open thread – September 18, 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 :)

{ 1,443 comments… read them below }

  1. CrazyCatLady*

    On another thread this week, there was some conversation about interview questions. One of them that came up was, “What is your biggest failure?”

    What is YOUR biggest work failure – your actual answer, not your job interview answer?

    1. Kelly L.*

      I once said something medically dangerous because I overheard a conversation, misunderstood what I heard, and barged in. I got bailed out by someone else shouting me down, but I still think about it late at night sometimes, and it was maybe 6-7 years ago.

      1. Moksha Maginifique*

        I had about eight different medical files left on my desk while I was in a meeting, came back and had less than half an hour to get them ready for the FedEx pickup…and ended up switching two of the files. So a medical facility on one side of town got records for a patient who was not their own, and vice-versa.

    2. katamia*

      I was working in an inventory job a few years ago for a Major Retailer That Sells TVs Among Other Things, and my job was to count everything we had in stock–basically, to walk around and make tally marks on a piece of paper. Simple, right?

      Hahaha nope. I was hired at a weird time of year for them, so my manager and supervisor never trained me because they had other things that needed to get done. My counts were off every day, and I also had a very hard time fitting in with my fellow coworkers. I gave my 2 weeks’ notice after less than a month.

      I fumbled along for the next week after giving notice, and then that Friday, my supervisor took me aside and told me I’d somehow not counted 52 TVs. BIG-SCREEN TVs. The manager was furious, but my supervisor was kind and let me leave early and not work the last week of my notice period.

      To this day, I don’t know how I managed to miss so many because they’re so, well, big.

      1. Kelly L.*

        My guess is they were all stashed somewhere they didn’t even tell you to go, or like still on the truck or something. They sucked.

        1. katamia*

          That’s certainly possible. They never really told me how deliveries or anything worked, either. I suspect at least some of them were probably back in the stockroom, though, because that place was a maze. Every time I went back there I’d find some other corner with more TVs in it, it felt like.

      2. Vicki*

        Perhaps they were so big you didn’t see them?

        We once “lost” a 3′ x 5′ whiteboard in our house. (It was hanging on a wall).

        I also heard of a group at a University that “lost” a Very Large Crate. It was being used as a step down in the loading dock area…

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Worked there, done that. I really hate that it brought me way down personally too. That’s my big failure, letting it get to me.

    3. Sarahnova*

      As an intern, I was given the job of researching a new POS system for a client. I called a supplier, who demanded to know the client’s name. Being young and deeply startled at dealing with someone so aggressive, I told him. The salesman rang the client, the client’s CEO rang my boss.

      Fortunately as soon as the call was over, I fessed up to my boss and he didn’t hold it against me.

      That and the time I accidentally texted my less-than-kind and not very appropriate for work thoughts about a colleague… to the colleague. That one has a happy ending, and I apologised profusely, but said colleague would have been well within his rights to cause some trouble for me. As it was we thrashed out our frustrations and ended up with a bet relationship.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I had a job where that was…exploited for jokes, all the time. Because it was a POS in both senses of the word.

    4. Embarrassed anon*

      I do prospect research and I sent information to a gift officer that had the prospect’s wife’s employment wrong. He met with the couple and she was like, “I don’t do A, I do B.” It was a very uncommon name and I just really effed up.

    5. Bagworm*

      When I worked as a bank teller, I was fired because I had three outages (their policy) (all paper and the bank recovered all the funds but I’m sure they didn’t like having to go back to a customer and say, we gave you $5k too much on that bond we cashed and need it back). It haunts me to this day because I feel like I can’t say I have great attention to detail which is apparently absolutely critical to every single job on the planet (although I really do now, I went on to be a proofreader, editor and acting Finance Director).

      This is also one of my proudest moments though. Despite the fact that I was crying (my manager started it), I managed to get myself together enough to ask if the bank had any non-cash handling positions I might move into (instead of just being terminated) and it worked out. I got a position as a receptionist and it’s still (20 years later) one of the best jobs I ever had.

      1. AMT*

        I love that you were able to salvage the job and had the wherewithal to ask to move – I don’t know if I would have thought of it in your shoes, but that’s a great story that it worked out for you!

      2. Dana*

        I’m a proofreader currently and trying to think of other areas of work I might like to move into (long story). Did you have certain other experience that led you into Finance? I’ve been mulling that one over but I’m an English major with no finance background besides cash handling.

        1. knitcrazybooknut*

          Just in case this helps: Database work of any kind involves painstaking attention to detail. You don’t have to be a geek to help with data standardization, developing processes and procedures for entering and auditing, being the double-checker that people lean on, etc. I work in HR, but there are zillions of databases that need very specific skills that are tougher to hire for than you might think.

        2. Bagworm*

          I’m afraid mine was a rather circuitous route (worked frontline human services, then gran writing / development communications, then annual fund and capital development). I got a job in the finance department at a nonprofit I had worked at previously because the then Director of Finance thought I had an aptitude for it. Apparently, I do and when she retired I took on her position (temporarily). If you’re interested in finance specifically, our local community college offers a certificate in accounting that, if you already have a Bachelor’s degree (in any subject) will give you the educational credits necessary to sit for the CPA exam.

          If you’re not looking at finance specifically, I think knitcrazybooknut’s suggestion about database work is a good one (I’ve done some of that, too). Good luck!

      3. Lily Rowan*

        Wow — I was a terrible bank teller, too, but since most of my problems were just in counting out at the end of the day, it worked out OK. One day I’d be “short,” but the money would turn up the next day! Thank goodness my coworkers and head teller covered for me.

    6. So anon for this one...*

      When I was working in politics, I accidentally spoke without authorization to a reporter. What I actually said was in line with our official talking points, but Comms was also very clear that if you knew you were talking to a journalist, you should refer them immediately to them instead of saying even anything related to the talking points.

      Thankfully, nothing came out of it and the journalist and her paper never even published a piece on the topic. But man, was I up for a week, refreshing her page madly and imagining the damage to my career…

      1. Nashira*

        Oh god, I did this when working at a state agency that handled mental health. I didn’t say anything that was a problem, since it consisted of “let me find someone to help you with that”, but it was my first job and no one told me how to handle the press or legislators. My boss took the blame, but I ended up crying in the bathroom over it. So embarrassing.

        1. So anon for this one...*

          It was my first job too! No one ever found out because the piece was never written or published, but it was definitely a fireable offense and I was so lucky that the potential article never happened.

          I’m no longer in politics, but still in a very front-facing role… and I still always stick to my talking points. :)

      2. Chameleon*

        That reminds me of when I was a bank teller and talked to the cops about a bad check without telling my manager. When she found out we had a little chat about the chain of command. ( What’s worse that I was the one who cashed the check, against policy. Not sure how I kept that job.)

      3. Bea W*

        This and the replies remind me of when I was working at in the evening/weekend division of a community college in a city that was mildly *cough* corrupt and certain local politicians took their power and influence for granted. One of these people walked in to register for a class. When I took the sheet he needed for entry and instructed him to go pay for the class and come back for the sheet, he told me my boss had said he did not have to pay. My boss was not available in the office at the time, had left no note or instruction about this arrangement, and there was no way in heck I was risking just letting someone walk away with the pink copy without having paid. I had been trained never to give a student the pink copy without seeing proof of payment, no matter what they said, that I absolutely had to clear it with my boss first. He argued about it, and eventually left without his registration slip. I filed it with all of the other slips awaiting proof of payment.

        After he left, the cashier at the other end of the desk said “Do you know who that was…”

        Actually, yes I did know who the guy was. I simply answered “Yes” and left it at that. I did know who the guy was, and on top of being a local politician he was also a guy who hadn’t paid for his class. Therefore, I didn’t give a rat’s butt who he was or who he knew. If my boss was willing to give him a free class, she was welcome to do that, but I was a minimum wage student worker with absolutely no authority, and I wasn’t taking a chance on losing my job if it turned out my boss had made no such agreement.

        I don’t personally consider that a mistake, but everyone else did. I’ll still agree to disagree there. I’d have gladly given him his free class if my boss had bothered to either tell me or leave a note, but she didn’t, and there was one high enough on the food chain to back that story up.

      4. Effective Immediately*

        I work for a “controversial” org that has a very public political face; I constantly worry about this very thing.

        Oof. You have all my empathy there.

      5. Artemesia*

        We had an intern working for a politician who when asked by a reporter about the pol’s position on some issue said ‘no comment.’ He simply didn’t know that ‘no comment’ was a reportable comment and so the politician got tagged in the paper with looking like a jerk who couldn’t stand up. The intern was fired but I felt bad that he hadn’t been briefed on how to handle such inquiries. It is quite different to say, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t talk about these issues with the press’ than to say ‘no comment’ as if this were the position of the boss.

    7. Dot Warner*

      Taking a job that I knew was out of my league because I wanted to move to the area where my family lives. I was hoping to spend more time with my family, and now I have loads more time to spend with them because I lost the job. :(

        1. Dot Warner*

          Basically, the work was related to what I had been doing but significantly more complex. I thought I could handle the challenge. I was wrong.

          1. afiendishthingy*

            I did the same thing except I was in a foreign country. Quit after less than a month because I was basically having a nervous breakdown. Not just because of the job but it was definitely a major factor. Then got a job that was easy except it was a small family business where if I did make a mistake my boss yelled at me until I cried. Good times.

      1. Sara The Event Planner*

        To be fair, I’d say that’s a case of bad hiring on the employer’s part. If they hired you knowing that you didn’t meet their qualifications, that’s on them!

          1. Dot Warner*

            Nope, just didn’t realize how wide the gap between my skills and the skills required for the job was. I thought it was a creek; turns out it was the Mississippi. (Although I can’t blame you for thinking of dishonesty, given some of the stuff that’s been posted here lately!)

            1. CrazyCatLady*

              Oh no, I didn’t mean YOU were being dishonest! :) I just meant in general that it’s not always the employer’s fault.

    8. Amber Rose*

      The worst failure in terms of possible consequences was when I worked at a deli and served raw pork sausages for the better part of a day because I didn’t realize the thermometers hadn’t been calibrated (I’d never been taught how to do it, but I didn’t check the calibration log and I should have).

      The worst failure in terms of sheer embarassment was the time I mistyped a description on a legal document, had the client ship in their corporate seal from another province to sign it, AND sent it to the government without realizing what I’d done. Most humiliating rejection notice ever, over one transposed number (a 7 instead of a 2).

      Fortunately it was an easy fix (albeit somewhat illegal but I had the client’s blessing) that only delayed things by 24 hours.

    9. Mallory Janis Ian*

      In a factory job I worked in my early twenties, we machine operators had to take a daily break from production to go and clean the lines on which we were working for the mechanics. The machine I cleaned had a loose metal doughnut-shaped part that sat on top of some canisters, and I would move it out of the way to clean and then put it back. One day, I forgot to put it back. When the mechanic started up the line, he heard a hellacious loud racket and immediately shut down the line. However, the damage was already done; the metal thing had ricocheted around in there, bashing in the sides of every single canister on the machine. It cost over $50,000 to repair the machine, and the repair team had to come for Sweden. They were here for almost three weeks, including hotel, meals, and a rental car for them. So . . . yeah . . .

      I didn’t even get fired :-0 Not even a talking-to, other than, “How did this happen?” and me explaining how I’d forgotten to set the loose part back up top.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Wow, that sounds like it was a recipe for disaster anyway. If it’s that easy to move that part, there should be some sort of failsafe that won’t let the line start up if it isn’t there. Because these things WILL happen, no matter how careful people are or how well you train them. It’s not like you jury-rigged something to circumvent a failsafe.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yeah, I think the reason I wasn’t fired was that, who *wouldn’t* have eventually had that particular accident? My bosses were reasonable enough to see that. I was worried for awhile, though, because even though it was an accident, the damage was so much! I thought they might still fire me because I should have been more diligent.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Oh yes, I almost forgot about the day I tripped over a charging cord and a $25,000 instrument went crashing to the ground, and didn’t work after that. I was so terrified telling my bosses that I thought I broke the (really expensive instrument that got used multiple times a day and was essential to do our jobs).

        Luckily, another department had the same instrument, so it did completely shut us down, just meant we had to walk pretty darn far a couple times a day.

        Also, the supplier was willing to take the broken instrument as a “trade-in” and we were able to go in with another department to get deals on the newer upgraded model.

        I’m pretty sure I kept my job only because I’d been there a few years and had a track record of good work and there was a hiring freeze – I suspect a newer employee would have been fired for that, or at least put on final warning.

        1. UncoolCat (formerly Manda)*

          I hope they learned not to plug in expensive equipment where it can easily be tripped over after that. It’s not just about the equipment. That’s a safety hazard too. Unless you were the one to plug it in, it would be unfair to get fired over that.

        1. nth time commenter*

          Not only have I BTDT, I have a suspicion I am being there and doing that at the moment. Note to self: get act together.

          (It’s a vicious circle at the moment, because getting behind and letting myself get overwhelmed makes me anxious and demoralised, which dents my concentration and my motivation, and I get more and more behind and overwhelmed…)

          1. Revolver Rani*

            I was in that cycle once. I really feel for you. I was lucky – I read the handwriting on the wall and got a new job (actually a career change), and at the review meeting at which I was probably going to get fired, I was able to give notice instead. The looks of relief on the faces of the bosses was quite a sight.

    10. Lore*

      My boss is a little prickly at the best of times. When they announced the plans to “restack” our office, meaning 10 of his senior staffers lost their offices and got relocated to the world’s most poorly designed cubicles, there was a lot of misery. I am very easily distracted by noise and was kind of freaking out about the whole thing, especially when it was announced that the company would not supply any kind of headsets for phones (but we were welcome to buy our own!). After a few weeks of being shot down on every idea I could think of that might make the transition easier (more flexibility to work from home, installing extra bookshelves in common areas that we could use for storage, putting larger tables in lobby areas so we could have a place to spread out and work), I asked our office supply person if he could order earplugs, which they had in our standard catalog. In retrospect, I see how all of this came off as verging on insubordinate, but at the time I really thought I was trying to problem-solve in a useful way. My boss flipped out. I then proceeded to have a complete and total emotional meltdown in his office, to the point that he offered to send me home for the rest of the day. I was pretty upset by the situation, and genuinely frightened that I’d fail completely at my work in the new environment, but I lost it in a completely overblown way.

    11. Lily in NYC*

      I worked for a national weekly magazine and didn’t notice that a story had moved to another spot in the magazine at the last minute before we went to print. There are tons of rules about ad placement, and it was a story about a plane crash that ended up next to an airline ad. Oops! That’s a big mistake and cost us 50K because we had to give them free ad space to make up for it. I felt terrible but I didn’t even get in a tiny bit of trouble. No one even got mad! I think they knew that I didn’t make mistakes very often and that I already felt horrible about it.

      1. Sprocket*

        I’m sorry to say but there’s a part of me that gets a real good chuckle out of those types of juxtapositions

    12. AVP*

      My job is to be incredibly anal and punctual and on top of everything, and that’s my personality….95% of the time. That last 5%, when I’m tired and out of it and veering into DGAF territory, is a killer for me. I’ve gotten really, really lucky a few times and skirted major issues, but the edge can be very close. I’m working on it.

    13. changing my name just to be safe*

      I don’t know if this is a failure so much as something I kind of regret, but I, uh, called out the CEO of the company at a video-taped town hall meeting for talking about how the company gave livable salaries to its employees when they didn’t. It was a pretty toxic environment and it was a year when we got no raises, no bonuses, and our healthcare costs were increased so paychecks were actually less than we were making before. To add it all off, executive management slashed department budgets so it made it look like we came in under our goals and they received six figure bonuses. One of the executive assistants had “accidentally left” an email in the printer from her boss listing the bonuses the execs were getting. At the time my Editor-in-Chief got a $100,000 bonus. Meanwhile I was making $29,000 before taxes and trying to survive on my own in an East Coast city. This was about five years ago, so that salary was not a lot.

      Cue the town hall meeting where the CEO starts talking about how the company relies on its employees, how he’s soooo proud that they provide high wages and a lot of other crap, such as how he believes executive management shouldn’t get bonuses if the company can’t afford to give everyone a bonus. How he understands “struggle” because once he had to share a hotel bathroom with a coworker when they were on a conference and couldn’t get separate rooms. How he knows the economy is bad so he had to cut his extra premium international sports cable channels and was thinking of downgrading his family’s vacation homes.

      It was so infuriating that I pretty much just lost it and when Q&A came, I asked if he really thought it was fair to compare his situation to people who were making barely enough money to survive on their own, had to have two or three extra jobs to pay bills or loans, and didn’t receive a $100,000+ bonus that year. I have never seen someone’s face go pale that quickly. He stammered out a reply about how they totally pay high wages and that even assistant level salaries could provide people with money to buy a home (assistants made less than I did at the time). Everything got awkward very quickly and the town hall meeting ended shortly after.

      I ended up getting put on probation because of it, and my boss haaaated me (she was a by the books, kool-aid drinking company lifer) and kept telling me that “nice girls don’t do things like that” (which is an entirely different issue), and it made the next few months of my life at that company miserable. I don’t regret calling out our CEO and I’ve always been the type to call people out on their BS, but I do think in hindsight that it was really unprofessional. It was just the tipping point of a really toxic environment (though, after I left, a former coworker emailed me and said the video of the town hall had been passed around the different offices and made people less afraid to speak up in town hall meetings, so I guess there’s that?)

      1. Golden Yeti*

        Wow. Probably not the best way to go about it, but at the same time, bravo for actually saying what everybody was probably thinking.

        I have no filter on my brain at work anymore (so thoughts like “bs,” “I don’t believe you,” etc. fly around there instantaneously). I’m afraid that one day my mouth filter will break, too, and I’ll actually say what I’m thinking…

      2. Cass*

        Wowwwwww! I admire your chutzpah :) I was in a similar situation, and never would of thought of actually standing up and saying something! I save it for rants to my husband lol.

      3. Chameleon*

        Honestly, I think that’s awesome and I’m proud of you for doing this. More people should be willing to call out bullsh*t like this–it would make the world a better place.

      4. Mike C.*

        That’s absolutely badass, and I think you’re an awesome person for sticking your neck out like that. Like your coworker mentioned, being the first one is hard, but it makes it much easier for others to follow.

        I don’t think it’s unprofessional at all to ask from accountability, transparency or fair ethics from those you work with. There is so much harm that could be avoided if more people were willing to ask for this.

      5. intldevt*

        Not a model of professionalism, perhaps…but incredibly badass. I bet every single other person at that town hall meeting was ecstatic that you spoke up.

      6. steve g*

        Good job standing up for the little guy! If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, did it make a noise? In the same vein, if you are “unprofessional” amidst a bunch of clueless people like that, does it really matter?

      7. Mallory Janis Ian*

        You’re kind of my hero right now for doing this. I don’t know if I could ever have the courage. We need more like you!

      8. Stella Maris*

        Good for you, I think. (I mean, no, not the most professional thing to do, but I think what you did was very brave – and necessary!)

      9. AdAgencyChick*

        I have so many times dreamed of being you in that situation. I say good for you, especially since you got out.

      10. Lizzie*

        “Nice girls don’t do things like that?” SERIOUSLY?

        I would’ve been fired. Immediately. I would not have been able to keep my mouth shut. Nice girls may not do that in your world, but in mine, nice CEOs (or at the very least, those operating on a baseline of I’m-not-a-dillhole) pay their employees a living wage.

        Excuse me, I have to go spit fire at something.

      11. Not So NewReader*

        I am not seeing anything unprofessional here. I am not going to cover for anyone’s lack of ethics or anyone’s lies. I think the CEO’s expectation that she could say anything she wanted to in public and you would go along with it, is unrealistic/ out of touch, at best.

        As far as, “nice girls”, 1) you an adult, not a child and 2) if she was “nice”, (turning her own word back on her) then this whole situation would not have occured.

        I think you rock.

        1. Effective Immediately*

          Yeah, really. I wonder how many of those executives got where they are by being “nice” all the time.

          I think admonishing staff to be “nice” and compliant is often a way to maintain the feudal-style corporate culture at places like this. I’m glad my company rewards movers and shakers; I would call this far from a mistake. That poster was probably something of a hero to her peers for doing that.

      12. Charlotte Collins*

        Personally, I don’t really think it’s as unprofessional as all that. The conversation was started by the CEO, and then there was Q&A. You asked valid questions based on the topic under discussion. If they didn’t want staff to ask real questions, they should not schedule a Q&A. That one’s on them.

        I’m glad you got other staff to be more willing to speak up. I think that giving honest feedback is better than just toeing the company line.

    14. the gold digger*

      1. I used to sell employee benefits. We had an account where the company carried only $5,000 of life insurance on each employee. I had talked to the controller about it a few times, saying that was not even enough to bury someone and that the standard was at least one times salary. Controller, who also became a friend, shrugged it off and I dropped it.

      A few months later, he was diagnosed with cancer. He was only 31. He died shortly thereafter, leaving a wife and a baby – and had no other life insurance than the $5,000. I still get sick to my stomach thinking about that.

      2. I was in a meeting with the executive team at my job. I was the only woman. One of the guys was talking about golfing and said something about hitting the ball into the smegma.

      I gasped and said, “The WHAT?”

      He said, “You know! The weeds in the water!”

      I said, “That is not what that word means.”

      He asked, “It’s an actual word? I just made it up because it sounds like the weeds and mess in the water.”

      I explained – in front of everyone – what the word actually meant. He was horrified and so apologetic and worried that he had offended me.

      I should have kept my mouth shut. I should have just pulled the guy aside in private later and said something like, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means. Maybe you should look it up.”

      It has been over 15 years and I still feel bad for humiliating him in front of his co-workers and boss. I should have handled that differently.

      1. Audiophile*

        1. That’s so unfortunate. I’ve never had any additional life insurance, I’ve only carried what was offered by my then-employer.

        2. It’s hilarious to me that he thought he made up a word. I don’t think you did anything wrong by telling him the way you did. I’m a full believer in not making up words on the fly.

    15. Jennifer*

      When someone on the phone started telling me how horrible I was (honestly, I wasn’t being horrible, but I wasn’t giving her what she wanted to hear), I agreed with her. She called every office she possibly could after that to complain about me.

    16. Stella Maris*

      I was pulled in by a VP on a day when my manager was away and told that I was being moved from one office to another (in another part of town) and I’d be basically doing her job there. I knew I was not remotely qualified to do that, and asked to wait for her to return to discuss it before I accepted or not. They said “There’s no discussion, you’re going or you’re fired.” So I agreed… then was crying in the bathroom when the CEO’s admin came in and found me, asked what was wrong, and I told her… and then got fired for breach of confidentiality.

      My failure was accepting all of this as normal (it was my first job out of university) and not fighting for my rights… although I was glad to be out of there!

      1. Audiophile*

        Whaaaat??!?

        They were transferring you to an office in another part of town to do your manager’s job? And then they fired you for telling the admin, what they were planning to do? That’s insane.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is where I think that younger people are taken advantage of. Crap like this stopped happening once my white hair came in.
          I am wondering if they wanted to fire you for some made up reason and when you actually agreed to go to the new office, they were stymied. They could not fire you for their made up reason.

          I was denied a promotion once because I refused to climb ladders. A coworker said that she would do it for me, because she wanted me to get the new position. They did not promote me. I said, “Okay, what’s the real reason?” The rumor mill replied, “You are married. You won’t move to West Overshoe for the money they are paying.” I was in my twenties and they could not manipulate me, so no promotion. A peer got promoted and inside of three years he made two major moves. He was single.

          1. Stella Maris*

            “I am wondering if they wanted to fire you for some made up reason and when you actually agreed to go to the new office, they were stymied. They could not fire you for their made up reason.”

            Well, I’ll say this: I no longer think it was a coincidence that the CEO’s admin found me in that bathroom….

        2. Stella Maris*

          Yep, basically insane. (I think they wanted me to do my manager’s job – which was admin admin project management supervision – in the new office, while she stayed at the old office. I was in NO WAY qualified to do that. I was ordering office supplies and filing time cards!)

          I no longer think it was a coincidence that the CEO’s admin found me in that bathroom….

    17. alter_ego*

      I fell for that scam where a company calls up and pretends to be from your existing toner supplier, saying that your due of a new order, and asks if you want them to send it to you. Then, when you receive it, they bill you an exorbitantly high price, and claim a no return policy. It was within my first couple of weeks at this internship, they mentioned, by name, the person who’d had the internship before me, and my duties and stuff weren’t really spelled out, it was just a “do what people to ask you to do” type thing. So I figured the previous intern had been handling it, and now I should. I didn’t get in trouble, but it was a HUGE issue to deal with, because I was working for a municipal government branch, and so they couldn’t just eat the few hundred dollars and chalk it up to a lesson learned, because everything is taxpayer money, so they need to account for every dime. It was a total nightmare.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Toner phoners. That was a big scam. A lot of people got drawn into it, too. The only way I knew about it was because my husband was in the field. He used to warn his customers.

      2. InterviewFreeZone*

        lol. I’m sorry but I had to laugh because this was an issue I was warned about constantly at my first job. They even had a memo they gave you on the first day that addressed the toner scammers. I’m so sorry they tricked you!

    18. Malissa*

      Speaking of this I just received somebody else’s mistake. I just got a rather large check from a contractor we haven’t had a contract with in a while. I emailed him to thank him for the bonus. :)

    19. Seal*

      Many years ago I was working at a job I absolutely hated while dealing with depression; while my job performance was fine, my attendance and professional judgement often suffered. This was compounded by the fact that I had a boss who had been made a supervisor against her wishes. While she was an otherwise nice woman, she was very hands-off and pretty much left everyone to their own devices. I had hired a part-time worker for a summer job and neglected to do the paperwork necessary for her to get paid. This was something that would have taken about 15 minutes to do, but for whatever reason I just kept putting it off and putting it off and putting it off, to the point that this poor woman missed her first paycheck. Once I finally submitted the paperwork all hell broke loose, because no one was supposed to start work unless all of their paperwork had been submitted and approved. Surprisingly, while HR absolutely blasted me – and rightly so – in an email that was copied to my boss, her boss, and her boss’s boss, nothing happened to me. My boss just told me not to do it again and rolled her eyes at what she felt was HR’s righteous indignation. Once the part-time employee got her late paycheck, she was fine too – in fact, we had a very cordial relationship while she worked for me. But I still shudder to think that my inaction messed up someone’s paycheck.

    20. Sparty07*

      9 months into my rotational program out of school and I was working on a file that someone in my role 2 rotations before me had created. As I was putting it together close to the end of our lengthy restatement I realized that the file had a bad formula and we had been missing $1 mm of additional expenses. On a Friday mid-day I sent the file with a quick description of the issue to the Canadian team who used the file as back-up when they book the journal entries. Around 4:00 I got a call from the Corporate Controller and VP of Technical Accounting asking why they suddenly had an extra $1 mm of expense they weren’t expecting. Lesson learned, when inheriting a spreadsheet, fully understand how it works and how that relates to the final output.

    21. Winter is Coming*

      I once mistakenly sent a purchase order that was meant for a vendor to the customer I had sold the product to. So, in other words, my customer could see that I bought the item for $1000 and sold it to him for $1200. Granted, most people understand that businesses do make profits, but it was still really embarrassing.

    22. Anon for this*

      One time, I was talking to a coworker who was a good friend, and we were venting about how much our jobs sucked. I said, “Ugh, this place makes me want to shoot myself.” Another coworker who had a grudge against me overheard this and went to our boss, saying that I was suicidal and threatened to kill myself and she was afraid I was going to “go postal” and hurt other employees. Without even asking me if I said that or giving me a chance to explain the context, the boss made a mandatory referral to the EAP and forced me to take a month off to go to psychological counseling, which I had to pay for out of my own pocket after I used up the company-covered sessions. It cost me thousands of dollars, all because of one stupid, thoughtless comment. It was a very expensive lesson in being careful about what you say at work.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is a company that is out of control on so many levels. One person has the power to create all this havoc? Something is very wrong there.

        1. Anon for this*

          Yes, there were a lot of screwed up things happening at that company. Their philosophy was discipline first, ask questions later (or never). Working there was a very eye-opening experience about how powerless employees are to protect themselves against injustice at work.

    23. HarryV*

      I work with enterprise routers. Ones where it can support numerous major customers within a city. I was being trained by a supposedly more seasoned engineer. We tested a script which I loaded. We were done and he told me to clean it up by removing the script. Well the engineer failed to notice that one of the scrip was a global script and not a customer specific script. It caused an outage to roughly 50-60 customers for about 30-40 min. No one got in big trouble but needless to say, I never took much advise from him again!

    24. NicoleK*

      I lost my cool and gave new coworker a piece of my mind. Had to apologize to her, fess up to my boss, and now I’m going to have to sit down with coworker and a third party to work out our differences.

    25. Anon today*

      As an intern at a software company that was growing from small to medium, I had to do a lot of establishing standards and documentation where there were none before. Part of this was establishing unit testing guidelines for the source code in our workgroup (with some help from a senior dev.)

      Well, a few months later I was working remotely, about half-time due to health issues, when the higher ups decided our workgroup should be used as an example to other areas, particularly in how thorough our testing was. My co-worker and I got invited to a meeting with our boss, on up through a few Program Managers and I think our VP, to discuss the standards that we’d written, how the group had been using them, and how they could apply across the organization. I woke up late that day and called in *halfway through*. I did my best to answer questions after I arrived and no one mentioned it, either at the time or later, but I still cringe thinking about it – I’m sure I turned what could have been an opportunity to impress into some burned bridges.

      To be fair, the main reason I had such trouble being on time then was indeed my health… but if I had had any sense of professionalism, I would have figured out a way to make it happen that one day!

  2. Jenn Po*

    Repeat posting from two weeks ago—I got some excellent responses and insights (thank you!!) and wanted to see if some people who missed it before wanted to weigh in; this will be my last time to post this so I don’t clog the Open Thread.

    Calling engineers! I’m an editor at an engineering education magazine. I’m working on an article about engineering women (especially in academia, but not necessarily limited to that field) who have been interested in entrepreneurship, but haven’t entered it for whatever reason.

    My article is inspired by this quote from an Ohio State study called Academic Women: Overlooked Entrepreneurs: “Faculty, particularly those in the basic sciences, have chosen academia over other career paths (especially industry). A strong prejudice against business thinking prevails, which produces a parallel distaste for commercialization—the ‘ick’ factor. One faculty member even described venture capital funding as ‘dirty money.’” They used a fairly small sample size and didn’t focus solely on engineers, who are more open to entrepreneurship, but still sometimes deterred.

    It does jibe with other national data I’m seeing: 95% of angel funding goes to white men, while less than 1% of funding goes to non-Asian minorities; women-owned businesses are more likely to be started with personal capital, and many of them are started with $5,000 or less (and are smaller, but more successful long-term), whereas the average start-up funding for men is $30,000. Interestingly, 41% of women-owned businesses who apply for funding get it, but they only receive 5% of the overall available funds.

    There is plenty of speculation about the traits that make for successful entrepreneurs—including the discredited “entrepreneurial gene”—but I’m wondering about this side of risk aversion that we rarely hear about: that there might be a built-in moral imperative stopping people from getting into entrepreneurship or borrowing money.

    I’m looking for people who have any experience with this at all who might be interested in speaking with me. This has proven to be a difficult article to research because I’m trying to find stories from people who exist, but aren’t often talked about: Highly intelligent, driven people who DIDN’T accomplish something because they found the standard methods of entering the practice to be inherently objectionable. I believe that AAM readers are the most thoughtful, diverse group of people on the Internet, so I thought that some of you might have experience with this–or know people who do. Please either comment or reach out to me directly: I’ll post my email in the next comment because of moderation.

    TL;DR: Journalist looking for women engineers who didn’t get into entrepreneurship because Venture Capital, Angel Investors, businesspeople are shady. Please comment or message me with your story! (Email in next comment for moderation.)

    1. girl programmer*

      My setback is personal capital, actually. You hear all the stories about ‘living off credit cards until the series A’, and I am sorry, I can’t do that. A lot of the guys my age, ie the 4-8 years out of college range, have been working in the field all the time, and probably have a lot more cushion, but I’ve taken a more circuitous path and am barely not in debt. And having been in an acquisition where things went to hell, I have seen the less than sunny side of our investors.

      However it is still fun to go to the more businessy meetups, tell angel investors I’m a programmer, and have them go, ‘they (being companies) must be all over you’. One day, it is going to be hard not to go, “yeah, and I’d quit to go at it alone if you can help me get together $50k.” Ideas don’t really matter that much.

    2. AnonAcademic*

      I am not an engineer, but I am female and have a technical skillset that could lend itself well to industry if I was so inclined. I live in Silicon Valley and work in research at a university. For me one of the biggest barriers to considering entrepreneurship is risk tolerance. From what I know about brain development and my observations teaching hundreds of college students, between lagging prefrontal development and the effects of high testosterone, I think some men in the 20-25 range are physiologically biased to have a higher risk tolerance than average. Hence the willingness to live off credit cards while praying for angel investment from rich Armenian rug dealers (that is apparently A Thing). I have a more modest risk tolerance and I am allergic to sleazy business people and especially business jargon, so it would not be a good fit.

      That said, trying to get funding in my field requires some schmoozing also (of NIH program directors, philanthropic donors, etc.) but in theory those being schmoozed have some investment in the research topic, as opposed to it being a purely financial transaction. I find entirely transactional/financial fields too soulless to tolerate.

      1. dancer*

        I think this is a good point. I definitely have a much lower risk tolerance than many of my (male) friends and coworkers. The reason I have never considered being an enterpreneur is that I think I don’t have any good ideas for a company. However, I have friends who made the plunge on what I think are completely stupid ideas. They are far more optimistic than I am and are willing to risk the financial penalties for not succeeding.

    3. GlorifiedPlumber*

      Neat! Some thoughts:

      I know of (won’t say how) a woman founded woman driven business that received many millions of dollars of Angel funding followed on by millions of investment by corporate entities. The founder (nice lady) has LOTS of experience in the entrepreneurship world and she’s very nice and I’ve generally found her pretty chatty about her experience, she might be willing to talk to you (cold call, go for it, didn’t hear it from me).

      As well, not listed there, but one of the first employees is a remarkable female mechanical engineer who is responsible for much of their current technology status.
      http://www.modumetal.com/about/history/

      Anyways, I am also curious about the 95% of angel funding going to white men, does that bother people? Angel investors… are… old rich dudes, or previous tech industry rich titans who want to play with their money specifically in the CS world. Actual engineering angel investments are very rare. I hear about stats like 95% to white dudes and I wonder who cares… CS is in such a bubble right now.

      I recall an article about how the PERFECT angel candidate was a white dude about to graduate or not quite graduated from Stanford CS who was 20 years old and looked 16 and had lots of charisma. It had nothing to do with the candidates actual ability to perform and more to do with what investors thought looked cool or looked like them vs. any actual belief system.

      Stanford CS is what… 20-25% female now? Was only 20% in 2012…

      http://www.stanforddaily.com/2012/10/19/stanford-cs-department-strives-for-gender-parity/

      I mean… small group of biased individuals (angel investors, old rich dudes or former 1990’s tech dudes) investing in a small subset of current people (baby faced Stanford/MIT/UW CS graduates) in a narrow industry (software ONLY) results in weird statistics…

      Anyways, very interesting! You may want to look at some other avenues for funding that I know very much want to find minority and female led research teams or companies. I am thinking SBIR / DARPA / DOD stuff.

      Good luck!

  3. BRR*

    Background, I’m going to be fired next Friday due to lack of attention to detail. Would it be better if I resigned even though I have nothing concrete lined up? I know I will be giving up unemployment and I already know I will not be receiving a severance (and will not be asked to sign anything either). I can definitely get by without the UI so that’s not a huge factor. If yes, I just don’t know how to go about doing it. The only language I can think of is asking if I can resign (which I know I can because it’s at-will employment).

    Usually I would say to be fired because severance and UI but my current job hunt status is that I have a final round interview next week, I completed a first round interview this week, I completed a skype interview this week (sample work and one more round left in their process), and have two phone interviews that I set up yesterday for next week. While I know none of those are guarantees (and I really understand nothing is a guarantee), that is a fair amount of activity.

    I was thinking I could say something like “I wanted to take some time between jobs” or that “I wanted to take some time to finish my thesis before starting another job (which I do have one to finish)” but am really looking for the advice of my fellow readers. I will not be able to get a stellar reference from my manager, which I think would be the only thing to help defer quitting without anything lined up.

    Thank you everybody for your support through all of this! You have all been such a great resource and and I don’t know what I would have done without you.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      From what I’ve read here, there’s a benefit to resigning if you can get something out of it–a good reference, unemployment, etc.

      I’m sorry you’re in this situation.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I think in your shoes, knowing you can survive it, I would ask whether they would accept your resignation, and also see if they’re willing to negotiate what the reference will be. It sounds like your job hunt is in a good spot.

      I’m not sure whether that’s the *right* answer, just the one I’d lean toward.

    3. Clever Name*

      Assuming you haven’t been fired before, you can answer the “have you ever been fired” question honestly if you quit. I think the “I wanted to finish my thesis” is actually a really valid reason to quit a job. I think you’ll need to be prepared to maybe discuss how the job wasn’t a great fit and you made the decision to quit to focus on writing. Or, if you get a job quickly after you quit, you probably wouldn’t even need to explain why you left with nothing lined up. People really don’t scrutinize dates in resumes terribly much, at least in my experience. I have a 2 year gap in mine when I took some time off to stay home with my son, and while I did explain it in my cover letter when I first went back to work, I didn’t even mention it when I looked for a job a few years after re-entering the workforce and nobody has asked for it. I do have a masters, so maybe they assume that’s when I went to school? Anyway, I’ve been really impressed seeing how you’re handling this. I know I personally would be freaking out, but you seem so matter-of-fact about it. Good luck on your job prospects!

      1. BRR*

        I have been fired before (and yet nobody has asked about that hole in my resume).

        I was thinking because I have a couple irons in the fire versus starting from scratch, when they do a background check I can say that I just resigned in order to get some work in on my thesis before starting the new job.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But factor in what they’ll hear if they do a reference check with your employer. That means that you’d probably want to either negotiate a good or neutral reference from the employer, and/or acknowledge that it wasn’t a great fit (in addition to the thesis thing).

          1. BRR*

            Thanks for your reply (as well as everybody else’s)! If they call HR, they will just get my position, my first date of employment, and my last date of employment. They will not disclose being on a PIP or slated for termination. I’m praying very hard that one place where I am having a final round next week does a background check soon as I would still be employed and could ask them to call HR to verify versus speaking with my current manager. The hiring manager said she got an offer the day after she interviewed (background check???).

            Now if they call my manager…. She told me that she’ll try to spin things positively but will have to be honest (obviously). I’m not sure how much I believe here though.

    4. Sunflower*

      Sorry I’m not sure what exact place on aam it was but I believe Allison has written a couple posts on the pros/cons of resigning vs being fired. Can you talk to your manager about what she thinks you should do?

      1. BRR*

        She wasn’t sure I could still resign as she has filled out the paperwork to be fired. I currently am waiting for HR’s response.

    5. Karowen*

      Regarding unemployment: I don’t remember where you are, but in SC at least – and I’m assuming in all of the US – if you get fired and you apply for unemployment, your former workplace can fight it. Not all of them do, but I wouldn’t bank on unemployment so I wouldn’t put it as a pro in the fired column. Like others said, it tends to sound better if you can say you resigned and have a good reason for it.

      Sorry you’re going through it!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In most states, though, you’ll still get unemployment if you were fired for just not being good at your job. They’re more likely to deny it if you were fired for rules violation, absenteeism, malfeasance, or something else very black and white — but “Jane’s work quality wasn’t what we needed” usually doesn’t cut it.

      2. BRR*

        Ugh I wish I put this in the original post. They have already said they would not contest UI and there is no severance so I would not be giving anything up in that regard. It would be me likely giving up UI vs. being able to explain why I left (with a semi-good reason) instead of saying I was just fired during a background check.

    6. Lisa*

      Dont resign. If your job prospects don’t work out, you can file for unemployment in most states even if you were bad at your job. They will fight unemployment if you quit. You have no idea how long you may be out of work for, and why blow through your savings for answering (no, i’ve never been fired before) on some future application system that no one reads anyway cause resumes matter more.

      1. Alma*

        Having been let go (it is ugly even to type) after a really funky PIP (both the VP and Team Mgr were interviewing for outside jobs, so missed touch-base meetings I had requested, and stage 3 was inaccurate and less than half the time it was supposed to be = I had observed all the signs of a merger and was naive enough to think I would be spared) I filed for UI and it was contested. UI delayed payment of benefits 3 mos – and legal aide told me that if I took it to arbitration (in my very red, very severely “let’s cut benefits” state anyway) it was possible that the hearing officer could DENY me UI, and not just have two choices: decide in my favor, or decide in the employer’s favor. Because I couldn’t afford not to get benefits, I didn’t pursue a hearing.

        That was my biggest mistake – seeing the signs of a merger, and staying on. It got to the point that 40 hrs wasn’t enough time to do the travel required between sites and to clients, do the paperwork, and to attend mandatory meetings. Oh, and the time with the clients, too. Ha ha ha! I was set up in a hugely painful way.

    7. JHS*

      Definitely resign! Then you can spin the resignation in some other way, as you mention. You also don’t have to say you’ve been fired, if it’s asked.

      1. JHS*

        As a follow up re: the unemployment aspect. I can’t speak for your state, but in my state, if you resign under threat of termination (as here) unemployment views it as constructive termination meaning you still qualify for unemployment. If you just resign out of the blue for no reason, that would be a “voluntary resignation” which generally gets you denied unemployment–not your case here. With regard to terminations, in my state you are denied unemployment if you are terminated due to willful misconduct and “attention to detail” does not qualify so you would still be eligible for unemployment.

        Please do yourself a favor and call the unemployment office in your state and see if there is an advocate who can walk you through how this works in your state.

        1. Stephanie*

          My former state (VA) accepted constructive discharge (i.e., quitting before you were or instead of being fired) as a valid reason for UI. You may be denied initially and then have to contest it. I would just collect all your documents (like the PIP and maybe the final thing from HR saying they were firing you) in case you have to do a hearing.

        2. Liane*

          These people can be great. One of the staffers in my state was so helpful, that I called her back later to thank her.
          And good luck!

    8. Mimmy*

      I’ve been following your situation, and just wanted to wish you the best. I’m sorry this job didn’t work out, but I hope the next one–whatever it may be–is a better fit.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Me, three! Borrowing from Simon and Garfunkel again, “they say the darkest night, there’s a light beyond”. Sometimes we have to remove ourselves entirely from one situation before the next new and better situaton reveals itself. Not fair, but it can go this way.

      1. F.*

        BRR, I have nothing to add as far as advice, but I have also been following your story and want to add that you will come out of this just fine. I know every time I’ve had to leave a job, I’ve always found something even better, and I imagine you will, too. Best wishes in your job search!

        1. BRR*

          Thank you :). I have so many things active right now it’s really a bit overwhelming (now if only they had started months ago).

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve been following, too, and I just want to offer my sympathies and encouragement. So much of job success is about fit, and I can attest to that from recent personal experience. I left a job that I was great at, where [mostly] everyone loved me, to a job where I couldn’t seem to do anything right. I left that job after only eight months, and I’m in a job in another university department. Being back on campus has really driven home to me how very suited my personality and work style were to the culture and expectations of the other department, even though both departments are units of the same university. This department is very stickler-ish and regimented, whereas the other one was more, “Let’s see how far we can push the boundaries of the rules without actually breaking any.”

        TL;DR — I wish you the best in finding that job where your natural personality and work-style inclinations are a simple and easy fit!

      3. TootsNYC*

        I also want to say–good luck!

        This is such a tough time, I would imagine. There will be brighter days–just hold on.

        Well, keep swimming, but it seems that you’re doing that.

        Also, I wanted to point out: if your manager says she’ll try to put a positive spin on it, that means something good about you–it means she knows you tried, and that there isn’t ill will.

    9. Loquelic Iteritas*

      Just a thought: could you talk to your current employer and make a deal like: you’ll resign now if they won’t contest your request for UI (if indeed you find yourself needing to make such a request)? Admittedly this might require you being more open than you’d like to be about your job-search.

      Or, perhaps you could negotiate for a good reference?

      Otherwise – it’s a gamble until you’ve actually got a job offer in-hand. But life is full of risk, and you don’t sound like you’re being foolish here. You asked about how to even bring this up with your employer – I think a short resignation letter is all that is needed. But if I were you, I think I’d try to see if I could negotiate something (which would perhaps be a good way to start discussion on the topic).

      Good luck on this. This is just me, but “lack of attention to detail”? I used to get ding’ed for that on the standardized Iowa Basics tests I had to take back in grade school. I’d score 99% percentile on everything else but my inability to fill out forms quickly and accurately would drag my overall score down. I’ll tell you what one of my counselors told me, back then: “this is bullshit, don’t worry about it.”

      1. BRR*

        I know for sure I’m being fired and my last day will be in one week and they know I’m job hunting. They have also said they will not contest UI. My thought is I can resign/ have a semi-good excuse as to why, I’m not starting my search from scratch, and UI isn’t that much. So in exchange for being able to say I resigned, I just wave UI.

        I told a very trusted coworker and his response was “this is f!*@#$@ BS.”

        1. Wilton Businessman*

          That is not hard to explain. I was let go because they found out I was job hunting. As long as it’s the truth, I wouldn’t blink twice at that as an employer.

          1. BRR*

            No, I’m looking because I’m going to be fired. At my 60 day check in it was decided that my PIP wasn’t going to end successfully.

    10. Wilton Businessman*

      I would give them resignation with 1 month notice. If they take it, you’ve got one more month of $$. If they still fire you, you collect unemployment.

      Unemployment insurance is a benefit to you that your employer has paid for. Use it. Even if you sock it away for a rainy day, take it.

  4. Exit Strategy*

    I’ll try to keep this long story short. I’m an administrative employee for a government department that is working to find new owners for vacant properties and eliminate the blight in the city. Our department was set up by the mayor five years ago. This is my first full-time job, been working here a year and a half. I just started firing up my search for a new job because I really dislike working here.

    Well the mayor of our city recently announced that they’re not running for re-election next year. As our dept was set up by the mayor directly, there’s a chance that the new mayor could fold up our dept. There’s no way of knowing how likely that possibility is but it’s definitely there, though even if it was the first thing the new mayor did in office, it wouldn’t happen until January 2017 at the earliest.

    As an admin worker, my contract basically says that I wouldn’t lose my job; I’d just be transfered to a new dept. But even without all this going on, I’ve already been working on moving onto the next job.

    My question is this: given that I don’t have a long track-record to my name, being first full-time job, should I exaggerate the potential of my department closing and use that as my reason for leaving or should I stick with what’s the 100% truth, that I’m looking for new opportunities and going in a different direction from my job? To me, saying that my dept might be gone and I’m looking to get out before that happens sounds better than the vauge but true ‘wanting to do something different’ reasoning.

    Thoughts? Thanks!

    1. J.B.*

      Why would it be an exaggeration? Just say honestly that you have learned x and that you now want to move on, you do see some uncertainty with the continued future of the program. Perfectly reasonable.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I’ve left contracting jobs because it wasn’t certain if the contract would be renewed. I think companies understand that you’d be proactive in the face of uncertainty without needing to exaggerate.

    3. TCO*

      I think wanting to move on after 1.5 years in your first “real” job is entirely acceptable in many sectors. Concerns about your job ending/changing in the future are a good supplement, but it’s fine to just explain that you’re looking for a better fit. But you need to be able to explain a little more clearly what you’re looking for in a new job, not just “wanting to do something different.” Will you be able to clearly and positively state what you want, such as, “I’ve found that my strengths and interest are in X, while my current role involves 80% Y?”

    4. TotesMaGoats*

      I’m entirely sure we are in the same city. I would stick with looking for new opportunities. If you are looking locally everyone is going to know why you are looking.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      If you are looking at other government jobs, people in that arena are very well acquinted with what a change in leadership means.

      Echoing Totes here, if you apply for local jobs you will not have to explain much, they will know why you are there. Anyone locally who tries to make you squrim through an interview probably is not someone you want to work for anyway.

    6. TootsNYC*

      You don’t need to apologize for wanting a new job after a year and a half in your FIRST position.

      You just want a new job–more responsibilities, more money, different direction, whatever.

      It’s your first job–nobody is really expecting you to stay for a really long time. And a year is basic, so a year and a half is fine. You won’t come across as flightly or irresponsible.

  5. katamia*

    I posted last week about how I was having trouble adjusting to my new job, and things have gotten worse. I’m still miserable, but I’m sensing performance issues on the horizon. I’m zoning out/getting distracted almost constantly (I probably spent 3 hours total unintentionally staring at the wall today), and unless I can find a way to fix this I’m either going to be missing deadlines or turning in seriously subpar work to make said deadlines very soon. (I’m still in the probation period, and they gradually ramp up the daily workload, so time hasn’t been a problem until this week. And I’m still not doing a full load every day, so there are going to be more increases. *sigh*)

    I meet with my trainer once a week and I’ll bring this up with him too, but I don’t think he has good time management skills (he stays very late every day when most people don’t). And, actually, mine are quite good when I have full control over my schedule–I managed much higher workloads without a problem when I was freelancing and didn’t have a “traditional” work day. But at this job I just. keep. getting. distracted.

    I was diagnosed with ADD a few months ago and I do have medication that helps a bit, but it’s illegal here (it was prescribed in the US, where it’s not illegal, but I moved to another country where it is, and tbh I’m not sure how I got it through customs), so it’s not a long-term solution even though I still have a few pills left. I’m trying to get up and walk around more, which also helps a little bit, but it’s just not enough (and also I need to be spending time working, not wandering). What can I do to focus better?

    1. afiendishthingy*

      That sucks ADHD meds aren’t legal where you are! I started going to DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) a couple months ago mainly to help manage my chronic anxiety, but I’m also starting to learn to apply it at work to deal with the ADHD. It’s still a struggle, but if I use the mindfulness skills to focus on one task at a time, and acknowledge the other stuff flying through my head (including all the other tasks that are undone) as distractions, it helps me a bit. I break things down into discrete subtasks whenever possible and don’t have my entire to-do list visible while I try to focus on one item. Doing my best to get a good night’s sleep and eat frequent small meals and snacks helps too. I try to figure out what days and times I am best able to focus and plan on doing the stuff that requires the most concentration then, and the mindless stuff at the worst times. It’s still hard. Good luck!

      1. katamia*

        This job is basically a “one task at a time” job, unfortunately. I’ve always done better when I could switch between two or three tasks whenever I was feeling distracted so at least it was productive distraction. But in this job there’s really nowhere productive for that distraction to go, if that makes sense.

      2. Lily Puddle*

        (1) I love your handle/sign-in/posting name/whatever it’s called. I assume you are referencing “It’s a thingy! A fiendish thingy!”

        (2) At first glance, I thought your comment said you were going to diabolical behavioral therapy. You had my attention.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Could you see a doctor where you are and find out if you have options for treating ADD that will be legal where you are?

    3. pieces of flair*

      There are lots of different kinds of ADHD meds, some of which are not stimulants. Have you looked into other options?

      Other than getting up frequently, does it help if you drink lots of coffee or chew gum/suck on mints? Is there something about the nature of the work itself that makes you zone out or do you think it’s mostly neurological?

      1. katamia*

        In the US, I drank Mountain Dew (don’t like coffee), but they don’t sell that here either.

        I think it’s the environment and hours more than anything else, honestly. If I were freelancing and getting the same amount of work but it didn’t matter what time of day I did it, I wouldn’t be having so much trouble. I had much heavier workloads when I was freelancing and could focus much better than I am now. I’m a hardcore night person (used to go to bed between 5am and 6am normally), so I’ve had to switch my whole sleep schedule too. I don’t think it’s the work, just the circumstances in which the work needs to take place, if that makes sense.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Is 5-hour Energy available where you are? That has become the standby for adults with ADHD who can’t get their medicine for whatever reason.

          1. Stephanie*

            5-Hour energy is essentially a mega dose of B-complex (specifically B-12). You can also just take that. Be careful, as too much can affect your sleep.

        2. aliascelli*

          Yikes, Mt Dew is how I survive too. :)

          One thing that works for me is to schedule time in for a short, short burst of exercise – we have a gym in the building so it’s convenient, but something like a walk around the block if available would work as well. I concentrate much better when I’ve been moving for a few minutes.

      1. A Jane*

        There are lots of legal stimulant ADD/ADHD meds in the UK (my 8 year old daughter is diagnosed and takes these).

      2. katamia*

        Internet research is giving me very unclear responses on whether they’re all illegal or not. I think ADD is thought of primarily as a “kid thing” here, so while I’m open to going to a doctor (although I don’t know how easy it is to get an appointment), I don’t know how easy it’ll be to get anything prescribed if it does turn out that some are legal.

        1. Nashira*

          Could your diagnosing doctor from the US provide a formal letter confirming your diagnosis? I know the doc you may see in $country might not speak English, but if they do, this could help you be taken seriously and get you hooked up with legal tx.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Your doc in America might be able to use professional organizations to locate a useful doc in your country. There are links inside fields…

    4. Jessica*

      Yikes, that really sucks. I’ve always had a problem with focusing on my work too. What helps me is listening to longer podcasts at a low volume for background noise. I get my multitasking/distraction fix, but they’re enough in the background that I’m still getting work done. And you could give the Pomodoro time management technique a try too. I like it because I have a problem starting, but if I say to myself ‘just do five minutes of work’, that five minutes often turns into 45+ minutes. Outside of work, are you exercising/eating a balanced diet/getting good sleep? If not, that might be something to focus on too.

      1. katamia*

        I listen to music, which also helps (even made a YouTube playlist for work, lol). I’ll try Pomodoro and see how it works, although starting is less of an issue for me–I run out of steam very quickly. I like to say I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner, and this job is heavily marathon-oriented.

        My health outside of work is not great, tbh. This is my first time working a traditional work day in years after freelancing and under/unemployment, and it’s just exhausting to be stuck in the same place for hours on end. (“The same place” being the whole office, not my seat–I don’t have to answer the phone or anything, so I can get up basically whenever I want.) I don’t even have the energy to exercise on weekends even though I want to and know I’ll feel better if I do. I think it’s just taking all my weekly energy to try to focus, and I’m not even doing well with that.

        1. BRR*

          As a fellow ADD’r you might try exercising before work. I know that’s tough but it might help particularly if it’s before.

          1. Ad Astra*

            I have ADHD as well and I second the exercising before work. It can be really difficult to get yourself out of bed and off to the gym (or wherever), but it will make a big difference.

            Try sleeping in your gym clothes, filling your water bottle the night before, and laying out your shoes, socks, iPod, keys, etc. so you don’t waste time tracking that stuff down in the morning.

        2. Wanna-Alp*

          You could experiment with sounds as well as music.

          One track I find very helpful with focus is one of thunderstorm noises; another is a rainforest noise (you can find such tracks on YouTube).

    5. Vorthys*

      I would never think to give medical advice, but my experience suggests that it is worthwhile to investigate alternatives to stimulants. I have ADHD and I’ve been able to get by with wellbutrin (a nonstimulant that may or may not be banned in your country) , but it’s a serious conversation to have with a doctor to see if it might work for you. The other things that help me are strict, intensive exercise early in the day and immediate documentation of new information. The more I hold to routine, the easier it is to keep my symptoms under control.

      Actually, even on stimulants, those last things are pretty important to me.

      1. katamia*

        I’m really leery of antidepressants because I know so many people who have had horrible side effects while on them (and I’ve had horrible side effects taking extremely mild medications that almost no one has problems with, so I’m sure I’d get some doozies if I actually went on an antidepressant–I have depression too, so it’s something I’ve looked into before).

        I’ll try the exercise thing and see if that helps, although I’m awful in the morning so I hope I can actually make myself get out of bed earlier. Do you find that there’s a minimum amount of exercise you need to do for it to “work”?

        1. Cass*

          For my case, I find the amount of exercise needed to get the effect is really breaking a sweat. (I alternate walking and running on a treadmill.) Hardly scientific though, I just know when I kind of half-ass it walking and slowly jogging it doesn’t do as much.

          1. Bea W*

            Same – I really need to break a sweat, and it has to be pretty vigorous for probably a good 30 minutes, definitely not less than 20. If I can be active for upwards of an hour, that’s idea, but it doesn’t last a whole day, just a few hours.

        2. Vorthys*

          Wellbutrin isn’t a typical antidepressant and I suggest talking to a professional about its mechanism if you do get curious, but I totally respect your feelings on the matter.

          I do an intensive thirty minutes every day at the same exact time, and do all of my most difficult work shortly after. If I can sneak in exercise at lunch, even better. The trick there is getting those crucial neurotransmitters out in force.

          Bonus: once you’ve forced this long enough, the sleep habits thing solves itself. On the other hand, it is an every day thing. Taking weekends off will make it very hard to develop the habits, though don’t make missing a day discourage you.

          I am both a naturally slothful and late sleeping person, so I get how hard it is. I think it’s worth trying for at least a month before making a decision whether it actually is helping or not.

          1. afiendishthingy*

            I was briefly prescribed wellbutrin to help combat sexual side effects of celexa. Didn’t help with my concentration or the celexa side effects, and made me more anxious to boot. But it’s crazy how everyone responds to psychopharmaceuticals differently.

            Sleep, though – I’m not generally a good sleeper but when I am manage to be consistent with it it makes a HUGE difference in my focus.

        3. Keri*

          I have ADHD as well. I’m currently only on stimulants, but for a while was doing well on a combo of stimulants and a non-stimulant ADHD drug called Straterra. That might be worth asking your doc about. Here in the US, I believe it is the only ADHD drug that is approved for adults. It’s expensive and I know quite a few people dislike it, but once I gave it a chance it I found it to be helpful and actually miss it now that my insurance will no longer pay for it.
          Good luck to you!

        4. Carrie...*

          I’m going to be honest… you are making excuses. You are not healthy. You are going down the road of losing your job. You need to take some serious steps.

          You admit you have depression as well as ADHD, and have waited until you have almost run out of ADHD meds with no plan.

          You can do this. Time for treatment. BTW – Many people worry themselves into side effects when it comes to meds, but these days a good psychiatrist can find something that can work for you. Start low (dose) and increase slow. There are options. You just need to decide.

          Stop making excuses.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I am not so sure what OP is saying are excuses. She has a couple things going on at the same time and she seems to be exercising caution. Additionally, she is a country that is not her home country. I know that would make me think very carefully about how to proceed.

        5. Mreasy*

          Hi! I have depression/anxiety/ADHD & due to prior bad experience with meds, hesitated for years before considering them again (after 15 years without). But things had gotten so much worse than I had realized, & when I finally relented & went back to medication, I found that the available drugs were less problematic than those in the past. Not to try to shill for Big Pharma, but you can always stop taking something if you have trouble. Even if certain chemicals in meds may have deleterious effects on your body (my fear for years), my acupuncturist put it this way: stress definitely does. Panic, anxiety, & depressive episodes all flood your brain with chemicals that science knows do harm in large doses over time. To me, I finally realized it was worth the risk of trying something unknown. I still have issues, but things have improved so much that I can only wish I’d done it sooner. It could be worth just trying something for the first couple months intro period, particularly given you have a known condition you’re unable to legally treat. Good luck.

    6. misspiggy*

      I wonder whether you could split some of your ‘one task at a time’ work into ‘three parallel tasks at once’?

      If your tasks won’t break down into subtasks in that way, could you give yourself competing non-work tasks during the same time period, so you could cycle through them along with your work task? Like read x useful thing online, do work task, plan recipe for tonight, work task, work on plan to get more appropriate job… Even if it sounds like you could be doing less work, if it stops you drifting off it may mean that you actually get more work done.

    7. Koko*

      I am a fellow ADHD sufferer who no longer has access to medication. Focus is like a muscle – you can train your ability to focus and make it stronger, even without medication. Pardon the length, but here are my tips!

      #1 Break Down Your Goals: Sometimes I just look at my to-do list and sort of freeze up at how big/complicated some of the tasks feel and I instinctively pull up my browser and start procrastinating because I’m overwhelmed. It’s also worth noting that it took me a while to figure out that what’s I was doing/why I was doing it. The emotional reaction was happening so quickly that I wasn’t even consciously aware until another ADD sufferer mentioned it and I realized it was true for me too. And I also realized that I didn’t get that urge to procrastinate when I had lots of quick, 5-minute small tasks on my list to accomplish. Once I understood that, I realized that by subdividing a project into smaller, quicker tasks, it makes it easier to tackle. So for each project, break it down into its smallest components – to use a really simple example, if your task is to mail a book you would break it down to: 1) Get book from supply closet. 2) Write letter to enclose with book. 3) Print letter. 4) Put book and letter into box. 5) Print postage. 6) Afix postage to box. 7) Schedule carrier pickup online. 8) Carry package to reception for pickup.

      #2 Map Out Your Goals: My to-do list is broken down by day of the week going into the future about 7 (calendar) days (5 business days). So for what I need to get done in the next week, I map out what tasks I’m going to get done each day to stay on track. This also has the advantage of helping you realize sooner if you have unrealistic deadlines, when you realize that what you’ve planned to do on Wednesday is way more than you can realistically do in one day, especially when you have 3 hours’ worth of meetings that day. In addition to this, each morning you should look at your list for the day and sub-divide it further, so you know what you have to have done by lunch to stay on track for the day. Maybe even break the day into three parts if that’s easier. The purpose of this is so that you don’t slack off all morning and then become panic-stricken at 3pm when you realize you’ll never get everything done in the next 2 hours, and end up procrastinating as a reflexive response to the panic.

      #3 Reduce or Eliminate Distractions: This may be harder for you since you are ADD rather than ADHD and you mention that you’re staring at a wall when you’re distracted, not that you’re surfing or doing other things instead. But there are browser apps like StayFocusd that you can use to limit your non-work browsing. You can either block sites entirely or set a daily limit on how many minutes you can be on the site per day (I do this for AAM!).

      #4 Chunking Tasks: ADD/ADHD sufferers famously have trouble with task-switching, so the more you can chunk your tasks to work in uninterrupted blocks on one thing at a time, the better. Incoming email can be a BIG distraction, even though it’s ostensibly work-related. I found it helpful to disable the little preview pop-up that Outlook presents whenever a new email comes in, and only check my email about once per hour and spend a few minutes processing them in blocks, rather than constantly interrupting what I’m doing to respond to email and then losing time on task-switching If that’s something you can realistically do in your role, I’d recommend it, as task-switching is something that ADD/ADHD sufferers also famously have trouble with. (There is also a hack-y way to set up Outlook so that only messages marked urgent/high-priority will trigger the preview pop-up, if you are worried about missing time-sensitive messages and you can rely on your colleagues to use the priority flag appropriately. Link will follow in a reply to this comment.)

      Finally, if you are in a culture with a lot of meetings, it helps to reserve at least a 1-hour block on your calendar every day where you are marked as Busy even though you don’t have any meetings, to preserve some time every day to work uninterrupted. (Ideally it’d be 2-3 hours but in a lot of jobs you just don’t have that luxury.)

      1. katamia*

        Thanks, this is useful! It’s not something I knew a lot about before I was diagnosed, so I’m still trying to figure out how to put the vague stuff I know into actionable steps. This helps, both for this job and for possible future jobs.

        We have no meetings here, basically. I meet once a week with my trainer for half an hour and some of the senior people who do what I do (and my trainer has been making noises about me joining that senior group sooner rather than later, although we’ll see if he still says that after this crappy week–I already had to let a few details slide so I could turn them in on time, although they weren’t quite to the “officially substandard” level, just to the “below the standard to which I hold myself” level) have one hour-long meeting a week, but other than that, nothing. I’m really glad about that, but having all that uninterrupted time to work kinda makes me feel worse about struggling because I can’t blame meetings or chatty coworkers or anything. It’s all just me not doing what I need to be doing.

        We use Gmail instead of Outlook, but I found it really helpful to just close my email and only check it a few times–in the morning, before and after lunch, and near the end of the day. (The only emails I get that have any time limit at all are “If you don’t reply within 18 hours, this project might go to someone else,” so I definitely check it often enough to catch those.)

    8. Mike C.*

      Is there someone you can talk to at work about receiving some special accommodations to help? An EAP of sorts perhaps? Or is ADD just completely dismissed in this particular country?

    9. AnonAcademic*

      I highly recommend trying the Pomodoro Technique to reduce distraction. On a good day I actually enjoy even menial tasks because pomodoro creates time pressure (you work in 20-30 min blocks, then take a 5 min break, and after 4 cycles of this you take a longer break). I find myself pushing to see how much I can get done in one 20-25 minute pomodoro. Using a timer and tracking tasks also helps quantify distractions and therefore reduced them.

  6. Anoning it up*

    I posted this awhile but was hoping for more responses…

    I had an awful meeting with my managers recently where they aired some expected, but not really accurate, concerns about my work. None of it was about my work product, but it was mostly about how much I was working. Basically, “You do good work but you’re not doing enough of it. Please work more.” The thing is, I’ve been killing myself recently and really can’t fit in any more work. I’m exempt, don’t get overtime, but I’m routinely working 70+ hour weeks. I just can’t do more without compromising my health, safety, and happiness. I’m in a business where over-work is the norm, but even by the high standard for over-work of my industry, I’m already doing quite a lot.

    Regardless, they apparently expect more, and told me so pretty clearly. They also said “We’re not going to fire you, but you should start looking for another job.” Here is my question: I’ve been looking. For a while. Nothing has bit yet. I’m obviously going to ramp up my search, but at what point do I quit this gig without something else lined up? in the meantime, do I go on doing what I’m doing? Do I try to kill myself to get more work done to make them happy? I have no idea. Please help! They keep asking me to work more and more (weekends and holidays) while at the same time treating me like I have no future here, and its is infuriating. I just want to quit without anything else lined up right now, just so I can get some time off. What should I do?

    1. J.B.*

      I see no downside to you in cutting back to a more reasonable schedule. They’ve said already they are unhappy, so what? They’ll be more unhappy? I’m not sure I’d quit outright but if you cut back hours and they do fire you you can say in interviews that the workload was such that you can’t get done in 70 hour weeks. Also are others struggling in this way? Are there worker bees who navigate this successfully that can give you advice?

      1. Anoning it up*

        There are other people who they are “happy” with their hours (we bill by the hour) but I’m not sure whats happening with those people. I don’t know if they’re just willing to not have any personal life at all, or if they’re billing unethically, or what. I promise that I am at or above the industry standard, I am no slacker – but the things my coworkers appear to be doing which makes my bosses happy seems super-human. There are other people struggling, too. I know of a bunch of other people looking for other jobs right now for the same/similar reasons, but I’m the only one they’re actively trying to force out, I think.

        1. Cat*

          I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of billable hours are falsified. I work somewhere where people are obsessive about not overstating billable hours. The hours we are in the office vs. the hours people at places where they routinely bill insane amounts of billable hours are in the office are not enough account for the difference in billables.

          I mean, I don’t think that people are blatant about falsifying billable hours. Nor do I think that it’s even particularly conscious much of the time. I just think the pressure builds and your standards for accurate time keeping get lower and lower, tasks are stretched out longer and longer, until ultimately, a lot of the hours written down are kind of fictional.

          I think that if you work somewhere where that’s going on, it might account for the difference and might be a good reason to get out.

          1. afiendishthingy*

            Yikes… this rings pretty true for me. In my role we hear a lot of “We need to bill more hours” and also a lot of “Don’t bill for this task or this task or this task, that’s fraud, you still have to complete these tasks though”. My billable hours are ALWAYS low, and while some of that is due to poor time management on my part, a lot of it is just that I HAVE to do a lot of nonbillable stuff. I’ve only gotten one “Let’s try to bring this up a bit” email months ago and I have, although still not to the target, and I’m fairly confident my job is not in danger. Still, almost every staff meeting has an announcement on the theme of either “bill more hours” or “I’ve noticed people billing for nonbillable stuff, please stop”. So I feel the pressure and yes, my standards for accurate time on actual billable activities are… looser than they were. It sucks.

        2. misspiggy*

          So is it that they want you to do more billable work? In which case why wouldn’t they be training you in how to make your work more billable… If they are simply jerks who think your face doesn’t fit and want you out of there, why give them the satisfaction of leaving before you have something else lined up? Even if that carries a risk of firing, I’d have thought most sane employers wouldn’t be put off by someone fired for not working 70+hour weeks. Cutting back your hours to allow you to do some proper job searching, and leaving when you get something else, would make sense to me.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      70+ hour weeks? That’s horrible. I’m so sorry. I hope you find something soon. I can’t believe they have the nerve to say you should be working more.

      1. J*

        Honestly it sounds like the output isn’t enough, and that OP takes too much time to do it. It is possible to work very hard and very long hours and not get enough done.

        1. Melissa*

          That’s true, but it’s also possible for employers to have impossibly high standards of what can be accomplished in X hours.

    3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Is it possible that they aren’t asking you to work more hours, but rather asking you to accomplish more? I mean 70 hours is nuts. I think 55 is nuts. But I wonder if they are expecting you to produce more than you are within that time. If you think there’s a window here, you might try asking some follow-up questions to see if there are things they expect you to do that you aren’t doing. That is, if you decide to stick around while you look.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I’m wondering if they want to feel like you’re working more rather than wanting you to work more hours. Do the people they’re happy with spend more time talking about how busy they are?

        1. Anoning it up*

          Yes, they spend a lot of time talking about how busy they are. I tried to dig into what I could do to make them happy, but their answer was just “work until the work is done, and then we will give you more work, and then work until that is done, too.” I confess things have occasionally slipped deadline wise, but I think that is more to do with the volume of work I’m being asked to do and my inability to juggle it all when I’m exhausted. When I started talking about ways that I could maybe communicate my workload better and adjust priorities so that we’re all on the same page, etc, they just said “no. work until it is all done.”

          1. RVA Cat*

            Are the people they are happy with maybe lowering their standards on what constitutes “done”? If they’re able to do that much more work, it could be very much a quality vs. quantity thing. Of course, if you do that I’m guessing then they’ll jump on you about errors….

    4. JHS*

      I’m really sorry about your situation, but it sounds like you’ve missed the boat here and I’m guessing you either work in big law (like me) or in accounting. They already told you to look for another job. In a law firm that means it’s over. There is nothing you can do at this point except do what they already told you to do–find someplace else. They are being nice to you by letting you continue to earn a paycheck until you find something, so I would focus on that. Working more isn’t going to help you here. This is a very common way at a big law firm to nicely fire someone and allow them to preserve their reputation.

      1. JHS*

        Also to clarify for the other commenters here. If OP works in a law firm, management is not saying he needs to work MORE, but likely is saying he is not working efficiently. Efficiency is pretty much the most important thing that matters at a law firm, which is how fast you can produce the work required of you. I read it as they are saying that other people are accomplishing more in the same time that he is billing. For instance, if you assign someone a memorandum, there is an expectation of how long it should take based on the subject matter, how much research is required, etc. So, let’s say that it may OP is assigned a memo that is supposed to take between 5-10 hours, but OP takes 25 hours and produces an excellent product. OP is working hard and giving a good product, but you can’t bill the client for the 25 hours, so in essence, even though OP is working really hard and giving a good product, he is wasting 15 hours. As a lawyer, you can’t sustain that loss in hours. If that happens continually, you will just not make it in a law firm. It sounds like OP is misinterpreting the need to PRODUCE more for actually needing to work additional hours, which may not be the case.

        1. Anoning it up*

          You’re right that its law, but its not biglaw (we’re boutique). While efficiency might be part of it, the message definitely was hours – people are billing more hours than me and that makes me look not dedicated. Most of our cases are contingency, so its not like they’re discounting my hours to the client. I might be able to be more efficient (who can’t?), but what they told me is that they think I’m a 9-5er and that I’m not willing to put in the time required. Which is nuts given my billing for this year, I assure you.

          1. JHS*

            Well then they sound like they just suck! I agree we could all be more efficient and there’s always someone billing more. Are you meeting your target?

            1. Anoning it up*

              We don’t have an official target, but when I started I was told the unofficial goal was 1850. I’m on track for 2100 at the moment, but other people are clearly billing more than 2100 and that’s what I’m being compared against. When I asked “if not 2100, what should I shoot for?” I just got a blank stare and the answer was a vague “more.”

              1. JHS*

                Jesus that is such crap. Other people are definitely fudging their hours due to unreasonable expectations of them, making it look worse that you aren’t doing that and making a vicious cycle. I bet they are just running their timers from the minute they get in until the minute they go home. This firm sounds toxic and they are doing you a favor by telling you to find something else. I’m really sorry.

                1. JHS*

                  I want to make clear for non-lawyers that even for white shoe firms on Wall Street, 2100 hours is at the very least extremely respectable if not considered a lot. The only people billing 2500 hours are those who have their timers on ALL the time or if you are billing in several time zones (yes that’s a thing–you can bill 30 hours a day that way).

                2. RVA Cat*

                  The vicious cycle re: fudging hours kind of reminds of doping in sports….

                  I wonder how they would react if someone billed more than 2,232 hours per quarter? (24 x 31 x 3)

                3. Cat*

                  Yeah, I always think it’s worth noting in these conversations that back in the ’50s, the ABA said that a reasonable billing target for lawyers was 1,300 a year, which assumed a 5-day work week and a half day on Saturdays. It would leave time for professional development, service, and mentoring other lawyers.

                  There aren’t any more hours in the day now, and there are lawyers billing 2,800 a year at some firms. That’s . . . unlikely to result from meticulous time keeping practices, in my opinion. There’re those odd people who don’t need much sleep and there are people working themselves into the ground but by and large . . . .

                4. Melissa*

                  @JHS: Yeah, I’m not in law, but I just divided 2100 by 50 weeks and got 42. So that’s 42 hours a week of only billable stuff, not including the non-billable stuff, which I’m assuming could take an additional 20-30 hours a week. That sounds insane enough already to sustain on a regular basis; if other are routinely billing above that there has got to be some fudging going on.

              2. Alma*

                Would you be able to “shadow” for one day someone who Is Worthy in the practice’s estimation? Ask questions, look for techniques, etc. It is worth asking for.

        2. Anoning it up*

          Oh and I’m certainly rushing to get out, that message is loud and clear to me. I just don’t know how to act in the meantime :-/

          1. JHS*

            From what I’ve seen, people generally don’t focus on anything but the job search and helping out on other stuff where they can. I would definitely just focus on getting a new job ASAP. Have you reached out to any recruiters?

            1. Anoning it up*

              I have, but they don’t call me back! I have pretty good credentials, I think, but I’m in a really competitive market geographically and the legal market is… well you know, I’m sure. If you know of someone good, I’d love to touch base! I’m not sure how to stay anonymous and get in touch though.

              The problem with checking out and focusing on my job hunt is that they keep assigning me important things. It is so frustrating, because I can’t bail on these projects or my clients will suffer, so while I’m doing the bare minimum at the moment to let me keep my integrity and represent my clients, my bare minimum is still over 60 hrs/week and I’m just too exhausted to job hunt and burnt out and stuff to be a real human.

                1. Anoning it up*

                  I fear it would be too identifying to say too much but my focus area is similar to yours. If you want I just made this gmail address – anoning61 AT gmail . com (without all the spaces and using the sign, etc) and maybe we can touch base?

                2. JHS*

                  Understood and no worries at all. Depending on what year you are, you could definitely circle back to your law school’s career services department. I don’t know if you ever found them helpful, but mine have been helpful in the past. Also, do you have any law school professors or earlier career mentors (e.g. judges from a clerkship?) who you can turn to for advice or who can network on your behalf? Is there anyone in the firm that you trust who can give you advice–maybe one nice partner? What about people you may have been a summer associate for or who you interned with? I would reach out to literally everyone you know who might be able to help you in this situation and come up with an official story for why you’re leaving. Maybe you say you want to switch to management-side work or you want to change areas of the law or try something new or go in house or get a government position?

                  I think it is hard if you want to stay plaintiff-side, because those positions are much more limited and they do tend to go to boutique firms. Do you know anyone at any of your firm’s main competitors that you could meet for coffee to discuss a potential move?

                  I would really, really try networking. I’m surprised on the recruiting side that you haven’t had any luck, but I don’t know your market and maybe things are more limited.

                  In any case, I wish you good luck in getting out of where you are! I would say, as hard as it is, don’t leave without something else lined up. Lawyers are notorious for having zero understanding of situations like this….and you want to have continuity.

                3. Anoning it up*

                  Yeah, I think that was my initial trouble was that I was too limited in what I’ve been looking for. I’ve been applying since February for something else that I thought would be a good fit – I’ve been lowering my standards to “better” fit recently, which is just about anywhere at all at the point. I never really wanted to go biglaw because I didn’t want the billable hour commitment/pressure, but given my current situation, I’d definitely be willing to go to one of the “kinder” firms. I think I could be happy working the same hours as I am with a friendlier team and less weird crap, though ideally I would like to cut back to less (like actually working 1850 would be awesome, though probably not doable, I know).

                  I don’t know anyone anywhere, except where I summered, and I am the worst networker but I am trying to get better at that. It sounds like you think that may be a better strategy than scouring the web and applying to everything under the sun that I might reasonably be qualified for, so I think I’ll make a plan to do more of that, as much as it hurts and exhausts me, it sounds like it might be the better way to go.

                4. Anoning it up*

                  Meh, I’ve decided to give up on staying too anonymous – so what if I’m outed, so what, they told me to leave anyway. I’ve been plaintiff side labor and employment in DC but I’m willing to switch sides. Have 2-3 years experience. If you know a good recruiter or any good opportunities I’m all ears.

              1. JHS*

                Definitely try networking–that’s really the way to go in my opinion. Also don’t be afraid of big firms! A lot of bigger firms don’t even care about hours that much. First of all, my firm only has a target of 1800 for my office (some of the bigger offices have 1950). However, they mean it. I literally hit 1810 every year and still get a bonus. Also my group is considered more demanding and everyone is expected to hit the target, but some groups people actually don’t hit the targets and are fine! I doubt they get a bonus but they don’t seem to even care. A lot of big firms don’t even have a target and just care about hours for bonuses and being productive. I actually think some of the smaller firms can be much harder about hours because they have a harder time keeping up financially and try to work associates to the bone to make up for it.

                1. Anoning it up*

                  You are my new favorite internet person, thank you for your help and kind words. If nothing else its a good reminder that Im not lazy or crazy, and I have been feeling both those things recently.

                2. JHS*

                  Oops I posted this above but meant to post it here:

                  Aww thank you. I really do wish you the best of luck. That place sounds so incredibly toxic.

                3. College Career Counselor*

                  Ran out of nesting replies. Sounds like Anoning it up is in a terrible work environment with a fair amount of workplace gaslighting (ie, “work more, everyone’s doing it but YOU” and “the standard we gave you to meet isn’t the REAL standard”). There may be efficiency issues, but that’s not the root of the problem. If you google thepeoplestherapist DOT com (the therapist is a former wall street lawyer) you may find some articles that are helpful in that “you’re not alone” kind of way.

                4. Not So NewReader*

                  JHS and CCC, you are awesome folks. Anoning, let us know how you are doing. I hope you find sane people very soon.

    5. AMT*

      They sound completely nuts to me – I’m with the other commenters, keep looking but don’t push to try and work any MORE when it seems pretty clear there isn’t anything you can do to make them happy. I’d actually pull back on the hours to focus more on the job search.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      You sound like you are reaching the end of your rope. If it were me, I would have reached it by now, myself. If your finances allow it, give notice and get out of there, before you are too fried to job hunt. As it stands now, I cannot picture when you would have time for job hunting. These people do not appreciate you and do not appreciate your efforts. You could job hunt 40 hours a week and it would be less stressful than what you are doing now. (To me, job hunting 40 hours a week would be a nightmare, but you have a nightmare and a half going on there.)

      I had a funny/odd thing happen. I worked for A. I just happened to go into B one day. I was chatting with one of the bosses, I mentioned that I worked for A. He offered me a job on the spot. There are some people who know what your work day has been like and they know that if you can survive that environment, you will thrive in their environment. This might happen for you, too, once you are actually able to pay attention to your job search and not have to work 70 hours per week.

    7. A New Manager*

      I would want to know very specifically what they want you to do. “More” is very vague and too easy to be subjective when it comes time to determine if the “more” you did was enough or not. Then, ask them for specific feedback on what you need to prioritize and what you can do away with or delegate to someone else to facilitate doing the specific added tasks to fit into your regularly scheduled work week.

  7. The Other Dawn*

    I’m going on my first business trip next week. I’m so excited! I’m in the banking industry and it’s a user conference for the anti-money laundering software we use.

    I have two questions:
    1) I’m wondering what would be acceptable or normal in terms of dress. Since it’s in California, my inclination is to wear dressy capris and a nice top, along with a closed type of sandal.
    2) Any tips from those people that have gone on business trips? And to user conferences specifically?

    1. J.B.*

      If you’re at a conference, layers! It is likely to be freezing inside (sometimes going out in the heat is a nice break). I tend towards dresses and cardigans or nice slacks for conferences. Find out what industry norms are, although women usually have a little more flexibility.

    2. Lillian McGee*

      What part of California? I was in L.A. around this time last year and it fluctuated between hot (90s+) and chilly (mid-50s? I’m from Chicago but I’m still a wimp about cold). If you have the luggage space, bring things to layer with.
      I’ve only been to one conference (with lawyers) and people basically all wore suits. I think you’d want to err on the side of formality.

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

      If this will give you opportunities to network, I would say dress a bit up from business casual. Also hotels and conference centers are notorious for being freezing cold so make sure you have a cardigan/sweater/suit jacket to slip on in case you get cold. Make sure you have comfortable shoes as you will probably be walking quite a bit or bring shoes you can change into once you make it to your destination. I usually keep a bottle of water with me as well to stay hydrated. Enjoy your time there!

    4. Dawn*

      Banking conference everyone is going to be in pretty strict business dress, regardless of the topic. I attended Money2020 last year in Boston (big conference about upcoming tech in the payments/banking industry) and almost everyone was leaning pretty heavily towards conservative business wear.

      Now being that it’s in Cali, I imagine you can be a little more laid back, but I strongly advise you to bring business stuff (pantsuit or dress with jacket and conservative shoes) and then check out what everyone else is wearing on the first day and adjust accordingly (lose the jacket, bring some bright scarves to liven things up, etc).

      Money2020 was my first conference and I felt *even more awkward* because I wasn’t dressed like everyone else. Plus (this is my own experience and I am not speaking for everyone) I feel like as a woman I would have been taken a little more seriously by the men there if I had been in more traditionally conservative dress (and had longer hair but that’s a different story). Not that they didn’t take me seriously, just that they would have taken me MORE seriously. But that’s my own personal feelings on the matter and might not match up with reality.

    5. TCO*

      I echo others’ suggestions: layers and comfortable shoes! Both are essential. Can you dress in or pack some pieces that give you options depending on what you see others wearing? For instance, could you wear a blouse and pants and then add a blazer if needed? I’d go with full-length pants over capris, but you know your industry better than I.

    6. Calacademic*

      Even among academics, conferences tend toward formality. You’re in networking/interview mode. In banking, I’d expect business formal.

    7. Sunflower*

      Tips on business travel:
      Agree with layering since you never know if you’ll be in a sweltering or freezing room. Plus since you’re in Cali, good chance you’ll be going from inside and outside and there’s a big temp drop from day to night.
      – Look up 1 or 2 cool things in the area you want to do. Business travel is not a vacation so you can’t see everything but you should definitely try to see a couple things while you’re there. I LOVE Huntington Beach, it’s one of my favorite beaches in SoCal. Their downtown area is adorable. Also research restaurants before you leave. You’ll be tired after the conference and it’s so much easier to go to a good restaurant if you already have planned ahead of time where you want to go.
      – Pack versatile clothing. From traveling so much, I have my standard pieces that I pack that I can wear either casually during the day or out to dinner at night.

    8. SL #2*

      I plan and run conferences for a living. The rooms are generally going to be freezing, so please layer up (and that way, if it turns out that the place has no AC, you can dress down as needed. Not that I know from personal experience.)

      I personally wouldn’t go with the capris (I run healthcare conferences and while it’s okay with the nurses and providers to show up in scrubs, the administrative staff, panelists, etc, always wear business formal), but you know your industry much better than I do! If you think that the capris would fly, by all means, go for it. But your general packing mission should be to bring pieces that are versatile and interchangeable (think 1 pair of non-descript slacks, 2 or 3 tops (or a dress!), 1 blazer, 1 cardigan).

      You’re going to want a lightweight, 4-wheeled suitcase. Lightweight being the important part. Blazers, slacks, nice tops, toiletries, etc., all add up to quite a bit of weight that you’ll have to deal with when you try and get your suitcase through carry-on!

    9. The Other Dawn*

      Coincidentally, one of the speakers just called me for another reason, so I decided to ask her what the norm is. She said that most of the speakers from the company will be in jeans and either blazers or buttoned tops. She said some attendees wear jeans, but most go for khakis, capris, pants, etc. She said I’ll be overdressed if I lean more towards formal. So glad she happened to call and I asked!

      1. Dawn*

        *smacks forehead* What a good idea! I didn’t have anyone to ask before I went to Money2020 so I had no idea what to do.

        1. CAA*

          If there’s nobody to ask, then I try to look for photos from previous years’ events. I’m not sure if your Money2020 event was an annual one, but something like The Other Dawn’s user group conference is likely held every year or two and the company probably has a few photos on their website, or maybe even an album on Flickr.

      2. Elizabeth*

        I was on the team running a conference in LA almost 3 years ago and my main memory was being glad I had skipped 3 pairs of jeans (only brought 1) in favor of a couple maxi dresses and skirts. I didn’t feel under dressed when I ran into the executive director at dinner and was still comfortable.

    10. Kairi*

      Congrats on your first business trip! I think that other people have given great advice. The only thing I would add is bring lots of business cards if you have them! They make networking much easier.

    11. Traveler*

      My biggest tip for business travel is to bring the extra things with you from home that will make you comfortable. Traveling for business is already rough since its not leisurely and unexpected things come up. Its not always possible to rearrange your schedule to accommodate for it – i.e. to run to the store. Extra sets of clothes, snacks, whatever will make it a little more homey.

    12. Brett*

      Calling was a great idea. You can also look for past pictures of the conference to see what people wore before. West coast conferences in my field tend to start as business casual and break down into t-shirt and shorts by the end of the week.

    13. EA*

      The only conferences I’ve been to have been when I was working as a stage tech for one of the companies presenting. Like most stage techs, my outfits tended towards black cargo pants and a black polo, with at least a leatherman tool and knife on my belt.

    14. Melissa*

      Pack as light as possible. If you can mix and match things to keep it light, that’s great. I used to travel for conferences a lot and I got my 3-day conference thing down to a weekender bag, and it’s so great to just grab your bag and stroll off the plane into a cab. Easier to navigate around the city to get to the hotel, and easier to check your bags or maneuver them on the last day of the conference when you have to check out early and ask the concierge to hold them.

      An extension of that is that I brought tops and cardigans that could be worn with slacks/dress pants/a skirt for the conference but with jeans for after the conference. That way, when I inevitably got invited to dinner or drinks (or both) with other conference-goers, I could just throw on some jeans under what I was already wearing on top and go.

      Comfortable shoes!! You’ll be doing a lot of walking all over the conference center. Even at small conferences your feet get tired quickly, but at the large ones where the sessions might span multiple buildings…As an extension to the above, I wore some cute dressy flats that could be repurposed for evening more casual events. So when I changed for dinner, I really only had to change my jeans.

      When I went to conferences (academic) I tended towards dressier than the average attendee. I was pretty junior, so it was often the junior folks who were more business while the professors were business casual to casual.

  8. Trying to Help*

    I am looking for some advice for a high school friend. He is a recent Tier 1 registered sex offender (think voyeurism) and is obviously having a tough time finding a job. Does anyone have any suggestions/ideas I can pass along to him?

    1. Charby*

      There was an article recently about a government program (I think it was a state attorney general or prosecutor sponsoring it) that specifically targets convicted felons in terms of hiring. I’ll try to see if I can find it but he might be local to that area or there might be a similar program local to his area that would be helpful.

      Because of the stigma surrounding felons, including people in for that type of crime, it can be hard to get a job. Most employers, given the choice between two similar candidates, will probably go with the one without the record. A program that actually leans the other way might be a good way for him to get back into the working world especially if he doesn’t have a lot of professional experience or unique skills.

      1. Sophia in the DMV*

        Research on the “mark” of a criminal record show that it disproportionately effects Black men, when compared with Men men (see Devah Pager’s work)

    2. TCO*

      Are there any nonprofit programs in your area that offer job coaching/placement services? Many of them are experts in assisting people who have convictions or other challenging backgrounds.

    3. Anon for This*

      Apply for small office jobs that don’t do background checks. That’s the only advice I have.

      Tier 1 means employers/neighbors aren’t notified of his status. I wouldn’t volunteer that information to anyone. Obviously you cannot lie if the application asks if you were convicted of a crime, but I wouldn’t share it.

      The person I know who had to go through this had a nasty probation officer on a vendetta. She threatened to tell his boss because “all S.O.’s are the same”. He tried to beat her to the punch, thinking it would look much better coming from him (and it was a similar crime/circumstance as your friend). He got fired immediately.

      He’s happily working at a very small shop that is not in his field exactly. They didn’t do background checks. He gets minimum wage…but since the judge ordered him to stay employed, he has to comply with any job.

      It’s definitely difficult. Sorry your friend is in this situation. Don’t even get me started on all the problems with the registry. Not everyone is a rapist by any means.

      1. Anon for This*

        ***** Editing for clarification:
        “Obviously you cannot lie if the application asks if you were convicted of a crime, but I wouldn’t share it if they don’t ask.”

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I may be wrong about this, but I think that in many states registered sex offenders are required to report their status to the employer. The office responsible for monitoring them will probably check, and he could end up in prison for a violation of the terms. Can he potentially find a way to get contract work? What are his skill and background? That might help generate more ideas.

        1. Anon for This*

          Check with your state. From what I understand, a S.O. has to tell the jurisdiction where they work, but I do not think it is required to tell their employer if they are tier 1. I don’t know for sure, so you would need to check, but in this particular case that I’m familiar with…they do not need to tell their employer.

        2. Trying to Help*

          His skill/background are professional level. I don’t think he stands a chance of getting back into what he was doing before. FWIW, it was a misdemeanor vs. a felony. I will tell him he’d better check whether he has to disclose to an employer upon applying.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            What field is he in? If you’re willing to share that might be helpful as far as brainstorming how he might work in something related.

              1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                Well, a lot of people in marketing work for themselves. I know it’s hard to have much income when you are getting started, but that might be a way to mostly avoid the issue.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Contractors and nurseries ( nurseries as in plants, NOT children) around here employ a lot of people with a record. Some companies are known for giving anyone a fair shot, he should keep his ears open for companies around him with a reputation for trying to help people.

      My question is does he know how long he will be on the registery? I think that some people get off the registry at some point and others never come off the list- it depends on the individual’s setting.

      1. Trying to Help*

        Good idea about the nursery, I’ll pass that along. I think he’s on the registry for 15 years? Not entirely sure on that though.

    5. Gareth Keenan Investigates*

      Check your state laws first, some states don’t permit (most) employers to deny employment solely because of criminal record and sex offender status is a somewhat protected class. Of course discretion varies on the type of employment but most private employers in my state would have to adhere to a pretty specific process to deny someone employment because of their SO status. Obviously it happens all the time, but there are repercussions.

      1. Trying to Help*

        Thank you for pointing this out, it may have some bearing here. He was employed prior to this while awaiting sentencing, and the employer was aware of the charges. It wasn’t until after he had served time and tried to go back there to work that they turned him down. So it was obviously his record that kept him from getting his job back. I will tell him to look into this!

  9. Guilt Trip in Customer Service*

    Tell me your customer service horror stories?

    I had to hang up on a customer for the first time yesterday. I feel so guilty but it had to happen: The customer was unpleasable, rude, insulting, and emotionally manipulative. She pretended to cry at one point.

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      I once had a woman yell at me while on speaker phone as her dog yapped into the speaker. It was a call about a mental health care claim, so I tried to be sympathetic, but I was really glad when the call ended.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I am lucky enough not to have a lot of customer service experience, and almost all of it good. But I just wanted to say that you have my sympathy, and thank you for sticking it out, because if the world had no one in customer service because of customers behaving badly, we’d be in a very bad spot. (Also, if for any reason I somehow descended to that level, I would be _mortified_ by it later, especially after someone had to hang up on me. I doubt she is, but I hope I’m wrong!)

    3. Ihmmy*

      I kicked a customer out once. I was working retail (shoes) and this customer was rude, belligerent, and began swearing at my (meek and mild) coworker. So I asked him to leave, something along the lines of “I’m sorry sir but we are not able to help you today, I need to ask you to leave”. My coworker was nearly in tears, and I probably would have been too if he’d been aiming that vitriol at me

      1. Rat Racer*

        I read that as “kicked a customer” – and was like Holy Cow that IS serious!! Kicking someone out makes more sense. ANd that jerk totally deserved it, sounds like.

        1. Anie*

          Oh, jeeze, I read it that way too! It’s only now seeing your comment I realize differently.

          And it’s true, it’s so difficult to kick someone out, even when they deserve it.

    4. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      I worked at a tea shop for a bit and on one of my first days a guy came in and asked for “the usual.” Apparently he came in every day for the same tea. I had no idea, so I told him I was sorry but I was new, but I’d be happy to make whatever he wanted. He got upset and started huffing and my manager came over and asked what was wrong–then turned to me and said “He comes in EVERY day and you just insulted him! He’s a police officer and we might get robbed now!” I said again how sorry I was, but the guy was apparently very, very upset that new people were not briefed on his preferences as part of standard training.

      Also one time a woman tried to return a bag of used loose tea and I had to ask her to leave when she started yelling at me that the customer was always right and BY LAW!!!! I had to take back her gross wet leaves.

    5. Kelly L.*

      Long, long ago, I spent 5 or 6 years working at a sandwich shop, and this one couple always stands out above all others in my memory.

      We had started selling some simple baked pastas: penne marinara, penne alfredo, and tortellini alfredo. The couple comes in and the husband orders a penne.

      “OK, would you like the marinara or alfredo?”

      “I DON’T WANT MARINARA, I WANT PENNE!!!”

      Ooookay then. “But what kind of sauce would you like, sir?”

      “PENNE! PENNE! I WANT PENNE!”

      I realize he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about, so I go to “White sauce or red sauce?”

      He shouts a bit longer (there was probably more to this, but it’s been over ten years now) and then his wife interrupts and says to me, “You are the rudest person I have ever met. This is the worst customer service I have ever had. Give me a pen. I’m writing a note to your manager.” She does.

      Anyway, she orders too after that, they get their food, they eat. After they eat, the woman who just chewed me out…asks for an application, because she’s decided she wants to work there.

      (The manager, when he got the note, talked to me about it for like 30 seconds and realized the lady was just itching to pick a fight and that I hadn’t done anything wrong, and also that she was not someone we would want to bring onto our team. He was pretty great as a manager in a lot of ways.)

      1. Allison*

        “Give me a pen”

        So, they both wanted pen-ne?

        . . . I’ll see myself out . . .

        In all seriousness, that sounds awful and I’m glad your manager took your side.

        1. Kelly L.*

          LOL!

          He had his flaws (mainly that he’d believe whatever employees told him about things that happened when he wasn’t on site–that was a factor in a few other stories I’ve told on here)–but he always took our side against a-hole customers. He once even kicked one out and told her she couldn’t eat there if she was going to disrespect the employees! He owned the place, so he could do that. It’s part of why I stayed so long.

    6. Lou*

      When I worked in Waitrose a customer yelled at me and had a meltdown about no chopped tomatoes. I suggested a method I use; buying a tin of plum tomatoes and chop up with a knife, it was cheaper and would save her money. Let’s just say that didn’t go over well and she continued to yell at me before asking for a manager (I did think I should have told her to go to Co-Op if it was such a big deal.

      When I worked in a coffee chain shop I quit last week. had all sorts of stories, customers just really rude and unnecessarily difficult (what you get for serving caffeine addicts I suppose). Customers just sit down (when theres 2 of you 1 serving and 1 making drinks) and assume with a long queue you have time to attend to them like they are in a restaurant. Funny the amount of people who leave if you don’t have toast. Worst was when a customer demanded I grill her toast for 3 minutes.

      Our grills were not substantial so you had to switch toast to a second grill to get it properly toasted. She came up to me as I was taking it to her, in front of the till and a queue of people,and proceeded to pick up the toast with her hands, look at me like a child then talk to me as a child, and said ‘Now young lady this, this is not acceptable. I watched you move the toast from the bottom grill. This toast is not right, not toast, is it three minutes exact? No it’s not’ As she flapped the toast around she said to me ‘I will watch you do it again! I will carefully watch you. I’m not accepting this and I will talk to your manager if it happens again’.

      I just cried after that. Once though a customer said to my colleague ‘What are they employing a high school for work experience? I don’t like this I want to speak to an adult who’s on duty’. They proceeded to tell them ‘I’m 29, I’m the ADULT in charge, I don’t get paid enough to tolerate this’. LOL

      1. Elizabeth West*

        LOL wacky toast lady.

        At the deli where I worked, we had a customer who would always complain because we didn’t have lemon bars. I passed on her request but the company just didn’t have them, wasn’t going to make them, and that was that. She continued to complain about it. I finally lost patience with her one day and told her (nicely) that the grocery next door had these really good Betty Crocker lemon bar mixes and she should really try them. That shut her up and she was much easier to deal with after that!

        There was another lady who would get really mad if you didn’t give her the senior discount. We always warned new people–“That’s Sue. She gets the senior discount. Don’t ask her; just give it to her.” She was nice if she got her discount. To be fair, she was obviously on a fixed income and might not have been able to afford her daily outing without the discount.

    7. Rat Racer*

      Once upon a time, I was in a chief of staff role for a large PCP practice. There was nothing – absolutely nothing – that fell outside of my job description, including the occasional fielding of patient complaints. I was young, ambitious and overly eager to help, so when a disgruntled retiree called me at 5:00 pm to talk about the terrible administrative handling of his bill, I gave him my cell phone number (#stupid) so that he could call me back after I retrieved my infant daughter from daycare.

      Well, the guy called me back while I was in the car, we got the issue resolved, but he just kept going on and on. He needed someone to listen to him, and I was willing — for a while, but then began to wonder if I was destined to spend the rest of my life on the phone with this man.

      In an act of desperation, I reached behind me and yanked my baby’s pacifier out of her mouth. There was a moment confused silence from her, then she emitted an ear drum-shattering shriek of utter shock. rage and betrayal. It had the desired effect: the disgruntled patient said “yes – I can see you have to go” and hung up. I still feel guilty though for making my baby cry just to get someone off the phone. I will totally pay for at least half of her therapy bills when she grows up.

      1. Rita*

        My mom got pulled over with my brother in the car, and she did that exact same thing. When the cop came up to the window my brother was already wailing. He quickly gave her a warning and left.

        1. Hlyssande*

          My mom did the same with all three of us kids once! Her headlight was out and she got pulled over, so she turned to the backseat and told us all to cry. Older brother started it and we chimed in.

          And yes, she got away with it.

      2. Charby*

        When you said “PCP” I thought first of the drug and I thought, ‘well, if you’re dealing PCP to this guy maybe that’s why he’s agitated and erratic’…

    8. Anie*

      Working at a grocery store, I had a woman come up and ask where the chocolate was. I asked her, “What kind of chocolate?”

      She swore at me and started screaming that she hated how no one in the store spoke English. She wouldn’t let me explain when I tried to say types of chocolate are in different places and I simply didn’t want to send her to the wrong place (baking chocolate is aisle 10 but boxed chocolate is in the floral department and bars/bagged chocolate is in aisle 21).

      Just. Kept. Screaming.

      1. alter_ego*

        There is this category of customer that can not handle being asked clarifying questions, and I just don’t understand it at all.

        1. Sparkly Librarian*

          I had a reference interview like this earlier in the week. I honestly ended up saying (on the last of three questions, after I’d looked up information on the first two), “You’ve just said a lot of words, and I understand what the words mean, but I don’t understand what they mean when you put them all together like that.” The patron ended up storming out after declaring that [what he wanted me to look up] was so simple and I was just too ignorant to find it! He’s a regular who just… spews keywords that aren’t related to each other, doesn’t answer clarifying questions, and sticks around for the free printouts which he doesn’t ever seem to read.

          1. another academic librarian*

            I’m always baffled by patrons who get angry at me for asking them clarifying questions. Being a librarian doesn’t mean that I’m a mind reader.

    9. Anie*

      Oh I have another! It still makes me mad, to this day, and it’s been a solid 5 years.

      The grocery store I worked at had a huge renovation, but decided to stay open to customers. For 2 months we’d block off random aisles and move the product while new floors and shelving was put in overnight.

      I was carefully placing shampoo onto a thin wire rack (all in order, all with the price carefully labeled). The rack wasn’t meant for wobbly bottles though (maybe cereal boxes?) so I was placing bottles directly onto an unstable wire mesh. It was the 4:59 and I was already going to be late punching out of my 9 hour shift, but I really wanted to get these last few things moved b/c the whole rest of the aisle was already moved. Think completely empty apocalypse-style grocery aisle with me at the very end, moving a few things.

      This woman rolled her cart up behind me and just kind of…stopped. So I turned around and asked how I could help her. She gave me a look of disbelief and said, “Yeah, can you move?”

      I looked at the wire rack, which has been strategically placed to block off the empty aisle, and said, “Well, actually, there’s nothing on the other side of this and it’s difficult to move the…”

      She didn’t even listen to me finish. She HUFFED, smashed her carriage into the rack until it screeched out of her way, and then pushed her way into the empty aisle.

      As I stared at the bottles lying in ruined piles and all over the floor, she turned back to me and said, “Now, don’t you think that was pretty rude of you?”

      1. Slimy Contractor*

        How is this real?? I mean, I believe you, but I really, really don’t want to believe you. People suck!

        1. Lou*

          People are just really rude in general tbh online I have noticed hostility on the facebook page ‘waiters / waitress memes’ by members of the public the attitude is ‘You’re a servant you do as I say you have no right to complain’. General public are just so entitled tbh.

          1. Anie*

            It was my first experience with that kind of entitlement. My jaw dropped and I stuttered something like, “No, I really don’t think it was….”

            smh

            1. Corrupted by Coffee*

              I once had a customer who was convinced she had been shorted 5 minutes of computer time (we have a little colored bar graph in the corner of each screen that counts down your time and pops up warnings when you’re getting near. When my coworker attempted to check the computer records, she promptly screamed swear words, left the building and threw a large rock threw the window into the children’s area.

    10. Omne*

      An indirect one. I work at a state taxing authority and I was in the collections area. Years ago we had a taxpayer that was incredibly uncooperative. He routinely swore at and insulted people that he called. One day he called collect ( he was in the next state over) and one of my people answered. I was listening in. The operator informed her that it was a collect call for ******. The person answering said that ****** wasn’t in the office. The taxpayer heard this and started swearing and ranting about it being a lie. Suddenly there was a and the operator said ” You don’t have to take that”.

      First time I’ve run across someone so rude that the operator hung up on them…..

    11. "Jayne"*

      When I was a shift manager in retail, I had a customer who I think had some sort of mental problem, the interaction was so bizarre. The customer called to ask for an item to be put on hold. On the phone she was very nice, and everything was very normal. When she arrived to purchase the item, she became strangely aggressive for no reason. She purchased the items with a coupon and had me explain everything about the receipt to her in extreme detail, she claimed that the items that she had JUST purchased were items that she was currently stealing and I had allowed it (even though she clearly bought them), lied to me about a certain employee (who has always been great) that she was incredibly rude, told me I was a horrible daughter to my mother (???), and had me write a bunch of information down that she claimed was taking to corporate. It was so bad that some of the customers waiting in line were defending me and offering to call the police. It was the scariest moment of my life, and I was genuinely concerned for my life. This was my first management job, so I very intimidated by aggressive behavior and didn’t deal with them well. What made it worse was that the other more senior manager also on duty was deliberately ignoring my cries for help and hiding in the office the entire time. She apparently had been to the store, and other stores, previously. She eventually vowed to never return after she didn’t get her way with the store manager.

      1. Loquelic Iteritas*

        My son worked at a nearby big-box electronics retailer this past summer, and he had a number of stories about rude / weird customers. I don’t recall any of the stories in enough detail to recount them here, but one thing I noticed was that a lot of “problem behavior” seemed to start near shift-change or closing time. I could be wrong but I suspect that there are a number of people out there who are constantly attempting to work some kind of scam on Big Retail. Whether they’re professional rip-offs or mentally ill or what, I don’t know. But I found it suspicious how often someone would make a scene over a coupon or a discount, 5 minutes before the store was supposed to close, when there were 30 people waiting in line. And often it was a large item and they’d already spent 45 minutes or an hour “shopping” and checking out the item with store personnel.

        *Shrug* I could be wrong. But it sure seemed like several aspects of the situation were ‘calculated’ to maximize the amount of pressure on the checkout person, to see if they could get them to cave or bend the rules to get this unpleasant person out of their face.

        1. Hlyssande*

          My old brother did a stint at Circuit City and told me how he witnessed one of his coworkers, a very short Japanese man, getting bodily lifted (possibly by his neck, it’s been awhile?) and shaken by a customer once. His coworker defended himself with a blow to each side of the customer’s neck and promptly got fired. Terrible management all over.

        2. Rebecca*

          Definitely this is true. I did retail management for a department store. I think the idea is that they think if you’re in a hurry to get the store closed and/or deal with the customers in line, you’ll just give them what they want.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah, that is not an organized effort on the part of a particular group. Numerous individuals have figured it out on their own and do this.

        3. "Jayne"*

          She really wasn’t trying to get a good deal or anything, her coupon worked, and the transaction part was perfectly normal. I think she was just trying to cause a scene for the heck of it. She had me call the manager from the store she had just come from (That manager told her his name was “Captain”. I think he must have dealt with her before, but he gave me no warnings about her. He just laughed.), and had me tell him weird things that had absolutely no relation to the store/transaction. I was really confused about what was going on. That’s why I think she had some sort of medical problem. Her actions were very random.

          1. "Jayne"*

            She really wasn’t trying to get a good deal or anything, her coupon worked, and the transaction part was perfectly normal–there was nothing that happened that would cause her to get upset. I think she was just trying to cause a scene for the heck of it. She had me call the manager from the store she had just come from (That manager told her his name was “Captain”. I think he must have dealt with her before, but he gave me no warnings about her. He just laughed.), and had me tell him weird things that had absolutely no relation to the store/transaction. I was really confused about what was going on. That’s why I think she had some sort of medical problem. Her actions were very random.

      2. JGray*

        When I worked in retail (large national retailer) we would have a woman & her sister who would come in and purchase things on clearance and then return them for the very reason that they were on clearance. For instance, she bought this picnic basket once with dishes and utensil in it. Well, there were little serving forks that were missing when it arrived at the store which is why it was put on clearance right away and it was clearly labeled as missing the forks. She bought it than tried to return it because the forks were missing. Another time she came in with a large group of family members and then demanded to know why certain items of clothing weren’t on clearance like they were in Minneapolis (I am in Montana). It wasn’t me dealing with her but my poor coworker that was had to get all the information on the item and then try to call Minneapolis to verify 1) they carried the items and 2) what the price of the items was. There were all sorts of time zone issues we had to deal with but the woman stayed at the sort of something like 3 hours.

        1. JGray*

          I also thought of another one. This also happened while I worked retail. I was working in the back office by that point and I had a woman come up to the door and say that she needed to talk to someone in the home appliance department about blenders. Apparently she had ordered a blender for her daughter who like in a state with sales tax online and was upset because she was being charged sales tax. The person that was working in home appliances that day was brand new (think 2 weeks on the job) and so she had no idea what to say to the lady. I explained to the lady that the state her daughter lived had sales tax and so we had to charge her sales tax even online because we have to follow the law based on where the items is being shipped. I can understand her frustration because with being in Montana I have done plenty of shopping in surrounding states and been able to avoid paying the sales tax (by using my Montana drivers license). This usually works at places like outlet malls not at grocery stores- I guess need vs want comes into play on whether they will waive the sales tax.

    12. AndersonDarling*

      I hung up on a customer when I worked at a real estate company. I was covering for the receptionist while she was on break and the police went into one of the buildings we managed and told all the tenants to stay in their offices. Every tenant was calling trying to find out what was happening. One guy was screaming at me, accusing me of knowing what was going on and that I wasn’t telling him because I was evil.. so on and so forth. After screaming at me for two minutes, he yelled something along the lines of, “how can you not know why the police are here!!” And I screamed back, “You should call the police and ask them!” and I hung up.
      The wonderful receptionist took the blame for it when the guy called back to complain to the manager. The screaming tenant was a doctor and I still remember his name.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I am so glad that when I worked in a call center we were allowed to hang up on abusive callers. (We did have to warn them first.) We also were allowed to hang up on callers during tornado/fire drills and alarms. But I’m pretty sure the company could be fined if that didn’t happen. I never had to hang up on anyone, but I knew people who did.

        Also, we were a military contractor. If they were too troublesome, the local base would get involved. And if they were AD, they could get into real trouble.

    13. Omne*

      It wasn’t customer service per se but I’ve had guns pointed at me on occasion and went in with a SWAT team on another. Tax collection can get interesting sometimes, especially when you’re working tax protester and white supremacist groups.

        1. Omne*

          Only after I complained…..

          Strange as it may seem, I’d go back to doing that in a heartbeat if the programs were still there. A lot less money but a lot more fun.

    14. Janelle*

      I worked at a surgeon’s office for a while as an admin. This was a specialized office for a particular type of surgery (not life threatening emergency situations). One morning the city was being slammed with snow, but we were still open. The doctor asked me to call all our scheduled patients to find out who was still coming in.

      I called one woman who immediately started screaming at me. She kept asking for a different doctor’s name and was infuriated we didn’t have her appointment down for a different month. I kept trying to explain I was with Doctor 1, not Doctor 2, and there was not a Doctor 2 listed for our entire hospital. She kept screaming. I started tearing up; I was young and just wasn’t prepared for this. Eventually she said she wasn’t coming in because of the snow (and called me a bunch of awful names for assuming she could even step out her front door in this weather).

      I rescheduled her for the next month and later found out Doctor 2 was in a different hospital in a different city. To top it off, she didn’t show up for the rescheduled appointment, which she’d made on behalf of her daughter. I felt really bad for the kid and still wonder if she ever managed to get to any doctor at all.

    15. Vorthys*

      Bomb threat.

      Many years ago in the pre-smartphone era, I worked in a call center for a major mobile service. We were horrible at customer service, and, alas, it pushed someone to the point of threatening to blow us up.

      Honestly, I didn’t think it was serious, but the necessary resulting procedure was a mess. I think I was more upset about the fact that it ruined my call stats at the time because they were always pretty bad to begin with. They actually counted the time he was on the line against my metrics, and I didn’t get to take anymore calls the rest of the day to even it up.

      Though I did get a good anecdote to pull out when people complain of obscure mandatory training they think they’ll never use. I suppose it balances out.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I know someone who’s had two when on calls (once again, government contractor). However, we take comfort in the fact that it’s a federal offense in this case, and these people do get same-day visits from the FBI.

    16. WriterLady*

      A customer once had two months past due of a cell phone bill and I had to shut them down. Apparently they couldn’t pay the bill because the husband had cancer and was sick. Well, I couldn’t agree to turn it back on and they got really upset, and cried on the phone. Woman sent a letter to my boss telling her how heartless I was and how her husband died and now they’ll never forget that I did that. I never got in trouble – probably would have gotten in MORE trouble had I let it stay on but still I have always been bothered by that.

      1. pony tailed wonder*

        Not Always Right is a great place to find bad customer service stories and co-worjer stories.

    17. some1*

      I’ve told this story before here. I was 21 and in my first office job as a receptionist at a govt dept. I often get told I look younger than I really am, so it wasn’t unusual when I was 21 for someone to think I was a teenager.

      My first week a guy came in for a hearing he had with one of the attys I supported. She (atty) wasn’t in the office, and being as it was my first week I didn’t know what to do. While I was trying to figure out who to ask, the guy asked me, “Is there an *adult* I can talk to?”

      I found the atty’s paralegal and he gave the guy his copy of the hearing notice that had been mailed previously – the guy was here on the wrong day. The guy said to the paralegal, “I asked your receptionist if there was an *adult* I can talk to. . . ” thinking my coworker would laugh, but he just gave him a blank stare.

      1. "Jayne"*

        I hate that! I’m in my mid-twenties, and look 17. It was frustrating as a manager when people wouldn’t take me seriously. And I would get comments like “Aren’t you too young to be a manager?” It’s so rude!

      2. JGray*

        I not only look young but sound young! So I hate it when I answer the phone and people ask for my mom or parents. Ummm no you can’t speak with my parents because they don’t live here. I also usually hang up on people that do that. If you call someone you need to say “Can I please speak with so and so”.

    18. Elizabeth West*

      This isn’t really a horror story, just kind of insensitive.

      In May 2009, my area was hit by a super derecho (a terrifyingly powerful windstorm–a mesoscale convective vortex, for you weather nerds) that generated 19 tornadoes. One of them hit Exjob’s facility and badly damaged the second building, knocked over a semi-trailer, sucked the letters off the office building (we never found them), and cut the power (snapped the pole clean in half). You can google the storm if you want–it has its own Wikipedia page.

      The phone still worked, and numerous customers started calling and asking why their faxes wouldn’t go through. I explained that we had had a tornado and the power was out and we didn’t know when it would be restored. They would say, “Oh, that’s awful, is everyone okay? We’ll send it tomorrow,” etc. etc.

      Except one customer. She asked, “Why can’t I fax you a quote?”
      I gave my explanation.
      “Oh.” A beat. “So when will the power come back on so I can send my quote?”

      **facepalm**

      1. Katie*

        We lost power in our winery tasting room once. We got several “I don’t get why you need power to pour wines” … “we need power to charge you for the wine” seemed a little insensitive.

        1. alter_ego*

          I worked at a computer store in a mall where the power went out for the whole mall, and people freaked out about not being able to shop in our store while the power still out. At least wine tasting you can do without power, though, of course, there’s the issue of payment. What did these customers think they were going to do in a computer store with no electricity?!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            LOL, maybe they thought you had batteries in everything.

            The weirdest thing the tornado did was turn someone’s pickup truck. It didn’t flip it; it MOVED it out of its parking spot (facing south) into the nearby access road west of the lot and completely turned it around facing the other way. The roof of the second building was ripped off in a huge strip and rolled up like a ginormous gum wrapper, on the opposite side from where the pickup was parked. That’s how I knew for sure it was a tornado and not the derecho’s 100+ mph straight-line winds. Only rotation would have moved that truck the opposite way. That was super creepy. 0_0 Plus there were cut-up leaves stuck all over our building like little green polka dots.

            Our shipping guy was a little disappointed the semi-trailer didn’t fall on his nearby car. He was all, “Dammit, that was my big chance to get rid of it!”

    19. Not So NewReader*

      I was working a retail environment where some of our merchandise was kept outdoors. It did not matter if it got wet- things like potting soil. One day a woman came in and I noticed she had a very nice car. She got out of the car and I noticed that her shoes matched her purse which matched her belt exactly. I quickly concluded that the suit was very expensive. She wanted potting soil. I told her I would get that for her, if she would just move her car next to the stacks. I explained it had rained the night before and the bags weighed closer to 70 pounds rather than the normal 40 pounds. (She had parked way up hill from the stacks and it was 95 degrees that day.)
      She fell apart. “Who do you think you are??? You are nothing but a lowly blue collar worker. How dare you tell me what to do!..” It got worse from there, I could feel the tears coming up in my eyes. She went on and on with her garbage. Then I noticed her words were coming out of her mouth so fast, that she could not possibly be breathing correctly. And I realized she would have to inhale at some point and it would be my turn to speak.
      Finally she landed on, “Do you KNOW who I AM?”
      I said, “no, ma’am, I don’t.”
      She said, “I am Mrs Well Known Name”.
      I said, “I am Mrs NewReader. It’s nice to meet you. Now, will you please move your car? And I will get some cardboard to put down under the wet bags.”

      She moved her car.

      I found out that she did that to everyone all over town. She had been banned from numerous stores because of her tirades. I would have reported her to my bosses, but I knew they would ban her from the store. For some reason, I actually felt sorry for her. I don’t think she had a single friend on this planet. And that is a very damning thing to say as well as being a very sad thing to say.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Thanks, all. I had wonderful bosses and I knew it would rain in this woman’s life if I said something.
          The problem was with my real last name. She probably recognized it. My FIL was a doctor that treated HER husband when he was a child. For her, this was as if I said “check mate” while we were playing chess. I believed that I inflicted more pain that day by insisting on her moving her car, than anything else I could have done.
          So, now you see, I did not take the truly high road here.
          No regrets.

    20. Merry and Bright*

      When I was 18 I had a summer job selling ice creams each afternoon from a seaside kiosk. One day it was a hot sunny day and a lady asked for large ice cream cone. Job done, next customer.

      A few minutes later she came back and shouted in front of the queue that her ice cream was melting and dripping down her clothes – and because of the weather I should have warned her this could happen. I ended up giving her a refund but when the supervisor came back she made me pay for the ice cream.

      I was mortified but then I was very young. These days I work in places that cover “what ifs” and “what to dos”.

      The rest of the summer went fine though.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        When I worked in an ice cream store, people were generally happy (they were getting ice cream!) but often illogical. We were always honest about flavors if people asked, specifically about the orange slush drink flavor. It tasted like baby aspirin. We would tell people this, they would order it, then they would tell us it tasted awful and they wanted something else. Generally, if something wasn’t to someone’s liking, we’d replace without additional charges. We always charged for the additional drink in this case. It was kind of the “not believing the counter help” fee.

        Also, if obnoxious drunks came through the drive-thru, they did not get napkins or flatware in their bags. No one ever came back to complain. (Nowadays, I would just call the cops and report a DUI, but teens back then would not have thought of it.)

    21. Malissa*

      I was a female working in an auto parts store. I routinely handled misogynistic attitudes all the time with grace and humor. But one day I had a customer that was just pushing all the wrong buttons. It was finally determined that he needed a chunk of fuel hose. I went back and cut him off a foot of it. I came back to the counter and he didn’t like the length of the hose. “That’s not a foot” he said, “Women just aren’t any good with measurements.”
      The shift supervisor was coming over to intervene but I just looked at him and winked, conveying the message of “I got this.”. I looked the customer dead in the eye and offered him a ruler to double check it. He measured it and then still insisted it just didn’t look right. Having enough of his attitude I look at him and held up my fingers and said “just because you think this is 12 inches doesn’t mean it is. Now would you like to pay for the hose?”

      1. alter_ego*

        That reminds me of my favorite joke.
        Why are women so bad at parallel parking?
        Because they’ve been lied to their whole lives about what 8 inches looks like

      2. JGray*

        Awesome!! I worked in the tool department of a large national retailer once and had a guy say to me that he wanted to speak to “The Tool Guy” when his wife pointed me out as someone who could help him. So I went & got my coworker who had been working there for 2 weeks. Well guess what my coworker couldn’t answer the guys question where as I could. I was really nice about it & now I know nicer than I should have been but the guy wasn’t even worth my time.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Same job that I mentioned above. One day a man came in to the store. He sauntered in like he was walking into a saloon in a B Western. “I’m looking for a man!”, he said before I could even greet him. I was in a male dominated industry so I was used to this. Even women would tell me that as a female I could not do my job because of my gender. But this dude was the SIXTH person in a row that day to tell me this and I lost it. I said, “Well, honey, I found someone special and you will, too. You just hang in there.” And I walked out of the room.

        He told me I was fiesty and he liked that. I could wait on him, he said. It was the longest fn hour of hour of my life. Selling this guy a couple of hand tools and plants involved quoting Shakespear and discussing world religions. I came away from that sale totally exhausted. From there forward, when anyone needed to speak to a man, I just told them “oh, okay”, knowing full well that they had a 45 minute wait. There were many people in front of them who just wanted to speak to a man. I walked away smiling to myself.

    22. Chameleon*

      Lots of good stories from banking. There wasn’t guy who always kept his cash deposit in his nasty, sweaty socks, and we’d have to count it (yuck).

      We got hit on a lot, but one time as I finished up with a customer he said jovially, “spank you very much!” I just looked at him with my best “you f*king idiot” face and he got flustered and mumbled an apology before fleeing.

      And then there was when I was the jerk. A regular customer was at my window and I said, “Hey, you have some schmutz on your forehead.” She looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “yeah, it’s Ash Wednesday.” I’m not Christian so I didn’t even know that was a thing!

      1. Anie*

        You know, when I first moved to “the big city” and began using public transportation a lot, I remember once getting on the train and realizing the woman sitting across from me had dirt on her forehead. I felt so bad! I struggled the whole ride, about 45 minutes. I wanted to let her know because she looked so pretty otherwise. Like a coward, I never worked up the courage to let her know.

        And then I got off the train and saw a bunch more people with dirt on them. Finally asked someone about it at work and it was explained.

      2. alter_ego*

        Every. Single. Year. I forget about ash wednesday and tell the first person I see that they’ve got something on their forehead. Without fail. Every year.

    23. CollegeAdmin*

      I had several adventures while working for a gift store, but my favorite was the woman who came in and asked for a non-religious confirmation card. I told her that we didn’t have any (given that it’s a religious ceremony!) but offered to show her the general congratulations section. She stormed out in a huff without buying anything.

    24. Katie*

      A coworker and I were working for a winery’s tasting room, we were 2 late 20s females alone closing registers and up.. We closed at 5, and locked the doors a few minutes early behind our last tasting, I’m not starting your experience at 4:55, sorry. A large SUV came speeding into the parking lot and 6 40somethings ran up to the front. Found the doors locked and 2 of the men spent several minutes banging on the door and screaming at us. We finally threatened to call the local PD and the group left.

      Classy!

      lol

    25. Log Lady*

      During college, I was working in my school’s office. It was the beginning of the semester and I was trying to help about a million people with making copies, and this guy calls about a drawing class for non-majors. He says the syllabus says you can miss 20% of the classes and still pass, how many classes is that? I’m like, I really have no idea? I clearly have a tone of voice that says a – I don’t care and b – I’m stressed. He calls back and yells at me for not helping him more.

      I cried cause he yelled at me. But seriously. Don’t call an art major and ask them how many drawing for non major classes you can miss. Just go to the class you paid for! I told a professor this and he said if I ever got a call like that again, just transfer it to him.

      I mean, i wasn’t exactly in a customer service roll, but he treated me like I was.

    26. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m sure I have a thousand, having worked as a food server for years and also customer service and account management for several years. But the one that stands out (maybe because my daughter was just talking about it last weekend) is from this one time at a popular at the time steakhouse chain I was serving at. They had an early bird special that drew all the folks from the retirement community nearby. Please note I usually love old folks. But this couple came in and the woman was just awful- made me remake the decaf three times til it was to her liking, shoved the bread basket into my stomach because it wasn’t hot enough, snapped her fingers at me when I was taking another tables order, etc….
      Well, when her order came up in the window, I picked up her steak with my bare hands, licked all the juice off of it, and put it back on the plate and served it to her. It was very self satisfying as I walked by her smiling while she ate it. And for anyone wondering, yes coworkers saw what I did including the chef and a manager and cheered me on!

    27. Pineapple Incident*

      When I was working for a certain retailer, I routinely had experiences with couponing customers who were lying to us, reprinting tons of the same coupon or photocopying it beyond scanning capability, and walking out with tons of stuff paid for with pennies (I don’t begrudge people saving money but when it takes me an hour and a half to finish someone’s transactions I get pissed off).

      This one lady was a gem- she would pretend to only speak minimal English and insist she only knew Russian, but coworkers of mine had seen her in town at other establishments speaking perfect English. She would show up to buy things, spend hours looking at items, and bring up 40 coupons for other things and keep shoving them at me saying “look, LOOK” and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I think she was just hoping if she was obstinate enough people would cave. We had a return policy that allowed customers to return items without a receipt, but corporate instructed us to stop doing it with her after we INSISTED she not be allowed given how much money she was costing our store with constant returns on things she bought months before with coupons.

      We had another older guy who would come in after the pharmacy had just closed and argue with the pharmacist walking out of the building about how he had to have his pills RIGHT NOW. He would also hang out in the front store, look at things, and not buy anything but be creepy while he was around. Once he asked me to show him some fragrances, so I walked him over to a display. He asked me what one particular one smelled like, I said I didn’t know but he could test it on himself. He sprayed me with it, then leaned in and sniffed, and smiled. I smelled like horrible cologne the rest of the day, and he walked away smiling. I was too stunned to say anything in response.

      TL;DR — I hate retail.

    28. Grapey*

      I did lottery once as a side job to pay for school. A guy cashed in a ton of scratch-off tickets, individually low winnings but overall came to over $800 bucks. The total he counted in his head was like 10 bucks higher than what the lottery machine rang through, and he watched me scan all the tickets. He said *I* (not the machine) obviously deserved a low paying job if I can’t do math right. Hint: There was no ‘math’ involved on my part.

      I immediately called my manager down to deal with it (because he was becoming verbally abusive over his error), held up my nutritional biochemistry textbook and said “Since I can’t be trusted to do math, you can wait here for my manager to do basic arithmetic while I finish studying for my advanced biology degree.”

      The look on his face when my manager got the same number.

    29. Mimmy*

      OMG, some of these are hilarious!!

      I’ve mentioned this job here before, but about 15 years ago, I worked as a receptionist at a wholesale mattress factory, so the customers were retail stores and, I think, “price club” stores. Anyway, I remember this one store manager who I could swear had a mental illness. I don’t remember specifics–I just remember always being rattled whenever I spoke with him.

      I lasted 2 and a half weeks at that job – that whole job was toxic.

    30. Thing 1*

      I’m a pharmacy tech working for a company that provides meds to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. So for the most part, instead of dealing directly with patients, I deal with their nurses. Usually this is better, but sometimes you get some really bizarre phone calls.

      So once upon a time, it’s my 6th day in a row at work, around 9pm, and all I want is to get to 9:30 so I can go home and go to sleep. I wind up getting an order where I have to call the facility to give them a code to pull medication from their emergency stock so they can give it to the patient before their overnight delivery arrives. So I get the code, call the facility, and ask to speak to the nurse for this patient. I get the right nursing station, but whoever answers the phone can’t find that nurse. So she says she’ll take the code and give it to her. That works for me, so we run down the patient name, the drug name and strength, how many tabs they’re allowed to take, etc. I should note at this point that we seem to be understanding each other perfectly well – the connection is fine, no language barrier issues, and so on. But then I go to give her the code and everything starts to go horribly wrong.

      “Okay, so your code is two, three.”
      “Two, three.”
      “Six, eight.”
      “Six, H.”
      “No, not H, eight.”
      “H like Helen.”
      “No, the number eight. These are all going to be numbers, no letters, okay?”
      “…six?”
      “No, not six, eight.”
      “I don’t understand.”
      “Eight? The number after seven?”
      “…H like Helen?”
      “No, eight. The number between seven and nine.”
      “…I don’t understand you.”
      And then she hung up on me.

    31. EA*

      I spent several years working in theme parks and hotels. I have tons of stories, but here’s 3 of my favorites.

      1. (working front desk in a (4 diamond) hotel that had 1 main building with checkin, gift shop, and restaurants, but no guest rooms … they were all in other buildings). Guest comes up and demands a room in the main building. I explain that there aren’t any rooms in that building, but I’d be happy to get them a room close to the main building. They said that wouldn’t be acceptable, and they needed a room in the main building. I explained again that there aren’t any. They asked that I move someone else out. I said again that I couldn’t do that, because there aren’t any rooms in the building to move someone out of. They said that they’d stay at the desk until I could find them a room in the main building. I told them that I could probably clear out a broom closet, but their room in the other building would probably be more comfortable. They muttered that I was a “sarcastic idiot”, and walked away.

      2. (while working at a roller coaster) I measured a child, the child was too short by about 2 inches. Guest asked me to re-measure the kid. Kid was still 2 inches too short. Guest says that our height bar must be at the wrong height. I pull out the tape measure that we used to check the height (part of daily opening procedures). Bar is at the correct height, the kid is still 2 inches too short. Guest and child walk away, come back 5 minutes later, and miraculously, the child is taller. I asked them to remove the child’s shoes, which were now untied, and appeared to be loose. They had stuffed ice cream bars in the shoes to try and make the kid taller. The kid was still not allowed to ride. The guest asked if they could sign a waiver. I said no, but that I’d be happy to call the local sherriff’s office to have a chat with them about their willingness to endanger their child’s safety. They walked away without another word. (My manager told me later that they had gone to Guest Services and complained about me.)

      3. (This one is more amusing than horrible). While working at an attraction at one theme park, a guest asked for directions to an attraction at a competitor’s park. (think Orca, when I worked for a park with a Mouse as a mascot). Without hesitation, I replied “Go over the bridge, around the center island, exit the park, get in your car, hop on the local highway, take that to Exit ##, make a left, then a right, park the car, go through the turnstiles, and then make a right”. Their eyes glazed over about the point I told them to get in their car.

      1. Lindsay J*

        I got spit on one time because I would not let a too-short child ride a roller coaster. (By the parent, not the kid).

    32. Hattie McDoogal*

      Ah, jeez. I love/hate threads like this one. I work in customer service so it’s kind of comforting to know other people have to put up with this garbage too, but some of the customers… I know it’s not happening to me, but it still makes my blood boil to read some of these!

      Part of my job is emailing customers to tell them that the item they want is out of stock (we have live stock updates on our website but for whatever reason customers never seem to see it). Some time around last Christmas a guy ordered a particular widget. I emailed him later that day and said it’s not in stock, here’s when we expect to have it in if you’re okay with waiting, here’s a possible alternative that is in stock, blah blah blah. He sent me back a wildly abusive, all-caps email that had about a dozen f-bombs in it, telling me we were the worst company he’d ever dealt with and that our customer service was horrible, and closed with a suggestion that I kill myself (specifically that I take an electronic device into the tub with me the next time I took a bath). I forwarded the email to my boss, who told me to unceremoniously cancel the guy’s order, and that I was under no obligation to communicate with him. About a week later he emailed back and said something like, “I do still want that widget…”. Boss was like, LOL NOPE.

      I deal with a lot of angry, entitled customers (for anyone keeping score, I think doctors are the worst, especially ones who feel it necessary to remind you that they’re doctors — you know it’s going to be a bad call when it starts off with “Hello, this is Dr. Beverly Crusher…”).

    33. The Other CrazyCatLady*

      I used to work at a county animal shelter. I had a few… interesting… conversations with people.

      1) One lady was very upset that someone had “stolen” her cat. She insisted that everyone in her neighborhood knew her cat on sight, so obviously if someone had taken the cat to us, they had it in for her personally. This was compounded by the fact that nobody came looking for the cat for over a week. She got her cat back. Newly spayed and with meds for a cold.

      2) Another lady yelled at me because I didn’t know local ordinances on pet burial. I offered the number of animal control, who actually *know* the laws because it’s their job to enforce them, but she was terribly angry that *I* didn’t know. This conversation resulted in me discovering that I was allowed to hang up on abusive people so long as I warned them first.

      3) I have actual horror stories from working there, but there’s no means to hide such things from people who don’t want to see it, so I won’t go there. (but yes, there are also heartwarming stories to counter those, or I wouldn’t still kind of miss that job)

  10. Midge*

    Looking for some advice about a job that hasn’t been posted yet.

    A coworker mentioned that his old boss will be looking for someone new in her two person department. It is in the part of my field I’m trying to move into, so I want to take advantage of this opportunity. I’m planning to send an email to the boss (who I’ve met before) saying that I heard she’ll be looking to hire in her department, let her know I’m interested in learning more about the position, give a little bit of my related experience, and attach my resume. Is that too much? Or is there anything else I should be saying here?

    1. Sunflower*

      I think that’s fine- maybe check with your coworker first to see if there’s a different method or way you should go about doing this.

      1. Midge*

        Yeah, I don’t want him to know I’m looking. But if I’m going to reference him in the email there’s a good chance the boss will ask him about it. So I probably have to say something.

    2. A New Manager*

      I know a lot of hiring people are against this, but as for me, one of the things I look for in a candidate is whether they know how to seek out resources and use them to get the information they need. In interviewing for several positions I’ve had to fill so far, I’ve asked candidates what they did to prepare for the interview, and the answer I’m looking for should include some type of research into the job they’re applying for, like reaching out to someone who is already in that position or someone who recently interviewed for it so that they can get an idea of what type of questions will be asked during the interview.

      It’s a little different for me, because I hire internally from people who already work within my agency, but in my opinion it doesn’t hurt to reach out and ask someone information you need to know to help you be better prepared. I can see how this would become a problem for someone who receives hundreds of applicants for one job, as there is just not time to answer these questions all day every day, but you should be able to use your judgment to find out. In this case, the job isn’t even posted yet, so the chances of there being a ton of other people inquiring about it are much less. It really comes down to the personal preference of the hiring manager, and there’s no way to tell if this would annoy that person or not unless you ask your friend or just go for it and sink or swim.

  11. Katie the Fed*

    So this is a question that’s not a perfect fit in this thread, but somewhat related to school and work so I’m going to put it here:

    A friend of mine is a high school teacher. One of his former students was orphaned in 9th grade and was in the foster system for high school. Despite bad odds, he managed to graduate. However, he just turned 18 and essentially aged out of the system, with no safety net. We’re helping my friend funnel this kid money and clothes and food (he’s basically near homeless – staying with a friend) and hungry – and he’s also a full time student in community college.

    What resources are available for someone in that situation? He’ll need a job, but he’s in school full time as well. School is expensive. Living is expensive.

    What kinds of job/school/other resources could we direct him to?

    1. Lore*

      There is an organization called the LifeNet Network that was set up for precisely that purpose by Youth Villages–I know of it because an author I work with, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is on their board. I’ll post the links in the next reply.

        1. Lore*

          She actually set up her own nonprofit for this purpose, the Camellia Network, when that book came out; it’s become part of Youth Village/Lifeset recently.

      1. Lore*

        The link isn’t posting for some reason–it’s lifesetnetwork dot org, or youthvillages dot org for the broader parent organization.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It looks like they are Tennesee based? I was quickly scanning- are there similar organizations in other states?

    2. Anon369*

      No real ideas here except that maybe being a FT student has to take a hit in order to work. As I understand it, resources are really limited once you age out.

    3. LCL*

      There’s got to be someone at the community college that would know more about student resources. I would start with them.

    4. Kyrielle*

      He very probably qualifies for all sorts of welfare assistance based on income now – reduced-cost housing, food stamps, etc. His local city/county may have resources, and his community college may also know of some (including, possibly, financial aid). Local food banks; a church may also want to help, if that’s assistance he would accept. (Also, this is probably beyond the local Buy Nothing group, especially the housing aspect, but it might be worth joining/monitoring the group for things he could use.)

      1. TootsNYC*

        the state department of social services may have an income maintenance worker who can help figure out what sorts of assistance he’s available for now that he’s an adult.

        Because there is help for adults.

    5. Lucky*

      What state/city is he in? Many states are starting to offer resources to aging-out foster kids. I’d be happy to research and try to find some help for him.
      Other than that, how about financial aid? If he aged out, he should be considered independent, i.e., not receiving financial help from his parents.

    6. Loose Seal*

      Former foster care social worker here. Has he signed up for the Independent Living Program (ILP)? This is a federal program that pays for some college and gives spending money up until age 25. Many teens aging out of foster care do not sign up for ILP because they are (understandably) tired of caseworkers being in their lives. However, the ILP program is completely separate from foster care; the newly-aged out teen does *not* need to sign themselves back into foster care to take advantage of ILP. I’ve found that many teens and many foster care workers don’t understand that distinction. There are all sorts of information here: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/outofhome/independent/

      He may have to go back to his former caseworker to get the contact info for his local representative for ILP.

      There are more resources here: http://agingoutinstitute.com/general-resources/

      One of the biggest resource for these teens is to have caring adults in their lives. So, it’s good that your friend is there for this teen. One of the things your friend could do is help link the teen up with other adults that would be good mentors and friends. Here in the rural South, churches are a good place for that but if they live in a city, they might try looking for a meetup group for one of the teen’s hobbies.

    7. TCO*

      Definitely check with his college. Some of my local community colleges see so many students like this that they have support staff specifically to help with housing, benefits, etc. He might also benefit from contacting any local programs that serve homeless youth. Many of them work with clients up to age 21 or even beyond. They might be able to connect him to housing, public benefits like food support or health insurance, etc.

    8. Amtelope*

      Has he applied for financial aid? He should be eligible for a Pell Grant, and there may also be a state scholarship or tuition waiver for kids who were in foster care — check into that for your state. Foster Care to Success has a scholarship program and resources: http://www.fc2success.org/ He probably can’t get financial aid at this point for this semester, but his community college may have emergency financial aid available. It’s worth contacting their financial aid office and explaining his situation.

      I’d also look for organizations in your community that provide low-income housing. Depending on where you live, those organizations or government offices may be helpful or completely unhelpful, but it’s worth trying to see if he can get some assistance in finding an affordable place to live. Food banks can help with food. Going to school full-time while working is tough, but it can be done, especially if he can find a place to live that isn’t super expensive. If you belong to a church, or have an extensive social network, it might be worth putting the word out to see if anyone has a room they would be willing to rent for a reasonable price.

    9. Hedgehog*

      Depending on the state/county he’s in, there should be specific resources he can access, including rent and educational assistance. He may have to opt-in to extended foster care (18-21) in order to receive assistance, but it should help open some doors for him. Also depending on the state, he can look into contacting agencies that work in foster-care adoption and they should be able to get him a lot of advice around his specific circumstances. I work at an agency that specializes in adoption work with teens in foster care and we field these sorts of questions fairly often.

    10. Loose Seal*

      I left another reply but there are links so it may take a while to show up but I had another thought in the meantime.

      Under the ACA, this teen is eligible for Medicaid up to age 26. I know young adults many times don’t think of health insurance but if your friend could help this youth navigate Social Security to get linked up with that.

      Also, someone needs to take him to a nearby bank and buy him a safe deposit box pronto. When you’re couch surfing, it’s easy to leave behind your important documents. Hopefully, when he aged out, he was provided with a copy of his birth certificate and other documents that those of us not in foster care call our parents when we need (the foster care worker is required by law to do get these documents). If the youth doesn’t have them, your friend could help him get those.

      1. TootsNYC*

        And, your friend could help him organize himself so that he’s got one copy in the safe deposit box, and one to carry around. And maybe even one to “plant” with some stable adult who would be willing to hold them for him.

        You can get notarized copies of all those sorts of things, but you have to be organized to do it. The right notary public might even be willing to waive the fee (though it’s not expensive) for someone like him.

    11. Alison Read*

      This is a question that requires more of a regional answer; look to find a private agency that coordinate government benefits for those with disabilities. They should be able to direct your friend to resources in the community available to young adults aged out of the foster care system.

      It sucks, but the best way to navigate this is to start off with, “I’m not sure where to turn, I’m hoping you might be able to help me….” I hate that that tact gets more traction than explaining your situation matter of factly.

      Additionally, a quick Google search came up with organizations dedicated to scholarships for foster kids, that would be someplace to ask for direction from (as well as suggestions for resources).

    12. A Teacher*

      The financial aid office at his college will have resources or contacts that can help him. He may qualify for the FSEOG grant–which given his circumstances, he probably receives Pell grant. Every year, we get the spiel from our financial aid office to send students in desperate need to them so they can help if needed. Kudos to your friend for helping.

    13. Observer*

      If your city has a 311 or 211 system, call and see what city / state services are available. In New York, there are a few umbrella organizations that might be able to point you to help as well. UJA Federation, Met Council, Catholic Charities and United Way are the names that come to mind. And the first three all offer help, no questions about religion or faith asked.

    14. NacSacJack*

      I hesitate to say this but is anyone interested in adopting him? People over the age of 18 can be adopted. I just found out in my state you can be adopted up to 21 if in foster care. New to this whole adoption process.

      1. Loose Seal*

        Yes, it’s true that one can be adopted as an adult. I believe it can be done up to any age but the process is different if the adoptee is older than what the state has designated for foster youth (18 in some states, 21 in others). However, the young man might not want to be adopted. I worked with a lot of aging out teens and I only had one that was interested in being adopted. But one can have a family-like setting without adoption being on the table.

    15. A New Manager*

      Depending on what state your child social services department is based in, they should have resources for children who age out of care. It just requires the youth who aged out to contact them to access those resources. That is where I would start. (I work for the Dept. of Family & Protective Services – specifically Child Protective Services – in Texas.)

  12. Courtney*

    Thanks for all the responses last week. I talked to my sister and most of the issues are with her current company but some are inherent to her field. She’s leaning towards a career change but is going to try another position in her field first then go from there.

    Unfortunately her job has really got her down. I think getting out of there will help her a lot though.

  13. ACA*

    Getting used to a non-dysfunctional work environment with a boss who is kind and reasonable is harder than I expected – I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop! It’s not imposter syndrome, exactly, but I keep thinking, “Everyone’s treating me like a valuable member of the team and like I actually have worth as a person…can this be real? Am I on Candid Camera?” Now that I’m out, I’m realizing exactly how much back-to-back toxic jobs have warped my view of things.

    1. Maxwell Edison*

      I hear ya. I escaped a toxic job that had me paranoid and second-guessing everything by the end. At times I’ve found myself slipping back into that mode; a client will praise me and my work and I’m thinking, “Yeah, but what are they REALLY saying?”

    2. Anx*

      I can relahttps://www.askamanager.org/2015/09/open-thread-september-18-2015.html/feedted to this a little bit. It actually made me more nervous at first.

    3. lfi*

      Same here. My new boss frequently tells me that she’s so happy I’m here and joined the team. My boss’ boss emailed me and said the exact same thing.

      I came from having a boss who could get very emotionally charged and react without thinking… so this is nice. As is being salaried again. ;)

    4. Allison*

      Been there! Actually, I’m still there, sadly.

      My first job went sour, so ever since then any time I’m 5-6 months into my job I’m like “this is it, they’re going to take a closer look at my work and realize I suck, then pretend everything’s fine until the problem is so bad they have no choice but to let me go!” Any time I hear whispering I think “they’re trying to figure out what to do about me, I just know it”

      That hasn’t happened yet. I’m on my second job since getting fired from that first one, and I haven’t heard any complaints about my performance or attitude from either one.

    5. Ama*

      Oh, totally. I’m two and a half years out of my toxic environment and things are much better, but I still occasionally catch myself feeling like I’m going to get blindsided by a complaint or catastrophe. But yeah, it’s the weirdest thing being appreciated and recognized for your hard work when you’ve been somewhere that never seemed to realize how much was on your plate (or in my old employer’s case, actually said I was exaggerating when I provided very accurate documentation on how much certain responsibilities had grown).

  14. Conflicted*

    Time sensitive because my review is coming up next week and I want opinions before I go into it. :)

    How can I explain why I want a raise without bad mouthing my manager? Back story: my previous manager had been training me for a year to take on her job, and when she did leave , I applied, and ultimately the job was given to someone else in the company who had been there longer, despite me having more experience in the field. I was told they thought I was too young to get the position. I was of coarse upset but I acted professional and welcomed the new manager with open arms. We get along, but she has made it clear she is not interested in the field. I also feel like she is taking advantage of the fact that I was trained already to do her job, and has effectively switched roles with me; so I have been doing most of the manager duties while she has taken some of mine, but only some. She has also only been here 2 months and has called out or left early once or twice a week every week. . My workload has doubled; and I really would like to ask for a raise, but how can I mention why I deserve a raise without it seeming like I am “tattling” on her for not doing her work? I do not want to damage our relationship, and I do not want to come across as bitter. I honestly enjoy the manager work more to be honest, because I find it more challenging, but I find it kind of discouraging that I wasn’t good enough to have the title but I am good enough to do all the work.

    1. LBK*

      Is the manager in question the one you’d be asking for the raise? I think you can still be straightforward and list the responsibilities you’re covering that are above and beyond the normal duties of your role. It’s pretty normal for some of those responsibilities to include things your manager might usually handle, particularly if you’ve been/are being groomed to move up – it can even make your manager look good to be delegating and sharing high-profile responsibilities since it shows they’re dedicated to developing their employees.

      The only way she’ll take it as a slight is if your tone implies it’s meant to be – you can say “I’ve handled new hire training for the last 3 people that were brought on” in many ways, some of which will sound confident and happy about contributing to the department and some of which will sound whiny and bitter. You say yourself that you like the work, so go into it with that mindset and try to put all the frustration about not getting the position out of your mind so it doesn’t sneak into your voice.

      1. LBK*

        Also, I know this wasn’t your question, but I would try to reposition your situation mentally from “She got the job and now she can’t even do it without my help” to “She got the job but acknowledges that I’m a really smart and valuable asset to the department so she’s showing appreciation by letting me continue to handle higher-level tasks”. It can certainly be frustrating to do that without the title, pay or official authority, but the longer you do this, the better your resume looks for the next promotion you go for.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Not “she’s showing appreciation”–but “she’s relying on me.”

          it’s not a thank-you; it’s that you are one of her assets, one of her “tools,” and she is utilizing that to the max. It’s smart of a manager, actually, to do that–but since you are acting as a defacto deputy, it’s appropriate for you to be paid like that.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Honestly? I think you want to make the case because of “increasing responsibility” and specific successes, and list some of those duties. Among other things, if she’s not interested in the field, she may well leave after a year or two for something she wants to do more…and having done so much of the work under her, you will be in a perfect position to ask for the job again, now with more experience to point to….

    3. Hlyssande*

      I would suggest sitting down and writing out a list of all the things you’re actually responsible for and accomplish. That should help you get a good handle on everything you do and provide a solid base for negotiating.

      I did it last year in prep for a yearly review and it really helped me feel less panicked about it (thanks, imposter syndrome).

    4. JGray*

      I agree with the other posters that you need to sit down and write out the things that you are doing above & beyond your job duties. I think that is the only way to negotiate a raise. And also take the time to prepare so that you don’t come off as insulting your manager. Perhaps practice with a friend on how you say things. I am not implying that you will be insulting to your manager but sometimes based on how we are treated we act/talk a certain way even without realizing we are doing it. If you practice with a friend than perhaps the friend can help you avoid that pitfall and sound more neutral when you talk to your manager.

  15. Contractor-Turning-Fed*

    A question on etiquette: I am a contractor looking to apply to a fed position in the same agency but a different department…because of my contracting, my ‘boss’ (ie, the fed person who gives me work to do) and my ‘manager’ (ie, the company person who approves my leave) are in completely different companies/circles.

    So…when do I tell my boss that I’m considering leaving? There is no chance for him to push me out, since he doesn’t really have contact with my company, but he will find out after I apply because of the federal system. My boss is very vocal about how much he appreciates and needs me, but my company just isn’t that good. So do I tell him before I apply? Or hope I make the cut and then he finds out that way?

    1. Kyrielle*

      I would personally tell him before you apply, in part because he might speak up for you. If there’s a place for that in the federal hiring system, which I understand is way more structured than what I’m used to.

    2. Vorthys*

      It differs depending on agency/contract/many things and this is my view as a contractor, but I’d only broach it if things were actively moving forward in the process and you were gearing up for a hand off as you put your notice in with your company. Fed hiring is plenty slow, and not involving your poc allows them to avoid the appearance of poaching you.

    3. AnotherFed*

      If your boss is actually going to see you in the system, then definitely tell him – that means he’s close enough to have some ability to put in an informal recommendation for you or help you play buzzword bingo on USAjobs, even if he can’t serve as a formal reference for whatever reason. In most cases, a supervisor does not actually see everything in the system unless they’re in HR and would only get your info if you’re applying to something they are hiring for (or are joining the big pool of entry level people, but again, no one goes through that just for kicks rather than an active need to hire).

      Consider giving your manager a heads up, too – if your boss or someone else on the fed side slips up with the wrong person or mixes up dates and asks for a replacement too soon, your manager might find out from someone other than you. Most support contractors recognize that they’re going to lose people to government jobs and are pretty understanding of that fact.

  16. GigglyPuff*

    It hasn’t been one of those days, it’s been one of those weeks. Yesterday was a first, thinking about alcohol before noon days.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      On those days, I think about the scene in 9 to 5 when all the fed-up workers storm out because they need a drink. It makes me feel better.

    2. Joie de Vivre*

      Actually had a job once where there was a bottle of Bailey’s in the desk drawer and on rough days the morning coffee would get a boost.
      In retrospect, not really a constructive way to manage stress.

    3. Alison with one L*

      I feel ya. I’ve said multiple times that IF anything would actually make me start drinking (don’t and never have), this is probably the week that would do it. Sending hugs and chocolate. :)

    4. cuppa*

      It wasn’t one of those days for me yet, but I told a co-worker, “you should get a drink for that” this morning :)

  17. Still at the office*

    Mainly venting today – my project manager is being unreasonable and I don’t know what to do. We have a deadline next Friday, so she wants to see a draft of everything we are submitting by 10 am Monday. She announced this YESTERDAY with an note saying “the scheduling is up to you – either stay late or come in this weekend.” The team was here until 9:30 last night, we came in at 8:30 this morning and she keeps adding more and more notes and corrections on top of what we’re already struggling to finish. She leaves early on Fridays for Shabbat, and I’m really afraid she’s going to dump another load of markups on my desk at 4 pm Friday.
    Has anyone told a supervisor that the work they’ve assigned isn’t humanly possible in the given time?

    1. Introvert at work*

      Since PMs are supposed to manage a project (allegedly), I’d ask why are these quick turnarounds and heroics are needed? A PM is ideally supposed to set realistic goals and expectations to make a project successful.

      I would ask why such a quick turnaround is needed. Then tell the PM: I will do my best given the tight turnaround, but such a quick turnaround has the potential to affect quality. This is PM 101.

      1. Thinking out loud*

        +1. “The team has been working really hard on this already and doesn’t have the ability to surge more. We can get you a product Monday if you really need to review the whole thing, but [identify some ways that you could reduce quality but still live with the product]. Maybe it would be better if we have a tag-up Monday so that we can show you what we have and the direction were planning to go, and then we’ll get you the final product by COB Wednesday and you can review Thursday – does that work for you?

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am not a project manager, but I am responsible for managing my projects and team– and I get completely freaked out every September around the Jewish holidays. I’m not excusing her by any means– she should have planned for this better– but I would bet she’s panicking because she’ll be out much of Tuesday and all of Wednesday. Say what Introvert suggests above.

  18. Eric*

    I started a new job three weeks ago, and yesterday, my supervisor informed that because of a reorg she’d no longer be my supervisor, and I’d be getting a new one that has never supervised anyone before. I’m not sure how to take this. On the one hand, I’m brand new and so losing this supervisor doesn’t seem like the end of the world. On the other hand, in the limited interaction I’ve had with her so far, I liked her! Also worried about what this kind of reorg means for the future—my supervisor did say that the company likes to reorg a lot (it’s not financial though—we’re doing well.) Thoughts?

    1. Healthcare*

      I had that happen to me. Almost the exact same timing, actually. It turned out great. I liked the new manager a lot. There usually is a reason there is a new manager and the new person in the role was chosen for merit.

    2. TCO*

      You could end up with a great manager. You could also ask your current manager, or others you admire, to help mentor you. For instance, would your current manager be open to a short meeting once a month to share her insight on your company and department? That would be a way to stay connected and keep benefitting from her expertise.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It sounds like you will be okay here. I had a job where I went through five bosses in four months. My biggest concern was how do I get an eval that is fair. It did not have to be all positives, it just had to be fair. I did get a fair and positive evaluation.
      Do you have a peer who is kind of mentoring you? If no, ask the exiting supervisor who she recommends you go to with questions. She might know something about the new supervisor so keep your ears peeled for any comments she may have.
      I guess mainly I would just find out what resources I have available to do my work- phone lists or email lists are good. If you have any major stumbling blocks start figuring out how to break down those blocks now. And definitely know who you would contact if you had a personal emergency and needed to call in or leave early.

  19. TCO*

    Vent: my employer (a large university) reclassified my team’s jobs this week, and many of us were “demoted” into a lower classification. Our pay won’t change, but our benefits are being cut in half and our schedule restructured.

    No one knew this was going to happen, not even our management, and the changes take effect in six weeks. Figuring out what this means for our department and what our options are has been such a demoralizing distraction for all of us this week. Our department’s management is very upset and is taking this very seriously, but I can’t believe how much our university and their expensive consultants screwed up this process and communication. The worst part is that they’ve been slowly reclassifying departments for the past couple of years, so I can’t figure out how they’re still making fundamental communication mistakes.

    Argh.

    1. Hlyssande*

      I disagree that this isn’t a pay cut. Cutting your benefits in half totally amounts to a cut in your pay/overall compensation.

      I’m sorry this happened. It sounds like a terrible situation all around.

      1. TCO*

        We’ve been calling it a loss in compensation (and a big one). Our salaries are the same, but those lost benefits have real financial implications. Fortunately our managers completely understand that. These benefits are a huge draw/perk here, so they realize just how significant it is to lose them.

        1. Hlyssande*

          I’m so glad that your direct management understands! It sounds like they’re really trying to go to bat for you as much as they can, which is great.

          This sucks so bad for you, though. :(

    2. BRR*

      I’ve posted this same comment before but it sounds like they’re asking for an entire department to leave all at once.

      1. TCO*

        Exactly, which is part of why our managers are so concerned! They’d be in big trouble if even some of us decided to leave over this.

    3. Ama*

      I spent almost nine years in admin at a large university and “fundamental communication mistakes” was pretty much standard operating procedure there. But this sucks, and I’m sorry.

  20. Introvert at work*

    I’ve boned up on talkative co-workers before posting, but I’m trying to avoid the blow by blow of a coworker’s separation/divorce without seeming like an unsympathetic a-hole or not being a team player. (I’m a contractor, this person is full-time, but this person really doesn’t have a whole of of influence.) We aren’t really busy right now, and when pressed, I’ll lend a sympathetic ear,then try to stir the conversation back to something else like work (and this is after a good 15-30 minutes of hearing every detail). Otherwise, I just bow out of the conversation and I’d frankly rather be doing anything else, like surfing eBay for stupid things or stabbing a fork in my eye. She can wrangle someone else into 2+ hours/day of divor-convo (who doesn’t seem to mind).

    This is a person who thinks they’re pretty great, touts themselves as da bomb, yet doesn’t realize that others think this person’s work isn’t up to par, and this situation may be in their favor for keeping their job for awhile to boot. I’ve even provided feedback at this person’s request and saw for myself that this person’s work is not up to snuff, yet this person will then think that I’m not getting the rationale for what they’ve done.

    So, any thoughts on how to best handle this situation?

    1. Winter is Coming*

      I have a similar type of co-worker (she is a good worker overall though, so there we differ). Here’s my suggestion — have a “project,” real or not, on hand so that when she starts talking, you can “mm-hmm” a few times, then say, “Gosh Catelyn, I’m going to have to catch up with you later on this…I’m working on XYZ and have to get it finished this afternoon/by lunch/by 3 or whatever. So sorry!” Hopefully by then she will have moved on to some other poor sucker. I am notoriously bad at shutting down these types of folks, so am just starting to figure it out myself. The trick is not to let them get too far into it, or else it feels weird to just cut them off in the middle of a sentence. Which I should have no problem doing, but I do. Might work for you, good luck!! I must say it gets easier every time I do it.

    2. fposte*

      “Sorry, Jane, I’m trying to focus better on work these days–I gotta get back to it.” Whether she’s great or not or as great as she thinks she is doesn’t really factor in. You just need to get out of the convo.

    3. afiendishthingy*

      Are other coworkers sitting in the same area? Are these one-on-one conversations or is she kind of addressing anyone within earshot? I would wear headphones and let other people handle her, if possible. If not I would try to redirect much earlier in the conversation. Ok, your workload isn’t heavy at the moment but maybe you need to plan your menus for the next year, or listen to your Conversational Mandarin podcast, or work on your screenplay, all of which require your FULL ATTENTION. Or you could tell her you’re not comfortable hearing all the gory details. You could say it brings up unpleasant memories about some unpleasant break up in your past, although you shouldn’t really need an excuse to just NOT WANT TO HEAR IT. You could also suggest an EAP. But to be totally honest I would probably be the one hiding from her whenever possible.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      “Gee, Jane, that sounds terrible. Have you thought about trying the company’s EAP?”

      Some complainers do not like a redirect that involves something they should do. It interfers with their complaints.
      She does have a heavy duty problem, but work can be a time out from that issue, if she allows it to be.

      You could just say, “That sounds awful. What is your action plan to help yourself through this?” Once you have said that, you can just go back to it the next time she starts talking about it. “Hmmm. Terrible situation. How’s that action plan coming along?”

    5. Clever Name*

      Ugh. Talkative coworkers. Can you wear headphones? I’ve had talkative coworkers who just liked to chat all day, and I’d really prefer not to (and I can’t analyze data or write and shoot the shit at the same time either), so I’ve taken to wearing headphones.

      Otherwise saying you’re on a deadline and can’t talk just now are good options. Alison has written several posts about how to shut down chatty coworkers.

  21. early job hunting*

    I am in a role that I probably should have bailed on and had it been a not-on-my-resume oops. However, things looked good to stick it out for a year, especially since at the year mark, there is going to be a Big Change, the kind of thing people quit for without having extenuating circumstances. Until my boss quit and things could get dicey very fast. Any advice for the long term ramp up when you know you won’t make it past a certain date, plus putting things kind of in the spotlight because, well, things could get untenable very, very quickly. In these kinds of situations in the past, the whole team could be gone in a month. Which, depending on how it goes, could be a good enough thing that I might even be able to stick out past the Big Change. But since I am thinking about going contract or freelance, since I get very tired of things at the 6 month mark, so I feel like I need to really plan ahead, and this huge upset could ruin all those plans. What should I prioritize? Learning skills vs preparing for interviews/resume brush up?

    tl;dr, preparing for huge uncertainties while also ramping up a Big Hunt/transition to freelance. Thanks!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I would probably try to do both. But I would make a strategic plan first. Learn the skills that will be an asset to you. Don’t waste precious time on things that do not get you a substatial reward.
      Next, I would very carefully think through where I would apply for jobs. Again, be deliberate, pick places that seem to offer stable, decent work environments.

      It’s the time you spend planning your next steps, that will save you time in the long run and make each step something meaningful for you. This could be as simple as each weekend you decide which companies you will apply to for the upcoming week (just a couple, keep this doable) and which skills you will learn or start to learn for the upcoming week. Again, keep your lists short and keep them doable.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Would you be doing the same work as a freelancer, or something else? Because if you’d be doing the same work, I imagine brushing up your skills would also be a good part of interview and job search prep.

      Also, would it be possible to find a contract position for now and decide once it’s up whether to launch a freelance career or to find another perm job? It’s hard to make major life decisions in the midst of a chaotic changing workplace.

  22. The Cosmic Avenger*

    First, the good news. Then, the plea for advice.

    The good news: I think I rocked my interview! It felt great. Better yet, I used Alison’s How to Prepare for a Job Interview guide, including her “superstar” question (if you don’t know what that is, read/listen to her guide). Not only were the interviewers impressed, but ALL the things they mentioned were things I had been emphasizing previously in answering interview questions!

    So, my plea for advice. I dashed off a thank-you email when I got home. tl;dr version, I had to guess at the name/email for one interviewer, got it wrong, sent a second email to the actual third interviewer and copied the first two. I apologized to the first two for sending it twice to them, but I said that I wanted them to realize that I had noticed my error in the first message. So, how bad is that? IMO, if there’s an absolute clone of me and we’re perfectly even, that might edge me out, but otherwise it should be too small of an issue to matter.

    1. BRR*

      Not a big deal. If you had to guess because it’s not public/they didn’t give you their card you’re fine.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Actually, they’re all in the public directory, but the email I mistakenly used had the same first name pronounciation as one of my interviewers, and it looked like they were the same division in the directory. But I realized later that the person I interviewed with uses a very unusual spelling, which is why I didn’t spot them the first time I tried to look them up.

        (The public directory gave me 4 exact matches to the more common spelling I used, and 50 fuzzy matches most of which could possibly have been correct if I misheard her name somewhat.)

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Thanks! Mostly I wanted to justify…er, explain to someone (other than my wife) why I screwed it up! :D

  23. Completely Anon*

    So a strange thing happened. Today is out payday and my direct deposit is showing as processing which is normal. Now the person who runs payroll talked to one of the bosses and looked sad. I asked what was wrong and he said “If my paycheck comes back out of my account tomorrow I’m quitting”.

    I knew the company was having some difficulties but am hoping my paycheck doesn’t get debited back out.

    1. Kelly White*

      I worked at a place where I was advised to go to the bank at lunch and CASH my paycheck, because there was a very good chance that not all the checks would cash.

      My advice- start looking, and get out as fast as you can!

      1. Completely Anon*

        That sounds awful. A chance not all the checks would cash? Wow.

        I will be looking for sure. Not good signs at all.

    2. Rebecca*

      That happened to me before. I had no idea it could happen (looked like it had gone in fine) but then a couple of days later I had overdraft fees. And it happened again a couple of months later. The company did pay me, but I should have run like hell!

  24. Stephanie*

    I have an interview! So I’ve only been in my current role two months and at my company since December. The reason I’m still looking is because I’m at 0.7 FTE and the pay is horrible. (Yeah, I’m one of those people who took the part-time job as the stop gap after being out of work.)

    (1) How would I explain wanting to leave so soon without looking like a job hopper? Unfortunately, I do have an extended period of unemployment and my longest tenure has been two years. The chief reason I’m looking is the pay. To a lesser extent, I’m also looking due to the hours (I’m on nights) and I’m meh on the company culture. There is a chance I could be promoted out the role, but I’m picking up that a promotion and raise are pretty far down the line.

    (2) Job is in a different city. I’m fine traveling, except current job has a rule that we can’t take any vacation the first six months. We have a few discretionary days, but I’m unsure if I can use those yet (asked my HR rep and she sent me a kind of passive aggressive email back telling me to ask my boss…who then didn’t know and told me to ask HR). So how would I handle the travel question?

    1. Malissa*

      If new job is better suited to your degree you can cite that as well. I’d just ask your boss for the day say you had something come up that requires you to be out and you’ll need the day off. If he scoffs then you’ll need a cover story, but often the question never comes up.

    2. Stephanie*

      Ok, update:
      Had interview. He didn’t really press why I wanted to leave so soon, especially after I mentioned my hours and limited room for advancement. He was more curious about my interest in the role.

      He sent me an assignment to complete, so I guess that’s a good sign. :)

  25. Clothing*

    I work in an office where men are allowed to wear jeans every day but the women are never allowed to even on Fridays. Some of the women do the same job as the men and many times we all have to go to the warehouse and get a little dirty. It’s not a huge deal but it does feel a little sexist, I’m interested to hear what others think of this.

      1. Clothing*

        Not sure what the reasoning is but we (only us two women in our section) both asked if we could wear jeans on Fridays when we first started and were both told no we could never wear jeans. We didn’t really ask why we couldn’t: The other lady does the same job as one of the guys I have a completely different function than almost everyone though.

        1. TCO*

          Have you pointed out this pattern to your boss? “It seems that all of the men are allowed to wear jeans, but as the only women Lucinda and I aren’t allowed to. Our jobs all require us to spend some time in the warehouse and formal businesswear just isn’t appropriate for that setting. Can you explain the policy to me further?”

          1. Clothing*

            No, my boss is in another office and it’s not really my hill to die on I’m more asking for my coworker because she’s out there everyday where as I’m only out there occasionally. I know she spoke to the big boss here and he wouldn’t give her anything else besides “no we just don’t do that”. I’m afraid making a big stink about it will cause the men to have to wear slacks and then this will cause resentment.

            Curious about what others think about the situation and thank you everyone for your replies.

            Sorry for typos! I’m on my phone.

            1. Naomi*

              I get not wanting to upset your male coworkers by getting their dress code restricted… but, um, isn’t the current situation causing resentment among female coworkers? If banning jeans entirely would draw complaints from the men, then women in the same job have equal grounds to complain about not being allowed to wear them in the first place. (Also, it sounds like jeans are more practical for this job, so restricting everyone’s dress code would be a supremely silly “solution”.)

              That said, your boss’ reaction makes me worry that he’s hung up on “we must do things the way they have always been done and not make changes ever”, so he might not be open to reason.

            2. CMart*

              I don’t know if you’ll see this, since it’s a pretty late response, but I figured I’d try!

              Have you and the other woman mere been *told* you can’t wear jeans? Have you tried wearing jeans and been reprimanded for it, or have neither of you been that brave?

              I ask, because the discussions with the bosses sound very much like a conversation I had with a landlord a number of years ago. We were doing the final walkthrough of my new apartment and when we went out to the back deck I saw the neighbors had a grill. “Oh! So we *can* have grills here? The lease said they weren’t allowed.”

              “No,” she said. “No grills. It’s a fire hazard.”

              We stood there in silence for a few seconds while my eyes darted between the neighbor’s grill and my new landlord. “But… they have a grill.” I looked up. “And so do both of the upstairs neighbors.”

              “No grills. They aren’t allowed,” she repeated.

              Everyone still had a grill. No one ever got in any sort of trouble.

              Perhaps “all the men wear jeans all the time” is a similar thing. Jeans aren’t allowed. No siree.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Yeah, this feels a lot sexist, not just a little (Unless there’s something I’m missing, like all the men have the same type of position and all the women had another.)

    2. Lillian McGee*

      If the only reason they can’t wear jeans is that they are women, that’s a problem. A huge problem, actually.

      1. Natalie*

        Might still be a problem even if they have a putative reason, if that reason isn’t a bona fide business need. The EEOC takes disparate impact into account.

        1. Clothing*

          Natalie can you tell me more? Is something like this eeoc worthy? (Sorry if I sound uneducated I really have no idea)

          1. Natalie*

            I would probably bring it up to them first. I think Alison has some posts about bringing up legal violations to your company, but the short version is you want to sound collaborative (“this could get us in trouble”) rather than combative (“you’re breaking the law and I’m going to get you in trouble”).

            Or just starts wearing jeans on Fridays and see if anyone tells you not too!

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I think you should send this in to Alison – it would make for a very interesting thread. Feels very sexist to me!

    4. Mockingjay*

      Dress codes should fit the work, not the gender.

      Your company dress code should be something like this.
      Warehouse work: ALL staff are required to wear safety shoes and coveralls or sturdy pants (twill, denim).
      Offices/cubicles: ALL staff should follow Business or Business Casual (select one). Denim may be worn only on Fridays (“Casual Friday”).

    5. HRish Dude*

      Is this in the US? Because this is one of those “Is this legal?” questions where the answer is “no”.

    6. Katie the Fed*

      For this I would probably just go ahead and wear jeans. If asked I’d say “oh, well the men in the same jobs are allowed to and I’d hate for us to look like we’re making policies based on gender.”

      1. SherryD*

        +1

        I work in a blue collar facility that includes male workers and managers who have been there 30+ years. Sometimes, they’re a little old-fashioned. To call a spade a spade, they are, at times, sexist.

        In your situation, I would totally wear jeans on casual Friday, and not even ask for permission. Katie the Fed has the perfect line for dealing with any blowback.

    7. JGray*

      You can’t treat the same type of employees (i.e. full time, part time, full time seasonal) different based on a protected classification (in this case male vs. female). In order for the no jeans policy to be correct they would have to ban the jeans for everyone. I know that another commentor mention the EEOC which is good place to start because it sounds like the company doesn’t care or realize that what they are doing is illegal.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        For REAL. I know it’s just pants but I still think it’s a pretty big deal. It’s rigoddamndiculous.

    8. BrownN*

      Could they be thinking “skinny” jeans? Trying to figure this out and not doing a good job.

      Has anyone asked if you can wear any pants at all? Can you substitute cotton twill pants, what I call uniform pants.

    9. TootsNYC*

      Point out that this means the women are risking their decent clothes. That jeans are way more durable and stand up to washing better.

      And that proper attire, in terms of durability and practicality and SAFETY should be continent on job duties, not gender.

      So I can see them saying, “You don’t go to the warehouse and lug boxes, so you can’t wear jeans.” But the lady who does the same job needs to be able to do so.

      (And some states have laws the prohibit discrimination based on sex. I’d call the state labor department, just out of curiosity.)

    10. A New Manager*

      Yeah, I’d be contacting your Civil Rights Department and filing a formal complaint based on your protected class (sex).

  26. RG*

    OK, so I am applying for a job where instead of emailing or uploading my resume, I am submitting a link to my resume. I’m hoping that you guys can provide some insight into formatting – particularly length. Does the one page rule change slightly because it’s online? Can I provide a link to my projects that are online in the resume, or is that still out?

    1. Stella Maris*

      I would turn my resume into a PDF. The length and formatting won’t be affected and the interviewer can easily print it out! And you can have links in a PDF.

  27. Rye-Ann*

    I got offered a job this week! It will be my first real professional job, so this is really great for me! It was so unexpected – originally, I was rejected after interviewing. But last week, it was re-posted, so I reiterated my interest. The offer came swiftly thereafter!

    Technically, it is contingent upon the results of a background and reference check. There’s no reason I should fail either – I have no criminal record, my driving record is clean (never been pulled over), I’ve never declared bankruptcy, I’m not in debt, I have the degrees I said I do, and my references do like me. Still, my brain is very literal some times, so there’s still that little voice that says “Well TECHNICALLY they could take it away from you still” and I’ve been kinda nervous all week. Still, they really are treating it as a formality – I was already sent all of the pre-first-day paperwork to fill out, and it’s pretty extensive.

    Also, I’m supposed to come in at some point before day 1 to present my documents for the I-9, but the person I’ve e-mailed about when I should come in isn’t getting back to me. My boyfriend is insisting that I can just show up if they don’t get back to me by next week, but I really doubt it. It seems like the sort of thing they want to prepare for, and you can’t enter the building without a card.

    I guess, basically, even though I should just be super excited about this (and I am), I’m also just feeling SUPER nervous about every little thing. :\

    1. Healthcare*

      In my experience, a reference check has always resulted in a job offer. There are exceptions to that rule, but I have never had a reference check go poorly (knock on wood).

      You’ll most likely get an offer. Congrats!

      1. Rye-Ann*

        Thanks! Actually, the situation is that I already HAVE an offer, as stated in an offer letter, including start date, salary, and other details. I accepted the offer. But the letter states that it is “contingent upon a background & reference check” so that’s what they’re doing now.

        1. Dawn*

          Basically in my experience that means that they really really like you and really really want you and unless something comes up on your background/reference check that is hellah sketchy then they’re gonna go ahead and bring you on board. Don’t worry about it.

          Don’t just show up with the I-9 documentation, that’s rude. Wait to hear back from them on it- the ball is in THEIR court on this one because you have something they want and the onus is on them to make sure they get it from you prior to your first day. If you haven’t heard from anyone regarding bringing it by before they schedule your first day, then use that chance (when they contact you to schedule your first day) to bring it up again.

          1. Rye-Ann*

            :D Thanks. Fortunately, my name is somewhat unusual (though, middle name excluded, Google suggests that there are a few others, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in my state & with my middle name).

            That’s what I thought – thanks! I already do know when my start date is, though. I guess I can just try calling them if it starts getting really close and I haven’t heard from them.

            1. F.*

              Background checks use more than just your name. Your Social Security Number (in the USA), driver’s license number, and address are all used to identify you. I echo the advice not to just show up with your I-9 documents. I am an HR Manager and have a certain timeframe protocol I use to communicate with people I will be bringing on board. Since they are running your background check prior to your first day, they are probably waiting for results, which can take a few days (up to a week, if you have lived many placed in the timeframe they are looking at). Check your email for a message from them. I send a “What to expect on your first day at ABC Co.” email telling new hires where to park, what to wear (for our field personnel who need safety boots), what to bring (including the I-9 docs, photo ID, etc.) and even what’s available in the area for lunch (and mentioning that we have a refrigerator and microwave if they want to bring their lunch). I also let them know they will be completing paperwork, attending safety orientation, going for their drug testing, and possibly beginning training, if time permits. The goal is to make our new hires feel as comfortable and welcome as possible. Check your email (and your spam folder). They’ll be in touch.

              1. Rye-Ann*

                Hmm, that makes sense, especially since the person I’ve been in contact with has been pretty good about e-mail otherwise. Thanks – I will definitely keep a look out! :)

              2. Arjay*

                I wish everyone did this. My new hire orientations have been ok, but very rarely address when, where, or if I’m going to have the opportunity to eat lunch. :)

        2. Healthcare*

          Oh, unless you have an evil twin who has decided to sabotage your job search by ruining your name, you’re set. Congrats again!

    2. Sunflower*

      As someone who just went through this I TOTALLY GET IT. I was in the same boat- offer letter, salary, start date. They sent me the forms and documents I had to sign(sexual harassment policies, etc) and it was contingent on background check. I freaking out the entire time because I was so excited about the job and it seemed so great(esp in relation to the hell that was my old job) that I kept thinking ‘something’s going to go wrong’. Everything went fine but i was freaking out until I got that email that said everything is cleared.

      Don’t just show up. I would email once a week until the start date then maybe a few days before. If they don’t get back to you, just show up the first day with it. Congrats!

      1. Rye-Ann*

        Good to hear I’m not the only one. I really hope they do actually tell me that I am officially all set, haha. Congratulations on your job too!

        And yeah, it sounds like the consensus here is that I shouldn’t just show up, so I am not going to do that. Thanks!

      2. nerfmobile*

        The I-9 documentation is not required (legally) to be done before you start work, so it doesn’t have to happen in advance. If they aren’t in touch about that specifically before your first day of work, just bring it in with you then.

    3. bridget*

      I know how you feel – my nose is squeaky clean, but every time I have to submit my fingerprints for an FBI background check (which has happened 2-3 times and is sort of common in my field), I’m just SURE that this time there will have been some crazy coincidence where my fingerprints are at the scene of a grisly murder, or something.

    4. Lindsay J*

      I’m always worried about things like this.

      I’m currently waiting to hear whether I’ve been approved for an apartment. This apartment complex pretty much advertises on Craiglist that they’ll take anyone regardless of broken leases, bad credit, etc. I talked to the leasing agent about my situation and she told me it should be no problem. I’m still nervous about it. Same for when I went to finance my car.

      I finally relax and get excited once it actually happens.

      I wouldn’t show up for the I-9 stuff until they get back to you. It only takes like 2 seconds to do, but someone has to be available to do it. And especially if you have to get swiped into the building you don’t want to go there and wind up stuck outside because nobody is expecting you to be there.

  28. Shell*

    What are your petty grievances about work? You know, the ones where you understand “wow, if this is the worst I have to put up with I have it pretty damn good”, the ones that don’t actually affect how you do your job in any substantial way but still grates on you?

    1. Not Today Satan*

      Well, this actually isn’t petty but: I work in direct human services (a social worker-type role) and my clients can be a pain in the ass. Many of them don’t treat me with the type of professionalism/respect I assume they give doctors, etc. and likewise, feel a weird sense of entitlement. (For example some get REALLY riled up if the meeting starts literally 2 minutes late.) Also, many show up half an hour late and I have to rush through the appointment…. I just wish the clients took the situation as seriously as I did and respected me as a professional. (For the record, many do, but many don’t.)

    2. Lillian McGee*

      There are a lot and mostly kitchen-related but the biggest one is when something runs out or is near to running out and people just ignore it! They don’t refill the copy paper or the paper towels, etc. and the worst part is they don’t tell me so I can reorder things BEFORE they run completely out! It’s maddening.

      1. Shell*

        Ha, maybe it’s my previous admin background rearing its head, but I do automatically straighten up/refill things when I can at work (as opposed to at home, where I am full of clutter).

        I had a coworker thank me for refilling the paper towels the other day, which surprised me. XD

      2. asl*

        In my office, folks often bring in treats and put them in the common area for everyone to share. People don’t throw away the container after they take the last cookie/treat/tea/ etc. Drives me nuts! Who do you think is gonna throw it away? Your mom? The magical office cleaning fairy?

      3. Rebecca*

        My coworkers are apparently incapable of replacing the toilet paper roll. They’ll just put it on top of the empty one. ??? You’re sitting there for a little bit, just put it on the actual holder!

      4. Chameleon*

        When you finish the last of the coffee, brew a new damned pot. Seriously, people, this is office etiquette 101.

    3. LCL*

      Traffic patterns in our parking lot are all screwed up because a manager decided to block off a turnaround area as a group punishment. Of course I escalated this by calling it what it was, and he has the power, so it stays blocked even though the original cause of the problem retired 2 years ago.
      Yes, this has absolutely nothing to do with our mission.

    4. Kelly L.*

      The guy who works behind me always hums the same line from the same song, every 30 minutes or so, every day he’s here.

      1. bridget*

        THE BATHROOM SINK. The temperature is fine, but the pressure is set very high with a very fine spray pattern. So it’s simultaneously very difficult to get my hands actually wet, and the water mists/sprays all the way up my arms, all over my shirt, and onto my face. It’s the worst.

      2. Natalie*

        Ugh, the bathroom on our level is just asinine. And was redesigned fairly recently, so we’re stuck with it.

        And the water is always freezing.

      3. Hlyssande*

        Our bathroom sinks are fine, but the paper towel dispenser is right next to the right sink, and whoever is using it has to lean away/edge into the middle for someone else to access. It’s like that in the entire freaking fancy office building and I huff about it every day for being so stupid.

        Also, the lighting at the mirror you can actually get close to is ridiculous.

    5. fposte*

      Our carpet is really wrinkled. They can’t stretch it out because it’s aging and it would probably wreck it, and there’s no budget to replace it. And every morning when I go in the light shines in from the sides and it looks like a freaking relief map, and it’s just annoying.

      (There is a lot worse, but that’s the recurring one that isn’t a big deal but really bugs me.)

      1. Alma*

        My first week after orientation, in the office to which I had been assigned, I got up from my desk chair, and the toe of my shoe caught the wrinkle in the carpeting and I went flying. It still replays in my mind in slo-mo. The offices were rented, but still – I had to file an injury report.

      2. Clever Name*

        Ugh. The new-ish carpet in my office is filthy. We have field workers tromping in and out and we’re a dog friendly office. We had the carpet cleaned a while back and then a piece of equipment leaked *something* on the carpet the day after they were cleaned.

    6. Kyrielle*

      The guy across the hall from me is almost never in the office (I think in three months he’s averaged once a week?) because he travels for work. He has a window, I have a windowless office. (On the plus side, when he’s gone, the interior windows and a couple open doors mean I have a tree view that’s actually pretty nice, just further away than I want it.)

      1. afiendishthingy*

        My part time mostly telecommuting coworker has the best lowest traffic cube, which just doesn’t seem fair. I borrow it a lot, which eases the pain of the injustice a bit.

    7. pieces of flair*

      My boss is always running late and/or scheduling meetings for times when she already has something scheduled. I’m the one who has to contact the people she’s supposed to be meeting with to let them know she’ll be late or they’ve been “bumped” and need to reschedule. Or if she doesn’t tell me she’s running late, I have to awkwardly direct people to wait in her office and say I’m sure she’ll be here soon.

      She is otherwise great, though.

    8. squids*

      People don’t knock or announce their presence before coming up behind me and talking to me. I get jump-startled 2-3 times a week. My boss was doing better for a while after I specifically talked to him about it, but …

      1. F.*

        I assume you are talking about when you are at your desk. Get a small mirror on a stand and strategically place it so you can see over your shoulder.

    9. rek*

      I work for a state government (my office is in a state-owned building) and the bathrooms are disgusting. On any given day, at least one toilet won’t flush and at least one sink is clogged. The presence of soap is hit-or-miss. The building has eight floors, and I swear the cleaning crew uses the same murky bucket of water to wash all of the bathrooms. I’m not germ phobic but I have resorted to bringing my own spray disinfectant when I visit the facilities.

      1. Beth*

        Ha! I also work in state government. Our building once received an email from facilities stating that the 2nd floor bathrooms were once again operational now that the plumbers had unclogged the toilets of large quantities of paper towels AND SOME UNDERWEAR.

    10. bridget*

      No free coffee in the breakroom, having to use wordperfect for some things (?!?!!!), and my boss having a fair number of very specific quirky preferences that need to be remembered (like fonts in emails).

      1. Mockingjay*

        Not quite on topic, but I miss Wordperfect. It had formatting features in the DOS-based version that MS Word still can’t do today…

          1. bridget*

            Word has reveal formatting now, which I understand is pretty much the same thing.

            At my current WP job, the Reveal Codes function is detailed in our process manual, under “What To Do if the Formatting in WordPerfect Does Something Bizarre For No Reason.” So, one might argue that word doesn’t really *need* a reveal codes function :)

            1. Lore*

              Word’s reveal formatting doesn’t work quite the same way, though–it reveals formatting on a selected portion of text, but if something is behaving strangely and you can’t figure out why, there’s still no way to reveal all the formatting markers in a file to see where the problem lies.

          2. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Oh, WordPerfect. Word processor of my childhood and adolescence, on which I wrote many high school papers and terrible unfinished novel drafts. It will always have a special place in my heart.

    11. AVP*

      My office overlooks a street where, for two weeks out of the year, there’s a giant Italian street festival. I love zeppoles, but they have this terrible dj and a grandstand with eating contests and it is so loud and gross and because they shut down the six blocks surrounding us during the festival, you can’t get deliveries and it’s really hard to move big things in and out of our building. And the dj assumes that no one will be at the festival for more than a few hours so he has no problem playing the same songs over and over….except we can all hear him quite loudly from our office, and his favorite song is Blurred Lines.

      On the bright side, they must have gotten a lot of complaints because this year’s version is like dialed down by half. And it’s over after this weekend!

      1. Loquelic Iteritas*

        > Blurred Lines

        My … what an interesting song. I’d never heard it before (I listen to a lot of music, but I have some weird gaps, especially when it comes to Billboard/pop/bubblegum stuff which, sorry, I tend to think of more as “music product”). When you said “DJ” and “Italian street festival” I kinda figured the music would lean more towards stuff like “Ce La Luna Mezzo Mare”.

        In any event, you have my sympathies, I can definitely understand the irritation factor in listening to “Blurred Lines” more than once a day.

        Oh my – there’s an ‘uncensored’ music video for the song.

        1. AVP*

          heh, you would think….their live musical performances run to Italian American classics, Italian music, and operas, but somehow the DJ didn’t get that memo.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        “Soaking.” There is no such thing as soaking; there are only abandoned nasty dishes and a muttered feeble excuse. When I see that the same dish has been “soaking” for a couple of days, I disappear it into the trash.

      1. LSP*

        Our stupid, cheat microwave turntable is always off its shaft and no one bothers to fix it except me!!!!! Argh, so much anger.

        Also, someone always set the microwave for X minutes but stops it at Y seconds and never hits clear.

        Now I’m going to go to bed angry x-|

    12. Ad Astra*

      My boss tells a lot of stupid jokes and sometimes makes social/political comments that he should probably save for his like-minded buddies. Nothing egregious, but enough to make me wish he’d go away.

      1. Annoyed*

        Same here. He drives me nuts. It gets worse the colder it gets outside. I’m dreading winter already because of him.

      2. Clever Name*

        My office mate chews everything rally loudly. Even soup. He smacks his lips and sniffles constantly. And he reeks of cigarette smoke.

    13. Ama*

      My work building is a block long (a very short block, but still) and has an entrance on either end, but because it is on a hill the “back” entrance is on a lower floor than the main entrance. They lock this door at 5 pm every day, even though 90% of the businesses that rent space here are open past 5. The back entrance happens to be in the direction of my walk home (and closer to quite a few mass transit options that my coworkers use), if they’d leave it open even half an hour longer most of us would not have to walk around the building every day.

    14. Elizabeth West*

      People who splash water all over the sink/counter in the bathroom and don’t wipe up after themselves. I am not your mother or your maid. What, are you taking a bath in there?

      1. TootsNYC*

        wiping up is a pain, though–you can’t do it with just a paper towel or two, usually.
        I got a squeegee for the all-in-one molded sinks for the bathroom at my old job. I was very popular!

    15. TheLazyB (UK)*

      Not being told deadlines and still being expected to meet them.
      Also, we keep getting told that our travel budget is overspent. Me&my counterpart are worried about this every time we need to travel. Meanwhile senior management keep going for Really Expensive Travel Options. Grr.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        The travel thing is exactly the same where I work. Uncannily so. It is also public money so everyone officially has the same rules. But…

    16. Mallory Janis Ian*

      There is no faculty/staff parking on this side of campus, except in the $800/year parking garages or reserved lots. Normal faculty/staff parking (for salaries under $30,000) is only $96/year. I never paid attention when I worked on the other side of campus, but all the good, cheap parking is on that side. I assumed when I started working in this department that they would have comparable places to park. But, nope. And to make it worse, I know that the lot across the street used to be cheap parking, and they converted it all to reserved parking about five years ago. I keep looking at it and thinking that I used to would have been able to park there.

      1. TheLazyB (UK)*

        I know that must be maddening but most of my friends who drive to work would be thrilled to pay so little! To park where I used to work was £6 a day which is $2145 a year. Just in case that makes you feel any better? (If not feel free to ignore me!)

      2. Ad Astra*

        You just reminded me of another gripe about my job: We have to pay for parking. It’s less expensive and more convenient than what you (and other academics I know) describe, but parking isn’t particularly scarce near our office. The company owns four lots and a garage, there’s enough reserved space for every employee, and the “visitor” spots for customers are never even half filled. At least we get to pay it pre-tax.

    17. some1*

      Two jobs ago I had a close-knit group of girlfriends at work that I haven’t had since – I do miss that, but I am also probably taken more seriously now because I’m not tempted to wate time talking to my friends.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That is one of the main things I miss, too. I was part of a close-knit group of work friends that included a professor, an academic advisor, a director, and a development officer (people from several different areas of goings-on in our school). I always felt in the loop about everything that was going on at work, and heard about most things before they were a blip on the general knowledge. I felt like I had sort of an inside bead on what was going on.

        Now I can really tell I’m the new person; I was really taken aback the first time someone wouldn’t divulge something really minor to me; working for eight years at the same place and being a trusted confidante to many of the people there, I hadn’t encountered the gossip brick wall in a long, long time.

      1. asl*

        Plus various “system-wide” passwords requiring you to change them at different intervals so you can’t cheat and use the same password for each at the same time. Also the fact that we have to use several “system-wide” passwords instead of just, ya know, ONE “system-wide” password.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Usually you can proactively change your password at any time, so I just go change all 3 of them whenever the shortest interval comes around.

          And I use the same one for all of them; I just add a symbol for each of them (like, + for PeopleSoft; @ for the publishing system, and % for the other one).

      2. Lore*

        Yes! I get it…but if I could make *one* password and keep it all year, I’d be much more likely to have a really good secure one. Every 60-90 days, either I have to write it down or I have to dumb it down.

      3. Yet Another Fed*

        Tip: Do a password that has some numbers in it, and increment the numbers at the 60-90 days mark. So then you just have to remember whether you’re at (password)45 or (password)46 etc.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I do this–I have a phrase that has a word that could be converted to a number; I combine that w/ initials and proper nouns. And then I just change that number up by one every time. And add the second half of the phrase if it’s a longer password requirement.

      4. AnotherFed*

        Check into password safe – that got approved for our agency a couple of years ago, and made life so much easier!

      5. Not So NewReader*

        I need over a dozen passwords for my job. My boss needs even more. Yep, we have a reference sheet because neither one of us can remember “iOp6wnbv7Tq37” or similar for all the sites we use.

      6. EA*

        The worst is the voicemail system on our desk phones, which makes us change the PW every 40 days, and it can’t be any of your *EIGHT* previous passwords. And I average about one voicemail a year.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I know an IT guy who always, when told he has to change his password, changes it eight times at once, until he’s back at the old password again.

    18. Casual Friday*

      We share a break room with another apartment and they all eat lunch at the same time in there, crowding up the place and LOL’ing in all caps. By that, I mean we can hear them laughing aaaaaaaaaaalll the way across the floor.

    19. Merry and Bright*

      (1) People who empty used tea bags into the kitchen sink.

      (2) People who will not flush the toilet.

    20. Tau*

      A kettle that is so encrusted with limescale that my tea actually ends up gritty. I feel like I’m still way too much of a newbie to ask if anything can be done about it, but I have fond daydreams of sneaking into the office in the middle of the night with a bottle of vinegar or something.

      Also, being told IE is the preferred browser. I AM BIASED.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        We’ve been told to NOT use IE, except for some websites that won’t work with anything else (some government travel website that I use to book my boss’s travel to DC, for example). Which is fine with me; I love Chrome.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I don’t know why you can’t just clean it one day. It’s not like it’s that big a deal. Just do it–everyone will think you’re the cool newbie.

        Or buy a new one, if the kettle isn’t that cleanable.

        Be the change you want to see. I promise you, people won’t get upset about it. Just do it openly one day.

    21. Could be anyone*

      Retail clothing job that had items transferred between stores. There were specific forms for this that had to be requested from main office. Usually no problem but before inventory no transfers could be made and we knew that afterwards there would be lot as they tried to balance out the inventory. But they would never send more than 2 transfer books at a time no matter how many you knew you would need. So for 2 weeks before inventory I would have to put in a request for 2 books every other day so we’d have enough.

    22. JGray*

      I am the admin asst for a bunch of project managers. Most of the project managers are pretty self sufficient in that they do a lot of things themselves and occasionally will ask me to do something for them if they are really busy- except for one. He is notorious for essentially deciding that he doesn’t want to do something and so then asks me to do it. I can’t really say no because part of my job is helping the project manager with projects. But some of the things he asks me to do are ridiculous. I was at an all day training one time offsite once and during lunch noticed that he emailed me to find some information for him. I knew the info was on the website so I quickly went to the website and then emailed him the info- it took all of 2 minutes to do. He is constantly asking me to call people that he probably should. It ebbs and flows with his requests but it wears on you when there are multiple ones in a week so I always put those off on the to do list.

    23. LSP*

      Bathroom lingers….

      One lady has a whole 15 min ritual of teeth brushing, flossing, humming, staring at herself, cleaning up the sinks a little bit, and lord knows what else.

      Lady #2 has a similar routine, but on top of that she’ll spray the air fresher afterwards in the stall YOU are in because, you know, despite the fact she took a massive dump, you are the one leaving the offending smell. Hilarious!

      I really want to say get out! Leave! Go away!!! But I haven’t, so in the meantime I just wait for them to leave.

      1. The Other CrazyCatLady*

        People who decide it’s a good idea to take *personal calls* in the bathroom. While other people are in there doing the intended kind of business.

    24. Lindsay J*

      A coworker always completely shuts down the shared computers after using them. Everyone else just logs off or uses switch user, so I always wind up staring at the black screen, wondering why the stupid thing isn’t waking up after I touch the keyboard. Then I realize she must have used it last, and have to bend over to power on the computer and wait for it to load up.

    25. AngieB*

      I am phlebotomist-
      People who call me a vampire/ lab tech/ nurse
      People who sit down in the draw chair and look at me as if im supposed to roll their sleeve up- NO roll it up, I don’t dress you.
      People who cough on me as I draw them
      People who try to respond to texts while I draw their blood
      People who think I can just add tests on that the doctor didn’t order-cant happen in NY-
      People who want me to draw there fasting blood work even though they’re not fasting- the results aren’t accurate- you’re wasting my time.
      People who insist on a serum pregnancy test after the urine ones all come back negative -not once in 9 years has a serum come back positive after the urine was negative.
      I do love my job, just all of those things ive listed each happen roughly once a day- the first 4 happen multiple times a day, every day

  29. Retail Lifer*

    My boyfriend and I now have friends telling us that we must be doing something wrong since we’ve both been applying to a million jobs for months and we’re both getting almost no responses.

    These are people who have had the same job for 10+ years. Yeah, even I got calls back 10 years ago.

    1. "Jayne"*

      How does your cover letter/resume look? Are you tailoring each and everyone according to the job you’re applying to?
      I neglected to do that (didn’t even know that was necessary) when I was trying to get out of retail, and I submitted my info to a bunch of places for YEARS and never got a single response. It wasn’t until I learned that rule that I finally got a call back, and finally got out.

      It seems you read AAM a lot, so you may already know it. If that’s the case, then I’m sorry! I don’t know what advice to give, except to hang in there! I was in your situation not too long ago, and I seriously believed I would be stuck at my retail job forever.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        My cover letters have vastly improved since I found this site. I honestly never even understood the point of cover letters when before then. I think my biggest issue is that I have well over a decade of retail management experience on my resume and absolutely nothing else, and that’s not helping.

  30. Anx*

    I’m currently working part-time in a paid job, and extended an internships into volunteering. My current job is in a field with limited potential for full-time employment.

    I’m thinking that in January I may want to start looking for a second part-time job (if I haven’t done so already) and end my volunteering. But I’ll only have 6 months, not a year, of experience from my internship by them. So I’m not sure I’m really eligible for a job yet.

    There’s a problem though: There’s a good chance I’ll be moving within the year. My partner will be doing an academic job search. Even at grad student stipends, he’s by far the breadwinner between us. He’s more focused on his career, has a better work history, more specific skills, and has a lot of momentum right now.

    I’m almost 30 and I’m really itching to get out of this part-time / intern / volunteer cycle soon. But do you think it’s unwise or unfair to look for jobs when I intend to move if I can’t afford to stay here on my own? How do you go about job searching when you can’t afford to just wait and see what happens, but you can’t in all honestly profess your desire to stay with a company or in a region indefinitely?

    (i think the most frustrating thing about this is I’ve been job searching here for years)

    Although I’m searching for a full-time job now, I sometimes think it may be better to just stay with my current employer. I’m at the one year mark right now. I don’t want to look too job hoppy.

        1. Healthcare*

          If you’re moving within the year, could you find a part time contract? Those are usually less sought after positions that just so happen to fit both timing concerns. That would be the path I’d take.

          1. Anx*

            That’s what I’m hoping for!

            Unfortunately, a lot of those are at the larger employers, where I don’t think I’ll be able to make it past HR screening.

        2. over educated and underemployed*

          Maybe you can be a spousal hire on the administrative side if/when your partner gets an academic position :) Wishful thinking probably but wouldn’t that be cool?

  31. Stuck*

    I have 10 years of experience in my field but I have never managed employees before. Jobs in my field that do not require management experience are either entry-level or 3-5 years experience. I’m not getting interviews for those jobs. The next tier is 7+ years of experience but they do require management experience. I’m getting interviews for these jobs but being told that I am not getting them due to lack of management experience. Is my best bet to forget about the 7+ years of experience jobs and focus on applying for entry-level or 3-5 years experience jobs? If so, should I de-emphasize my experience on my cover letter/resume (and in interviews if I get to that stage)? Please help! Thank you!

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      Are you me?

      But do you have any leadership experience besides actual management that you can use as examples in interviews? You may already be doing this, but just wanted to throw that out there. Because if they’re interviewing you without seeing management experience, it would seem that they’re open to hiring someone who hasn’t managed people before.

      1. Stuck*

        I work in volunteer management and manage several hundred volunteers annually that are year-round volunteers plus dozens of short-term volunteers. Because of the critical role the year-round volunteers have, they have to apply to volunteer and if selected, they are given performance goals, annual reviews, etc. If they are not working out, they go through a PIP, and if necessay, can be dismissed from their role. While not the same as managing paid employees, there are similarities, and they are held to a higher level than your typical volunteer. I have also managed paid seasonal and temporary staff. I talk about this in my cover letter/resume and in interviews, and it doesn’t seem to matter since these are not paid year-round employees.

        1. JGray*

          The jobs that require management experience make sure to play up your volunteer management. A cover letter won’t have room for a lot of details but put something like “volunteer management including performance goals, annual reviews . . ” This way hopefully you can get an interview and explain in more depth that even though they aren’t paid these volunteers are like employees in that sense.

        2. Pinkie Pie Chart*

          I hope your volunteer management experience is on your resume, too. You are definitely managing them if they have goals and reviews and all that other good manage-y stuff.

  32. Maureen*

    I’m thinking about a career shift to Data science / Business intelligence. I’ve worked in IT for over 15 years (web development, system administration, network admin, and IT Management).

    I’ve seen this program available on coursera:

    https://www.coursera.org/specializations/jhudatascience

    Would completion of this program be looked on favorably by hiring manager of Data Science/Business Intelligence personnel?

    More generally, what makes a good Data Scientist/Business Intelligence professional?

    1. Dawn*

      I’m in this exact same boat. I’m currently looking into getting a MS in Data Science vs an MBA with a concentration in Data Analytics vs getting some professional certifications, and what I’ve come up with so far is that data science as a field is so extremely new that no one knows what the career track looks like.

      Since you already have a background in IT I think the first thing that you can do would be learn R/Python/SAS/SQL and about the Hadoop ecosystem- you can do that on your own pretty easily with free online courses. That’s a good start for sure. Also look at jobs that you think you’d like to do and see what the requirements gap between the job and your current skills is so you can begin to address that gap.

      Data analytics is SUCH a broad field- everything from being a math whiz senior analyst (like a friend of mine from high school with a PhD in advanced mathematics) to being an IT nerd programming warehouses for enormous data dumps in a Hadoop framework to being a Business Analyst using statistical analysis on large data warehouses to make predictive business recommendations (hopefully me in a few years). But yeah, start by looking at the jobs that you think you’d want and then working backwards- and trust me your background in IT is gonna be a huuuuuuuuge help.

      1. Nashira*

        For learning Python, I recommend a mix of Codecademy, exercism.io, and the book Learning Python the Hard Way. The first two are more fun, and the book really grinds it into your brain.

        There’s also Code Wars for exercism-esque kata but with an in-browser compiler like Codecademy.

    2. Anne S*

      I’m a data scientist and I interview data scientists (although it’s my boss that’s the hiring manager). That program is a good start, but on its own wouldn’t be enough for us to hire except in a very junior role. In particular, though I like it for teaching tools and technologies, there’s not enough independent decision-making in the projects for us to evaluate whether you can look at a data set, ask a reasonable question, and approach finding the answers in a reasonable systemic way.

    3. stellanor*

      I am working in BI and trying to move a little bit toward data science, and my manager has a storied history of managing analysts. I was also looking at that program and her take on it was that the coursework is absolutely valuable to learn those skills but paying for the certificate is, and I will quote her now, “stupid”. Apparently people don’t take the certificates very seriously to the point that it’s not worth paying money for them.

    4. Jubilance*

      Your best bet is to learn the systems – R/Python/Hadoop/SAS and also hone your SQL skills. Also learn about systems like Teradata and Tableau. Courses are fine but what you really need is experience working with Big Data and feeling comfortable with it. At the same time, a lot of companies are just starting to touch Big Data, so it’s good to also be an advanced Excel user – pivot tables, Vlookups, etc.

    5. Windchime*

      This set of courses is exactly what our boss (whose title is EBI Director and Chief Data Scientist) is suggesting that our team take. One person has already started and I’m slated to start in October. Most of us are SQL programmers who also have other skills (C#, SSIS, SSRS). I think it sounds like a good idea for you. We are a Business Intelligence team that is growing really fast and are heading towards doing more analytics and data visualization.

  33. Healthcare*

    I haven’t found any information on this, so I thought I’d ask here. What is the accepted practice on resigning from a maternity leave contract position before the expected end date? I have been offered a promotion with more pay in a permanent role. It would be foolish of me to turn that down as a social courtesy, especially in this economy.

    Will they be mad with me or very mad with me?

    1. Dawn*

      It’s business. If they get mad it’s on them, NOT you.

      Just contact your supervisor or whatever and say hey I unexpectedly got a job offer I can’t refuse so I will not be returning to work after my maternity leave, would you like me to come by and clean out my desk or will you be mailing my things to me?

      I think this is no different than resigning two weeks into a month-long vacation- sometimes things happen, the business will be fine without you, so just enjoy your newfound fortune and the rest of your maternity leave.

    2. Lucky*

      My thinking in contract positions harkens back to the wisdom of Beyonce: “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it.” Do what you can to lengthen the transition period – see if you can give three weeks notice rather than two – but be straightforward in saying that you can’t pass up this excellent, permanent role.

    3. Colette*

      They’ll survive. I think the actual impact depends on how long the contract was for and how much was left, but I think it’s fine to do either way (but I’d acknowledge that it’s an inconvenience for them).

    4. Natalie*

      If they’re mad at you, they’re being completely ridiculous. You can’t win with ridiculous people so don’t concern yourself with them!

    5. Gandalf the Nude*

      I’m going to disagree with everyone here just a little bit and say that it really depends on the nature of the contract. I think most likely you’ll get congratulations on the step up, but under certain conditions, I could see an employer being reasonably frustrated about a contracted temp leaving early. Probably the majority of temp positions would be no big deal to bring in another warm body, and in most cases it’s understood that the temp’s tenure ends as soon as an acceptable permanent position is offered. However, if they already invested significant resources into bringing you in and training you, or it’s a higher level position where having the right person in place, even temporarily, actually matters, or if they specifically outlined the length of your tenure (in the contract or not, but especially if you agreed to it in the contract), I wouldn’t blame them for being upset.

      Definitely check the contract to make sure you aren’t violating any provisions regarding early termination, and be as generous with notice as you can without jeopardizing the new job. To be clear, I am not saying that you should turn down an awesome permanent job for a role with a built-in end date, but I can see how, with the right conditions, an employer would be justified in being kind of peeved at you peacing out early, even if they are also happy for your success.

    6. Jillociraptor*

      What’s the time difference between when your contract is up and when you would need to leave?

      I was in the same boat as you, but managed to negotiate my start date at my new gig so that I could close out my leave support. I was at-will, not contract, but I still felt an obligation not to bail on my commitment and leave those staff in the lurch if I could help it. But they would have totally understood that I needed to prioritize a permanent job over a temporary appointment.

      Ultimately barring any legal complications per Gandalf the Nude’s post, you’ve gotta look out for you. They’ll figure things out. It’s helpful if you can help recommend or arrange a support plan (e.g. splitting up the work you’re doing, or recommending some things that can just stop for a little while until the permanent person is back).

      They might be a little irked at you, especially since you’re contracted for a specific amount of time. Some people hold a grudge; it’s just a thing that can happen. But a reasonable person should understand that you’ve gotta look out for you, and would completely empathize with your position.

      1. Healthcare*

        I learned that the last maternity leave replacement (he replaced a different employee) left after 8 months, so this shouldn’t be too shocking.

        I checked with HR and they said I could technically leave today, but they would appreciate the professional courtesy of two weeks. No legal issues!

    7. TootsNYC*

      Anything you can do to lessen the impact on them will make a big difference. So if you know someone who could step in to take the last part of the contact, that’ll help.; anything you can do to set things up to automate themselves; etc.

      They’ll get over it.

  34. Bagworm*

    So, yesterday I was so convinced it was Friday that I kept checking the AAM page for the open thread and getting increasingly anxious as the day wore on and it didn’t appear. I was worried Alison’d eliminated it. I was very, very sad. Now I realize I am just a sad person who can’t read a calendar. :-)

    I don’t actually have anything to add. I just felt compelled to confess that (and that I got my outfit I’m wearing today at a thrift store (but I did wash it)).

    1. Lillian McGee*

      I pretty much exclusively buy my sweaters at thrift stores. No danger of me shrinking something someone else has already owned! Also, you can find cashmere there for $5 or less. Cashmere!!

      1. Bagworm*

        Oooh…that’s smart about the sweaters. I’m always shrinking those. I haven’t seen cashmere though. I guess I’m not looking hard enough.

        1. Lillian McGee*

          Try more upscale neighborhoods. I’ve been able to find good quality designer stuff in Goodwills near ritzy suburbs. Also try to go Monday-Weds. People tend to drop stuff off over the weekend and it gets put out early in the week… and snatched up by the end!

          1. Anx*

            Absolutely this.

            I don’t live in an upscale town at all, but there is a more upscale thriftstore around here that during their sales has better deals than Good Will. I bought a cashmere, moderately used, not super new looking but not ratty sweater last week for $2.50.

    2. TCO*

      I wear thrift-store professional clothing to work all the time and get compliments on my attire! One of my favorite dresses that gets a lot of compliments was literally $1.

    3. Liane*

      I became a big fan of looking for nice clothes secondhand when I worked in a chemistry/microbiology lab that inexplicably required nice dresses, pants, skirts, tops. Yes I had a lab coat & so on, but those don’t cover everything & lab reagents are sneaky. I still do.
      In addition to Goodwill, our city has a Savers, which is a similar chain, but each store supports one or more local charities. Clothing comes in all levels of quality and amount of use, plus Savers has a loyalty card tied to 40% off on varying categories of merchandise at least once per week.

      1. Anx*

        I just bought a few blazers for this purpose (well, I don’t need to dress up but I’m tired of old t shirts). One of the bad things about dressy clothes is that as soon as they get a little bit stained, they don’t fulfill their purpose. It looks worse than a stained t shirt.

        Since they’re already used and cost <$3 I don't need to worry about stains and can finally start wearing clothes I feel a little better in. Plus blazers are little less absorbant in case of spills

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I went from caring very deeply that I bought my clothes at retail stories to not caring in the least tiny bit. Most of what I own is second hand. I used to worry about my clothes but no more. This week I ripped two pairs of jeans working on my house. Who cares. I found another pair for $2 and brought those jeans home.
      I am not sure why the big change. I think a chunk of the reason is when clothes wear out/go out of style it’s just not a big deal. Go get something else and move on. And people are crazy about what they give away. Earlier this summer I bought a pair of dress pants for $3. The tags were still on the pants. The tag said $60. I bought a really neat coat for $20. Judging from the way the fabric hangs (the material was cut very well) this was probably a couple hundred dollars at one point.
      People are getting rid of some really nice items, it’s baffling to me. I think it’s a great idea to check out consignment shops and other places. I have been finding great deals for stuff to fix my house. I went to a couple lawn sales where people were just giving away paint. wow.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        I have become some sort of evangelist for a consignment store in my area. It is well-organized and clean and the selection is great. I’ve gotten a bunch of good stuff there, including my favorite dress, and a pair of jeans that fit great, cost me about twenty dollars, and apparently retail at Nordstrom for around two hundred. I tell EVERYONE about it – usually when they compliment me on something I bought there. The woman who owns it is really nice too, so it feels good to support a local business.

      2. Stephanie*

        Yeah, my job requires I dress up in business casual, but doesn’t really pay a business casual dress salary. Consignment stores have been a lifesaver.

  35. Calla*

    A lesson/demonstration on why to never think you’re a shoo-in for a job!

    About a month ago, a former coworker forwarded me a job at her current workplace. I sent her my resume and she sent it in as a referral. I had a phone interview a couple days later that went great, and was told they’d try to get me in ASAP. Followed up a week later, and was told they had decided to go with a contractor instead. Their HR person said, verbatim, “I’m really bummed because I thought you’d be a great fit.”

    Time goes by, and early last week she emailed me asking if I had a second because she had some good news. They didn’t like any of the contractors and decided to go perm. HR person said she had been telling the hiring exec about me since our first phone call and when they decided to go perm they immediately wanted to bring me in. Verbatim, “I’m so happy you’re still available, we were afraid someone else had already scooped you up!” We set up an on-site interview for 2 days later (last Friday). It’s a good chunk of time, and I can’t always read interviews super well, but I definitely connected with the interviewers and we were definitely in sync about what the position needed and that I am perfectly qualified. HR person touched base with me during a small gap and said things like “How ready are you to move?” I felt SUPER good about this–I had an employee referral, the interviews went great, the HR person was practically gushing over me. At the end, she said I’d hear by early this week.

    Wednesday, I followed up–I knew it was early and acknowledged that, but told her I was setting up more interviews and getting further in the process of some others (true) so just wanted to touch base on how it was going on their end. Thursday, I get the generic “Thank you for your interest but we’ve decided to go with someone with better experience” rejection email.

    I knew, I KNEWWWWW, you never have the job in the bag, but it still stung! I have certainly learned my lesson!

    (I still am pretty upset about that loss, but I have another interview this afternoon at a decent company and one on Wednesday at a big name company relevant to my interests, so, I’ll live.)

    1. lfi*

      This happened to me… only they dragged it out for weeks. They even had me come to a team lunch with one of the execs who gave the green light, toasting, all that.. and then nothing. Sigh. That’s ok. Something better will come along.

    2. NickelandDime*

      I’m so sorry. Job searching is not for the faint of heart and it’s so hard not to get your hopes up when things look good. Good luck on your next interview!

  36. Thea*

    How do you deal with a bully in the workplace? I’ve recently handed in my two weeks notice, in part because I’ve had it with the way this person acs, but what are you supposed to do? Especially when management basically acts as if this person is the best thing in the world?

      1. Thea*

        I did feel that it was the best option, for me, in the end. I’m still debating if I should tell management in my exit-interview though, because now another co-worker seems to be in the bully’s spotlight.

        1. CrazyCatLady*

          Did you ever talk to management about it before? I maybe incorrectly assumed you hadn’t, when you said they act like the bully is the best person in the world. Unfortunately though, I think there are a lot of work bullies out there who are very valued by management – or they are management.

          1. Thea*

            At one point, I did talk to management, because it was getting really out of hand and I knew that I needed to have some kind of back up if I was going to stand up to the bully. Unfortunately, managements were shuffled around shortly after this, and the person I talked to is no longer my manager.

            1. Dawn*

              Tell em in your exit interview. Be honest and frank but don’t name names unless they ask- “part of why I am leaving is because of bullying behavior by a coworker which continued after I spoke to numerous members of management about it and which is still on-going.”

      1. Thea*

        Yes, I did, because it was getting really out of hand (the person was commenting on everything, from my work performance to what I was wearing, and calling me outside of work hours). It eventually led to the bully completely ignoring me (which is what is happening right now), but I also know the bully is talking about me a lot behind my back.

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

          Were the calls outside of work hours work related? If not, that may have been an opportunity to tell said person that if the calls and comments do not stop you will file a police report and possibly a restraining order. Before making this move, I would let mgmt know AGAIN that this has now moved outside of work hours and is harassment. Let them know that everything is being documented and if action is not taken to protect employees then you would move to the next course of action. Sometimes you have to play hardball.
          I had one bully in past years that talked crazy and down to everyone. I told him one time that he will not speak to me like that. I then told my manager that if he continues to speak to me like that I am more than willing to walk. The guy never spoke to me again and I was just fine with that.

    1. Argh!*

      It depends on the nature of the bullying, but if management is drinking the kool-aid, you have no choice. I have done the same thing and for the same reason, but too late. I actually needed therapy for 6 months and had nightmares for years. Good for you for looking out for yourself. I hope your next position has a better atmosphere.

  37. Lois May*

    I graduated a few months ago – and this week I got offered my first professional job, starting in two weeks! It’s full time at a small non-profit in the city where I went to college, which is perfect for me. I definitely could not have managed to get such an ideal job without the help of AAM, thank you Alison!

    I’m really nervous about all the little things, like how lunch breaks work and what to wear, as well as generally messing up. Has anyone got any tips about settling into your first job? Or things to avoid doing/horror stories?

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

      Regarding attire, did you take a look at what people were wearing when you interviewed? I would dress a small step up from that until you get a better feel for the company and culture. Regarding lunch, just ask! You can phrase it as “What do people usually do for lunch? Do they eat out or do most people bring their lunch in? Since I’m not familiar with this area of town (if true) what restaurants do you recommend?” All of these are easy questions that you can ask a few different people. Good luck on your new job!

    2. misspiggy*

      There was a long thread here on this very question – but one useful piece of advice was bring food on your first day in case there are no other options. I’d add to bring cash, in case friendly colleagues ask you to lunch (in which case don’t mention the food you brought) and card payment isn’t available.

      1. ACA*

        Oh, interesting – I’ve always done the opposite: Don’t bring lunch the first day in case there’s no fridge/microwave/place to eat.

        1. Evan Þ*

          I’ve always split the difference and brought a PB&J or something else that can just sit in my briefcase.

  38. Isben Takes Tea*

    How have others dealt with taking sick days for mental health reasons, or employees taking sick days for mental health reasons?

    1. Lillian McGee*

      “I’m not feeling well today so I won’t be able to make it in,” suffices for my office. Asking more would be too intrusive. If you do get asked more or are asked for a doctor’s note or something I’d say that my affliction wasn’t bad enough to need a doctor but bad enough to affect my ability to work. Also, I wouldn’t use more than one day at a time for “mental health” days.

    2. LCL*

      Do you mean, a real mental health issue, or sicking out for a “mental health day” because you are sick of work? If it is the first, you don’t actually have to tell management anything other than you are calling in sick. If it is the second, don’t call it a mental health day, just call in sick, so really same as the first. (This is a workplace that has separate sick and vacation days, things are different when all days are PTO.)
      I tell our employees, I will always ask when you will be back, but I never ask why, up to you if you wish to share or not.

    3. the_scientist*

      I think Alison’s done a couple of posts about this before, but in general I don’t think you need to specifically tell your boss why you’re out sick . You wouldn’t (I hope) say “I have terrible diarrhea and can’t come to work today”; there’s no reason you need to tell your boss “I had a massive panic attack this morning and am not in good shape to work today”. A straightforward “I’m ill/under the weather” should suffice- and managers should not be probing the “why”. There is a way to address abuse of sick leave, but demanding to know why someone is out sick is not the way to go about that.

      1. skyline*

        No matter how much I try to convince my employees that I don’t need all the gory details, I get them anyway.

        I have even flat out said, “All you have to do is call/text me with, ‘I’m sick today and staying home,’ and make sure I confirm receipt of your message.” Yet they still tell me about whatever condition is keeping me away.” And I don’t think my behavior is encouraging them to overshare–I’ve only ever asked for details or notes in the course of things like arranging for FMLA leave.

        Maybe my office’s culture is just weird about this.

        1. The Other CrazyCatLady*

          I think workaholic culture has something to do with it. If we spell out exactly how awfully ill we are, there’s this subtext… if I was just sliiiiiiiightly less deathly ill, you wouldn’t be able to keep me out of the office, Boss! Look how I put the job before my well being!

          I grew up with the expectation that you show up for work pretty much no matter what and if you can’t tough it out, then at least you’ve done what you can (and possibly more importantly, your boss and coworkers have also been able to SEE how truly miserably ill you are). Also, my current job has a rolling point system for absences, but they don’t usually count ‘put in a few hours and then go home sick’ against your tally but do if you take an entire day.

    4. Ms. FS*

      I’ve both been an employee that has taken sick days for mental health reasons (stress relief mainly) and a manager that has encouraged employees to take sick days for mental health reasons (both for their families with mental health issues and for themselves). And I look at “mental health issues” as a very broad term – I’ve taken days off where I just felt burned out and stretched thin and needed a day away from the stress. Honestly, this is a hallmark of a “good place to work” for me.

    5. Gene*

      I just tell my boss that I’m having a vision problem. His response is usually, “So you just can’t see yourself coming to work today?” We both know what’s going on. But our office is different than most.

    6. Ad Astra*

      I just text my manager and say I’m really not feeling well and can’t make it in. To be honest, my mental and physical health issues are so interlaced that I was never quite sure which one I was calling in for.

      1. F.*

        If I don’t deal well with my mental health issues (stress), they develop into physical issues that take even longer to deal with. I think of it as a little “preventative maintenance”.

    7. JGray*

      I agree with all the other posters that just saying that you are sick is more than sufficient. If you are a manager and you have an employee that is sick a lot you do need to talk to them because FMLA or ADA could come into play but other than that I don’t think there is any difference between mental health days and having the flu sick days.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      If you mean, “I cannot take one. more. day. in this PLACE, I must call in TODAY.” Yes, I have done that. I don’t call in very often, I see nothing wrong with taking a day every 18 months or so where I just say “the heck with it”. I made sure to not take Monday or a Friday so as not to be accused of getting myself a three day weekend. I would just call up and say, “I don’t feel well and I will not be in.” Done, over.

  39. katamia*

    And another question…

    Anyone here familiar with translation work? When I go back to freelancing (holy crap is this ever a “when” and not an “if” now), I’m thinking of doing some translating work. I’m fluent in the language I want to do and I’m a good writer and editor, so while I certainly don’t know everything there is to know about translating, I’m confident that I have at least the basic skills in place that will let me be successful at it.

    Buuuuuuuuuut I have no proof. My degree is in something else (another language, actually, one that I don’t want to do translation work in), and I’ve never done any translation work before. Would doing a graduate program (certificate or master’s, am looking at both) be worth the time and money investments to have some sort of official qualification to show? Is there something else I could do to look more legitimate?

    1. Pipette*

      Professional translator here. It depends a bit on your language combination, since there is usually more slack in rare but sought after language combinations, but most serious translation agencies will want to see some formal translation training, like a BA or MA in translation, or at least five years experience of translating. For EN-15038 compliance reasons, and because translation is a specific skill that you have to add on top of knowing a foreign language. There is probably a professional translator organisation of some kind in your country that can give you advise on available educations that make sense for your situation.

      In general, some professional experience of a field like medicine, finance, law, IT, or automotive is a big plus, since specialist translators in those fields are sought after.

      1. katamia*

        Yeah, it’s French, so not particularly rare, lol. The language my degree is in greater demand, but my French is still stronger than the other language when it comes to technical vocabulary and nuance, so I’m not sure if I’d feel comfortable translating from that one to English at this point.

        Thanks for your response. It helped give me a better sense of what I’ll need if I do decide to go into translation.

        1. misspiggy*

          You could look into fields where translation is a plus but not the core business. For example, I help produce materials for educators, and sometimes we pull together French or Spanish translations using the language skills of colleagues that we know have the technical vocabulary (we get these reviewed by native speakers as well).

    2. Charlotte Collins*

      A lot of universities will provide testing services in the language for certification. There’s a fee, but it’s not burdensome. If you don’t have a degree in the language, this is an option. (I know there is special certification for medical translators, and other specialists, too.)

      In grad school, I had to be testing in a foreign language for my MA (in English), so I would use that, if there were any appreciable amount of translation work in Latin these days. (And I’d really have to do some review. It’s not as easy to keep Latin skills fresh as it is if the language is still living…)

      1. katamia*

        Oh, good point. I’d heard of those before, actually, but had kind of forgotten about them. I’ll definitely make a note of that for the future. Thanks!

    3. MorganL*

      I don’t know where you are located but in Canada, each province has an association for translators and you have to pass a test to become a member. If you have something like this where you are, I think this would be a good first step. You can see if you have the skills and if you do pass, there’s some proof!
      The one in my province also puts on an Introduction to Translation workshop every year, which you may also find useful. I was a French major in university and took a few translation courses and they are definitely helpful, so I would recommend some kind of course or workshop. Through the association, I’ve met quite a few translators who don’t have any formal education, so I don’t think it’s necessary to get a whole degree.
      Hope this helps!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Courts need translators. There are companies out there that provide that service and courts subscribe to the service. It’s done by phone. A court can call up and say they need a translator for x language and the company connects the caller to an appropriate translator. The translator speaks with the defendant over the phone, even in when the defendant is appearing formally in court. The translator has to be trained and certified. I have no idea how the pay is for the job.

  40. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I want to ask for people’s input about managing the comment section as the site continues to grow.

    I consider the comments section here to be significantly more civil than most comment sections on the internet, but we’ve also had an increase in recent months in some frustrating behavior: nitpicking, derailments, aggressive devil’s advocate playing, occasional unkindness, and imaginative “other-siding” (speculating on far-fetched ways in which letter-writers could be to blame for their situations).

    To some extent, this is the price of having an open, unmoderated discussion with large amounts of strangers. On the other hand, it’s legitimately annoying.

    I’m not sure that there’s a way to both maintain the open dialogue that I think most of us value here and stamp out the things that are less appealing (and if I have to choose, I think I’d take the former over the latter). But many minds are better than one mind, so I’d really value any thoughts on what I might try. Some options I’ve considered:

    1. I could be more aggressive about banning people / putting people on moderation. My bias is to err on the side of a light touch with that, and maybe that’s no longer the right approach.

    2. The default could be set to moderation for everyone, and people could earn their way to unmoderated comments, by sustained civil commenting. This would probably solve the problem but it would make conversation here less satisfying, since most comments wouldn’t show up immediately. It would be a pretty dramatic change in how the comment section works.

    3. I could spend a week or two monitoring comments really closely and stepping in when I see things going down a rabbit hole more quickly than I’m normally able to, in the hopes that a week or two of that would help establish better norms.

    4. I could do nothing and just accept that having a big group of strangers from lots of different cultures and backgrounds all talking together anonymously is going to be messy at times.

    My preference is probably a combination of #1 and #4, but I’m interested in hearing other people’s input (or ideas that aren’t on this list at all).

    Two things that intentionally aren’t on the list above:

    – Volunteer moderators. People have suggested this in the past, but it’s not something I’m up for right now, partly because I think it would be a logistical headache.

    – Requiring registration in order to comment. Registration can help when the problems are coming from commenters who are unfamiliar with the site (people who stumble on the site, leave a rude comment, and move on). But these problems aren’t coming from drive-by commenters; they’re coming from within our regular group.

    So. I’m throwing the problem out to y’all and would love your thoughts on any of the options above, or other ideas you have.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I’ve seen moderation for everyone, and it gets bad. Rather than reduce dogpiling, in my experience, it tends to cause more dogpiling, because the fifteenth person to say “No, you’re wrong” can’t see that fourteen other people commented that before her, because it hasn’t shown up yet.

      I’m leaning 4; I feel like this has happened before, with the discourse getting nastier and then people self-correcting for a while, and maybe we’ve just started to drift again and need to get back on the self-correcting wagon.

    2. A Jane*

      I like no.3 as a first step. It would give you a greater experience of the current issues too.
      You could then use no.1 as well in this approach if you felt someone wasn’t responding to your feedback on their style.
      Is there a way to display comments on here that are new compared to the last time you looked? I have problems keeping track of what’s new and what I’ve read before.

        1. Kelly L.*

          A site that has a really great version of this is SB Nation (sports blogs). There are keyboard shortcuts to jump to comments you haven’t read yet. You do have to register to get that function to work, but if it’s easy to make a burner account, it could still work.

      1. lionelrichiesclayhead*

        I agree with this. #3 to get an immediate handle on the issue and then #1 as needed while still keeping as close to the nature of #4 as possible. Should something like #3 be scheduled a few times a year to keep a handle on things?

        1. Alma*

          I agree with A Jane about indicating new posts, as well with beginning with #3 …especially if while #3 is in process, there are “Instructional Comments” to remind all of us where the rails for the train are located, then continuing to a smattering of #1 (unannounced, probably).

          By the time I get to the site sometimes there are several hundred postings or more. That is way too much for me to try to check in on, and is why I have fired some social media sites. They’re a time s*ck. Yet I don’t want to miss what will be truly helpful to me as I continue my job search.

          Registering – especially if it will help direct us to the new posts as Kelly L suggests – is OK with me, as long as we can maintain our anonymity in public viewing.

    3. No_Registration*

      Please don’t require registration. Unfortunately I have to chance my user-name frequently due to snoopy, back-stabby, type co-workers who have already used this anonymous forum, where I made an anonymous, non-specific, vague post about something work related to get me in trouble with higher-ups.

      I enjoy being able to come here and post without risking my job, and a perma-registration would be too risk for me to continue.

      1. badger_doc*

        Wow, seriously? You’ll have to give us an update sometime. In fact, it might be interesting to see if this has happened to anyone else. Your coworkers suck…

        1. No_Registration*

          Yeah it was nasty. Person must have taken my username from the computer. Then trolled for weeks until I posted something that said “at my current work”. That person then sent it to the co-worker he/she *thought* I was talking about. The receiver took serious offense … even though it was 90% about experience at another company with 1 or 2 examples at current place … and complained to my bosses boss who then took it to me.

          I was never told who complained nor who shared so my trust in my co-workers was pretty much shattered.

      2. Florida*

        Agree about no registration. If I had to register, I would probably come on as a reader, but not commenter. If I have to register to read, I’m out. That might sound harsh because the value that this website has is huge. It’s just that I don’t like registering for things. (I don’t use loyalty cards at stores, even if it would save me money.)

        My vote is to monitor, make comments, and kick people off as necessary and trust that it’s going to work. In many many cases, I’ve noticed other commenters policing it before you get a chance to do it. We don’t want nasty negative comments any more than you do.

      3. Mimmy*

        Yeah, posting here about workplace experiences can be a little daunting. My username is anonymous now (I used to include my first name) and try to be as vague as possible about employers and coworkers in my stories though I’m fairly open about some parts of my career history. Yet, worry about former colleagues reading this blog is sometimes in the back of my mind.

    4. MAB*

      Reddit (as much as people love and hate that website) has some forums that are wonderfully moderated and others that are pretty much Lord of the Flies style moderation. I really enjoy the well moderated subreddits and I think 1 and 4 are the best option.

    5. Anon the Great and Powerful*

      I would like a reddit-style comment section where comments are upvoted or downvoted, and if too many people downvote a comment it gets hidden. Being able to ignore certain commenters would also be hugely helpful.

      1. Golden Yeti*

        I like this idea. It’s moderation without actual exclusion. And if the commentariat is self-monitoring, it doesn’t add a ton to Alison’s plate.

        Plus, it would cut down the number of “This!” comments, because we could just upvote good insights. :)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Relatedly, I’ve thought about discouraging people from comments that are solely “+1” because they add length to comment threads that are already routinely 500+ comments (and thus daunting to read), but I have a horror of overly managing people’s comments so I have not.

          1. Calacademic*

            I’m on a social network called “NextDoor” which has two ways to respond: a comment or a generic Thank button. It has that layer of social niceness on top — you are thanking someone for their comment — and serves as a subtle reminder to be polite.

            1. PontoonPirate*

              I really like the “thank” feature on NextDoor because it saves me from having to wade through the nonesense of “this” and “+1” but I can still see who did the thanking, so I know who is participating even if they aren’t adding anything new to the conversation. I’m not a huge fan of downvoting or upvoting. I want to see how the comments flow organically, not artificially biased.

              1. Persephone Mulberry*

                Yes. Any time I see a forum/comment section sorted by popularity, I resort by date anyway.

                IMO, the only thing AAM is really missing is a Like/+1 button. GFY (gofugyourself.com) does this well (and their commentariat is generally awesome, too).

          2. Florida*

            I actually like the +1 comments. If a dozen people add a +1, it lets you know that it wasn’t just one crazy person who thought the boss was a jerk in that situation, there are a dozen people who think it. Also, it’s better than a like button because you can adjust for intensity: +1 compared to +1000.

            I like it, but I can also see your point about it creating lengthy comments.

          3. Ultraviolet*

            I think some people +1 posts they agree with as a space-saving alternative to writing a whole new post that basically restates the same thing. If that’s true of a lot of regular commenters, then banning +1s might actually lengthen threads without adding much truly new content. You could ask people to post only when they have something new to add, and to refrain when they only want to agree, but I think it’s really helpful to see when a lot of commenters agree with a post.

            Also, when a pile-on is imminent, the ability to agree with a simple +1 rather than another articulation of why somebody’s wrong could in principle help. Though I don’t think I can point to a case here where it actually appears to have prevented a pile-on!

            1. Elsajeni*

              I think a Like/+1/thumbs-up/whatever button would serve both of those functions pretty well! A place that does this well is the Toast, and it does seem like it helps with pile-ons there — the Toast has a pretty well-defined commenting culture, and when someone crosses a line, they’re likely to get a polite but firm reply telling them so… and then no pile-on, because everyone just thumbs-ups the first polite but firm reply. So the person saying “Hey, that was inappropriate” ends up with 60 thumbs-ups, while the original, inappropriate comment has 3. And, of course, you can see at a glance how many people have agreed with a comment, and if people really want to emphasize their agreement (as people sometimes do with the “+1000!” comments), they can still reply.

      2. just laura*

        I agree that this would help. It’s a way for quieter commenters/readers to say, “Not interested” or “We don’t do that here” without getting into a derailment.

      3. Tomato Frog*

        I’ve thought about this and I can’t disagree strongly enough. I loved the Reddit system until I saw a thread about something that was actually an area of expertise for me. The top comment accused the OP of being a liar for a reason that I knew was factually incorrect. But it lined up with people’s preconceptions so it shot to the top, with hundreds of upvotes, while a couple of people who came to the conversation a bit later and pointed out that this was incorrect didn’t even get above the fold.

        If dogpiling is a problem, upvoting and downvoting just sort of facilitate it. Plus it makes conversations into popularity contests.

    6. Kyrielle*

      I really do not like #2. It tends not to work well, stifles discussion and results in even more duplicate comments than we’ve seen, and it also discourages new commenters from joining a site.

      I’d lean toward #1 and #4 in combination, with a little bit of #3. I would think as a first step you needn’t get too heavy on #1, but maybe be a little more ready with the ‘putting people in moderation’ part in particular (but let them get back out!). #3 will help re-establish norms and also keep it from turning into the largest part of the discussion when someone *does* overstep norms (right now it seems to turn into an argument about whether they did and what the norms are!), but I say ‘a little bit’ because I could see where hovering over the site constantly would diminish your joy in it, and that’s not good either.

      The biggest thing I can see being helpful is a reminder *post* rather than comment, re-stating the norms and asking for people to honor them /and/ not to derail too far into arguments over them if someone else doesn’t (calling them out politely is one thing, a nested thread so deep that you can’t nest further with 50+ comments arguing back and forth is another thing entirely, IMO). I have been trying to do this as well – I’ve started about 5 replies this week, taken a deep breath and said to myself ‘so and so already said that, this is just piling on’ and canceled the reply. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m trying, and I think if more of us tried we could maybe reduce the engagement around these things. Because right now they are getting a lot of engagement.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Oh, I like the reminder post idea. I didn’t know the Sandwich Rule had been added to the posting guidelines until someone else mentioned it, and it’s a great idea and example.

      2. Lore*

        I agree that a reminder post would be super-helpful. It’s so easy to skim over a nested discussion within comments, and putting the reminder front and center would also serve the purpose of telling the readership that is something you take seriously and we should too.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You’re right — I should do a reminder post. I felt slightly ridiculous doing another one since there have been two previously, but they were a long time ago (early 2014 and early 2012).

        1. Kyrielle*

          A lot of people can join in a couple years, and also a lot of people can forget/lose track of things in that time. Or just pick up bad habits at other sites and bring them in. A reminder post might wake us all up a little bit! (Your comments in some of the threads were my ‘wake up call’ but not everyone may see those, and some people may take them as more casual than a reminder post…sort of like managers and addressing behavior in the moment vs. patterns. :)

        2. Carrie in Scotland*

          Could you maybe do a reminder comment at the top if you think that the comments might go a particular way? A shorter version of your reminder post to keep it civil, in blue at the top might work?

          1. Natalie*

            I think this would be a good idea, and go ahead and add one if things get contentious in a way that people didn’t anticipate. A lot of people simply *don’t* read the whole thread before chiming in, so you need to make your requests really prominent and un-missable.

    7. LizB*

      I think number 3 is worth a shot, especially since it might let you see if any patterns emerge in terms of what topics or people tend to get out of hand. I also think it might help us commenters self-correct a bit, if we had strong reminders for a week or two of what is and isn’t acceptable commenting behavior. After that, though, I think number 4 is the way to go, with maybe a bit of number 1 based on any patterns you noticed.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I can see the advantage of that. I do worry that people would flag stuff that I’d disagree needed to be addressed, and then they’d be annoyed that I wasn’t addressing it — they’d flagged it, after all! (I’ve had people email me to complain about specific comments that I thought were fine, and it seemed to really cause Bad Feelings that I disagreed and declined to intervene.) That’s not in an of itself a reason not to do it, but I do worry that it’s less straightforward than it seems. I need to think about it though — it could be a good solution, my discomfort notwithstanding.

        1. Natalie*

          People might view a flag differently than a personal interaction with you and be less likely to get upset.

          1. No_Registration*

            That could be useful, however I think it is hard to flag someone as devils advocate. I mentioned this below but I have been falsely accused of playing devils advocate a few times because I happened to disagree with the majority of commentators on an issue.

        2. and the flowers bloom like madness in the spring*

          People write to you and complain about specific comments?! I’m … shocked. No, I really am.

          As long as it’s your sole decision, you’re always going to have people disagreeing with you about what you decide to censor. I think you should follow your heart. Not just because it’s all romantic-sounding, but because if you start making these kinds of decisions just to keep your friends happy – I trust it’s obvious how fucked up this gets.

          I’m not just playing devil’s advocate for grins: I would ask you if you sincerely think the system is broken enough that it needs to be fixed? If you make changes, do you have objective criteria to judge their effectiveness (or lack thereof) a month from now?

          Or to put it another way: how much money are you willing to spend to fix things?

          Allowing people to flag a comment might be interesting to try – Metafilter does something like that (although that is a debatable recommendation at best). It might be difficult to administer via email, though (I could be wrong but somehow I have this notion that the comments part of your site is largely administered via email notifications). The thing with flagging is that you typically ignore anything that’s been flagged once or twice; it’s the stuff that’s been flagged 10+ times that is problematic. If the flags are coming to you via email, then say hello to lots more email traffic.

          If there’s one change I’d like to see, it would be something to make it harder for people to engage in spontaneous sock-puppetry. I don’t have access to the site logs, but it sure seems like there’s a lot of it about. Maybe a hashed version of the poster’s IP address attached to each comment? Heck, it could be embedded in the HTML – the idea isn’t to catch people doing it, the idea is to prevent it. In theory, if people know they’ll be caught, they’ll do less of it.

          1. No_Registration*

            Do you really think sock puppetry is an issue?

            Regardless I am against as it is another way to identify users and as I stated above, I have to change my username frequently or else I risk getting in trouble at work for commenting on this forum even in my own time after work.

            1. and the flowers bloom like madness in the spring*

              For what it’s worth, what I meant by “hashed version of the poster’s IP address” is that you feed the IP address to a function that turns it into something that doesn’t look like an IP address – ala “12.12.54.123” becomes “3.3.9.6” (for example) – so you can’t tell what IP address it is, but if 3 or 4 posts from previously unknown sources all appear within an hour or so and all have the same hash, you can get some idea that they all came from the same place. It would be pretty easy to come up with a better function than the one I’m using as an example here. It could even be based on the date or time so that it changes every 6 hours or so. Etc.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think there’s a ton of sock puppetry going on; it’s just really memorable when it’s called out, probably! I tend to have a pretty good instinct for when to check to see if it’s happening (I am actually convinced I might be a human lie detector, but … that’s a totally different post).

            I totally agree re: your “follow your heart” advice though — ultimately there’s no one “right” answer and no decision that will make 100% of people happy anyway, so I might as well run things the way that makes sense to me, which has pretty much always been my guiding principle with this stuff and so far it’s basically worked. But I very much want to hear what other people think, allow my thinking to be informed by that input, and generally get the benefit of other people’s wisdom, because there’s lots of it here.

          3. TootsNYC*

            . I think you should follow your heart.

            Alison, I think you have such great instincts in terms of what’s useful or what’s unkind.
            For that reason, I’m not in love with the volunteer moderators idea.

            I’ve seen it turn into something where a moderator gets sort of annoyed at someone and judges them more harshly. And I’ve also seen a moderate weigh in with the last word, then shut off the discussion–and it’s just such a bad feel to the site.

            Sometimes the less nuanced moderators are the ones that participate the most, and that very focus might not be the best for the light touch you’ve been enjoying.

    8. Mimmy*

      I’d be fine with a combination of all of those except #2 – I think that would really slow down the conversations.

    9. Fish Microwaver*

      I agree that some of the derailing and rabbit holing can be annoying and that some people are rude and harsh but these aspects are far outweighed by the wealth of opinion and experience of the posters. I like that one can comment without registering as it is sometimes necessary to be anon . So dear Alison, I am not much help. I concur with your combo of 1 and 4 approach.

    10. just laura*

      You could also include a comment in the post when you predict a post might lend itself to this– there are always those hot button topics here and it might remind commenters to mind their manners. I know you edit/add those after things get out of hand on certain posts, but I’m sure you are able to predict which ones might get feisty.

    11. Turanga Leela*

      I’d be happy with either #3 (but it sounds like a lot of work for you!) and #1. #4 is a good point, though; this is never going to be perfect.

      I also want to add how happy I am with your moderation of this comments section in general. I’m so happy that this space isn’t a free-for-all and that you address people in the comments. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of the internet.

      I agree that another post about how to comment would be helpful. I wonder about one other thing: In the commenting guidelines, you ask people not to nitpick people’s spelling, grammar, or word choices. Do you think you should also specifically mention “calling out” behavior? It seems like when people get hung up on word choice, they often think of it as calling out offensive usage, not as nitpicking. The commenting guidelines can’t address all circumstances, of course, and not everyone will listen to them anyway, but I thought this was worth considering.

      1. F.*

        I’d like to add that one person’s “offensive usage” is not necessarily offensive to others. We all have out ‘hot buttons’, so to speak, but unless someone is engaging in an actual ad hominem attack on a commenter or OP, a reminder to give benefit of the doubt as to the commenter’s intentions might be useful. In other words, just because a point of view is unpopular, it isn’t necessarily a personal attack and shouldn’t be taken as such. (hope I got my point across)

        1. AnotherFed*

          I agree. There’ve been plenty of good examples of this going well recently – someone using a relatively common phrase without knowing it’s offensive (I think it might have been the word gyped), getting 1 or 2 FYI replies, and the discussion moving on. That’s how it should be, not a 17 comment argument about whether Steve was offensive for using “” around something!

        2. Lindsay J*

          This. It’s very easy to go down the SJW rabbit hole (I know because I’ve done so myself) and flag things as offensive that aren’t intended to be and aren’t viewed as offensive by the majority.

          It’s a hard line to draw. I think most would agree that “retarded” is offensive. I have no problem with flagging that. However, what about things like “dumb” or “crazy”? Some will argue that those are offensive, and I can see the argument. However, I also feel that most people don’t mean any harm in using those words, and people calling them out and flagging them gets in the way of meaningful discourse. It can also discourage people from commenting at all because they’re afraid they will say something wrong and get dogpiled for it.

    12. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think right now you should just wait and see.

      I’ve moderated groups of all sizes for both fun and profit, and I think it #2 the only viable alternative to leaving things as-is, even though it’s not very popular. I have posted a few “anon-for-this” comments, and while it might be a bit frustrating to have those delayed, I know that I could live with that. However, it would be pretty frustrating to some regulars and many new commenters, so you would probably need to balance that against the improvement in tone. And the only way to improve that delay is to have at least 2-3 moderators with overlapping schedules.

      Since you’re ruling out volunteers, I think you might want to just wait and see for now. However, reminders not just about tone, but about not responding AT ALL to those who are being argumentative might help, because if we all start ignoring the rabble rousers, they’ll soon stop trying.

      On that note, if you ever DO consider volunteer moderators, as I’ve mentioned before, the best way to work with people when you may only interact with them online is to find a way to meet in-person, or if that’s not logistically possible, video conference with them for at least an hour or so. This ensures that you have a better basis to make assumptions or inferences about their tone or subtext, the lack of which is the main reason that flame wars are so much more prevalent on the Internet than in real life.

    13. aliascelli*

      I think #3 would be good for a little while, to provide some more detail on when & how stuff gets off track. (mmm, data!)

    14. Ad Astra*

      I like #1 and #3, though I can see how #3 would be annoying and time consuming on your end, which is an important consideration. I also think #4 is fine, especially if you can get some of the regulars to stop “feeding the trolls,” so to speak. I know “troll” isn’t the right word for people criticizing American labor laws, arguing about the relative offensiveness of various slurs, and going into “Not everyone can have sandwiches!” rants… but the idea is that we might all be happier here if we stop engaging with these comments.

    15. The Toxic Avenger*

      Thank you for posting this, Alison. I like the approach of #1, with an addition: if you publish a topic that you know is going to set off a potential firestorm (kids in the workplace, weight or other body issues, etc) then put a moderation note at the top that specifies what you expect and what kinds of comments you’ll intervene in or boot out of the thread outright. I do like that people feel free to express contrary opinions here, but I am getting tired of the social justice campaigns and endless arguing that can take place when a hot topic comes up.

    16. A Non*

      I’ve been in forums where the custom when a jerk showed up was that one or two people would respond, and then everyone would ignore them and move on with the pleasant, productive conversations. It’s definitely a culture that took reminders and maintenance, but I liked it. This blog’s culture right now is more of an “argue until there is no benefit of the doubt left”, which isn’t bad, but isn’t the only option.

      1. sophiabrooks*

        I agree- I belong to a “no moderation” group that is not closed. The regulars have agreed amongst ourselves to a) say something when we see something impolite or aggressive and gently correct the behavior and b) once one person has said something, to not pile on. We also have a system for warning and banning that does not need a moderator, but I think the next step here would be for Allison to warn or ban, since she is the moderator.

    17. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I like #3. This is a strategy I use a lot to manage problems – get more hands-on for a short period of time, get things on track, and then back off. You could also, during that period, be quick to move people to moderation. I think this might communicate well to people who are aware of what’s going and also those more casual readers who don’t keep up with the open thread, etc.

    18. HRish Dude*

      Moderation for everyone basically killed The Consumerist. Every post on their site used to have dozens – if not hundreds – of responses. There was a community that was built there…which disappeared and never came back.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        ^^^ This, although part of the problem is that it’s still a closed beta commenting system. I’m still on there as Single Malt Geek, but I hardly ever bother to comment. I started corresponding with a few dozen of the commenters I liked before the switch, and only one or two of the others were accepted as commenters.

    19. F.*

      I can’t imagine how you would find time to moderate hundreds of comments a day and still manage to have a life, especially when people write in from all over the world. I lean mostly toward #4. We are all supposed to be adults, and as such able to handle ourselves appropriately when presented with opposing viewpoints. I would hate to see this forum become just an echo chamber where a few like-minded individuals can shut down other points of view by down-voting them into constant moderation.
      You might also want to move the “How to Post”, etc. section up to the top of the page instead of in the sidebar right above an advertisement. I only read the “How to Post” this week after it was referenced in another post. (The sidebar doesn’t even show up on my cellphone.) Yes, I was one of those playing devil’s advocate at times, but I did not know it was banned here. So I will (try) to behave myself and hope I don’t inadvertently upset someone. Many of the other forums I post in allow and encourage vigorous debate, so I had just assumed it was acceptable here.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s a good idea about making that link more prominent.

        Just to be clear, there’s no blanket ban on playing devil’s advocate here, and I think we have a lot of vigorous debate. “Aggressively playing devil’s advocate for the hell of it” is what the comment rules ban. The point really is, try to be helpful to the letter-writer and don’t derail the conversation on things you don’t genuinely believe. It can certainly be helpful to say “you know, I could see the other side of this being X — do you think that could be in play here?”

        1. F.*

          I’ll keep that in mind. As someone on the higher end of the autism spectrum in many aspects, I tend to be rather blunt at times.

    20. Jillociraptor*

      What would you think about having some long-time commenters serve, not so much as moderators, but kind of as culture leaders? We’re all obviously empowered to say “We don’t really do that here,” but it might be helpful to have a handful of folks who volunteer and are specifically charged with highlighting things that are about to go off the rails and helping to reel it back in.

      In a similar vein it could be helpful to “script the critical moves” per Chip and Dan Heath, and give clearer guidance on how you’d like the commentariat to generally respond to those who aren’t abiding by community rules. It’s helpful and usually effective when you make a specific note in a post not to pile on, etc. but just speaking for myself, I sometimes just bow out of a conversation when it starts to go haywire rather than hopping in to say “this is getting pretty unkind,” just because I’m not the boss of this space, but if you can say specifically how Joe Commenter can actually be helpful, I’m more than down to do that. We can all definitely take more responsibility for managing the space, but I also don’t want it to become a bunch of fiefdoms with unclear rules!

      Shout out to you for being so thoughtful about how this community is run. We have some crummy moments but by and large it’s a really great place to be.

        1. Jillociraptor*

          Yeah, exactly. I don’t want to turn your commenting guidelines into an encyclopedia, but you’ve got a really good baseline to work from there. If you could give an example of what those comments look like, and how you’d generally want us to address them (including “do not engage”), that’s something I’d gladly read and take to heart.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          I like this too. I think we saw some good examples in the “employee with body odor” post earlier–it started to go down a rabbit hole of coming up with reasons why every suggestion might not work. One of the regular commenters (I think maybe fposte?) started gently pointing out that it’s not helpful to shoot down every possible solution because it might not work for somebody somewhere, and that, even though some people can’t e.g. use deodorant, that’s a reasonable place to start in most situations. I feel like it really helped in that situation.

        3. AnotherFed*

          I think that would be a very good idea. I often choose not to engage, mostly as a default to not feed potential trolls when it’s not my space to police or decide what behavior is not welcome. If there were both the OK from you and the level of things you’d want engaged vs ignored, I think a lot of us would both be able to better recognize what’s helpful and not and willing to help remind others – we all benefit from a space that promotes civil discussion and debate rather than flame wars!

    21. No_Registration*

      Maybe instead of registration you can require the email address? That way even if people have to switch names and/or frequently switch IPs you can still know it is them and take action is needed. If email were required but not published I would not mind personally.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        Good idea, except that if I were a troll-y jerk, I’d create email addresses on the fly. I’d use an email address for one most-likely-to-be-banned persona, and then switch to another email address post-banning. Or even pre-banning, just because I’m a jerk. We’ve already seen jerk commenters change names 2-3 times while commenting on a single post. (Alison has verified it’s the same person via their IP address).

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        I have always wondered what benefit requiring an email address offers to a site moderator? AAM is one of the only sites I comment on that doesn’t require it. But since it’s not a “registration” per se, I tend to pick an email address at random (I have too many) if the site cookies don’t save it for me from visit to visit.

    22. No_Registration*

      I guess another thing I will bring up is that I have been accused of playing “devils advocate” on this forum because I happen to disagree with the majority of users on an issue. I think it is hard to prove someone is doing this, and very easy to mistakenly assume they are.

      I don’t think volunteer moderators are a good idea, because this group will often “moderate” users they happen to disagree with. This happens on Steam discussions All. The. Time.

        1. F.*

          I alluded to this above when I said I didn’t want this forum to become a echo chamber of like-minded individuals. I would never really learn anything if I only listened to those who agree with me.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        That’s certainly a reasonable point, but the issues that I think Alison is talking about (and Alison, please correct me if I’m wrong!) aren’t issues where differences of opinion are really a thing–they tend to be pretty clear-cut questioning of a straightforward statement in the OP’s letter.

        (The following are made up examples, to be clear.)

        Like the OP writes, “I’m a high performer at my job, and blah blah blah” and the reply is “Are you sure you’re a high performer? Maybe you’re just mediocre. I wish you’d provided anecdotes to back up how awesome you are.” Not an opinion, but a questioning of the premise of the email.

        Or the OP writes, “I can’t use a standard desk chair for medical reasons, so blah blah blah” and the reply is “I bet you could if you really tried. Have you considered yoga?” — and an implied “prove to me you’re really ‘sick enough.'” Like that.

        I think the openness to disagreements is a great thing, but there’s a point at which “looking at something from all sides” becomes unhelpful, when it starts to question the basic premises of the letters.

          1. So Very Anonymous*

            I’ve had the sense that example #1 is happening more lately. Not always in that particular form, but it does seem like there’s been a fair amount of giving the other people in an OP’s story the benefit of the doubt rather than the OP him/herself.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yes: and sometimes there’s just no winning. If you just say, “This is the situation, and my question is XYZ” you have a decent chance of getting “I question the situation, and you didn’t provide examples.” But if you say “This is the situation, for example [anecdote anecdote anecdote], and my question is XYZ,” the extra details may be nitpicked to death, or held up as evidence of defensiveness or “having something to prove” or etc. It starts to feel less like we’re reading a letter asking for advice and more like… defense counsel’s closing argument, to be analyzed for weaknesses in the story.

              And at the end of the day, the words on the page (well, screen) are all we have to go on, and there is potentially no end to questioning them if you aren’t willing to accept at face value that OP is a high performer, or can’t sit in a normal office chair, or whatever. You could always, always come up with some reason they’re wrong if you disbelieve the inherent premise. I get why people do it–humans like to make up narratives, and playing “how else might this be interpreted” has a certain intellectual entertainment. It’s just that that isn’t really all that useful for anybody (and I imagine it’s really offputting for letter writers, to come in and see people speculating that they’re mediocre/exaggerating their back problems/really an alien llama from Mars and that’s why their boss doesn’t want to promote them).

              1. So Very Anonymous*

                Yes! And also, there’s the question of anonymity. We have someone who’s chimed in on this thread saying they were recognized by coworkers and got into trouble. Sometimes you can’t provide detail because it may be too recognizable, and then if the grilling starts because you’re not specific enough, you’re kind of stuck.

                I’ve also had the feeling that people are reading OP accounts through the lenses of their own experiences, which is fine up to a point, and certainly something we all do. But at the same time, I think we should be allowing the OPs to have their own stories and be careful not to turn those stories into things they’re not.

              2. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

                This is tough though because sometimes it is worthwhile to question the OP’s premise, and other times it is certainly not.

                “I’m unable to use chairs” blah blah blah.
                Questioning the OP in this case is completely not conducive to any discussion.

                “I’m managing a high performer who shows up early, leaves late, but doesn’t answer emails, isn’t finishing projects, and spends too long on unimportant tasks.”
                OP are you sure your employee is actually a high performer? It’s common for some managers to see face time as a measure of performance, but are you tracking production, having reqular performance discussions with your employees, blah blah.

                In my opinion the second instance is valid and useful to the OP. The first is simply pedantic and annoying. It’s like when people come on and post “I’m pretty sure you are lying.” What good does that do for the OP?

                1. So Very Anonymous*

                  Yes. But the people who are commenting in the second style would say they are being helpful. So it’s hard to get at how to show the differences. :S

            2. Lindsay J*

              Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of this and a lot of the “Not everyone can have sandwiches” type comments a lot more frequently than ever.

              I feel like they both come from the same devil’s advocate-y, wanting to cover every angle type of place. And it is good to consider all sides of the situation. However, since we’re only ever going to get one side of the story in an internet forum I think we generally need to take what has been explicitly stated by the OP at face value.

              And we need to keep in mind that there will pretty much always be exceptions to every rule, but that generally the OP will include most of the relevant information and so shooting down suggestions based on things that might be true for a small portion of the population isn’t helpful. Plus, that one suggestion isn’t the only suggestion is going to get. And usually the OPs participate in the comments so the OP themselves can always come on and comment and say, “Actually, I’m not able to eat sandwiches so that solution won’t work for me,” if that is indeed the case.

      2. Alma*

        I have noticed some microaggression bursts, where a poster’s word choice (for non-malicious reason) was commented on for two or three feet. That turns me away quicker than anything. The workplace is hostile enough.

    23. No_Registration*

      I was also thinking that recently I have been running into debate fallacies more often recently here. The biggest one is:

      Straw-Man Fallacy:
      A: We should relax the laws on beer.
      B: ‘No, any society with unrestricted access to intoxicants loses its work ethic and goes only for immediate gratification.
      Person argued against unrestricted, however the comment was actually to reduce, not eliminate, restrictions.
      I have ran into this a lot lately!

    24. BrownN*

      I just found your website about a month ago or so ago and am thankful for the advice you and others have provided. I’ve learned that if there are problems at work, it does not necessarily mean it is me, even though management suggest otherwise.

      I was wondering how you would know which people to ban? The few times I’ve commented, I just create a name and have always used the same one. I haven’t tried it, but I’m assuming I don’t have use the same name I’ve posted with before. I’ve never enter my email or website (never understood the website part) because these fields are optional. I would think you’d have no way of tracking this if people did have the option of using different names, computers, locations, etc. or were very computer savvy. Just my thoughts on this.

      I am agree with #1 and #4.

      My biggest issue has been the number of comments received. I prefer to keep the comments collapsed, so I can decide what I want to read. I’ll read the original posts, but decide whether I want to read the comments or not. If I see 100 comments for a post, I might look to see what the hot topic is, but after a certain point, I won’t read anymore. I’ve often wished there was some way I could put place marker for where I last left off.

      I don’t know a lot of what it takes for you to do the work you do, so could you give what a typical day is like for you? Are you really sitting around all day in your pajamas, surrounding by your cats, just waiting for people to respond to your website? I figured not. Won’t this create more work for you?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The commenting system allows you to ban or moderate by IP address. It’s not foolproof (someone could switch to a device with a different IP address), but it’s effective most of the time.

        To your last question: I run the site on top of my main work (although at this point I think about the site as part of my work and carve out time for it accordingly), so much of the time I’m doing work for clients. I’m often able to schedule that the way I want to, though, so that makes it pretty easy to do both in the same day (most days, at least). But yes, certainly moderating everything would create a ton more work, which is one of several reasons I don’t want to do that!

    25. No_Registration*

      Maybe try to head off derailments on a post by post basis as needed?

      Thinking of the overweight-chair breaker post. Maybe a starter post from you at the very top that says something like.

      “I realize a post like this could lead commentators to want to debate the societal price of obesity or how overweight individuals are treated in society, but please refrain from this and instead focus on helping the manager best address this conversation”

      1. Stephanie*

        I’ve seen her do this on some posts. One that comes to mind was about an employee coming to work with (legally registered) concealed gun, Alison posted to not get into a gun control debate. Alison, did you find that helped?

        Of course, some aren’t as predictably controversial like that one earlier this week about the employee missing the weekend conference.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              It seemed to me the majority opinion was the OP was right, and commenters who supported the OP were a lot harder on the employee (saying he should be fired and it was all his fault) than people were on the OP. (He could have helped by reminding the employee, or done more to keep it on the employees radar especially as he was new to the firm.)

              I was criticised for expressing my opinion and told I was nitpicking word choice, trying to beat down the OP and rather bizarrely that I was demanding a public apology from the OP (even after I said that’s not what I was doing I was told “but you are”). I was really surprised by that response, comments like that suguest not just disagreement with my point of view but that I wasn’t welcome to express my opinion at all.

              You posted a comment that you were baffled by the responce to the letter and someone else replied “yes so am I, it’s been bugging me all day.” Why should a difference of opinion bug someone?

              As for what can be done to keep the conversation on point and more helpful to letter writers that’s difficult but I don’t think stronger moderation is the best way to do it, my general feeling is we do a good job of commenting politely and civilly and the group as a whole does gently challenging or rebutting truly offensive behaviour.

              I think the trap I fell into the other day was trying to have a conversation with commentors which resulted in a back and forth between us I think the best thing that I could have done is take 10 minuets to collect my thoughts write one last stand alone comment and be done with it, rather than carry on talking with people after I realised we weren’t going to agree.

              Following from that you talk about playing devils advocate for the hell of it, I do not think the derailments we’ve seen are the result of people arguing their position for the hell of it, but rather trying to make a contribution and express their genuine opinion about a letter, the fact that this behavour is coming from regular commentors would seem to support that.

              Maybe you could ask people not to engage in a back and forth with individual commentors where no progress is being made towards a consensus, but instead summaries their opinion in their own comment and move on, it would mean people being vigilant and attuned to the way the the comment thread is going and then not getting over invested in defending their point of view and being prepared to move on.

      2. Tris Prior*

        I’ve seen Captain Awkward place comments like this on posts that have the potential to go to ugly places in the comments thread and it seems to work pretty well. (actually, I think she usually puts it as a mod note at the end of her posts.)

        1. Windchime*

          Captain Awkward will also close comments if they start to go astray too badly. I know that Alison has only had to do that a couple of times, but it’s another option.

          I do really like the idea of having long-time commenters agree to a standard of behavior. I’ve seen this work well in instances where a poster will say something really unkind of off-base–a long-timer will say, “Hey, that’s not cool; we don’t talk to people like that here”, and that will usually shut-down the offender. If we can all agree to self-moderate and to use a little self-control when we see that the aggressive devils’ advocating or nit-picking on the OP is happening, then I think we can contribute to an even better comment section than we already enjoy here.

          Better behavior on the part of regulars, plus more frequent reminders from Alison regarding commenting guidelines, plus maybe a week or so of more stringent moderating may be all it takes.

    26. Not So NewReader*

      The thing that jumps out at me is where you say the comments are coming from within the regular group. This is important to know.

      With that being the case, I think that special action is needed to fit that situation. I think develop a system. For example, first offense is a warning with explanation of what is wrong. Second offense is a suspension, a time off from being able to post here. Third offense is permanent blocking. Maybe that sounds too harsh, but you see my general idea at least.

      There have been a couple times where I have seen you go right after someone for what they are saying. I think that it made all of us stop and think. I know it made the offender stop and think.

      Regular readers here will not want to lose their priviledge of posting. Passers-by would not care either way, but regulars are more apt to care. Those who genuinely do not understand what is wrong could salvage the situation by asking for clarification and perhaps apologizing or explaining what they were trying to say whichever action is appropriate. (Many of us have done that, tried to say one thing and it came out ambiguous. It’s easy to do.)

      The common thread through all the behaviors that you have listed is that the resulting posts are not helpful to the OPs. Nitpicking, derailments, devil’s advocate and other siding are not proactive. These statements do not give the OPs an action plan for their problems. “How does this comment help the OP? Is this something the OP can put into action?”

      On the other hand, the OPs that post in the comment section seem to make out much better than those who don’t post. The speculations drop way down because OP has answered the particular question. We have had a couple of OPs that seemed stuck somehow, and that did not go very well. But for the most part the OPs are interesting to interact with. Maybe you can advise (warn?) the OPs that they would get comments more suited for their setting if they participate in the comment section. I can see, though, that some OPs might just want your advice and they’d let the rest of the discussion go.

      The nitpicking and devil’s advocate behaviors are the ones that bother me. And it is because the same thing gets said 13 times. It does not bother me if it’s said once. I can easily think, “Okay, I can see how a person could feel/believe that. Thanks for making me aware.” But after the tenth time of repeating the same thing, I am no longer thinking that way. The thirteenth time it is said I am so sunk. It’s the repetition that kills the read for me.

      In short because these are regular posters, you do have leverage. That makes it easier to solve than if the source was just random people who were passing through. It’s not as bad as herding cats. You have a fair idea of the repeat offenders. It could be that you might need to ban someone because they will never understand or work with your goals here.

  41. MousyNon*

    I just started a new job! I got headhunted through linkedin (some companies recruit aggressively through social media so definitely keep your profiles up-to-date!). It’s in an entirely different industry than my last job, and an incredible salary bump, but I think the most interesting thing about this experience so far has been how different it is switching jobs as a mid-career professional rather than entry level (this is my second non-internship job out of college).

    I keep defaulting into “entry level” mindset–like I’m still an assistant–when I have years of experience under my belt. I’m also having serious imposter syndrome/crisis of confidence issues. Is this just a normal transitional phase? Any advice from first time job-changers who’ve gone through it?

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I think it’s normal but I agree that it’s a disconcerting! Everything about the whole process of changing jobs when you’re no longer entry level is very different. They have the expectation that you’ll have knowledge and be able to convey it, the interviews are more in depth, they (generally) seem to expect you to be able to get up to speed more quickly… at least in my experience.

  42. squids*

    I’ve got it on good authority that a job that I would really, really like to have will be posted some time soon. The trouble is, I haven’t seen the job posting, and my sources haven’t let me know how things will be worded, and what qualifications will be required. In my mind, this is a great fit, but … can’t help thinking, what if they decide to go in an entirely different direction with it?

    I’ve been waiting around for this possibility, not applying to anything else in the meantime. (I know, not a good strategy, but really my field in this region is such a small community and I have no intention of accidentally burning any bridges.)

    Anyone else been in this position? Are there strategies to start preparing for an application when I haven’t seen a job description yet, but have had long talks with two of the people who will be on the hiring committee (it’s a very small world), over the past two years, about why they want to set up this new role?

    1. Jennifer*

      I am in this position and there really isn’t anything you can do until they set their requirements in stone and list the job. Anything you do to prep now may be very well thrown out the window when they change their minds.

  43. AJay*

    Is it ever a good idea to move from a job with a lot of job security to a one year contract position? I have been in my first professional job out of school for almost 3 years and am ready to move on to something new. I saw an opening in another city for a position that I am really excited about, and it’s in a city that I would love to move to! The problem is that it is a one year contract, and that the cost of living is significantly more expensive than where I am currently living. Since I’m still early in my career I’m trying to weigh the pros and cons, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the risk.

    1. Dawn*

      What’s the potential for the contract to be extended/changed to a permanent position? There are plenty of companies that will do that- hire someone on for a year and then evaluate if the position needs to be extended or moved to a perm basis. What’s the job market in the city like in your field? Do you have enough savings that if, after one year, you were dropped from the contract and were unemployed without benefits for some time while finding other work? Are you comfortable with starting another job search 8 months into your contract so you can line something up before the contract ends? Could you perhaps just keep looking in this city for a permanent position instead of moving for a contract position?

      1. Sunflower*

        Yes to all of this. I know plenty of companies who have 1 year contracts and continue to renew them with the existing employee.

        Also what kind of job do you have that it has a lot of security? If you are employed at will and entry-level, while I doubt they would ever just walk in and fire you, there is always a possibility you could be let go with little to no warning.

    2. the_scientist*

      In addition to Dawn’s questions, which are great, make sure you understand the nature of the contract position. I’m sure this is region/law-dependent, but my previous position was a 3-year contract position with no possibility of renewal, and no benefits, paid sick time, or paid vacation. Legally, they were required to pay me a percentage of my hourly rate in lieu of sick/vacation time, but in practice, I was being so wildly underpaid to begin with that taking a vacation of longer than a couple of days or an extended illness would have been financially catastrophic for me (high COL area). The lack of benefits (in addition to the unchallenging nature of the job, general dysfunction and meager salary) was a major impetus for me to leave that job after a little over a year, and I luckily managed to land a permanent position- HOWEVER, at my new employer, contract employees get the same benefits as permanent, so it does vary from company to company.

      All I’m saying is, don’t underestimate the importance of benefits/vacation time, which I think younger people often do. Being able to go to the dentist is the absolute best, and having to start a new job search every 8 months or so is exhausting. That being said, if this is a city you want to live in, and you’ve got a bit of financial cushion, and you have minimal attachments…..why not? The longer you wait to make a drastic change like this, the more likely you are to be anchored to a specific place, so it’ll be easier to do it now.

  44. Sunflower*

    I have been so MIA for the past few weeks. I resigned from my job and took a 1.5 week break from any work/most online outlets and it felt amazing! Although I did miss everyone here.

    I start my new job on Monday!! Any suggestions for the first day/starting a new job? I’ve only worked for small companies(50 people or less) and this is the first +1,000 employee company I’ve been with. The first 2 days are mostly training. I will also be selecting a benefits package(ppo or high deductible) and will have a meeting with the Sr. Benefits Manager. Any advice on what kinds of questions to ask? I already have all the plan information and am pretty sure I know which plan i’m going with but not sure what to expect. I’M SO EXCITED THOUGH!!!

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I have no advice but I do have a question! I’ve only worked for small companies, like you. How did you make the transition to a larger company? I find I often don’t get interviews from larger companies, or I don’t make it very far in the process.

      1. Sunflower*

        As far as getting in the door, honestly I just applied off Linkedin/found the posting on Indeed and applied online. I found out a recruiter I had worked with very briefly in the past knew the HR coordinator so that may have helped a bit. I am in corporate event planning so my new position is with a law firm but I’m grouped in marketing which is considered support services and grouped with communications/PR+marketing+events. There are about 30 of us total so even though the firm is much bigger, we are kind of like a small team inside it.

        I think what helped me a lot was to emphasize how in a small company, it’s important to wear a lot of different hats and know how to work between each department. Also because I didn’t have to deal with a lot of red tape, I was able to do a lot more things than a person in my role at a large org. would be able to do so I gained additional skills.

        Also I got kind of lucky and his position was truly a perfect fit for both of us. Working at small company, and as the only one in my position, I got a lot more hands on/management experience than another person at my level would get. This particular position is a coordinator but they really wanted someone who was able to manage when needed. My manager is in a diff. city so it was very important for the person to be able to handle things independently without the aide of a manager and that’s not something a lot of people applying for a this role would be able to do. i was also running into walls because every position I applied to, i was either over or unqualified. It just kind of worked that my experience and their need matched up perfectly this time.