheet) and then the day after I had to call in for a personal problem she came in on her off day to try to write me up for it. (She was seen just coming in to access the records and then left not too long afterwards). She also blocked every transfer request I put in (you think she would have approved them to get rid of me) and tried to write me up for every thing she thought she could get away with.

      I still don’t get her issue other then maybe I wasn’t girly enough for her?

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        As a woman who tends to be a bit geeky, I’ve had a similar thing happen. There is a certain type of woman who is very threatened by other women that don’t get into all the stereotypical girl clique behavior. Apparently, these traitor women must be stopped. Normally, it doesn’t bother me, because you can just ignore it, but when a woman like that supervises the geeky women, they start bullying.

        I’d say it’s all very high school, but it’s too immature. More middle school.

    28. At First Real Job*

      My first boss after school was a crazy lady who was out of touch with professional norms. She used to be a senior editor at Big Name publishing company 20 years ago and had a huge ego… so in the interview when I told her I will take a day to consider the job offer (which only paid $12 an hour), she completely took offense. She thought I was this arrogant, ungrateful millennial who didn’t appreciate this amazing opportunity, so she gave the job to another person. When I accepted the job the next day because I needed the experience anyway, she was caught off-guard but had to hire me because she already offered me the job (she ended up hiring two of us for a single role). But she totally schooled me in professional behaviour, telling me how unprofessional and unenthusiastic I was for not taking the job right away and how in her entire career she has never seen an interviewee ask for time to consider the job offer. She told me that I should never let an employer think I don’t want to work there–all this because I told her I would get back to her the next day with my answer.

      Over the course of the job, she never got over this slight to her ego (how could this raw, inexperienced recent grad NOT jump at the chance to work for her, an ex-senior editor at Big Name publishing company, and need time to think it over?!) and took every chance to throw her weight around. She called me “obstructive” and blamed me for her mistakes and thought I was defensive when I tried to explain myself. For example, one of my tasks was proofing her work, but she would make the revisions herself in the master copy incorrectly, so she would blame me for not being careful enough and missing errors.

      Then she ran out of money and couldn’t continue to hire the both of us after only 4 months… so she laid us off and hired us as contractors. Four months after that, she became angry and took it really personally when I left for another job (my first REAL job) at a professional, stable publishing company that pays a REAL salary. On my last day, she sent me an angry email calling me “ungrateful for taking advantage of [her] generosity in taking a chance on a new graduate.” I didn’t reply that in my time working for her, I learned her first big lesson: don’t let an employer think you don’t want to work there.

    29. Stella Maris*

      My co-worker haaaaaated her job and was counting down the years until retirement. She did about an hour’s worth of work each day and then did personal genealogical research (come on, I know what looks like!) and played Candy Crush the rest of the day. She wouldn’t answer the desk bell, saying she “couldn’t hear it”. She had grieved via the union a couple of times before and no one would say ‘boo’ to her.

      She went on ‘sick leave’ for THREE MONTHS but never actually took the short-term medical leave she was entitled to, she’d just email in a doctor’s note saying she wouldn’t be back for 2 weeks. Then another 2 weeks. Then another 2 weeks. I took over her work.

      When she came back – with no advance warning – she yelled at me that I was an irresponsible child who hadn’t done a good enough job covering her work.

      When I went to my manager in tears over this, the manager suggested we have a sit-down, the three of us, and talk it out. I said I wanted HR involved, she hummed and hawed and then said she’d notify them — and I never heard another word about it.

      I should have gone to HR myself but instead, I got a new job, and am a million times happier for it.

    30. Elizabeth West*


      I wasn’t the one being bullied, and he wasn’t my manager, but he would just pick and pick and pick at Coworker, who would never stand up to him. No one ever checked his behavior the entire time I worked there. I would get sick just listening to him. In retrospect, I could have made a complaint, but I don’t think it would have done any good. Nobody liked him and they moaned about how lazy he was all the time. He had this sixth sense as to when a call would be for him–the phone would ring, and before I even answered it, he’d get up and walk away from his desk, or even just flat out ignore it if I transferred it. No one EVER called him on this behavior. If someone was gone, he wouldn’t handle their customers. He set a precedent, and none of the other reps would do it either, except Coworker, who gave really excellent customer service.

      Another thing he did was use me to go around Coworker. If someone emailed looking for samples or literature, he would forward it to me and copy the customer without copying Coworker. This made it look like I was supposed to handle all their inquiries, when all I did was send samples, not do quotes, etc., and it was not procedure. I knew he was doing this to set up Coworker so he could yell at him for dropping the ball. So I would email the customer back and copy Coworker but not Bullyboss and say, “Hi, Bob, I’ve shipped your requested items out via Fed Ex. They should arrive on Wednesday. If you have any product questions, or you need a quote, please contact your sales rep, Coworker. His extension is 12345 and his email is coworker at Thank you and have a good day.” >:)

      Someone I was in touch with who still worked there told me he got fired not long after I was laid off, and I really really really really wished I could have been a fly on the wall for THAT conversation. But this happened while I was still job hunting, and I was terrified I’d end up working with him again. I decided if I got a job where I was privy to applicant information and I saw his resume cross the desk, I would go straight to HR and tell them everything. And if they hired him anyway, I’d quit.

    31. Stargazer*

      I don’t really have a story to add, just a thought.

      Bullying or anything close to it is complicated for me. When I was in middle school and being picked on (as the sad rite of passage of middle schoolers everywhere), my mother would suggest “helpful” comebacks that I couldn’t imagine saying and would have made things so much worse. Nothing ridiculous, just sort of out of touch…things a middle schooler would never say. (Ex: “Oh, yeah? Do you feel like a big man now?”) But afterward, when it happened again, I mentally got stuck between not saying anything and juuust having a Mom defense on the tip of my tongue that I never ended up using. So even now, I think part of me is on overdrive bursting to correct any bullying I see.

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t run around telling off meanies at work all day (or really ever), but whenever I think anyone is being the slightest bit passive-aggressive, my brain swirls with all these dramatic “put them in their place” responses that I of course never say out loud. Maybe if I’d just had the guts to stand up for myself when I was younger, my defense mechanisms wouldn’t be so out of whack.

    32. Nervous Accountant*

      Oh dear, I’m getting flashbacks of my boss from last year.

      Man was a psycho. I think I posted almost every week during the open thread. Let me see what I can dig up.

      It was a year ago and i’m JUST getting over my PTSD from that job (and that’s where Nervous Accountant was born).

    33. Viktoria*

      The recent episode of This American Life, A Petty Tyrant, was all about a larger-than-life workplace bully. Without giving too much away, his behavior included verbal abuse, sexual harassment, threats of violence AND actual violence involving explosives. (!!) I highly recommend a listen for a very shocking and engrossing example of workplace bullying.

    34. Anonymous for this one*

      During college, I worked for a company on second shift doing office work — finding files, etc. For two years, we were managerless which was great — lots of freedom. During the third year, they hired a woman to be our manager. She didn’t work and play well with others.

      Well, one evening (we worked 4-8pm each weekday), I asked her if I could leave early because my nephew was in intensive care with meningitis. She said no. I left anyway. I saw my nephew, and he was taken off life support the next day.

      The next evening, I went into work and was screamed at by the manager for not listening, etc. After about 15 minutes of her screaming, I said, “That’s fine, but you never asked how my nephew was doing. He died this morning, if you want to know.” She stopped talking and I walked out of her office. She never spoke of it again.

    35. TootsNYC*

      This wasn’t work, but I did manage to protect a couple of people from bullying in high school. These two girls were low-status, lower economic class, and kinda funny looking, funny acting. Sweet, but not smart, and perfect targets.

      Once at lunch some people started saying rude things to them, out of the blue–and I was on my way to find a seat, so I headed to them and started talking back to the person who was being snotty and mean. “Who asked you? That’s a really rude thing to say. Were they bothering you? No I don’t think so, they weren’t talking to you, why are you talking to them? Just shut up and leave them alone.”
      The person and his friends tried to make fun of me and say nasty stuff to me, but I was pretty relentless, “That’s just mean, you deserve everything I’ve said, and you can just keep your nasty comments to yourself.”
      I was plenty loud–the whole room could hear me. Which was my point–drag it all out into the open. When I sat down, I just brazened it out, and almost aggressively ignored them and socialized with these two girls.
      And they faded out. I think it was helped by the fact that a few other people around them were acting embarrassed by them (but not embarrassed by me).
      The girls and I had been mildly friendly before (I got picked on as well), but we were definitely friends after that.

      I’m sure they still got nasty stuff said to them, but not if I was around, because you’d get it!

      It was very eye-opening to me. You just can’t let this stuff go unremarked, or allow people to hide it.

      1. catsAreCool*

        Dragging bad behavior into the open seems like the most effective way to deal with bullying, unless the place is very toxic.

    36. Boononymous*

      I’ve worked with a co-worker for a year now and have just realized that he’s a bully. I’ve always seen how he’s abrupt, quick to defend himself but cutting others off and intrude others’ space (he used powerful body language a lot), but I made it a personal goal to support my team and protect them from him. (I should note that I am not a manager, but a peer that is wholly in a support role and liaison with other teams, so we work together often.) After a couple months he stopped leaning/sitting on desks, asking if people had time rather than interrupting/removing their headphones and even began to say thank you — a little monkey see, monkey do action. Now we have a good work relationship, and are able to work together well, but it took some time.
      But because our team’s experience has improved, doesn’t mean others have — I’ve had four new hires ask me how to get on his “good side” because he’s been a bully to them. I explain that with this particular person, being credible and building rapport will win him over… but also beginning to realize not every one understands that, or how to manage without authority. I’ve thought about telling my co-worker that he comes off as impetuous, but I’ve held my tongue for now.

    1. badger_doc*

      Ha! That’s why i totally love the friday open thread :-) But i do feel guilty for being so unmotivated….

        1. Sleep*

          This is me every day of the week. See the username. Sleep is my life. I need 10-12 hours a night to see straight and on weeknights I get 8-9 tops. I wake up at around 5:20-5:30 so there’s really only so much I can get.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Yeah, Thursdays are probably the toughest days for me. And the open thread can sabotage my Friday productivity a bit

      2. Mike C.*

        Someone in the bathroom stall next to me yesterday started to snore. I was a little shocked, and a little jealous.

        1. The Toxic Avenger*

          OK, you know how people type LOL and you know they are not really laughing out loud?

          I just LOL-ed for real.

        2. Sleep*

          It could have been me (not really). I sleep in the bathroom at work. I feel terrible for doing it but at my workplace it’s acceptable to take a 20 minute smoke break, so I figure a 20 minute nap won’t hurt.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Yes. But I also then blame my coworkers’ increased chatter and socializing for sapping my motivation. It’s a terrible cycle.

      1. Dana*

        We had people playing with something like those foam dart guns earlier…I don’t know why sometimes it turns into playtime for a handful of people, but it makes it hard to concentrate when I have work to do.

        1. Matt*

          I actually walked down a hallway last Friday and some people were playing cornhole!! Granted, it was around 4pm…

    3. KJR*

      Definitely! Plus I am fighting a bout of vertigo today as well, so I am not getting much accomplished at all.

    4. Trixie*

      Exactly why I thorough despise Friday meetings. Everyone is pretty much tapped out for the week. Much rather spend my time working at my desk, wrapping up details from the week or making notes for next week. Also enjoy catching up on filing, cleaning up, etc.

    5. A Jane*

      Absolutely! I make myself feel better by taking care of all my “boring administrative stuff”–getting rooms for meetings, reading one or two professional development long articles, to do lists for Monday. It’s not much, but it helps me get started for Monday

    6. KT*

      That’s why i schedule stupid tasks for Fridays. Catch-up on emails, schedule meetings, print off copies, etc. The mindless work I can put off the rest of the week.

    7. Cassie-O*

      On a day when you’re zonked out, do you feel guilty for claiming you worked a full 8 hours? Or do you feel like it balances out with the more intense/hardworking days? I mean, we can’t realistically be at peak productivity all the time…or even half the time…but any guilt about getting paid equally for the bum days?

      1. lawsuited*

        Nope, I log my productive time in 6 minute increments, so I don’t claim 8 hours unless I actually did 8 hours of productive work for clients. I never feel bad about slacking during the regularly scheduled work day (9am-5pm) because if I slack today I have to make it up another day to meet my billable target.

      2. Dawn*

        Nope. Took me a long time to get that way tho! I figure if a company wants me to be working literally every single second I’m here then 1- that will be made perfectly clear and 2- I will have enough to do that I will have to do that.

        I think that it’s totally fine to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done and take as much or as little time as you need to do it. Sometimes you’re going to need all 8 hours in a day, sometimes you’re only going to need 3. And sometimes you’ve got other things going on in your life or feel stressed out or have an off day, and that’s OK too!

    8. Tris Prior*

      I had to fight the urge to put my head down on my desk and take a nap when I got in this morning….

    9. Brett*

      I am the opposite. I drag on Mondays, since that day is where all the meetings land and it is hard to get focused on something in the midst of all of the minor reorganization that comes with meetings.
      Friday, everyone is gone or occupied and I blast through tons of work. Not to mention, in our office it is generally accepted to go home a little early on Fridays. So, by the time I lose momentum, I can generally just wrap up my work for the week and go home; though half the time I am the last one here and my co-workers are telling me to just go home.

      1. Anx*

        At jobs that I’ve had where the primary hours were M-F 9-5, I absolutely loved Fridays. I would get really fired up for planning my work on Monday.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        I drag on Tuesdays. On Mondays I’m relatively well-rested from the weekend, and I have some weekly tasks that I do on Mondays and really enjoy. I usually only have one meeting, at 10 am, and then I can get all set up for the week. On Tuesday morning I’m all “work agaaaaiiiiin? But I did that yesterday!”. I have more meetings, more interruptions, and it still feels like a long way to the weekend.

  2. Muriel Heslop*

    What’s your best way to decline school solicitations in the workplace? All those popcorn/wrapping paper/cookie dough sales? We have seen an explosion of these and UGH!

    1. BRR*

      A pleasant toned “No thank you” should work (Alison can you upload a voice recording of this? Can you also upload your manager is an ass and isn’t going to change?).

      I’ve also used/recommend “I’m sorry, I focus my giving on the arts and have already given what I budgeted for the year.”

    2. Lizabeth*

      This one worked really well for me: I asked the question “what are you raising money for?”

      100% of the parents could not tell me and I declined to purchase anything (most of it was overpriced anyway)

      And as long as you’re not bring your kid’s fund raising sheet, say no without guilt.

      BTW, I seriously object to the parents doing this – it should be the kid doing it.

      1. louise*

        If the kid asks me (not a parent) then I will either buy (if it’s cookie dough or something chocolately) or donate. If I donate, I don’t have to give much to equal the small percentage they would have gotten off the terribly overpriced goods.

    3. Sadsack*

      Just ignore them? I see that at work occasdionally. Whether the firm is hanging somewhere or an email goes out, I just ignore them. Maybe my coworkers are not as persistent and pushy as others are though, but I think, “No, thanks!” should work.

    4. Squirrel*

      Alison had a great post about it at some point in the past. I tried doing a cursory search for it, but couldn’t find it. Basically she said say something like, “If I buy from you, then I have to buy from Ulysses and Elijah and Dr. Mobius to make it fair, and that would be my entire paycheck!” Something along those lines, whatever you’re comfortable with, and of course it depends on your relationship with the person in question. If it becomes a major issue, I personally don’t see anything wrong with bringing it up to management and suggesting that people leave the sign up sheets in the community break room/kitchen/locker room so that people can peruse at their leisure. This also removes the “Buy from me now now now!” pressure tactic some parents use.

      1. NotAFed*

        I used this tactic when an acquaintance started trying to sell me Arbonne products – “Sorry, if I buy Arbonne from you, I feel like I have to buy something from everyone I know who sells Mary Kay, Lia Sophia, etc. and that would be my whole paycheck.” It worked like a charm.

    5. Kyrielle*

      “I’m sorry, I have relatives/friends I get those things through.” Or “I’m sorry, I’m already stretched thin.” – if it applies and you’re willing to say it.

      Or “No, thank you.” Really, they should accept a polite no thank you. (And does your workplace have a policy against it? And if not, might they consider one? My old workplace formally didn’t allow that sort of solicitation, although it was considered okay to set a sheet out on your desk and say *nothing*. People who saw it could sign up if they wanted, but you couldn’t ask.)

    6. Muriel Heslop*

      Thanks, everyone! We definitely have some pushy salesparents here and no workplace prohibition (nor will we ever get one.) I was so annoyed I couldn’t even come up with something. You have all helped!

    7. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      If it’s done by email, I ignore. If it’s done in a really casual way (they make a large announcement and say something like “the catalog is in the breakroom on the table, let me know if you want to order anything!”), I thank them and say I’ll take a look (which I usually will if I’m bored on break) but never do any kind of follow up. If it’s a direct “Hey Xan, want to buy some wrapping paper?” I tell them it’s not in the budget right now for me but I wish them luck.

      (if it’s my “friend” from high school who thought we could reconnect over her desire to sell Mary Kay I turn off my phone and hide in a dark room)

      1. FutureLibrarian*

        Just had a “friend” from college (who hasn’t talked to me in years) invite me to attend an adult toy/product party.

        Then, a few weeks later, she private messaged me on Facebook to ask me to host one. I didn’t even respond, honestly. I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t even host one for my best friend! I’m not a cash cow.

    8. some1*

      Can you set up a policy to have all of these sign-ups go on a bulletin board or table in the break room? The people who want to order something can do so and everyone else can ignore them. They did this at a former company at it worked out like gangbusters.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is what we do also. Nobody is pressured to buy anything and if you want to, it’s right there. I usually don’t, unless it’s candy. I can’t resist candy. >_<

    9. Mike C.*

      Start with the phrase, “AS A TAXPAYER…”

      I hear folks involved in public education/government work love hearing that.

      /My brother is a teacher, and I asked him once what is worse – anything that comes after the phrase “AS A TAXPAYER” or anything that comes after the phrase “AS A PARENT”. He responded by punching me in the arm. :D

      1. Mike C.*

        That reminds me, there was a PTA flyer going around that was just a simple form where you could just donate straight cash instead of buying cookies, running laps, attending parties, etc. It was brilliant.

        1. louise*

          Yup, “Here’s $100 to forget my name.” Brilliant, except for the parents who don’t have the funds. Stinks for them. But overall hilarious.

        2. Artemesia*

          My kids’ public school did that. There was a suggested amount per family (I think it was about $60 but it was years ago) and people were asked to donate more if they could to sponsor families who could not donate that amount which we did. The school gets so little money from sales and so this worked so much better. Among the things we bought were an art teacher and a computer teacher since the district no longer supported those things. These were part time positions but mean our kids had some well designed experiences in art and use of computers which was valuable to all of us. This was before every kid had a computer at home or libraries had them readily available.

        3. Natalie*

          My grandmother always did this, and then our parents would talk our teachers into letting us get whatever prize was being offered for that level. Frankly, we should have gotten a bigger prize since the wrapping paper or whatever only nets the school a tiny percentage of the proceeds, while my grandmother’s check was 100% pure profit.

      2. Kelly L.*

        I read somewhere this week–was it in a comment here–that “as a taxpayer” is a sure sign that what comes afterward will be jerkassery. :D Kind of like “No offense, but” or “I’m not racist, but.”

        1. Artemesia*

          My one use of the ‘taxpayer’ meme was when parents with kids in private schools would whine at our church about how they were ‘paying double’. I would always just blandly say ‘parents don’t pay school taxes.’ And watch them sputter. And when they wound down, would blandly say ‘citizens pay school taxes.’ It always bugged me that these whiny A T babies didn’t seem to realize that the world was full of people without kids who nevertheless supported needed services for children; they are after all the future of the country not just the future of their parents.

          1. Kelly L.*

            In my former town, a candidate tried to run for school board a few years back on the platform that people without kids shouldn’t have to pay any taxes for schools. Record screech noise in my head! Nope, I’ll gladly do it, because I want to live in a country of thinking people.

            And one day I’ll be old, and my doctor will probably be someone who’s a little kid right now. I darn well want that kid to be as well educated as possible!

        2. LJL*

          I like “as a taxpayer” myself…it’s a useful signal that I can safely ignore what comes next. Like the other 2 you mention.

    10. Lady Bug*

      Am I the only one who loves the wrapping paper! I have a little bit of a wrapping paper addiction. It’s expensive, but it never rips.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I buy my wrapping paper at the flea market! Sometimes you can get some of that good stuff when people clean out their closet and put it in their booths. I don’t think I’ve paid full price for wrapping paper, especially Christmas paper, in years.

        1. Lady Bug*

          Never rips while you are wrapping with it I should have said. But never rips wrapping paper sounds like an awesome way to mess with the kids!.

          1. TootsNYC*

            like those birthday candles you can’t blow out.

            (and people use to set fires. similarly, the wrapping paper would make a great kidnapping tool)

      2. Artemesia*

        I have pretty much sworn off wrapping paper although we do get a bit at Christmas. I save those little handled bags that nice restaurants give you to tote the doggie bag and that some shops give out — often they are colorful or otherwise attractive and then stick the gift in the recycled bag and top with a little fluff of tissue paper. My daughter uses the comics from Sunday papers as wrapping paper. The stuff has gotten so expensive that we don’t see the point.

    11. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      My mother, who was a teacher, had a rule that she would purchase one item from each fundraiser, from the first kid who asked her.

  3. bassclefchick*

    @mel –

    I did see your comment on my post in last week’s thread. I’m sorry it got buried! Yes, I was at the location in the land of cheese. I was in the transportation department doing accounts payable. Any job leads are welcome!

  4. Christy*

    I keep worrying about my new job for no reason. Then I remember that I’m worrying for no reason, and I worry less. Then the cycle begins anew. It’s super fun. Occasionally I am reminded that I’m good at my job and people like me, and that helps.

    1. CAF*

      I have this habit too, for some valid reasons relating to my past and also because it’s my nature. My therapist told me to have a mantra (something I can visualize like “Hands off!”) and to write it down on a postie where I can see it at work. Then I can repeat that to myself instead of my thoughts going down their usual worry spiral. HTH!

    2. JP*

      My last supervisor NEVER gave me feedback and I lived in constant fear that I was about to get in trouble for something. I feel your pain.

    3. LJL*

      I had that too when i left an extremely dysfunctional workplace for an extremely functional one. It lessened for me using your technique repeatedly. Hang in there.

    1. OriginalEmma*

      I’m 6 hours away but would drive down for an AAM meetup if we wanted to do something interesting.

    2. Lizzy*

      I am in the area, so I would love to join. I will make sure to email you. Thanks for getting this started.

    1. AVP*

      worst: the owner of the company made us jump for an event he announced he was happening, like, an hour from the moment he told us about it. We spent $150 on emergency food buying and went a little crazy trying to get ready in time, only to have the whole thing cancelled the minute we were set up.

      best: We’ve been eating all of those unused snacks all week.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Holy crap, this happened to me too! Well, something similar. “Hey, we need you to do this tonight.” Jumped through hoops, had it cancelled. Blergh.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      Best: I got offered an office.
      Worst: I had to turn it down because, being half the size of my cubicle, it was literally too small to do my job in.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Worst: My usual coworker BFF was out almost all week, and the day drags on soooo much more without someone to toss around ideas with.

      Best: It was a short week for me, and I got approval for an upcoming vacation!

    4. Kyrielle*

      Best: Got a piece of code working the way I wanted!

      Worst: …the other two pieces that need to work with it don’t, yet.

      1. Annie Moose*

        What a coincidence, this has been my entire week!

        Actually, the worst part was when I did things one way, then realized that wasn’t very efficient and rewrote everything to do it another way, then realized that way wouldn’t work without making some serious database table changes and rewriting queries and rewriting even more code… so I had to undo aaaaaall that work and go back to the first way.

        Also I’m seriously over a deadline and that’s pretty stressful, because I have no clue what I’m going to say to my manager, but there’s literally nothing I can do about it now other than keep working, right?

        1. Tau*

          I hate it when that happens, and I’m bad at sitting down and figuring out what the best way of programming something would be instead of just delving right in so it happens more than I’d like.

        2. Kyrielle*

          I hear you! I changed the data structure I was using for one section three times. >.< I hope it's set, now.

      2. Stargazer*

        This made me think of a poster hanging above our website coder’s desk:
        “My code doesn’t work! I have no idea why.”
        “My code works! I have no idea why.”

    5. T3k*

      Best: created a whole new design to add to my portfolio (trying to make it more versatile as I tend to do darker graphics)

      Worst: an order that was in the works a month before I started here slipped through several different steps and somehow the woman paid for it without even having a design approved for it. Best part about it? We need to print it this Monday so unless she approves of it today with no changes, it’s very unlikely to happen.

    6. ACA*

      Best: I ordered business cards for my new job!

      Worst: The discovery that my predecessor was the only one in the office who regularly took lunch, which means that I’m now going to be the only on in the office who regularly takes lunch, because eff that, life’s too short.

    7. Sascha*

      Best: getting free lunch today, catered from a really good sandwich place. (My bests usually involve food…)

      Worst: the fall semester started. Hordes of sweaty freshman hitting the campus like a plague of locusts.

    8. part of the machine*

      Best: I went back to normal work hours– which is a much more manageable schedule
      Worst: I arranged/coordinated a lunch for my coworkers at a nice restaurant, and it got cancelled because management wants to do a pizza lunch.

    9. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      Best: So this may sound weird but I’ve been working with a lot of political newsprint from 1990-2003ish, and the best part of the week has been all the little blasts from the pasts- news events I remember but hadn’t thought about in years!

      Worst: Thinking several times that I had reached the bottom of the newsprint pile only to repeatedly have more dumped on me (one time literally)

    10. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Best: Being off today
      Worst: the shooting at WDBJ. The list of current/former co-workers that I have who I believe capable of something like that is too long & the list of kooky viewers is even longer. Also, it’s disappointing to know that because anything that would keep live crews safer costs money & resources, we’ll talk about safety/security a lot, but not actually do anything.

      1. Artemesia*

        Universities are full of seriously disturbed students. Families would rather have someone ‘doing a masters degree’ than in a mental institution or on the streets or in the basement. Every once in awhile some major professor gets shot by a deranged PhD student somewhere in the country. I have had students who call at 2 am with weird come ons, people who write paranoid letters to upper management about professors (I personally escaped that one but two of my colleagues had to deal with it for years), and lots and lots of students with rage issues. Allowing guns on campuses is scary stuff. I used to worry that one clearly disturbed woman who stalked a colleague would come to our offices, find him not there and just shoot me instead. And we had several people dismissed for cheating or for criminal activity or just because they failed their work too many times who seemed serious potential threats. We had security present for those meetings.

      2. LJL*

        That shooting was the worst for me too. Btu I am in AWE of the reporter in the studio who professionally held it together while reporting.

    11. Dawn*

      Worst: I had to bug the finance person and remind them that hey, y’all ain’t cut a check for me yet, I got rent to pay ya think you could maybe get on that?

      Best: impromptu coffee with my mentor/friend! I love her SO MUCH and she makes me feel empowered and excited about life/work/finding better opportunity!

    12. Kelly L.*

      I’m cheating, because neither of these are really a work thing.

      Best: Boyfriend had a surgery and it went really well. Should really improve his quality of life from here on out.

      Worst: Sewage issues in my basement AGAIN. Landlord needs to step on a Lego.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Ugh, I empathize with you *so* hard. Our sewer pipe cracked last year, and we have a dirt basement, so the sewage was slowly seeping into our basement floor. We called the landlord immediately, but he’s the type to try to avoid repairs so he doesn’t have to pay out any money. It took him SIX days to get a plumber here with one of those pipe cameras; meanwhile, the house was filled with the smell of sewer gas. I had a constant headache. It got so bad, I asked my mom and dad if I could please just come and sit at their house one evening to get away from it. After the plumber determined that the pipe cracked, the landlord decided he’d fix it himself. To add insult to injury, his dad tracked sewage all over my kitchen floor when he came upstairs to leave.

    13. louise*

      Worst: I went to my boss to explain why I need some help (I’m the only HR person here and we have multiple small companies totaling around 100 employees) and ask if I could look into a student in the local university’s HR program to work about 20 hrs/wk. He said no…

      Best: …because “You’ll overwhelm a P/T person within two weeks. You need someone F/T. Start figuring out what you want that second role to look like.”


    14. Someone Else*

      Best: Less than 30 days until I have my baby

      Worst: The person that has been harassing me for 9 months threw fingernail clippings under my desk (I am very grossed out by people’s fingernail and toenail clippings)

        1. Someone Else*

          I know, I reported it to my manager. It was gross, one of my team mates helped me clean them up.

      1. Yet Another JD*

        WHAT. THE. HELL?
        What is *wrong* with this person? Because surely they must have blown a gasket to think this is a thing one does at work.

      2. Someone Else*

        Seems like it may have been one of the cleaning crew after being investigated. Still Gross, but less intrusive.

    15. Anx*

      BEST: First week back at work with the new semester. I finally have a more robust schedule, both in work hours and hours actually spent working.

      WORST: The new semester has me very stressed about my future. I am really happy at work, but I just need something full-time.

    16. The IT Manager*

      Best: Led my first tech eval board this week. got nothing but kudos on it.
      Worst: Long days/lots of reading for those tech evals. I am very tired.

    17. Kristine*

      Best: I’m not actually at work right now! We have off until September 1.

      Worst: I’m unsure if the teacher in my classroom is returning for the fall. (I’m a TA @ a special ed school). This makes me nervous. I and another TA in my classroom just started in July. I was relying pretty heavily on my teacher for guidance. It’s going to suck having a brand new boss when I’m new myself!

    18. Natalie*

      Worst: for various issues, including some sleep problems, I am just draggin’ at work this week. I think I’ve accomplished maybe a day’s worth of actual work?

      Best: It’s really slow so no one will notice, and I’m sure I’ll be back to normal next week.

    19. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

      Best: Boss is transitioning me from one project to another new and promising contract.
      Worst: My imposter syndrome in is full flare-up mode, and of course I think I’m being moved to this new contract because the old project manager wasn’t satisfied with my work.

    20. OriginalEmma*

      Worst: My job is feast or famine, as might be expected in a response role. It’s been depressingly slow this week.
      Best: Minnesota State Fair this weekend! I can’t wait for roasted pig tail with ginger dressing, red wine kalettes, and whatever other deep-fried, sugar-coated, food-on-a-stick is available!

    21. schnapps*

      Best: I was on vacation.

      Worst: A couple of weeks back, I went in for testing and an interview for a job. They said second interviews would take place the last week of August. Since I hadn’t heard from them as of last Friday, I sent the HR person an email asking if they’re still on track, etc. She calls me back Monday, and it seems that now they’ve done testing and interviews, they will now be reviewing the position and I’m invited to reapply in a couple of months.

      It seems to me that you should do the review before you go to the time and expense of testing and interview, right? Or am I just making sense?

    22. Bea W*

      Best: Toss up between having a great mid-year review meeting and having several candidates to bring in for interviews for an open position. Usually we have trouble finding that ONE okay resume. My boss and I worked on coming up with a list of the top 5 job duties/skills we were looking for in a candidate and I think that really helped the recruiter send us better resumes.

      Worst: I don’t know why I thought the Express Bus from to downtown was a good idea. I figured with the snow gone and it being summer it couldn’t possibly be any worse that my winter experience. HA! That’ll teach me.

    23. Meetings meetings meetings*

      Best: I had a pretty light workload this week and some positive “catch up” meetings.

      Worst: I had an awful meeting which I hosted on Wednesday!

    24. Blurgle*

      Worst: having to explain to yet another American who’s been assigned here for six months that no, you cannot ask candidates “how do you plan to get to work?” in an interview here because a) it leaves us open to a hefty discrimination lawsuit (because not only do many disabled persons (like me) not drive, so do many First Nations people)* and b) you sound like you don’t know there is a large and efficient public transit service in this city with buses stopping literally outside the front door every five minutes from 6 AM to midnight and every half hour after that till 2:30 AM, or that any employee that needs to get to or from work when the buses aren’t running is entitled to travel via taxi on our dime per provincial labour law. We also only have four parking spots, and our entry level positions don’t pay enough for anyone to afford regular off-site parking.

      * There was a Labour Relations Board case a few years back on this very thing. The employer’s fine was well into five figures, plus costs and embarrassment at showing up on page A1 of the local birdcage liner.

      Best: finally convincing the big boss to let me write up a module explaining this.

      1. Blurgle*

        Oh, and the best part of the worst: having to explain to an educated and intelligent man that you can’t eliminate a candidate from the pool because he doesn’t have a driver’s licence, nor can you make possession of a licence a requirement *unless the job entails actual driving*. Also that the Labour Relations Board is just around the corner and nobody needs to “hire a lawyer, so they won’t bother” to make a claim.

        Lunch is over now; wish me luck.

      2. Rebecca*

        Wait, is this really illegal to ask? I assume verifying some form of reliable transportation is a totally reasonable ask. It doesn’t matter WHAT it is, but I wouldn’t bat an eye at a manager asking?

        1. Blurgle*

          Who in a city crisscrossed by bus routes does NOT have an insanely obvious way to get to work? It’s like asking if you have an alarm clock or winter boots.

          It’s such a ludicrous question that it’s really saying, “are you disabled? Off the reservation recently? Let me make you wonder if I’m going to make my decision based on that” – for an admin or docproc position.

          1. Rebecca*

            Yeah, I still think this is a totally reasonable question. Not worth getting your knickers in a twist over.

    25. OfficePrincess*

      Best: It’s Friday. This week has left me so run down.

      Worst: Staffing issues. I have one shift that the two people are at BEC with each other and one is ready to quit. I have another that took my willingness to be flexible with her school schedule as license to take on another job and expect us to work around that too. And someone else who may be getting promoted (great for her, leaves a giant hole for me).

    26. Lionness*

      Worst: In a meeting with several managers to discuss blackout dates for chocolate teapots, HR (who has to sign off on this for a myriad of reasons) decided to ‘call me out’ at the end of the meeting regarding completely unrelated feedback I had provided to them earlier in the day. They proceeded to give the impression that I had withheld critical information from them by changing what I had said – none of which needed to be told to the entire group.

      I had several people tell me they were horrified to witness the behavior, but no one wanted to say anything. I was humiliated and furious.

      Worse still, since my new line manager and I aren’t on the same page with anything yet I don’t even feel safe discussing it. Ugh.

    27. periwinkle*

      Worst: Had an internal informational interview with someone working in one of the areas I want to target. Turns out that they mostly work with executive coaching and the bit I want to do (change management) is relegated to a corner.

      Best: I’ve thought for a while that I’d prefer to leave this division after my current massive project ends – great management, great people, but limited opportunity to grow in the direction I want to go. “But hey, if they want to make me a [non-existent position at the division level] I’d stick around for a long time.” The division is getting re-org’ed. The position is now going to exist. Whoa.

    28. Secretly Me*

      Best: One of my jobs had to be done by someone else during a review and I got it back! Woo hoo!

      Worst: I asked someone a question and they completely dismissed my concerns and then sent me an email with stuff attached telling me how to do a job I’ve been doing for nearly three years now. Gah. I was very tempted to reply, “Forgive me for being conscientious; it will never happen again!”

    29. Cath in Canada*

      Best: finally got permission to start running the twitter account of a research consortium of which I’m a member. Have doubled the number of followers in 4 days (from 12 to 24, but still :) )

      Worst: someone with terrible grammar and typing skills edited a document I wrote that’s almost ready to send, but didn’t use track changes. The substance of the edits was great – she had just implemented some updates to the process that I didn’t know about yet – but she introduced random capitalisation, double spaces (including mid-sentence) and bullet point formatting errors that took much longer to hunt and squish than if she’d just clicked that one track changes button.

    30. QualityControlFreak*

      Worst: Was told on Wednesday that I had to deliver some staff training on Thursday morning, and oh, can you also update this manual so you can use it for the training?

      Best: It went really well, with a lot of good discussion and buy-in. Yay!

    31. NicoleK*

      Best: I may have found a ‘work around’ new coworker. Senior Development VP’s dept will assume primary grant managing responsibilities. Which will reduce my interaction with new coworker.
      Worst: I’m so behind

    32. Tonight when I chase the dragon*

      Best: spent the week at mgmt school in NY. Met a lot of great people, made some new friends, ate too much (there was food everywhere).

      Also best: it took a few weeks and I had to fight for it, but I got the salaries associated with a couple of job offers I’m making / raised to be fair, even good.

      Worst: flight back home was a beast.

      Very worst: my dog is sick, not sure what’s up.

  5. ACA*

    I’ve (almost) finished my first week at my new job! I’m really enjoying it so far – or at least, I haven’t been going home every day completely stressed out and anxious, which is a definite improvement. I could probably write 1000 words about my week, but I’ll keep it to three things to try to avoid being even more tl;dr than I already am.

    1. I feel like I’m not really accomplishing anything so far, but even though it’s an internal transfer, a lot of my system accesses were tied to my job and not directly to me. I keep trying to remind myself that the reason that I’m not accomplishing things is because I don’t have the right tools yet and not a personal failing.

    2. I love my new boss. Yesterday I told someone in another office to do something (that I knew could be easily changed/undone), then later followed up with my boss because I wasn’t sure what correct procedure was.

    How my old boss would have reacted: Why would you tell Lucinda to order milk chocolate drizzle? Didn’t you know we’re doing dark chocolate now?!
    How my new boss reacted: Oh, you should have had Lucinda order dark chocolate drizzle instead of milk, but that won’t be a big issue and we can change that pretty easily. We just decided on dark chocolate last week and there’s no way you could have known that.

    So, yeah. It’s a welcome change.

    3. Our office is located at one end of the building’s lobby/atrium. The bathroom is located at the opposite end…which means that any time I need to use the bathroom, everyone gets to hear my high heels echo all the way across the large, gorgeous, slate-tiled atrium. It’s almost enough to make me switch to flats.

    1. Chocolate lover*

      Yay for the new job!

      I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself about not feeling like you’ve accomplished anything. Even with internal switches, there’s an adjustment phase. I went through it last year after being in the same position for over 10 years. Some tasks I could jump into very quickly, others required reading up or meeting with people to collect relevant information, asking for advice, etc.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      Congrats on the new job! It’s so awesome having a reasonable boss.

      Maybe you could keep a pair of flats in your desk? I love my Yosi Samras!

      1. Nanc*

        There are little rubber pads for your heels! Go to a shoe repair shop and have the pros put them on–they really do help with the noise and bonus: your heels don’t wear down–just the pads, which can be replaced every few years.

  6. Not My Usual Name*

    I start a new job on Tuesday! In honour of this fact, I have been dancing a one person conga around my living room.

  7. Line One On Hold*

    If you’re answering the phone and the caller have a very gender neutral name, how do you address them? Generally if I put someone on hold, I pick up the line by just saying ‘Ma’am?’ or ‘Sir?’ to get their attention but twice this month I got the wrong gender. So how should I be picking up the line instead? I can’t say ‘Hey’ or ‘You still there?’. Maybe just ‘Excuse me?’, or just ‘Were you holding for Director Joel?’? Please help me out, I freaking hate misgendering people on the phone.

    1. GoldfishObituary*

      I would just say their name, but in the same tone as Ma’am or Sir. “Hello, Joel?” That type of thing.

      1. LBK*

        +1, this is what I do. And if I don’t know their name, I say “Hi – sorry, I didn’t catch your name?” and then after they give it to me I say “Thanks for waiting Jane! So…” and continue with what I was going to say.

    2. Ihmmy*

      “Thank you for holding” (often followed by “How can I help you?”) is all I’ve ever said to folk on hold

    3. AMT*

      I usually just say “hello?” when I put someone back on the line. If it’s appropriate, you could also say their first name (“Pat?”)

    4. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      I always say “thank you for holding” even when I know someone’s gender. Honestly even if it’s someone I’m really close to and have a pretty informal relationship with (like it’s someone from a different department calling and not a patron) I say the same thing but maybe use “thanks” instead of “thank you”

    5. Jodi*

      Agree with everyone below, just use their name if you have it! Especially because some women really don’t like being called “ma’am” because it sounds old fashioned and too formal. I had an ex-coworker get very offended once when I called her ma’am…

      1. Ife*

        There’s always an awkward pause while I’m processing the fact that “ma’am” is intended to address ME, and then celebrating that I was correctly lumped into the “ma’am” category and not the “miss” or “young lady” category. Oh, “young lady” grates, especially when you’re old enough to be raising a “young lady”.

    6. Betty (the other Betty)*

      This won’t help but…

      The phone is next to my desk, so I usually screen or answer it. When people we don’t know call and ask for my husband, I usually just say, “This is he.” In my regular voice. The caller sputters, trying to figure out if (female voice) is really (male name). But then they adapt and tell me why they are calling. (Often a scam or political survey.)

      I figure if the call is about something he really needs to address, I’ll just ask to put the caller on hold for a second and hand the phone over to my husband. I bet that would REALLY confuse them.

  8. bassclefchick*

    So, things have worked out fairly well. I called my old boss from a previous assignment. He was happy to hear from me and said he does have a project for me to work on. Yay! AND he said he would match my current salary. YAY! There was a bit of an issue with bringing me in. The company uses more than one staffing service and they wanted to bring me in through a service I’m not registered with. But, after a few days of back and forth, the company agreed to use the service I’m currently with. So, in the end I got what I wanted. I was a bit worried it would all fall apart, but I’m glad it worked out.

    I start Tuesday. It’s only going to be for a couple of months, but the last time I was there it turned into about a year of work.

    And I may have a phone interview soon for a permanent position. Thanks for all the good vibes, everyone!

  9. AVP*

    At what point in the morning do you get really worried about a no-call/no-show from a normally very responsible, communicative employee? And at the point of “something is wrong here,” what do you do?

    This is for a very small business with no HR. I was this person’s manager.

    1. Sarahnova*

      If the employee has always been very consistent and punctual before, I’d say 60-90 mins. I assume you’ve tried calling them without response? Do you have an “In case of emergency” contact for them?

    2. Rita*

      A couple of hours, then go check on them if possible. This happened a few years ago, and his manager went to check on the employee at home (he lived by himself, next town over). Turns out he fell and hurt himself the day before, and because he had a concussion and broken leg he was unable to contact help. He’s very lucky that his owner checked on him when he did.

    3. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      I probably would have texted the employee after an hour or so. And then tried their home number if I didn’t hear back after another hour.

      And if I couldn’t get in touch via either of those channels, and I was expecting them, I’d probably start worrying pretty hard. I’d probably ask (discreetly) some of his/her closer colleagues if they had any additional contact info.

      Fingers crossed everything is okay!!!

    4. AVP*

      update – this happened a few days ago. I texted after 30 mins, just because I was afraid I had approved a doctor’s appointment and forgotten. No response. I called and left a VM around 95 minutes, no response. At that point I was getting pretty nervous because it was very unlikely this person to be late or disappear…but we also live in a city with a subway that occasionally gets stuck and you can’t text from under the East River.

      Finnally at noon I got a call back – employee had woken up at noon with all her alarms blazing and a 103 degree fever. She went to the doctor and it was a 24 hour bug. Luckily that was all!

      I think it would be good to compile a voluntary home / emergency contact file for the future though, assuming we would only access it much later in the day.

      1. NYC Redhead*

        This can also be invaluable if there is an emergency in the middle of the work day. I work for a larger corporation and its some where in our files, but we kept a separate list in case something was time-sensitive or a manager was unreachable.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        I think I work for a similarly sized company, and we also don’t have a list of emergency contacts. I keep thinking we should start one, although that’s not really something that’s in my purview nor is it something I’m really at the level of the organization where it seems appropriate for me to suggest it, so I haven’t decided what the best way to approach it is.

        If I were the manager, I would probably start worrying at about an hour late if the employee is usually pretty punctual. I’d probably try an emergency contact or maybe the police (if no emergency contacts were available) after about 3 hours.

        I’m usually the employee who’s pretty punctual, so I would hope my employer would start thinking something was really wrong if they hadn’t heard anything from me by mid-morning. However, a few months after I started working here, I had taken a (pre-approved) day off, and when I came back the next day, I found that everyone had forgotten I was supposed to be off so they were wondering where I had been. No phone call or anything during the day I was out, though. That did not greatly inspire confidence that there would be a higher level of concern if I uncharacteristically disappeared from work, although perhaps now (several years in) the response would be different.

        1. Lindsay J*

          I live relatively by myself in a newish city for me. (I have a roommate but we both work a lot so I doubt she would notice anything were amiss unless she heard me screaming in my room or unless I died in my room and it started to smell).

          Not showing up for work would be the first clue that something were amiss. I pretty much told my manager as much when I first started, and told her that if I were an hour late to work or more to call me. And if I didn’t respond to that call in a short about of time to call my emergency contact.

          I’ve been paranoid about being seriously ill/injured/dying any having nobody notice for days since college.

        2. TootsNYC*

          The problem for me would be that, for a really responsible subordinate, I’d think, “Oh, they must have asked for a vacation day I forgot to write down,” or…”Commute must be bad, she’ll be here any minute,” and dismiss it from my mind. Then at noon, I’d say–“wait–where is she?”

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Oh good, I’m glad it wasn’t anything worse!

        An emergency contact file is a good idea. The contact may have additional ways to get hold of someone or know who could check on them, without involving authorities (if you were sick and the cops started banging on your door for a welfare check that would freak you out).

    5. KJR*

      I am so paranoid about this very topic. We checked on a reliable co-worker who was a half hour late. Our plant manager found her in her apartment, she had passed away over the weekend. It was just awful. So now I get worried anytime anyone is over 15 minutes late (everyone here is pretty punctual).

      1. Judy*

        In my career, there have twice been times when a company has called the police for a welfare check when an employee was several hours late, and both times that person had passed away overnight.

      2. Artemesia*

        We once had that experience. Young wonderful guy too, but we knew he had some health issues. We found him dead of a heart attack at 34. My BIL was also found dead by a colleague when he didn’t show for work; he was in his 50s with no obvious issues but also had a heart attack.

        The key here is ‘reliable.’ When someone is very reliable then this is a huge red flag.

      3. BananaPants*

        This happened around 10 years ago when we were still living in an apartment complex. I got home to discover police cars, an ambulance, a fire truck, and crime scene investigation vans outside the building. We found out later that a man who lived downstairs had not reported in to work that morning. Knowing that he was a very punctual employee, his coworkers called for a welfare check at around lunchtime and he was found deceased.

    6. Dana*

      Only tangentially related, but I found out I was my brother’s emergency contact when he went on a trip. He scheduled X days of vacation but then was going to call off one day. Because of XYZ, he didn’t call them. They called me and said he didn’t show up for work and didn’t call and did I know where he was because they were worried. (They sounded actually worried, not like, “we’re worried we can’t get a hold of him to fire him this instant.) I explained that he was out of town and I’m sorry he didn’t communicate that with them but that he was okay as far as I knew. (And then crossed my fingers that I didn’t lose him his job by “outing” him being on vacation.) He was able to sort things out when he got back, but I’d also like to remind everyone to let their emergency contacts know when you are putting them down for emergency contacts please.

    7. Meg Murry*

      30-60 minutes – check through my emails and voicemails to make sure they didn’t already call in, or request a vacation day weeks ago that I forgot about. Look at their calendar to see if it is blocked off for the day.
      60 minutes – call and/or text her. Possibly email as well to see if out-of-office message comes back
      if no response, ask co-workers if anyone has heard from her today. Check local news to see if there is report of a major accident on the route she takes, or closed subway or bus line, etc

      I’d probably start on emergency contacts at about 2 hours, possibly less if I actually had met/knew them personally. I think that also depends if emergency contact is her spouse/live in SO or roommate, or if it’s her parents in another state who I wouldn’t want to panic since there is nothing they can do.

      1. Artemesia*

        Good point. I would never call an out of state contact and freak them out. If all attempt to reach them locally failed, and it was VERY unusual behavior for them, I’d go to police welfare check before calling Mom in Dubuque.

      2. Development professional*

        Our emergency contact form has two slots: one for next of kin, and one for local emergency contact. Depending on what you need it for, you use one or the other.

    8. Jodi*

      My office has a shared OOO calendar so we all know when someone has planned to be out of the office/take a half day/come in late/leave early. So if someone isn’t in, and the calendar says that they were supposed to be, we start to get concerned.

      Everyone in my office has a responsibility to make sure our coworkers are safe – it shouldn’t just fall on the manager, because what if they’re not in that day! Might be something I still carry with me from my undergrad days in a sorority, where we were very tight knit and protective of each other, but it actually gives me comfort to know that SOMEONE will be looking out for me if god forbid I couldn’t contact my office. Although I know that some people might find something like this intrusive.

    9. Hedgehog*

      I wonder about this too. Several of my coworkers and I do a lot of travelling for work, so it’s normal to see a lot of empty desks at the office. A couple of times, someone’s forgotten to call in or had a last-minute meeting at another site come up that wasn’t on their calendar– but no one noticed, anyway, and just assumed they were on the road. It makes me nervous to think that one of us could have something happen and no one would check. For other people who travel a lot/have flexible work schedules, what safety precautions do you use?

    10. Sof*

      This actually happened to me – I have type 1 diabetes, and one complication is dangerously low blood sugar from insulin mis-doses. If my blood sugar is low enough, I can’t wake up, and can die. This happened to me in my first job, and I (obviously) didn’t make it to work. Luckily, my manager asked a co-worker to call me on my cell phone when I hadn’t shown up by 10-11, and it roused me – otherwise I may not have ever woken up again. Everyone was very understanding, and I always tell new managers about my diabetes just in case I’m unusually late one day. It could very well save my life again.

      Now that I’m a manager myself, I typically get in touch with people about an hour after they’re normally in if they’re mysteriously absent. I’m operating with the default tone of “just wanted to make sure everything’s okay” and it’s always been effective.

    11. TootsNYC*

      I think I waited about 3 hours before I figured out that she wasn’t at the library. Fortunately she wasn’t actually sick–had just slept through until noon (no windows in the bedroom of her loft apartment). I said, “We’ll call it a sick day; obviously your body needed the sleep.”

      But I was relieved!

      And I think now I’d only wait about an hour to check in, esp. in the days of cell phones.

    12. ndishthingy*

      Just this week my coworker got half the office thinking I was dead in a ditch. I woke up feeling sick, put a sick day request in the online system, and texted this coworker’s work phone, asking if we could reschedule our meeting for that day. Then I fell back asleep. While I was sleeping my work phone woke me up twice, once a number I didn’t recognize, then a bit later another coworker I assumed was calling to tell me the crisis du jour on one of our shared cases. I ignored both calls and went back to sleep. My meeting with coworker A had been scheduled for eleven, and when I woke up at noon I saw a text on my phone from coworker B at 11:15 saying “A is looking for you” and when I explained that i’d messaged A I was sick, B said “Oh, glad you’re ok”. Turns out that A got everyone worked up in a frenzy – in the space of like fifteen minutes- because it’s Not Like Me to be absent and incommunicado, then an hour in she mentioned to B that she hadn’t had her work phone with her all day. My supervisor wasn’t in our office that day but if anyone had contacted her she could have checked and seen the time off request.So I put the blame squarely on A’s shoulders for that one but I was also a bit mortified. Not as bad as that story about the person who quit her job without notice and the police came looking for her, but still felt guilty to have worried everyone.

      So I hope your situation was also a simple misunderstanding. But I think after a few hours I would try their emergency contact.

  10. Anonymous Civilian*

    OK, a familiar rant: I’m applying to some Federal jobs. I just got an email that basically read, ‘Due to the veterans preference regulations, we can’t even consider you right now. But maybe if there are open spots after we’ve hired all the veterans, we’ll get to you.’ I mean, I appreciate the spirit of the regs, but I think that completely cutting out all non-veteran applicants in the first step is really doing a disservice to the hiring process. Sigh. /end rant.

      1. Anonymous Civilian*

        Huh, I feel like in the past I’ve gotten something that just says ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ This one felt much more…fuzzy than others.

        1. Elysian*

          I get the automated confirmation that my materials are received, and then just don’t get anything at all, ever ever again. Sometimes I wonder if they’re even actually getting my materials.

    1. Anonmanom*

      If it makes you feel any better, I am a disabled veteran, who gets the most preference points, and couldn’t even manage to get an interview when I was transitioning out for the civilian version of the EXACT job I had been doing for the past 2 years on active duty. In general, I think most Federal job applications are like throwing darts blindfolded.

      1. Anonymous Civilian*

        OK, got it: Abandon all hope, ye who enter USA Jobs. Sigh. I think I’d feel better if you had seen a benefit from your service instead of feeling like everyone just falls into the same black hole.

        1. Anonmanom*

          Honestly, it seems in general they want a very specific kind of veteran. I’m not it. I have a few friends who have gotten those jobs (mostly entry level), they tend to know someone in the office and that is how they get they get their resume in. Not fully relying on USA jobs.

    2. Hopefully Federal Soon*

      I applied to a federal job this week and I’m SO terrified of that happening. This is a job that I’m very well qualified for and is a logical next step from the position that I have now, but moving from local government to my ideal federal department. I agree that I appreciate the need for employing veterans but there are so few jobs for my skill set in my city and not even getting an interview for that reason would be so frustrating.

      Following today’s five questions and #4, can I also just send a big URG to and their over specific nature? My qualifications meet the job description but the questionnaire was set up so that really only if you’re actually DOING that job would you be an expert at every thing (some of which was not in the job description/qualifications). But if you don’t respond as expert then you don’t get past the cert and oh my goodness. While I could, with the help from federal friends, strain to justify it on each response, it made me feel dishonest. And a number of the questions were so specific! Again, a big gigantic URG.

      I’m trying my best to just put it out of my mind and make it a pleasant surprise if I hear anything positive back, but it’s such a great job for me (on paper anyway) that I’m having a hard time.

      1. Rebecca*

        It will definitely happen. General exceptions: super specialized and expensive skill sets, like highly trained engineers. Move on to new opportunities.

        1. Hopefully Federal Soon*

          Yup. It came today. Even though I was expecting it and I know you’re supposed to move on, I’m pretty heartbroken. I’m incredibly unhappy in my current position and this was a ray of hope for getting out that was just snuffed out for what seems like poor hiring practices (although I’m sure that there are a lot of vets who actually are qualified for this job so at least someone qualified should get it).

    3. Sharing as Anon*

      I’ve gotten that response a couple times too.

      As a contractor who has assisted with the hiring process in a federal agency, I can tell you that this also frustrates the departments looking for candidates (whether justifiably or not). I have seen departments scrap entire searches when they only received veteran candidates that they deemed under-qualified for their posted positions, only to re-submit and post the job ads at a later date hoping for a different pool of candidates. I have a strong respect for military and was conflicted by these practices. I understand wanting to find the best candidates but also observed what I felt to be a strong sense of prejudice against vets, at least the departments I interacted with.

      On the other side of this, I have never made it past this email in the application process on USA jobs for almost identical positions to my current or former positions.

      Frustrating for all parties involved I believe.

    4. OriginalEmma*

      Yuppp. I believe that was a hiring change from a 2008 or 2009 law signed by the president to improve veteran employment rates.

  11. Retail Lifer*

    Welp, my job search is on hold because my boyfriend just got laid off. Gotta help him find something first. He knew it was coming, but not this soon. He’s been furiously applying to stuff for months but no luck. My first thoughts were really selfish: I’m probably going to have to stay at this awful job. We both apparently have the ONLY jobs in this city that we’re qualified for that pay well, so his next job will probably be a decent pay cut. We can’t afford BOTH of us taking a $5000 a year cut.

    1. Kairi*

      :( Sorry you are going through that. I just wanted to say that you shouldn’t feel bad for having a selfish thought about having to stay at a crappy job. It seems like you are still being selfless in helping him with his search. Good luck to the both of you, I hope you can find something soon!

        1. fposte*

          I originally misread Retail’s post as she and her boyfriend both being unemployed now, and maybe you did too and that’s why you thought this.

          But she’s got a job. The household benefits more from getting a second income again than it does from her changing the source of her income.

        2. Retail Lifer*

          We live together and split everything 50/50. Most like any new job I find will be a pay cut, which is aa horrible idea now that I will have to pay for everything. I’m on a retail salary, so I make enough to get by just fine but I don’t make enough to support someone else, and a pay cut wouldn’t make that any less true. I’m going to help him look for something now and resume my search full force after he does.

        3. asteramella*

          That’s a pretty rude comment to make about someone else’s life when you only know a handful of details.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      That sucks, sorry to hear you’re having to halt your job search, hopefully it won’t be for long.

    3. Squirrel*

      This will possibly come off as preachy, but I’m not fully understanding why you have to put off your job search too. The situation just seems unfair to me… What if you get a better job than the one you have now, and you don’t have to take a pay cut? I wouldn’t stop looking, you could miss out on a great opportunity. If nothing else, have him apply for unemployment right now, so you aren’t relying on just your paycheck.

      1. LBK*

        Agreed – if anything this is the time to ratchet the job search up into high gear since landing a job with a better salary will be more necessary than ever.

        1. Retail Lifer*

          Because in all likelihood, I am going to have to take a pay cut. I have been searching for a year and have found all of one position that I qualified got that would have been a pay increase. Everything else that I have scored an interview for has been a pretty decent decrease. It’s a waste of my time to search for jobs until he gets something new. That’s the priority now, since I can’t float us for long and unemployment won’t help much. Plus, I need to know see what a new job will pay HIM first so I can attempt to balance out the finances. If a decent paying opportunity presents itself, I’ll take it. But that hasn’t been my experience so far over the past year so I’m going to focus on what we need to do to pay the bills right now, which is helping him tweak his resume, proof read covet letters, and maybe some find opportunities he might have missed.

    4. kirsten*

      I wouldn’t stop your job search either. My husband was laid off in 2009 and it took a full year for him to get a new job, I still found a new job during that time that he was out of work (and got a decent raise too which helped us both.) I would only advise you not to quit your current job without something lined up.

    5. Student*

      Why are you sacrificing yourself to baby your boyfriend? Do you think you’re inherently inferior to him?

      You’re not even his spouse – don’t put his career ahead of yours.

      Keep putting your own job search first. Your boyfriend is an adult who can take care of himself. Did he ever help you with your job search? Do you expect him to help you with your job search? Why do you think you can even help him with his job search – why do you think he’s incapable of doing it himself? If you find something better for yourself, go for it.

      1. bridget*

        This seems a little over the top – Retail Lifer didn’t elaborate on many details, so it’s perfectly possible there is a mutually beneficial reason to not search for jobs right now, especially if they share finances to any significant degree. There’s no indication from her post that her decision is because she thinks he needs “babying” as her superior, just that it’s a bummer that this is the way it’s going right now. There’s certainly not enough to read anything into the gender dynamics of their relationship.

    6. AnonAcademic*

      If he is laid off, why does he need your help job searching? Shouldn’t he be able to devote a good amount of time to it himself?

      1. Retail Lifer*

        He can, and already is, but the financial situation could turn dire for us if he doesn’t find something soon. Jobs that pay more than $12 an hour seem to be rare here, so I would rather search for him than myself right now. We’re both likely going to have to take a pay cut in our next job, and I really need to see what his is going to be before I decide what I can accept anyway. If I luck out and find something that pays the same or better, that’s one thing. But it’s just not likely.

    7. Dr. Doll*

      Retail Lifer is not “sacrificing herself” or babying her boyfriend or whatever, at least not that i can see from the short paragraph posted. She has apparently been looking, herself, and realizing that having a better job would probably require a pay cut. Because her partner was laid off, it would compromise their stability if she took a pay cut. None of this means she stops *looking*. But job searches are exhausting and disheartening. Having two happening in the same house at the same time might be a bit much.

      “Helping” someone with a job search does not mean holding their hand and doing it for them. It probably means being supportive, not blaming them, talking them through frustration, etc.

      Retail Lifer, good luck. Very best wishes for both of you in finding something good.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        Thanks. This is exactly why I need to put my search on hold for now, or at least focus less on it.

        1. misspiggy*

          Or… could it be worth investigating jobs elsewhere for the two of you, now that your boyfriend will potentially be free to move?

          1. Retail Lifer*

            We’d be open to moving, but it’s so hard to find a decent job in a city where we know where to look. If one of us got an offer that would be enough to support the other one, we’d go. But that’s not incredibly likely.

  12. Kairi*

    Does anyone else have a kegerator in their office? Mine just got one last week (opened Thursdays and Fridays 3-6). As the admin assistant who doesn’t like beer and now has to lock/unlock it, clean up the spilled beer, change the kegs, and be pestered by people who want it open 24/7, it’s making me dread Thursdays and Fridays.

    1. AMT*

      Wait, what? Your officemates get free beer at work? And they’re so ungrateful for this that they want to force you to be their personal barback all day, every day?

      1. Kairi*

        Yeah, it’s more joking about “why can’t this be a round the clock thing”, but I just say I do not have the authority to make that decision. I get some help from my boss, but she’s been out this week.

    2. T3k*

      Ugh, why, why would an office due this? Short of being part of a beer company I can’t see any valid reason to get a keg. It’s not a frat house, it’s an office!

      1. Kairi*

        I agree! I’m also worried about people drinking too much and then driving. The reason we got it is because two other corporate offices had them, and people kept asking when we were going to get one.

    3. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      OK, so I *would* like a kegerator in my office, but I personally think it’s not cool to make the admin act as bartender if s/he doesn’t drink beer. Can you talk to your manager about assigning an official barkeep? It could probably be something fun if they made it a rotating ‘honor’ for people that were into it. And also your manager needs to make it clear that cleanup needs to be a group effort!!!

      1. Kairi*

        I’m going to talk to her when she gets back from vacation. There are a few other people to help with the switching out of the keg, which is nice. The CEO approved the idea said he didn’t want to me to have to constantly be in charge of cleaning up. But since he is traveling and my boss is on vacation, I just have to wait to have more authority to get something like that in place.

        I do like the idea of a rotating barkeep though! I’ll definitely pass that along :)

        1. Kairi*

          Also I should note, that this is a self-service machine, so I don’t have to be pouring drinks the entire time. It’s more the anger of the people when I lock it (so I can go home at 6) that’s causing some tension.

          1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

            Maybe your manager can also re-emphasize the hours for the kegerator, with a specific comment that LAST CALL is at 5:55 PM.

            1. Kairi*

              This is perfect! If we can send an office-wide e-mail saying last call will be at 5:55 PM it will save me the struggle of making sure everyone got some.

    4. KJR*

      The HR person in me has developed a nervous tic after reading this. How is this a good idea? The liability alone of having an employee drink one too many and drive home. Or fall and hurt themselves…is that still workers comp if they’re tipsy on beer the company has provided?

      1. Kairi*

        I am in total agreement, especially since it’s self-serve and less regulated than at a company function. I think we have some kind of insurance to cover drinking in the office though, but I don’t know the fine print for it. I’m just a newbie in the workforce, so I don’t have much of a say unfortunately.

    5. Nanc*

      Yikes! I don’t like beer to the point that even the smell makes me barf (guess who never goes to micro-breweries!). My family is so nice about not drinking beer when I’m around for the holidays.

      I have no helpful suggestions other than to perhaps document the complaints and meet with your manager to see if someone else can be keeper of the key.

      1. Kairi*

        I’m glad that your family is respectful to do that for you at holidays!

        I will definitely be taking the advice from others above and will be having a conversation when my boss gets back next week.

    6. themmases*

      Huh, I had to look up what that is and I don’t understand why an office would ever have one. It looks like way too much trouble for what it offers.

      My partner’s company has beer at a company-wide meeting held later in the week, but they just buy bottles and cans in a few popular styles plus any special requests from people who got theirs in early. And it’s definitely not available all day! The fridge is shut until that meeting and maybe people linger for another drink together since it’s the end of the day.

      I don’t supposed it’s possible to save the kegerator for special occasions and just do something easier to offer beer on other days?

      1. Kairi*

        We used to just buy bottles for special occasions, but two of the corporate offices had kegerators so there was a large push to get one here. It’s only open Thursdays and Fridays from 3-6, and on special occasions (I have the keys to lock them so no one can have access when they aren’t supposed to).

        I think that more people would be mad now if it was to be taken away, so I’ll probably work with my boss to make it as easy as possible to maintain.

    7. CubeFarmer*

      The IANAL-but-I-stayed-at-a-Holiday-Inn-last-night person in me is screaming LIABILITY!!! If my company wanted to allow people to drink on the job or even just on the premises, I would have to request I have nothing to do with the serving, facilitation, or clean up of such. Maybe I should just read fewer law journal articles and relax a little; but on the other hand…

      1. Kairi*

        I do believe we have insurance to cover any incidents that could occur, but I don’t know the fine details. Based on everyone’s reactions, it seems as though they aren’t as popular in offices yet (for good reason!).

      2. Not So NewReader*

        IANAL, either. But I would not want to be pulled over on the way home after cleaning up. I would probably have the smell of beer on me and that is all it takes. I am just having a hard time wrapping my mind around this one.

  13. Lizabeth*

    This week I have been either banging my forehead on the keyboard or laughing so hard I’m crying, and it’s all been caused by our office squawker. This is more of a venting rant than anything else.

    Background: The PTB have decided to switch 401K management companies. We had a telephone conference this week to go over what’s going to happen when, etc, etc… My BIL (who handles my IRA, Roth IRA and recommends what to choose in the work 401K) said to find out whether a Roth 401K was available as an option. It is available.

    Head banging & mirth:
    During the telephone conference, the office squawker ask after hearing that the Roth 401K option was available, how she should go about converting her current 401K to a Roth 401K? Not a good idea since you’d be paying lots of taxes on the conversion and they told her that. I had to cover the phone so they couldn’t hear me laughing at that one. I will give the guys presenting credit for not laughing out loud but I could hear the amusement in their voices when they answered her question.

    After the meeting, she came to me to ask my BIL for HER – what happens to our 401K accounts when a company goes bankrupt? My answer was for her to consult her own financial advisor if she has questions about her 401K accounts. She went off like a rocket and accused me of being “unfriendly” about “sharing information” and her rant went downhill from there. The Loony Tune opening music from the Bugs Bunny cartoons was playing in my head during this exchange and it was hard to keep a neutral expression.

    Both questions are basic, basic, basic Finance and Investing 101 information that she should know* by now. This is not the first time she has tried to acquire information about what my BIL has advised me to do with my accounts, either by eavesdropping on a phone conversation or flat out asking what I have invested in, how much, etc. I answer her questions with questions, deflect and it does frustrate her :)

    *The answer to both questions: you don’t want to convert a non-Roth account to a Roth because you’re going to pay out a LOT of money in taxes; if a company goes bankrupt – they don’t have access to the 401K money, it’s not theirs. Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor and anything information within this post should be verified before using.

    So I guess the bad thing was having the altercation with her to begin with but the good thing is she’s leaving me alone completely unless I approach her about actual work! WOOT!

    And of course, the next day she acted as if NOTHING had happened (shrug…). I’m glad I’ve started job hunting again (for many reasons, she’s just a small percentage of them) but there’s will always be an office squawker no matter where you go.

    1. Chocolate lover*

      Sounds like you handle her pretty well! Talk about obnoxious, asking you for your financial information and having the nerve to get upset when you don’t give it to her. Pfftt.

    2. fposte*

      Converting a 401k to Roth isn’t necessarily a bad move, actually. It’s going to depend on your current tax bracket, the amount in the 401k, and your anticipated future needs and earnings, but I’d do it up to the top of my bracket if I didn’t have other plans for the headroom. So it’s not a stupid thing to consider.

      It is, however, a stupid thing to expect a co-worker to devote herself to explaining to you.

      1. Bostonian*

        +1. It can be a good idea, but it’s one of those things that you should do if you’re financially savvy or have a financial advisor you trust and you’ve worked out all the math. It sounds like this woman probably doesn’t fall in that boat.

    3. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      Not gonna lie, I’m in my mid forties and have been investing in various 401ks since I got out of college, and I don’t know why it’s a bad idea to convert to a Roth.

      I don’t think that makes me laughable. Am I missing some key piece of info here, like that the colleague in question is a financial advisor?

      1. fposte*

        Since the subject is coming up, what we’re talking about is called an “in-plan Roth conversion,” and it would mean is that you now have to pay taxes on the money you contributed pre-tax; the amount you then have would grow tax free. One slight hiccup is that you can only convert amounts that are vested–which means you may not be able to take some or all of your employer’s match, depending on vesting policies and contribution dates. I also suspect there’s another one, which is that I bet many employers will require you to take the taxes out of the 401k assets rather than allowing you to pay for them with external money, which is the best way to maximize your tax-advantaged space.

        Generally the people likeliest to benefit from a conversion are either young, with a lot of years for the tax-free growth to catch up to the briefly painful tax bite of conversion, or older with a pile o’ money that means they don’t have direct Roth opportunities. The tax rate would be the ordinary income rate–if you’re converting $10k, you’d basically be treated tax-wise as if you’d made $10k more that year. So (in very crude terms) if you’re married filing jointly and your household income is $50k, you’d then be taxed on $60k, which would still be in the 15% bracket. On the other hand, if you’re trying to convert $100k in that situation, part of that conversion will be taxed at 25%; if you’re single and make $91k, it’ll be taxed at 28% and 33%. So how much of it you get to keep would vary, and that’s why it’s a very individual decision.

        It would still technically be subject to the required minimum distribution rules–you have to take out certain percentages of the money when you hit 70–but you can roll a Roth 401k into a Roth IRA, which has no RMD requirement, with no further tax expenses if you want to avoid RMDs.

        All of this, btw, is separate from the decision to *contribute* to a Roth 401k. That’s just like contributing to a regular 401k except that you’d pay taxes on the money before it goes in. Conversion is a whole nother thing :-).

        1. Lizabeth*

          fposte – perfect and clear description of an in-plan Roth conversion…I understand it but can’t explain it to someone else, which is why I’m not in the financial field.

      2. buzzwords*

        Yeah, I had the same reaction. I don’t get why it’s so ludicrous for her not to know that unless she works in finance. And even then, it’s less “haha, ignorance is funny” than “uh-oh, what is she telling clients if she doesn’t even know this basic stuff?”

        I also don’t get why you wouldn’t just quickly answer her question about the company going bankrupt, since you knew. I kind of think she was right that you were being “unfriendly.”

      3. OfficePrincess*

        My thoughts as well. The different types of investments confuse the hell out of me. My husband and I found an adviser we could trust, got everything set up, and now are letting it roll until our circumstances change. At this point, I’ve retained about 5% of the information we were given while we were doing it, but have my list of reasons to call and make changes tucked away.

    4. Devil's Avocado*

      I agree that she shouldn’t have gone off on you, but it sounds like you’re in “bitch eating crackers” mode. It isn’t particularly kind to cover your phone and snicker at her earnest question on the phone. She apparently doesn’t know as much as you do about this topic, but I don’t think that’s a reason for derision, even if her response was a little over the top. Also, if you are knowledgeable about the subject and know the answers off the top of your head, why not just tell her?

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        So…I’m going to agree. My organization does a lot of work with retirement plan providers, and quite frankly, most seem to be coming to the conclusion that people in general just do not understand any of this stuff. I’m with you that it seems like something that, if you have a 401(k) especially, you should have a basic understanding of to make good choices, but so many people just sign up and get put into the plan QDIA because they either don’t know how to choose funds and allocate their contributions, or they can’t be bothered to spend time doing it.

        It does sound like this coworker is supremely annoying in a lot of other ways, though, so it seems like you’ve lucked out that she’s now avoiding you. And it is annoying that she keeps trying to consult your BIL by proxy instead of her own financial advisor, so perhaps she’s finally gotten the message.

      2. bridget*

        I agree. These are the kinds of comments that are unremarkable when they are coming from someone you like or don’t mind, but your coworker irritates you in general. At least w/r/t the conversion question, it’s not necessarily such an obvious answer that all people who have a 401(k) would never think to ask such a stupid question. At my last firm we had a meeting with our retirement advisor with all of the attorneys, and there were senior partners, much closer to retirement than I who had been successful lawyers for years (some were on our board of directors) asking questions about 401(k)s that I thought were pretty common knowledge. And it seems like the whole point of the phone call was to educate her.

        For what it’s worth, my opinion is that anyone who has so clearly mastered the basics of “Finance and Investing 101” also doesn’t need a BIL managing her portfolio for her. :) ‘Cause it’s so easy.

    5. Sadsack*

      I have to admit that I stopped reading your post once I hit the part where you were laughing at her stupidity regarding the 401ks. I am really not up on this stuff either, so that is rather insulting.

      1. Steve G*

        I kind of concur. And I’ve been explained certain legal, home ownership, retirement, driving/car things a few times and still forget them. No one is born knowing this stuff.

    6. LQ*

      Why is it so horrible that someone ask questions in a place where they are supposed to and allowed to ask questions about financial decisions? I don’t have an inlaw who can help me make all my financial decisions, I didn’t have family who had 401Ks or IRAs or anything growing up. If I had a coworker I thought I was friendly with who seemed to have all the answers I might ask if they had any thoughts or suggestions.

      I guess I don’t understand what is so evil about not knowing everything about investing? (It also really makes me want to not raise my hand and ask questions because people like you :()

    7. Clever Name*

      You know, I really get where you’re coming from. I really do. I’ve had a few coworkers who annoyed the shit outta me. But please read the other responses in the spirit in which they’re intended. Being rude to annoying coworker is unprofessional and makes you look like a jerk. Even when said coworker is an annoying dingbat.

  14. Sarahnova*

    Yay, the Friday open thread! Being ahead of most of y’all timewise, I sometimes get really itchy on a Friday morning waiting for this to get posted.

    1) Shout-out to Alison’s resume review service. Alison gave me some great, tailored advice that I’ve put into practice, and my CV now looks better, opens more compellingly, and feels more “me” (I don’t know about the rest of you, but I sometimes feel like when I’m done with all the specific achievements and numbers, my CV feels dry as dust and about someone else entirely). And Alison, FTR, I looked into it further and you were right about the “removing maternity leave dates” thing. I’m still in two minds about the career break, but actually now leaning towards removing it.

    2) Has anybody got any advice/experience about effectively designing their own job? Obviously, you’ve got to convince the Powers That Be that it’s a good bet commercially, etc, but I’d love some specific stories about how people pulled it off. I can see an opportunity for a real win/win for me and my current company, but it would require convincing people to effectively create a new role. I’m not always the most graceful when it comes to navigating organisational politics (I’m more of a hippo than a gazelle), so I want to be prepared.

    1. Sarahnova*

      Oh, and update: my CV incorporating Alison’s advice currently has a 100% hit rate for getting me interviews :)

      1. Dawn*

        Sweet, I’m going to cash in on that in a month or so and I’m super excited to see what she has to say AFTER I revamp my formerly professionally done resume and bring it up to spec with her How to Get A Job book.

        THANK YOU for this motivation! Re-doing a resume is always kind of an “ugh” and applying for jobs is an “ugh” so it’s great to hear that she’s been a huge help :)

    2. Judy*

      Reading in to your comment, if you were continuously employed at a company while on maternity leave, I don’t see why you would list it. Both of my maternity leaves were while I was at one company, and I just put the start date and end date of the employment, 12 years apart. My employee records show when I started at the company, and when I ended. Just like the 2 months my husband was off work after surgery, it’s not considered a break in service.

      1. Sarahnova*

        You’re right, but I have frequently seen leave listed on women’s CVs in the UK (and of course our leaves are longer), so I did include it before getting Alison’s advice to remove it.

    3. danr*

      I carved out my own niche by being available to do all of the side jobs that no one else could find time for. It developed into some very interesting projects and expertise. Best of all, I was a dept of one for most of the time.

  15. Lunar*

    Any last minute yearly review advice? This is my first one and I’m pretty nervous. My job description basically reads “assist with operations at the organization” so it is hard to make a case for how I am going above and beyond (I think that my job has changed and expanded significantly in the past year and my boss has talked about shifting some things around so I can “take on higher level work”). Id love to talk about a raise as well. On top of it all I am recovering from a doozy of a migraine so I feel like I am not really at my best.

    1. BRR*

      “my job has changed and expanded significantly in the past year”

      That sounds like your case to say how you have gone above and beyond :).

  16. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    I’m back in the office today after four days of vacation with my visiting parents, which was great and also hard (health issues with my folks). I’m back and my boss comes into my cube and asks “So did you have a nice break?” “Oh yeah, it was great to be off and enjoying the weather, seeing my folks, all that stuff, for sure.” Boss’s response “So, you like vacation, huh? You should take it more often!” And walked away.

    Not giving me a chance to say that I don’t take much vacation time because we get only ONE WEEK PER YEAR. He takes off every other week in the summer and regularly heads off to exotic vacations, but the rest of us stay here because we have no vacation time. Cause and effect are maybe an issue for him. And yes, I like vacation! Who doesn’t????

    1. Lunar*

      Ugh! I totally feel you on this. My boss does this all the time. I say I need a day or two off for a short trip and he always asks why I don’t take a whole week. It is because I don’t get much vacation and it is combined with sick time so I want to make sure I still have some!

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’d have been tempted to yell after him, “Oh I would if we had more than a week a year! You betcha!”

      (I’m not even from Minnesota. But I like to pepper in phrases like that to add some positivity to what would otherwise be straight snark.)

      1. louise*

        My boss on the regular: “You wanna buy an airplane? I never should have bought the second one.”

        Inside my head: “On $35k/yr? If you can’t afford your two and need to unload one in order to scrape by, why are you asking me this??”

        Boss also says regularly: “I’m so broke.”

        Inside my head: “You know for a fact that I know exactly what you make. Why would you even say that out loud?” Instead I say, “If you’re not going hungry, you’re not broke.” He’s getting tired of me repeating that all the time, but I stand by it.

      2. SMT*

        I’m in a supervisory role, and our director at meetings has told us how she would love to go back to work in our shoes ‘if only it wasn’t for the money’…. She also likes to tell us about how she got where she is in the company without a college degree, so she doesn’t think college is necessary.

    3. SherryD*

      Ugh. Both of my managers have asked me on separate occasions if I’m thinking of buying a car. In my head, “Sure, if you give me raise, since I can’t do it on this salary!” But I’m glad I bit my tongue. I want to be paid a fair market value for the work I’m doing, not let the boss grant me a raise on the condition that I make “good” choices with my (MY!) money.

  17. Not my usual self*

    Has anybody got any thoughts or ideas about this situation?

    I work for a fortune 100 company and recently came across a problem that is at best an ethical violation / breach of contract and at worst breaks multiple consumer protection and financial laws.

    Apologies this next part is going to be a bit vague but I can’t go into much detail but it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to the advice I’m asking for.

    Our customers (the general public) are directly affected and are being systematically over charged in certain circumstances. We sell teapots and coffee pots either as whole units or in kit form, using a convoluted pricing structure the exact nature of which isn’t widely available within the firm and never to the end customer. The problem relates to the pricing of individual parts but because the overall totals that are displayed appear correct the error is not often noticed or challenged despite it occurring semi frequently. The examples I’ve looked resulted in overcharging $400 to $900 per customer.

    I am certain this is not intentional and happened inadvertently as the result of poor process definition and a lack of thought and understanding, which is better than it being deliberate but tit does not change the fact that the business practice is most likely illegal.

    I have raised the issue within my team and got responses ranging from “that’s how it is and that’s how it should be” to “yeah that’s not right, but compliance need to own it and fix the problem” I emailed a person from the compliance team but they weren’t interested and told me the problem had been there for years and wasn’t a priority to fix.

    The complete apathy makes my head want to explode, we are sitting on a massive liability both finically and reputation-ally and no one seems to want to know.

    I’ve got a fiduciary duty to raise this (not quite mandatory reporting but similar in nature) but I really don’t know where to start do I escalate it within my department who aren’t responsible for fixing it, head straight to the board or try to find someone in compliance who will listen the most drastic step I could take is report the matter externally to the appropriate government agency.

    The secondary problem I have is because I’ve been discussing this within in the team any further escalation will be directly attributed to me, now I’m 100% certain there will be no retaliation but I do get the impression that a couple of the team members think I’m making a fuss about nothing, what is the best way to explain to them why I’m so bothered by this?

    1. Beti*

      You said at worst it breaks the law, can you nail down if this is the case? That would be a pretty clear way to show the situation needs to be addressed. That would also remove the “blame” from you since you could show you are just looking out for the company. Also, have you heard of any other similar companies getting into trouble/bad press for similar practices? That could also be a way to show tangible ramifications of a flawed process and/or unethical pricing system.

    2. NacSacJack*

      If you have a fiduciary responsibility to raise it, its on you to own it until someone with a higher power says otherwise. And when they do, document it, because it will be your butt on the line if they come back to you and say, you had a responsibility to raise this, did you? Your team members do not hold the fiduciary duty, you do. And even if they have the same duty, it’s not their place to tell you otherwise unless they are one of the ones with the higher powers as noted above. Remember, you can get sued for this and if its found you didnt do your duty, the company is under no obligation to cover you past that point. You’d have to get your own attorney to save yourself, your house, your car, your savings and that of your spouse.

      1. Dawn*

        Yes holy cow THIS! Document, document, document! When did you first notice the issue, what did you do to determine it was an issue, who did you talk to (every single person), what did they say, when did you talk, what was their reaction, what was your response to their reaction.

        If this does explode, you want to be able to say “Yes, I noticed this and this is when I noticed and here is exactly every single little thing that I did once I noticed this and please do pay attention to how I did every single thing I was supposed to do in order to bring this to the attention of someone who could do something about it”.

      1. Sualah*

        Yep, I agree with this. I would try contacting the Ethics Hotline and then I would say you’ve done your due diligence. You raised the reputational and legal risks, and in a company of that size, it really may be someone in compliance (maybe high up in compliance) that needs to resolve it. But document document document that you raised the issue!

      2. BenAdminGeek*

        +1 – In a Fortune 100 company, there will be a hotline. Use it. I recommend getting some of the documentation together beforehand, so that it’s glaringly clear what the issue is when you report.

        Not criticizing the work you’ve done so far, but in my experience compliance folks are very jumpy about this sort of stuff. The fact that the one you went to isn’t suggests either:
        1. It’s not truly an issue but no one’s bothered to explain that clearly to you, which would be incredibly frustrating since it appears to be a huge issue.
        2. It’s an issue but the person doesn’t understand or doesn’t care.

        Either way, getting all your documentation out there is very much key. Please note that some companies don’t want you emailing the world about these sort of issues- you may be required to be vague in email until they give you a compliance attorney to talk with, so that there are attorney/client privileges in place.

    3. BRR*

      I’m not sure I completely understand. So a part of the whole is priced wrong but is the total price correct or is the price too high? How do the customers not know they’re being overcharged if they are?

      Who are you supposed to report issues to usually? For a fortune 100 company I’m not sure you go to the board unless you’re a c-level executive (and even then). I’d try to find the department head or somebody right under them in the department where the error is coming from and make them aware. There’s always government whistle blower channels.

      1. LQ*

        I think about medical bills here. I’d never have any idea if I was being overcharged for a medical bill. They are darn near impossible to read, often they are a mush of stuff, and then when you factor in insurance, I could absolutely see being overcharged $900 or more and the person not knowing. Especially if it were for something that was serious and the person wasn’t in a good headspace after.

        1. BRR*

          Ahh yes. Plus if they told me I was being charge $900 for X, I wouldn’t know if that’s the correct price.

    4. steve g*

      To analyze a bit….it sounds like you are afraid to report because you don’t believe an issue this big can exist without higher ups being aware. they have to be in on it.

      I think you have to report it to your boss anyways and put the onus on them to squirm if he/she is in on it.

      Also have you made a spreadsheet quantifying the revenue/margin impact for a set time period by redoing past orders, so management knows what type of money is at stake?

    5. Jubilance*

      You work for a Fortune 100 company, so you have an Ethics Hotline, correct? Use it. Stay anonymous if you think there will be retribution. The Ethics hotline was designed for this, and if they are following SOx then they have to investigate this.

    6. Not my usual self*

      Thanks for your comments everyone, to answer some of the questions raised:

      I’m not sure I could find out if it breaks the law without involving a federal body.

      I’ve got copies of all the emails sent and a breakdown of the problem for a few orders. I’m comfortable I can defend my handling of the situation.

      No there isn’t an ethics line I can call.

      It’s definently an issue, but it’s being viewed as an IT glitch rather than a systemic design flaw, the process was moved from one department to another so no one seems to feel accountable for this mess.

      The pricing structure is complicated, The discrepancy is down to the calculation of rebates promised to the customer when they order certain things the breakdown we provide looks reasonable so isn’t often challenged, but some customers have noticed which is why I started looking at it.

      No I don’t think the higher ups are in on it, I just can’t seem to find anyone who wants to take responsibility for the problem and has the mandate to fix it, the overwhelming response has been complete apathy and I get the impression people think I should just accept this, like they have.

      I’ve worked out the figures for a few orders manually but the hard core data analytics needs to produce a fugue for all he orders we’ve taken over the last few years is beyond my ability.

      I’ve made my boss well aware of my position not this but his view is it’s not his problem and he can’t fix it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Would he present the problem to his boss on your behalf?
        Would your boss arrange for you to meet with someone who can fix it- that is someone up the ladder from him?

        I have had some things happen at various jobs where I have had to put my foot down. “I do not want to lose house or my personal freedom because I am in jail over this one!” Sometimes you just have to put your foot down. But I only do this when it is absolutely over the top and I am 2000% certain I am right. I have done this about 3 times in my life and at those points I was more scared of Thing Going On that I was scared of management/retaliation/etc. I am not sure if you are there yet only you know for sure.

        Can you find similar real life stories where companies got in trouble for doing the same thing? Sometimes just handing over a relevant news article and saying “hey this is us!” can be the tipping point in your favor. In my case, I used well-known historical events and/or news stories to support my strong position.

        It’s really a minor point, but describing it as an IT problem does not do anything. It sounds like since it is an IT problem that makes it a minor thing in their minds. Let’s say a large ship sinks because the computer that is helping to control the ship has a glitch. That would be an IT problem, but it is not make the ship any less sunk.

        From your perspective, what you describe here is that the problem is cross departments. Which means the problem has to go up the chain of command until it reaches the person who is in charge of all the departments impacted by the problem. If I felt strongly enough about my findings, I would ask my boss if it is okay to meet with the person who is in charge of the areas and show her my findings.

        Lastly, you are the best judge of your situation. If you believe it is that severe AND no one will listen to you then it is time to move on. No job is worth risking your personal freedom and your home/possessions for.

  18. Claire*

    What are your tips for well written emails to your bosses, many of whom are execs? In my performance reviews, my bosses have told me this needs to improve – i.e. being crisper. I make changes, but need to do more. Would love to hear your tips!

    1. Camellia*

      Stick with bullet points. Keep them short. Use this general outline:

      Next steps or impact

    2. Squirrel*

      What do you mean when you say “crisper”? Are you blathering too much? Are you being too vague? Are you getting any other directions as to how to improve your writing?

      Me personally, I tend to write too much, so now what I do is write everything that I want to say (with email addresses removed so I don’t accidentally send it), and then go back and pare things down. Then I make sure to add a greeting of some sort (e.g. Good morning, Good afternoon, etc.) and a friendly closing (e.g. Thanks for all of your help on this!, Thank you!, etc.).

        1. afiendishthingy*

          I have a tendency to email run-on sentence tangent-packed David Foster Wallace novels to my supervisor too. No complaints yet but I should probably start drafting then paring down to bullet points also.

    3. KT*

      Be pithy, be direct. I think we get in the habit of casual speak, or softening, or adding fillers words who think it’s too brief. I have one employee under me who sends emails like this:

      Dear Wakeen,

      Just wanted to send you this email for your review. Please let us know if you have any edits or changes and we’ll do our best to pull them. Please let us know by 5pm.


      My feedback was mainly on the “just”. Why are you “just wanting”? It belittles your message and makes it sound like it’s not important–she was going for a tone of deference.

      Changed it to:


      Attached for your review is the email we discussed. Please let me know if you have any edits by end of business today.


    4. HigherEd Admin*

      Is it possible for your boss to provide you with examples of what exactly what s/he means by “crisper” emails? That way, you know what the end result is “supposed” to look like and can work bit by bit to match your style to that.

    5. Charlotte Collins*

      Higher ups love bullet points of the important points. If they need extra details, they’ll ask. I had a boss who referred to it as the “Joe Friday” way of communicating (“Just the facts, ma’am.”). I always add something like “Please let me know if you need more information,” and make sure my contact information is clear (it’s on my signature for my personal email, but doesn’t pull for some of the group email boxes I use).

      Remember that execs often don’t have a lot of time to read long emails (who does?), and the information is often being compiled for them by an assistant, so this technique could make two people’s jobs/lives easier.

      Also, don’t try to address more than one issue with one email, unless you’re responding to an email (then you can assume the person sending wants everything in a neat package). I think most people would rather have two brief, clear, concise emails than one long one.

      And, please, everyone, use appropriate subject lines. It helps people prioritize which emails to open first, lets them know what the issue is, and makes it easier to find the email in a search if it’s needed later.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        +1 to subject lines! FYI, For review, Need decision ASAP….letting people know what action an email needs makes it so much easier!

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Yes to this! And don’t bury it. Tell people what they need to do first. If there’s a deadline, give it right away. And let people know what will happen if it isn’t met (e.g., “If I don’t hear back, I will assume that you approve this change”).

          Also, if you use those icons to indicate high importance, etc., use them sparingly. Some people set all their emails this way (I think they don’t know how to turn them off), and it’s annoying and counterproductive. That little explanation point should mean something when it comes from you.

        2. Meg Murry*

          But more than just FYI, For review – add subject as well. Examples:
          FYI: Chocolate Teapot Sales up 20%
          FYI: Major competitor’s stock dropped 10%
          Need decision by 5 pm: New chocolate tempering process.

          Otherwise I end up with 2,000 emails that just all say FYI on 1,000 different subjects all lumped together if I try to sort by conversation.

          As for shorter – I agree with others. If you have trouble with leaving out background, put it at the END of the message. If there is a question or request, it needs to be in the first few sentences.

          This isn’t a letter to your grandmother, so you can drop all the “how are you today, I’m fine thank you, hope the kids are doing well, how’s the weather” pleasantries and get down to business. Saying please and thank you is ok, and you could use something like “Have a good weekend” in your closing but otherwise no need for pleasantries.

          1. More Cake, Please*

            YES. I have probably 30 important emails saved from higher ups that are titled, “Please Read” or “Memo” or “FYI.” Looking back, I have no idea what those are, so it forces me to run a search through my folder each and every time I need to reference one. And frequently the body is blank and the information is just in an inbox-clogging attachment. It’s not like I have the physical space to actually print and store these memos anywhere!

    6. BRR*

      Well that’s nice and vague, tell your bosses their feedback needs to be crisper.

      I second the bullets and subject lines. I also recommend that before you write it thing what you’re trying to say and what action they need to take if any. Is your email an FYI or does it need a response? Are you possibly using vague words (like crisper). “There were many errors in the report” versus “there were five missing zip codes in the delivery report.” Another possibility is not having solutions. Like the LW earlier this week with webdesign, “I don’t know how to do that” versus “I need to check X for a possibly solution to Y.”

    7. part of the machine*

      I also try to embody the tone of the person who is sending the email or who I am sending too. Do they just cut to the point? Do they lead with a request? Do they send me bullet points?

      I also don’t always send the quickest response. Sometimes I take an hour and come back and edit my response some more.

      Also trying to convey your point as directly and with as few words a possible is sometimes a good exercise to try.

      Hope those are good suggestions for you to try.

    8. Artemesia*

      I think the most important thing is to have the main idea or recommendation in the first paragraph. You tell them what they need to do or know and then if necessary justify it below rather than introducing a topic and then an argument weighing options and THEN tada, the recommendation.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yes, this. I struggle with this too because I feel like I need to give people ALL OF THE INFORMATION! so that they can understand the problem and recommended action or main idea behind the message. But sometimes people don’t care about the background, so having the main idea and the action you need from them (if any) up front lets them skip the rest of the message rather than having to skim through the whole thing to find the information they need.

        Then you can still provide the background for those situations where the recipient may feel he/she needs to know more, but in the second-last paragraphs so that it’s easier for people looking for specific pieces of information to navigate. I also second the bullet point recommendation because it helps clearly delineate different ideas for people who want to scan the message.

    9. WLE*

      If possible, I would ask a coworker or a mentor that you trust. Show them examples of emails that you send, and ask them for advice. This has to be a person who won’t just tell you what you want to hear. It could be that you’re doing something off putting without even realizing it. It also could be that this isn’t necessarily a BIG issue. They were just searching for something to put down on your performance evaluation.

  19. A Scientist*

    For those of you who work with numbers in scientific notation, how do you speak the scientific notation? For example, if you want to say 1.234E-5, do you say:

    One point two three four E minus five
    One point two three four E to the minus five
    One point two three four times ten to the minus five
    Or something else?

    The vast majority of people where I work say the second one (one point two three four E to the minus five). I don’t like to say it that way, because it sounds like raising Euler’s number to the -5th power (1.234e^-5), which is totally different than 1.234 x 10^-5. I say the first one (one point two three four E minus five), although I suppose you could argue that someone could interpret that as 1.234e – 5. Either way, I know what they mean and they know what I mean, but I’m curious about how people say it in other workplaces. Nobody here says the third one (one point two three four times ten to the minus five) — I haven’t heard anyone say it like that since high school.

    Also: how do you round a last digit of 5? For example, if you are rounding to the nearest whole number, how would you round 7.5? How would you round 8.5? Almost everyone where I work rounds that up (so 7.5 would round to 8, and 8.5 would round to 9), but I was taught that when the last digit is 5, you should round to even (so both 7.5 and 8.5 would round to 8), because 8.5 is exactly halfway between 8 and 9, so rounding to even is sort of a way to randomize it.

    1. katamia*

      I was taught to always round up with a last digit of 5, and that’s what everyone else I know (who I’ve talked about this with) was also taught. I’d never heard of rounding to even, but I think when everyone around you has been taught to round up with a last digit of 5 (as it sounds like your coworkers were), it can be misleading to round to even just because the people you’re communicating with aren’t expecting it. I don’t know how many situations there are where that would really make a substantial difference in someone’s work, though. I can’t think of any, although I’m not in a science- or math-oriented career.

      1. themmases*

        I have never heard of rounding to even; every situation I’ve ever been in calls for rounding 5 up. We also wouldn’t round to even because generally you’re rounding to a specific decimal place or number of significant figures, and it’s unlikely that you would want to round to an integer.

        Unless there is something here I’m missing, rounding to even doesn’t randomize anything so much as it discards information. It’s not an effective way to anonymize data, only reduce its precision.

        1. themmases*

          Also, if you Google “round to even” there is an interesting discussion of this on the math StackExchange. Apparently the reason is to avoid *introducing* bias away from the null into random data, which could result from systematically rounding up. This has been referred to as banker’s rounding, statistician’s rounding, or unbiased rounding.

          However, I work in a stats-heavy field (epidemiology) and I can’t think of a situation where I would ever want to do this because my output is mostly in terms of measures of association. There is usually a very important difference between an OR of, say, 1.5 and 2 (or 2.5 and 2) that I would never just round away. I would say that if people in your field/office aren’t doing this, you definitely shouldn’t either. This goes to the real meaning of the numbers you are working with.

        2. A Scientist*

          The round to even rule is not just for rounding to integers; that was just an example. Another example is if you are rounding to two decimal places and the number is, say, 2.345, which is exactly halfway between 2.34 and 2.35, so the round to even rule would have you round down to 2.34.

    2. LouG*

      I would say the third, one point two three four times ten to the minus five. If I would rounding to the nearest whole number, I would round 7.5 up to 8. I’ve never heard of rounding to even, but now I’m second guessing myself!

    3. AnotherAlison*

      We don’t speak in sci no so we would say one hundred and twenty three thousand. . .(I know, not what you asked!) Back in my college days we said the third one, only to the “negative five” not “minus five” but I don’t know what flies in the professional setting.

      On the rounding thing, in my day-to-day work we follow the standard round up on 5, but I had a interesting/nightmarish thing come up on this very topic earlier this week:

      Our accounting software is programmed to round to even on rate sheet time charge billings. Things only become non-even numbers if people charge overtime, and the philosophy is that it works out over enough charges. Well, it doesn’t work out in my group because we have small time-and-material jobs ($1k-$1M small cap or $1M-$10M midcap) instead $10M+ lump sum like most of the company. We’re technically in breach of contract if we bill this way, so now we (the PMs) have to manually find all these in our invoices and have accounting manually fix them. So, yeah, depending on the context and work, this is a huge deal and the philosophy needs to be consistent and predetermined.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        (Okay, we wouldn’t say one hundred thousand for 1.234^-5 because it’s NEGATIVE and is a tiny number. So yeah we would say 1.2345 to the negative 5. . . .I’m more stoop-id than normal on Fridays.)

        1. Anx*

          Yes on the minus thing. I grew up using “negative” and to me minus is linked to the operation of subtraction, and negative to refers to the direction on the number line.

    4. Calacademic*

      The scientific notation thing is actually field dependent, so you can fall into these little sub-domains where it is totally different. Example: I work with vacuum systems where the pressures are things like 7.3E-7 (Torr). Since the pressures are always negative (if they’re positive you don’t really have a vacuum) I would say that pressure as “seven point three by seven” or just “seven by seven” if I wanted to round. Again, field dependent — if people don’t do this, it would likely just cause confusion.

      Alternative: Can you use units? Is it 1.234E-5 meters? Can you say 12.34 microns? (Or whatever the equivalent is?)

      Finally, I think I usually round up too. Now that you point out the even/odd rounding rule, I do recall it, but my instinct is to just round up.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yup, I would probably switch units when talking. I can’t comprend numbers very well when spoken out loud, so I would probably just hand someone a printout with the numbers written down, or write it on a whiteboard.

        If I was pushed to it and I was giving a presentation, I would say the 3rd, because that is how I would record it in the presentation. If I wanted someone to type that number into Excel, I would probably do the first, because that is exactly what you see on screen and what you type to get that number, whereas if you include the “to the” I probably would try to throw in a ^ while typing which does not work.

        But more likely I would say zero point [pause] 4 more zeros, 1 2 3 4. Because that is what excel shows me, and I don’t usually bother to switch to scientific notation. Or I would just say “a little more that zero point zero zero zero zero one”.

        But my field doesn’t do infinitesimal like that. If its less than 0.01, I usually don’t care, or like others have said, it changes to microns or nanometers or whatever units.

      2. A Scientist*

        Interesting… I have never heard anything like “seven point three by seven,” and if I heard it without an explanation, I would have no idea what it meant.

        Most of the numbers I have are always in the same units, and people would get very confused if I started talking, say, picograms instead of micrograms. The units are predefined in our database, so we have no choice in what units to use. We also have specifications in certain units, so, for example. We might be told, “The widget must be less than 5E-5 microsomethings,” so it makes much more sense to say, “The widget is 1.234E-5 microsomethings,” than to say, “The widget is 12.34 picosomethings.”

    5. Could be anyone*

      I would use the third bur I’m coming from a point many years ago.
      And rounding up is always what has been taught. But I could argue it depends on context. After all this becomes an approximation and which works best lower or higher.

    6. dancer*

      We say it the third way. But I usually just stick to order of magnitude or if I’m speaking: “The difference is on the order of ten to the minus 5.” or “The difference is on the order of 100 micrometers”

    7. Gene*

      I frequently work with concentrations in very small numbers and what we do is describe them in the closest level that gives whole numbers – assuming your example was in grams/Liter, we would say 12.34 micrograms/Liter. We regularly get into the nano- and pico-gram levels.

      And when doing statistical analysis of data, we always round to even; but even more importantly, we pay rigorous attention to Significant Figures (a whole other discussion…)

    8. Student*

      If you gave me 1.234E-5 and asked me to read it aloud, I would say “You forgot the units and the uncertainty.”

      Then I would say, “12.3 micro-units” unless provided with an uncertainty. I don’t believe in precision beyond ~5% without proof. I’d limit the number of digits I quoted to a reasonable uncertainty.

      If appropriate, I would convert to a unit that makes more sense to talk about, because once you hit 3 or 6 orders of magnitude there’s almost always a better unit available (whether it’s just incorporation of a standard SI prefix or a completely different unit of measure depends on the field/application).

      I round the last digit of 5 up. The digits range from 0 to 9, not from 1-9! Things that end in 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 (5 out of 10 available digits) get rounded down while things that end in 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (5 out of 10 available digits) get rounded up. The only people who have an excuse to do otherwise are heathens and software engineers working in hexadecimal (but I repeat myself).

    9. AnotherFed*

      We’d say that number as “ten to the minus five”, because anytime the number after the E has an absolute value of 5 or more, we don’t care so much about the first number. Of course, in a report or any formal presentation, we’d still write the full number (probably along with a bunch of other numbers in results and/or calculations), but wouldn’t be speaking it aloud in any sort of discussion.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I would round up. If you need 9.5 feet of lumber for a project, then rounding down will not get you enough lumber. Rounding up will be slightly more than you need.
      However, I was also taught to be conservative with my numbers. This advice helps with the example above because I want to be sure to get enough lumber, caution says round to 10 feet then I will know I have enough.
      When I am calculating my income and deductions for taxes point five always goes UP, not down. I just feel better about my numbers when I do that.

    11. hermit crab*

      I do some accessibility work (checking documents for 508 compliance, writing alternative text for images, etc.) and I generally use the “one point two three four times ten to the minus five” style when writing out scientific notations for screen readers. It’s the least ambiguous, though I agree that it’s odd to say in regular speech.

    12. Meadowsweet*

      quite late, but…

      I’d probably say the second one
      and was taught that 5 rounds up – 0-4 is a spread of 5 numbers and rounds down, 5-9 is a spread of 5 numbers and rounds up. Wouldn’t rounding to even give preference to even numbers then, as they’ve 11 numbers that round to them while odds only have 9?

  20. T3k*

    Anyone have advice on how to get your boss to be more technology forward? I work for someone really up there in age (grandmother with adult grandchildren) and she keeps complaining how we need a better system to get things running better, but it’s hard to do so when 1) she’s very inept with technology and 2) she’s highly forgetful, as in, we can remind her 5 times about something and she still forgets about it because she gets distracted by another problem going on. Not to mention it’s like pulling teeth to get another coworker (who’s related to the boss) to actually stick to any system we try to implement.

    1. BRR*

      First I don’t think there’s a correlation between age and technology (is this not everybody can eat sandwiches territory?). Our head of IT is in her early 60s and rocks.

      I recommend setting up a specific meeting next time it’s mentioned.
      Boss: We need a better system.
      You: I agree, can we set up a time to meet and discuss it. I can put together some suggestions.
      You: I agree, would you like me to take the lead on this, I can discuss this with Jane and Wakeen then we can make our recommendations to you.

      End every meeting with defined next steps. So if she says she’ll look them over say “thank you for taking a look, I appreciate you takling this issue, when would you like to meet to discuss this next?” If a meeting is cancelled, reschedule.

      1. T3k*

        Ah, true. It’s just been my luck that every grandparent age person I’ve run into so far in my life, none of them are particularly competent with technology and they expect me to act as their personal tech support *sigh*

        It’s not really a formal business (it’s a very small company with about 5 regular employees) so it’s more like a “hey, do we have time to talk about this now?” situation as we don’t know when walk-ins will drop by or when the phones will suddenly be ringing like crazy and she’s all about answering those phones first and foremost (the main distraction that makes her forget previous conversations).

        I’m ok with taking the reins and making the system better, which she’s suggested a lot in the past, but problem is I’m already stretched out as it is, so I don’t have much time to do it myself and nobody else here cares or is in a similar position to know what needs fixing. If we’re not swamped she gives me something else to do so it goes on the backburner, and if we are swamped it stays in the fridge. And, if I even could get us to switch to a better option, she’d have to be trained on that (like how to use Outlook) and of course that falls on me to teach her how to use it because I’m apparently multi-job extraordinaire who just loves to teach! (that last part was sarcasm. I’m that person that gets easily annoyed if I have to repeat myself more than 2 times on how to do a very basic thing, like mark an email with a star).

        1. Observer*

          Put together a plan to deal with one relatively small but important piece and find a good consultant to implement it. Then grab her and present the whole package.

          eg Boss: We need a better way to track our spending
          You: Figure out what it’s going to take to implement quickbooks (or improve your usage), find a consultant who can do this for you and get pricing
          You: Grab boss ad say “You have 5 minutes? Great. You asked me about getting a handle on spending. here is what we should do. And, here is a guy who can set it up for us and train everyone who needs to be trained. It should could between $x and y”

          It keeps the conversations short, avoids putting too much on your plate, and is small enough that the risk is low even if it fails, but has a high chance of success.

          1. TootsNYC*

            If anything is going to work it needs to be really simple. Or it needs to be something that’s ultra simple for HER, and actually implemented buy someone else.

            So yes, keep the solution focused and the conversation short.

            But she sounds *system* phobic. So I would say, stop taking her all that seriously.

      2. LQ*

        I strongly agree with offering to take the lead on this. And make sure that whatever the solution it is very user friendly.

        When people fall they should fall into the correct answer. If 90% of the time they should click next and only 5% of the time click Do X or Do Y then make the next button bigger than the others. That kind of thing. Do usability studies, watch how they want to do things. If they stop the process midway through can you get it to send them an email saying Hey! Finish me!

        Those kinds of things. Focus on a user friendly system more than one with bells and whistles. (UX!)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Because of the nature of the problems you show here, my first question is does she really want it fixed? I am thinking this is more of a people problem than an actual computer problem. You might benefit from getting buy-in first.

      I would say “there are options out there, but is this something you really want to do? It will take time and commitment to go through the learning curve. And we will need to get everyone on board and sticking to the new system.” You may have to say that you need her uninterrupted attention to hammer out some ideas.

      1. TootsNYC*

        This is where I fall–she won’t use any system you come up with.

        So it needs to be ultra simple–and it probably needs to not actually involve her.

        1. T3k*

          She’s half and half. On one hand, she wants to improve the business but there’s so many problems going on, it’s like trying to figure out which head of hydra to deal with first. For instance, a month after I started, I re-arranged how orders are done so we know where they are via these physical trays with the order sheets in them and she responded well to that and it works for the most part (the related coworker is the one that’s still causing the most backup issues there), but trying anything technology related seems to go over her head. A month ago she had this thing come in similar to Square but wasn’t (I’m guessing she just went with whatever came up that was cheapest without really researching it) and she sent it back after a week because it was “too difficult to learn”. It really wasn’t as navigating it was pretty straightforward.

          So really it’s more like, if we try to use any technology based thing to make it easier, she gets frazzled and thinks it’s too difficult. Heck, she has to place inventory orders everyday and she always does it over the phone, even though I’m 99% sure you can place it online and it would make it a lot easier on her.

          1. TootsNYC*

            It wouldn’t be easier if she got too confused.

            You might look into taking the technology just ONE step–so, not necessarily software.

            Here’s an example
            Inventory orders: print a bunch of forms (even if you make them up, complete with parts numbers and standard quantity) for her to check off or circle (faster than the phone!), and fax them.

            See what I mean? Just one step. That may be all she can handle.

  21. Autumn*

    Any physicians out there? My SO is in his final year of an emergency medicine residency, which means he is starting to look into finding a job for next year. He recently attended a seminar about how to find a job, at which he was told you should decide on a city you want to move to and then send a cover letter and CV to the EM director at a hospital there stating your interest, experience and ask if there are any positions available. The person leading this seminar said that the director would probably respond by asking you for an interview if he/she was interested, or offering other suggestions. The person leading the seminar strongly implied that all the best jobs are by word of mouth, and that any job that actually gets posted to a job board (online, or in newsletters, etc) have something wrong with them and you don’t really want them.

    To me (not in the medical field whatsoever), this this sounds ridiculous. I can understand much of the job market is word of mouth, but the idea of just sending an email to a person you’ve never met who has made no indication that they are looking for employees asking for a job sounds like a terrible idea (wouldn’t they be overwhelmed with these letters!?). However, I’m willing to concede that it’s possible that this is how the field works, and I don’t really know any established doctors I can ask. So I’m curious if anybody on here has any insight – does this sound normal, or are there other ways of finding jobs in the medical field?

    1. Nanc*

      Yikes! I hope your SO didn’t pay for that seminar!

      Full disclosure: I do not work in the medical field, but I have friends who do! Some hear about jobs word of mouth but for the most part they find jobs by looking at the hospital/clinic website’s career pages. Many of them let you sign up for notifications when jobs are posted. My small-town hospital has such a system.

    2. Development professional*

      I’m not a doctor, but my dad is. This is not as weird as it sounds. Medicine is more similar to academia in hiring than you might imagine. A lot of it has to do with the long time spent in education and training before you’re looking for a job. I would say a couple of things though: unless his target city is a big one with many many hospitals, he might want to try a “top three” approach in selecting a desired location instead of just one city; and, it’s probably going overboard to say that a posted job is never one you want, but it’s probably right that the *most* desirable jobs are not the advertised ones. And that’s true in many fields, not just medicine.

      1. Development professional*

        I would also say that looking for a job as a board-certified MD is really different than most other medical professions. That’s nothing against RNs, PAs, etc. but they’re more likely to be in the “advertised job” space to fill positions.

      2. Autumn*

        Thanks! Glad to know it isn’t completely out there (but that might still be worth checking out posted jobs).

        Yeah, I really shouldn’t just say “medical field” because that covers a lot of jobs and looking for an attending physician job is probably very unique even within that field. We’ll definitely be focusing on a number of cities/hospitals – now we just need to decide where we want to live!

  22. Beancounter in Texas*

    I’m going to start collecting all the stuff my boss says. Here’s last week’s:

    Here’s this week’s Sh*t My Boss Says:

    Boss: “What’s this?” Looks at sign indicating to put recyclables in a bag in the kitchen.

    Coworker: “Beancounter set that up to recycle cans.”

    “She didn’t ask for my permission.

    But that’s a good idea.”

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      And to clarify, I am taking them home at the end of the week and dumping them into my city recycling bin. I am not collecting them to cash them in for money.

    2. Colorado Girl*

      Oooh, can we make this a thread for everyone? I’d love to contribute a few of my own, such as:

      “If things take a turn for the worse, can you schedule the funeral around quarter-end?” – said to me after returning from an emergency trip back home after my father took a bad fall, almost died and had to be admitted to a nursing home. I just stared at him and walked away.

        1. Colorado Girl*

          I can laugh about it now, especially knowing the guy wasn’t really a jerk and was just trying to be practical. He just felt emotions had no place in the workplace so we only ever discussed facts and figures.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Emotions aside, even on a practical level, funerals cannot be postponed for long periods of time. That is just not how funerals work.
            However, I am glad you were able to find a path through that conversation and move on.

            1. TootsNYC*

              well, they can be postponed–they stored my neighbor’s body for 6 months until his slot in Arlington National Cemetery opened up. But it cost money.

              So if you’re talking facts and figures, how much?

    3. ConstructionHR*

      Our client’s lead guy had 200 years of experience in a 47 yo body. Despite all that experience, he had really poor speaking skills in a field where speaking to groups is quite common.

      1) “damage can occur quickly over time”
      2) “apply lotion frequently so it can ‘sorb’ onto your skin”
      3) “be careful out there, there’s a syphilis epidemic going on”

    4. TootsNYC*

      We used to work with a woman who, when she was floating an idea, would wave her hand in the air near her head and say, “I’m just talking out loud.”

  23. Jackie*

    Hello. I recently applied to a position through a company’s website. You must create an account and then upload your CV and cover letter. I can’t help but feel my application has been sent into a black hole!

    I found the hiring manager’s contact information online. Would it be a bad idea to email her directly? Basically, a short email stating that I applied through the regular channel and would like to reiterate my interest in the position, with my CV and cover letter attached. A part of me feels that this would be annoying – basically, I am trying to circumvent their application system! On the other hand, my CV has a higher chance of being seen by the person who is making the hiring decision, and may will show my enthusiasm for the position.

    What is everyone’s opinion on this?

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      I would say unless you have some kind of connection or reference to the hiring manager, don’t. I would find it off-putting, and it doesn’t necessarily give you a higher chance of being noticed: it might give you a lower one (it would with me).

      I would suggest Alison’s advice: make sure your resume and cover letter are whiz-bang, apply, and move on.

    2. Chocolate lover*

      I’m not a fan. My personal reaction would be that you thought you were special somehow, and didn’t think the process applied to you. At my University, the applications for most positions go directly to the hiring manager or their designated hiring committee anyway, so they’re getting them. Having been on some of those search committees and helped select candidates to interview, random candidates contacting us have not increased their chances of being brought in for an interview.

    3. BRR*

      I’m not a fan. Sending it to the hiring manager is the advice you want to hear but rarely does it help*. To me it comes off as trying to circumvent the system, not following instructions, and will then at best have no impact on your candidacy and will possibly hurt it.

      *I have heard from a small number of people that they like this because HR screens resumes for them and sucks at it.

    4. Jackie*

      Thank you everyone for the advice. That is what my gut was telling me, but I was getting conflicting advice from friends!

  24. Isben Takes Tea*

    Just a quote without commentary from an intern application cover letter:

    “A great man by the name of Ron Swanson once said, “Never half a** two things, whole a** one thing.” Indeed, that is a solid mantra to live by.”

    1. Kairi*

      Haha I love Ron Swanson. I hope the intern was at least a solid candidate so he has a chance of getting an internship.

    2. literateliz*

      LOLOL! This sounds like a winning cover letter for an intern at my company, but we publish books about Star Wars and marijuana (among many other things), so uh, know your audience, I guess.

    3. Ife*

      Oh man, that is bold! I don’t do hiring, but if I were reading applications, that would land a “probably interview” candidate in the “definitely interview” pile, and weak/ok candidates in the “NOPE” pile.

  25. Ihmmy*

    I have been feeling super exhausted lately about how much weird, one-off type information I have to try and remember somehow. It would be one thing if it was all related to one set of people, but there’s a multitude of Weird Stuff to remember across a variety of groups, each group distinctly different, each detail utterly unique to that person within their group. I can’t even fathom how to start tracking some of this stuff but somehow I’m supposed to remember oodles of peculiar information.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      I feel your pain on this one. I’ve had some success recently keeping my brain organized by using a bullet journal. Google it, might be a good fit for you.

      1. Nanc*

        How have I never heard of this?! It’s a more formal version of my current write-everything-in-one-notebook which I review and transfer to appropriate lists/calendar once per day. And heaven knows I have plenty of notebooks to use!

        1. afiendishthingy*

          It’s definitely helped me out a lot. I don’t follow all of their guidelines exactly, but having for one index has been really helpful, along with the strategy of just using the next available two-page spread for one topic with a “continued on (or from) p. 47-48” notation. No wasting pages when a project ends earlier than expected, and easy to find a place for a new project. I use a slim soft-back “Cahier” Moleskine – makes my work much more portable so I can take advantage of my department’s basically unlimited telecommuting/flextime policies.

      2. skyline*

        I use system for personal stuff, and I definitely get a lot more done when I am consistent with it.

    2. Sparrow*

      Can you start by doing a brain dump into a document? It doesn’t have to be totally organized to begin with, but at leas you will have all the information documented. Once that’s done, you can figure out how to organize it.

      I work in IT and have various types of information in emails I’ve gotten over the years. Interactions with the developers and end users about requirements and how the system works. Most of the stuff is organized in different email folders, but a lot of the time I use the search functionality in Outlook to look up a key word or phrase.

    3. Observer*

      Evernote or OneNote. I like evernote better, but onenote might work better for you.

      Both of them are on Windows, Mac,iOS, and Android. Evernote also has a good web client. I don’t know about onenote.

      You documents and emails to both of them as well as typing random notes. As much as I like Outlook’s folders and search functionality, Evernote is better at both. And because it’s not just emails it’s broader.

  26. labianchi*

    Alison, a few weeks back you offered a link to, and discount on, some on-line courses at CreativeLive. I tried one of them, Ilise Bunen’s on marketing, which covered much more than marketing. It was eye-opening and really helpful in a practical way for me, running my own business. I am taking time from fixing various mistakes in handling my business to say: Thank you so much for making it available!

    1. Bekx*

      Are you getting a crazy amount of junk email since registering? I signed up using my work email and now I’m getting all of this spam for other online learning courses. I’ve unsubscribed but it really, really, ticked me off.

        1. Bekx*

          Well, I’m not 100% sure it’s from them. I just went through my email to see who I’m getting emails from and some of them name my industry so now I’m wondering if it’s from a conference I’m attending and it was just a coincidence that I started getting them after signing up for CreativeLive.

          If other people are reporting spam from them, then I’d be more confident that it’s from them.

  27. AnotherAlison*

    Here’s an easy one:
    What’s the best way to start a conference call when you have ~6-8 people dialing in from different locations? I had one early this week, where we had three people from the client on one line, our offsite sales guy, me and my coworker in my office (leader), three people from another guy’s office in a different building (2 on early, one walking in 5 minutes later), and about 3 more people on 2 different lines.

    It seems like you start talking to the first person who joined, then others join and you interrupt to ask who joined. I like to wait until everyone is on and have everyone say their name/position, but there is inevitably someone who you are not 100% will be on who comes on late & then you may have to give them the rundown, depending how important they are (listing for info only, or a key contributor).

    Normally, I try to do these with everyone calling from two conference rooms (us in one, client in theirs) so there’s not so much confusion, but it’s not always possible.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I have seen this and shown it to everyone I know, but I had to watch it again. It is so true.

    1. Juli G.*

      For the first part, I think with every beep of someone joining, you say “Hi, it’s AnotherAllison! We’ll get started in a few minutes and get an idea of who is on the phone then.”

      As for the late person, unless they were a bigwig or had communicated that they would be late, I wouldn’t cater to them. You could try a collaborative screen sharing tool and display who is on the call, if your company licenses something like that.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I do like the opening line. We do use webex (or communicator on internal calls) when there’s actually something visual to share, but not typically if we’re only talking. I got myself into trouble with this earlier this year when I was virtually attending a really long meeting with another office. I was sharing my screen and after we moved on from me, I forgot to unshared and also forgot I was sharing and started checking my email, etc. No one said anything, but I kind of wonder if they noticed or had pulled something else up on the conference room screen before I did that.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        I try to do this too, and then once we’re ready I’ll say “who’s on the line from Japan, please?” (write names down). “Thank you, and Germany?” (write names down) – repeat until we’ve covered all locations. (It’s a big group, and the combination of attendees varies a lot, depending on what’s on the agenda). Mind you it’s usually 6 am my time so I sometimes forget. If I’m particularly dopey I sometimes just skip roll call.

        On another call that I don’t run, it’s a much smaller group with a much more consistent attendee list and the moderator says “hello, who joined please?” with each beep. I do this on the big call I run, but only for people who dial in once the main conversation’s already in progress.

    2. OfficePrincess*

      I have a couple weekly calls with multiple people from different sites dialing in and we normally make small talk for a few minutes and then confirm who’s on the line. Depending on who is missing, we may wait another couple minutes or just get started.

      1. AVP*

        We do the same thing. If someone really important is late, we’ll either decide to continue the small talk until they get on, or to catch them up later. At that point, depending on their familiarity with who is on the call, we might recap names and titles or get right into it.

        I like Juli G.’s line for the beginning of the call when everyone is a little awkward and waiting for more people.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Yes, this is good. When there are a lot of people on the call, saying “This is AA, who just joined” even causes issues. Some people announce themselves right away. With others, I pause a few seconds to let them announce themselves, they don’t, but as soon as I start, “This is. . .” then they chime in with “Tim just joined.” And then it’s “Oh, sorry, I didn’t catch that. Who was it again?” on my end because I’m talking over them.

      2. Annie Moose*

        This is generally how we handle it at my work as well. Although, the new conferencing software we started using shows who’s called in, so it’s not as big of a deal for us anymore!

      3. AnotherAlison*

        This is typically what I try to do, and it works well for about 4 people, but I noticed with the larger groups, it takes longer for everyone to get on the call, and I’m either cutting off the small-talker to ask who joined or ignoring the new joiners and leaving them to wonder what’s going on until we really get started.

      4. RR*

        We do the same. We also have an agenda distributed in advance, with names attached to items, so if Jane is running behind, but has the first agenda item, we skip to #2 and loop back later.

    3. NYC Redhead*

      Folks who lead these calls at my work typically say, “We will take attendance in a few minutes” when people jump in and start to intriduce themselves. Yes, they end up repeating themselves a few times whenever there is a beep but eventually the callers get the hang of it.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      If I’m scheduling the call, I like to specify a call-in time and a start time. So, “Please call in at 10, we will start promptly at 10:05.” Surprisingly, most people are actually on the line by the start time. Late people’s arrival isn’t usually addressed.

    5. June*

      I’ve done these with international phonecalls. Just make sure to check in every time someone new joins. Usually people will chat and catch up in the few minutes waiting time.

    6. Natalie*

      A lot of conference calling services allow the host to mute all lines, which I am a HUGE fan of. (If I was that telekinetic kid from the Twilight Zone, everyone who put a conference call on hold would have burst into flame immediately.) The standard in my office is for the host to do so, and periodically tell people the call will start in minute or two. Then they can unmute us all to take attendance or whatever.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes to this. We use that feature a lot for our internal meetings, which are usually focused on briefings and status updates so it’s not necessary for everyone to be chiming in throughout the meeting.

      2. J.B.*

        OMG the hold button!!! The person who uses it never ever hears your request to stop (of course not while they have you on hold but then they are oblivious when they come back.) I love love love my mute feature!

    7. Sparrow*

      This is what I do when I host a conference call.

      When someone joins, I’ll say “Hi, it’s Sparrow. Who joined”? Once the person announces, I’ll jot down their name. Then I’ll usually get started with the call about 2-3 minutes after the start time. I’ll read off the list of names of who has joined and then ask if there’s anyone I missed. If someone joins after we get started, I don’t usually stop meeting. But it does depend on who it is. If it is a key attendee, I’ll stop and re-review. Otherwise, I’ll just let them catch up on their own.

      There is also a web portion to our conference calls, so people can log in via that and it shows a list of participants.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s what we have, a web thingy. I never used it before coming here–I like it much better than gathering round a spaceship phone thing in a conference room.

    8. AnotherAlison*

      These are all helpful. It’s good to see how everyone else does it.

      I tend to think the other attendees are thinking what a goober when I’m leading the call, but I think there’s always a little awkwardness when there are a lot of speakers on one call.

    9. Student*

      Use a better conference platform. Many of them will give you a list of participants if you call in from a computer.

      If they’re just calling in from a random cellphone, then they had either better call on time, pick it up from context and direct inquiries when appropriate (not via interruption), or be important enough to merit a moment to catch them up to speed.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I don’t get any in the conference platform, or how people behave. People will generally get themselves up to speed on the discussion; I’m more concerned that someone doesn’t know who else is on the call so that they know when it’s needed for them to cover a question vs. the other more qualified person lurking. I will add that people aren’t late because they’re rude. They’re double and triple booked, so I appreciate it if they can give me what time they do have. I would have zero tolerance for people who just can’t be bothered to call in on time.

  28. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

    The good news is that, after mentioning enough incidents to my manager at our weekly 1:1 meetings, she’s finally going to send a memo to the team reminding people that I’m not an admin, and people need to stop asking me to do certain tasks. It’s mostly so that one person in particular will stop asking me to do little things for her every time she doesn’t feel like going into the system and doing them herself.

    I know, I know, it would be more effective for my manager to just tell *her* to knock it off and do these things herself, but she’s decided to do it this way and I’m going to respect her decision.

    Of course, that same coworker who’s been asking me to do her admin work has a history of micromanaging my work, second guessing my decisions, making passive aggressive comments when I’ve failed to read her mind and do things she wants me to do without being asked, and sending me e-mail after e-mail after e-mail about what she wants me to do and how she wants me to do it, and that behavior sort of died down in recent months but has been on the upswing this week, tempting me to shut the laptop and go home early today, or at least go home, have a drink, and finish the workday there. And my manager is about to go on vacation, so that doesn’t help. I get that she’s probably really stressed and frustrated and that just manifests itself in this behavior (not unlike people who become backseat drivers when they’re running late), but I’ve found that I’m prone to second hand stress and I do NOT need this anxiety right now.

    I’m really trying to keep my composure and stay pleasant though, because the last time I let this behavior affect my demeanor at work I ended up getting fired. I don’t need that either.

    1. Dawn*

      “…coworker who’s been asking me to do her admin work has a history of micromanaging my work, second guessing my decisions, making passive aggressive comments when I’ve failed to read her mind and do things she wants me to do without being asked, and sending me e-mail after e-mail after e-mail about what she wants me to do and how she wants me to do it, and that behavior sort of died down in recent months but has been on the upswing this week, tempting me to shut the laptop and go home early today, or at least go home, have a drink, and finish the workday there.”

      Wait so this is just a colleague and not your boss? Cause if that’s the case, learn to laugh it off. She has zero authority over you in this case, so anything she says to you automatically gets the brush off.

      1. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

        She’s a colleague, yes. A senior colleague, and more experienced one, but no, she has zero authority over me, although I’m beginning to suspect that she thinks she does.

        1. Ama*

          Ugh, then I unfortunately suspect she won’t knock it off unless she’s actually told directly that she doesn’t get to tell you what to do. At least that’s what happened when I was in a similar situation — she was our budget manager and thought that gave her the right to control everything. I just ignored her until she got herself overinvolved in a project I had explicitly been put in charge of. We ended up having an argument that actually escalated to her saying “It’s my job to manage you on this.” I did go to my boss at that point, and she met separately to colleague to explain to her that approving budget expenses for the project did not mean she had any other supervisory authority over me.

        2. anonymous please*

          Why not just ask her why she doesn’t get an assistant to help her with that stuff? Then when she says that you are hers, then let her know – NOPE!

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If that happens again, can you say, “Jane (boss) asked me not to handle this kind of project. If you feel strongly about it, I could loop her in — let me know if you’d like me to.”

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is basically what I had to do in a similar situation. I had to tell people that boss said they had to run it by her first, and that usually killed the most ridiculous requests.

          1. catsAreCool*

            Yeah, the ability to say “This is out of my normal area, so I’ll need to check with my supervisor first.” is a wonderful thing.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Why wouldn’t you say, “You could loop her in,” and pass the responsibility off to her?

          Oh, wait–I think I know–if you start the convo w/ your boss, you get to frame it!
          “Boss, you said you didn’t want me to handle these sorts of things anymore, but Susie is asking me to tackle. I’m pretty busy on this; what should I tell her?”

    2. BRR*

      No, your manager needs to tell this person directly. Everybody else is going to thing it’s them when they have done nothing and the perpetrator is going to either not think it’s them or know it’s them and not care. That is what happens 99.9999999% of the time.

    3. Artemesia*

      The general announcement will do no good because this co-worker has a well established habit of thinking of you as her assistant. You will need to deflect her requests; the boss isn’t going to do it.

      I suggest the cordial stranger positive gabble approach. ‘Oh I’d love to help you with that but I am on deadline with the TPS reports — I’m just so sorry that won’t be possible.’ followed with ‘I am not going to be able to do that’ as many times as it takes. For micromanaging the vague ‘I’ll take a look at that’ or ‘I’ll consider that’ type answers. If she doesn’t have authority over you then talk with your manager about ways to deflect her efforts. The boss is obviously a poor manager who would rather issue a memo than manage.

    4. Gene*

      You – doing task she asked (told) you to

      Her – “Do it this way!”

      You – “If you don’t like the way I do it, do it yourself” – drop job in her lap and walk away.

  29. A Jane*

    What’s the most interesting career lesson you’ve learned while just observing?

    I’m in a more junior role at my work, but I get the opportunity to sit in on high-level meetings and observe my managers and senior leadership. It’s really eye-opening to see the types of conversations and discussions happening.

    1. Anonymous for this*

      I watched two coworkers have very different experiences over about a year, despite doing the same job with the same technical skill level. One quit, one was promoted. I learned that when two people are equally good at their work in most ways, soft skills set the great employee apart from the okay one.

      I’ve put a lot of work into improving my own social/emotional skills since then.

    2. Lunar*

      I’m not sure if this is the most interesting, but I have learned so much about how to treat other people – like co-workers, subordinates, and collaborators. Mostly from what not to do.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Seconded. My last boss, who was an absolute sweetheart in many ways very talented, taught me how to create a monster by letting a client walk all over you because you don’t want to damage the relationship.

    3. Kai*

      I’ve learned that people really appreciate the person who’s honest and direct. It’s so easy to see right through the person who beats around the bush and goes on and on forever without ever saying anything substantial or believable. Just tell the truth, and get right to it.

      1. cuppa*

        And these people are the ones that eventually get asked for input on important questions. Being able to give an honest, thoughtful, opinion in an appropriate manner is really important.

    4. some1*

      Assume a manager is always going to be a manager, even outside the office. My coworker went to a Happy Hour to celebrate another coworker’s bday and told a Creative Director who wanted to poach her team’s projects all the ammo she needed to do so. My coworker thought it was just Girl Talk.

    5. Bostonian*

      1. People way above you on the work food chain are still just people. There will always be exceptions, but in most cases it’s fine to interact with them in the same professional, respectful manner than you would anyone else. I’ve had coworkers who were way more obsequious than the situation warranted.

      2. The person who sets the agenda for the meeting has an enormous amount of power. Watching the high-up staff at a nonprofit talk through the plan for board meetings and then watching the board meeting themselves was enlightening. How you present things matters a lot, and there is no strictly unbiased “objective” way to do it. Do you provide the summary or the details? A printed handout or a PowerPoint? Does the executive director present the information, or the person who managed the project? Is it on the agenda before or after that other big complicated thing? Do you describe something as an update, a discussion, a presentation, a deliberation, an announcement? These things can be critical for large, important meetings, but are worth thinking about even for small meetings, conference calls, and even one-on-ones.

    6. AVP*

      I’ve had managers who treated people absolutely terribly, and others who really went out of their way to treat people like responsible adults who were expected to do their jobs well and get on with it. I was amazed, at first, at the different results those two attitudes got int terms of work product and the general functionality of the working environment.

    7. Dawn*

      Nobody can stand a bullshitter. Upper management will squeeze them for all they’re worth and hang them out to dry and everyone they work with will hate them and curse the ground they walk on and not give them an inch more than they absolutely, begrudgingly have to.

      Basically, don’t be a bullshitter- do what you say you’re gonna do when you say you’re gonna do it, be nice, be friendly and open and honest, always offer a helping hand when you can or be apologetic when you can’t and offer to help find an alternative solution. It might not get you a corner office now, heck it might not get you a corner office in the company you’re at now, but you will ABSOLUTELY reap insane benefits for the rest of your life through the contacts you make.

      Oh and also get to know everyone you can, make small talk in the break room, get to know everyone’s name and be able to ask after their pets/hobbies/children/whatever. THIS is the heart of “networking”- just get to know people and connect with them on a personal level even if you wouldn’t be friends outside or work. This will help you more in your career than any other single thing you can do (outside of reading AAM regularly that is).

      1. Dawn*

        Also KEEP THOSE RELATIONSHIPS after you/the other person leaves. Connect on LinkedIn. Send them an email every now and then to say hi. Meet for coffee. Pick their brain as much as possible. Forge colleague business relationships. Because you never know what may come of it or how it might help you later on in life. IGNORE THIS ADVICE AT YOUR OWN PERIL!!!

    8. LCL*

      That high level management may have the authority to do something, but they don’t have all the answers.

    9. Sparrow*

      I’m not sure if this is so much an observation as something that has happened to me personally. Do your best to maintain good relationships with people because you never know who will end up on your team or who will be your boss.There have been many reorganizations in my company and three timesI have had people who were formerly my peers end up being my boss.

    10. LQ*

      If you watch carefully you can see when people check out, sometimes they aren’t really checked out but they want you to think they are, but usually they are checked out. This varies from person to person how they do it but usually things like being on their phones, doodling, talking to someone else, etc.

    11. AE*

      You know who truly has power when they are rude in a meeting and nobody but you has noticed. A former coworker who used to hold up the newspaper (like obviously reading it – high up) while other people were talking was never told not to do it, and when I mentioned it to another coworker she said she hadn’t noticed. He did this often, but nobody seemed to notice. When we downsized, he was retained and I was let go, as were the other people who didn’t notice him being rude. Either the boss was so focused on what the other people were saying that she didn’t notice, which is bad, or she noticed and didn’t care, which is worse, or she noticed but gave him a pass because he was her pet, which is the worst. Being let go was an ego bruise, but I was glad to be out of there!

  30. MoinMoin*

    Do most people here have a pretty mapped out career plan? I’m in my late twenties and I feel like I have no concrete goals or things I’m really passionate about. It feels like a lot of people around me have pretty set ideas of what they want- be a vet! Be a social worker! Or they’re in something that seems career-like in which they can progress over time. I know a lot of this is Grass is Greener syndrome, but I really just don’t know what to direction to go into. I have a degree (BS Soc/Bio), I’m generally smart and I’m not a sociopath that microwaves fish in the breakroom and is thus unemployable. I feel like if someone just told me, “Go be a ____.” I could say Okay, and go do that and probably be successful. I just don’t know what that thing is.
    The only piece to the puzzle I really have is that I think I could do well in project management- I’m organized, detailed-oriented, able to see the big picture, I’ve done work that touched on project management in past jobs and I know some people in the industry that seem to agree I have some understanding of the work and could do it. But it seems like most people I know in PM were in a specific industry and fell into PM whereas I’m looking at being in PM and falling into an industry? I spent some time Googling PM + my various hobbies last night and came up with some interesting results, especially PM + beer brewing, but nothing I’m currently qualified for and I’m not sure how I would get there.
    I don’t know, I guess I’m just asking how some of you wise wandering souls found the path you’re on today.
    Happy Friday, all.

    1. katamia*

      I’m in my late 20s, too, and have been thinking about this sort of thing a lot recently. I don’t have any answers. I wish there were more ways to see how to get from where you are to where you want to be. That’s something I’ve always had a really hard time with, in all areas of life.

      1. Devil's Avocado*

        Browsing LinkedIn has helped me feel better about this, actually. I look up people in my field who I respect and then look at their job histories – they’re usually quite varied and not the direct path you would expect. It makes me feel better about the meandering of my own job history, and about my future prospects.

        1. MoinMoin*

          I just started a LinkedIn so I may try this, thanks. Part of my problem is I don’t really feel like I have a “field” but… 1 thing at a time. :-)

          1. Devil's Avocado*

            Oh gosh, actually neither do I, really! I mean the field I currently work in. It’s kind of roughly related to what I went to school for, but all of my roles have been pretty generalist. I am also trying to narrow it down.

    2. JMegan*

      Project management plus beer brewing would be amazing!

      For me it was a series of small revelations, rather than a big epiphany. First, I realized that I really liked doing the research required for my undergrad essays – so, hm, research. Then a couple of years later my family inherited my uncle’s personal library, and I went hm, books! Research + books led me to library school, where I discovered that there was a discipline called records management, and one thing led to another after that. I never had a plan of “I’m going to be a ____,” though.

      1. MoinMoin*

        That’s a good perspective to adopt, thank you. I need to narrow down my interests because honestly you just saying this makes me go, “Wait, I like books and research!” Really this thread makes me realize my problem is probably that I lack follow-through and decision making…
        I was looking at a PM job description for a brewery last night and it was definitely an interesting eye-opener. They wanted someone with a Master’s in Engineering, preferably with an emphasis on Brewing. I never would have put an ME in the same realm as beer and didn’t know they offered MEs with an emphasis in brewing, though it makes sense as it sounded like the brewery was trying to really expand production and would need someone with some experience in designing/building/maintaining tanks and fill equipment. I’d be very interested to pick the brain of the candidate that gets that job.

    3. ACA*

      No advice here; I am also in my late twenties and have no concrete goals or things I’m really passionate about. But I’ve sort of made peace with that? When I graduated college (in 2009, into a horrible job market), I had a passion and a career goal, but to really have a chance at finding employment I’d have to relocate. And I wasn’t willing to do that. I gave myself a year to find a job in that field in my city, and when that didn’t happen, I basically said “Well, I’ve made my choices, time to move on and find something to pay the bills.” Do I regret it? Not really – I’d still love to work in that field, but I’d rather have a job I’m not passionate about in a city I love than have a job I love in a city that makes me miserable.

      1. Anx*

        I graduated in December 08, but I walked in May. It was sort of the worst of both worlds because I graduated, moved home, and left my college jobs. I naively didn’t go back to my old summer job because I knew I was looking for a full-time, year-round career job and felt guilty knowing I might have left it midway through the season. Then found out I wouldn’t get credit for one of my classes (I didn’t fail, there was an enrollment issue) so I didn’t really get my degree until 2009 and had a work gap. I feel like I lost so much drive and momentum in that short time. If I only knew how lucky I was to only be out of work for a few months and still have so much fresh experience.

        I did maintain some drive, but I’d get excited about a new career possibility, train, volunteer, and then apply. And then nothing.

        I worry that I’ve stopped believing in my self. I worry that I don’t allow myself to get passionate about anything because it’s all a road to nowhere, when I know intellectually that’s not true.

        I regret coming home after graduation. Sometimes I wish I took the risk of trying to live with friends and work near school instead of moving home where there wasn’t much opportunity. But at the time, I couldn’t justify the expense.

        1. W.*

          Seems like me – moving home, graduating 08 – getting stuck in a bad economy and a bad area for jobs. I’m so jealous of new grads now – I keep seeing jobs that are advertised to them specifically with zero experience, whereas when I graduated you needed it. Now I’ve got experience but it’s not the right stuff and I’m not fresh out of college for these other jobs. Caught in the middle – and no one seems to have any imagination about transferable skills. I’m unemployed again and I’m getting flashbacks to 08 – cept this time it feels worse because I should have moved further on – I’ve tried so many different avenues and nothing’s stuck…

    4. Isben Takes Tea*

      Not at all. I grew up not wanting to “have a career,” but lo and behold I have one. Once I figured out the industry I wanted to be in, I had to discover what kind of roles and paths were available. Even now, four years in, and when I have an “end goal” in mind, I still have to figure out what the path there looks like. (Cue meeting with manager next week!)

      I definitely agree with the approach that you should start in industries you’re interested in, as PMing in different industries can mean wildly different things.

    5. Lunar*

      I feel you on this! I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up either and I super envy people who have a clear goal to work towards. In college I made the decision about my major by looking at the classes that I was already taking/enjoying and it seemed to fall into place so easily. But it is so much harder when you can’t just try out jobs!

    6. AnotherAlison*

      I’ve probably got close to 10 years on you, and I never had a plan! I had been thinking about engineering since 9th grade, and it seemed like a good fit. I ended up getting a degree in it, working for 15 years at two companies while hopping around on a bit of a nontraditional career path (for a standard mechanical engineer in my industry), and landed in a PM role a year ago when another path didn’t work out quite as planned. It kind of looks like I had a plan, but I didn’t. I had thought when I started out that I would like to be a PM, and got an MBA back then. But later I completely deviated from that path for ~8 years.

      I will say that in my job, subject matter expertise is important. If you are looking for a role that the PM skills & organization skills are more important than SME, you might consider project controls, with your background maybe pharma project controls would be an area to break into. If you have questions about project controls, comment & I will come back. I did that role too, earlier in my career. My browser is picking up every other keystroke right now, so I don’t want to add more to this post!

      1. MoinMoin*

        I understand that SME would be important and I’m definitely the type of person that gets almost obsessively invested in a subject until I know everything about it, but it kind of goes back to the whole “I can do anything, just tell me what to do” thing. I don’t know where to go right now and am kind of afraid to invest in something that may not pan out, be it due to my interest/competency, industry needs, etc. But you and a lot of commenters have helped me gain some perspective on this, so thanks.
        I will take a look at project controls and reach out if I have questions. I see you around the comment section a lot and always like your advice.
        Sorry for the slow response on this and thanks again.

    7. Natalie*

      I was in a very similar situation in my 20s. In my case it was resolved with serendipity – our bookkeeper quit and wasn’t replaced immediately for Reasons, so I covered her job for a few months and really, really liked it. Still doing it, went back to school for accounting, etc. I’m 31 at present, and I probably won’t be completely done with my accounting education for another 3 years.

      One of my problems at the time was analysis paralysis – I was so worried about making the wrong decision and ending up 10 years later in the wrong career, that I did nothing and definitely stayed in the wrong career. I’m reminded of an exchange I really like in A Tree Grows In Brooklyn:

      Francie: “Four years of high school … no, five. Because something would come up to delay me. Then four years of college. I’d be a dried-up old maid of twenty-five before I was finished.”

      Katie: “Whether you like it or not, you’ll get to be twenty-five in time no matter what you do. You might as well be getting educated while you’re going towards it.”

        1. Natalie*


          Something else very helpful at the time was to talk to some of my parents’ friends about their careers. Inevitably, every single one of them had taken a circuitous route to their current position, and it really helped underscore that I was not signing up for a lifetime of X just by taking one X job at 30.

      1. MoinMoin*

        You really hit the nail on the head. I absolutely have a problem with analysis paralysis. I think that’s what’s caused this recent dread- I feel like I woke up from a few years of being comfortable and suddenly realized I’m in the same spot and it’s suddenly not very comfortable anymore.
        That’s a great quote, thanks. Sorry for the slow response.